Inspire With Every Practice – Embrace the unknown

Time flies, the next thing we know its already close to the end of 3rd week of teachers’ training. As I sat down on my bed to reflect on my yoga journey that leads me to reach this milestone of my life, flashes of memories and experiences from countless practice overwhelms me. Its beautiful isn’t it? How a simple intention from the start could manifest itself and evolve to something bigger.

The yoga I remember back then in 2014 was super challenging and made me sweat profusely even in an air-conditioned meeting room as I lay down on the mat panting. My manager in a company I worked for was a yoga teacher and he would occasionally empty out the meeting out just to conduct yoga. That was the first experience I had on yoga and I remember telling myself that someday I’ll continue to explore more.

Like many others, procrastination and a million factors soon fell into my life and took my attention away. Until 2018 when life fell apart but at the same time, also fell into places for me. I was asked to join a friend for a Hatha class. I remember the experience I had in 2014 as I nervously walked into the studio. A call came right after I enter, “Hey sorry something urgent came up and I can’t join you”.

That made me more nervous as I walked into the class with only ladies. I shut my mind off and completed the practice which left me so exhausted with arms and legs trembling. From that day onwards, I slowly learned to proceed with this path alone without the presence of friends or external motivation.

As months went by, two days of yoga a week became three, and three became four. I pushed aside other things I had such as gym sessions and climbing for yoga. The result from the practices left me changed as a person both physically and mentally, Its journey like no others, it becomes a part of your life and guides the way you live.

Teaching was never in my intention or idea in my journey of practicing yoga. Learning from the struggles I encountered in my journey lead me to share my experiences to others to improvise their practices and techniques. A teacher whom I practice with often came to me one day and told me to take up the YTT to bring my journey to the next level. That made me think about it but I felt I wasn’t ready back then.

Almost a year passed from that day, I finally took up the YTT with a prepared mind, and here I am today going through this intensive and knowledge overloading course with yogis from all walks of life. It’s a unique and beautiful journey when you stop for a moment and think of all the ups and downs you’ve experienced, and the changes it brings from your original intention.

So, don’t be afraid of the unknown or changes, embrace it, and evolve from it. Most importantly, never forget the experiences it has given.

Inspire With Every Practice – The path to arm balances & Inversions

“Those that have tripod headstand in their practice, go ahead”, as the teacher instructed while we were holding in wide-legged forward hold. I remember tilting my head up a little while holding the pose (struggling) and saw a lady in front of my mat went upside down steadily and gracefully.

That day was etched in my mind till date, and thoughts came flowing in such as “how long did she practice to be able to do that?” and “how does it feels like being upside down and in control”. That day marks the start of my journey to the world of arm balances and inversions.

As my practice takes me deeper into the world of yoga, I fell in love with being upside down or on my arms. It wasn’t easy, really, even as a guy. People often misunderstood that being a guy gives you the extra advantage to learn it faster than a lady by utilizing pure strength alone, but the truth is, it doesn’t. I’ve attended inversion classes with guys that were bulked from countless gym sessions and they too struggled badly trying to go into crow or headstand, till the point they tried to lift using strength itself. The shaking arms and holding of breath, as well as face turning red from frustrations, was obvious.

Yes, you may try to push through using just strength alone. When I started out trying to get into crow, I too, tried to push through using strength after being frustrated from multiple failed attempts. But at the end of the day, I exhaust myself out unnecessarily with a sore wrist and still unable to hold the pose comfortably with ease. To me, the practice taught me to be consistent and patient with myself, the control of focus and emotions play a big part in this journey.

Through my journey of progression in the world of arm balances and inversions, I’ve learned techniques and methods from others through their priceless experiences, which enables me to share it with others. Learning the pose just the start, to work up to holding the pose with ease using the least effort is another. Being in the midst of it brings a sensation that it is indescribable. For that moment, you’re focused on your breath and within a world of your own, your own kind of meditation.

I would like to end off by sharing a few ‘rules’ I’ve learned in my journey. These ‘rules’ has helped me a lot by giving me clear objectives and focus, which brings progress.

