This Sunday morning is Shadow Yoga with J. I found out J. is learning from a Tai Chi master they have teaching at the studio recently. I like it that I'm learning from a teacher who is actively learning from different disciplines; She is also integrating what she learnt from Tai Chi into our Shadow Yoga classes. It makes me respect her more, her expansive approach to learning and teaching. Once more, it assures me that she is someone I can learn a lot from. After my Prelude to Shadow Yoga course ends, I might try to make it to her regular classes. That will probably mean more hours of yoga. Oh well. Who needs a social life, right?
For today's session, J. made us do some movements to get our chi running through the body. I felt a little throbbing in my left forearm while doing the movements ― it was a subtle sensation, but palpable. Later J. explains: if there's injuries in the body, the chi will be trying to unblock the energy at the injuried area. That was when the sensation I felt made sense: I have strained the muscle on my left forearm the week before ― but I have not told J. about my injury. And it was definitely not a placebo effect.
When we finished the movements, J. asked to look at our palms. I turned up my palms and found that they were ruddy red. J. and the other student, V. turned up their palms also ― but both of them have palms with spotches of pink.
So why the difference between my palms and theirs? Apparently the deep redness of my palms after the exercise indicates I have strong, healthy chi coursing through my body (in fact, it appears my chi is stronger than my teacher's.)
J. then reminds me that the good chi is a gift from my parents ― a reminder to gratitude.
Previously, J. has also told me that I am quite flexible in my hips, groins, and back. I am also quite open in my shoulders ― which is good because it will allow me to do some advance poses like Mr Iyenger ― but she also tempers the compliments with reminders to protect the open shoulders, as they will also be more prone to over-stretching and injuries.
I find it hard to feel cocky about my physical advantages in J's class ― and it's a good thing. At times my ego can get the better of me, and subsequently I behave in an over-bearing fashion. In her gentle but direct way, J. has managed to highlight my strengths while keeping my ego in check. Most of all, in the past few classes, J. always reminded me that my body is a gift from my parents. I think this the most important lesson of all; Not the Shadow Yoga sequence, not the Uddiyana Bandha (which confuses me) ― but this: All the yoga I am doing is only possible by the grace of this body.
The gift of my body is an act of grace, because it is not something I have earned, but it came to me because my mother loved me enough to take special care of herself during her pregnancy.
My mother used to tell me how she regretted not taking better care of herself when she was pregnant with my older brother. Back then, money was tight and as it was her first pregnancy, she was ill-informed on the importance of pre-natal diet and exercise. She blamed herself when my brother was born a sickly baby. So, when she was pregnant the second time, she made extra effort on her pre-natal preparations. She asked other mothers around the neighbourhood for advice. Later, when she found out I was lactose-intolerant, she made certain I was able to get the proper nutrition in my semi-solid food.
As a result, I was a robust child. I rarely fall sick, I suffered no major allergies, no asthma ― and as J. revealed to me, I have a pretty flexible body with some strength, and I have good chi.
I have taken my body for granted for too long. I have been unaware of the advantages I have over other people who are not as open in their hips and groins. I can come to a squat quite easily ― without realising that other people can't squat like I do, because of tight hamstrings or ankles. I can do forward bends quite well, and my backbends come quite easily to me.
But it all came from my parents, especially my mother, who made extra effort on her pre-natal care so that her second child can grow up strong. It all came from a place of love, and I wonder if I can do enough to deserve it. This thought is particularly painful for me, because my mother has been suffering from ill health these past few years. It does not seem right that I should be so blessed when she is not, because she is the source of my blessings.
So, if anyone should ask me what I learnt in J's Shadow Yoga, the most honest answer will have to be gratitude. Gratitude for the body I am born with. And the realisation that I have taken it for granted too long. What I do with this knowledge however, is a test of what kind of a person I am.