One day, I asked my wife, “don’t you ever get back pains?”
“No, it clears away after my yoga class.” She answered.
“Does yoga really work?” I asked curiously.
With encouragement, she asked, “want to try a class and see?”
I used to go see doctors, physiotherapists and massage therapists often because of numbness in my hands and pains and soreness in my neck. But they only took care of the symptoms at the time. After a short while, the aches and pains would inevitably come back. And then one day, my back was in such pain I couldn’t get out of bed.
So it was then, in June of 2011, I took my first yoga class.
Prior to this, the word, yoga, has never entered my mind. My first class was Vicky’s yoga basics. In just the first standing forward fold, I felt I was out of breath. Not only I couldn’t catch my breath, my thighs were trembling so hard that defied imagination. I felt as if my body was not mine. My breath was not mine. Even though I was weak and pale in class, but that night I felt a sense of ease that I have never experienced before.
The first six months after I started practicing, I was often out of breath. I couldn’t get it. I ran regularly, why did I sweat so much in just a few poses? Why did I have a hard time holding the poses? Why were my legs so sore? Many questions were popping up in my head.
My body was tremendously stiff. I was often envious of those who can easily bend forward and back wards. But the peace and ease I felt after each class kept me captivated. I started changing the way I ate. Unknowingly, yoga and running became priorities in my daily routine.
With the changes in my work style, yoga started to become more than an exercise for me, it was a practice that allowed me to calm and distress. After I started practicing yoga as a active practice to relieve stress, I never went back to getting the passive release of massages.
In 2013, because of work I was abroad for over a year. Like body’s instinctive reflexes, when I packed my luggage, I would first put in my yoga mat and my two yoga blocks. After that, each time I packed my luggage to travel, I would always put in my mat and blocks first, then decide on what else I needed to bring. Often when I arrive at a new place, the tension caused by being in a new environment got pacified by laying my mat open and stepping onto it to practice. There were times even if I didn’t practice, but simply sitting quietly on the mat would be a peaceful experience.
Throughout my practice, there were encouraging and knowledgeable teachers. Vicky liked to share her reflections on a movie about yoga. Denise is very lively, always happily encouraging us: “oh, much better!” That allowed me to gradually build confidence in my practice. Lars always had a “have fun” attitude as led us in class. My legs would get so sore taking Carol’s classes, but they really helped with my running. Gina often integrated music in her class that made the asana practice even more energizing! Lynn liked, to share stories from Yoga Sutra in her every class and it was also in her class that I first attempted headstand. However, my first successful headstand was achieved in Sharon’s class.
Helena frequently encouraged us that the final pose is not the purpose. One day you will get there with consistent practice. Also, the external appearance of the pose is not the point. The main point is the breath. She always reminded us in the hardest and painful moment of the practice that it’s good enough as long as you are breathing! The biggest obstacle is often our mind. Learn to control our mind becomes the biggest lesson of the practice.
Now what I enjoyed the most in my practice is the breath. It is also the most difficult for me. When the breath is smooth and the practice flows. When there is a lack of breath, no matter how I practiced, it is off. This is also the part all of the teachers repeatedly mentioned when I first started practicing yoga, but it was not until now after I have practiced for sometime that I slowly began to comprehend.
My practice on the mat gave me the courage to face my life off the mat. And at times, the mindset in facing life’s challenges and difficulties also get reflected back on the practice on the mat. I am very grateful to my wife for opening up the door way to my yogic path. I’m also grateful to all the teachers who have guided me on the path.
I hope to keep the courage to go on practicing and continuing my yogic life on and off the mat.