MANILA, Philippines - HOW DID I find it? I was in a yoga conference in Malaysia, attending a class of over 300 people. The teacher, John Scott, walked over, took my hand and led me to the center of a circle.
Panic, panic, panic. I have a fear of speaking in public, I am shy and, yet, there I was.
Exhale, inhale. Exhale, inhale. There was no hole I could disappear into. I surrendered to the teacher. To my breath.
The 600-plus eyes were gone. The only thing I heard was John counting and his instructions that guided me through the ?asanas? (postures). Even my mind was ?gone.
?I have a fear of inverted postures and there I was, doing a handstand. Not knowing what I was doing, I panicked when I realized that I was ?inverted:? ?Oh my God, I am upside down.?
Then, once more, I heard his instructions, ?Exhale, inhale.? There was silence?a stillness once again?until the demonstration was over.
I ?woke up? and quickly went back to my mat, shaking. I couldn?t believe I had done that?and in front of people!
Three months later, I was at Stillpoint in Upper Moutere, Nelson, New Zealand.
This is where John and his wife Lucy live, but they continue to teach Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in their classes as it was taught to them by their guru, the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois.
After listening to John talk about how the practice of yoga reunites you with all and how, with your breath, body and mind as one your heart blossoms as it connects and reconnects you with everything around you (this is very similar to the teachings of Oneness in India, where I have been going since 2006), I told myself that this was the teacher for me.
And, if I could learn so much, being only one of hundreds in a class, how much more could I learn in a class of six (classes at Stillpoint are usually limited to six to eight people)!
I have been practicing Ashtanga regularly since May 2005. My first class was in 2003. At Stillpoint, in March 2008, though, I felt like I was starting from scratch again.
The breathing, the foundation...The first two days were spent removing old habits, taking steps back to the beginning.
At the start of the second week, John was leading me into something new. Again, he counted, leading me through an ?asana? sequence.
The ?handstand-Crescent Moon-Full Moon-Rainbow? were the words he used, following the exhales and inhales.
To do the Crescent Moon, while doing a handstand, you bring your feet towards the front of the mat to form the shape of a crescent with your body.
In the Full Moon, your feet touch your head. In the Rainbow, your feet then return to the ground and you are in a backbend.
I was fearful of inverted positions (I still am) and of backbends, and yet I managed to do these.
?Great,? John said, when I was back on my feet standing, in disbelief, in front of my mat.
?One more time,? he then said.?No, I can?t.??You just did.??Yes, but now I know what you are going to ask me to do and I can?t.??Just be your breath,? he said.
And, as I became my breath, my mind was still. And it was possible. Anything was.
The breath tames the mind. It brings you to the present, right here, right now. It washes away fears developed in the past and fears that might develop in the future.
Being truly in the present, right here, right now, there was no other place I wanted to be.
Two weeks flew by. New Zealand is such a beautiful country, with wonderful food and wine and very welcoming people.
Since then, I have returned twice, for a total of 10 weeks, to do levels one and two of Lucy and John?s training.
And though I know I can find Stillpoint wherever I am, I will still return to the place where I learned what it was all about.
These backward steps I took were really leaps forward. I have not fully controlled my breath, but I am a student of the breath, and for a lifetime, will be.
Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga teacher John Scott will be here for a five-day workshop on Sept. 13 to 18. The workshops will cover: Moving through the Spine, Vinyasa and the Continuous Flow of the Breath, Pratyahara?Turning the Mind in on the Experience and How Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Really Works.
Visit yogamanila.com; e-mail email@example.com; tel. 0917-5229642.