Overcoming the Fear of Falling by Falling!

Many times, there are certain poses that we aspire to do. Sometimes the fear of falling holds us back from ever attempting them and other times, we rush into doing that certain pose without being mindful. But most of the time, we all know that that is reckless practice and if anything goes wrong, we’re committing ahimsa to ourselves. I’ve had my fair share of such experiences throughout my physical practices, such as flipping backward and falling flat on my back while attempting a headstand, or falling onto my shoulders while lifting myself into tripod. Thankfully, my body could handle the impact of these falls without any injuries. However, there were a few instances where I sustained minor injuries, such as cutting my lip as I fell onto my face while attempting one-legged crow, or knocking my head against a wall while getting up from wheel unsupported, resulting in a “baluku”. 

The bad news about falling is that it can have serious consequences. If we don’t know our bodies well enough to know if it can land a fall safely, or if there is no one to support us in challenging poses, then we are committing ahimsa to our bodies by injuring ourselves. 

However, the good news is that falling helps to overcome the fear of attempting challenging poses, and it gave me greater awareness about the limits of my body and balancing points when attempting the poses again. Falling is actually quite a liberating feeling because it’s like overcoming a mental block from “I can never do that!” to “I’ve tried that before (and survived it)!”. I think falling from a pose cannot be avoided in yoga, but falling just once is good enough to erase the fear of attempting challenging poses again and again. And you know that if you keep at it, yoga will eventually reward you. But first, fall safely!!

Yoga is all around you. Really ?

During the philosophy class, one notion disturbed me (and continues to do so): samsara. First, in a negative way and later, in a positive, too. Most important, it made me remember how I met yoga.

Bad first contact

First, the explanation about samsara made me think back to painful events that I experienced but with a new point of view. Which is normally positive.
But in my case, the pain reappeared. At this precise moment, I would like to scream and cry. I couldn’t breath properly. I just focused on holding back my tears until the end of the class. The pain was so strong, that it was even physical.
I understood the concept (well, I think), but by applying it to these events, I could not accept the result.

Samsara brings you to yoga

During a next philosophy class, it was said that samsara brings you to yoga. View my previous contact with this notion, I was quite skeptical. But little by little, memories came back to me. And I was surprised to see that maybe it wasn’t so far from the truth.

When yoga arrived in my life

Where I come from and when I was a child, yoga was considered as a New Age idea spread by hippies. There was only one teacher in my area. Her daughter was one of my friend. So, I heard a little about yoga. During this same period, I attend at school to a yoga discovery class with my mother’s friend. I remembered asking my parents to continue to take some lessons. For different reasons, it was not possible.

Few years later, I discovered a passion for Asia and Buddhism. At the time, I even told my parents that I was going to convert. Yes, I know what you think, but I was only 13 years old! I think it was more to show a rebel spirit. In my family, we lived a kind of war of religions. If spirituality has always interested me, my parents did not practice at all.

However, I kept my interest for Asia and its “traditions”. This passion stays until it was time to choose what I would like to study at the university. My first choice was to study Sinology. Inside sinology, you should choose 2 languages and one of my choice was sanskrit and hindi.

Finally, I could not study Sinology. The only university to give these courses was in the German-speaking part of my country and I wasn’t fluent enough.

Yoga is gone

I must say that I have never been sporty. My sport teachers at school did not like me and this feeling was fully shared.
When I arrived at the university, many activities were offered and among them, yoga. Of course, it was my first choice. But I couldn’t attend to the course because of my schedule.
After that, yoga has completely disappeared from my life. I traveled to Central America where the mood was more salsa than yoga.

Yoga reappeared

Seven years ago, yoga reappeared in my life. I remembered really well how I decided to go to my first course. At the time, I worked in a theater, which means that my schedule (again!) was completely irregular. My work days often started at 8:30 am and sometimes ended at 2 am.
It took me months to find a yoga center that gave classes that were compatible/flexible with my life and at a fair price.

I think back to my first course… I arrived completely stressed with the desire to leave because I had this horrible feeling of school and sports classes. But after, the course, I knew: Yoga has reappeared for good. An EVIDENCE.
Since that day, I practice several times a week and in recent years, almost every day. It became an automatism, a bit like washing my teeth.

What a journey! I don’t know if it’s my samsara but I cannot deny that yoga was often around me. Until following the yoga teacher training right now!

