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Teacher of April 2017 - Helena

Actually I have ran away too

In 2009, I started Asana practice to release the chronic soreness and pain I felt from working as a staffer for a politician. As a beginner, I mistakenly went into the Mysore class of the Astantanga Vinyasa Yoga. Even with teacher’s assistant helping, I still couldn’t remember the sequence to Sun Salutation and Vinyasa. Drenched with sweat and feeling defeated, I ran away.

That was only the ego

Months later, I tried Ashtanga yoga again. This time it was a led class. I stayed and began to enjoy that independence within the group, that practice of moving stillness.

Yet during the same time, I became increasingly aware of how others in the political arena struggling and suffering because of their cravings, thus feeling entangled and conflicted, even if they were blissfully going through life completely unaware. Although “craving” is part of the norm in the political work, but is practicing yoga really a joyful thing? Being too “aware” made me ran away once again.

I received an answer to this problem in 2011 when I first met O.P. Tiwariji. “That is other people’s ego reflected in your’s, but your practice is good. Continue and don’t cut back on your practice because of fear.”

Am I really suitable to teach?

Even though I was only teaching part-time and assisting in mysore classes after I received my first teaching certificate, but my pattern of being a perfectionist showed up in my yoga teaching as well. I ended up criticizing myself at night and losing sleep over not teaching the classes or giving the instructions completely the way I had plan it. How can one teach yoga without sleeping properly? I fell into a vicious cycle and wanted to run away again.

At the same time, I was stuck on the drop back into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel pose) of the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga. Year after year, should I really continue to practice? And only keep on practicing primary series?

So, I left the practice room and started to do mysore practice at home. One person, one flame of candle, up through the present.

Practicing alone, all the struggles, the limitations and weaknesses of the body and breath had nowhere to hide. Because of my individual practice, I understood more and more how the pranayama, classical asana and Ashtanga yoga could compliment each other, allowing the different practice mindsets to interact and exchange. And teaching prenatal yoga brought me back to the basics. I no longer was attached to “teaching perfectly”. Because I relaxed, the students can relax too.

Following My Inherent Nature

Wanting to go to India to study and pass an all-English exam, I picked up my English learning where I had left off over a decade ago. In India, I learned about Ayurveda, the Indian traditional Medicine, which is closely related to Yoga. “Your Vata constitution is pure and natural. Don’t disturb it. What you need to practice is balance.” Tiwariji told me after years of studying with him.

It made me finally understand the reason why the faster the pace of my life the more I was at ease. The reason why I have chosen to be a political staffer and practice Ashtanga Yoga, which looks like a fast paced practice, in the past. It is also the reason why I like to backpack and travel now to areas of danger and to easily fit into the local culture and listen and empathize with people of different world. They were all about letting go and let my Vata nature lead. It is because Vata is air. It is openness and movement.

The Practice of an Ordinary Person

When I can be still in my asana and pranayama practice, sensitively perceive how I am connected to nature, to the rising and falling tides, to the waxing and waning moon– isn’t the landscape of life the same? The more we can be at ease with the uncomfortable things and events, the faster we heal from harm and safely pass through these storms. Let us cherish each encounter and like a child, enjoy the simple pleasures.

As yoga gradually smoothed the edges of my original character that got brought out in my work in politics – the perfectionist, competitive and cynical personality, do I still need to be attached to pursuing the difficult asanas and pranayamas? I say just be an ordinary person, practice with sincerity and consistency, then just surrender the rest.

The pay back to this thousands of years old yoga tradition that changed my view and attitude towards life is with practice, study, observation and accumulating experiences and teaching.

OM Shanti



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