Around this time, 9 years ago, I went to my first yoga class. It was a Bikram Yoga class in Manila, where I’m from and where I lived for 34+ years before moving on to other cities. I told myself that day that I’m not buying a mat until I’ve gone to 2 classes and still like it. Well, I bought my first mat before I went to my second class. And so I knew that there’s no arguing with the fact that I fell in love with the practice of yoga from then on.
Several mats, yoga clothes, cities, shalas, countries, teachers, yoga postures, philosophies, teacher trainings and practices later, here I am.
I remember in one of the weekend yoga workshops/ trainings that I went to, I was asked, “what does yoga mean to you?” To which my answer was, “mastering the self.”
At this point, I know enough to know that I don’t know anything. All I know is that I’m really good at self-sabotage and suffering always arises when I’m craving for something that’s not there yet or that’s not yet available to me in its full form. And in the process of learning (or unlearning), that can take a very long time in some cases, I have realized that I’m capable of healing as much as I’m capable of destroying. I have been through days when I’m in full denial of what’s going on to the point of ignorance. However, I’ve also had days when the light comes in and the truth is in full view and there’s nothing else to do but to be honest about (or with) what is.
In working with yoga postures, a lot of patience really helps. Whether it be with the posture that I’m persevering to express fully with my very stiff body or my ego that’s constantly getting annihilated, patience is key. Not only patience, but also kindness – compassion towards self goes a long way. This stiff body may be considered a blessing or a curse, depending on my momentary state of mind.
My current practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga have a lot of poses that entail flexibility and strength. Some poses look pretzel-like, and with a body like mine that refuses to turn into a pretzel overnight or even a year or three or eight, I am more and more aware that this stiffness is a part of the evolution that I have put myself through to be a better human being. The Primary Series in this system is otherwise known as Yoga Chikitsa or Yoga Therapy. In the 8 years (and counting) that I’ve been practicing it, I have gone through many ups and downs. And as such, I’ve had terrible relapses when self-sabotage fully takes over. It’s like a dance of cha-cha. One step forward, one step back. Two steps forward, two steps back. One step forward, two steps back. Two steps forward, one step back. Side steps too.
With this developing awareness of my conditionality, I realized that this is why practice is very important. Practice as a verb, not a noun. In response to a co-practitioner’s post in one of the Facebook groups I’m shamelessly a part of, I wrote:
I’ve let go of all expectations on self. I’ve learned to be kinder and more patient to myself and my practice. I’ve learned to see what’s in front of me, rather than what I do not and cannot have at the moment. And whenever I’m feeling inadequate with my perceived shortcomings, I remind myself: practice, practice…all is coming.
The continuous work to break the developed conditions that are detrimental to my wellbeing is a work in progress. There is a misconception that if you’re a yogi or a Buddhist or even a person who is spiritually inclined, you are a”nice person”. Well, I beg to differ. Everyone and anyone who knows me well know this is untrue and not applicable. I believe there is little value in being nice, but a lot in being truthful and compassionate. Compassion is not necessarily nice. And in my case, nice-ness is an effect, not a personality trait.
Whenever I’m engaged in my asana practice, there’s a lot of inner chatter that’s also present. There’s the very loud voices of defeat, envy, pain, laziness and so on. There’s also a range of emotions that go through my mind and body – anger, tension, frustration, pride, pleasure, etc. And because of a practice that strengthens and matures as time goes by, I now know that these conditions are all impermanent.
Impermanence…a very important concept in this learning process. The silent knowing that nothing is permanent. The permanence of impermanence. The impermanence of permanence. (A paradox of our existence.) And this knowing…this helps me stay present; to be with what’s available to me in a given moment. My endlessly shifting experience of the physical and subtle aspects of my practice is evident of this truth.
So, for now, I’ll just keep moving along; realizing my own power as I come across new things in this path. And of course, part of this journey is the community that helps lift me up when everything is falling apart. I am very grateful to find one wherever I am.
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha.