“Are you alright?” I blinked my eyes to see 5 very worried faces looking down at me. I had no recollection of what had happened, but embarrassingly enough I had had a black-out 15 minutes into my first proper yoga class.
Yoga and I had been acquaintances for over a decade now, and must I admit, we had had quite a tumultuous relationship. It had tried to befriend me countless times during my school and college years, but I pretty much always snubbed it off, and now, when I was trying desperately to get to know Yoga, it decided to play around a little with me before eventually becoming one of my closest companions.
Yoga first introduced itself to me in school. It was an unwelcome visitor during our annual day celebrations. It wasn’t the funky handstands or the cool twists we would perform- because our teachers only knew the basics, we eventually were only taught the basics. And I, who was eventually selected to lead the group (thanks to my lanky physique) couldn’t find myself in a more embarrassing position, standing right in front of an army of kids twisting and turning their bodies in awkward ugly positions, knowing that we would be the butt of the jokes made by our friends for months to come.
And then Yoga greeted me again in my undergraduate days. This time for two whole months during my summer vacation. I felt punished because my sister insisted on learning yoga to lose her fast acquired body weight, and my desperate parents, who had had to painfully alienate all the yumminess from the household because my sister couldn’t control her sweet tooth and cravings, readily agreed. I was forced to go for ‘moral support’.
Summer vacations got over, and I thought I had finally bid ‘good riddance’ to Yoga. But, this time yoga visited me in the garb of a more ‘formalized ragging’ by my seniors in graduate school. As if the homesickness, the nauseating hostel food, the overtly strict rules weren’t enough, the seniors added early morning Yoga practice to our already super-hectic schedule. I remember how the sleep-deprivation cause me to actually doze-off during shavasana! I remember thinking of excuses I could make up to miss the yoga class, or cheating on the count and duration of poses, hoping to go unnoticed amongst the 200+ students practicing yoga in the college gardens, and one particular day mustering the courage to sneak out, just to be caught and punished. Thank God the Yoga classes and the ragging lasted only for a week!
An average Indian (like me) feels that by sharing their birthplace with Yoga they know pretty much all there is to know about practice, in reality being completely unaware of how vast this discipline really is. When I was about 14 years old, I had terrible sinusitis and my father attempted Jal Neti on me. Next day I was bleeding from my ears, was rushed to the hospital and still struggle with hearing low volumes. Like my father, I knew little about Yoga, and assumed it was too slow, too boring for me. Why would someone choose that over running. Oh how I enjoyed my early morning runs. It connected me back to nature- listening to new sounds every few steps, sucking in the scarce non-populated air while it lasted before the Delhi traffic hit the roads, hearing the rhythmic epiphany of my own breathing, feeling the nerves in my body pulsate as I put every ounce of my remaining energy to dash through the last few meters. I chased a new goal everyday- literally! Until an ankle injury left me bed ridden for months, and incapable of running- ever!
Few sports require you to give your ankle a vacation, and the ones that did-
well, I pretty much sucked at them. Power- yoga was the rage back then, after a famous Bollywood actress attributed her size 0 figure to practicing power-yoga. Curiosity about this new fad landed me on Youtube, and I found myself quite enjoying Power Yoga. That is until another injury landed me at the orthopedics’s who literally drew yoga poses on my prescription which I was asked to do practice daily. Yes, that’s what a doctor in India would write on your prescription! 🙂 Must I say, the yoga helped my lower back more than any medicine did, and I decided this time to voluntarily take up Yoga classes.
But Karma and Yoga seemed to know each other longer and closer than I knew either of them. Because some faulty wiring in my brain (which my neurologist still hasn’t been able to figure out) caused me to black out YET again. Turns out I can never focus on deep breathing while moving up and down slowly. One of the two needs to be fast enough to prevent a ring of stars dancing around my head (refer Tom & Jerry 😉 ). Yoga was snubbing me off, like I had done for years prior. But then again, you tell a Type A personality not to jump in the well, and well, they will at least come close to the well to gauge the depth. I did too. I decided to go back to Youtube to try to do basic Yoga myself.
Gradually I entered the world of Instagram and was enamored by the beautiful silhouettes yoga poses created. What really caught me in awe was not the beauty of the poses but their challenging nature. I remember the first time I tried ‘Chaturanga Dandasana’ I couldn’t fathom how the chest and stomach could both be off the floor with your entire upper body weight in your forearms! I put pillows under my belly for months to be able to hold that pose even for a few seconds.
My yoga journey as been as fascinating as any other travel expedition I have made. The thrill of exploring a new place, a new culture manifested itself in the excitement I felt exploring my own strengths and weaknesses which different yoga poses introduced me to. The thrill of getting into my first headstand was no different from the adrenaline rush I had when I first bungee-jumped off the highest bungee bridge at South Africa.
Today, Yoga and I know each other better. Infact, our relationship has evolved to a phase where we help each other know ourselves better! I wish I could say that yoga helped me find peace, or got me to build a deeper connection with my soul. It probably will one day. But for now, yoga gives my Type A personality a goal to work towards, adds a tangy seasoning to my sometimes boring recipe of life, makes me meet new people and new poses. But most importantly, Yoga brings me in confrontation with my weaknesses and holds my hand patiently as I strive to conquer them to emerge stronger.