I have been doing yoga on a more consistent basis since February 2015. Even though I dabbled in it occasionally by joining the classes my gym offers, I never really focused on it. Then, I came across yogi blogs when I was reading into spirituality and that intrigued me. Henceforth, my love for yoga stemmed not from seeing the beautiful asanas posted by countless instagrammers and facebookers, but from the spiritual element that yoga has.
The decision to sign up for the teacher training course scared and excited me at the same time. I was only practising Yoga for 5 months and I wasn’t sure if my body was physically ready for it. Yet the thought of learning deeper about this practice excited me because I was sure it would change and challenge the way I think and view myself in relation to the world.
“Do one thing that scares you everyday” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
I kept coming across this quote in the recent weeks and I decided that fear is a good thing because it causes me to move out of my comfort zone and be open to new experiences. Fear holds us back and prevents us from advancing (Even though it does protect us to a certain extent). I was ready to face up to the fear and decided to focus more positive thoughts into this decision by reminding myself that it was going to an exciting and fulfilling experience. Hence, I signed up for the 200 hour Ashtanga/Hatha Teacher Training weekend course at Tiriusula Yoga. This meant that my weekends were burnt from July to October as the class starts at 7.30am and end at 2pm every Saturday and Sunday. Not to mention it was at Bugis which is a 1 hour 15 minute journey from my house. I could no longer sleep in until October (Because I work as a teacher and I am up by 5.45am every weekday morning). Still, I decided this would teach me to be disciplined in my sleeping patterns and I am a morning person anyway 🙂
Day 1 was a stroll in the park, as emphasized by the trainers Master Paalu and Wei Ling. They eased us into the basics and trained up our core strength (which we or at least I was severely lacking in). Still I went home and woke up with aches the next day and went for class again. They definitely weren’t joking when they said Day 1 was a stroll in the park because the pace was picked up in Day 2. I have always thought I was doing alright in terms of strength and flexibility but today, I was truly humbled. I realised how much I was lacking in and built a greater resolute to ground myself firmly and properly in the basics of even the tadasana, virabhadrasana 1 and 2 (Warrior 1 and 2). These are postures that I do everyday in yoga classes without even being aware that my body posture was not accurate. I gained awareness in adjusting myself and forcing myself to be aware of my body posture.
Then came my favourite part of the class, which was the theory part. Here, we learnt about yoga philosophy and ethics, anatomy, physiology and teaching methodology. Well actually, my favorite section was the philosophy part but that doesn’t negate the rest and make them less enjoyable.
I like how Yoga focuses a lot on values. Even the simplest act of scaling down our practices when we teach our students arises from the value of compassion for them as they are casual practitioners (The practice of Ahimsa). We cannot impose our standards onto others because others are not like us. Doesn’t this apply to our everyday living as well? We are disappointed or angered when the people we work with are unable to do the work that is tasked to them. We expect people to do things exactly the way we do them as well, but everyone is different and has different priorities in life. We have to respect their priorities too.
Another wise statement by Master Paalu, which I believe arises from Zen teachings,
Respond to the situation, but don’t react.
Responding is different from reacting because the former requires awareness and consciousness while reacting doesn’t. This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes by Viktor Frankl:
Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
Reacting is a reflex action that comes naturally because of old patterns and behaviour. We react without thinking. I believe we have all experienced reacting to something instead of responding. I cannot tell you the number of times I walked back to my car to check if I had locked the door because I wasn’t conscious that I had locked it the moment I closed the car door. It became a reflex to lock it immediately that I often forget if I had done so. Same goes for our actions and behaviour towards others. For example, when somebody pushes past us and cuts the line to get into the train first, our first reaction is to be annoyed. Instead, we can choose to respond by stopping to recognise our feeling of irritation, think about our response and choose a response that would propagate peace.
When we are conscious of our thoughts and actions, and we choose to respond instead of reacting, we are connected to ourselves at a deeper level. And that choice opens up growth and freedom to decide the person we want to be.
I have learnt so much more in the two classes but I believe that for a lesson to be ingrained in us, we need to take it in bite sizes. Till then 🙂
Rachel Pan Yijun
(200hr Yoga TTC Weekend Batch)