Monthly Archives: October 2012

Got meat?

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An expected question that follows all new conversations with strangers about yoga and your practice is “So do you eat meat?”. I remember our long drawn debates and conversations about the pros and cons of consuming animal meat during our Philosophy class. Not once, not twice but on 3 different days all occurring at extensive lengths as one side proclaims that the human body was never made to digest animal meat, as the opposite end of the spectrum, interspersed throughout the wooden shala, would quietly whisper to one another “who cares? just eat whatever you want, and practice the yoga that you understand and accept”.

At one point, one of our classmates picked up all of her books and decided that self-study by the pool, with her notes and ipad would serve her much better than debating whether the animals’ suffering will become a part of her once consumed.

These days I put a lot more thought in my meat consumption. With the exception of those that come straight from the sea. More so in an effort to keep what I had gotten used to in Vikasa, the vegetable and seafood diet going. A classmate once shared that meat once consumed would usually require 48 hours before it is full digested by the stomach acids. That’s 2 days of chewed up, balled up meat with whatever else that was in your meal at that given time, sitting there, slowly being broken down. That alone, is a thought that does not quite sit very well with me. I have decided that when I do consume it (because I do still love a good, big, fat gourmet burger once in a while), I would allow at least a few days in between before it makes a reappearance on my plate.

Recently, while out on lunch with some colleagues, I told them about a new burger place that seems to be garnering excessive amount of patronage. One of the French man in my team who knew a little bit about my one month in Koh Samui and my involvement with yoga, asked “how does meat consumption fits in with yoga and your beliefs of it?”. To which I gave a simple answer of “I still take, in moderation, when I feel like I need it. And I make that decision and be happy with it.” After all, there is nowhere in Islam that says eating beef (at least the halal kind) is sinful.

Nevertheless, a little perturbed of this inquiry I sent a blackberry messenger text to my fellow Indonesian yogini whom I had grown close to while in Samui.

Me: Do you get people asking you this? “You are a yogi, but you eat beef?”

C: ..I answer I’m not a fanatic, I just listen to my body and do everything in moderation. Om shanti shanti shantihi 🙂

Which obviously got me laughing out loud in the middle of my lunch group as soon as I read the final sentence. An image of that blonde girl in Sh*t Yogi Says Lululemon ad instantly popped in my head.

Which brings us back to a similar thread that I had learned in Islam – there is no forcing. Everything should be done willingly for Allah. And again, during philosophy, when we learned that part of the Vedas urges the person to accept what they believe is right for them.

My next yoga attire

“Food, glorious food!”

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It is said, to make a new habit stick, do it for 21 days non stop. Whilst I was embarking on my training course as a yoga instructor, we were fed twice daily at Vikasa School. Once during brunch and another at dinner time. The food that was served consisted mainly of brown rice, vegetables – and LOTS of them, with one or two dishes with some fish or prawn during dinner. Accompanying this was fruits and freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice.

Needless to say, these meal times has changed my perception towards food preparation and vegetarianism. Sure, there were days when my taste buds wanted a little bit more taste than what we were served, and how it danced with joy when a couple of us went out for some Indian food one night. Overall though, it made me realize that meat is not always required and that I can actually get creative with how I decide to consume my greens.

So, inspired as I was, I spent the first full day back in KL buying groceries and stocking up my kitchen with the healthiest food I know I wouldn’t mind cooking/eating. At the organic store, I found a bag of wild purple rice which curiously looked a little like what we were served in Vikasa (home sick away from home maybe?). The grains turns the water a most amazing shade of purple when you rinse and cook it. I mean, hey, this feels almost like being back in Chemistry class all over again!

At the supermarket, I found myself trolling around the organic fresh produce section. Inspired by some of our mealtimes, when we sometimes had porridge, and sometimes hot vegetable soup, I decided I would make a porridge with vegetable soup as a base with oyster mushroom, some fresh cod, kailan, and purple cabbage. Yum!

Tonight, it’s steamed rice with stir-fry kailan tossed in sesame oil and mushroom omelet. Cooking with purple rice I realised, results in any adjacent kitchen utensils being covered in purple spots wherever the rice cooker decides to spit its steam. Willy Wonka would be proud of my effort tonight. Once everything was scooped onto my plate, I stood back to admire my art and was reminded yet again, of my meal times in the last one month. It almost looks like the meals I had while I was there.

Stir fried kailan, mushroom omelet served with wild purple rice

Excuse the tacky plate. I should really start to invest in one of those classy, all white dinner set. In my recent food adventure, I have discovered the availability of smoked garlic (whole garlic cloves smoked and sold by the kg) and how it absolutely smells D I V I N E and makes everything that it’s cooked in tastes equally as divine. I am already filled with so many crazy ideas of all its different uses in food preparation and the gourmet cook in me is tickled by this idea.

