My generation in India grew up with the notion that yoga was for the sick and the elderly. I never saw any young person practice yoga. People went for aerobics or funky dance classes, but not yoga asanas.
When my father suggested that I try yoga to gain a good pace in my life, I stared at him in shock. “You want me to become one of those weird people who stand with their head down on the floor and legs up?” I cried.
He tried to explain to me the benefits of yoga, but the 17-year-old me had made up my mind: I was fit and active. I exercised regularly. I was an avid dancer choreographing for other colleges. I was a part of a million activities and clubs. I loved life and it loved me back.
I couldn’t comprehend why I needed a headstand or breathing exercise to slow me down when I was on the fast track. Does the universe keep tabs on what you say?
Fast forward to my twenties—somehow I hurt my back. Despite countless visits to doctors in different countries and several rounds of tests, nothing helped. By now, I was frustrated with my inactive life and weight gain.
Very carefully, my father and husband both suggested I try yoga. Out of options, I reluctantly took their advice.
The first week in yoga class, I cried a lot. Something felt cleansed.
Fearing judgment, however, I was afraid to share my experiences with most. I practiced yoga, benefitted from it tremendously, but spoke cautiously about it.
Over the years, my relationship with yoga remained selfish: it helped me, so it became a part of my life. Still, I didn’t love it the way I loved swimming or dancing. Yoga saw my partial treatment but never gave up on me.
My thirties, the decade that I am in now, has been a decade of crises.
Towards the end of my masters program at Columbia University, I thought I would fail. The company I was supposed to do my thesis on underwent management changes and as a result, a few weeks before my finals, I had no project or client.
One night in yoga class, during meditation, I found the answer to my thesis problem. I shared the information with my professor, won his approval, and my presentation was chosen amongst the top 5 in the entire class.
I couldn’t explain the mystical experience: how yoga saved me, again.
Once I graduated from school, yoga got neglected. My job got more demanding, so I started to work out at a gym in my office building. Due to stress, a nerve in my neck would get pinched and render me immobile for days.
Once again, I turned to yoga for help. And what cortisone couldn’t fix, yoga cured, again. The pain went away, but I didn’t understand how.
My Mom used to say that with age we all change. I didn’t believe her until last year when a physical attack shook up my sense of confidence.
I took to boxing lessons to feel safe and empowered. But my husband and I noticed that boxing made me aggressive, unhappy, and didn’t heal my inner wounds.
I knew something had to change—becoming physically stronger shouldn’t have to mean losing my softness, something I prided myself on. I missed the peace, gentleness, and empathy yoga nurtured in me.
This time, I returned to yoga with a different attitude. I made a commitment to it. My life, slowly, started to become lighter. But I still didn’t know why.
Recently, I lost my mother. The only thing that helped me, aside from the care and support of loved ones, was practicing yoga and understanding it.
All these years, I was doing yoga as a substitute for an aerobic workout, not with the intention of introspection and betterment.
I learned that yoga is about controlling your mind, thoughts, and ego. It teaches you to live in the present and the power of breathing right. Yoga is about experiencing gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness. Yoga inculcates mindfulness.
I now know why I found answers to my thesis dilemma in yoga. Or why I’ve made peace with my mother’s sudden demise, or forgiven my attacker. I have let go of what I can’t control.
My mind is quiet, devoid of anger or expectations. I eat better, sleep, and live better. Yoga has helped me strengthen my relationships. It has made me a better person.
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