Yoga in an age of materialism

Yoga is all the rage these days with fitness centers and sports retailers alike marketing lithe fresh faced models poised effortlessly in gravity defying positions. A picture of the healthy living lifestyle that yoga has been exploited to sell. Ask any female friend on the latest news and they will wax lyrical on their latest hot yoga classes and how good it is for the arms, butt, legs etc. To many ladies of the middle upper class, yoga classes are the fulcrum of their social life – representing the chance to catch up on the latest gossip with their classmates, compare the newest yoga wear brands and keep those extra pounds off at the same time. After all, how better to show off to your strength and flexibility with your handstands and mind boggling twists. I have a cousin who posts pictures of her latest yoga poses, the hottest yoga gear and swanky health products every other day on Facebook. Proponents I suppose of her healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, these a posted alongside thinly veiled snide comments and criticisms of others which is not exactly the type of positive mindset I would have expected from what yoga advocates.
While the health benefits of incorporating yoga classes into one’s lifestyle are undeniable, the wave of ‘new age’ yogis catching on in the market leaves something to be desired. While the values underlying the pursuit of healthy and fitness are entrenched in the fitness industry, there is a inevitable sense of loss and dilution of the spiritual aspect of yoga practice, with yoga being whittled down to a mere physical practice devoid of deeper understanding. While your four times a week yoga fitness class may leave you dripping in sweet and high on endorphins, seldom does it open the doors to your own self introspection and enlightenment. There are many hidden aspects of yoga that some may be intersted to explore but not exposed to. And while everyone is entitled to their own style of practice. the spiritual benefits of a comprehensive yoga practice is likely to be what keeps people practicing yoga long after the novelty of branded gym wear and obligations to expensive gym memberships have worn off.
The yoga sutras were not created specifically to advocate healthy living for weight loss but rather and a guide for the mind or ”Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodhah’ as described in verse 1.2. I believe that the physical benefits of yoga are useful side effects of dedicated yoga practice that open the path to greater enlightenment. A beautiful quote from the art of dancing sums it up eloquently – ‘Technique must be mastered only because the body must not get in the way of the soul’s expression.’ A beautiful dancer is not characterized only by her excellent technique, but more so because of her ability to inspire the audience through her dancing. In the same way, physical practice of yoga is necessary only because the body should not get of way of the mind’s illumination. But that is only half the journey. Only through union of the mind and the body can the true benefits of yoga practice be achieved, benefits that are independent of how sexy your yoga gear is today or how good your body looks 😉
By stillfindingmyway

On Fear

‘Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear’.

– George Addair

 

Rest your elbows shoulder-width apart.

Cup your hands over your head.

Rest the top of your head flat on your mat.

Walk forward until your spine is straight.

Slowly, pushing your weight forward by the gentle rocking of your hips, lift one leg up – and then the other.

 

Come into Sirasana – and just breathe.

 

It was but my very first day at the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training course and already I was in for a shock. My heart must have stopped for a second as my mind tried to process again and again what the teachers had just instructed us to do – a supported headstand. Were we really supposed to attempt an inversion on our very first day? I felt far less than ready, and I was fearful. The very thought of being physically upside down was an intimidating one.

 

The anxiety induced from the very thought of balancing upside down is perhaps one that many can sympathise with. After all, our bipedal natures have made us not only physically but also mentally accustomed to supporting the weight of our bodies on our lower extremities, rather than with our upper body. But the most interesting thing was that on hindsight, I had realized that fear had creeped up on me way before I had even attempted the asana. Fear is a state-of-mind; it is not real but a mere idea that we conjure up in the deepest recesses of our imaginations. In other words, it is not the physical state of being upside down that is scary – but the conception of the thought that balancing on your head is scary that is truly what makes it terrifying.

 

Conquering fear is the key to overcoming most of the obstacles that we will face in life. In Yoga specifically, many a time we may find ourselves unable to get into more difficult asanas because we view them with trepidation. We cannot let our minds get the better of us, instead we have to use it to channel positive energy toward developing our mental strength, willpower and dedication into helping us accomplish anything that we set our minds to.

 

I have just completed my 3rd week of this very intensive course and I am pleased to say that I can now come into a headstand with little hesitation. Of course, my alignment is far from perfect and I still struggle with trying to shift more weight to my shoulders and keeping my spine straight due to a minor case of scoliosis, but I am proud of just how far I have come in this journey.

 

I believe that in life, as with in Yoga, it is always the mind over matter – and the breath over the mind. (Like Master Paalu once said! :))

 

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

 

Namaste. 