Teaching: maybe yes, maybe not

This is the current BIG question. When I think of this whole way, I imagine that maybe teaching yoga is for me. But the minute after, I think of all those bad yoga teachers. I do not want to be a bad yoga teacher. They are numerous enough. Ooops…
When I announced to some of my friends that I was going to do the YTT, most of them told me that it was so me. I was really surprised of those reactions. By the way, I’m not sure I really understand what it means “it’s so me”…

Honestly, a week away from completing the training, I don’t know.
I think I refuse to admit that I would like (I dream for a long time?) to be a yoga teacher because I do not feel up to it. Yoga is important to me and I wish I could share it in the right way. On the other hand, if I do not become a teacher, I wonder how to continue my practice after the YTT.

Anyway. We’ll see… Until then, we must study a little and still pass the exams.

Ashtanga Yoga beyond the preconceived ideas

Between all the types of yoga, which one is your favorite ? Have you ever wondered?

Well, I asked myself.
Hatha, the classical ? The one I practiced the most.
Restorative yoga ? Too boring for me.
Hot yoga ? Never tried before arriving in Singapore. Yes, because in Singapore, you just need to switch off the AC and you have your hot yoga, right ? Moreover, it’s better for the earth…
Naked yoga ? Well… I prefer to self-censor.
Stand Up Paddle Yoga ? Challenging and perfect for water lovers like me.
Wine/beer yoga ? I am european, I can understand. For the fun.
Pet yoga ? Personal version : What the f*** ? Official and polite version : Sorry, not interested.
Ashtanga ?

Before begining the YTT, I didn’t have the opportunity to practice Ashtanga. Mainly, I practiced Hatha yoga or hatha with an unconscious mix of Ashtanga postures or maybe some unkown yoga made in the Western world.

The only things I heard about Ashtanga scared me and made me think it wasn’t for me. Between « it’s the most difficult type of yoga » or « you need to be sporty to practice Ashtanga » and, « Ashtanga yoga is so painful. It destroyed all of the joints », I preferred to stay far away this kind of yoga. For me Ashtanga was another and mysterious world for superior people I don’t belong to.

When I registered with the YTT, I didn’t pay attention that Ashtanga was on the menu. Better. For sure, I wouldn’t signed for the training.

Now, imagine my face when I opened the book at midnight, namely few hours before arriving for my first day of training. The half of the book was about Ashtanga Yoga.
Too bad but too late to change my mind.

Week after week, I discover ashtanga yoga and I can say I like it very much. So much, I sometimes completely forget what is a sun salutation in hatha.
Why ? I give you some reasons :

  • It gives me a lot of energy.
  • It puts a stop to my mind when I have too much thoughts. With Ashtanga I need to be fully focused on what I am doing. I cannot think to other things.
  • The repetition of the postures, always in the same order, gives a side of something ritual.
  • It is precise and rigorous. I like this.
  • I feel my body stronger.
  • There is a kind of « surpassing oneself », I appreciate a lot.

I don’t know if all these points are correct. It’s only what I personally feel during and after the ashtanga practice. I can just tell you : make your own experience.

In the recent weeks, I have learned so much. It’s quite difficult to choose only one thing that stands out. However, for the physical practice, without a doubt, it’s Ashtanga.

Find Success Within Yourself

Do what you love and never work a day in your life”, they said. But will passion pay?

I’d like to think that pursuing a “career” in yoga would be a rewarding one, but there are a myriad of reasons one could think of to prove otherwise. In this modern, material world, money talks. There is no denying that. In chasing success, people often attribute being successful to having attained the 5 coveted “C”s – cash, car, credit card, condominium and country club membership. In a traditional sense, it doesn’t seem quite feasible to achieve all that as a yoga teacher. Instead, it would be much safer to take the well-beaten path to success through getting a good degree, landing a well-paying job, and slowly climb the corporate ladder through years of dedication and hard work.

It’s an ironclad argument that I can’t refute, but I think life should be about taking the road less travelled, right? Life is only as limited as one would allow it to be, and I believe that anything is possible with DESIRE and IMAGINATION. It would be meaningless to work for an organisation one couldn’t care less about (and vice versa), handling issues that have absolutely no material impact on one’s personal life, in exchange for money. Thanks, but no thank you.

Borrowing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 5 rules for success, here’s what I hope to set out to do:

  1. Find your vision. Achieve world fame through teaching and curating content to inspire and influence others to learn the art of yoga.
  2. Never think small. Build my own community and become the highest paid yoga teacher in Singapore and the region. In the process, give the best of my abilities in my capacity as a teacher to spread healing, harmony and happiness.
  3. Ignore the naysayers. There will always be detractors along the way, ignore them, and stay focused.
  4. Work your ass off. Keep practicing hard, break new limits, never stop learning.
  5. Give back. Offer yoga as a form of rehabilitation, help others who are suffering to reshape their lives.

