My Strange Journey from a Workaholic Salesgirl to a Yoga Teacher
Originally featured on Timeout Magazine "Yoga and meditation in the modern world",
transcribed by Averie Nguyen
I discovered yoga before I discovered meditation. It was 2010, I had just turned 20, and I was restless. At that time I was insecure and trying to do too many things at once to prove myself - studying, social activities, and part-time jobs. I was also struggling with a relationship. As a result, I slowly burned out and began suffering from migraines, anxiety, depression, and lower-back pain. Couple all that with low blood pressure and my body deteriorated, leaving me feeling desperately in need of therapy.
I was advised to try yoga to help ease my back pain and that’s how I started. To my surprise, the back pain subsided after just a few weeks and after six months my headaches disappeared too. I continued to practice yoga, at home and sometimes attending classes. For several years I have always carried a yoga mat with me and see the time spent on yoga as an investment, giving me the energy to walk into my day and get my work done. Slowly, I began to love how I feel when I practice. Yoga became more than just a therapy, it is my passion and dedication. More than that, yoga is an act of love, first and foremost, to myself.
Both yoga and meditation are ancient practices, dating back thousands of years. Because they are spiritual practices, I believe that a person must first experience them and then create the definition for themselves.
As a long-term practitioner, meditation is a practice that helps calm and still my mind. From that stillness, an inner door opens for me to connect with my soul or my true self. In short, I see meditation as a way back into my centre, where I can feel the most important things like inner peace, inner wisdom, joy, and love.
Over thousands of years, meditation practice has been refined and developed by its practitioners. The most commonly seen form of meditation practice is seated meditation. However, numerous other types of meditation exist across many religions and traditions. That being said, meditation is not religious, but rather a universal practice that can benefit anyone.
Yoga is a practice with the power to transform body, mind, and soul. I see yoga itself as a moving meditation. Yoga acknowledges the role of the physical body for one person to reach their fullest potential. Each yoga posture enables me to undo the tightness in my body so that energy can flow freely. When energy flows freely in the physical body, it’s easier for the mind to be still, and for me to connect with my soul.
In our modern world
Yoga and meditation play a vital role in the modern world. With the advancement of technology and explosion of media and social media, we are constantly bombarded with noises, fear-driven news, and contents manipulated for someone’s personal, political, or economical agenda. Life is becoming faster and faster and we are asked to produce more and more. So there is a constant feeling of imbalance and losing touch with our true self. We feel lost, insecure, burnt out, stressed.
It’s clear that we need a practice to energise our body, calm our mind, connect to our true self, and listen to our inner voice for guidance. This is what yoga and meditation are about.
I often ask my students in the first class what their intentions are and I recommend that they have very clear intentions for their practice. All intention is legitimate, whether it is to become more physically fit, to balance one’s emotions, to relieve stress, or to connect with one’s soul. I started yoga simply because I wanted to relieve my back pain. Yoga is such a holistic practice that if you show up for the class with certain dedication, your desire will be fulfilled.
Everything needs practice, especially yoga. It is a practice that is thousands of years old with incredible therapeutic effects. I think the biggest challenge for new yoga students is to be aware of and accept their body’s limitations, to feel okay with the current state of their body, and to learn how to love their limitations instead of getting frustrated or discouraged every time they cannot achieve a pose. Many students tell me that they are not flexible, fit, or calm enough for yoga. I tell them: “Well. That’s exactly why you should do yoga.” If you are already super strong, flexible, calm, perhaps you don’t need yoga.
There are misconceptions around yoga and meditation. Some people believe that yoga is a gymnastic or acrobatic exercise and feel intimidated before even trying it. Some think that meditation is religious and it would take a leap of faith to begin. Some think that meditation can negatively effect your mental state.
I don't want to change those opinions because I am not into changing anybody. Rather, I would invite people to be a little curious. Maybe give yoga or meditation a try and experience it for themselves. People don't need to believe in anything they are not ready to believe in. If they are truly not built for yoga or meditation, there is no pressure to continue. We all have our own choices and ways of living.
The central theme of yoga is self-love. I think I decided to become a yoga teacher the moment I discovered this truth. Yoga taught me how to love myself. And my whole world changed after that. I want to give the same thing to as many people as possible. If expats in Vietnam want to find a good yoga centre, I have heard great things about Zenith Yoga. I have a friend who teaches there. In Saigon I have not practiced at any centre but have heard really wonderful things from friends about Yoga Living. And of course I would welcome any expats who want to experience yoga with me at my boutique studio, Soulful Garden.