Change

Change is the only constant in life.
I find so much truth in this particular phrase, we go through life every single day with change, sometimes it’s unnoticeable because of how subtle it may be.
As we are taught to self-reflect or as Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga calls it – Swadhyaya under the Niyamas component, you may start noticing the changes we go through daily.
It may be easier to notice physical changes as they are often more obvious like when the sky turns dark as the day ends; or when someone changes their hairstyle. Changes that are not so easily noticed may be someone’s personality, habits or thoughts.
These past few weeks have also brought on many changes. I’ve changed my sleeping pattern which went haywire due to the whole circuit breaker; my stamina has (hopefully) changed and become much better than it was before but beyond that, I feel like my whole way of thinking has changed. I’ve become more accepting of things in general as well, so I’d like to believe that I’d be able to accept change with more grace now.
I’m now a lot more conscious with my thoughts, I try to stay in the present as much. Whenever I feel like I’m having too many thoughts at once, I steady my breath and shift my focus towards it. I try to not let my thoughts consume me as I often would in the past. I’ve also slowly been learning to worry less about how others perceive me as I used to let the opinion of others take up too much of my headspace and energy.
These may be little changes but I guess it starts somewhere. I’m aware that there are many more things I need to change to become a better version of myself, and a lot more self-study to do because there’ll always be something to improve on. With the guide of Yoga, Yamas and Niyamas, I’m hopeful that whatever changes life throws at us, we’d be ready to accept and handle them better.

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.

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!

Demystifying My Beliefs

Whenever people said “yoga changed my life for the better”, I always thought that it was because of physiological benefits from physical exertion/exercise e.g. improved fitness, increased confidence, better sleep, enhanced overall mood through various factors such as release of endorphins, etc.


As a physiotherapy student, I am a firm believer of science. At university, the concept of evidence-based practice is hammered into us. If a piece of information is not supported by high-quality research, its likelihood to be true is small. Therefore, it was hard for me to believe that the “life-changing” effects of yoga could be due to anything but physiological benefits. My passion in anatomy/physiotherapy was actually one of the reasons I joined this course – to gain a better understanding of the bodily aspects of yoga. Specifically, I wanted to: 1) learn what was required of the body to perform specific asanas e.g. strength in psoas major, length in hamstring, and 2) explore the possibilities of integrating yoga practice into physiotherapy treatments through asanas.


Through this course, I am starting to develop insight on how yoga is beyond just a form of exercise – it is a way of life. The Eight Limbs of Yoga provides a guide on living happily. I especially like the yamas and niyamas of the eight limbs, which to me are great moral guides. Yoga also touches on spirituality, which I was initially sceptical about since I wrongly understood it to be associated with religion. Religious people are spiritual but spiritual people are not necessarily religious. I now see spirituality and achieving enlightenment as another way of perceiving life, which enables us to overcome life’s obstacles with greater ease.


However, delving deeper into yoga theory has not been easy, as it also means challenging my strong scientific beliefs. While some of the techniques can be supported by evidence and logic (e.g. the physiological effects of deep, slow breathing in pranayamas), there are others that I haven’t been able to find (e.g. the association of the right nostril with the sun and the left nostril with the moon). As I found that it was difficult for me to fully immerse myself into something I had doubts about, I decided to look at things in a different way.


Through my own reading (I highly recommend ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’ by Mark Manson) and conversations with Sree, I learned that whatever we attach ourselves to becomes a source of suffering. And one of our biggest attachments is to our identity or life roles. Attachment to identity becomes somewhat a form of self-imprisonment as it limits me from doing or believing anything that could potentially contradict that false identity. For me, my role as a physiotherapy student and my loyalty to science and evidence was limiting me from truly absorbing what I was learning in the course.


I am also starting to accept that science does not yet know everything. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that we believed that the earth was flat or that smoking had no negative health implications. To think that we know everything is to shut our minds out to new information and the potential to learn and be better than we already are. If there is evidence supporting the benefits of certain components of yoga, who is to say that in the future, the rest of it would not potentially be proven to be true too?

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.

 

Understanding Myself Through Yoga

This week, I learned that my dosha is pitta-vata with a pitta predominance. However, I have more vata than pitta mental and emotional attributes.

I have almost always had perceptions of a perfect person and what the ideal personality or character traits are supposed to be. However, the standards I hold myself against are difficult to live up to, likely also because they are vastly different from what my dosha inclines me to be. For example, even-temperedness is an ideal trait, but I am naturally hot-tempered (pita dosha). Therefore, when stressors in life get to me, or when I don’t live up to the standards I set. myself, it leads to feelings of anger at myself (from my pitta dosha) as well anxiety that I will never be good enough (from my vata dosha). To make things worse, I also fault myself for my short temper and anxiety, which perpetuates these emotions further. I guess that self-destructiveness is another quality of my vata self.

As I strive for self-growth and am quite hard on myself for my imperfections, I really liked finding out my doshas/life forces for a few reasons:

1. It helped me understand that attributes of myself which I deemed to be unideal or abnormal are in fact, normal and explainable, therefore helping me to accept myself as I am.

2. It helps me to manage myself through knowledge of my inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding that such negative emotions could have been contributed by imbalances of my dosha has been helpful in easing off some of the pressure I put on myself, as well as provided me with some strategies on how I can manage it through my diet and lifestyle.