Virginia Woolf once wrote “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”. And dined well tonight indeed I have.

“Belief, I’m going to yell it from the rooftops”

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Post Vikasa, I have been trying to recalibrate my experiences and all that I’ve learned into the existing life that I had before I left a month ago. And to be absolutely honest, it has been very very hard. Not in a sense that I can’t seem to carry on my daily tasks, but more in the form of facing the rising questions that keeps surfacing in each silent moment I have with myself. When I wake up in the morning, and before I begin my pranayamas. When I get into my car to drive to work in the morning. When I get caught in the horrendous traffic trying to figure how it is possible that it takes me 1 hour to get home on a drive that usually takes 15 minutes. When I am walking towards the office. When I am sitting across someone who is trying to explain to me what needs to be done, or in a meeting and my mind gives up trying to decipher what is being discussed because the idea of teaching, and the idea of growing stronger every day practicing what I love the most – the idea of being involved in my own health and spreading similar messages to others is far more interesting to be entertained within the walls of my mind.

“WHY do I not feel authentic doing this anymore?”

Of course the answer to that question is pretty damn straightforward given the path that I just came from recently. But the questions that follow like “right, so where to from here?”, “where will the money come from??” and “surely, there MUST be a way to find a middle ground between what supplies me with a sense of achievement and money and what nourishes me and provides me peace, right? RIGHT?”

Before the TTC took place, I had many moments when I would escape from my workstation in an effort to run away from the intense pressure emanating within the team for a while, and stare our the window from the women’s bathroom (YES, the public bathroom) which overlooks a great big forested land across the river. I would day dream of owning a patch of the land and building my own sala and studio, Minangkabau style, with dark teak flooring and beams (sorry, not so hijau I know, I’ll most probably make it up by using eco friendly yoga mats for my students).

Today, I found myself doing the exact same thing again.

I had been meditating on the fact that I am Patience, in the last week at Vikasa all throughout this week when I got home. Amazingly, patience takes on a multitude of form. Patience with asanas and my practice on one day. Patience with the limitations of my strength the next. Patience with deliverance from the universe, and allowing God to reveal the next steps towards finally having my own practice, a stable foundation of students and clients and a steady stream of income coming from that very source. Of course, these days, it’s also patience with the crazy driver-zillas on the road too..

With patience, I’ve come to understand that it needs to be strongly supported by belief and faith. Because what separates complacency and patience, is believing that it will happen while simultaneously putting an effort into it. Of course, meditating on one thought always springs up a song in my head. On this occasion it’s Gavin Degraw’s awesome acoustic version of Belief:

Belief
I’m going to yell it from the rooftops
I’ll wear a sign on my chest
That’s the least I can do

A retrospective view – Vikasa Yoga Teacher’s Training Course

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I had thought long and hard about what I had learned from my month away. Coming home, I descended to a feeling of mixed emotions and in certain moments, feeling out of place like I had just been plucked off a place which I had felt complete sense of belonging to a strange place I have always called home.

As soon as I got behind the wheels of my car though, the cogs in the wheel of what I call my life here started to kick back into gear. Amanda tried to teach me how to swim a week ago while we were splashing about in the pool before our evening practice. “It’s just like riding a bike” to which I responded with a blank look and said “I don’t know how to ride a bike”. She said a quiet “oh” and momentarily swam away hoping I’d forget she was supposed to be teaching me how to swim. Haha! But if someone had told me “it’s like driving your car, in the mad city called Kuala Lumpur” then it would probably make a little bit more sense to me.

I thought back to all the conversations I had, the major breakthroughs, and everything else in between. And though I know my words will not do justice to the amazing things I have learned, below are few items which I felt is worth highlighting.

1) Faith in genuine kindness and love

I hadn’t thought of this much until I reached home yesterday, when the first answer that popped to my head as I was thinking of the major takeaways from the course was “it restored my faith in genuine kindness” which ultimately leads to genuine connection as a result. This was something that I had struggled with for a while always doubtful of a person’s genuity and whether there are such things as true strangers who would care to reveal their inner most parts to you in order to stay true and honest with themselves.  Sure, as the weeks go by some people tended to find more common similarities in certain others and began to plan their breaks and day off together. But in general, dinner time was a healthy rotation of people as we sat to nourish ourselves with the food and the meaningful (sometimes hilarious) conversations.

