This One-Year-Old Yogini

by Eena

My life as a yoga teacher turns a year old this week. The fact dawns on me only when I observe the glowing faces of our studio’s second batch of trainees as they graduate and teach their first classes.

The realization is one framed by disbelief (that much time has lapsed since I quit corporate?), relief (that I’ll have substitutes as I go on full bridezilla mode soon), and ultimately humility (to find that so much of life is still a mystery).

Graduation day with my dear yogi and yogini friends, November 2012

Graduation day with my dear yogi and yogini friends in Tagaytay, November 2012 (Photo – Glency)

Today I answer some FAQs about my progress as a practitioner.

Do I sit and meditate like a good little student should?

I find an almost trance-like state of concentration easier to achieve than before, but meditation remains elusive. Really, if my teachers learned of my inconsistent schedule, they’d probably smack me in the head with their eco-conscious rubber mats.

Am I satisfied with living life outside of “the system”?

Still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel about as free as a part-time employed college student on perennial summer break (inclusive of field trips to the beach and mountains).

Truth is I still live in a system, of the more localized variety where I can be inspired by the fruits of my labor every bloody single day. My students are stronger, happier, more mindful of the consequences of their actions. To observe their progress surpass even my own feels damn fulfilling. That they openly smile and laugh, curse and cry but thank me all the same is a bonus.

About “the system” you can’t trust:

What cool poses have I achieved by now?

I can balance on my hands and forearms in various spinal and leg configurations–does that sound cool to you? I can hold a yin yoga pose for five whole minutes; how about that? And then there are poses accessible to my body now that previously weren’t, but also poses absolutely unsuitable now that previously were easy-peasy. Is that also cool?

Yoga isn’t about rocking out cool poses. My personal progress in the asana or physical aspect of yoga is such a subtle one, difficult to observe from the outside. Only the practitioner herself can truly understand her breath and her body.

Have I gained any yogic powers?

I don’t think I’ll be defying gravity, walking on burning coal, or lying on pins anytime soon. More than anything I think I’ve even hyper-sensitized my heart and my senses.

Seriously. I find myself crying over stories of rescue dogs, adopting stray kittens, being drawn into friendly conversations with random people of all kinds, and approaching students who are the annoying kind I long ago would have avoided. Okay so maybe these are normal acts befitting a normal person, and it’s only now that I’ve evolved into one. I still think that deserves acknowledgment.

It’s not just my anahata or heart chakra that’s opening. I suspect some changes are also happening to my third eye or ajna chakra. Such events however merit further investigation and deserve their own post.

Have I switched to a plant-based diet?

Nope, still working on that one. I’m essentially still here in pescatarian mode.

Am I still Catholic?

For a while I had replaced most of my prayers with Sanskrit mantras; there’s something hauntingly deep in their simplicity. But perhaps ironically, it was yoga that deposited me upon Christ’s doorstep. As I gained more and more self-awareness through my practice, I found myself wanting to free my deepest self. Faced with the pain, anger, and shame of confronting specific fears, I surprised myself when I subconsciously resorted to singing hymns to the Virgin Mary.

Does my body feel any different?

Absolutely. I’ve lost some fat, gained some muscle, and despite only a weekly biking regimen, my cardiovascular system can keep up with the average jogger or biker. (Nowadays I’ve taken to zumba to confront another one of my fears: looking stupid).

I work smart with my body. I know how my hips should move, how my back should arch. I know I shouldn’t slouch like the office worker I used to be. I know how certain food and drink or lack thereof can instantly change my psyche and energy.

It’s not so much that my body feels different, it’s that I feel different in my body.

Am I closer to my dreams?

I’m nowhere near my grand dreams of becoming an artist. But every day I paint the wonders of life into the rich mural in my head, compose my own poetry in flowing yoga sequences with the breath, and hear my own music in the kind words and actions exchanged between souls.

I wake each day and face the present with an open heart and open mind, taking one sweet breath after another, eager for the next moment.

Inhale, exhale.

Om shanti shanti shantihi.