July 2017: 10 Years On......
This month marks the exact 10 year mark since I started my first yoga class and embarked on a journey of self-discovery.
I can’t believe time went by just like that.
It all started with a mini-family session of taking yoga classes together at a small conference room in a colonial house style space at the now defunct Spa Boutique.
The class grew beyond our family and friends capacity and the spa management decided to build a beautiful outdoor pavilion beside the pool to accommodate for more public sign ups.
I am thoroughly grateful to my first yoga teacher , Yvette Tee who introduced me my first yoga experience through her grounding and nurturing guidance. Her classes are strong, beautiful , graceful and very authentically rooted in the eastern philosophy of living. Typing this out now makes me reminisce about the morning and evening practices at the outdoor pavilion, surrounded by nature, breeze, sunlight, crickets, birds, traffic, the smell of citronella, the water feature at the outdoor pool. I felt really lucky to have had a few good years of learning yoga from scratch at this place instead of sweaty indoor yoga studios! I never learnt yoga with mirrors thus, I am uncomfortable practicing in a studio with mirrors or even teaching with mirrors.
As I progress in my yoga journey towards getting certified, I'm grateful for the teachers that I have studied with: Kosta Miachin, George Anthony, Ting Ting Peng , Ram Vakkalanka of my YTT days at Vikasa Yoga. The amazing teachers, Manoji and Shivani of Vyasa Yoga, Ganesh Mohan of Svastha Yoga which I am now studying yoga therapy studies with.Lots of great wisdom from the lineages of Swami Vivekanada and Krishnamacharya, Mira Binzen, of Global Family Yoga for the wonderful skills on teaching yoga for kids.
My personal journey with the yoga practice have contributed to the 180 degree shift and transformation in life, spirit and existence.
Like many others, I tried yoga in 2007 as an effort to get toner and fitter . I was practising pilates for a year since 2006 before making the switch.
I was immediately awed with the minimal and simple approach that the practice of yoga requires only you and your mat and a whole load of focus and self love. I appreciated the idea that each pose was named after nature and animals.
From the original intention of trying out yoga for physical toning and stretch, led to the deeper mental and emotional aspects which I benefitted from. It has been a spiritual awakening journey since then.
Being heavily in the entertainment industry then has its own self-destructive way of eating you up. For 3 years around the time I started yoga, I was on a cocktail of prescribed anti-depressants, consuming them like candies. It didn’t help that I did abused the usage , mixing with alcohol, partying every night while being a heavy smoker. ( Ok don't judge me now! ).
After 3 years into the practice, in 2010, yoga and pranayama helped me get out of my head and into my body, practising more self love and compassion. I was able to reduce my medication usage and by end June 2010, I have successfully quit smoking though using some help from an anti-smoking medication ( on top of antidepressants) .
By the end of 2010, I have decided to ditch all the pills , and opt for healthier alternatives . I went to a nutritional naturopath doctor that was able to explain more in detail about using natural herbs, supplements and vitamins to help rebalance the hormonal and brain biochemistry. (Eg. Zinc is a great relaxing component for anxiety, too much copper in the body causes anxiety or might present other problems like hyper thyroids etc).
This was the start of my wellness journey from all angles. I began to explore nutritional ways to keep body and mind healthy, signed up for various workshops in health and wellness. I reignited my love of essential oils and began to use them again. I also started learning energy healing , Quantum Touch healing, Reiki Healing and gone to numerous spiritual healing sessions of different modalities to understand the deeper meaning of all these pain, suffering and vicious cycle I was stuck at.
It seems to me when the body, mind and spirit gets beaten down to its core, a sense of desperation arises. The drugs were numbing me , preventing me from clear thinking and vision. It created more issues and side effects that contributed to more downward spirals. I just didn't know who and what I was becoming... Looking back, by a stroke of luck and divine timing and guidance, my spirit must have had an awakening through that dark times and was always searching for something to go back to its natural state that it knew of.
The practice of Yoga allowed me that particular safe space to feel what I needed to feel, to do what I needed to do, Be who I truly am. It empowered me to appreciate life, my journey and even owning my personal stories and struggles. ( I think this will resonate to many people in their own journey because that's the beauty of Yoga! It allows you to rediscover and reconnect back to your own true self )
Yoga to me never was about the asana’s like how it has blown up on social media. Going to classes then was never about taking pictures of before and after shots or posing for this and that. I loved the practice and shared the practice through speaking to friends and family the wonders of it. I felt really happy just being able to show up for myself on the mat, and noticed the strength and flexibility I felt in my body rather than "looking" at my body to notice the difference. Embodying the practice was alot more satisfying to me than a picture. Sometimes I dragged friends to come experience with me and it opened them up to another world.
