Level Up! – #6 by Mario Toon

It’s just one more day to our YTT Weekend Exams, and since this is going to be my final blog post, I think this is a pretty good time to do some self-reflection on my YTT journey, and my yoga journey as a whole.

As a few of us got together to do some group practice in the dance studio at Sonia’s school, I sat in front of the mirrors, stretching and getting myself warmed up. That was when I realised how much I have changed since I started my YTT journey.

In video games development, we often had to think about how we could portray the physical and mental growth of characters in the games: the flashy clothes the character acquires along the journey, the bigger weapons to prove how much of a badass they are, more outlandish hairstyle (because why not), the cool scar they get during a battle that eventually becomes a symbol of what the character stands for.

Even though I share the same name as a very famous Italian plumber, there was no such thing for me. As I sat on my mat and looked at myself in the mirror, I felt how I’ve been feeling for the past three months: The sweet, sweet soreness that I’ve become so acquainted with. Physically, I’ve been told I look like I lost weight/become more muscular, and I have, but I still have a long way to go in terms of strength and flexibility. As I made eye contact with myself, I remembered that partner exercise we did during theory class where we had to gaze into each other’s eyes. So while my course mates mingled amongst themselves, I took a short moment to gaze into my own eyes.

Looking back at who I was when I first ran up three flights of stairs into the studio at Race Course Road, it’s crazy how much I’ve changed. As someone who was unhappy with who and where I was, I sought respite in yoga. On top of injury rehabilitation, yoga was how I coped with stress from work and life. The more I practiced yoga, and with the advice and teachings from the instructors, I eventually came to terms with reality. Life slowly became better.

Then YTT came around. Sitting in a room with 6 other strangers as we started the first weekend in April, there were a lot of uncertainties and frustrations. Still recovering from my surgery and only getting an all-clear from my doctor a couple weeks ago, I hadn’t regained the strength in my arms. There are also the differences and challenges in opinions and ideals of yoga and its practices. How was it possible people approached and practiced yoga with different perspectives? Will I be able to embrace spirituality and the teachings of yoga? Is it even possible for me to ever do Super Soldier properly? What if I encountered students who were bent on making my life difficult during classes?

Of course, life is never smooth sailing, and as I overcame injuries and setbacks time and time again I became more determined that yoga can bring peace to my mind and body.

And it did. The ego and pride that got in the way at work slowly faded away, the emotional and physical injuries healed (with a cool scar too), and I am now much more at peace with my self and my being. As the negativity went away, positivity took its place; I’m now much happier and settled.

People change and grow as time passes, and I am grateful how yoga and my yoga family made the process so much more enjoyable. Who and what I saw in the mirror felt different, in a good way. Comparing myself to a video game character, I saw growth and progression of a different kind: Other than the fact I have a new hairstyle (I got a haircut the weekend prior), I’ve become much stronger, both mentally and physically, and I am just one step away from Levelling Up from a Yoga Practitioner into a Certified Yoga Instructor.

And like most video games, with each Level Up the next stage becomes tougher, monsters become stronger, and bosses become much scarier. However, I know I’ve been well-equipped with the required skills to defeat the tough enemies that lie ahead. #nerdalert

As the exams and graduation comes around, yet another chapter of my yoga journey ends, and a new one will start. As this new chapter creeps around, I know I will be able to share the love, and to love others as I have learnt to love myself through yoga.