Author: Xiaojie Qin
Founder and Director of CandleX
Date: July 2023
As a therapist, I encourage my clients to try yoga or meditation, not only because research shows that it helps to enhance body and mind resilience, but because I am a living testimony to its benefits. Unlike jiu-jitsu or swing dance, both of which I fell in love with at first sight, my initial yoga session was a terrifying experience. However, this year marks the milestone of ten years of practicing yoga. I am glad that I finally sit down and reflect on yoga journey and I want to share this with you.
Impossible? Do anyway
Yoga isn’t easy. I can attest to that! I still vividly remember my first yoga class back in 2008. The teacher instructed us to do a basic forward fold, and as I glanced at my colleagues next to me touching their toes, I couldn't help but wonder how they managed it. I tried with all my effort and I was just reaching for the impossible. The next few classes were just as challenging. I struggled to understand when to breathe in and when to breathe out. The slow pace of the class only served to highlight my lack of coordination with my breath. Even something as seemingly simple as the resting pose, downward dog, felt impossible for me. It all felt overwhelming and left me feeling defeated and frustrated. In all honesty, I only persisted because my workplace covered the cost of the class, and the convenience of having the teacher come to our office made the decision to continue easier.
To me, the very basic of yoga is the most important work, and alignment is at the center of yoga practice. First, it's the alignment of our bones, by paying attention to how we engage our muscles. Our everyday modern life is so busy. We don't have time to pay attention to that, and then we have shoulder, knee, or back pain. I think of our bodies as a fine machine that requires fine-tuning. I think of old age, and I know money would not buy me a pain-free body. Second, it's the alignment of our breath and movement. Using breath to guide the body, to deepen the posture, to propel movement. The breath should never be compromised. Do you know why? That's where grace resides. Grace has time, and grace never rushes. Grace is patience, and practice within the window of tolerance. Our breath indicates where we are in the window of tolerance, so use breath to guide our level of effort. Yoga does the opposite of what we do the rest of the day, where our body follows the orders of the mind. In yoga, I give priority to my body, listening to its signals, monitoring my breath, and managing my mind to create a joyful, rewarding experience that draws me back to the mat every day.
Beyond the Mat
In recent years, I have had many moments where I realized how much yoga has helped me in everything else I do. When I went surfing for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2018, about 5 years after starting my yoga practice, the coach said I had good balance as a beginner. Boy, did that make me proud! In 2021, when I went horse riding in Siguniang Mountain, the 8 hours on the horse seemed to fly by. I was moving with the horse and able to engage my core while keeping the rest of my body relaxed. You have to know, prior to my yoga practice, horse riding was painful, uncomfortable and plain scary to me. This year in 2023, when I went rock climbing for the first time, the coach said I was using my core correctly, and I did well. that made me wanna dance. Oh, I did! Talking about dancing (In Dance, I Expanded | My Story With Swing Dance), my dancing has also improved over the years, and yoga has definitely helped me do jiujitsu (Never say Never | My Love Story With Brazilian Jiujitsu) better as well.
Injured and Healed
My time before yoga, it was difficult to be me. I felt broken in many ways, my body wasn’t strong enough, neither was my mind. A healthy body serves as a stable foundation for a peaceful mind. Honestly, if you asked me when I was 21 if I could envision myself achieving what I have accomplished with my body, my answer would have been a resounding no. I endured severe back injuries that left me unable to lift even moderately heavy objects for five long years. Living with perpetual back pain, despite countless treatments, was a constant struggle. Medical professionals expressed skepticism about my chances of recovering to the level I was at prior to the injury, but they were proven wrong. Not only have I recovered, but I have surpassed all expectations. Mentally, I have transitioned from experiencing severe mood swings in my 20s to being able to observe my own emotional state and gradually readjust and reposition my thoughts and behaviours so I remain in harmony with myself more and more. Through yoga, I have learned the virtues of patience, consistency, distress tolerance, and self-trust. I've faced numerous challenges and setbacks throughout my life, which have compelled me to deposit faith into the jar of self-trust in order to weather the storm. One meaningful item that symbolizes my journey is this Buddha statue, a cherished memento from my trip to Bali years ago. At the conclusion of each practice, I bow to this statue, imbuing it with the strength and unwavering faith I have cultivated for those uncertain days filled with doubt and instability. Each mantra etched into this statue, from #patience and #present to #receive and #relax #focus #grace, represents the countless daily sessions where I developed and repeated these affirmations.
This year, I discovered the profound joy of recording my yoga sessions outdoors, in locations that truly deserve mindful moments to savor. Through reviewing these recordings, I have gained valuable insights into areas where I can enhance my practice, allowing me to approach each session with greater consciousness. Additionally, the sheer bliss of awakening early to bask in Beijing's tranquil atmosphere, along with that of other cities, has been truly remarkable. If you are interested, please visit my video channel on YouTube and Bilibili (search for #xiaojieyoga or #小杰瑜伽), where you'll find a collection of these videos available in both English and Chinese. I look forward to meeting you on the mat. Namaste.