One year ago, I untied my figure skates for the last time, bid farewell to my second home (the ice rink), and flew across the country for university. Without the graceful spirals and thrilling axels that provided a sense of pride and self-satisfaction throughout high school, I felt like a piece of myself had been left in BC. Yoga eventually began to fill in that crevice, sorting out the clutter in my mind and teaching me to be aware of both my physical and mental selves. With looming deadlines, expectations, and pressure to execute tasks flawlessly, I still occasionally find myself addicted to the end result of my actions. When I dabbled in yoga several years ago, I was certain that the asanas, or poses, in yoga were all about stretching. Last year, I could glide effortlessly into the full splits, but touching my shins in a forward fold was an agonizing struggle.
Today, I am aware of how all bodies are structured differently. Someone in the slightest backbend is attaining the same stretch as someone whose toes tickle their forehead in a bow pose. My own yoga practice morphs monthly, weekly, even daily; often I enjoy powering through a challenging vinyasa, but other times, my body needs to indulge in restorative lying-down poses.
The seemingly-impossible feats of acro yoga drew me in instantly. Poses like “ninja high star” and “back bird pose” seem acrobatic in nature (acro yoga is quite performative!), but truly emphasizes the art of finding balance. I was attracted to the beautiful high-flying postures that appear complex and intimidating, but are truly accessible for yogis of all levels. Playfulness is the aspect of acro yoga that excites me most. Playfulness and curiosity invite joy, the joy of exploring new experiences. Acro yoga not only encourages connection and communication, but also fosters trust, responsibility, and focus. Both yogis and spotters must verbalize their actions and rely on each other.
Best of all, acro has taught me to let go of the fear of ridicule while embracing the feeling of standing out from the crowd. This creative, fun, and challenging discipline of yoga is ideal for building confidence and poise under pressure.
The first time I entered the Vancouver Circus School, I was mesmerized by countless dazzling displays of strength and flexibility. Girls sitting comfortably on metal hoops, suspended five feet in the air. Boys leaping explosively into the air before curling into cannonball positions and spinning in a blur. As circus-inspired fitness becomes increasingly popular, recreational enthusiasts have been spurred to experiment with this thrilling art. Since starting aerial silks several months ago, I’ve discovered that fear is an illusion. Doubt and insecurity are illusions. I have full control over these feelings, and have the capability to vanquish them at will. When I connect with my very own piece of fabric, I love observing how my body transforms into an instrument. You are likely wondering how yoga relates to circus arts, but it truly does. One must be at ease, yet willing to experiment with new feats. Furthermore, aerialists often turn to yoga for cross-training to improve endurance and bendiness.
One thing that still irks me about yoga is how it has been tainted by social media, and is following the precarious footsteps of the fashion industry. In addition to being flooded with photos of trained athletes and experienced contortionists, practically all yoga photos have been enhanced with flattering filters. Yogis (even adept instructors!), like everyone else, may be vulnerable to the pressures of social media. I know that I certainly feel inadequate after looking at some yogis do their thing. I realized that I often become so preoccupied with appearance that I shift from doing yoga to practicing contortion. To make matters worse, my practice occasionally ends the moment my iPhone runs out of video storage space. I have to remind myself to focus on the true purpose of my practice, doing yoga and not #yoga. It is difficult, yet worthwhile, to understand the intentions behind our online selves, and ensure they align with our true selves. After all, why must we allow a number of “likes” to dictate how we feel about what our own bodies can do?
Now, yoga to me is much more than a workout. It is a way of life that encompasses self-care, and the diverse asanas are only one of the eight limbs of yoga. Perhaps what I love most about yoga is that yoga doesn’t care if you have never tried it before. Yoga doesn’t care where you come from, what you like, who you know, or why you practice. Yoga doesn’t care if you are a size XXS or a size XL. In fact, if you have a body, you have a yoga body. You are, however, more than a physical manifestation of yourself. I encourage you to discover talents, passions, and skills that have nothing to do with your body. As I learn more and more about myself, I am beginning to examine and challenge the ideologies that shape my body image, figuring out why these negative beliefs and vicious cycles are so deeply ingrained. While my practice progresses, I hope to release the thoughts that don’t serve me. After all, the journey of yoga has no destination.
The ultimate goal? Feeling the way I feel after a satisfying yoga practice (radiating with humble pride and self-confidence) – all the time.