I was around 17 years old when I took my first Yoga class. I was suffering from lower back pain and I was told that Yoga may help. It did! I felt much better after a few sessions. Apart from feeling physically better, I reckon that I had also felt much calmer and less anxious. But at that time, I had approached Yoga only as a healing tool for my body.
I was not aware about its ability to transform you mentally and emotionally and become a lifelong guide in your spiritual path. Thus when I realised that I had overcome the back pain, I stopped going to the classes and carried on with my old habits and lifestyle.
I think most of us see pain as a negative aspect in our lives. Be it physical or emotional; we see it as a hindrance, a barrier between what we want and what we have. But the practice of Yoga teaches us to use pain as a tool of transformation and self-inquiry.
atha yoga-anuśāsanam ॥1॥ Yoga Sutra 1:1
Now that you are ready we can begin the practice of yoga.
Years later, pain surfaced again. My daily habits and lifestyle had a detrimental effect on my body and mind. My heart was tired and my soul was yearning for true love. So I started Yoga again – and the second time around – I soon realised that the more I practiced, the more I could understand myself and it is this ‘relationship with oneself’ that inspired me to embrace Yoga as a lifestyle.
Yoga reminds us who we really are
My love for arts, movement, dance and travel had inspired me to study dance in Brazil, jewellery design in Uruguay and also get a bachelor’s degree in tourism. I was fortunate to get an opportunity to combine both travel and dance and worked as a dancer for Ringing Brother and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. During this time, I was also introduced to aerial arts.
But over the years, I realised that nothing in the material world can bring me lasting peace or happiness. The answers I was seeking were not going to revealed by achieving goals or buying things; the spiritual guidance I was seeking would come to me if I effectively learn to listen to myself, observe my thoughts and receive or feel with an open heart.
The seed of Yoga or the seed of self-inquiry was planted years ago when I had taken the first Yoga class, and it grew in its own time. I believe that the path of Yoga is a spiritual path, thus regardless of whether you take it up for healing purpose or for fitness, you are bound to experience much more. Though I had first approached Yoga as a tool to heal my physical pain, it had opened up the door to true freedom and this made me come back to it – years later.
“Your greatest awakening comes, when you are aware of your about your infinite nature.” Amit Ray
I believe it was pain and suffering that lead me towards it. When we experience pain, we usually have a deep urge to look within and inquire about its cause. We begin to realise that it exists for a reason and the suffering is meant to make us realise something. Unless we understand this, the suffering would surface again.
I thus see and experience Yoga as a practice of remembrance of what I really am. After starting Yoga for the second time, it didn’t take long for the practice to become my daily routine and lifestyle. I keep going back to my Yoga mat not because I want to keep the aches and pains at bay or because I want to feel less stressed. These, as you may prefer to call it, are side effects of Yoga and no doubt they come with a lot of advantages. However, what draws me back is the fact that I can dig deep to know who I really am!
Every practice brings with it an opportunity to uncover another layer of spiritual ignorance. It is this path to self-discovery, which as per me, is one of the greatest gifts of Yoga practice.
Yoga as a lifestyle
It didn’t take me long to realise that my life was about Yoga. I wanted to know more about the subject and so went ahead and completed a Yoga Teacher Training Course (Yoga TTC). My focus was on self-knowledge and self-practice and I had never thought about teaching Yoga as such. But one of the requirements of the course was to complete a few hours of teaching and thus I started giving weekly classes at a Church.
“Do your practice and all is coming.” Sri K Pattabhi Jois
This was my first teaching experience and it helped me see and experience the power and impact of Yoga on others. It helped me pursue the dream of working as a Yoga Teacher. I think when you focus on what makes you happy, wonderful things happen!
During my TTC I was introduced to Ashtanga Yoga and it soon became my daily routine. I had the opportunity to learn from Saraswathi Jois and Sharath Jois in India and continue to practice and explore this style under the guidance of various certified Ashtanga teachers in the West. I often travel and conduct classes across the globe. My background in dance, movement and the discipline of Yoga, together, make my classes and workshops creative and unique.
Yoga practice is not always a happy place
My experience tells me that all of us have to deal with the dark hours of life. There are moments or even days when we lack motivation, feel tired, irritated or depressed … these negative emotions are also a part of who we are and learning to accept this is also an important lesson in the spiritual path.
I am happy to share some tips on how I deal with these doubts and get myself to practice regularly:
When I feel I have no time I tell myself to practice at least for a few minutes.
When I’m tired I tell myself to practice at least few rounds of Sun Salutations, and more often than not, I surprise myself by practicing more or even finishing my whole practice.
Dedicating a special spot or place in your home for Yoga practice really helps. I personally like incenses, palo santo (holy wood), some special images.
Practice with a teacher who inspires you. Practicing in a group is a great way to stay motivated and focussed. It also helps boost energy level and mood.
Read inspirational books about Yoga practice and philosophy.
“Yoga is not about self improvement, it’s about self acceptance.” Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Very often we want quick answers and look for shortcuts and suggestions to reach the end goal, be it on the yoga mat or in our everyday lives. All the answers are within and it will unfold in the right time. So just keep doing what you do without any attachments or expectations for results; do for the sake of doing and maybe one day you can realize the Self.
‘Whole life is practice. That is method’ -Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Yoga teacher and Ashtanga Yoga practitioner.
Also read: https://www.juruyoga.com/why-juru-products/