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.

The Challenges of Pronouncing and Recalling Asana Names in Sanskrit​

At the very beginning of YTT, learning Sankrit asana names seemed a huge obstacle to me. Sanskrit names are integral to my progress and languages are not my strong point. I tried hard to hear the sounds when Master Sree spoke in Sanskrit and vigorously searched the manual during theory lessons. However, I knew that I needed to self-study and find methods that suited my learning style.

Which methods have I tried?

1. I made a 1-page resource for each sun salutation (large images and names) so that I could practise poses while speaking. I felt a positive shift in confidence. This was the initial breakthrough.

2. I downloaded the “Yoga 108” app recommended by Master Sree. This was useful because I was able to study the Sanskrit and English names for poses at my own pace and play the audio, which helped me to learn pronunciation.

3. I recorded myself saying the Sanskrit names for the sun salutations and played it back to myself while completing the poses. It helped me to be less embarrassed about my pronunciation during studio practise.

4. I asked my partner to follow my instructions in English and then in Sanskrit. He seemed impressed, which gave me some confidence. We practised for an hour at night and 30 minutes in the morning before class. I noticed an improvement in my memory.

4. Finally, a friend offered to make me some flashcards with English/Sanskrit names for ashtanga Series 1 poses. She also broke down some of the words for me, such as Ardha means half, Baddha means bound, Padma means lotus and so on. I’m still working on remembering so many names but knowing some common words is really useful.

Although I have a long way to go, I can now see that it is possible to learn to Sanskrit names and most of all overcome self-doubt by practising regularly.

Yoga and me

The first time I went to a yoga studio, I was mainly in a search of a well-being. Quite quickly, I found out that the more I was doing yoga the more I was becoming aware of my body. Very quickly my mind followed, yoga allowed me to feel better in my body but also in my mind, it was like I was also breathing from my mind.This calm, this piece of mind yoga was giving me at that moment was exactly was I was looking for. I decided to practice yoga more regularly.

When my body was in motion, I was focusing more on the present, forgetting about my stressful life, my stressful job. My mind was completely connected to my body finding a balance as I was breathing and getting into the postures, one after the other, forgetting about the past and the future just to cease and enjoy that moment, my moment on the mat.

The more I was progressing on the mat, the less stressful I was feeling, I could really say that the level of stress I had in me dropped considerably. I was feeling so good, much more calm, more energized, yoga was helping me feel stronger in my positiveness. All the benefits that my body was getting through the physical practices were leading to some benefits on my mind and obviously yoga gave me back a better quality of life. From that moment I knew it will be a long life journey, a continuous learning and an infinite discovery and I am happy to say that I am just at the beginning of it.

Every day I am so excited to learn, to practice, to practice more, to find the beautiful strength I can have in me and to be more confident on the mat. I am not looking for perfection and I don’t want to go over my limits. I just want to take it step by step, at my pace. In my opinion, I don’t think you should force yourself, yoga can become a constraint and not to mention the risk of injury especially for those who do not have regular physical activity. The best way to do yoga for me is to always find peace and happiness when you are on your mat!

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!

 

 

Realising own ignorance in Satya

Satya is defined as truthfulness without any hidden agendas or motives. As part of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga, it forms the social practices in managing the senses of oneself. Aligned with Satya, I have always pride myself in being an honest person. I used to think of that as a quality of being “real” as opposed to being “fake” in today’s society. However, I realised that I haven’t adhered to Satya.

This is because I have only seen things from the lenses of my life. Be it in the social construct of Singapore, my personality or the experiences that I have gone through. Satya is only fulfilled when we remove the illusion of what we see from our perspective and see something as it simply is. However, I used to have fixed assumptions about people I am close as I was unable to shift it out of my experiences. I now realised that my perceived certainty has been misleading to what is actually truth; because I can never know everything about another person’s experiences, thoughts, intentions and actions. I have came to understand that this certainty has been the basis of conflict between opposing people sticking to their version of “truth”.

Satya also requires truthfulness that is in harmony with the other Yamas as well. For instance, this can refer to Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) where one should show compassion and kindness while speaking the truth. Although I always speak about my truth, I am usually too blunt and don’t think about how my choice of words can cause hurt to someone else. It usually also comes with the intention of asserting my opinions onto others. In the past, I usually justify hurting someone’s feelings with the impression that I am right and they should the one that should change themselves. I realised that I should be more aware to express empathy to others even though I am speaking my truth.

Through this topic, I have realised my personal shortcomings in certain areas of my personality and will continue to reflect and work on them in terms of Satya and the other Yamas. I hope that this ignorance of mine would turn to knowledge for me to be a better version of myself starting today.

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.

Yoga to Me

In  the beginning, Yoga was just a type of sport/physical activity to me.

I remember my first time in a yoga class several years ago and hating it because it was so “slow and boring”, now realizing it was actually a Yin class that I signed up for.

It was in ashtanga vinyasa classes that I found myself enjoying Yoga and how it made me feel; calmer, happier and just feeling more content.

For someone who grew up doing mostly cardio and group sports like track and field, basketball, volleyball and dodgeball, I enjoyed the new-found ‘intimacy’ in Yoga. I was able to for a moment, focus all my energy on just being present and listening to my own body telling me what felt right/wrong.