I shared many break times with some individuals from the course, cruising behind their scooters, zooming past Lamai or Chaweng road and made our (almost) daily visits to Tesco. I would sit in Boots while they ate at the food court and “collected” me after they were done. None of them can understand my obsession with Boots. We made trips to the French Bakery, and to the more touristy roads of Chaweng. We shared coconut gelatos, and pizzas and pastas. We walked to the Rabbit Room, a cute little blue glass room 2 minutes away from Vikasa for a glass of iced coffee and lots of conversations. There were a LOT of conversations, most of them deep and arresting. All were meaningful, even the funny ones that ends up in a fit of laughter. These times also taught me that you will see kindness around you, if you are first open to allow it to reveal itself.

2) Pain is weakness leaving the body

This came from Ryan, one of the many people I had connected with and spent some time talking about life, and the world around us. We were talking about the difference we observed in our bodies from Day 1 right up to the Graduation day. I see this in many different perspectives, whether it be physical pain (which only means you are getting stronger) or an emotional pain (which draws attention to a part our lives we might have been neglecting). Obviously, what is meant by physical pain are the kind that is uncomfortable, but not sharp. The kind that is referred to as “creative pain” or “karmic pain” in the yoga world, but never, ever the sharp, nerve like pain which really only ever means you are one step away from the Emergency room.

3) The universe is within me as much as I am within it

As learned from the philosophy module, I was introduced to the concept of energy and that all being consist of a level of energy. Even our souls. It reminds me to always be compassionate, that I am not alone in this quest we called life, and whatever misery or joy that I experience is as much part of me and I am part of it. I was trying to explain this to L during dinner last night, and he looked at me and shook his head and said “this is too deep for me”. So don’t feel alone if you have no idea what I just wrote in the last 3 sentences above! :p

We are one, and all the same

4) Fear is an area worth challenging, and what lies beyond it could be really really beautiful

I grew up with so many fears instilled into me, but to no fault on anybody of course as I am sure it was done with good intentions to protect those whom we love the most. But some fears are unfounded and I rode through it like Nicolas Cage did on his big bad motorbike in Ghostrider (or at least I’d like to metaphorically think of it that way!). Fear of inversions, check to plow, check to an almost there shoulder stand, and check to a baby headstand in progress. Beyond asanas, Tee played a pivotal role to me as he helped me through fear of height (or was it fear of falling between jagged rocks near the sea and no one will find me until the next day?) and taught me how to get to the point where the rock lion sat overlooking into the sea. Possibly THE best spot to be at, undisturbed on the Vikasa ground. He taught me how to float, together with Amanda and how to be comfortable with the sensation of being underwater. And how NOT to freak out when the water gets trapped in my ear canals longer than it should. Lenka taught me to hop around on one leg like I’ve been set on fire to get the water out faster than anything else. Rodney gave me my first lesson on how to sit behind a bike and be a good passenger, without giving the driver in front an unintentional butt massage by gripping on to them too tightly with my thighs.

The rock lion and a camel pose

Bakasana at the most unlikely places

5) Living in a bamboo hut is cute and quaint, maybe for the first 3 weeks.

After the 3 week mark, and many little events which involved a rat crawling around in my hut and knocking over my oatmeal in the middle of the night, listening to my bamboo hut neighbour screaming when another rat decided to pay her hut a visit one night and being woken up to top 40s of the 1990s at 6 am every morning, I finally admitted that I hadn’t been getting the best quality of sleep I should be having. The final week was spent sharing bed space with Chandra, who had so kindly welcomed me into her awesome air conditioned villa and accommodated my teeth-grinding orchestra with humor. I love her to bits for sacrificing her own space in our last week there.

The lady that shared her bed space in our final week together

6) My list of to-do and not to-do as a yoga teacher

This I learned through observing the best of teachers that came through Vikasa’s door and also the limitations that some had in their approach to teaching. I respect and adore Kosta’s and George’s approach to yoga asana and theory. They were warm in their approach, kind, patient and made everything felt like it was possible. This was the definite to-dos for me when I begin to teach too. There were other teachers too that covered specific modules within the course. I learned that, as a teacher, one needs to think carefully before uttering a comment or an opinion especially if it veers towards generalizing a large group of people based on limited exposure to it. To always maintain neutrality, and not instilling education from a defensive stance. And to always watch, watch, watch what comes out of my own mouth even if it means accidentally uttering “go away” to another student to shoo them off the mat.

I will most probably constantly digest and process what I have gone through, and with each of this a new lesson will reveal itself. But for now, these are are what I thought made the effort, time, and money spent on the teacher’s training course absolutely worth it.

Supported headstand in progress

With the cray cray Tee 🙂