With the spread of awareness about Yoga across the world, endless content on Yoga is available already. So, without getting into the basics, my focus here is on ‘What Yoga is for me’ and to share some of my personal experiences.
I shall start with a short background. After post-graduation, I started my career in the IT industry. While I was working in one of the corporates, they encouraged employees to participate in non-work activities like Yoga, sports, gym, etc. I chose to attend Yoga classes – which, till date, I don’t know why! I am so glad and thankful to the Divine that this happened. After attending a few classes, I was quite thrilled to see my body flexible and even showed off a couple of cool postures to my family, thinking I had truly achieved something! I still remember the teacher who took the classes for us. He was always smiling and so calm. There was some kind of lightness to his presence. I used to look at him in awe wondering how he could be like that always! Anyway, due to work pressure, I ended up discontinuing my Yoga practice.
After approximately 7-8 years, my life took lot of twists and turns and hit the ‘dark night of the soul’ phase. I started thinking about ‘what’s next’ in life, and this is where Yoga entered my life for the second time. I decided to explore the field of Yoga just out of personal interest – more out of a calling from within and not with any plans of making it a profession. I did my research on the various Yoga schools, decided which one to join and completed a 200-hour Teacher Training Course (TTC). It was one of the most intense moments filled with wonder, pain, questioning, crying, cleansing, stillness and all possible emotions. My teacher mentioned that one needs to give oneself at least 6-9 months of time to process and assimilate all that one has learnt before venturing out as a certified teacher. I am glad I listened to his advice and followed it. I stuck to my daily practice and understood more about what was taught – more importantly, about my own body-mind complex. This process helped me to slowly accept broken parts of my life and gave me tools to handle my emotional baggage, strength to move on, hope to rebuild my life brick by brick if need be, a vividly real knowledge that there is so much more to life than what we see and faith in the presence of a higher power that is always at my door step patiently waiting for me call upon! Having gained so much, I had the yearning to share this blessed path with more people like me and therefore worked for a year and a half in the same Ashram where I studied. However, I felt I was doing an injustice by calling myself a Yoga teacher merely after completing a one-month Yoga course. Moreover, I longed to know more about Yoga. Therefore, I quit the job and enrolled myself into a two-year post-graduate program in Yoga. It has been six years since I got into this field. During this phase – which it would be apt in calling my second life – the kind of changes I’ve gone through is amazing. I shall categorize these changes into three levels as follows.
Physical Level – I had a history of falling sick often, thanks to a weak immune system and poor diet. I had low back issues due to the kind of work life, sensitive skin, thyroid imbalance and perhaps a few other ailments. I do not remember them all now – and I’m so glad I don’t! But after practicing Yoga, I gradually underwent a lot of changes without my conscious effort. My diet changed for the better, my sleep quality and immunity levels improved, the low back issues got resolved and I can still feel my health getting better with each day.
Emotional Level – The shift in how I handle my emotions has been incredible and quite extensive to list down completely. Many of my beliefs were shattered to pieces, but with perfect timing and grace. Slowly, my personality underwent changes too – I’ve become more open hearted, more at peace and less impacted by external disturbances. The time gap between going through a rough phase and bouncing back from it has been reducing gradually. I’ve understood the concept of healthy boundaries. It has been a wonderful journey and the vistas that opened up to me are indescribable. I wish I had jotted down all these changes in me as they happened – I would’ve had a nice little book by now! The only way to understand whatever I’ve tried to convey here is to actually experience it for oneself.
Intellectual Level – Out of all the experiences, I would say that the changes that I underwent at the intellectual level were the hardest hit for me! Our upbringing and the kind of society we live in push us to focus more on this aspect of our personality. I too was under this mindset and though I was not an exceptional academic achiever, I have always been drawn towards reading, analyzing and intellectualizing. Once Yoga entered my life, I felt as though my very foundations were shaken. Notions I had lived with for years – basics of how we live, interact with others and think – were subjected to uncompromising questioning. This was a painful and traumatic phase initially and my mind felt like a blank slate because of the shock it had sustained.
Imagine you’re sitting in a cozy, comfortable place, building your entire existence around it day after day for years, to the extent that you eventually forget that it is just a seat and you have the choice to change it. And suddenly, one day, without any warning, the entire setup is pulled away from under your feet and collapses as you watch helplessly. It can be scary experience which makes you feel baseless. And indeed, it was terrifying for me, too. I started thinking that I had wasted so many years of my life without even knowing the basics of life and living. There was remorse and self-criticism. It took me a lot of time, understanding, patience and self-love to make peace with it. Once I accepted the situation as it was, it turned out to be a joyful experience. I understood that there was nothing solely black or white and people or situations cannot be made to fit into either of these compartments. It was liberating to realize this. Therefore, every time I came across a situation with a person which played out contrary to how I would’ve liked it to, this understanding prevented me from reacting with agitation and disappointment and kept me peaceful. Though I cannot claim to have mastered this art of responding rather than reacting, I can certainly see the improvements at a personal level.
I’ve also understood that it is important to listen to the heart too and not merely to the intellect. Life can be lived with such grace and beauty if only we strike a balance between the heart and the intellect. This has been a revelation to me.
Professional Level – I may not be eligible to speak on this at the moment, since I am yet to share my knowledge with others at a considerably large scale – which is perhaps what is expected of one who claims himself to be a Yoga expert. My journey has been of the proverbial ‘slow and steady’ nature – one small, but resolute, step at a time. It has been immensely satisfactory to my soul. Even if a single person were to come up to me and thank me for sharing my knowledge with them, I would consider myself blessed and feel contented on having fulfilled the purpose of choosing this path. Above all, I am satisfied that I got to know the tools that help me keep growing and become a better human being with each passing day. Moreover, I have noticed that as we travel along this path, all our material needs get taken care of in indescribably mysterious ways, that all one can do is accept whatever comes their way gracefully with a heart fraught with gratitude.
To conclude, I am ever grateful to the Divine for guiding me to this path. The learnings along the journey are infinite and they make each day interesting. All the path asks for is a true seeker with the dedication and willingness to put in the hard work necessary in order to reap the manifold benefits. I strongly believe that the yearning a seeker has is directly proportional to the number of unknown dimensions that open up to them – therein lies its beauty. The more one surrenders to this ancient wisdom – truly honoring its sacred spirit -, the more one gets blessed with its hidden treasures.
I hope that this article gives the reader a reason to try and experience Yoga in its true sense, so that they too may get benefitted in infinite ways, just as I was – and am!
Please note: All the experiences mentioned here are personal to me. It is not to be understood that all who choose this path will go through similar experiences. Each individual’s personality is different and therefore it is not possible to generalize the outcome. One can only share what they’ve come across, which is the purpose of this article. Happy exploring!