I would be the last person you would expect to do Hatha Yoga. I’ve never been the athletic type nor had the desire to move my body any more than absolutely necessary. In school, physical education was a nightmare. The teacher and the other students always teased me for my pathetic performance.
But then in 2011, a few renunciates were asked if we would be willing to teach the children in Amrita Vidyalayam Schools the Surya Namaskarah. At first I said, “No way! I’m much too busy.” However, the next morning, to my great surprise, I woke up with a burning desire to learn yoga asanas. And so it happened that I became a trainee yoga teacher for Amrita Yoga, right after I had finished my PhD in Psychology.
Doing Amrita Yoga has taught me awareness in a way that sitting for meditation could never have done.
Before, I was not very conscious of my body. My attention was scattered. But by bringing my body in line with the sacred geometry of the asanas, by paying attention to small details, my level of awareness has improved. Moreover, practicing Amrita Yoga has brought me a renewed enthusiasm for meditation and more devotion towards Amma.
Having been brought up in an achievement-oriented family environment, in which emotions had no place, I had not been in touch with my feelings. This radically changed when I was introduced to Amrita Yoga, and a new chapter of my life began. In the past, I would be very hard on myself, striving to accomplish great things, no matter how stressful. My motto was, “I achieve, therefore I am”, which is quite common in the West. I felt that I was never good enough. All I really wanted was to belong and to be loved.
Because yoga asanas stirred up many emotions, and also unpleasant memories from my childhood, I could no longer be in denial of my emotional problems. Yoga has softened me and opened up a healing process that is ongoing. As I accept myself with all my vulnerabilities, I feel so much more compassion towards other people. Besides bringing emotions that were deeply buried to the surface, practicing yoga asanas directly helped me to deal with them. When I felt really down, I would do heart-opening asanas which help to alleviate depression. The benefits of yoga for depression, reducing stress and improving the quality of life, have been demonstrated in studies.
In conclusion I can say that I’m striving to lead a more balanced life. Amma has said we should follow ‘the middle path’ and not go to any extremes in our spiritual practice. I observe this insight in yoga, since I don’t go to extremes in the asanas. When my breath doesn’t flow smoothly, I know I am trying too hard. On the other hand, when my mind wanders, I know I’m not trying hard enough. Then again, I will not be doing intense austerities. When I become tense or stressed, I slow down and do less. I don’t waste my time watching TV all day, or give up spiritual practices, thinking I’m a total failure. In this way, I am more receptive to Amma’s infinite compassion, more apt to imbibe Her teachings.