It is a hot Wednesday afternoon as we walk into a heated yoga studio in the Enrique Razon Sports Center. Inside, Carlo Inocencio and Patrick Kahn greet us while engaged in seemingly uncomfortable positions. The latter is in the middle of a headstand while the former is indian sitting, remarkably, upside down. Kahn later tells us this pose is called Urdhva Padmasana, which is basically the lotus position while on a headstand. “It’s actually a very relaxing pose,” he says, “once you get the hang of it.”
A yoga studio isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find the University’s former USG President and Chief Legislator, but it was the only place where the two would agree to an interview.
Less than a month has passed since Inocencio and Kahn announced their shocking resignation from office, amidst a failed election no less. Their official statement cited stress and personal reasons for their resignation, but rumors swirled, such as the death of Inocencio’s beloved pet capybara, Rob, or Kahn’s unrequited love towards a member of the judiciary. Perhaps the most absurd among these rumors, however, was word that the two had quit to join the growing number of youth dedicating themselves to the thousands-year-old practice of yoga.
“I wouldn’t call it absurd, but yes, that is our real reason for resigning,” admits Kahn in a weird twist of fate. Inocencio echoes the sentiment nonchalantly as if oblivious to the strangeness of it all.
It was Inocencio who first started trying out yoga, determined to keep fit while juggling the hectic demands of the USG. “I realized that I was starting to get out of shape. I found myself no longer able to squeeze into my favorite pair of pants. That sort of broke my heart, in a way,” he shares. Realizing that the stress was causing him to pay less and less attention to his own mental and physical well-being, he started to go to Yoga+ Express by recommendation of close family and friends. “The first few sessions surprised me [because] I didn’t think it would be that challenging, but I realized that if I really wanted to maximize its benefits, I had to put more work into it.”
In the following weeks, other officers started to notice the changes in Inocencio’s physique and disposition. Among these officers was Khan, who was also intent on finding a pastime that would help reduce the stress of being the Chief Legislator. “I was a first-hand witness to the changes happening in Carlo. We often worked closely [with regards to] LA concerns, and I just noticed one day that he was looking calmer and healthier. When he told me it was yoga that changed him, I was surprised,” says Kahn.
The former Chief Legislator adds that he was a little hesitant at first. “I read something from the CBCP saying that yoga makes you susceptible to demonic possession. Being very religious, this made me a little wary.”
“When I got into yoga, it was the complete opposite of my philosophy at the time,” continues Kahn. He shares that as a travel enthusiast, he was used to constant motion. He would often travel from one place to another, hopping from one task to the next without much thought, always restless and wide-eyed for the next discovery. “Yoga taught me the value of sitting still. Finding peace meant staying in one place.” The first yoga session they had together was as interesting and essential as any other first day, but what they didn’t know was that it marked the end and beginning of everything as they knew it.
Inocencio and Kahn found themselves going back to Yoga+ Express more and more, and the promises of yoga did deliver: Inocencio found that he was losing a significant amount of weight, while Kahn grew more and more muscular himself. More importantly, however, was the profound effect yoga was having on their day-to-day activities.
Work and yoga
“There came a point when I couldn’t do anything without first doing yoga. I had to do it to calm myself and set my mind straight,” Inocencio shares. He claimed that meditating in the lotus pose inside the USG office became part of his daily routine, and would sometimes determine his mood and outlook for the rest of the day.
On the other hand, Kahn would start each LA session with a few sun salutations along with variations of other poses. “It honestly was really weird. At first we thought he was playing some prank, but he just never stopped,” says an LA representative who wishes to stay anonymous. “There was one LA session where he was doing a headstand behind the table, and all we could see were his feet. It’s hard to take someone seriously when all you can see are their feet.”
Kahn was adamant about using yoga to get better progress within the LA, but his colleagues were just as resistant. “Despite yoga, the LA sessions just kept getting more and more stressful. Eventually, I had to give up,” says Kahn. “It was during one LA session [where] I got a text from someone saying that the election had failed, and I knew a lot of the blame would be put on us, so I just let it go.”
According to the account of several anonymous LA representatives, Kahn, who suddenly stopped talking at that point, stood on the table, knelt, and went into what is known as the ‘baby pose’. Both Inocencio and Kahn submitted their resignations the next day.
Looking for more
Eventually, however, even regular sessions of yoga were not enough for them. “We felt like we were still missing something,” says Kahn.
It was on a random trip to Binondo when everything changed for them. “Carlo here, he’s a big fan of tikoy, so we went over to Binondo in search of the best tikoy,” says Kahn.
Over the arch that read ‘Welcome to Manila Chinatown,’ the two were bombarded by crimson lanterns, beating drums, and little shops flashing obscure Chinese signs, selling dumplings of every color and feng-shui artifacts of every size.
“It all happened too fast. One second we were in a chaos of red, the next moment we were inside a dead-silent tech store with a mountain pile of broken TVs and radios,” they share. They recall with much awe that sitting on top of that mountain was a little Chinese child with a thick beard and hindu gems across his forehead, wearing nothing but white pants. “He introduced himself as Grand Master Hetsch, the Great Meditator of the world,” Khan remarks with apparent reverence.
“We learned so much from Master Hetsch,” says Inocencio. “He taught us that our search for the best tikoy was over and that the greatest truth to complete our pilgrimage was this: The tikoy is within me. The tikoy is within us all. He also recommended Eng Bee Tin Hopia over Polland.”
With the help of this Grand Master, the two former USG officers were able to find things in their yoga practice that they were previously unable to. Kahn, for one, was able to reconnect with his past, even discovering that he descended from the infamous founder of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Kahn. “It explains a lot of things, really,” says Kahn.
“If we had any regrets, it’s that we weren’t able to spread yoga while we were in office, when we were in a position to reach a wider group of people,” says Inocencio. Kahn, on the other hand, disagrees. “If it doesn’t happen for some people, it doesn’t happen,” he shares. “To meditate on what could have been will only bring unhappiness and regret.”
It’s difficult to believe the story recounted by the two former student politicians, and Inocencio is well aware of it. “I understand,” says Inocencio, who by this point has been locked in a headstand for the past hour or so. “We’re not asking you to believe,” he says.
“At the end of the day, we couldn’t be happier with our decision,” says Kahn. “And that’s all that really matters.”