Upward Yoga is yoga studio opened sometime in 2011 by Ninie Ahmad-Forget, one of the better known yoga teachers around Malaysia. I only knew about her recently when I stumbled onto her blog, intrigued by her writings and finding out that she has a yoga studio quite close to where I happen to live.
For the last 6 years, I have been a frequent student to the Kevala Center. During this time, I took many classes with different teachers mostly out of convenience of timing rather than a purposeful choice. I went through a number of teachers, all bringing their own unique way of teaching and understanding yoga. The diversity was great and it showed me that there is much to learn about yoga, and ones own understanding and acceptance of it can vary greatly from one person to the other.
Nevertheless, I always find myself gravitating back to Dr. Dhilip and his classes and for the past 1-2 years, he has been the only teacher which I have been learning my poses from, and the one that continues to teach me great many things about the philosophy of yoga beyond what is required on the mat.
One of the beautiful things that he’s taught me about yoga is that it encourages you to tune into yourself, and really listen to what your body is trying to tell you. A new pose might feel uncomfortable, yes, but it should never feel painful or make you temporarily stop breathing because you’re trying so hard to keep still in that one pose. A great article covered by the Yoga Journal recently summarizes this point perfectly (Yoga shouldn’t hurt). When I recently got my best friend, Z to sign up to his classes, one of her ways to describe his classes was “wholesome” which is true, because I am always calmer, and more at peace at the end of his classes. His classes can be challenging at times, one which I have grown to love but lately I have been feeling the need to attend classes which ‘pushes’ me more and further into my poses. In short, something that will challenge me outside of my comfort zone.
So when I learned that this wonderful, tiny teacher by the name of Ninie who writes so eloquently has a studio nearby, I decided to drop by for some trial classes today.
Being a public holiday, Z and I woke up nice and early and headed straight for our class at 9am. We had about maybe 10 students in there and went through the sun salutation – a variation which was different to what I am used to. I am not sure if sun salutations should be practiced in exactly the same way in different types of yoga but variety in this case was truly the spice of my morning 🙂
I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and that was exactly what I got. Straight out of the comfort circle and into the wilderness of sweaty, challenging, and uncomfortable poses. Maybe it was because I was new to the class, I felt like I had something to prove (and you know how that ALWAYS ends up ugly right?), at times feeling like I should be able to do what that chick in front of me in her grey Lululemon yoga pants and top is doing.
Once I lost my balance in the Ardha Chandrasana pose and nearly crashed into Z who was beside me, narrowly avoiding a domino effect of stumbling yoga students in that class. A couple of times I find myself thinking “how to become yoga teacher like this??”
But Ninie was a good teacher, leaving you to decide at which pose to safely remain in whilst giving you options to take those poses deeper and challenging yourself further. She made the effort to know her students by name (which always scores brownie points in my ‘yoga teacher evaluation’ books). She complimented on my “line” during a variation of the Bitilasana pose, but also pointed out that I had the wrong leg up during the Vrksasana pose. She was big on the safety part of the practice and gave a couple of reminders throughout the 75 minutes. Never have I been in a class when my sweat threaten to drip to the floor while holding a pose. At the end of it, there was a certain sense of rejuvenation, and I felt energetic like my internal batteries were all fully charged up. I most definitely got what I wanted out of the class, and I think I will be back for more when my need for variation and an extra challenge calls for it.