Jody

200hr TTC blog part 1

This is the end of my third week of 200 hr teacher training course. Yes, half way is completed filled with lots of useful, new knowledges.

Well, let’s get back to the first week. It was the hardest week ever. My whole body from neck to toes were aching. I was always knocked down after the class (sounds pretty bad huh?). Most of the asana in the first week that I have tried it before (wrong alignment), my hips were not squared in poses like Uttthita Trikonasana, Parivrtta Parsvakonasan, well I would say most of the extended and revolved asana I was out of the alignment.

Not mention about the fact that my breathing was not deep, and not consistent. However, being adjusted by the teachers, I have become aware of my alignment, breath (Ujjayi Pranayama). I feel a huge difference in body doing asana this second and third week, stronger, more focus on the breathing and gazing points, more control and more flexible. 

I am very grateful and happy to see myself progressed in the right direction.

Trace.

 

Breathing exercise

I always enjoy my yoga practice with ujjayi breathing, but not solely on pranayama exercise.  Since I started this course, I try to be more discipline by waking up  earlier  to do kapalabhati, uddiyana bandha, mula bandha, nadi shodana and meditation. Feeling good , refresh and  more energetic . I want to know the benefits and to feel the difference in my body if I continue this practice.  Breathing exercise can calm our mind and body. reduce oxidative stress, regular practice can extend life , reduce symptoms of certain illness. people with high blood pressure and cardiocascular disease must practice with awareness.

Namaste,

Cheryl

 

 

 

First time

My first time trying to give instruction in yoga to my classmates. It was a good experience.

When we are practicing ourselves , we know what we are doing. When we are giving instructions to lead a class, is totally different.

Instruction has to be clear and precise. Counting of breathe is important,   duration of breath has to be consistant. All the small details will lead to a pleasant and enjoyable class. It was my first time, I felt very nervous and afraid to make mistake. Later, I tell myself to calm down, take a deep breath, imagine I am teaching my fellow friends. Everyone learns from mistake.

Learning is a journey. It will never end.

Namaste

Cheryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I honest to myself?

Ahiṁsā – translated as non-violence, non-harming or non-injurious. 

According to Yoga-sutra of Patanjali in Eight Limbs of Ashtanga,

2.35    ahiṁsā-pratiṣṭhāyaṁ tat-sannidhau vairatyāghaḥ

– ‘Once a condition of durable non-violence (ahimsa) has been established, all enmity will be abandoned in your environs.’ –

Through physical reactions, it can be easily notified from our speech and action. Most of us were conditioned in the way that we act according to our own emotion or feeling as we are just honest in expressing the inner-self. E.g when you feel angry -> tone will rise up or using harsh words -> as you wish the opposite side to understand you and experience what you have been experienced. However, some choose to suppress their emotions and without well managed, it mess everything up in the end and do something ‘funny’. We may have many different emotions arise in a day, even in an hour or within few minutes, like an emotional-pendulum swing, e.g i feel satisfied after heavy sweat but i don’t do well in the asana, i like to stick to the one who make me comfortable but i don’t like the one who always dumb me down. Hence, we should always reflex on our speech and actions by asking ourselves  ‘Is my word beneficial or harmful?’ or ‘Is my action in the right manner or wrong?’ All external reactions started from our thought, the inner-self that within us or the conditioned mind. So, ‘Am I honest to myself?’

One of the yogi mentioned that if ones who practice non-violence externally (outside situations) BUT inside of he/she is actually harming (self-beating) themselves. Some try to impress others or strong ego knocked by and said: i should be the good person or good repetition gained – the lacking of unity in oneself where lead to suffering. This is so called STREE when one is apart from our inner-self. In contrast, people who are motivated by good deeds or pure intention & without expectations will develop deep penetration of non-violence within one-self, it becomes part of the nature who united the soul, body and mind where violence disappears and LOVE arises. ‘Once a condition of durable non-violence (ahimsa) has been established, all enmity will be abandoned in your environs.’

Am I honest to myself ?

 

Namaste ~~~

One little humble relfection

As my body moves through asanas, it usually takes me little effort to stay focused. My attention rarely gets diverted and even if it did, it naturally comes back to its focal point, my movement. I’ve no trouble stilling my mind when I’m moving. Occasionally I would start to plan my activities for the day as I get into the pose but somehow it would miraculously fade off unintentionally. I can stop being a planner for that hour or two. When I’m at shavasana, my hyperactive mind creeps in. Such as irony indeed! My physical body looks motionless but my mind is not fooled at all. Thoughts, ideas and plans wander around and dance in my little busy brain. How do I relax and disengage my mind voluntarily during shavasana? Is my mind controlling my body or body leading my mind? Perhaps they are inter-dependent and at times, one may even dominate the other. That’s my only clue. As my journey continues to a better place, I look forward to reach an equilibrium point between the two.

