In 2016 I finally stepped onto the soil of India. In the mountain city of Rishikesh, with a chilly five degree temperature, I started the day’s practice at five 0’clock in the morning. The cold temperature made the familiar pranayama difficult. The dry climate caused my hands and feet to be cracked and made doing even down dog tough. What was unforgettable from the trip was the peace I felt at the Gange River, the shock of seeing floating corpses, and the mixed feeling of witnessing hundreds of beggars by the river’s edge. I still remember waking at the break of dawn in Nepal and first thing I saw was the white capped, ridgeline of Fishtail Peak of the Himalaya. How clear and magnificent. At night after I finished my yoga practice, I went alone to climb over a deep mountain in the pitch dark. Surrounded by fear and then suddenly the whole valley was swarmed by lighting bugs; it was such a complete surprise and delight. And then there was the time when I was trailed by a group of kids and their smiling faces made me felt there was no separation between us. I never thought I would travel alone to these places and experience these things. Each had made a deep impression inside. These all came out of Yoga.
Back in 2009, not wanting to work, I went and hide out in the yoga class offered at work. I was never athletic. Initially I didn’t even have appropriate clothes to wear to class and was not sure what I was doing in class. But, as the teacher led me through the final relaxation, I felt a sense of peace. It was then yoga began to nurture my life. After it entered my world, it has never left. At that point in my life, the mundane day-in and day-out routine of life and work made me question the value of existence; I begin to felt unhappy. I didn’t like the socializing face I had to put on. I was tired of forcing myself to continue doing things that I was not interested in life, yet I can only cowardly let these things empty out my heart and each night became a terrifying torment.
On the yoga mat, even though I was following the teacher’s instructions, the competitiveness remained. From not being able to touch the floor to doing a split only took me half of a year. As I was still surrounded by darkness at the time, I was so proud of myself. So I started going to more yoga studios, wanting to show off and to receive applauses. Then came a time in class, I was so shocked by my own harsh way of being and wondered how the peace that first attracted me to yoga was gone. It was then I started to reflect upon myself. Through all of these years of yoga practice, I gradually learn to see myself clearly. I saw my injuries, my losses and my deficiencies. I saw how with yoga, I began to heal, gain confidence and became proud. And from out of that proudness, I learned to be humble.
It was also because of yoga that I had the opportunity to teach children. It allowed me to feel completed grounded and I discovered that my existence could quietly change a child’s life. Being in the education field taught me that I can be content in life through dedication to others and I realize yoga is more than nurturing of oneself. After this change, yoga then opened up my curiosity to the world. Without much of anything, I decided to travel alone to the various yoga hot spots around the world and I learn to be steely brave. On the New Year’s Eve of 2016, I was stranded in Varanasi as the night fell, feeling extremely homesick. That night I learned what it is like to be treated as precious as silk when I encountered smiles and warmth in an exotic land. A kind women asked if I needed help and invited me to put down the hard bread in my hand and join them on their balcony for a warm meal. In Nepal I saw sick children crawling in the mud, with cash in their mouth, begging on the street like dogs, I felt compassion filled my heart. Yoga has brought me so much of these countless warmth that enriched every inch of my soul.
I am extremely grateful for the changes that life has brought. I’m thankful even for that dark period of my life. If it weren’t for that inner suffering eating away at me every dark night, perhaps I wouldn’t have the opportunity to encounter yoga that opened up a whole beautiful view for me. There was this one time when I was half way through reading “The autobiography of a yogi”, I couldn’t resist and asked teacher Vincent: “what is the divine? Who is it? What does it look like?” Vincent smiled and told me it is anything that’s taller, stronger than you. I’m grateful yoga pushed the sky higher and the earth broader for me. All the teachers and fellow practitioners were the divine joyously nurturing me on this path. Their energy mended the broken parts of me. It made me more complete and my life more abundant and whole. I’m grateful for yoga leading me onto the path of practice, given me the gentlest strength. I hope in the future I can also act as the divine in other people’s life, like the winter’s sun, bathe them in warmth.