Contributor: Sandra Fang, Yin Yang Japan Ambassador
I’m Chinese Canadian from Vancouver, Canada. It’s been more than seven years since I first landed in Japan fresh and naive after my university graduation.
As a yoga teacher looking back at my youth, I have so much gratitude for being able to do what I love right now.
Myanmar was a country that I had longed to visit since I was a teenager, when I read a lot about its tumultuous political situation in Aung San Suu Kyi’s books. My dream was finally realised when I went on a world trip in 2015.
For about five decades, Myanmar had been under the rule of an oppressive military junta. Since 2011, Myanmar been striving to move forward on its “Roadmap to Democracy”. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest for 15 years. Foreign investments had poured in, Sanctions had been dropped, Japanese second-hand cars filled every street. The country was no longer the Myanmar I read about 20 years ago. The new Myanmar I saw was filled with hope and possibilities for a bright future.
I had a chance to teach a yoga lesson to a group of Burmese people at Maha Bandula Park in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar. This park is located in the city centre, right across the city hall. Every morning, throngs of local people gather here to do their morning exercise. This group of about 10 local people I taught yoga to, had been practicing here on and off for a few months already. I heard that their last teacher was an European traveler, who had just left a couple of weeks ago. So without a teacher now, they were excited that I could offer them a community lesson. Even though not everyone could understand English, it was priceless to see how happy they were after the lesson.
This place, Maha Bandula park, has its historical and political significance. In 2007, protests against the military junta led by thousands of locals including Buddhist monks were taken place here. The peaceful demonstrations were met with a crackdown by the military Junta, resulting in many injured and arrested. In contrast, now it’s a relaxing place for families and friends to hangout. Burmese people have gone a long way in search of peace and democracy. It’s not until recently that they have the luxury to enjoy more freedom. The yoga practice is not popular in Myanmar yet. When I taught them, my heart was filled with joy seeing their bodies opening and their satisfied smiles. This is what makes my work as a yoga teacher meaningful. I believe that yoga transcends cultural boundaries and it has the power to heal the physical body and to relieve stress and trauma from the mind.
After my world trip, I strongly feel that the yoga practice in the modern world is a reflection of the society’s stability and peace. Only when the country is stable, can people let go of their worries about food and safety, leisure activities like yoga is then possible. Stability and peace of a society is the foundation of happiness. But on the other hand, the fast-paced modern world knocks us out of balance and many people start to aware that true happiness and peace can only be found within ourselves. That’s why yoga is becoming increasing popular in the modern world. This wave of yoga practice first started outside of India in the U.S. It’s been spreading to Asia and hitting the cities like Shanghai, HongKong, and Bangkok. The white collar workforce are more concerned about their health and well-being than filling their wallets. The yoga philosophy is rooted in the practice of kindness, honesty, and unity. It reminds us to slow down and to reassess our values and very purpose in life.
Myanmar is for sure one of the most memorable countries I’ve been so far. Meeting and sharing time with the people here is the best way to appreciate what’s truly golden about this land. My next column will be about Bali, stay tuned!
(Note about “golden”: The golden color is many people’s image of Myanmar because of its countless golden pagodas.)