Saturday, February 6, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 37: Practice Yoga

When I was young, I was told in elementary school that I had Scoliosis (curvature of the spine). For some reason, I always believed after hearing that news, that I was doomed. That I wouldn't be able to do things that other people did. That maybe I'd lead a sedentary life. I always lived with the fact that I just wasn't flexible and that not being able to touch my toes was just part of who I was and it was all hereditary and there was nothing I could do about it, so I might as well face the facts.

Over the years, I enjoyed running and even joined a half marathon in my mid-20's, but always felt tight in my muscles. I started to get knee damage from running and at one point was told by a doctor that I would need laser knee surgery. I refused to do this. I hated going to the doctor. I was determined to find some way to cure myself. I stopped running and did more walking and hiking and less impact sports. Around 1995, I started to take up an interest in yoga. I felt there was a lot of stress in my life and I wanted to find some way to relieve the stress I felt. My mother gave me a gift certificate to join Yoga Centers in Bellevue, WA to practice Iyengar yoga. The main teacher for that center is internationally renowned Aadil Palkhivala from India. Immediately I noticed that I started to feel lighter, taller, and more limber. After a few classes I could already see an improvement in my posture and overall sense of well-being. I knew I wanted to continue with yoga and make it a part of my life.

While in Korea, I met my husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk. He was trained in yoga by his master in the Zen temple where he lived. Before we got married in 2003, we decided to open a yoga school in South Korea. My husband had official training at Kaivalyadama Yoga College in Lonavala, India and I received my yoga certificate after a month-long training course at Shoshoni in Colorado in 2002. My husband taught most of the classes at his school and I continued to teach English at a college in South Korea. So many students loved my husband's classes. He did not scream at you if your posture wasn't exactly right. He has a lot of gentleness and calmness and he emphasizes the internal experience of yoga, rather than the outward appearance of yoga. That being said, I always thought he looked so graceful when he practiced yoga. He looks so light, like a feather. Here are some pictures we took at Green Lake today in Seattle. Some of these pictures will go on his website for the opening of his new yoga school near Seattle.

I am proud of my husband. It wasn't easy for him to leave the monastery. It was very hard. I am writing a book about that journey. The journey we decided to take together. When he left the temple, he had nothing to his name. NOTHING. He went from monk, to husband, to opening a yoga school in South Korea, to opening two yoga schools in South Korea, to moving to the USA, to teaching yoga in the USA in our living room, to teaching yoga in the USA at various yoga studios and health clubs, to teaching yoga at Microsoft, to deciding to open up his very own yoga studio in the Seattle area with his friend. The name of his yoga school is Yoon's Yoga Bliss. Yoon means happiness. That is my husband's name.

The bliss part came from a Tibetan Rinpoche who is friends with my husband and is recognized by the Dalai Lama. One day, while he was walking around Green Lake in Seattle with my husband, the Rinpoche said, "You are yoga bliss." And that's how he decided the name for his school. The website is still under construction, but you can check it out here: Yoon's Yoga Bliss.
Yoon's Yoga is his own style. It's an inward focus of yoga, so anyone of any age or flexibility level can do it. The point is to focus on your inward awareness. Instead of focusing on exact body posture, my husband guides practitioners to feel themselves from the inside out; To keep the continuity of awareness throughout the entire practice; To never lose focus of the breath and the body from the inside.

Yoga has become a big part of my life thanks to my husband's encouragement. I ended up quitting my English teaching job in South Korea and teaching yoga full-time using only Korean language at times. When my husband told me that I could do this, I thought he was crazy. How on earth could I, someone with a curved spine, bad posture, and little flexibility, teach yoga in Korean to agile Korean students. But I did it. Anything is possible, but it takes practice to see the results of anything you do. It takes discipline. It takes patience. It takes belief in yourself. Belief that you can do anything regardless of what anyone tells you. I see my husband and I am always reminded of the long road he walked to be with me. I see his love for his students and everyone he meets. When I see him I can't help but want to be the best person I can be.


  1. I can hardly wait for your book to come out, I'll pre-order that one...and I never do that.

    You have spoken about yoga before, and I have a book (about 40 years old) from India, when my husband was there. I can do some very basic moves, like the salute to the sun (I think it is called) which I use to focus and center just about every morning. I always feel much more grounded when I do it. My point is I are absolutely right.

    I also admire your husband's way of teaching. We are creative beings, what we form in our mind oft times manifests around his guiding them from the inside out is so very...spiritual. Not only does it train the mind to manifest their reality by proving it to them through their body, his way has to be very centering. Anyway, I'm babbling, but it is late in Ohio (or early depending on the vantage)LOL

    Namaste, Katherine, there is nothing "crooked" about your core!

  2. Beautiful post... ure!! (sorry, couldn't resist) :o)

    That is just so lovely, you have both had incredible journeys to be with each other. And you're right... even in still pics, Yoon doesn't look like he's attached to the ground!

  3. lovely lovely!
    i would like to be involved in a pratice where yoga begins from the inside - i am confident that Yoon's Yoga bliss will be a place of encouragement and growth for so many.

    Good paths in life are only attainable through strife and challenge it seems - hmmmm


  4. I would love to read your book too.
    I have also been told that with Scoliosis the only sport for me was swimming.
    Three years ago I found this wonderful Yoga school in Rome. My teacher is 82 years old, has studied with the old Rishi yogis in India when he was young. His teaching with patience and encouraging has made me grow.
    I really can bend to the ground and almost touch my knees with my nose...who would ever have said that before.

  5. That is a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. Both you and your husband have something very special together. You two are blessed. That is so nice to see.

    Marnie xx

  6. I can hardly wait to read your book and 2) I love the way yoga makes me feel but haven't done any for too long. I think I shall now. Thanks Kathy. x

  7. This is so inspiring, Katherine. All power to you and your husband :-) Thank you for sharing a beautiful story.
    In India, there's a renewed interest in yoga these days, especially among the middle class, thanks to stressful corporate jobs! People are looking for bliss, more like hunting for it! They thought they could find it in the glitzy malls that have sprung up all over, but more and more are realising that bliss is, really, to be found within.

  8. Maybe it is time for some one word comments.