Training – Through Physical Practice

Sthira Sukham Asanam – Yoga Sutra, Patanjali

Means continuous comfort in posture. Steady and comfortable, that is how one should experience upon holding the yoga postures.

It may sound simple, but anyone who just started practicing yoga or just completed their first Vinyasa practice, would attest to the difficulty in keeping steady let alone being comfortable during the class. Before you can do a complete forward fold by making sure there is no gap between your thigh and tummy, the instructor would have already asked you to jump back and chaturanga on the next exhale. Hold on, what is Chaturanga even? Nevermind, the elbows were barely getting there, the hips were giving up and dropping on the floor when the class moved on to upward and downward dog.

That was how I got introduced to Yoga – through the asanas in a gym studio. That was also my earlier understanding of yoga – that by doing 5,000 sun salutations I might achieve enlightenment. In fact, that was how I was living this life – using my physical body and brain – Sthula Sharira to get things done. And I wasn’t even good at that.

In short, this is the practice of Asana:

– proper posture – Asan

– proper breathing – Prana

– proper gaze – Drishti

– proper concentration of the mind – Chitha

Asana is but just one out of the 8 pillars in the practice of yoga. We humans put so much emphasis in attempting to achieve form perfection. And yet it was just one part of the practice, let alone life. That said, practicing Asana religiously without thinking how the pose look like every single time does help me achieve better poses and get me closer to understanding myself, my mind, the teacher, the others in class, and other people in my life.

Then it clicked, we try and we practice to be comfortable in posture. As you practice, you encounter more challenging poses, discover new muscles in the body that has never been activated and won’t start moving, so does the effort required to stay comfortable in a posture. Then you start needing the support of good food intake to help the body hold, mental strength to eliminate fear, sheer belief that you can rock a pose, and some level of spirituality to not be traumatised when you fail (or bruise half your face after falling in crow) so you can put it behind, get back up and go on with the practice, like a boss (or guru?).

And as you go on, what looked hard when you started became easier. And as you go on further, you start getting comfortable in more poses and able to pick up more challenges more comfortably.

Not bad for a life hack.

Training – Through Mental Exercise

Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah – Yoga Sutra, Patanjali

Is the sutra that clears your mind.

Teacher Sree opened the training by asking the class What is Yoga?” (cue deadpan face). We shot random things, naturally. And he shared this definition – “Yoga is the removal of thought from your mind.”

HEY WAIT. That’s it? For someone who just wrote a page-long article about Asana and got introduced to Yoga through gym studios, realising that Yoga essentially is not about physical fitness was rather confronting.

And liberating, realising that there are other aspects of existence to be explored. Physical strength has not been my forte or area of interest. I thought I was doomed for practice from day 1. I didn’t know why I signed up. Then this. Is good. I might have a chance! Still was thinking simply.

Then we started learning about the quadrants of life, the different bodies and seeds that we have and some techniques. They were intended to help humans identify -> classify -> uncolour -> remove thought -> clear mind.

Yoga removes thoughts from mind. Yoga has a sutra to clear your mind. You are not your mind. Clear. Everything sounded clear, and the whole thing also came with supporting materials such as manuals, tools and step-by-step guides. Great.

Alas, once you want to start “clearing”, you don’t know where to start. If anything, rather than being “clear”, hearing this filled up my mind more. So I asked – How exactly do you do that? Which one to use when?

“Yoga doesn’t teach you anything. It makes you aware about yourself, so you can live consciously.” – Teacher Sree.

And so I exercised.

Figure it out, I did.

Slowly, but surely.

Training – Through Spiritual Discipline

Yama. Niyama. Dharana. Dhyana. Sadhana.

Management of life. Purity of being. Concentration. Meditation. Discipline.

 

Teacher Sree always said that he’s not a yogi. A yogi lives and breathes yoga. He’s chill. He practices and teaches yoga.

Note to self: no self-proclamation.

Understanding the 5 aspects above helped me see the breadth and depth of yoga practice as a way of life. From the moment you wake up, to what you are thinking, your intentions, your actions and reactions, and what you plant in your mind before you go to sleep.

I’m barely scratching the surface, but it downs on me that different from education systems that see you as a new empty hardware and so upload you with softwares and apps to help you become more functional in life, Yoga sees and treats your system as already perfect as it is, in its original form. However with life, we have Karma bugs. Turns out, Yoga is a practice to remove bugs in systems. It strives to clear your system and get it back to its clear factory setting so that it can function with minimal (or close to no) glitch. Help you be a smooth operator, if you may.

All the tools and manuals provided are there to help us peel the layers of onions within ourselves. And when you get to the end, you will see that it’s …

 

Listen to yourself, find ways to clean yourself.

From everything, to nothing.

– Teacher Sree

Training – Through Teaching

As we are completing our teacher training program, I asked Teacher Sree on his experience teaching – was there a time he was nervous or anxious before a class. And how did he overcome that.

He said, come with the wonders of a kid, stay a kid and do not be a master

In my own words to translate the Sree Sutra above:

Come with a humble heart, an open mind and a positive vibe.

A willingness to share, to teach and to spend time with the students.

An acceptance that there will be students more experienced that you and that’s really cool.

An understanding that we are not good or bad, the others are not good or bad.

A pure soul.

Granted, it will help to remember the sequences and not go in blank.

As part of this training program, we also got a chance to train in teaching by conducting a class in the studio. I took my chance last week. I knew all of them – all of different gender, racial and background profiles. Yet, for once in our friendship history, I could consciously generate to be present for everybody. To be aware of each person’s strength, weakness and to work with each one’s experience, unaffected by the others.

I realise that I do love all the students the same. Finally got what he said weeks ago – a divine connection of an unconditional detached attachment.

There was no condition. I detach myself from each soul. I treated all soul the same. And thereby I was able to be attached to each one of the soul at the same time. Practicing this helped them to be able to have a full experience regardless of the gap in experiences.

We attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and we detach again and the cycle repeats unconditionally.

It was a rather beautiful afternoon.