T’was a Long Time Coming – #1 by Mario Toon

The first weekend of YTT just ended, and it’s still a little surreal for me to say this: I’ve finally started my yoga teacher training.

I’m Mario Toon, and I’m one of the students from the April Weekend YTT batch. Since this is my first post I thought it’d make sense for me to talk about my own yoga journey. In the short time that I have practiced yoga, it has been a journey of self-realisation, self-awareness and plenty of life lessons.

The very first time I actually considered practicing yoga was when I just turned 29, in 2014. I still fondly remember how it all happened, like it was yesterday. It was about a year at that time since I returned from Seattle, and Val, a dear friend, asked me out for dinner and drinks to catch up, and belatedly celebrated my birthday.

While getting drinks at Mel’s I was complaining about how a back injury I got almost a decade ago has worsened, and how badly it’s affecting my way of life. I couldn’t sit or stand for more than a few minutes, or my back would hurt and I’d break out in cold sweat. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep for years, and I’d wake up multiple times every night in pain, struggling to fall back asleep. It was a pretty tough period for me.

So Val told me about how yoga can probably help with my back problem, and suggested I give it a shot. “Uh, isn’t yoga for women? You know, the fancy sports bras and yoga pants, the glamorous Instagram pictures of the looks of ‘zen’ with a smile on their faces? I play competitive sports. I don’t do zen,” I said.

“Just give it a try la. At this point, what do you have to lose? I have a friend that’s a yoga instructor, she’s really good. Yoga helped her with her scoliosis, I’m sure she can help you too. I’ll book a class for you under my name, that’s your birthday present,” Val insisted.

A week later I found myself dragging my feet towards Race Course Road, reluctantly making my way to my first ever yoga class. “This better be worth it,” I thought. I made it a point to plan my journey so that I’d arrive 20 minutes before class, so I could fill up some paperwork, get changed and probably talk to this instructor Val raved about. Unfortunately, I got lost (in Singapore, no less) and was late. I received a call from Alexis, who was clearly upset that I didn’t show up on time, and she gave me directions to the yoga studio. “Look up. You’re right outside. We’re on the 3rd floor.”

“You’re late. Fill up this form and get changed. Class is upstairs. Jess is waiting.” Alexis said when I finally got to the studio, panting. Feeling really bad about it I hurriedly filled up my particulars, got changed and rushed up another flight of stairs. “You’re not supposed to wear socks. Take them off before you join the class,” Alexis commanded, without making any eye contact. Man, if this was an indication of what’s coming up, the next hour is going to be hell.

The person I met in the classroom upstairs, however, was definitely not what I expected. Seated on the mat in front of the class was Jessica, the instructor. She was smiling from ear to ear, presumingly oblivious to the fact that I was more than 10 minutes late to class. “Hi! You must be Mario! Val told me so much about you! I’m Jessica, and it’s a pleasure to finally meet you! Thank you for joining us, and welcome to the Advanced Core Class!”

Wait, what?! Advanced core class?! WHAT?? This has to be a mistake. There is no way I can do an advanced class for my first ever yoga class. I spent the next hour wondering if this was a cruel joke, most of the time in this weird stance called “downward dog” which made me hurt in multiple areas of my body, with sweat constantly pouring from my face like a waterfall.

Before I knew it, it was time to lay in Shavasana on the mat, accurately reflecting how I felt after the hour-long ordeal. As class ended, Jess came to have a chat with me. “How do you feel? For a first timer, you did really well! Val told me about what happened to your spine, I’m really impressed you were able to keep up with the class!” Jess said enthusiastically, still smiling from ear to ear. All I could muster was a weak “Yeah”. I was exhausted.

That night, however, I had the best sleep since I could remember. I slept like a baby through the night, and woke up feeling so sore I thought every muscle in my body was going to explode if I moved too quickly. The soreness lasted almost 2 weeks, almost as long as the good night’s sleep, and I came to a realisation: I was finally sleeping well, and my whole body hurts so much it’s not just my back anymore, so yoga actually helped! I took a couple weeks to recover from the soreness, and went back to Jess’ class when I felt better.

Fast forward almost 2 1/2 years, I’m finally taking my YTT learning from the people who changed my life. The very people who welcomed me to my first ever yoga class, Advanced Core, the people who now I call my very good friends. I’m really looking forward to the coming few months, passing on my new-found knowledge eventually, and hopefully being a Jess to someone else’s Mario.