I was introduced to yoga by a good friend of mine while I was still living in Cebu. She took me to her beginner’s class. I remember not being too eager to dive into it. I was used to sports and played a lot of tennis and badminton over the years and even if I hadn’t played for a while, I thought yoga would be too “new age-y” for my taste. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I agreed to give it a try. Also, my conscience had been bugging me about my lack of physical activity since my racquet-wielding days seemed to be about over. I remember my shoulder being stiff at the time, and was worried about how I’d be able to move with that in the way. After the class, though, I found the stiffness gone. The notion that yoga would be too physically “light” was all but obliterated, and I was sweating bullets throughout that first class. And after class when my teacher (who has since become a good friend of mine) asked me how I liked it, I had to admit both to my friend and to myself that I quite enjoyed it. I went on to practice at my teacher-friend’s beginner’s classes for about three months. She wouldn’t give me any excuse and would pick me up every time for class. I was packing up my apartment and getting ready to move back to Manila, and yoga was one of the activities that gave me a break from packing (and probably facing the fear of the unknown). I liked the “distraction” that it provided, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “hardcore” practitioner.
Yoga was cut short when I finally moved back to the big, bad city. Adjusting to life back here compounded by a wrist injury made sure my declines to yoga invitations by another friend, who I met while co-facilitating a yoga festival’s music component, was legitimate. Fast forward to 2018. My friend continued to invite me to go to yoga with her every time we would meet up. I continued to say my wrist was still hurting (convenient, no?). And then one day she just called to say she was picking me up in 20 minutes. At that point, I hadn’t practiced for a year and a half. Not only did she take me to my first FNR class, she signed me up for Urban Ashram’s 21-day Yoga Challenge. Kicking and screaming on the inside, but too exhausted from class to say “no,” she finally (and literally) wore me out and I said “fine, I’ll do it.”
It is now just a little over three months since that first FNR class. I did complete the 21-day challenge. I find, though, that it’s actually harder to go to yoga without the challenge to well, challenge me. I go every week day. I think yoga and I are still on the “honeymoon phase.” I do like how my body is slowly waking up again and getting stronger with each class. I like how going to class eases my conscience about getting regular exercise. Lately though, I have been feeling a shift in focus from solely the body strengthening and conditioning part. I’m finding that my mind- and head space is also getting a share of the yoga benefits pie. Maybe that’s why they say that yoga bridges the mind-body connection. “Mindfulness,” a word that almost always follows when describing the benefits of yoga, is becoming less of just a buzz word to me. It’s actually taking a more central focus. After all, I would probably fall over myself if I didn’t keep the focus on being in the moment.
But not all is paradise. There are days when I ask myself (especially when I took early morning classes) how long can I keep this up? How long can I keep going to yoga class week day after week day? How can I sustain the every-damn-day practice? Encouragement from family and friends—and my yoga teachers and classmates—do help a lot. But outside of class, in the quiet of my mind, the same questions will do a drive-by in my head and ask again and again, how long can you keep this up? Who are you kidding? When those instances happen, I try to shush my mind and tell myself to #shutupandshowup. Just shut up and show up. It’s not easy. And the questions don’t go away. But so far, wonderful things have happened every time I’ve shown up. I continue to learn a lot at every class. I’ve met some really nice people in the studio, maybe some of them will even become keeper friends.
Practicing yoga has not only gotten me more in touch with a whole lot of nooks and crannies I never knew existed in my body, I am also slowly realizing that it is teaching me something much more than just the physicality of getting to the poses. Patience, gratitude, being present in the moment, acceptance—these are just some of what going to each class teaches me. It still isn’t a seamless transition to life off the mat, but at this stage of my life where the struggle to matter and keep being relevant is very real, I take heart in the fact that with each breath, with each movement, I know I’m on my way to becoming a better person just because I showed up.
Ella Melendez is an everyday yoga warrior, trying her best to sustain her practice. She is also a local Manila-based singer- songwriter, writing songs with folksy guitar riffs that will touch your soul. Find her on spotify