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Teacher of February 2015 - Joanna

Being a Spiritual Warrior

I am very happy that this is my tenth year as a member of the SPACE family. From the beginning when I was feeling uneasy and uncertain to now of being very sure of my direction on this path of yoga, aside from thanking all the people and things in my life, I wish in the next few decades, I can be even more mature, humble and most importantly, compassionate.

To me, the path of yoga can be represented by three yoga poses, Virabhadrasana I, II and III (the warrior poses). These same poses practiced at different stages of life bring about different experiences. Similarly, my reaction of reading the Chinese literary classic “Dream of the Red Chamber” when I was young compared to now when I’m entering my mid life is completely different!


Like Virabhadrasana I (warrior I) rising from the ground, the path of yoga starts with an awakening. Many of our sufferings and misfortunes in life come from our inner dark side, such as selfishness, greed, laziness, jealousy, etc. They keep us living in ignorance, trapping us in darkness to the point of suffocation. Fortunately the experience of suffering can awaken us to see life as a bountiful feast, full of joy and abundance, and it should be the pursuit of spiritual growth. The desire to change can motivate us with courage like a butterfly emerges from its cocoon or like the mythical rising underground warrior, summoned by Shiva. It is at that moment of breaking through the ground, the warrior breathing in the fresh air, seeing the light, finds the precious freedom!


Awareness is the most important part on the path of yoga, because there are too many changes and obstacles along the way! When we first start practicing yoga, usually we will feel resentment and hate. We hate our body for being too weak, too stiff, or just not good enough. We start thinking how others are all so much better, so thoughts of giving up will arise and there will be hundreds and thousands of excuses for wanting to flight. There are times that our ambitiousness will turn into a monster, forcing us to practice and practice and needing to get better and better. Lost in anger, we forget our initial intention for practice; we lose the aspiration for joy and freedom. And then once again, we become trapped in darkness. So we need to keep the spirit of Virabhadrasana II in mind. With the sword of wisdom in our hands, we can recognize time and time again that our biggest enemy is ourselves. We can observe of our weakness and ego, maintain awareness and adjust course, double checking our directions and not to get lost.


When we have gone through countless times of self doubts and then reassuring ourselves again and again, we finally find the correct direction and the courage to journey forward. It is like practicing Virabhadrasana III, using our inner strength to stand on a single leg. The moment of the back leg leaves the ground we are filled with conflicted emotions. If we are steady, then there is joy and pride, but when the body becomes unsteady, frustration and discontent take over. Toggling between pleasure and pain lays the true meaning of yoga, which is not being disturbed by mood’s ups and its downs. We cannot avoid the highs and the lows of life. We can, instead, embrace all the experiences, whether it is good or bad. They are all passing images and lights, which can be the best tools for cultivating empathy and compassion.

Thinking back how I embarked on this path, it all started when the frustration at work that made me thought hard about changing direction in my life. At that time, I realized what I really need is to find my calling in life and not just a job. Then wanting to learn yoga, I traveled alone to India. Without much clue, I started studying with Iyengar’s student, Mr. Dharmavirsingh Mahida, in Pune. In hindsight, it was not a specifically thought through plan: I naively hurl myself into India, practicing daily without giving myself an opportunity to back out. After two trips to India, I had enough confidence to look for a teaching position, but Yoga was not yet popular in Taiwan, and the time of waiting for an opportunity was not easy. Finally there was the good news of SPACE YOGA opening and then I have passed the interview, so when all the dusts had settled, I only have ten thousand dollars left in my account…

I’m very clear that my journey just got started. Even though nine years has passed, but I still have a lot to learn and improve upon. All my students have been my best teachers. Everyone has given me countless opportunities to hone in my teaching methods and skills. My own practice is a long path. There will always be challenges. And I will keep on reminding myself to live in the present, to always maintain awareness, without being egotistical when I’m succeeding or giving up when I’m failing.

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