Yoga is a daily practice in personal growth. It taught me to trust my path. It taught me about love. And love is essentially what it’s all about.
As the first born child of immigrant Korean parents in America. My father served as the first US Olympic Coach for Taekwondo and established the top martial arts school in the country, according to Forbes Magazine. My grandfather was a decorated Admiral in the Korean Navy, who worked closely with General MacArthur during the Korean War. I felt the pressure to live up to the reputation and accomplishments of my family. It was this burning desire that fueled me to become a K-Pop star. I was scouted by the leading Korean record label at the time and co-produced, co-wrote, and performed my first debut album at the age of 18 and performed the opening for Mariah Carey’s World Tour in Seoul. I starred in my own reality TV show, and was headed to tackle the Japanese and Chinese markets.
But life had other plans for me. I had been away from my family for eight years and being alone in Korea adversely affected my well-being. The toxic work culture of the K-pop industry also took its toll. I listened to my heart and decided it was time to return to my family. The readjustment proved to be difficult as I had already grown into a completely different person. It was even harder for my music to gain traction in the US due to the barriers I faced as an Asian-American. It was during this time that I started a Yoga practice. I still vividly remember my first class. It was a Bikram Yoga class and it was so hot that I felt my organs cooking inside of me. Despite the extreme difficulty and discomfort, I noticed as so many around me looked flawless in their yogic pursuit, moving around with such ease and grace while I struggled to just breathe. In my quiet amazement, this opened my eyes to the possibilities of Yoga (I believe I couldn’t walk for a good 2 weeks after that first experience).
I began yoga as a means to find inner peace and direction. I think many yoga practitioners can relate to this. I was highly anxious of the world around me. I was 23 and lost. Over the course of life, I had been striving towards one achievement after another but never felt truly fulfilled. I felt my world collapse around me in a vast emptiness and knew it was time to view life in a new light. I started to explore a different type of growth that would be authentically my own. Little did I know, this would be the journey of becoming a teacher.
So how did yoga change my life? In every possible way. It gave me the tools I needed to control my body, my mind, and my emotions while practicing mindfulness and awareness through movements and breathing. Yoga brought balance to my life while soothing my soul. It has given me the opportunity to clear my mind and declutter my thoughts. Although yoga can be interpreted as a workout, it is much deeper than that. It is a way of life to reach spiritual enlightenment. It is an art form which requires constant practice. Once this is understood, yoga will meld seamlessly into one’s life.
Through Yoga, I opened my eyes to the possibilities that were lying dormant in myself. Something so simple as in how to breathe properly was part of the puzzle. Breathing correctly awakens parts of the mind and the body – our breath is what they call in Hatha Yoga, our “life force energy” and there are ways to control the breath to make it work for us, in ways one would never know until they dug a little deeper into yoga.
Before starting my yoga teacher training, I never grasped all of it completely. The practice goes far deeper than just heading to a yoga class. To only practice yoga through classes, you’ll hit a wall. Yoga dates back centuries. It’s magic at our fingertips. It’s a powerful and transformational practice.
I’ve practiced yoga for 13 years now and am still constantly learning new things. Take it slow and give yourself time to grow. I fell in love with being “present” in my body and finding brief moments of complete peace and tranquility within myself. Find a teacher who loves the practice and doesn’t just instruct a workout but someone who fills you with knowledge and the power to ignite your soul for lifetimes. Who knew yoga would change me this much.