Self love

Love had been a topic that we’ve been discussing quite often. I remember when Master Sree said for the first time that pure love is self-love I didn’t agree. It sounded too selfish, but I kept thinking about it, and my conclusion is that self-love is a base, a starting point for universal love.

We often hear that to love others you need to love yourself first, self-love is given to us, we don’t have to do much-its there-we always do everything to be happy(whatever you understand by happiness), but the realisation I came into is that if everyone loved everyone, it would be only positive energy around us. Imagine you never do anything against anyone; you are always ready to help, always happy to be there for others. Our world would be so peaceful and harmonious, the power that it would create could heal all evil in the world.  

“Where the heart is full of kindness which seeks no injury to another, either in act or thought or wish, this full love creates an atmosphere of harmony, whose benign power touches with healing all who come within its influence. Peace in the heart radiates peace to other hearts, even more surely than contention breeds contention.” ~ Patanjali

Unlimited

It was early morning; I was on my way to the yoga studio, still half asleep I was  suddenly drawn to the motto written on a building saying Patience and consistency are keys to success.  A few seconds later, my eyes were attracted to the red bike that had written unlimited on it.

These three words: patience, consistency and unlimited made me think about these things in my life. I started asking myself if I have been  patient and consistent enough. If I’m not what’s the reason? Have I been really rooted in something I do or it’ s only passion that attracts me for a while but doesn’t let me fully express myself. 

As long as I remember, I was always asking lots of existential questions, trying to understand whats the meaning of life, why we exist?

I studied philosophy and I always have been  interested in spirituality, there were even some moments or rather seconds when I felt I know, I understand but when I was back  in everyday life situations, I have been easily forgetting all the wisdom I thought I gained. 

My first encounter with yoga (or I should rather say my adventure with asanas) happened about two years ago. I started doing some simple asanas briefly for 15 minutes every morning before going to work. It wasn’t regular practice but I felt there is something in it. I attended some commercial classes but these weren’t was I was looking for, something was still missing. I kept practising on my own and then a year later when I moved to Singapore I found out that I don’t do all the poses I thought I know how to do in a correct way. I kept attending professional yoga studio two, three times per week, learning right alignments, it became my practice, it felt good but I was still missing something. And finally all started making sense when I joined Tirisula teaching training.

Our morning talks about the philosophy behind yoga, discussions about life and long and tiring practice brought lots of joy into my life; it felt so good or I should rather say that I felt that I am finally on the right path. The first week was quite slow and intense, the second one was even more intense but went so fast, on Friday my body felt knackered, but my mind was so fresh, I felt awakened. I finally understood that the main thing I was missing my whole life was having an austerity that in this case is yoga. You feel pain, but it doesn’t make you want to stop, it switches your brain off. 

Santosha – Contentment

In a blink of an eye, we are at the end of the course. I remember whining about having to wake up way before my usual routine, to make it for daily 8am classes. My course mates and I would joke about how dreadful mornings are, and seek solace in one another sharing the same struggles to this new routine.

Fast forward to the second last day of the course, thinking about how our YTT journey is coming to a close and the possibility that our paths may not cross again leaves me feeling bittersweet. Overheard in class today, “I am going to feel so lost. No need to wake up early and come here?” Funny how when YTT is ending, we are actually going to miss waking up at 630am!??

It also reminded me of Santosha, the second Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga –  contentment.

Demand is high only and especially when supply is low, vice versa. We whined when we had to wake up early, and then start missing this routine when it is coming to an end. In a nonexistent perfect world, if Santosha was in practice, we would be appreciative of every new day we have from waking up from our sleep, our able bodies, the opportunity have a class to attend and the luxury of time to be able to attend this course. We would be in the present and enjoy every moment, without complaints. But of course, this is highly unrealistic. We know this in theory, but practicing it is a different ball game. All we can do in our best ability is to be mindful. Accept and appreciate what we are, what we have and make the best out of it.

I believe showing gratitude to the luxuries of time, health, money we currently have will fill our hearts. More often than not, complacency takes over and we tend to forget that life is unpredictable. A twist of fate can happen any moment, and everyone would go “THAT’S SO SHOCKING” … as if we never knew how life works.

In light of Thanksgiving today, I am thankful to share the last 19 days with my course mates, and an impish buddy who cracks me up every day. Thank you Sree for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

Namaste

Returning to a natural state

My 2-year old toddler is a natural yogi. Seriously. She stretches in supta padagustasana when she drinks milk, flips her tiny body into ardha kapotasana when she’s done drinking & gets up, drops into malasana when she plays with her toys, rests in supta baddha konasana, sees the world upside down in adho mukha swanasana when she’s horse-playing with me and my husband. Effortless and natural movements.

