First time I tried yoga was because I received some promotional free passes from a department store anniversary sale. Since it was free I thought I gave it a try. It may sound like a funny beginning, but it turned out to have a great impact on my whole life. If you really think about it, everything in life does seem to happen in this way, where there might seem much connection initially, but after five, ten years or even longer, you’ll find there is meaning in all the connected events.
When I first started practicing, seeing that poses came so easy to other students, while I felt so uncoordinated and often exhausted, I would focus all my attention on improving my poses and not caring about much else. And then one time, Teacher Sharon came over and told me: “you need to pay more attention to your breath; you don’t even know how to breathe!” I was shocked to hear that. “How can I not know how to breathe, the most basic function of human survival?” I then started to notice my breath more and I discovered that my breath and movement were not congruent; they were separated like a couple sleeping in the same bed but dreaming two different dreams. I would even stop breathing when poses became more difficult. I realized then that yoga is much more than performing some difficult, fancy poses. With consistent practice, after awhile I begin to understand how yoga practice is not just being on the mat; it is in everything we do in our daily lives. And so my life became inseparable from yoga. The reason is not only limited to the changes that can be seen from the outside, but rather yoga allowed me to develop the willingness to settle down and listen to my inner voice. And perhaps it is because the dialogue between exploring the essence of divine and letting go of the self is simply too intoxicating, I find myself immersed in the world of yoga, not wanting to come out.
I’m a very stiff person. The practice did not come easy to me. I had to put in a lot of effort and practice daily to just get a little bit closer to the ground in the standing forward bend. When I attended Richard Freeman’s Immersion couple of years ago, he made a statement that left a great deal of impression on me: “A tight, stiff body is a gift from above.” It made me want to scream when I heard it. “What? Who wants this crappy gift? I want a flexible body!” I kept thinking it must be a joke until one day in class while I was slowly trying to get my body into Janusirsana, and out of the corner of my eyes I saw a very flexible girl just simply flopped into the pose. Perhaps it was just so effortless; she proceeded to check out if her toe nail polish was chipping. It was clear that her mind was completely not present. Then I suddenly and finally understood the wisdom of Richard’s statement. A person whose body has lots of limitation would really need to pay attention to teacher’s instructions and learn how to skillfully adjust the body. Whereas for a flexible person because it is too effortless for them to get into the pose, not only is it easy for them not to engage their muscles, they also can’t taste the joy of the small incremental progress. This insight had altered my perspective. I often used to have a negative take on things, always blaming others or bad luck, now I see how everything in life is good; it is all grace. If one can change one’s mind, one can transform.
I would like to thank all of the teachers who have ever taught me. Because of their selfless giving, I was able to understand that learning to let go of attachment is difficult and the foundation of everything is to surrender.
lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
om shanti shanti shanti