Why Are There No Mirrors?

I was introduced to yoga on 7th May 2022, the first day of the Yoga Teacher Training Course. I would say, it was intriguing and fascinating, in a good way.

I have crossed paths with yoga over 15 years ago. I was quite consistent back then. I liked my teacher — she was encouraging, patient and humble and I enjoyed her classes. I was able to execute a few difficult poses quite finely and I was proud of it. I guess it fed my ego. I was good–better than most of my classmates. I would practice at home almost every day so I can go to class and fold into Pascimottanasana like I was paper or bind my legs to Lotus like they were copper wires. It probably helped that I was a gymnast and a martial arts student in my youth. Yes, I was super flexible. I thought I could do anything, and nothing could go wrong.

But good things never last, do they? Pascimottanasana put an end to my yoga affair. One fine evening, it left me with an injury on my lower back that lasted years. The pain came and went but mostly stayed. My active lifestyle suddenly came to a halt. I was devastated.

I tried yoga again five years later, but it was never the same. I was as stiff as a cardboard and tight as a corroding pair of screw and nut. It was not enjoyable like it used to. I felt disheartened, intimidated, uncomfortable and embarrassed every time I went to a class. My body looked awkward in asanas. The mirrors said so. It didn’t help that the teachers inculcated competition among their students. I stopped completely. I avoided yoga for as long as I could.

I explored other sports and being competitive myself, I pushed hard just to prove my place. I didn’t want my team or anybody to doubt or question my commitment. In 2017, I injured both my shoulders, two weeks apart—left rotator cuff while training for a Dragonboat race, and right rotator cuff during the competition. It was a bad call by the team captain and the coach, but I largely blame myself until now for allowing them to take control of my body. That was my fault.

I was again “disabled”. My shoulders were almost frozen. Imagine not being able to lift your arms or sleep on your side for 2 and a half years. That’s brutal and terrifying not knowing if you’re ever going to heal and get your life back.
I patiently followed and performed the exercises my therapist recommended.

On the third year, I was able to lift my arms slightly above my head. My range of motion improved over the last couple of years and in November 2021, one of my good friends and a former Dragonboat teammate invited me to attend a yoga class. I hesitated and immediately felt intimidated. My thought bubble was, “here we go again”. I did not want to show her my lack of enthusiasm. I thought to myself, I don’t have to go back if I don’t like it. So, I went. The class was Ashtanga Basics. I was awkward and uncomfortable, of course. I wasn’t going back.

One month later, my friend invited me again. She told me about this class she attended where the teacher used a singing bowl during Savasana and how relaxed she felt after the class. I have a metal singing bowl and I sometimes play with it to de-stress. She raved about this class, so I gave in.

Close to thirty classes later, I enrolled in a Yoga Teacher Training Course conducted by the same teacher with the singing bowl and the same teacher who taught all those [close to thirty] yoga classes I’ve attended.

Why the change of heart, you might ask? I was comfortable the moment I stepped in class. I did not feel I didn’t belong. I think it had a lot to do with the teacher. After declaring I had quite a few injuries, I was told to only do what I can and to listen to my body. The students were always reminded to not push too hard because there’s always the next day, and that health is priority. I knew I looked clumsy in my asanas, I could feel it but I couldn’t confirm it. There were no mirrors in the studio. And I wondered why.

My teacher would correct my alignment every so often, but it was always done with care and intention. I knew I was in good hands—that’s full trust and confidence there. I noticed how my body improved, then my curiosity grew. I enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training Course not with the aim to teach afterwards but with a genuine interest to deepen my practice. I knew there is much to learn about yoga, and I was anxious to find out.

One week away to the end of the course, I am a changed person. I will never look at yoga the same way again. Every time I step on my yoga mat, I feel a sense of peace and humility. It is, after all, about me and only me, not anyone else–MY body, MY breath, MY mind connecting and uniting. It is about embracing and accepting my body and what it can and cannot do. And that is liberating. No competition, no intimidation, no humiliation. No mirror. I developed a profound respect and understanding of the practice and it’s a beautiful awakening.

I am grateful I met yoga on 7th May 2022. And I am thankful to my friend, too. My purpose of learning yoga was not to teach but I believe in sharing and spreading amazing things. Therefore, teach I shall… and I hope someday, I can be as great a teacher as my teacher.