Watching my toddler move, to me, embodies the spirit of yoga asana practice. To return the body to a natural state, the way we moved before our bodies manifested bad postures, habits and our samskaras.

Beyond the mat, my toddler has also taught me other yoga lessons. At dinner last night, she used a Chinese soup spoon, western spoon AND fork to eat her dinner. Switching between the different utensils every few mouthfuls, grinning from ear and ear when she succeeded in eating rice with her fork.

Food for thought. How much of what we do is conscious or unconscious? Do we accept what we are told, or do we take action ourselves? When was the last time we learnt something new? In our natural state, we are a blank piece of paper, no ego, openness to everything around us, fearless in our actions. As I continue in my yoga journey, I take inspiration from my toddler to return to basics and keep things simple.

When was the last time you used different utensils to eat your dinner? Or walked backwards simply because it’s fun? Perhaps it’s time to give it a try.

What is your karma?

“What is your karma? What is the current action you should take in your life now?”

As Master Shree asked the class this question, I instinctively whispered to myself “my karma now is to nurture”.
As this thought left my mouth, I realized how much it resonated with me, like a wheel clicking in place.

In a moment of sharp mental clarity, I saw how my choices in life and career were weaved to the theme of nurturing. Becoming a mother 2 years ago, my choice of profession, finding myself naturally slipping into a mentoring and coaching role at work.

Even doing a YTT feels like a step towards nurturing a seed or kernel within. I’ve practiced yoga asanas for a long time, going on and off the mat, but always returning, each time staying longer. I’ve dabbled with oil painting, writing, dance, and yoga is the only practice I’ve maintained consistently.

Perhaps this is samsara* at work, pulling me back to yoga time and again. And choosing to commit to YTT is a thread of samskara**, woven into my karma to nurture.

*The literal translation of Samsara would be “a wandering through.” This refers to the means within which everybody passes through a variety of lives and states. It encompasses the idea of reincarnation and therefore the fact that what an individual does in their current life are going to be reflected, through karma, in their future lives.

**Samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions, and intents that an individual has ever intimate with. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and aforesaid to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate tendencies.

Engage your core

The wonders of a physical yoga practice is that there are always variations that fits all fitness levels, and progression is limitless. It brings you out of your comfort zone when trying a new pose i.e. inversion. Have a good laugh while falling all over safely and enjoy the process. Stretches can be deepened and strength to be built and that’s why yoga journey never ends.

Have you ever attended a yoga class that never mentioned “engage your core” or “suck in your belly”? I have never. Arm balances and inversions require a strong core to hold the poses. A strong core comes in all shapes and sizes other than beautifully defined abs. Half the time when I cant get into or hold certain poses, its due to the lack of core strength.

The benefits of a strong core is beyond achieving advanced poses. It is the fundamental strength we need for a healthy well being. It has the potential to strengthen your entire body with greater balance and stability. Our core is responsible for our bending, twisting and lifting, making it easier to reach for the top shelf or pick something up from the floor. Building core strength is an important part of maintaining your body at any age. As we age, and our bodies start to wear down, we will be thankful for a strong core that will delay or keep pain away.

Sharing an easy 5 min work out to add onto your work out routine:

The 5-Minute Core-Strengthening Workout
  • 1 minute upright plank
  • 1 minute side plank (30 seconds each side)
  • 1 minute static boat pose
  • 1 minute crunches (or crunch hold)
  • 1 minute dead bug

Having the intention is the very first step. Practicing it, is next.

And remember, don’t give up if you fail to keep up the routine. Try again another day.

 

 

 

 

Pratyahara: Detachment

A primary teaching Master Sree is a big advocate for, evident in his daily theory classes is to

Not be attached to anything.

Not any labels, not any religion, not any beliefs, not even memories.

With every module taught, this teaching stood still.

Pratyahara – Letting go of attachments, take only what we need, keep only what serves us, let go when the time is right.

This state of open-mindedness resonated as it is similar to us being exposed to the wide range of religions available, not excluding astrology, numerology, tarot card reading, crystal healing, fortune telling, etc. The same can be applied of the limitless diets: paleo/ keto/ raw/ vegan/ blood type or intermittent fasting advocated by everybody who achieved successes through their personal experiences.

Who is to say which is the best diet, or which is the one true god or the most accurate tarot card or fortune teller? Who is to say if eating meat is unnatural or are they meant to be eaten?

Everyone’s belief is different, everyone’s truth is different.