  1. Be extremely patient with yourself. It is very important to not beat yourself up when you don’t get it initially, know that this is a lifelong journey of practice and there is no end to it. 
  2. Do not compare with others. More often than not, people conveniently look past the efforts of others to reach a certain pose. It is never easy, just focus on yourself and build your own journey.
  3. Focus on quality, not quantity. You want to do a proper good attempt with effort than tiring yourself out unnecessarily over multiple lousy ones. It delivers better habits and results than mindlessly push yourself up over and over again without proper rest in between.
  4. Be ritualistic. How do you get into crow or headstand? Build your own method of executing the pose, and follow that method strictly with every attempt, improvise it as you progress. Being ritualistic in inversions and arm balance gives me the proper momentum, preparation, and ensures success in executing the pose.
  5. Recap every attempt. Learning a new pose? Had a good or bad attempt? Don’t just brush it off. Summarise your last attempt and ask questions within yourself like “How was my hand placement?”,  “Where was my focus?”, “Why was this attempt successful?” etc. 
  6. Preparation before execution. I cannot emphasize this enough. Have a proper warm-up is vital before commencing your attempts. Identify your weakness and work on them. Never rush to attempt the pose if you feel that the areas required aren’t ready.  For me, my wrist is my weakness and I spend extra time on it before attempting anything. Spending that extra time goes a long way to ensure you are able to continuously practice. Imagine injuring your wrist (which happened to me) and out of practice for weeks or months, it regresses your practice physically and emotionally.
  7. Make use of your props. Your blocks, straps, and wall are your best friend. Use them to your fullest potential. It gives you a sense of security and proper alignment to ensure good fundamentals, which trains you to be steady in any inversions or arm balances.
  8. Be kind of yourself. This falls in line with Ahimsa, one of the Yamas. You are your own doctor and your know yourself the best. Feeling fatigued? Give yourself that rest day to progress further. Getting sore hips or wrist from attempts? Take an active break for a few minutes before continuing your attempts. Sufficient rest is very important because there is so much your body can take before it breaks down. 
  9. Consistency is the key. My key belief in any practice, not just inversions and arm balances. And I don’t mean putting hours of training every day.  Just set aside an attempt or two every day and carry on with your day whether good or bad attempt. It trains your mind and body to push through that boundary and be comfortable in that position gradually, which provide results.

Inspire With Every Practice – Flexibility is a jouney, not a destination

“I’m not flexible enough to practice yoga”, I’m sure many of us have heard of that sentence all too often. The misconception of flexibility in yoga is totally misunderstood by many, and I don’t find it surprising. With social media platforms often showing “perfect” asanas such as straight standing splits and “U-shaped” forward fold, it has gave people the impression that yoga practitioners are all flexible. That was my mindset about yoga too until I experience it for myself.

Coming from a background of excessive gaming and cardio repetitive exercises such as running, I suffered badly when I started off practicing, every asana seems challenging to me, especially those that require certain flexibility. I remember that my hamstrings were so tight that I would suffer during downward-facing dog, and I would glance around often just to check if I am the only one. As my heels were away from the mat and knees bent to ease the pose, I thought to myself “Will my feet ever be flat on the mat without bending my knees?”.

Flexibility has always been something that I knew was my weakness, so I am always focused on trying to stretch more in order to gain results at the fastest rate. I did not believe in Yin classes back then, because I thought its a waste of time doing such relaxing poses. I did not take sufficient rest as I believe that my flexibility would be back to square one if I slack.

As my practice took me deeper, so as my knowledge as well which changed my mindset and approach completely. I stopped my pursue of gaining flexibility and instead just enjoy the motion into the world of yoga and every practice. Gradually, I noticed myself improving and able to reach further, poses that used to be so challenging for me became easier and accessible for me.

I know I still have a long way to go, but I learned to be patient with myself. After all, flexibility is something we attain as we dive deeper into yoga and not a destination to reach. Through my experiences, I always like to share them with people who told me they are inflexible for yoga, I also used myself as an example, “If I can touch my toes, so can you! Patience and consistency is the key”.

My flexibility journey made me became more aware of my body now, and I reflected on the lifestyle I used to lead which causes my whole body to be the state it was.  As humans, we are all born with that range of motion and flexibility, but our lifestyles and emotions changed us slowly over the years. We can regain them back slowly as long as we continue to practice, remember that consistency is the key!

 

 

Inspire with every practice – Your Intention Matters

As a practicing yogi or yogini, I’m sure you’ve come across a teacher that starts the class telling you to “Set your intention for the practice”. I can’t emphasize how important is this, so let me dive in with my personal experience.

Starting out as a newbie practicing yoga, I came with a curious mind to learn with every practice. I always come with an open heart but also wanted to ‘conquer’ asanas that seemed impossible to me, pushing myself to the very limit every time to ensure the class wasn’t ‘wasted’ to me.

As the practice took me deeper, I was exposed to hot classes as well as arm balances and inversions. I became obsessed to conquer it, my mindset also gradually moved to become competitive and demanding with myself. With every class I went, I always wanted to ‘be the best’ and wanted certain asanas to be done, giving myself an excuse within that I only have that limited amount of time where my body is at its peak before it cools down again. I would also challenge myself to go back to back classes without rest.

What was the intention I set every time? To push myself to the limit, give it my all.

Whenever a certain asana I demanded wasn’t practiced by the teacher, It would leave me feeling down and disappointed. I couldn’t care less about other asanas during the practice, my gaze and breath aren’t controlled, I was not consciously correcting my alignments. I was only focused on difficult peak poses such as Bakasana etc.

This mindset and intention backfired right back at me, which threw me into negativity after practices. It affected my emotions badly and made me question my ability whenever I cannot do certain asanas. This also took a strain on my body as fatigue sets in, my practice quality suffered, I was feeling sore almost every day. 

This went on for months, and as I dove deeper into the love of yoga and gaining knowledge from fellow yogis/yoginis, I started to relook into my actions, my flaws, my emotions. At the same time, I started meditating as well. With that, it has taught and changed me so much as a person, I learn to listen to my body more and always practice with an open heart and open mind. Every asana, no matter how simple it is, is a step to growth. 

What’s my intention now? I am aware of my body and mind, I am grateful for all that I’ve learned.