MY YOGA JOURNEY.

20180502_123822.jpgI remember my very first yoga class. It was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, nine years ago, with my good friend Haissa. I can’t recall what prompted us to join the class but yes, one morning, we found ourselves looking at our toes, bum up, fingers wide spread, navel to spine, doing our very first downward facing dog at a local Hatha Yoga Institute.

Back then, I knew absolutely nothing about yoga apart from the mere fact it originated from India. But that was fine with me. After all, I’ve always been curious, open-minded, and ready to try new things. So I practiced yoga on and off for many years. I always went back to the mat when I was bored with the gym, with Zumba, with my morning runs, and with the many other workouts I was engaging in to keep fit. At that time, yoga for me was just like the rest: just another form of exercise.

After a while, Haissa got pregnant and couldn’t join me to classes anymore. Our regular teacher also took a break for a while, and her sub, who was this serious yoga-oriented jokes-aside male teacher, literally scared the hell out of me. Each time we were in child’s pose, he would walk next to me, kneel down, and gently whisper to my ears in admonishment, “Put your buttocks on your heels”. After the sixth time, I looked at him almost in tears, and told him, “I’m trying my best but my buttocks won’t go any further”! That was pretty much the last time I attended a yoga class in Sri Lanka.

MUMMY YOGA
After giving birth to my son, we moved to Cambodia in 2014. Being a new mum in a new country was an overwhelming experience—yes, even for someone like me who was game for new adventures. I had so much stuff to figure out, especially motherhood. And as much I had help at home, I was always paranoid leaving my baby behind so everything I did had to involve my son. He was my must-have clutch bag.

After a few months in Cambodia, I joined a weekly yoga mummy group, which held once-a-week classes on a friend’s terrace. What was special about this group was we could bring our kids along to practice. Our kids could crawl around, make funny noises, cry, or sit on our faces or bellies during poses. Believe it or not, it was amazing! That was when I learned that there’s more to yoga than its physical fitness aspect. It was also about being open to whatever surprise the Universe decides to throw at us at any day—whether it was a screaming baby, an undisturbed-for-five-breaths tree pose, and so on. I always looked forward to our weekly session, and I really do miss those days.

That was also the time when I developed a profound interest in yoga. I was inspired to deepen my knowledge, and started dreaming of eventually becoming a yoga teacher someday.

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My dream of becoming a yoga teacher came within reach after we moved to the Philippines in 2016. Stars aligned, and I eventually enrolled in the 200-hour Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training in Yoga+ Makati in 2017. Read about my experience HERE.

Since then, I’ve never stopped learning. I’ve found that the beauty of practicing yoga as a teacher and student is there is always something new to discover and there is always room to grow and become a better version of myself.

WHY YOGA?
As both a teacher and student, I often encourage people to practice yoga because of its many benefits. But if I could get a dollar for each time someone told me yoga is boring and they preferred Zumba instead, I probably won’t be a millionaire but I sure could already buy myself a one-way ticket to Morocco {God knows that place has been on my travel bucket list for ages!}

To these people, I say: GIVE YOGA A CHANCE! Like many hooked on moving and sweating the stress out, I also I love Zumba, running, going to the gym, and anything that allows me to shake my bonbons like Shakira. I’m all about fitness, leading a healthy lifestyle, and finding what works for you. I always come back to yoga because its benefits extend beyond the physical aspect. Not only can it complement our fitness routine or help us be strong, flexible, and toned. There is so much more we can learn through yoga poses and how we can apply these lessons in our lives.

THREE OF THE BIGGEST LESSONS THAT YOGA HAS TAUGHT ME:

BODY AWARENESS
I still remember during my teacher training, one of our instructors was trying to help me get into a pose, and I asked him why I couldn’t do it the ‘’x’’ way. He gently replied, ‘’Welcome to your body’’.

Yoga is a personal journey. We learn to listen to our bodies, and we practice with awareness, patience, compassion, and acceptance toward it. There are moments when we need to accept that there are poses that we can and cannot do and poses we can’t do—or at least, not yet.

BREATHING
During yoga, we are constantly reminded not to hold our breath. Instead we are always invited to tune in to our breathing, taking long and deep inhales and exhales. On and off the mat, breathing in naturally helps us to expand and create space, while breathing out helps us to relax and feel more grounded.

PRACTICING STILLNESS
One of the things that yoga poses teach us is to practice stillness. To be still, we have to be focused and be present, uniting the mind and the body to cultivate steadiness. We train our minds to let go of any thoughts that might be distracting us so we can be stable.

I have found that the more I practice yoga and meditation, the more I become intimately acquainted with my mind. I am more aware of my thoughts. In the time that I dedicate for my yoga practice, I always make a clear intention to set aside any anticipation of what is to come and any worry of what has gone, giving my mind a break.

One of my teachers once told me, it is okay and human for thoughts to continuously flow in and out of the mind. The trick is to be aware, acknowledge these thoughts, and subtly let go or set them aside. The hardest yoga pose is letting go. But nothing is impossible; even a stubborn mind can be trained.

THE GIFTS OF STILLNESS
In stillness I choose to reconnect with my own breath, the strength and energy that flows within me. I choose to dance to the rhythm of my own heartbeat and the sound of my breath—a song so unique that only I can understand the beats.

In stillness I am grateful for every breath, for good health, and for everything positive and meaningful in my life. In stillness I choose happiness, peace within and around me, and love. I choose to be patient with myself and others. I choose forgiveness. I choose strength. In stillness I imagine myself in the best version of myself that I can ever be. I am who I am and not what other people think I am. I am capable. In stillness I learn to listen.

I am no saint but with these short positive affirmations that I feed my mind and soul with each time I step onto the mat I feel lighter. Little things that used to drive me to the edge don’t anymore! I have learned to walk away from trouble or situations that call for unnecessary confrontation. I have learned the art of creating my own happiness because at times, you have to be your own hero.

I hope whoever is reading this is inspired to take the journey within and experience the magic of stillness that yoga has given me.

“Yoga is a dance from within and then something inside you grows so big it spills out like champagne. That’s when you dance on the outside.”

– Tao Porchon-Lynch

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