Written by Lee Ping Chong:
As a yoga practitioner, my yoga teacher always says how we react on the mat is how we react in our real lives. I always have that in mind, so when I do my yoga practice, I hope to bring my best habits on to the mat, and also the best habits to my life. I am going to share some habits on the mat that are useful and worth being carried into our daily lives, especially for tackling exams.
(i) Feel your own body
In my yoga practice, the first pose we start with is child’s pose. Being in child’s pose, I like to disconnect myself from the outer environment and focus on my breath and my body. Feeling the air entering my lungs and stomach and feeling the air out of my stomach and body, brings me to the present moment. By focusing on my breath and feeling my body, I know my body may need more stretching or more relaxation. It will also encourage more natural movements to prepare my body for yoga workouts later on. It important to be aware that your body is not always the same. I might feel very energetic one day, and then very tired the next. Same thing goes when studying for exams. You have to know where you are in the entire syllabus, how many chapters are in the syllabus and how much more you have left to study. It is similar to checking in with my body at the start of my practice. By having a rough idea of how much more studying you need to do, you can then take the next step to allocate time for it. Also, be compassionate to yourself when you are studying. Your brain might not function the same every day, some days it functions like a super computer, some days it just does not function. Instead of getting frustrated with yourself, be compassionate and take in the amount of studying that you can do. Spend some time to restore yourself to be at a great state again.
(ii) ‘Avoiding it’, means you ‘need it’
There are some hard poses in yoga that need a lot of core work. For example, the hand stand preparation poses like donkey kick or dolphin kick are just so hard and energy draining. But, my teacher says, “If you avoid it, that means you need it.” That is really true. I do not like donkey kick because I do not have a strong core to push my body up. That is totally the reason why I should practice donkey kick – to have a strong core. Same goes for studying. I tend to just zip through the difficult part of the material because I do not understand it and am lazy to decipher the meaning of the content. However, what I should really do is to take some time to understand the material. I used to skip some of the hard questions, and tell myself that the hard questions would not appear on the exam. It is more like a self deception, which lead me to fail my MLC exam on my first attempt. What I really should’ve done back then, was learn from my mistakes when I got the questions wrong, instead of avoiding them.
My teacher told us that discipline is the key to success, be it at the mat or outside of the mat. If I come to my mat on a regular basis, I will definitely have progress in my yoga practice. I want to be able to do a perfect crow pose, but it boils down to whether I have good arm strength, strong core and good focus. How can I build the foundation for crow pose? I can only do that through regular practice which requires discipline. Discipline is not my strength. I am lucky to have a friend who has great discipline in practicing yoga. Same goes to taking exam, you must dedicate effort and time to study and practice. Every second that you spend on your studying counts to your success. If you are like me, discipline is your weakness. Plan your study time with a friend that has better discipline. It can be better when you have a study buddy.
(iv) Let your dreams guide you, not your problems
Often times, when we are given a challenge, we only see how hard it is to reach the goal. We fail to see the beauty of it when the goal is achieved. There is another cool movement I want to achieve in my yoga practice, which is to ‘hop’ using core strength from downward facing dog pose to forward fold pose. It looks cool because if you really do it well, it actually looks like you are hanging in the air before you fall into forward fold pose lightly. Cool poses are not always easy, but the teacher said that instead of thinking about how hard the pose is, visualize that you are already in the pose. I am still not there yet, but I know I can do it one day. This is similar to taking exams; exams are difficult! Instead of thinking how difficult it is to study for the exam, think of how happy and how accomplished you will feel when you get it done. Let your dreams guide you!
(v) Your body is different from others
Every person has a different body structure. Some people have tight hamstrings, some people have tight hip joints and some people have double joints. When I first came to the yoga center, I observed how other people do poses and followed how my “neighbors” do poses. When they do a cool pose and I can’t, I will feel bogged down. But, later on, teacher said that each person has a different body build and a different need at a different time. So, I began to learn how to not judge myself and others when I am on my mat practicing. My perfect pose might look different from another person’s perfect pose. There is nothing wrong with it. Same thing goes for studying. You are different from your friends and other exam takers. You might be slower in grasping the material than other people. But that is totally fine. Pick your own pace and study with a way that best suits you. Pass the exam in your own unique way!
Those are the 5 main habits that I think are useful to be applied in life and studying. If you are not a “yoga” person, find another activity that you put effort into and apply the principles from the activities into studying for the exam. For example, if you like to play online games, think of how you make strategize to win the game, and then treat the actuarial exam as your online game. Bring the habit that makes you win the online game to this “exam game”. I hope you can find your own unique way and pass your exam beautifully!