I was 22 when I walked into my first yoga class. I didn’t think much of it and had never done yoga before, so I had no idea what to expect. At that point, the extent of my understanding was limited to hearing about sun salutations and having a vague idea about some of the popular schools of yoga. I continued with the class, not knowing that it would eventually send me down a path I didn’t even know I was looking for all along.
I’m a video director and producer. I used to work in Bombay. I was 20 when I decided to move there, looking for my first job. It was right after graduating from college and I couldn’t wait to be a working woman and start earning. That’s what everyone else was doing. Initially, I worked extremely long days and barely slept on most nights. It was a blessing that I loved my work but it quickly got to a point where I was saturated. Needless to say, it was quite a confounding situation.
There I was, in my prime, pushing myself to unstated limits, not realising that burning out was a very real possibility for someone of my age. Obviously, I denied it for as long as I could. There were too many voices in my head and no room for reason. But you’re so young, how can you be tired already? You just started; is this what you moved to a new city for? You must be terrible at your job. Wait, how is everyone else doing it? Isn’t burning out only for old people?
Maybe I should have paid more attention to the migraines that sneakily went from being sporadic to incessant. Or the lack of sleep. Maybe not knowing the last time I had a healthy meal should have been a cause for concern or that finding time to call my lovely mother was gradually sliding down on my priority list.
I was so consumed with my job and the struggle to make a living that I was getting drained. It’s especially disorienting as the idea of independence is so addictive, but the reality of it is a flipping daze. I began to question every move and every decision to the extent that existential angst became my best friend. Sometimes it felt like I was simply watching as my life fell apart. Yes, just as dramatic as that. The days seemed to drag on and the only thing I wanted to do wholeheartedly was to sleep the numbness away. I knew this person wasn’t me. It didn’t feel like me. I was stuck in a rut, with no motivation, no direction and a complete lack of purpose. But I got myself into it willingly, didn’t I?
One thing that kept me going was the memory of the words of someone I look up to. The words talk about how a job is a part of your life, it is not life itself. These words spoke to me so deeply that something inside me switched. I had to find a way to step out of this whirlpool without being on a guilt trip. It was around this time that I started doing yoga. I needed something that was my own. A safe space, a sanctuary, where I could build myself up again and the one hour of yoga I practised every day somehow gave me that.
In hindsight, I believe it was the approach that helped me the most. I turned to yoga with an open mind and no expectation. I was willing to learn and understand what the practice had to offer. Yoga is not about the amazing postures. Those are convenient side effects but the practice itself is centred around the mind. If you can learn to control the mind, you have the power to be more than just a spectator of your life.
Sometimes I try to find the exact moment when I realised my love for the practice. It didn’t happen instantly and it didn’t happen in any orchestrated manner. It was so gradual that I probably didn’t even notice the little changes in my everyday life off the mat. I was starting to feel happy. I was making efforts to be healthy and I learned to put myself ahead of everything else. When you dedicate yourself to the practice, it has a way of giving back in every aspect of life.
Eventually, I decided to move out of Bombay and spend a quiet year with my family. This was a conscious and well-calculated decision, one that wasn’t easy to make but was much needed. I continue my practice here and I also recently completed a diploma training course in yoga. That’s how deeply I am in love with it. And I’m pretty certain I want to do more. For me, it isn’t just time I spend exercising my body, it’s a way to exercise my mind. Through the journey, I’ve come to know myself better, closed doors on the past, healed emotional wounds and gained a whole lot of strength. It’s alright that I’m not working right now. And it’s alright that I’m not earning. I’ll get back to it soon. But for now, I’m taking the time to work on myself and that’s the best I’ll earn in any way.
We’re so blinded by the race we’re all caught up in, that most of us don’t even know what we’re racing for. We’re driven by society and controlled by fear. Don’t be afraid to take a step back from that. Don’t be afraid to move away from what is expected of you. And if you can, teach yourself to believe.
There was a moment, quite recently, when people cleared out after a yoga session and I stayed behind to put in some extra work. I had been trying to hold a headstand against a wall. I had convinced myself that I was giving my best. Even though I wasn’t. And that day, in that moment, I remember going for it in the middle of the room. I dragged my mat right to the centre, built a bubble of calm around me and did it. Just like that. I couldn’t believe it, but I did it. Can you imagine if I had actually believed in myself all along?
That has been one of the most important moments for me. It’s quite small but it taught me big things. Breathe in power, breathe out fear and just go for it. No matter what it is. In the worst case, you’ll fall down. It won’t mean that you have failed.
With yoga, there is a lesson to learn every single day. You will learn them in the smallest of ways or the biggest of breakthroughs. The only necessity is the willingness to learn. I now take comfort in accepting that I don’t always need to be a girl with a plan. But I do want to be a girl who can handle anything that life has planned for her.