A sneak peek to a few thought provoking ideas mentioned in class –

Commercialized by pharma industry Popping painkillers pills for body/head ache 
Alternative idea Using natural herbs and spices to self heal
Commercialized by bottled water industry Drinking 2 litres of water daily
Alternative idea Drinking only when youre thirsty even if its 200ml
Commercialized by farmers/grocers Poultry are meant to be eaten as food
Alternative idea Animals are living things and are not meant to be consumed as food
Commercialized by all industries Love makes the world go round. We love our partners and family.
Alternative idea Only self love is the purest love. Every other love is conditional.

My takeaway from this is to keep an open mind. Don’t be attached to any of it. Take in all the information with an open heart, and make your own assessment if it will serve you and you will like to take it with you. And in time to come, when it no longer serves you, let it go.

We are our own worst enemy

Prior to signing up for Tirisula’s last weekday YTT of 2019, I spent two years flirting with the idea of a YTT. I clicked on every Instagram (IG) story or post that popped up in my feed from studios promoting their YTT and reading all about them. While I was crippled by self doubt and fear during these two years, I witnessed the growth of other braver yogis who took the leap of faith. Watching them through their YTT journey, starting a new yoga account on IG, sharing their teaching schedule of their new found expertise, slowly gaining experience and respect by taking one class at a time, one studio at a time and conducting their own workshops/retreats eventually.

I think self doubt could be one of the common dilemma faced by anyone contemplating YTT; wondering if we are good enough, if we are qualified enough because we haven’t practiced “long enough”, how can we lead a class when we cant do certain poses, how do you lead a class etc. The fear of failure and inadequacy holds us back. Our mind comes up with a long long list of reasons/excuses why we cant do it, in support of our lack of trust in ourselves.

While there are many bad connotations of yoga being wildly altered from its traditional roots by popular media, one of the great gifts of social media is the power of sharing. Through sharing, I was empowered by the journeys of fellow students who advanced into experienced teachers. Their stories gave me courage, they showed that anybody and everybody can do it. You don’t have to be the strongest or the bendiest. All you need to do is to take the first step.

One step at a time. One breathe at a time.

It is the midway mark of our journey today, 10th of our 20 days training.

Lots learnt, lots more to learn.

Focus on what you can do

“Focus on what you can do, don’t worry about what you can’t.”

As I near the end of week 2 YTT, Master Shree’s comment helped to clarify my self-doubt.

I have been attending yoga asana classes for several years, going on-and-off the mat depending on the ebb & flow of life and career. I can perform postures, but not to an advanced level as I’ve never really committed to a practice. At YTT, I met fellow students who slipped into poses effortlessly, despite starting their practice only recently. While I understood that yoga is not asanas, I observed myself weighing heavily the ability to perform poses well, and thinking that I’m not suited to teach after graduating. Thoughts raced through my mind, “What if I encounter students who can do the poses which I can’t?”, “Teachers are supposed to be better than their students!”.

The irony was that Master Shree had asked us to read what Patanjali had to say about common barriers* that keeps one from a yoga practice only earlier in the week.

*These being Disease, Dullness, Doubt, Procrastination, Laziness, Worldly-minded, Illusion, Impatience, Inability to maintain state of yoga*

The comment from Master Shree was timely. Indeed, we don’t spend enough time wisely building on our strengths. Instead, we spend more time worrying about what-ifs and what-nots.

Thus as I enter the 2nd half of YTT, I’ve made a pledge to myself to continually broaden my perspective on yoga, and surrender expectations on what I “should” be able to do. Instead, I’ll enjoy the learning journey, bring an explorer’s mindset & build on what I can do.

Yoga in life

I feel that every school needs to teach yoga.  Through the past 5 days I have learnt that yoga is so much more than just the asanas(physial practice).

It’s about life-how to live,  the human body, mind, spirituality, philosophy.
I’m so eager to learn more, and at the same time slightly nervous because I have to remember everything by the end of 20 days. Nevertheless I can feel my inner-knowing(or higher self) telling me I just have to trust the process, relax, and do my best. The mind absorbs more when it is relaxed.
I had been practising yoga asanas about 5 years with youtube videos prior to this YTT and felt like it was time to start.

Currently, I do not think our education system does enough to teach us about life, and the important aspects of life.
Growing up in a pressure-cooker society , I was like a sheep, following everyone else having basic ideas of “success”- being super smart, good-looking, financially stable , having  a nice home/ partner etc.
Few years ago around 2012-2014 I had an awakening, I asked myself a lot deep questions and was anxious and depressed.

Yoga has allowed me to relinquish my anxieties and stresses in life. Through doing asanas, and meditation, I feel better about life, and in life,  and now through these yoga teacher training lessons I understand more.  I love the philosophical part of yoga.
If I were to give an analogy about how yoga  helps me live , I would say ;

Life is a constantly meandering river that takes me to places I never expected nor knew existed , and yoga is my boat, keeping me afloat through the turbulences of the river of life.