Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where's my yoga practice headed?

Ever since I've returned from India, I feel like I haven't been the same. Surprisingly, I feel a lot less attached to my asana practice these days. When I first started practicing asanas, the physical attributes really got to me. I sweated buckets within a few minutes into a yoga practice. My muscles couldn't stop shaking as I held a pose; bunched up fascia were being opened up. I felt dizzy from breathing too deeply or getting up too quickly from a standing forward fold. I have been steadily gaining strength, balance, flexibility. I begin to be able to observe my thoughts, reactions, and feelings from a third party point of view. It has been an amazing journey. But while in India, the asanas just didn't seem to do it for me any more. I still tried my best, and all these shaky sweaty dizzy stuff still happened to me; I got stronger, and learned lots, but the practice felt more like a chore than something fun and magical.

When I think about the most precious moments I had in India, I think about the times when I sat quietly with an Indian friend. This happened with a few different people actually. I wasn't really thinking about anything, nor was I bored. I was just short on words that was all. Back home this would be considered as rude / socially inappropriate. Usually people would get bored or anxious; they would immediately pick up the conversation by nervously crack a joke or change topic. One or two people would even take out his or her smart phone and do something with it to divert anxious attention. Then I would feel bad about myself, the fact that I made the other party uncomfortable. I have such terrible social skills. I'm a horrible person. I felt incredibly grateful and relieved that these Indians were allowing me to just be, whether I was happy or moody, confident or confused. It's possible that these were merely a cultural misunderstanding (they didn't know what to say either so they just smiled quietly instead). Nevertheless, these moments of comfortable, shared silence felt like what yoga and meditation techniques aim to achieve. For so many years, I have been feeling like I lack the skill of picking up the last sentence of another person's line and say something funny back to keep the conversation going non-stop. I've been subconsciously feeling deeply inadequate for way too long.

People ask me what I do these days. Many assume I would be doing a ton of yoga (asanas) - come on, this girl went all the way to India to take an entire month of yoga class. She must be signing up for yoga teacher training any time now. I really did go to India with the intention to get stronger and improve my asanas. I had no idea I'd end up in this weird mental place where I don't feel like going to yoga classes, or do my own Ashtanga practice, or apply for a job, yet I'm not depressed either. I don't completely understand what's going on with my mind right now. I guess it's a shift from focusing on the physical to the mental aspects of yoga. Seems that my Chinese upbringing has tried to teach me how I should act/feel in each social situation and ignore/suppress the feelings/emotions that naturally arise in a human being. North American culture has emphasized the importance of staying positive and doing whatever we can to get rid of negative feelings right away (retail therapy, exercise, go to a spa, drink a beer, make a joke; just feel good and be happy!). Too many years of schooling has made my brain stuck in constant analytical mode.  Maybe it's time for me to let go of some of these culturally conditioned constraints and get back in touch with myself again. Maybe asanas are not as important right now, at this stage of my yoga journey.


9 comments:

  1. It is totally okay to feel that way. 6 years ago I did an advanced teachers training course in India for a month. The day after graduation when you think I'd be more than thrilled to be taking my first class as an advanced teacher, I could not get through even the first half. My body quit loving it just like that. I was shocked. Sometimes intense practice does make us look right at ourselves and it can begin a period of deep introspection about life and everything we do with it. I returned to the US and didn't do much yoga for awhile other than a few sun salutations and some pranayama. And slowly though I did start to get back to my mat and when I did, it got more awesome every day. Now I know when to go full throttle with practice and when to back off and I plan to keep going until I die. So it's all good. Enjoy getting to know yourself :)

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    1. Thank you anonymous. Hopefully in a few months I'll be in a whole new phase again, like you!

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  2. thank you for this!

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  3. Ah I know how you feel. Think many people go through phases with asana, usually a transition. I was off for a while, went to India, and felt like I had to drag my body kicking and screaming through practice, wondered WHY am I doing this, but came back to a less attached calmer practice that leaves me feeling much better after. Guess I needed to work something out. Who knows, who needs to know. Also, can so relate to the comfortable silence thing, Japanese seem to be less anxious about space in conversations it's nice.

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    1. Thank you for your comment エスタ. Glad to know I'm not alone in my waves of phases.

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  4. Maybe you are just in culture shock. India can be very overwhelming. Maybe you had a rude awakening. Yoga in north america is very fluffy mostly because thats a good way to sell it to people. Thats why you dont see so many indians in india actually practicing yoga because they realize how much work it really is and how serious it is. I grew up in india and not once did I have the desire to want to learn yoga. I come to north america and bam I am sold lol. Also the indian teaching system is very rigid...dont look into it too much.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment Midnight. This gives me a lot to think about. I think I'm more amazed that westerners can transform such a rigid system into trance dances and free-form vinyasa power yoga. If I were one of the first students who came across this system in India, I would never be creative or daring enough to change it into the yoga styles we see in North America today. I'm saddened by how unimaginative I am, but I totally don't regret experiencing yoga in its more authentic form in India.

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