My yoga journey to YTT

I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for 8 years. I still remember very clearly that my first yoga class was a substitute class when my bodycombat class got cancelled. I decided to try on yoga since I’m already in my workout attire and ever since, I like this ‘exercise’ but I’m not committed to it and NEVER like those challenging asanas such as Ashtanga Yoga.

I’ve been in my yoga ‘comfort zone’ in the past few years as I only attended hatha yoga or yin yoga and most importantly I don’t like being sweaty. Moreover, I’ve bad experiences on inversion asanas which result me having great fear on headstand up to today. I’ve tried to avoid or skip those inversion asanas in the past.

As I am on my career break now and to ensure my time is not ‘wasted’, I’ve sign up this YTT to deepen my yoga knowledge. However, part of me still hoping that this course will be toward hatha training. But things do not turn up as it is…

Day by day, I’m amazed by topics taught in the course and eager to learn more. Through this course, I understand that yoga is not about asana, it includes other segments such as philosophy, pranayama, anatomy, mediation and others knowledge that beyond any words we can describe in this world. Through the daily practice, I feel my physical and mental are growing and I started to face my fear towards the challenging asana and willing to try them and same goes to my mental reflection. I’m so grateful to have this wonderful time in my life and I couldn’t imagine what my life will be if I’ve missed this course. And hopefully one day I will be able to share whatever I learn by teaching yoga.

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 way in which everyone passes through a number of lives and states. It encompasses the concept of reincarnation and the fact that what an individual does in their current life will 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 experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.

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.

Commencement of Sadhana

Already half way through YTT course, I have been thinking what is my favorite asana and I still cannot pinpoint a single one.

Standing back-bend brings back fond memories of me when I was a kid attending Chinese dance lessons. As kids, we challenged each other doing standing back bend using those vertical water pipes as a support or doing splits on the concrete school flooring, it was fun and those were the happy times. Doing back bends, splits, cartwheel were easy peasy to me and there was no fear back then; and now although I would not like to admit, but fear is actually holding me back when doing a back-bend – fear of crushing my head down on the floor or breaking my back!

Headstand (Sirsasana) is still my nemesis and still trying to perfect it.  Having a banana back and need to remind myself to engage my core and not arching my back while doing the asana needs tons of patience!  “Suck in your tummy” is the regular sentence Master Sree says whenever I am doing a headstand; the problem is that I cannot feel my tummy when my legs are in the air; how to suck in my tummy – but no excuse, definitely needs to buck up!

My quotes based on my learning and experiences so far,

Yoga is not about perfect poses with perfect alignment as what we normally see on the social media; Yoga postures are perfect when the individual connects their body, mind and soul.

Yoga is never about competition in a room full of strangers; Yoga is finding your true self in the midst of strangers.

Yoga heals your body, mind and soul – you are your own healer

Ever since the start of YTT course, I am down with virus every two weeks which is kind of strange as I don’t usually fall sick; taking it in the positive way, I just presume I am detoxing.  But just as thou someone was answering my question, I stumbled upon this … “with the decision to start regular sadhana, you may find yourself beset by obstacles and difficulties on every side. This may lead you to believe that it was the commencement of sadhana that started all the trouble.”

Well, well … I must be on the correct path since the obstacles have appeared. The words of wisdom continues, “In the beginning, the neophyte is quite unused to this struggle and strain. The concerted onrush of difficulties may confuse and unnerve you for a time. This is but natural. Do not be perturbed; bear up with fortitude. The initial difficulties will soon vanish, and you will gain strength day by day.”

Oh well, I just got to endured with it since I have chosen this path – what doesn’t kills me makes me stronger lah! For those who are in the YTT course and plagued with health issues, relationship issues, family issues, work issues, injuries issues, etc …

Endure and never get defeated by the obstacles – for we will emerge victorious!

21092019 Weekend YTT
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Shirley

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. 

 

Reflections on Day 2 of YTT

Day 2 of YTT. Dealing with some body aches & extremely humbled by the vastness of yoga philosophy. Confusion too – I thought I knew, but now I know I don’t know anything.

Through the confusion and mind-fog, as I sit down now to drink my coffee and reflect on the day, an idea emerges. Perhaps yoga is a way of life, a way of interacting with the society we live in and the people around us. It is also thought-provoking, it forces you to hold a mirror to yourself which can be uncomfortable. It can also be joyful when you gain clarity over an issue or problem, and realize it isn’t such a big deal after all. And perhaps that’s why yoga has been a practice for 5000 years. It is not the Dead Sea scrolls where only ascetics can decipher, neither is it relics in the museums which are unearthed & interpreted by trained professionals. Instead, it is a living and breathing practice, highly relevant to both kings and the common man alike thousands of years ago and now because it addresses basic human needs to understand ourselves, others, and the world we live in.

