I am exactly at that point of quarter life crisis where I am left pondering over questions I never thought of before. Over the last couple of years, it seems that the interests are diverging, there is a conflict with family and friends. Despite the fact that people would continue poking you, I believe, what matters is to follow what you want in life. You can lead someone else’s life or you can follow your own passion, being certain that whether you celebrate life or regret it, whatever it is, is for your own decisions – the decisions you made for yourself.
That has been the principle of my life, or rather my twenties at least. I like to travel, I like to explore the world, I like to meet new people, I like to get immersed in different cultures, I like to step out of my comfort zone. For me, there’s no fun if there’s no risk. I don’t say that’s the right way of living. But that’s the way I choose to live life every new day. And I am an individualist person. Be it solo trips, going out to try new restaurants, chilling on the beach, anything, I am often asked with a wide open mouth, sometimes showing a sense of pity, “Have you come alone?” to which I often say, “No, I have come with myself.”
When you spend quality time with yourself, you know yourself so much more. I always believe that one should have three things you are really passionate about and those three shouldn’t be dependent on anybody else. You should be up and running even at 2 in the morning for those three. For me, that’s travelling solo, reading and yoga.
For the last one year, I have been a hard core yoga practitioner. One day, I had this innate feeling to undertake full time formal training. And that was it. I was bombarded with questions on why I want to do yoga full time, why am I considering becoming a yoga trainer as a career option, why I can’t be like everybody else – a normal person. That’s when I self-realized that if being normal was not being myself, and being what the society wants from me, I could definitely not be normal. I was at a point where I was risking not just a full time job but also fondness of a well – knit family which seemed to have ticked off for the decisions I was taking. But I was clear in my head. I wanted to undertake full time formal training in the yoga capital of India right away, period.
So I headed to Ashtanga Yoga Mysore. I was super excited to make it to the first class at 5:30 in the morning and practice yoga with ten different nationalities in the same room. But as I finished attending that first class, I was sure this wasn’t easy. At the end of day 1 itself, I started placing an X on each day on the calendar as it passed. Every now and then, my eyes reviewed the daily schedule over and over again.
5:30 – 7: 30: Asana Practice
10:00 – 11:00: Asana Theory
11:15 – 12:30: Yoga Philosophy
3:00 – 4:30: Asana Adjustments
5:00 – 6:00: Meditation
7:00 – 8:00 – Anatomy
10:00: Lights off
I asked myself so many times – why am I doing this? There’s no way I am getting up that early. The rigorous 30 day teacher training program I signed up for, sounded more like some cruel and unusual punishment. Long days started at 5 in the morning only to end at 8 at night, and even after that people could be seen doing Upward Dogs, Downward Dogs, Chaturanga Dandasanas (the customary pushup position), a few others standing on their heads and all the remaining ones cramming Sanksrit numbers, Sanskrit names of the asanans and opening closing prayers, again in Sanskrit. Day after day, deep Oms echoed through the walls of the ‘Shala’.
“Close your eyes, relax your body. Inhaaaaaaale, exhaaaale! Deeper again. No thoughts are disturbing you. You are going deeper and deeper,” is all I could hear even in my sleep. I just couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat properly. I started feeling sick – physically, mentally and emotionally sick. And I couldn’t tell this to my parents, they never wanted me to do this in the first place. I just wasn’t uncomfortable, I was miserable.
One day, I walked to my Guru ji, and told him that asana practice was too intense for me, my body wasn’t able to cope up. There was no way I could pick all the postures of Ashtanga primary series in one month. I was sure I would fail in the examination. Guru ji, with all his serenity replied, “Yoga is much more than physical postures. Asanas is just one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga practice. Yoga is about uniting body, mind and soul, about practicing Yama (social discipline) and Niyama (self-discipline).”
I knew what he was saying. Wasn’t I the one who preferred a challenging life over staying in my comfort zone? Wasn’t I the one who fought family and friends to come here? My inner self made me more miserable. Morning after morning, tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood in the downward dog position. I often asked myself, what’s the first thing I wanted to do when I get back to Delhi and all I saw was feeding my sleep deprived body with all the Kormas and Kababs of the world.
By the middle of week 1, I was sure I would have ran away, but the reason I continued was because it was my decision to do this in the first place. This is exactly what I meant, when I said – celebrate or regret, but only for the decisions you make for yourself.
Surprising! This feeling didn’t last for long. Slowly and subtly, I was intrigued by the Shala culture and genuinely excited about yoga and yogic lifestyle. As days and weeks passed by, I could see myself changing, in a way I didn’t know. Even making an attempt to put that in words, would do injustice to my experience. I might just say that I was becoming more of a spiritual person. The world matters to you lesser every second, and perfection at asana positions start mattering much more 🙂 Given a choice to go out and party, to write my school application for Masters, to do those long pending conversations with family or friends, or to get on your knees and lift up the body only to see the world upside down, standing on your head, I picked the last one.
And not to forget, I started enjoying the Satvik food so much that I couldn’t find myself craving for those Galouti Kababs and Chicken Shwarmas anymore. So much so, that the carnivore inside me turned into a vegetarian.
Not just this, the formal training also changes the way you do your daily practice. Earlier, yoga for me was relaxation alone and now, I am critical of each and every asana position I am in, and push my limits to attain perfection. And then there are those choices you start making automatically as a part of your yogic life. I see myself, swapping normal milk for soy, wheat for ragi, and also, remembering Ujayi Pranayama (Victorious breath) in the middle of a conversation with my dad or my boss, more so when we seem to disagree on things (which is quite often), and victorious breath seems to work better than the argument. Though I am totally engrossed devouring a paper on India Pakistan trade at work, I suddenly realize how I have been trying to broaden my shoulders and straighten my back all this while. Somebody like me who was never a morning person, has this innate desire to start off my practice in the small hours of the day. If I have to put all of this in one line, it’s a feeling where I am in a relationship with myself.
Earlier, I wrestled with my inner self and now, I have begun to let go. Let go of my regrets about the past, let go of my fears about the future, let go of making myself and everything around me perfect. When somebody at work remarked that I was having withdrawal symptoms, I knew for sure, a calmer and happier me, that I call my yogini version, had pushed its way to the surface.
This one month was a great insight into what kind of life I relished. My endeavor will be to continue following my passion. Falling in love with my own body was so addictive that I cannot stop myself now, striving for more yogic times ahead.
Thank you Yoga, see you soon in a different part of the world. We shall travel together 🙂