How and when did you start practicing yoga?
In 2013, I had a really bad back injury, a bulging disc. I had been athletic, a professional Squash player, all my life and all of a sudden this injury comes along and changes everything. I went to a lot of doctors, some advised surgery, others told me I won't be able to ever do sports again and it was pretty hard for me. I was confused and depressed for two months until I starting searching online for alternative healing methods. I stumbled upon an article about how good yoga is for the back and how people have recovered from injuries through yoga. I started practicing with the help of YouTube videos, which I now know by heart! I read a lot of books too and for about two years, I taught myself a lot about yoga. I physically started feeling better, my posture improved, and my leg and ankle from the pinched nerve improved.
Whenever I stopped practicing for a bit, I felt that I regressed so I worked on maintaining the practice, turning it more into a lifestyle than just an hour-long practice. Then, what started mainly just to heal my back soon shifted and I decided to quit my job and booked my ticket to Bali to pursue my yoga teacher training. Having changed my life, I felt the need to learn and share yoga and my teacher journey started.
Based on this experience then, do you believe that yoga can cure physical injuries?
I'm always careful not to use the word "cure". I actually haven't done another MRI since, I don't know what my back looks like now, all I do know is what it feels like. I'm sure the slipped disc didn't go back in its place but strengthening my body, my back, my core, opening up my hips and shoulders, all that through yoga has allowed my body to adapt to whatever happened on the inside. It's been working well for me so far!
How did yoga's non-physical benefits start showing for you?
I don't remember when the turning point was but I felt that gradually I was growing as a person. Yoga was giving me confidence again but it also had a beautiful humbling effect. For example, you nail that hard physical pose and you can't help but feel proud but then you see someone else doing it better or how far you can still improve and it grounds you back again, humbling you along the way. Being part of the national Squash team, it was always about winning for me from an early age. With yoga, it wasn't about being the best or proving anything to anyone, it's just you on the mat, learning all about yourself physically and mentally.
A lot of people look for "quick fixes". Do you think this is possible with yoga?
At least from what I've experienced, I don't believe in shortcuts at all. Especially when it comes to yoga because it's really a process, a journey. The benefits we reap might reach some people sooner or later than others because we're all different. Some people feel a world of a difference after only one week of meditation, others take much longer. My advice is always to just put in the effort and try to keep an open mind, no expectations, no comparisons. It's always different from one person to the other. When someone comes to me with a tight shoulder for instance and we start to work on them, they usually ask how long it'll take to improve. I never answer this question. Ever. It'll take as long as needs be. There's no control over this.
People talk about "finding balance" through yoga and balance is a broad concept. What is it to you, how is it represented?
I was never the black or white kind of person, I've always looked for some sort of balance in between, a little bit of everything. For example, I wasn't an A student but I wasn't a failure either, I was always in the middle in most areas of my life. In yoga, what I like about it is that you can do whatever you want. For me, I need the slow, grounded, relaxed, conscious movements but I also need my adrenaline kick, the inversions, some cardio and all that. From the physical side, I like that it's open and up for interpretation to do what feels right to you, yoga can be anything really. From a mental side, I like the balance as I mentioned before of the confidence and the humbleness. Yoga keeps me hovering in the middle between seeing myself as a superhero who can do everything and seeing myself as a failure with low self-esteem; this is one thing I like about that "balance".
What is one yoga value that you really cherish and would like to share?
Once yoga becomes part of your life, when it's no longer just an exercise on that mat, you can literally apply it to everything else. The biggest thing I felt through yoga that was the basis for so many changes in my life was self-love. When you accept who you are, respect and love who you are, you see yourself and those around you differently. I've always been critical of myself, my body, my looks, my ways even and then yoga came along and showed me how to be grateful towards everything I have and everything that I am. It taught me forgiveness, non-judgement, and kindness and acceptance of myself and all those around me. It led me to understand that you can't pour from an empty cup, if you're empty on the inside, there's nothing to give. Self-love needs to come first, then everything else will follow.