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    The Stuff of Yoga

    By Roy Gan–

    (Editor’s Note: In this piece, renowned yoga instructor Roy Gan writes about his journey with yoga and how, even at the age of 49, the practice has given him a new lease on life.)

    “And Now Yoga”

    One of the most important documents on life starts with half a sentence.

    “What is this cra-cra chanting stuff?”

    This was my initial reaction when introduced to yoga some 15 years ago.

    This gibberish was an affront to an inflated legal mind that was intimidated by something it couldn’t understand.

    Now looking back.

    All that I considered to be this stuff triggered a sore spot with a repressed wounded Pentecostal past.

    I obviously feel differently today, being a teacher and student of this stuff. Irony! What I found to be beneath me became the very thing that would help turn my life of chronic pain, depression, and self-medicating around.

    And Now Yoga (Union).

    For many years, I struggled to make sense of this. 

    Having hit rock bottom several times, each time thinking I couldn’t sink any further, I finally succumbed to bent knees and prayed for a better way. With the pain of not knowing came a spark of willingness, a last-ditch effort to try something new; and if that didn’t work, I was going to die.

    There had to be an alternative to being sick, alone, fearful all the time, and feeling like I was a victim of my situation and powerless to change it.

    I was confronted with two choices: Either the claims of Yoga are entirely true, or I have been wrong my entire life! I was ready to investigate.

    Years later, with a lot of work, a little bit of luck and a whole lot of grace, I am still here. And edging 50, it seems like my life is only just starting.

    We all carry woundedness. I remembered growing up, my belief was that other people were more talented, had connections that I was not born with, and were just luckier. I also believed that happiness was elusive and that those who were happy were just in denial of a hostile universe that had favorites. I felt that if I were to achieve any measure of success, I had to fight tooth and nail and compete mercilessly. It was no wonder that by my early forties, I was all hustled-out, in poor health, angry, and had no medical insurance. It was not a pretty picture, and unbeknownst to me at that time, totally self-induced.

    I remembered reading An Autobiography of a Yogi and my eyes glistened with hope. I became an avid seeker of this stuff, spending countless hours a day, reading, meditating, contemplating, and journaling. It was no longer entertainment but an intense inquiry into: “What is life all about?” With willingness came an increase in my energy levels and a diminishing of chronic pain.

    “Is my mind really that powerful?”

    “Do I need to stay angry for another 20, 30 years and what is the pay-off?”

    Waves of fear and pain would surface every time I would hit an internal roadblock of denial, but without resistance they also diffused.

    To move from nihilism to optimism was a monumental shift. The world took on friendlier shades of green. Colors became more vivid, and the world would, in many instances, turn into a fun and whimsical playground.

    Yoga offered me a transcendental view of life, a glimpse into the possibility of a wholly benevolent universe, a concept I couldn’t grasp in the prior pits of despair.

    I saw the futility of the hedonic treadmill of seek and do not find. This stuff gave me the courage to hack the self-deprecating pattern and move beyond it. 

    “This stuff really works”

    My passion was rekindled with the physical postures and breathing. This helped me to relax and quell a mind that was conditioned to create and exaggerate problems.

    Positive self-talk, habits, and gratitude unexpectedly started to form, and they came incrementally with being more peaceful and alive.

    “My experience was being generated from within”

    This gave me the confidence to think bigger than my present circumstances. With the surrender of judgment, problems resolved quickly, and situations would turn around in a way better than I could figure out in my logical mind. I could finally have nice things.

    I used to have time for everything else, to wallow in misery and spin endlessly in my head but no time to take care of myself.

    “My life is my doing”

    As this sunk in deeper and more absolutely, it helped me to change my attitude; and with this inner shift, outer situations began to transform. I stopped being the martyr and became 100% responsible.

    No matter where we may be on the spectrum of life, we all want to be happy. The pursuit of money and fame can bring convenience to our lives, but they do not really transform us. And it was only when I was at my rope’s end that I became willing for this stuff.

    And now Yoga.

    We may not start there, but this stuff sure saves a lot of time.

    Singapore native Roy Gan is a San Francisco-based yoga instructor and digital media and programs manager at Yoga Garden/Moxie. He is a law graduate, former ballet dancer, and presently a life coach and meditation teacher.

    Jennifer Kroot and Robert Holgate curate the “Out of Left Field” column for the San Francisco Bay Times. Kroot is a filmmaker, known for her award-winning LGBTQ themed documentaries, including The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin and To Be Takei. She studied filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she has also taught. She is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Holgate, a humanitarian as well as a designer, is dedicated to critical social issues. With his hands-on approach to philanthropy and social justice, he supports the advancement of local and national social causes. For more information:

    Out of Left Field
    Published on September 8, 2022