Yousra Diab tells Yogalife about her journey of self-realization and rediscovery; from ‘Rock bottom’ to a ‘Solid Foundation’, all made possible through her practice of Yin Yoga – a methodological approach to the regeneration of the fullest potential of ourselves as human beings. The Yin practice is a journey of self-discovery, an organized pathway to an awakened sense of aliveness.
Here I am… in Ubud, Bali, one of the closest places to my heart, where I conclude today my Yin Yoga teacher training. It’s interesting how the most coincidental encounters in life turn out to be the best. My discovery of Yin Yoga practice just happened as recently as 6 months ago when I decided to try it when my favorite Monday evening Vinyasa class was booked up. I then discovered a whole new level of Yoga practice: Yin Yoga. It’s a more meditative and gentle form of yoga dealing with the connective tissues and focusing on feeling more and doing less. Since this day, I have been going so religiously to the Monday evening Yin classes, when one day I discussed with my teacher my interest in pursuing a specialized Yin Yoga course, having already completed my 200-hour teacher training course. She told me about her teacher mentioning great things about her and about the training. So, I emailed her and she replied she only has 2 spots left in her upcoming training in Bali, which was about to start in one month. And here I am coming to the end of my training!
If you are fond of Yoga, like me, you will instantly fall in love with Bali, especially Ubud. The place where the training was held is 15 minutes away from Ubud City Center, in the middle of the forest, the wide green horizon and the clear skies and above all, the sounds of the birds, which I miss in my daily busy city life. During my time in Bali, I learned so many lessons other than Yin Yoga class sequencing, Chinese medicine with its different elements and the human body anatomy. It was a transformational self-discovery with the biggest learning being about one person: Myself.
I usually seek perfection in everything I do especially when it comes to my Yoga practice. When I started my training, my teacher was describing the black knights versus the lazy panda yogis. In an exaggerated manner, black knights are always striving for more making it hard on themselves while the lazy pandas are of course the other extreme who are simply lazy. I am definitely a black knight. I have to do the postures in a perfectly aligned way. I have to have the most squared hips in the warrior pose or my shoulders on the ground in the twist. I shouldn’t use props because it makes my practice less perfect. I would suffer in a pose to make it flawless even if I feel so uncomfortable. It hit me during one of our evening practices when after 4 minutes in the frog pose, one of my least favorite, my teacher said if you feel uncomfortable why are you still here? I came to the realization that having the perfect practice is not the most important aspect as Yin is more about the felt sense “Feel more, Do less”. I asked myself why I always seek perfection If it doesn’t feel good then it’s not good and this applies to everything in life. I am always a perfectionist portraying the image that I must have everything falling into the right place with no dysfunctions and I have to be strong all the time.
However, I discovered through deepening my Yin practice that I need to allow a space of vulnerability into my life because after all it is a balance between strength and vulnerability. Likewise, to allow a space of sadness to be able to experience happiness. A dear friend of mine recently asked me if I perceive myself as a changed person compared to 5 years ago when we used to work together and I definitely do. I wouldn’t have imagined that my life would have converted to this path at the time. I was happily married to a person that I was deeply in love with and I had a different plan of how my life will evolve. Being hit by the hardships of a failing marriage shaped the person I became and definitely made me stronger, as opposed to living in my protected shell. On the downside, I am even sometimes stronger than I should be. I completely acknowledge that I am who I am because I went into this long relationship with my ex-partner, for whom I have a lot of respect. However, and back to this question my friend asked, I wasn’t happy but I always tried to convince myself I was. For me, a failing marriage wasn’t an option which made me hold on into it for so long even at a period when there was nothing to hold on to anymore.
I didn’t want to admit neither my failure nor a wrong life choice. I was simply scared of an obscure other side that was completely alien to me, and could only be revealed if I confronted myself with reality that deep inside I actually knew. The turning point was this moment when I realized that sometimes holding on is more painful that letting go and that my relationship was far from being perfect. On the bright side, through this agonizing experience, I was only able to encounter joy and rediscover myself to the person I am rather than the person I should be. Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. It is as if I boarded a flight to freedom which landed in the valley of change. I am definitely a much happier person able to give more love and care to people around me because the better I treated myself I was able to better treat others. What happened to me in real life mirrors my Yin yoga practice as Bernie Clark puts it “Our goal in life is not to become perfect, our goal is to become whole”.
The idea of myself being free was another revelation during the past couple of days. On a typical training afternoon, we were having a session and, as we are in the middle of the forest in Ubud, monkeys started making noises climbing the trees so my teacher decided to give us a monkey break to watch them. At this moment, I said to my colleague:” I wish I was free like these monkeys climbing the trees” and she replied “You are free, woman!” I was engrossed in thinking about this statement for a few days post this encounter. I realized that I am in fact free but my mind is the biggest saboteur to my freedom. I am the one who has been putting myself behind preempt rules, regulations and conceptions of how I and my success should be. My teacher taught me the concept of being free in my Yoga practice by always saying “Do you!”, I realized that this can be applied pretty much to everything in life. Growing up in the Middle Eastern society, where the concept of success is tied up to having a successful career in banking, law or the likes, made me progress in a career that I don’t like and that doesn’t even suit my personality. I remember my discussion with my father during my freshman year about my desire to declare a major in Comparative Literature and his definite rejection of the idea explaining that career opportunities post-graduation would be almost non-existent.
Due to my high GPA, which was always part of my perfection seeking journey, I ended up with a major in Business Administration and I subsequently graduated with honors which enabled me to start a banking career that I have been progressing in since then. But, here I am, 13 years after graduation, still with the same excel sheets, client meetings and my 9 to 5 (or at times to 8) banking office job. It is definitely a stable job having a month end paycheck providing financial security but every day I ask myself if this is really what I want? A stable job I don’t enjoy while deriving my happiness from other side activities like my yoga practice and teaching or volunteering with social enterprises. The answer is definitely no. Although some people might consider me crazy but I think I need to take a leap of faith and do what I enjoy; as cliché as it sounds, but life is too short. Would I be able to do it? This is the question I have been asking myself for the past couple of months. My mind tells me that I took some wrong decisions during the course of my life and that I should be where I am while my heart tells me that there is more into life and I need to take some risks to better it. So, who will win? I am yet to decide very soon! On our first day of the course, we were asked to write on a leaf some words to inspire us throughout the journey of the training, I found myself writing my favorite reminder “Be patient and fearless”, which is a note to self when it comes to decide about my future.
During my time in Bali, I was able to do an extremely useful exercise to let go of the past memories I am holding on to. My teacher asked us to write 3 self-limiting statements about ourselves and on the last day, she asked us to write these statements on a leaf and burn it in order to be able to let go of them forever. I found this ritual personally very helpful, though symbolic as everything lies in the mind. By burning such self-limiting statements, I gave permission to myself to receive, deserve and let go.
The final personal lesson I learned from this training is to stop being judgmental. I always thought that I am the least judgmental person until I started judging one of my colleagues who always preferred to be a loner, neither talking nor mingling much. I found myself immediately labeling her as unfriendly and weird. Towards the end of the training and during one of our closing circles, she opened up and shared the hardships she was going through that led her to behave in such manner. At this moment, not only I personally resonated with some elements of her story which made me very emotional, but I also felt bad because everyone is fighting his/her own battle that I know nothing about and hence I have to be kind. Always.