I met Eena during an Intuitive Awakening workshop at Mysterium Philippines. Here was this fresh-faced girl whose life I wanted to live vicariously through. She was a certified yoga instructor (whereas I could barely get myself to touch my toes), avid cyclist (alas, I laid my bike to rest along with my childhood), a furry friend rescuer (probably the only thing we actually have in common), and someone who was brave enough to tap into her intuitive side, ready to learn more about herself.

Eena Saniel-Duay works as a yoga instructor at I Go Beyond Yoga in Quezon City when she’s not busy with cycling or taking care of her pets. We kept in touch after our weekend workshop, and as I had been planning on rekindling my yoga practice, I asked her for some advice on how to keep your passion for yoga alive, along with what tips she could share based on her own experiences that she was more than happy to share:

… on who she is.
I’m a yoga instructor, aspiring artist, ex-corporate drone, adventure cyclist, occasional animal rescuer, wife to an avid biker, and mother to an overly attached border collie. I love wide open spaces, sun and wind, and extended periods of silence.

… on what got her started on yoga.
About thirteen years ago I was still in high school, caught up in the fitness world of boxing and weightlifting, when my trainer said yoga would help speed up recovery between training days. Yoga was nice. I don’t even remember what specific class it was. But it felt too quiet, too easy, not worth my precious (bratty) adolescent time. I quit within a week. Fast-forward to college when I discovered both Bikram and Vinyasa, more challenging forms of yoga that made my heart soar. They were simple, new, and fun. I thought I was in love. I didn’t know that there was so much more to yoga.

… on her yoga journey.
Where do I start a story that has no beginning in my memory? Yoga is a practice of finding balance. I feel I’ve been searching for it my entire life. That balance, harmony, or as we sometimes call it, that ‘center’, is unique to each person’s situation. In my childhood I craved harmony among family and friends. In my adolescence I struggled to find individuality. In my adulthood I sought work-life balance and eventually quit my corporate job.

It was during my vinyasa yoga teacher training that I realized I would never find the ‘center’ out there. All those things I needed, I could find only in myself. Asana (which is sanskrit for posture or the physical exercise of yoga), combined with dhyana (sanskrit for meditation), showed me the center within and all the unnecessary clutter in my life that obscured it. I decided I couldn’t keep this treasure to myself. I would share yoga with any who was open to it.

… on what makes yoga so special.
Yoga is self-adjusting and meets you where your mind and body are at. You can apply virtually any intention to your practice and the benefits are endless. Flexibility and strength – check. Physical therapy – check. Relaxation, mental clarity, confidence, joyfulness, self-compassion – quintuple check. Best yet, yoga will allow you to see the relationship among all of these—how physical pains relate to habitual behaviors and how habits relate to mindset and attitude. Yoga then enables you to correct unhealthy patterns in your life.

… on why she doesn’t have a favorite style of yoga.
My favorite ‘style’ of yoga is whatever my body needs at the moment. At present that’s Vinyasa Yoga, a creative flow of postures that synchronize breath with movement to energize body, mind, and spirit. In my experience, the regular practice of Vinyasa Yoga can help alleviate the sluggishness, muscle imbalances, especially due to bad posture and old injuries, stress and anxiety, depression, indigestion, constipation, and many more.

… on the benefits of daily meditation.
You don’t need meditation to survive, but you need it to live. Like yoga, meditation meets you where you are at. For some people a short, peaceful walk in the park is their meditation. For others it’s sitting by the window listening to the sounds of nature. For our sanity’s sake, we all need some time to reconnect with ourselves without the pressures of work. Meditation helps to improve focus and self-control, increase energy, lower high blood pressure, and reduce the level of stress hormones in our bodies.

There are many techniques to meditation you can find online (movement meditation, mindfulness meditation, chakra meditation, sound meditation, etc.), but they all have the same goal: to uncover the inner self. I believe everyone at their core is good and pure. But we cause ourselves pain with our negative habits, attitudes, and thought patterns that go unchecked as we go about our daily lives. Gradually, and with practice meditation rewires the mind to engage in constructive and/or positive action to work towards becoming the noble, selfless people we were meant to be.

… on how she incorporates yoga into everyday life.
Every moment of the day can serve as an opportunity to observe and gently address negative habits. Whether you’re staring at the computer screen, waiting in line at the bank, or getting ready to sleep, check on the following points. This can take anywhere between 30 seconds and 30 minutes; do whatever you can.

  • Stand tall and evenly on both feet (if you’re sitting, sit up tall and evenly on both buttocks). If possible, close the eyes.
  • Observe where you’re holding unnecessary tension but continue to sit or stand tall. Check on your eyebrows, lips, tongue, jaws, hands, shoulders, buttocks, feet.
  • Take deep breaths. With every exhale, relax these areas one at a time.
  • Feel the mind and body grow calm and quiet. Then thank yourself for doing well.

… on advice for those who would like to try yoga for the first time.
Most people think yoga is not for them because they’re “not flexible enough” or “not calm enough”. But just as you might go to a language class to learn speech, so you might also go to a yoga class to develop flexibility or to calm the mind. We all set out as beginners in every endeavor. Be open to the experience; it may be exactly what you need, and your life will be richer for it.

Most yoga studios in Manila have classes specifically for beginners. There you will learn the basics of yoga in a safe and supportive environment without the pressure of “achieving” a pose. Ask the studio nearest you for a one-week pass or first-time package. This will give you a chance to try a few classes until you find a teacher whose style resonates with you.

… on the hardest lesson people should know before practicing yoga.
Keep on practicing no matter what. If the first two classes are difficult, go for another two and I promise you will be stronger. Pose after pose, breath after breath, the practice will prove that you can stretch your limits, that you can do more and be more than you thought possible. Slow down if you’re not feeling at your best, take a break for a few days, even explore another class, but keep on practicing. Even when you think you’ve mastered your #goalpose or all the “advanced” asana, another challenge will present itself. But know that every obstacle along the way is meant as an opportunity to become a better person in some way—healthier, kinder, more mindful. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.”