Alon Coret / Student Health Education Centre

 

The other day, I attended a yoga class for the first time in my life. I made this decision for a few reasons: a personal challenge for myself (escaping my comfort zone), the fact that my mother keeps telling me about how much she enjoys it, and curiosity. I had no idea what I was going into, but I can definitely say it was a worthwhile experience. This was essentially my first workout in months. Yes, a workout indeed. The class I went to was Dahn yoga, a Korean form of yoga that focuses on energizing the body. Dahn yoga sees the body as composition of chakras, or energy centers. The various stretching exercises are meant to tap into our bodies’ potential and strengthen our core (dahn jon).

We started by standing around in a circle and doing basic stretches and breathing exercises. Gradually, things became more intense. I found myself having to do sets of pushups and abdominal bicycle crunches. Embarrassingly enough, the lady beside me was doing everything far better than I was, even though she could easily be my grandmother. “I have been doing this for months,” she said. The class continued for an hour and a half, going through a series of stretches and moves for every muscle in the body. At the end, we all lied down in the “Sleeping Tiger” position, which is far less comfortable than it sounds (Suffering Tiger, I thought to myself). Marek, our instructor, told us to internalize our negative thoughts and self-judgement as we were doing this exercise. He then let us relax for a few minutes, and I nearly fell asleep from getting too comfortable.

 

Overall, I was not too surprised by the physical exercises – except that they were more difficult than anticipated. What I was surprised by was the immense focus on mental and spiritual well-being. Marek was smiling, and had a positive attitude for the duration of the session. He constantly reinforced the importance of happy, constructive thoughts and in making everyone feel like a part of something greater than themselves. He laughed with members of the class, complimented them and corrected their positions. He made us greet the people standing beside us both at the start and finish of the session with “Ban-gap seum-ni-da” (nice to meet you), and “Chun ha haseyo” (be the fulfillment of your soul). (I claim no expertise in Korean, so I apologize if my transliterations and translations are incorrect.)

One poster I noticed in the studio was called “Map of Consciousness.” It shows a ranking of different levels of consciousness, or brain energies, measured in LUX. I am not certain about the science behind the theory, but the main point is this: it takes far less effort to think negative thoughts, and have emotions of guilt, shame, and regret. Reaching happiness, peace, and joy is a higher level of consciousness we should (and can) all strive for. “Love yourself, and respect yourself,” said Marek. “Then you will be able to receive love and enjoy life.” This may not sound like anything new, but it is a life lesson we seldom keep in mind.

I would like to conclude with a verse from another poster I saw in the studio, called “Prayer for Peace.” This poetic prayer was written by Ilchi Lee, the originator of Dahn Yoga, and was read at the United Nations’ 2000 Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

 

“I offer this prayer of peace, with all my fellow earth people; For a lasting peace on earth”.

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