When I first started yoga, my mind selectively filtered away instructions from the teachers to inhale and exhale. I could only focus on the instructions to physically move my body into the postures. I heard cues for me to keep breathing but my attempts to breathe just felt restricted because my body was in held in uncomfortable positions. And whenever the teachers said, ‘Feel the nice~~ stretch at (a particular body part)’, my mind would start swearing ‘COME ON, HOW WOULD I FEEL NICE IN SUCH A POSITION’. Despite having such thoughts, my body continued to stay in those uncomfortable positions because I was externally driven by other students in the class to hold the poses. I challenged myself to stay as long as others did and kept looking around for motivation. Little did I realise that my mentality was that of competitiveness.
My first lesson with The Yoga Collective was a mini-milestone in my yoga practice. I had gone for a multi-level class and while waiting for the class to start, everyone around me were stretching or doing Sun Salutations to warm themselves up. I chose to ignore them and chill in Supta Baddha Konasana 😆 . As the class progressed to a few arm balances which I had never tried before, I started feeling a little intimidated that many others could go into side crow but my weight was dumped lopsidedly onto one hand. It was uncomfortable and strenuous on the wrists when I couldn’t grasp the techniques but I kept trying because I was convinced that if others could do it, I could too. I have quite a stubborn character and all I wanted was to keep trying until I float my feet off the ground. Then Teacher Bianca, in the midst of guiding us through the techniques, said ‘It’s not about the competition’ and encouraged the need to ‘Listen to your body’. I reflected on her words during Savasana and it dawned on me that I had been focusing too much on other students in class and my progress, if any, was a mere result of wanting to perform as well as or better than others. If I had practised at home without these external drives, I probably wouldn’t push myself as hard.
In one particular class with Yoga Vihara, my heart was pumping hard from the several rounds of Sun Salutations. The class did only Sun Salutations but advanced to introduce some variations after we got warmed up. There, I lost pace and stepped my left foot forward when Teacher Bisu said right. He saw it and just remarked ‘Mind not thinking’ in his equable tone. Nearing the end of the class, he shared the importance of focusing on self when practising yoga. He didn’t eleborate any further but I felt it was very much in tandem with what Teacher Bianca mentioned about competition. From then on, I concluded that I SHOULD JUST STOP LOOKING AROUND IN CLASS AND TUNE MY FOCUS INWARDS.
As I went for more classes, my body got a little more conditioned to stay in the poses and I could start following the cues by the teachers to inhale and exhale. I started appreciating the need to ground ourselves at the beginning of the class, otherwise the mind just runs wild and wouldn’t be able to hold the asanas. At first, I sounded more like I was panting because I could only produce short breaths while holding the poses. But it’s ok, at least I’m finally breathing! Then, during one class at Tirisula Yoga with Teacher Suffian, he said ‘Breathe~~~~’ (I think he took 8 seconds to finish saying this word) when we were all holding a twisted chair pose and I realised that I should start working on lengthening my breaths. Slowly, as I shifted my focus to my breath, my mind could stop swearing, stop looking forward to the end of the counts, and start enjoying the pose. I started gaining more awareness over the various parts of my body when practising yoga and began to follow the teachers’ instructions to go deeper into the postures. The best thing about asanas is that we can work towards alignment, then depth, and finally the duration of staying in the asana. It’s a never ending journey and I am grateful to these teachers who laid the foundation in me to survive the 200hr Yoga Teachers Training.