Self-expression through Yoga

I had always possessed a keen interest in the Arts since I was young. I started dancing when I was young, even pursuing it as a potential career pathway at one point. When I suffered from an injury that prevented me from dancing for a period, I turned to listening to music, producing visual art, and writing as a means to express myself. One thing in common with my pursuits of these interests in life was that I tended to push myself quite hard. I always strived for perfection and if perfection was out of reach, I did not want to do it at all since I was highly concerned with the final product and the perceptions of others.

When I was first introduced to Yoga, the idea of Yoga in most Singaporeans’ minds was that it was a method to lose weight or keep fit. Yoga is seen as a type of exercise or a relaxation method more than anything else. As such, I too saw practising Yoga as just a way to keep fit and healthy. Nevertheless, with time and over the YTT course, I came to appreciate Yoga as an art form, and this art form was somewhat different in the way I was taught to approach other art forms. For example, I had always been taught that beauty and grace in a dance performance are achieved via pain and suffering behind the scenes. Thus, when I began my Yoga journey, I was pleasantly surprised. During the YTT course, we learned about Yoga Sutra 2.46, which emphasises the steadiness and ease of practising Yoga. There was a balance of hard work and relaxation (as seen in Yoga’s emphasis on counterposes), and a holistic focus on both our mental and physical well-being. This is not to say that Yoga is ‘easy’ (it truly isn’t), but rather that there is a sense of respect and trust in the body as the executor of movements to know its limits and where it can push further. In this sense, Yoga was like a dance to me. At times, we have the capacity to move forward, so we push a little. Other times, we take a step back when we feel discomfort. We are not taught to feel any shame in this. We follow a constant rhythm and music that is our breath and heartbeat, and we flow through symbolic movements with steadiness and ease. Yoga was also like a painting to me. The close ties between nature and all aspects of Yoga made me feel like I was creating a picturesque scenery with my body; the flow of my body and breath transforms into a river stream, and the stillness in the mind resembles a sturdy mountain and clear sky. Teaching Yoga was also like writing. We create and execute an original sequence, specially curated for the people around us, taking into consideration their emotions, experiences, and pace of life. In these unique ways, Yoga was like a performance and creation of something for the self.

Practising Yoga (from asanas to pranayamas, to philosophy) has taught me the art of being in tune with my body and mind; to communicate with, appreciate, and embrace the vessel that has served me since I was born, rather than view it as a spectacle for the eyes of others. This is what truly makes Yoga an intimate and expressive art form to me.

Image from Unsplash.