Before I start this, I must note that this is my personal account. It is not right, and it is not wrong, merely my point of view of something I started about 9 months ago, and something I am still doing. Some of you might know that I am in no way athletically inclined, apart from dancing of course, which started with Kindergarten and school performances, then went into cheerleading, and then the years as a Classical Malay dancer and of course pole dancing. This post however, has nothing to do with dance, but more with yoga.
To be completely honest, in the beginning, I was looking for nothing more than a physical practice. My lower back, due to a fall I’d had 4 years ago was at a tragic point. After a long counter shift at work, the person taking over from me would often find me either squatting down, or bending forward to relieve an awful tension that felt like something was pressing down on my lower back. Through the years, I had done nothing for it apart from a few massage sessions and painkillers, so as time went on, it only got worse, and the intake of painkillers only grew. One day though, I was talking to someone who told me that she was seeing a physical therapist for a pain in her knee, and the therapist recommended stretching. Then, after a long and painful counter shift, I whinged to Paul Norman about this pain and he said I should try yoga, so I spoke to Claudia (who’s been practising for years), and she recommended I give it a try. After various net searches, I found one near my work, and deciding that it couldn’t get any worse, decided to just go for it. See how when you listen, God or the Universe or whatever you believe in just shows you? But that’s a different story altogether.
The first class I went to, with Mr. Andrew Hampson instructing was torture. Somewhere in my mind, I thought it would be a series of simple stretches, but there we were, sweating! I remember thinking “hold on a minute, this is a yoga class! What’s with the 30 degree heat, rapid heart rate and sweating?” Then there was downward facing dog, which I was told was a resting pose. How could it be a resting pose when you’re on your hands and feet and trying to push your butt up to the sky? Oh how I longed to just drop down and be in child’s pose for 90 minutes. It only got worse. I couldn’t do one push up to save my life, and that’s what we did. One push up. It killed me. How you ask? Well, for one thing, you can’t just drop down. You’re trying to get yourself down to the floor where your chest is meant to touch first, and your tummy last, and the bonus is, you do it in a count of 10. Every muscle in my body burned for days after. We didn’t do any abdominal workouts, but every time I sneezed my tummy muscles reminded me that they were there.
I almost didn’t go back, but having paid for 2 weeks, I did. That’s how long it took. 2 weeks, and I was hooked. My body felt good. Running in a world where everyone was talking, music was blaring, and there was something going on every second, just being with yourself for 90 minutes was a challenge. For one thing, you can’t watch a movie to distract you from the burning thighs and for another thing, in silence, thoughts come up and you have no choice but to face yourself. Being social creatures, I don’t think we’re used to that, so it was uncomfortable at best. Also, how can you concentrate on yourself when you look around, and there are all these people who have been practising forever, standing on their heads and being able to comb their hair with their feet! Then of course, there was this hippy-trippy stuff about finding comfort in discomfort, letting go of the ego and settling into yourself. I found myself thinking, “what do you mean settle into myself? I am already in myself!”
It was a new world; a very uncomfortable world with new views, new thoughts, and new ways of looking at things. Well, maybe not new since yoga is an ancient practise, but it was a way of looking at the world from a different perspective. Some days you can do a strong practise, and balance on one foot for an hour, and on other days, you take breaks and get into child’s pose every 2 minutes. As Mr. Murray W. Hatton would say, “your world would be much better if you could stand on your head… not!” He is right. My physical ailments have become better with the practice of yoga, but my world took on a new perspective when through yoga, I learned to look internally. Days when I went in the studio with a head filled with stress and heaviness in my heart, my practice has not been as satisfying. Think having sex when it’s just a physical release instead of something that makes you glow for days. Then other days, I’d go in there, practice from my heart and come out with an awesome buzz that we term as being “yoga stoned”.
Through time, the biggest difference has been that yoga has changed from being a physical practice, to being a practice at connecting with the most important person in my life- me. It’s less about externally looking at what people can do, and more about listening to what I can do. All the instructors are awesome, but an awesome practice or a good practice depends more on me than on them. I still can’t stand on my head, and some days, I can’t touch my toes, but I’ve learned that that’s fine. Some days I fall over when I’m in dancers pose, and other days, I stand on one foot, grab the other ankle, one hand goes up, a backward bend forms, and whoosh, there I am, in dancers pose and feeling like I can fly. The greatest thing I’ve learned on the mat, and take with me off the mat, is that I should forgive myself. Some days I can, and some days my thoughts go into dark places, but that’s why it’s called a practice. Just like life. You don’t get it right from the day you were born, but you practice, and that’s how you learn.