Time (and perhaps the cosmos?) will decide if the path is mine to take. Nobody said it would be easy, but what is seemingly impossible can become reality with a little faith.

Always have faith.

ST

The Leap of Faith

Come try yoga with me” – were the words my mother said to me just about a decade ago; the moment I started this journey that has changed my life in many ways.

I started my practice with the intentions to lose weight. I grew up chubby and got sick of getting called names. It went well until i left home for Uni.

I eventually gotten a job that demanded a lot from me and my stress level shot to the top – causing me to be dull and unhappy. I  needed some change in my life.

I was then introduced to the fitness passes and thought of attending classes again –  I never stopped since. I was reminded again on why I enjoyed this so much back then and I knew I didn’t want to stop practicing anymore.

I always had this impression that you needed to be and ultra-yogi to start a course like this – and because I was never confident, it took me awhile to make this decision. With some encouragement from my mom and friends, I decided to take that leap of faith.

It has been 6 classes since, and although I whine like a baby after almost every class, I don’t regret a single moment I spent learning postures the right way and deepening my knowledge.

I cannot believe it has been almost a decade since the first time i step on my mat. It has been an intermittent journey from then till now – but im so happy I started again. Now, I cannot wait for what’s to come in this journey!

Yoga & the Mind

Doing asanas every day not only has its physical benefit, it also has its mental benefits. I find that my mind has become clearer compared to the first day of YTT, because doing asanas expel any thoughts in my head. Some poses can be really unforgiving, one string of self-doubt and the pose collapses. In that sense, doing asanas forces me to discipline my mind, bringing all my energy and focus to find that balance so I can hold a pose.

Off the mat, I’ve become more aware of my own thoughts, and that I am in control of them. When I catch myself thinking negatively about anything or anyone, it takes discipline and compassion to forgive and to let go, and to replace them with positive thoughts. Because my mind is also less cluttered than before, I feel like my senses have also become sharper. Anything I receive from my senses, I am better able to perceive them as is, and not what I think they should be.

It’s difficult to maintain a clear mind throughout the day, because my mind is so used to multitasking, making opinions, and thinking logically, but doing asanas makes it all go away because it grounds me in the present. There is only that moment, and there is only my breathing. 

Although having a mind that is clear and quiet feels foreign to me, I hope that my yoga practise will eventually bring me to a state where I am able to maintain a peaceful mind without the help of any asanas. 🙂

The First Time – My Yoga Experience Thus Far

The first time I stepped into a yoga class was almost 15 years ago when my mom suggested we go for a trial session together. I recall that it was a hot yoga class and boy, was that tough! I am not a natural athlete and had zero flexibility – I struggled to touch my toes for most of my life. Yoga had presented itself as a challenge and I was ready to take it on! While I gained strength and flexibility over the years attending group classes, I had no understanding of each pose and only viewed yoga as a form of exercise. As time went by and life got busy, I gradually stopped attending yoga classes and ventured into other types of physical exercise.

The first time I got injured doing yoga. It was during the time when I was trying to teach myself inversions at home. I fell and fell and fell over. But till today, I’m not sure what exactly happened for me to end up with a broken pinky finger and a broken toe over the span of about 2 months. Looking back, I now recognise that pushing myself to my limits and beyond is not the right way. It didn’t take long for me to come right back into yoga but the experience had given me more fear and less confidence. I’m still working on overcoming my fears but for now, I’m focusing on the journey and not just the result.

And you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh, but my darling, “What if you fly?”

– Erin Hanson

The first time I went for an Ashtanga class was after I first heard of “Ashtanga”. A girlfriend of mine shared how she enjoyed Ashtanga Mysore classes and that piqued my curiosity. Earlier this year, I went for my first Ashtanga class and it was rather intimidating seeing how I was the only beginner there. I ended up turning to yoga videos and followed along with teachers online. After getting a hang of the sequence, I started attending the Ashtanga classes at Tirisula and thankfully, there was more guidance this time round. The practice remains to me a mystery I hope to slowly unravel.

The first time I ever considered signing up for YTT. Yoga has benefited me in many ways, from the simple fact that I can now touch my toes (!!!) to the precious me-time it gives me for self-care and reflection. Working long hours stuck at a desk, I found that doing 2-3 sun salutations back at home helps provide relief for the stiff shoulders and back. While I had been “practising yoga”, there was always this nagging thought that made me wonder if I was doing it right. I thought maybe going for a course would help me understand proper alignment and how to avoid injuries. I might even be able to guide and properly adjust my loved ones for them to reap the same benefits.

