I am a hustling, energetic person. This is how I am and always have been. I always thought of it as my strength, but everything has its flipside. I came to the point where I knew I had to slow down. I had to carve out some time for some meaningful pastime that would not be work.
Many of my friends advised me to join a yoga class, but guess what? I had no time! Not today, not this week, not in this life. Fortunately, my friend once invited me join her for yoga on a day that also happened to be my day off. I never anticipated the effect this casual invitation would have.
I am but a beginner. I cannot say that yoga has changed and reshaped me. This is not a story of miraculous recovery from a trauma or a tale of an unbelievable mind-body transformation. I also can't say that my lifestyle is now completely different. Maybe one day, that will happen, but nevertheless, yoga has already endowed me with three precious gifts that changed how I see life and how I feel about it.
1. Ability to Pause
I am restless. I cannot sit and do nothing even for 15 minutes, even in the evening, to zone out and relax. I used to be unable even to sit through a twenty-minute sitcom episode without pausing it and rushing to the kitchen to make some tea (and wash some dishes, since I was already there). And here's the thing—I would always find something I had to do, some task to complete, some problem to solve. No wonder I felt like the proverbial hamster in the spinning wheel.
Also, my friends say that my strong point is quick thinking. When the thoughts are zip-zapping through your mind at the speed of light, it gives you a "superpower" in problem-solving. However, it also makes your mind an annoying, constantly chattering companion that will never stop, always urging you to dash forward and fix things, instead of relaxing whenever you have a free minute.
Yoga taught me to be still. Concentrating on nothing, but the sound of my own breath is refreshing and liberating. It is like restarting your computer; your thoughts are detoxed and free of clutter.
It sounds peaceful and easy, but this ability came with the struggle. My mind did not succumb to this tranquility just like that. It took time and effort to shut down the mental chatter deliberately, but that has been the greatest gift yoga gave me so far.
Yoga taught me to be mindful. When you are deliberate and mindful in your yoga practice, it makes you deliberate and mindful in everything else. You gain a different perspective on your life, even in the most mundane situations.
For instance, dealing with something as trivial as my laptop lagging and getting hot and excruciatingly slow. It hampered my work and I used to freak out—asking why it was all happening to me ("Why does the universe want me to suffer?!"), and why it had to happen now, when I had an urgent assignment with a looming deadline.
Then, one day, when it showed me the spinning pinwheel of death, I didn’t see the universal conspiracy to ruin my life, I saw a minor issue I can deal with. I went to Mac Guru Pro (yes, it kinda attracted me with the guru in it) to look for solutions and fixed it all in no time.
I took control instead of freaking out and making myself into a victim of circumstances. Why did not I do this earlier? I just followed the patterns instead of thinking and understanding the cause. In most (not all!) cases of such situations, the cause is us and our own choices. When you do yoga, you begin to notice that many of the choices you've been making are destructive. Once you realize this, you get the chance to change your patterns and be more mindful of how you make choices day to day.
That laptop incident was an eye-opening experience, however, not everything in our lives can be fixed and tweaked. When something was beyond my control, I used to find it hard to let go. Being at peace with what is was never for me until yoga taught me this. Even if things aren’t exactly how I envisioned them to be, I now see the positive aspects of the situation.
My entire life, I knew and tried to follow that always-look-on-the-bright-side-of-life attitude. Yet it wasn't until I started a yoga practice that I began to actually see the possibilities in failures, not simply comforting myself with the thought that "things could be worse."
For example, I sometimes struggle with new poses. Whatever I do, they just seem unachievable by a human being (not with my experience level anyway). However, for each posture that eludes me, there is one that comes naturally to me, and that I can practice instead. I learn to be flexible in every sense of the word—adaptable, labile, and flowing. I learn to "be like water" (thank you, Bruce Lee), whose strength is in its fluidity.
I am at the very beginning of my yoga journey, and I do not know how long it will be. What I do know is that since I took the first step, it has been a rewarding experience. I meant this post to be a sign of gratitude. Thank you, Tracy, for inviting me to join you that day in the park. I also hope that this piece will maybe convince one or two stubborn hustling people like me to give yoga a try, even if you think it’s too odd and new age-y for you.
By the way, thinking that yoga is "for hippies" or too new age-y is a sign that you need to open your mind just a bit—and acknowledge the idea that yoga can actually help you.
Image credit: Dan Morgan