There are moments that make it so apparent to me that my yoga practice is more than a hobby. Yoga is such a substantial part of my life that even as I waltz through my packed and hectic weekly activities, I still find myself finding time to be on my yoga mat. Is yoga my top priority? Maybe not at this moment but my life would certainly be different without it.

 

Namaste,

Carine

Behind the scene

Demonstrating yoga poses in a room filled with fellow yoga lovers, it is like a performing on a brightly lit-up stage. We somewhat become vulnerable to our own boundaries and limitations. Our level of skills are publicly displayed and placed under scrutiny in the eyes of people around. Some may enjoy the adrenalin rush of what the limelight can bring them but on a deeper level, personal progression often happens behind the scene. Behind the scenes, we can certainly do more than just working out a perspiration.

I enjoy being an observer and I’m completely convinced that it is a role easier said than done. Observation is an acquired skill that commands patience, intelligence, curiosity and perhaps much more. Without these traits, observation can be a mere fruitless and unrewarding experience of daze. To start learning, I first observed how good observers observed. Yoga teachers, mentors and masters have soared in numbers in recent years but not everyone can be claimed worthy. When true masters observe, their attention does not get fixated at one point but rather as a whole. Their sharp eyes are able to detect subtle anomalies that often go unnoticed to amateurish observers. To be a teacher, we need to build an eye for details and intricacies and learn how to look beyond the superficiality. To both teachers and students, the interpretation established from observation is highly valued and possibly unique. Through the eyes of a teacher, movement faults are identified and corrected. Through the eyes of a student, mistakes occurrence is minimised and progression catalysed. We need to master the art of observation. Take a step back, go behind the scenes and observe the beautiful stage. One day, you might just be the prima donna.

 

Namaste,

Carine

As strong as your weakest link

‘One is as strong as one’s weakest link’ is something I firmly believe in. More often than not, we are caught up with working on what we are already good at and neglecting in areas that really need more attention. Imbalance becomes the residual effect.

Every yoga practitioner standing on a yoga mat has a different life story to share. Most of us are exploring different chapters of our lives. However, when one is standing on the mat, practicing with dedication, concentration and passion, we are all deemed equal. We all possess different strengths and talents. One with an unfortunate history of injuries or illnesses should not be judged as a frail individual. Likewise, an advance athlete may not necessary be strong in mind and soul. Acknowledging our faults to self and others in actuality requires massive courage.  I search for the silent warrior within myself as I look forward to grow stronger by embracing my flaws with humility and determination to improve.

 

Namaste,

Carine

The familiar amongst the unfamiliar

This blog is written as I recollect flashes of me on first day of course.

My familiar mat placed in an unfamiliar room. As the session proceeded, it was the familiar poses amongst the unfamiliar faces and voices. It’s amazing how one movement language has brought people from all walks of lives into one studio, located along a small lane filled with abundance of ethnic flavour. We all share a common goal; the quest for knowledge and the desire to stretch our limits to an unknown level. We might not achieve total enlightenment in six weeks but we definitely would not leave empty-handed. For that I know.

The familiar names of the poses were called out. The familiar habitual pattern and thought processes surfaced as I transited into the various poses. When I had to face the usual hurdle of achieving a challenging pose, the big question mark emerged in my head. Could today be the day that my efforts pay off? Despite the presence of both mind and physical barrier, I looked forward to moments when I could achieve and witness personal progression.

To place myself in unfamiliar environment was perhaps triggered by the silent urge within me to step out of my comfort zone. My weekly yoga regime has been repetitive for several months, maybe over year or two. I lost count. I could recognise the style and the tone of different teachers I see every week. I was usually at the same spot of the room. I’m fully aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I constantly attempt to stretch my limits with total mindfulness and at the same time, remind myself how I should overcome my flaws. It was a complicated but familiar thought process. Despite my concurrence that yoga journey requires utmost patience, I was at times bored. Plateau was where I felt I was at. This was when I decided to sign up for a yoga teacher training course. I was looking for a surprise in my routine. Unfamiliarity was perhaps what I need.

The day of unfamiliarity has arrived. My course has commenced. Activities seemed natural to me before, needed a tad more effort now. I had to be on my ‘alert’ mode to ensure I received all instructions and information correct. It was the unfamiliarity that motivated me to challenge myself a notch further and here we go. Let’s get the party started.

 

Namaste,

Carine