It has always been an introspective practice for me and above all of it, people could slowly see how I became a changed person. A better person.
I am personally not in the habit of posting posture pictures up on social media just to show achievements, or a need to receive validation from people because I simply wasn't in that practice or that kind of person. In fact, Instagram didn't even exist then! Haha
Through the practice of the physical asanas, it reached the deeper layers of the self (5 Koshas), it has allowed me to touch base on the potential of who I truly can be if I show up for myself more.
In my first years of practice, I didn't have patience for Pranayama and didn't know how to appreciate Yin Yoga.
Only many years later, I started appreciating Yin and Pranayama which ironically I'm teaching more of these days!
I think by the time 2010 came, I was taking 2 classes every day . I tried some other classes in other studios, and still preferred the non-mirror studio setting. Slowly, I quit the night life scene as well, Giving excuses that I had to go for yoga class on sat morning so I don’t have to go out on a friday night.
I am pretty old school and traditional in many ways. I believe to be a teacher, you need to have some years of experience as a practitioner , to live through the struggles and triumphs of the practice(beyond physical) and applying the practice and theory into your own life as an individual before being ready to be in a position to teach.
It wasn’t till 2012, 5 years into my practice of steady, strong and supple growth in my practice that I signed up for YTT at Vikasa Yoga .
So…. it has been 5 years since I started teaching… and so much more to learn! The more I teach, the less I know and the more I want to Learn! If you are familiar with StrengthFinder, My top trait is Learner! *No surprises* Hehe
There were Many ups and downs.. I started like a nobody. Not well versed in marketing and struggled with reaching out for an introvert personality like me but slowly and surely I just had to bite the bullet and the experiences teaching anywhere ,anyone until I found a better way and build the confidence.
Did I also mention one of the main reasons why I started teaching is so to conquer my fear of public speaking?
I have always had issues speaking up as a young child, have a soft voice and not able to project my voice and stutter in public speaking context. So I made a point to teach so I can practice letting go that fear.
Went through numerous voice coaching sessions , applied it for a few years and I can’t say I am good at speaking now but certainly teaching a few 1000 hours now in total have allowed me to gain a newfound confidence to speak and express myself * Ahem Throat Chakra thingies haha*
Well.. through these 10 years of practice, I have gone through the phases, of trying to achieve a certain pose, attempting and doing all the “advanced” poses only to come to the understanding and in the phase now that true “advanced” technique is not mere mastery of the physical asana. All acrobats can do that.
True advanced technique in yoga is the consistency of being still in your mind while living from the Yamas and Niyamas of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Meditation is the goal of all the physical yoga, but is also a great challenge. We all need to satisfy the outward physical movement goals but it doesn’t end there. Those asanas prepare you to be able to sit down in silence so you can be aware of the rise and falls of the thoughts in the monkey mind, so you can bring stillness, peace and exude the ananda self in samadhi state.
So this has led me to wanting to sign up for the famous 10-Day Vipassana meditation retreat.
*Gasps* I know. We probably heard it through the grapevine about this rigorous silent retreat. Meditating close to 11 hours a day for 10 days without any form of contact to the world. Writing, reading and playing music is prohibited.
I’ve always felt I could do with not talking for 10 days. I’m really a quiet person anyway. But I get into my inner world a lot everyday, reading, writing, planning, listening and playing music…. so I think without these, I’d like to see how far my mind is going to take me before I go mad or some form of breakthrough happening.
Still in my midst of researching which country to go for Vipassana meditation , this will be a birthday gift to myself as I turn 33 years old in a few months! The more I think about it, the scarier it seems and I'm getting a little bit more uncomfortable each day. It's like I wake up thinking maybe I shouldn't put myself through this when I can just have a more luxurious holiday elsewhere. But this resistance I am identifying is the reason that I probably Need this 10 day silent meditation as well. It is the suffering that my mental mind is creating ie. I'm trying to avert myself away and crave pleasure. Haha.
These 10 years have given me the time and space to discover my true self, to live and express authentically, to be happy and healthy, to appreciate and live simply and more minimally.
It has also ignited the more altruistic , compassionate part of myself I have never seen and explored. All won’t be possible without the deep study (svadhyaya) and practice of the ancient science of life called Yoga. :)
No matter where you are in your journey, keep getting curious, open your heart and mind to experience, dig deeper than just asanas, appreciate the stillness and quietude, don’t get distracted with noise from the over saturated and commercialised world of yoga on social media. Stay true, go deep, live and share and be in service to the world with your own unique gifts and talents!