Master Sree/Max also said something which was very comforting to me. He explained that there are no right or wrong types of dosha, and while it is possible to change our dosha types through diet and lifestyle, he did not encourage it as he believed that we were born with specific life forces for a reason, mainly in keeping the balance of the world. His words serve as a reminder to forgive and accept myself for my inherent shortcomings, while I continue striving to be the best version of myself.

3. It helped me make sense of internal conflicts I experience.

For example, the pitta in me loves order, which means I enjoy making thorough plans for the day or week. However, the vata in me can also be impulsive, which results in last minute changes when the time comes for that plan to be carried out. This contradiction between vata and pitta qualities tends to create internal conflicts, where I’d admonish myself for being unable to stick to my set plans or routine (pitta), while also disliking my ‘uptight’ self and wanting to be free to change (vata).

Here is another example of internal conflict I experience. My pitta self is ambitious and competitive, which is expressed in my desire to be best in a specific field. However, I also have many different interests and am enthusiastic to experience it all, therefore my focus changes constantly (vata). This is frustrating because it means that even though I want to be a master in all things, I know it is literally impossible.

While the journey through life is always going to be challenging, I’m glad I found yoga as it has been proving to help make life a little more manageable. Initially, it was purely an outlet for exercise through which I can manage my stress but delving deeper into the theory of yoga has been so insightful and has shown that it can be helpful to my self-discovery and self-management. I know that I have barely only begun to scratch the surface of it all and am very excited about everything else there is to learn.  

Thank you Mr Yoga.

At first I thought Yoga was a very static activity, and a grand-mother’s hobby. Today, after several years of practice I am so impressed by all the tings Yoga has brought to me and how eye opening it was:

  • Breathing and meditation exercise helps me to reach peace and empty my mind.
  • Physical practice and core Yoga has make my body much stronger and develop my core muscles. (I didn’t even knew it exists)
  • Thanks to Yin classes, I have found flexibility in the articulations in a non painful way. (I did ballet for 10 years and flexibility exercise were very painful.) It also opened blocked area such as my chest.
  • I have find balance thanks to slow and controlled sun salutations, and practicing gentle flow.
  • Through any practice I feel I can connect body and mind consciously.
  • Having a regular practice, I have build up self-confidence by seeing tremendous progress.

Today I can’t be thankful enough for all the things Yoga brought me and I hope to learn more and be able to share those benefits with as many as possible.

Why did I started YTT?

A year ago, I started questioning my lifestyle and the way I was using my time. I am working in a full-time job for a very demanding boss/Company. I lived far away from my family for the last 6 years, and I feel like 80% of my time and energy is dedicated to my work and to make the Company successful. Holidays are great but too short. At some point I thought, what about my life? Could I plan it and achieve the goals I want to reach, the same way I do it for the Company I work for? I decided to spend time thinking about what I wish for and to apply a strategic plan to reach it. I used the same methodology as I do when I work and decided to keep time to invest in my own life.

After a long introspection, 3 targets came out: live closer to nature, live as an adventurer and own my time.

In the process, I realised how much I love Yoga and how happy I would be to insert it in the new lifestyle I want to embrace. I decided to start a Yoga Teacher Training, so I could have a useful skill to share with people around me, and eventually use it to finance some extras if needed.

Now I am happy that I have identified my needs and that the plan has worked: We (my bf and I) are ready for the next adventure: live on a sailboat for a while, and sail around the world.

3 things that Yoga brought me

Yoga has brought several changes to my life, today I count 3 of them:

Escape from Noise:
Since I started to practice yoga I noticed it offers me an escape from noise in my head and stress. I now have a way to find deep internal peace even for a short while, and stop thinking. It is a great thing to know that I can always escape from stress if I want to.

New Diet:
Yoga allows me to live in a more mindful way, and it specifically make me think more about what I do and the consequences. It slowly leads me to a less meaty and less processed-food diet. I still happen to eat fish or porc occasionally, but I noticed I have no craving for meat like I did before. This is very surprising as I never really questioned my diet and I did not have external influence to make me act this way over the last two years, but now it’s just that I don’t feel like eating meat, so I don’t.

Friendship:
Yoga, such as any activities, has the effect to bring people together. I am thankful that I happened to share my love for yoga with my friend Virginie, and that it leads us to organise a Yoga retreat in Bintan with a bunch of friends. This was a great experience where we learn how to “work” together, and a few other organisational skills. At the end, we had the best WE, with Yoga on the beach, good food from our favourite restaurant and friends around us. I felt that this “Yoga Retreat Organizer” experience was for both of us the beginning of a new”hobby” and moment of great friendship.

My ‘Favourite’ Posture

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with backbends.
But now I can officially tell you that I love and still hate backbends.
As the saying goes,
I bend so I don’t break.

Backbend is where our spine bends backwards and it helps to align our spine and vertebrate.
Most importantly, backbend is a shoulders, chest and heart opener. As it says, when you open your heart, you open the huge possibilities to open your mind.

Doing backbends are actually a emotional journey that it will take us through. After a backbend, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and emotional because it opens up our hearts to all the feelings and emotions that are running through our bodies and mind.

This is why backbend is my favourite posture as its not only challanging to me physically but it is also a powerful lesson and journey towards knowing and controlling my emotions better. And if you can’t think straight, think upside down!

Yim