The first time I took a leap of faith and signed up for YTT. So here I am, at the start of my journey. First 2 weekends done and dusted, another 8 more to go. It has been a truly humbling experience so far. My body is weary but mind is revelling in the thrill of anticipation of what else is to come.

Just to share something I’ve experienced: On the morning of the second day of YTT, this long-time migraine sufferer was dismayed to feel the onset of a migraine attack but after a session of Kapalabathi (Skull Shining Breath) and Murchha (Breath Retention), much to my amazement, my head felt clear and there was no more pain!

Can’t wait to learn more!

A commitment to myself

It’s been almost a decade since I first tried yoga. Reminiscing the days when I attended yoga classes once a week on Sunday mornings at a community centre, carrying my pink guardian yoga mat and wearing track pants with baggy tee shirt. Yoga was a recreational exercise to keep myself tone and moving, especially after leaving the education system when Physical Education was compulsory.

Though I was once encouraged by my very first yoga teacher to be trained in YTT, I always thought that I was not good enough yet to attend a YTT. Also, back then I was still a financially parent-dependent student so I didn’t give much thought about it.

With much reluctance, after a few years of progression from attending beginner to intermediate classes, I had to leave my very first yoga teacher. In search of a schedule that was flexible to accommodate to my shift work and perhaps to further my practice (of course, by now I have a pair of yoga pants from uniqlo, baggy tee was getting in the way during downward facing dog ).

Still I have always been grateful to my very first yoga teacher that have set my foundations right and helped me to gain awareness of my body parts, “round your back”, “engage your core”, “gaze to the ceiling”, “micro bend your knees” which sounds all so familiar still.

Having to try classes by different yoga teachers in different studios, I got confused. Should downward facing dog be with legs together or hip-width apart? Also, seeing many people around me in incorrect posture and at risk of injuring themselves, makes me want to help them. I guess that was when I wanted to attend a YTT myself and learn the right alignment and way of doing postures. So I gave myself some time to train up and set a goal to complete a YTT by 30 years old. Here I am giving myself a 29th birthday present of starting YTT. And I never looked back.

Just one millimeter

I felt this second week of the Yoga Teacher Training more focused on the body. With the alignment of the postures, the knowledge of the skeletal system, the joints functions and the muscles.

In parallel, my own body gave me a hard time between aches, limitations and on Friday, my right side completely blocked after a beginner mistake during a shoulder stand. Well done !

Outside of those considerations, this week was a constant wonder of what a human body is. How it is constituted, how it works, but especially how it can be improved, how we made it stronger or more flexible, and even sometimes, how to heal it through the practice of yoga.

I can only see it on my own body. I experience the improvement day after day. If I see my downward facing dog of the first day and the same asana after two weeks of practice, it’s not the same. Definitely.

I am really far from all those examples of contortionism that we see sometimes. It does not matter because I finally have the feeling of having reintegrated my own body. I catch myself thinking : “Hello stranger👋! Ooooh you’re finally back! I lost you little by little on the way because of what is called “life”. Nice to meet you again. Above all, stay and continue like this.”

Yes, I feel that I have reintegrated my own body. Day after day, practice after practice, millimeter after millimeter 📏. Luckily, the human body is resilient.

What amazed me most and what I remember from this second week is the precision of yoga. Moving your hand or foot a few millimeters, trying to stretch millimeter after millimeter, completely changes the effect of a posture. Until now, I was intellectually conscious of this, but I was just unable to feel the effects of such precision.

Just with one millimeter and despite the body aches, my appreciation for yoga is deeper. And for sure, I believe that the nature does things well.

Love yoga? Make it part of my daily life

Yoga is a small thing in my life. However, if you ask me whether I can stop yoga in the daily life. I will say: No.

Keep on yoga practice, my body become more healthy, I don’t feel back pain very frequently.

After I spend 1 hour doing yoga everyday, sometimes just 30 minuets,  I feel l am full of energy in the daytime, I can do my work more efficiently. It’s more useful than coffee.

I practice yoga day by day, and I don’t care about which postures I can do, and which posture I can not do. Two months later, six months later, more time passing, just keep doing,  I believe time will surprise me.

After concentrating on yoga, it bring me happiness and peaceful.

Yoga is a small thing, but it’s part of my daily life now and in the future.