My 2-year old toddler is a natural yogi. Seriously. She stretches in supta padagustasana when she drinks milk, flips her tiny body into ardha kapotasana when she’s done drinking & gets up, drops into malasana when she plays with her toys, rests in supta baddha konasana, sees the world upside down in adho mukha swanasana when she’s horse-playing with me and my husband. Effortless and natural movements.
Watching my toddler move, to me, embodies the spirit of yoga asana practice. To return the body to a natural state, the way we moved before our bodies manifested bad postures, habits and our samskaras.
Beyond the mat, my toddler has also taught me other yoga lessons. At dinner last night, she used a Chinese soup spoon, western spoon AND fork to eat her dinner. Switching between the different utensils every few mouthfuls, grinning from ear and ear when she succeeded in eating rice with her fork.
Food for thought. How much of what we do is conscious or unconscious? Do we accept what we are told, or do we take action ourselves? When was the last time we learnt something new? In our natural state, we are a blank piece of paper, no ego, openness to everything around us, fearless in our actions. As I continue in my yoga journey, I take inspiration from my toddler to return to basics and keep things simple.
When was the last time you used different utensils to eat your dinner? Or walked backwards simply because it’s fun? Perhaps it’s time to give it a try.
“What is your karma? What is the current action you should take in your life now?”
As Master Shree asked the class this question, I instinctively whispered to myself “my karma now is to nurture”.
As this thought left my mouth, I realized how much it resonated with me, like a wheel clicking in place.
In a moment of sharp mental clarity, I saw how my choices in life and career were weaved to the theme of nurturing. Becoming a mother 2 years ago, my choice of profession, finding myself naturally slipping into a mentoring and coaching role at work.
Even doing a YTT feels like a step towards nurturing a seed or kernel within. I’ve practiced yoga asanas for a long time, going on and off the mat, but always returning, each time staying longer. I’ve dabbled with oil painting, writing, dance, and yoga is the only practice I’ve maintained consistently.
Perhaps this is samsara* at work, pulling me back to yoga time and again. And choosing to commit to YTT is a thread of samskara**, woven into my karma to nurture.
*The literal translation of Samsara would be “a wandering through.” This refers to the way in which everyone passes through a number of lives and states. It encompasses the concept of reincarnation and the fact that what an individual does in their current life will be reflected, through karma, in their future lives.
**Samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions and intents that an individual has ever experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.
“Focus on what you can do, don’t worry about what you can’t.”
As I near the end of week 2 YTT, Master Shree’s comment helped to clarify my self-doubt.
I have been attending yoga asana classes for several years, going on-and-off the mat depending on the ebb & flow of life and career. I can perform postures, but not to an advanced level as I’ve never really committed to a practice. At YTT, I met fellow students who slipped into poses effortlessly, despite starting their practice only recently. While I understood that yoga is not asanas, I observed myself weighing heavily the ability to perform poses well, and thinking that I’m not suited to teach after graduating. Thoughts raced through my mind, “What if I encounter students who can do the poses which I can’t?”, “Teachers are supposed to be better than their students!”.
The irony was that Master Shree had asked us to read what Patanjali had to say about common barriers* that keeps one from a yoga practice only earlier in the week.
*These being Disease, Dullness, Doubt, Procrastination, Laziness, Worldly-minded, Illusion, Impatience, Inability to maintain state of yoga*
The comment from Master Shree was timely. Indeed, we don’t spend enough time wisely building on our strengths. Instead, we spend more time worrying about what-ifs and what-nots.
Thus as I enter the 2nd half of YTT, I’ve made a pledge to myself to continually broaden my perspective on yoga, and surrender expectations on what I “should” be able to do. Instead, I’ll enjoy the learning journey, bring an explorer’s mindset & build on what I can do.
Day 2 of YTT. Dealing with some body aches & extremely humbled by the vastness of yoga philosophy. Confusion too – I thought I knew, but now I know I don’t know anything.
Through the confusion and mind-fog, as I sit down now to drink my coffee and reflect on the day, an idea emerges. Perhaps yoga is a way of life, a way of interacting with the society we live in and the people around us. It is also thought-provoking, it forces you to hold a mirror to yourself which can be uncomfortable. It can also be joyful when you gain clarity over an issue or problem, and realize it isn’t such a big deal after all. And perhaps that’s why yoga has been a practice for 5000 years. It is not the Dead Sea scrolls where only ascetics can decipher, neither is it relics in the museums which are unearthed & interpreted by trained professionals. Instead, it is a living and breathing practice, highly relevant to both kings and the common man alike thousands of years ago and now because it addresses basic human needs to understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in.
I have this mental picture of myself walking along the shores of a vast sea (yoga), with my feet getting slightly wet. The sea is a powerful force of nature, with the potential for gentle lapping waves as well as strong waves. I’m looking forward to exploring this sea and the wonders and beauty it holds.