Where are you going?

I fell in love with yoga, especially ashtanga yoga, through a colleague 10 years ago. We attended Led and Mysore together and it became a workout that I could sweat my heart out bi-weekly after work to distress and tone up my flabby body. Another colleague of mine who saw my enthusiasm suggested that I took up a Yoga Teacher Training Course with her. I politely turned away the suggestion because of the conflict with my religion (or so I thought).

It was until when my work responsibility and schedule became so horrifically crazy that I had to stop yoga and take up running to fit my late work schedule. Running almost 10-km distance from office at business district to my home at MacPherson after late work became my ‘by-the-way’ (since I had to go home anyway) kind of bi-weekly routine for the last 8 years. Naturally, practicing and running a few half-maranthons became the must-do yearly challenge. This took a toil on my knees and I decided to go back to ashtanga yoga.

I had to start all over from scratch. My quads and hamstrings were so tight. I became so inflexible and I struggled with almost every pose. It took me a long time to progress from one stage to another in the primary series. I was stuck at Marichyasana D as I couldn’t bind my hands. I couldn’t move on to the next pose. Discouraged, I started to hop from one yoga studio to another hoping to get “unstucked”. I didn’t find what I was looking for…

Meanwhile, my job of coming 25 years, though is paying very attractively, is not attractive to me anymore. Ironically, I fought so hard (enduring stresses, rushing to deliver results and meet deadlines, late night and burnt weekends) to get to where I am, but it doesn’t seem to be what I am looking for…

What am I looking for?

In May 2014, I signed up for the 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Course at Tirisula Yoga. It was a 15 weeks of 30 weekend lessons spanning from July to October. My reason for signing up was to learn yoga the right way, hoping to get “unstucked” in my yoga practice and learn a new skill at the same time. I was apprehensive then.

The 200hr YTTC covered practical and teaching of asana, yoga philosophy and anatomy and physiology. Personally, asana and teaching were the areas where I found myself intensively challenged and pushed beyond my ability (both physically and mentally) that I never knew existed. There were times when I wanted to take the easy way out to just throw in the towel giving myself excuses: deliverables and tight deadlines at work, burnt weekends, exhaustion, fear of failure… Somehow, these encouragements kept me going:

Tirisula Yoga Yoga Theory Manual (200hr Yoga Teacher Training) stated:
“In the beginning, the neophyte is quite unused to this struggle and strain. The concerted onrush of difficulties may confuse and unnerve you for a time. This is but natural. Do not be perturbed; bear up with fortitude. The initial difficulties will soon vanish, and you will gain strength day by day…”

Master Paalu once asked me this question when he observed that I was rushing in my asana: “Karen, Why are you rushing? Where are you going?” This struck me to start thinking “Where am I going…in life?”.

When I was hopelessly unable to teach properly, I asked Master Paalu whether I could skip teaching since I had no intention to teach in the near future. His response to me was an irritated “You are going to teach lah…”. It sounded like the way my dad used to respond to me when I nagged. It kind of gave me the message “Stop it! You are going to do it!”. I don’t mean that Master Paalu is like my dad but I can say that although he’s young, he’s as wise as my dad.

Master Wei Ling, Hui Yan, Stella and Kim, in their own ways and by their own examples and their encouragements, have also inspired me to press on.

Through Tirisula, not only am I able to move on in my yoga practice, I have also learnt new skill, met many fellow students who are generous and willing to help me in my asana and teaching and for this, I’m very grateful.

Most importantly, I know that I need to find out “Where I am going… in life”. I know that it will “become clear to me one day” as I “proceed undauntedly in this path of sadhana”.

Karen Lee (200hr Yoga TTC 07/14 Weekend)