Yoga is a process of becoming free from limited definitions of the field of consciousness. ~ Patanjali
I am not sure I can effectively explain the reason behind my interest in and focus on yoga over the past months. I suppose it has been more than a few months, but whatever, no need to be so specific. But I feel sort of compelled to try to articulate it because, well, because then maybe people will quit telling me I am crazy. Or maybe it will only solidify my craziness in their minds, but at least I know I will have made the effort.
I started doing yoga because I needed something to do to take my mind off of things that were becoming increasingly challenging in my life and which I felt were out of my control. It turned out that they were, of course, entirely within my control once I got brave enough to deal with them, but that is not the point here. I had never done yoga, and in fact had thought it was sort of a silly pastime of the less athletically inclined, or people who were trying to be a part of something that rang false (to me). [Yeah, yeah… judgement reigns supreme.] However, my options in Hong Kong seemed to be quite limited with regard to physical activity – dragon boating? Umm, HELL NO. Basketball? Cannot with my work schedule. The Gym? Simply an extension of the LKF meat market that I was ready to avoid forever. So, yoga it was.
And it was good.
I went to a big old huge place where the classes had like 50 people in them. We’ll call it “Mega Yoga.” Not knowing any different I rolled with it and made my way. Slowly. Yoga is really hard if you want it to be. But I immediately noticed that it made me feel better. Like, not just physically, but really shifted my mood noticeably. That seemed like a good thing, all things considered. There were some really good teachers at Mega Yoga, and I felt like I was learning a lot. But the place itself was kind of annoying, and it definitely caters to a tai-tai’s certain type of person that I am not. The vibe was not ideal, but the purpose remained intact.
Then the teachers that I really liked started to leave. One by one they were disappearing and it was clear that things were not going the way I wanted them to go at Mega Yoga. I was not sure what I was going to do. I did not know any of the teachers, like really know them and I am quite sure that none of them had even ever heard my voice – I go to yoga for the practice, not for conversation (which has become an issue on occasion – and I know you all who know me are laughing to think of me as mute, but there you go…) – and so even though I wanted to ask them what was up, I didn’t. Fortunately, my cousin, who is much more forward in circumstances like this and was a member of the same studio did inquire. And on the heels of his inquiry I finally asked one of the teachers, my favorite one, where he was going. It was a funny conversation, like the weird ones where you have seen someone a million times, but still have to introduce yourself. Odd. But, then I got a little bit of the info, he would be going home to India and then to a new studio in a different part of Hong Kong. Hm. Again, not ideal for me and potentially forcing me to deal with change. Damn. But as Vonnegut says, ‘So it goes.’
Of course, I did not remember the name of the place where this teacher was going and I had no idea how I would find it – or him – if I didn’t work it out. And then one morning I decided to get off the bus at a different stop just for variety and walk to work a different way. Randomly. And as I was walking along talking on the phone I believe, I saw the teacher. It was one of those funny moments, like I know my students have when they see me out my classroom context. But there he was. And we stopped and exchanged numbers.
Then he went to India and I went home for month.
When I came back, I overcame my hesitation to call, [thank god for text messaging] and contacted the teacher to get the details of the new studio. It is a beautiful place that caters to small classes and let him develop a certain kind of, um, curriculum for lack of a better word, that Mega Yoga could not facilitate. The focus here is totally different, really learning about yoga and it’s purpose beyond what the clientele of Mega Yoga wants (weight loss) and I realized that there was a lot I had been missing as one of 50 that I could really improve on as one of six. And I had found a teacher.
And so it began.
The founder of yoga is generally said to be Patanjali. Most of the available information we have about him is abstruse, vague and tending towards mythological. Whether he is the sole or original author of the Yoga Sutras is actually less significant to me than the fact that the sutras exist and the insight they offer for a certain type of living. Basically, yoga means union and this refers to the union of the mind and body in order improve both of them. The more I heard about the underlying concepts as I continued to work on the asanas, the more I realized it was entirely likely that I had never actually had the two in synch. Imagine: A lifetime of varying degrees of success with mental togetherness or physical togetherness but never the two of them really getting it together. I was intrigued.
“…the sadhana of yoga can be described as “processes” and procedures of deprogramming negative conditioning — liberating the individual’s modified consciousness from the conditioned matrix of limited”reality” back into this Original, Natural, and Unmodified state — Source of inspiration, genius, and creativity. This is described as the realization of the non-dual state (where eternal spirit is no longer absent) of Union (as Yoga).”
In hearing the rationale behind the asanas, which it turns out are the easy parts of yoga, I became more interested in why I was doing what I was doing and therefore also what I was doing…
I kind of work well under those conditions. [Big fan of rationale. Well, sometimes anyhow.]
Then I started realizing something else. I was choosing to get up at 5:00 am in order to go to yoga classes that started at 7:15 – I was arriving at least 45 minutes early as the only alternative was being late – and doing this repeatedly. Of course people asked why. So I thought about it. And this would embarrass my teacher totally and completely, but the fact of the matter is that I discovered that I was getting a lot more out of this morning routine than I had been getting out of any of the other routines I had tried in Hong Kong. Simply put, I feel better when I am around my teacher and so I want to keep on being around him.
Eventually people started saying things like, “You do so much yoga, why don’t you teach it…” I won’t go into the way this sounds to me and will instead stick to a straight response to the words: I teach all day, six days a week. The last thing I want to do is take something that I am so totally loving to learn and have to teach it. Not to mention the fact that I in no way feel at all remotely qualified to teach something with so much understanding behind it that I have barely begun to even comprehend. I wanna be the student. And there is a lot to learn.
The opportunity to learn about so many things while doing something that is so physically demanding that it commands as much attention as you can give it is rad. It is like a whole different part of your brain opens up. In a healthy way. I wish I would have been introduced to it a lot sooner, though I know everything happens for a reason and I am completely pleased with how things have worked out for me, so perhaps that is a silly thing to say. I am very much interested in the concept of union in all of its manifestations and so for now, I will continue to get up everyday for this ritual, which has contributed substantially to a shift in the way I see the world.
“…the Yoga Sutras describe processes how a confused, lonely, alienated, nihilistic, and fragmented existence can be reunited, harmonized, and integrated with natural order and thus unite in forming a natural and intimate sense of belonging in the world, of profound well being, contentment, fulfillment, peace, and joy devoid of fear or attachment…”
So now you know.