Now, instead of seeing it as just a type of physical activity and sport, it’s slowly becoming a way of self-love and self-discovery, a complete lifestyle of its own. I yearn to learn more and equip myself with more knowledge and skills about this whole new world I’ve just discovered and hopefully be able to share it with others one day.

 

COVID-19 – A Cabin Crew’s Yoga Journey

“Love the moment, and the energy of that moment will spread beyond all boundaries.” -Corita Kent (1918-1986) This sentence was one of toughest but most rewarding lesson that I have learned from practising yoga during this circuit breaker.

Before COVID-19 started, I was in a never ending pace of life. As a cabin crew for about four years, life was always a constant blur of events. I was jet-setting around the region from Nepal to Australia with topsy-turvy work schedules; waking up at ungodly hours to report for work at 5:30am one day then staying awake till the passengers have disembarked at 8:00am in the morning the very next flight. If I wasn’t flying, I would have been about: on layovers, sightseeing, shopping, meeting friends, visiting cafes and restaurants, facials, manicures, massages, day trips, multiple gym sessions and the occasional night out drinking. Although I had always used the physical aspect of yoga as a way for me to take my mind off this hectic lifestyle, I immediately jumped back into the craziness once the class ends with “namaste”.

Then disaster (or so I perceived) struck. COVID had consumed the world with countries shutting their gates to others and Singapore having its own version of a lockdown. Flights were canceled everywhere, and I ended up trapped in the four walls of the house I grew up in without the usual level of income coming in. Suddenly, I was at a complete lost. I started feeling self-defeated because of the situation I was forced in.

However, Yoga had now became my constant.

I decided to dive into a home yoga practise with a goal of practising daily. Something which I never would have done if I was flying because I had the impression that there’s no time or I was too tired or I had to practise in the studio to feel at peace. With the practice of daily asanas, I realised that these ideas were only based on my limited beliefs of what yoga should be. I gradually stopped victimising myself and started feeling grateful of my body as it was all I needed to continue my practise. My view of the circuit breaker slowly changed as well as I felt I finally had a much needed rest both physically and mentally such as sufficient sleep and time to explore personal interests which I never got to prior to it.

I also started meditating which was something I had never thought I would ever practise in the past. I used to have this tendency to overthink and create scenarios about the future or relive scenarios of the past in my mind. This unconsciously created a lot of doubt and negative self-talk in me which I carried around constantly. However, through meditation after my daily workouts, I started to become more aware of the clutter in my mind. That thoughts were just thoughts. It created a sense of presence of the moment and I became more able to mentally remove myself from self-limiting beliefs. I felt my soul cleansed of all the stress and tension I have placed upon myself all this time.

I now see the silver lining in this pandemic thanks to yoga. Yoga has allowed me to see that this period in time is an opportunity to pause and reset. It puts into perspective and a sense of gratitude about who and what are important in life. Therefore, “in loving the moment”, gratitude and acceptance in our circumstance creates small happiness that will last beyond.

What The Future Holds (Chapter 4)

Since Including Ashtanga into my exercise regime, I am now more convinced than ever that practising yoga can hugely complement strength training. This totally opposes the common misconception of most men on what Yoga practise is all about as described in my “Perceptions” post, and this is what I endeavour to change.

Since taking up Tirisula’s Yoga teacher training, I feel prepared with tools of knowledge on how I can spread my opinion of Yoga. With the asanas and the other key aspects of Ashtanga such as mental healing and spiritual well-being, I certainly hope to spread the joy of Yoga to various demographics from old to young and from athletic individuals to newcomers.
Yoga is truly a lifelong journey and, in more ways than one. I will always be open to practising other Yoga styles because more knowledge comes with wisdom. And if given the opportunity to take the path as a yoga teacher, the collective wisdom can greatly help to incorporate a range of learning techniques and ability to curate specific focused practices to cater to a wide range of students in whatever their goals are in their asanas and their overall lifestyles.

Another New Beginning (Chapter 3)

By this time, I was enjoying my balance of CrossFit exercise and power flow yoga sessions. I found that both disciplines were complementary to each because my practice in both greatly improved coincidentally when combined both into my weekly exercise regime. Once again, I thought to myself that I found the perfect match and it could not get any better.

In early 2019, my fiancé encouraged me to her for a yoga series she had stumbled upon (a story for another post). It was called Ashtanga and at this time, she had been practicing it for about 3 months. The Ashtanga class she attended in Tirisula Yoga challenged her physically more than ever and it was taught expertly by the Guru, Max Sree. I was initially hesitant as she kept describing how well her inversions have improved thanks to the excellent teaching methods at Tirisula. Since my core strength is not my forte and I had never successfully done an inversion pose, I did not think it was the class for me, but I agreed to try it out. Also, because she had also insisted that I watch how awesome she was in the Ashtanga practise

Once again, I found myself feeling the way as I did in my first Power Yoga class, absolutely drenched, muscles sore, and loving the new experience! I had found a new type of practise that I wanted as part of my exercise regime, but Ashtanga was however more than a physical practise. Ashtanga’s focus on physical strength, cardio, coordination along with mental healing and spiritual well-being made it an excellent well-rounded style that I wholesomely enjoyed.