In Sanskrit, yoga means "union" - of the body, mind and soul. It's a relatively easy concept to understand, but that's not the point. The idea is to "feel" the union, through the practice of yoga and meditation. And like anything in life, you have to strive and struggle to get there...oh, and not to mention, sweat.
Most yoga practitioners will tell you that you must cultivate your own practice at home, in your own space; that you must commit to your time on the mat. And I couldn't agree more. But that takes a lot of effort, confidence and self-motivation, which we often lack. Having a strong yoga community makes all the difference.
I was a complete cynic when I attended my first yoga class almost five years ago. From what little I knew about it, I thought, who needs yoga when I can go to the gym, ride my bicycle or play a sport. How wrong I was.
I walked out of my very first session into a cold, crisp London evening, feeling on top of the world. There's no better way to describe it: an intangible feeling of joy and peace, as cliche as that may sound. The next morning though, I felt my muscles, and boy did I feel my muscles. I walked like I had taken a dump in my pants, but with a smile on my face. I must have looked rather peculiar.
After practicing on and off in London for several years, without a real yoga community, I moved to Doha, in the tiny Gulf state of Qatar. This is a conservative Muslim society where women cover up, alcohol is restricted and so is freedom of religion. The last thing I expected was a tight-knit yoga community to rival London, New York, or any other cosmopolitan city.
The past two years have seen me become part of a wonderful yoga family of teachers and students who offer encouragement, smiles, laughter and help me connect with myself on the mat. It's thanks to them that my yoga practice has become solid and regular. If it wasn't for their love and support, I would probably not be embarking on the next leg of my spiritual journey.
In just over a week I will find myself on the tropical Thai island of Koh Samui, where I will attend a 4-week residential teacher training programme at Yoga Thailand. This will be the next big test of my stamina, endurance and patience, involving 4-5 hours of yoga each day, lectures, workshops and meditation.
But I'm ready for the challenge. Nothing worthwhile in life can be achieved without some form of effort or personal sacrifice. But I bow my head to the amazing yogis that came into my life two years ago, gave me a sense of community in a foreign land as well as the confidence and courage to continue striving. Once I'm a certified yoga teacher, I hope to give some of that back.
Watch this space for more yoga reflections from Koh Samui.
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