The girl in the picture who kindly allowed me to take a picture of her tattoo has been doing yoga since the age of eight. People like that who have been practicing yoga since such a young age are so good at it and somehow always find a mat right in front of mine in the classes I attend. They are a constant reminder to me that humility is a virtue.
A major reason for me to enroll in yoga classes over five years ago was to become better at coping with stress. I enrolled with one of the hot yoga franchises that has a location near my house and I haven’t look back once ever since. The classes are a combination of yoga + meditation + exercise + sauna, all rolled into one.
The greatest thing about yoga practice is that you learn to breathe in a slow and controlled fashion. You learn body awareness to the extent that you realize there is such a thing as “breathing into a tight spot in your body”. You learn to stretch effectively and you learn to slow down time. All the classes in my yoga studio are instructor-led. To me, that’s a major blessing because I don’t need to think or motivate myself or decide what posture to do next. I just follow instructions. It’s also helpful to set your intention at the beginning of the class, as it helps me sharpen my focus down to one thing at a time. That has had a positive effect on other things in my life as well. When you learn to accept your body, mind and emotional state at the beginning of each class without judgment and work through the yoga postures for the duration of the class, you reach the end of the class in a much better physical, mental and emotional state. Over time, that improves your overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.
On the amusing side, the occasional man who attends the class ‘commando’ or the rare woman who does yoga in pretty much a bikini makes me smile. Those who put shoes in the locker spaces or on top of the benches where people sit always make me worry about picking up toilet germs. The rare anti-vaccine yoga teacher who claims at the end of the class that by doing yoga, we have eliminated the need to take vaccines makes me worry about spreading such unscientific messages. It’s hard not to get offended when I see Namaste or Om tattooed on someone’s foot. Those are respectful words which violate a cherished belief that you don’t touch respectable items with your feet. One learns to accept them as well. On the other hand, changing the names of yoga poses to make them more understandable or marketable doesn’t bother me at all, e.g., Garudasan to Eagle pose, Suryanamaskar to Sun Salutation. I really don’t mind doing the deer pose in a ‘Calm Flow’ class to the song ‘Teach Me to Dance Real Slow’. However, the protest by some when June 21 was declared as the International Yoga Day by the United Nations General Assembly was unnecessary. Promoting yoga is not the same as promoting Hinduism and does not constitute proselytizing. Yoga preceded Hindu religion. In any case, other religions have a far better track record of proselytizing the masses.
Getting back to my own yoga practice – I adore the instructors who make us count in different languages in the class, and those who give you a shout out when you get a posture right or those who come to you and adjust your postures to give you that ‘just-in-time’ learning experience. I feel bad when I mess up my posture and cause confusion in the person next to me or behind me because they were taking cues from me. The five years of yoga practice led me to complete a ‘yoga marathon’ of sorts, a set of 108 Suryanamaskara or sun salutations in 45 minutes to live chanting of Gayathri mantra (a Vedic hymn) to raise funds for Nepal relief last year. It was definitely a proud day for me, my family and my friends.
We are not perfect. We don’t live in a perfect world. Each day, we become better than we were yesterday. We make the world better today than it was yesterday. Inhale……….Exhale……………….