The most common question I get asked when people find out that I teach yoga is 'How long have you been practicing yoga?'. It's actually a rather difficult question for me to answer as I can't clearly remember 'the beginning'.
I think I first started going to yoga classes during University. At Imperial College, we had a pretty good quality gym with drop-in Hatha yoga classes on offer. I remember going quite regularly, but I don't recollect how the classes were. I can only assume that I kept going because it made me feel good.
I started trying out Bikram yoga when I started working in London. I had never heard of hot yoga before. It just happened that there was a studio close to where I lived in Queens Park. In a heated room, I was surrounded by other hot yoga lovers in speedos and bikinis. At first, it was quite an awkward experience being so closed to other semi-naked bodies that were profusely sweating. After a few sessions, I was hooked by the reassuring set Bikram sequence and the feeling of a good detox after each class. I continued to practice hot yoga for another 4-5 years while living in London.
I remember quite vividly at the end of one session during Savasana, I became really aware of the moment I was in. As I paid attention observing myself lying on my towel, my body exhausted from the practice yet my mind extremely conscious, I was able to experience each moment as it passed. I felt liberated from the pressure of needing to get things done, to plan ahead, to succeed...and I could just take each moment as it arrived. It was the first 'Aha' moment in Yoga for me. To me, that moment was a beginning of my yoga practice. It was when I really felt a connection with the practice and with myself.
That experience of 'being present' got me interested in mindfulness and meditation. As I continued to explore different styles of yoga available in London beyond hot yoga, I also attended mindfulness workshops and took a introductory course in Buddhism at the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in London. The Buddhism course coincided with a period of time when I was dealing with spiraling thoughts in my head, making me anxious and stressed. I still remember the teacher, Lama Gelongma Zangmo, suggesting that sometimes meditation may not be suitable if the mind is chaotic, but carrying out physical activities could be another approach. Her practical and open-minded approach to Buddhism was refreshing and encouraged me to start exploring different aspects of my self - the body, the mind and the soul.
All the learnings I gained from yoga, mindfulness and Buddhism made me even more curious to learn about myself and wisdom from the world. I decided to take a career break and travel the world. By putting myself in unfamiliar situations and new cultures, I began to see possibilities I didn't see before. I realized that life isn't a set path, instead I can pave my own path as I go, using whatever materials I have around me at that moment. It was also during this time that I completed my 200 hours yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India.
As a new life emerges, sometimes you have to let go of parts of the old. For me, I let go of someone and the life I had with that person. It was not easy, but it was growth.
I decided to try out Chiang Mai, Thailand for a new beginning. Unbeknown to me, Chiang Mai turned out to be a great place for healing, for experimenting and for finding freedom. It was in Chiang Mai that I explored different modalities along side yoga and meditation - Sound Healing, Reiki, Tantra, Dance Meditation, Shamanic Healing...to name a few. Not every modality resonated with me, but each new experience offered a new perspective. I learned that there are so many ways to understand myself and to understand the world.
My journey now continues back in the UK. I'm building the next segment of my path by combining all the different learnings I've gained from yoga, mindfulness and healing techniques. I want to offer to others the kindness and openness that I have received from people I met around the world. This is another beginning of my practice now.