I have this mental picture of myself walking along the shores of a vast sea (yoga), with my feet getting slightly wet. The sea is a powerful force of nature, with the potential for gentle lapping waves as well as strong waves. I’m looking forward to exploring this sea and the wonders and beauty it holds.

The Start of YTT …

After 2 months of Yoga-ing, finally I can do a Chaturanga with my knees off the floor – it’s still not perfect but in time to come, I will perfect it.  The success in doing the Chaturanga came as a surprise to me during my practice at home; usually I will do the knees, chest and chin down instead of Chaturanga but on the second week of September 2019, it just happened while doing the flow on Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation).  My heart literally skipped a beat and jumped a little for joy – finally!  It is an accomplishment for me because I have never done a proper push-up before and I have been struggling with knees, chest and chin & Chaturanga ever since the start of Yoga. Yay!

Little did I know that my joy is short lived.

After the first day of YTT course, my body felt as thou it has been ran over by a lorry, reverse and ran over again repeatedly – body aches on places where I was never aware of.

And on the second day of YTT, despite my aching body, we had to do numerous Surya Namaskar aka Sun Salutations and I remembered the first Chaturanga which I have to do, I nearly smashed my chin onto the floor because my arms were weak from the practice the day before. My Yoga mat, my towel and the floor were wet (with my perspiration, YUCKS!) – now who says Yoga is easy peasy?

For the YTT course, we will have to memorize the Sanskrit words for the postures as well as the pronunciation – it’s like learning a brand new language for me!  I will read out the words while waiting for bus, or trying to memorise the Sanskrit sequence in the Sun Salutation.  For the first few nights during memorizing, “Utthita Trikonasana” (extended triangle pose) keeps repeating itself in my dream the whole night – how like that?

I came to love Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) as this is my “motivator” – because whenever I am feeling lazy, I just have to tell myself, “just do 5 Surya Namaskar for the day as maintenance will do lah”.  But the thing is, after 5 Surya Namaskar, the flow just goes on and on and I would have done quite a number of the twists, bends and back bends with bead of perspiration dripping. The after-effect of this is a sense of accomplishment and high on endorphins.  For beginners or anyone keen to start Yoga but don’t know where to start from, the Surya Namaskar is the perfect sequence for you to follow.  With proper guidance and alignment, the Surya Namaskar will do wonders for your body.

Most people associate Yoga as a form of exercise for keeping fit and to lose weight, but how many people actually are able to associate Yoga as a form of energy healing?

Yoga benefits includes improving respiration, digestion, vitality, reverse aging process, cardio and circulatory health, etc.  Looking at it from the health aspect, doesn’t it looks like healing to you?  The “traditional” energy healing (Reiki) needs a healer to heal you, whereas in Yoga, you are your own healer – and who knows your body condition more than yourself?

You don’t have to be a doctor to save people; You can save people in your own way or my way,  though Yoga 😊

Yoga – which means the union of your body, mind and spirit – which also means that when these 3 are in sync, you would have attain the higher state of (sub) conscious.  During Yoga practice, you strengthen your physical body, clear your mind and purified your spirit (balances your chakra) which is the process of sync-ing.  The best thing about Yoga is that you can heal yourself anywhere, anytime and any place without the restrictions of external conditions.  That’s why we feel happy after every Yoga class – positivity at it’s very best!

But as what I understand, many people have other misconceptions on Yoga.

Many people are unwilling to learn Yoga because “it’s a girl’s thing” or because “I am not as flexible, so Yoga is not for me”.  C’mon la, you mean you go to school when you already know everything meh?  You mean you must have muscles before you can go to the gym and train?  It’s girl’s thing? Come and experience Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Series and tell me again if this is a “girl’s thing”.

Moreover, we learn something because we are not good at it, that’s why we take up lessons and courses to improve.  If we cannot do something and it’s our challenge within ourselves to learn and perfect it willingly – there is no reason why other people can do it and we cannot.  We might not be better but everything takes time and effort and eventually we will be able to do it. We learn how to walk before we run didn’t we?

I have friends asking me, “Can you do a headstand now since you are in the YTT course?” or “ you must be ultra-flexible now”.  This question makes me think that many people link Yoga with stunts or the circus act or some freak shows where Yogis twist and turn their body where no normal person can do.  Oh dear!  Misconceptions again!

If only more people can see Yoga as a form of healing instead of an exercise or some circus act, I am sure more people can benefit from this previous ancient practice that is being passed down generations to generations.

21092019 Weekend YTT
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Shirley