Clarified and Energized

In one of the theory sessions, Master Paalu asked what led us to take up the teacher training course. Was it physical, mental or spiritual? My answer was I don’t know.
The conditions of time and money made it possible for me to take up this training session hence if mental means rational thinking, the answer would be mental. However, I could have chosen to do something else with these resources so why Yoga Teacher Training? Why Tirisula?
I shall attempt to pen down my thoughts on the training journey thus far using these categories
of physical, mental and spiritual.
At the physical level, this journey has strengthened the physical body with the initial two weeks of intensive asana sessions. The alignment instructions enabled the body to discover and activate new muscles giving rise to new sensations being felt. New poses challenge the body and mind and serve to both humble and motivate.
The importance of the breath was also understood in a new light. Breathing is something so taken for granted that we only realize it when it is absent. The practice of pranayama brings the breath to the fore and jolts me out of complacency.
At the mental level, it has cleared questions and confusions regarding yoga and the practice of yoga. Yoga gained popularity over the past 2 to 3 decades and yoga is practiced predominantly through asanas. In fact, yoga is viewed as a form of exercise generally especially in a fitness centre setting. However, if one refers to the writings of Patanjali, this physical aspect of yoga, the asanas, is only one out of the eight limbs of yoga.
Personally, I feel there is no need to be dogmatic about what is yoga. The reason the physical aspect predominates is likely due to the deterioration of the physical health as a result of the modern lifestyle. The fact that people are drawn to the practice of yoga testifies to fact that yoga provides a solution to this. If yogis want to deepen their practice, they will eventually seek and discover the other aspects of yoga. If they are happy with just the physical practice, they will reap many benefits too. The scope and breadth of yoga is deep and wide enough to meet people at different levels. This is the strength and uniqueness of yoga.
Having said that, a distinction needs to be drawn between practices that are sound and practices may be damaging due to partial or wrong understanding. While the styles of yoga will continue to evolve, it is important to retain the principles and essence behind yoga. Also, focusing solely on asanas also run the risk of missing the forest for the trees.
At the spiritual level, the journey led to self-reflection and examination. Sensitivity to my thoughts and actions is heightened. Our way of life and our pattern of thinking were challenged. Stories shared by the teachers sought to reframe how we view things. Master Paalu’s at times provocative teachings gave me the opportunity to re-examine and affirm some of my beliefs. One example is that the small things matter. It is through the details that quality arises. Mastery of any skills or subjects requires us to spend time and effort to pay attention to the finer details.
Yoga means union. Yoga also means steadying the mind. Without this steadiness of the mind, we are like a boat with a malfunctioned engine in high choppy seas with no control over where we are going and at the mercy of the elements. This turbulence needs to be curbed. If we have no inner peace, there will be no world peace.
Midway through the course, a friend asked if it was worthwhile doing the course. I told him that I would answer the question after completing the course. While I do not quite know what made me take up teacher training, I can now answer yes to the question.
This journey can be summed up as gaining knowledge, reflection and renewed energy for life in general, and for yoga in particular.
To all my teachers past and present, thank you.
Submitted in gratitude by Patricia Loke, February 2016

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