Back when I was 19, I had a friend bring me to my first Bikram yoga class. It was pure torture, for someone who had never stretched. Enduring 1.5 hours in a 41 degree Celcius room... This was something people did as exercise???!! Or for fun???
But after the class, I felt a mental release. I felt lighter physically, too. And somehow, I went on to practice regularly for 4 - 5x a week when I was 21.
Now, I still manage to practice some form of yoga at least once or twice a week in between tennis sessions, which is my chosen sport today. But yoga is something I'll never give up, for the peace it brings and all the lessons it's taught me.
Here’s to a practice I’ve been keeping for 9 years, and here are some things it's had me realise:1. My relationship with my body is as important as my relationship with anyone else.
“Treat others how you want to be treated”
Same goes with your body. If you treat it right and be kind to it, it will reward you.
I think for the greater part of my youth, I had seriously warped images of what “beauty” meant. Back then, stick thin models strolling down the runway were what I considered "beautiful". Which meant: The skinnier, the better. Any ounce of fat on my own body was to be shamed.
2010: where all I wanted to be was skinny
My relationship with my body grew over time, from a place of loathing and punishment (overeating meant I'd starve myself for the next few days) to a solid, healthy stance. Now, where I eat whatever I want, because I've learnt that food is meant to fuel and nourish me.
2017: Wasn't really taking care of my diet then. I was exercising but didn't know the importance of nutrition, probably was consuming more than I burnt lol
Yoga helped transform that relationship. The sense of accomplishment when you’re able to achieve a certain pose, or get into a pose successfully, or even improve incrementally, had me connecting to myself. It all led to me celebrating what my body can do for me - and thus the body itself.
I say, if you can come to that place, then that's beauty and perfection. For today, love your curves. Love yourself when you look your best and love yourself even when you think you don’t. Once you start developing the ability to love and celebrate yourself, a new and powerful relationship to your body can emerge and you will do what is best for it.
2. Living in the moment is real.
2021: Today, I feel that food is meant to nourish me, and I've let go of any unhealthy expectations
In many classes, teachers will ask students to set intentions. Mine are usually simple. One I love picking is to show compassion. But I took awhile to take this out of the yoga room but when I did, I first started with my relationship to food.
I began reading up on how adopting more plants and whole foods could lead you to feel lighter, physically and mentally. Some people adopt a plant-based diet for the animals, and that’s totally okay.
I do it because my mood and mind feel better when I'm plant-based.
In fact, during this last phase of restrictions, I have had at least 1 plant-based meal every day. Knowing that everything on my plate is made out of vegetables, has done no harm to a living being, and is meant to nourish me, is very comforting. I relished every bite and felt great after each plant-based meal.
Homecooked meal of quinoa, eggplant with Carrot Kimchi Hummus & guac
Again, I credit yoga with creating a curiosity for what fuels my body best, and deepening my sense of appreciation for food. It all starts with “being in the now”, and living in the moment.
If you haven't implemented this in your own life, here's my suggestion: When you're next having dinner with friends or fam, chuck your phone aside and live in the moment! ;) That might lead to greater enjoyment... And who knows what else? It can only be good.3. Discipline will see you through the days you feel the crappiest.
Yoga has cultivated in me a discipline like no other. It has taught me that if you put in the work, you will be rewarded.
There are some poses that yielded improvements so miniscule, and took a long time for my body to “get it”. But once I saw the improvement, it was magic.
One of the “poses” is one you might have heard of: Chaturanga, a yoga push up.
This needs a lot of arm strength - of which I had none. It took me almost 5-6 years to get it! And I know that my “success” was largely due to my perseverance.
2021: Yoga "push-up"
That one pose taught me the concept of "keep showing up, no matter what". I’ve turned up for Yoga hungover, when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m not feeling my best.
Usually, these are the times when I've learnt the most. I might suddenly hear - really hear - something that resonates. Usually, it might be the teacher saying something like “it’s okay to fall down, as long as you get back up”. Those moments are pure joy.
Yoga.. What can I say? It is a practice I don't think I'll ever give up for all the things it has taught me - and continues to teach me.
Happy Yoga Day, to all my teachers, and all students of this wondrous practice <3