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Teacher of March 2007 ─ Shirlyn Shih

What is yoga?

If you asked me this question 2 years ago, my mind would have come up with question marks and then I would have made up an answer like this: yoga is a kind of stretch for older people who are afraid of injuries and cannot withstand high impact workouts.  Yoga is just a workout for this group of people.  Yet if you asked me the same question right now, it would be difficult to describe what exactly YOGA is.  Yoga is definitely neither moving the body nor calisthenics nor awe-inspiring circus performance.
Yoga is a lifestyle, a mentality, an attitude.  Yoga practice is not just asana practice, moving the body on the mat.  Yoga practice is not limited to the moments on the mat.  When you leave that mat the real practice starts. You leave the physical practice and live with a peaceful, calm and open mind.
There is a flower bud dwelling inside each one of us.  It takes time and energy to nourish this flower.  When the bud finally blossoms into a flower, it has glory of its own and cannot be matched by any others.

To Observe and Listen
Before Yoga, I never lived in the present moment. I would participate in life without awareness.  Because of my negligence and being mindless, my body which used to be my best friend had a rebellion and a strike.  After graduating from Dance College, I became infatuated with the fitness trend and became an aerobics teacher.  Back then I thought I was super woman and I could teach anything.  I said yes to every invitation and I worked like a beaver for anything that brought in money.  I didn’t care that my body was overloaded.  After five crazy years like that, I became sick.  At first the signals came from the body, my knees became worn and painful after long-term impact and fatigue. I could not even walk.  The doctors told me to take complete rest.  My emotions fluctuated.  Sometimes I felt high envisioning a bright future; other times I felt down and unworthy.  I went shopping, buying useless stuff to fill up my emptiness.
To observe and listen is important and that has been my homework.  This awareness helps me to understand myself better.
To pause, observe and to linger is beauty.  If one is not able to slow down, one cannot hear the cries for help from inside the body.  When there is little time to observe oneself, one makes a lot of excuses to judge others.  Do you hear the signals from inside your body?  When you reserve more time for yourself, you will love yourself more.

The Search

I started to search for solutions for my illness.  I couldn’t continue to hurt myself like that.  Two years ago I started a dedicated yoga practice.  I wanted to return to my childhood and the happiness of being carried away by dance.  I could be with myself and be care free in dancing.  That kind of pure joy had slipped away because of constant work and a harsh life.

When I first started yoga, I was enchanted with the physical aspect of asana practice.  All I had in mind was to perfect the poses.  I started with Ashtanga yoga and I studied with many teachers.  Until I was introduced to Anusara Yoga I did not realize the true meaning of yoga.  First of all, I must soften and open my heart to grace.  To say “open the heart” is one thing, to act on it is another.  One tends to be afraid of that which is new.  Often the possibility of experience is rejected in the mind even before it is tried.  Our limitations are created by the mind.  I am often like that.  When my mind says no, I listen.  Maybe, when we allow ourselves to be unbounded sometimes, there may be unexpected delights waiting for us!

I thank my teachers John Friend, Chris Arcucci, and Julie Zecker for bringing me the beauty of yoga and for their encouragement and support for me.  I never thought that I would become a yoga teacher and it never came to me that I would be deeply enchanted with yoga.  I AM in love with yoga.  I wish to serve people by sharing this enthusiasm for yoga so that more people get to taste the beauty of life. 
The part of me practicing yoga is joyful and blissful.  The joy and happiness is only enjoyed by those who have the courage to taste it.  Everyday I am thankful and look forward to sharing more with all of you.  OM~

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