“Do you remember why you started practicing yoga? Was it to rid of physical pain? Or was it to liberate from spiritual suffering? As you become more experienced with your practice, are you listening to the body and observing the breath with a clear mind? Or are you chasing after break-throughs and the extremes in the outer form?” On this path of yoga, with its ups and downs, I often pass on these self inquires and reflections to friends on the same journey.
Due to the environment I grew up and my own personality, being obedient and compliant was just the way I always lived my life. Not realizing that can lead to emotional repression, as a result of completely ignoring my own inner voice, my body silently protested by getting seriously ill. That awakened me to the fact that I have never really loved myself. I was always trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. When I first started practicing yoga, I simply wanted to restore my body’s normal function. After some time, I progressed from not being able to touch the floor to being able to firmly grab my feet.
Ever since then, I loved being able to get more intimate with my own body and explore all the endless possibilities of being embodied. Wanting to explore the wonders of this small universe within, I began to take yoga anatomy classes and I even completed a teacher training to deepen my knowledge. First time I was introduced to yoga philosophy and traditional yogic texts was during the training. I found it difficult to grasp and was just trying to get by with the exam. Given that I wasn’t in the best shape to begin with and the pressure as a novice teacher, I was really eager to try more difficult asanas and forgot all about the reason why I started practicing to begin with and the lessons from Yoga Sutra. I was knee deep in attachment of my ego! And result was severe tear of my right hamstring. It took over a year to rehabilitate and much longer to stretch out the imbalanced right leg.
I decided to reexamine the way I have been practicing and saw that my mind was always ahead of my heart. I was practicing forcefully, performing mindless movements instead of guiding my actions with intelligence. This separation of mind and body was the cause of my injury. Even though I already knew the principle, yet I still couldn’t tell the difference in practice. This changed when I watched Emilie, my fellow teacher trainee, practice. She would allow her body, which was stiffer than mine, to stay in a very simple pose for a very long time. I was in awe by her energetic stillness. When you are willing to face your problem, the universe will provide you with the help. At that moment, I committed myself to the direction I wanted to follow.
I still remember vividly in the first Iyengar workshop I took, even in the most basic Virabhadrasana 2 pose, my legs were shaking, a minute felt like a year. The workshop turned my previous practice experience upside down. It made me realize I needed to correct my course and that starts with my feet. In 2011, after studying with various certified Iyengar teachers, I began to understand the concept of alignment. I learned how to awaken and stabilize muscles to prevent injury and how to use props to help the body be in alignment and develop awareness. The more I delve into Iyengar yoga, the more I realize the love behind the Iyengar system’s precise method. No matter it is the injuries of the body or obstacles of the mind; a women menstruating or in menopause; a child, senior or an expecting mother, in the safety of this big umbrella, everyone can learn how to get near one’s mind and body. I now study with Peter Scott, learning Guruji’s spirit and wisdom of “meditation in action”. I hope through consistent self practice, I can cultivate awareness to look within and to break habits. I can then share the benefits that I have experienced with students.
My 14-day yoga retreat in India’s Rishikesh was an unforgettable experience. In this city at the foothill of the Himalaya, with the Ganges river flowing through it, I would meditate at dusk every day in the yoga room, soaking in the warm sunlight, listening to birds chirping outside of the window, letting go the scenes of the day wandering the street sightseeing, allowing my mind and breath to flow broadly and peacefully like the water in the Ganges river. I knew this clarified mind would get covered up again by stress when I get back to the urban life, but I still remember teacher Usha Devi hitting me on my back as a reminder…
I’m grateful to all the yoga teachers who have taught me, Basia Going, Adnan Tahirovic, Stephen Thomas, Naichin, Shirlyn, and Peter Scott. Your selfless teachings were the spark that lit up my path towards intelligence, gradually having clarity in the midst of my confusion.