Monthly Archives: January 2013

What the plow has taught me

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One of the women who attend my Saturday morning yoga classes told me today that she has a stack of yoga DVDs at home. Before I had started offering morning yoga classes over the weekend at the multipurpose hall in the apartment building that we both happen to live in, she had took to rely on those DVDs.

“But you know how it goes, practicing yoga alone in front of a TV is just not the same as attending a class”

And I couldn’t agree more. Although many respected websites out there now offering subscription based online videos to aid a home practice, a live class guided by an experienced instructor is still an essential part of one’s practice. A human touch is beneficial for those times when attempting a new pose, or when the desire to explore further into an advanced variation of a pose sets in. Most importantly, the presence of another person helps guide and encourages the other safely into the intended pose.

Without this very same method of human interaction, I know for a fact I would not have been able to experience what it feels like to be in a full halasana, or the plow pose.

I had been practicing on and off for the last six years, and consistently in the last three. Throughout all these years, each time the teacher brings forth the dreaded plow, I would slowly bring myself up to a salambasana, the shoulder pose. And then with much fear, fold over attempting to touch the floor above my head with both of my feet.

Somehow the floor always feels like it was miles away from my toes each time I attempt the pose. So for months, I would hover my toes above my head, never really knowing how far they were from the floor. Convinced I would never reach into the full pose and filled with fear that if I try to reach a little further, I would twist my neck and break it into two.

There was an instance I finally got to experience what it really feels like to have your toes touching the ground above your head. It was in a different studio, with a teacher who possessed the cheer of radiant sunlight in her. Seeing that I was struggling into the pose she held my hips firmly and told me to keep reaching for the floor.

“You are very very close, really” she said as she encouraged me on.

This was the point I learned complete trust in another person. Although at that point it must have not felt anything like trust to my teacher as I fiercely gripped onto her ankles, fearful of what I would feel once I reach into the full pose. 

This fear felt strangely familiar, much like the fear of letting go of a relationship or a career that is not aligned to your purpose anymore because the unknown is terribly scary. To learn to make decisions in these situations however, require complete trust not in someone else, but in yourself.

During my training course, and through the guidance of my teachers and wonderful coursemates, I learned to move in and out of the plow on my own. Once, a kind coursemate who was watching from the side, grabbed a block and placed it right underneath my hovering toes,

“There, you are only about as far away from the floor as the height of this block”

When fear is put into context, and in this case the height of a block, how tiny it seems in respect to the vastness of possibility of the things you can achieve.

The halasana was my first milestone in learning about myself through yoga. And I credit this to the number of teachers that has stood behind me, while I gripped intensely on their ankles and calves, and the wonderful soul who taught me to put my fears within context before we could conquer it. Certainly, none of this would have been possible without having the presence and patience of a human soul. 

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The root of your Dharma

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what life would be like for me in 10 years time. Not so much in the essence of a 10-year plan but if I was to visualise what life would be like at that point of time, what will I be doing? who do I have in my life? 

Obviously, all of this is sparked from that one conversation I had sometime towards the end of 2012 which I had written of in one of my previous posts. 

The big mother question of “what is my Dharma? what could be the thing that I am meant to contribute to mankind during my lifetime on earth?”

Coincidentally, one of the women who turned up on my Saturday classes that I had been teaching consistently since January told me about an ashram in Nashik, India. Upon further Googling (don’t we all love technology) that night I found out that they offer a 1 month yoga therapy teacher’s training which will place emphasis on healing through yoga.

I thought to myself, perfect! This will be my next adventure!

Just before heading to bed, thoughts filled with excitement, possibilities and imagination it occurred to me that by going through with this plan, I could eventually combine all of the things that nourishes me, and finally come face to face with the desires that I have rooted since young. 

Fascination with dance, movement of the body and desire to express through movement

I have always loved the idea of being a dancer. The grace that all dancers posses and bring to the stage, be it a ballet, or a hip hop performance and the ability to manipulate their bodies in order to express and communicate their emotions to the audience leaves me in awe and pure admiration. Yes, this is where I admit my favorite reality tv show is So You Think You Can Dance. Everytime there is a stellar performance, where the dancer, the choreography and the music culminates to perfection, I get goosebumps.

Someone once commented that I have the body of a ballerina. And I silently added to that sentence, “only that I can’t move as one”. Through yoga though, I eventually found a medium in which I can move according to how I feel, and it is now one of the channels I use to ‘unload’ some of my residual emotions which alone, I could not have worked through. 

The desire to help people be their best self, the desire to heal

As a young girl, my favourite TV shows were Chicago Hope and ER. Not much has changed since then. These days I catch Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice whenever I have the time to do so. I always thought I would be a medical doctor someday. In high school. biology was one of my favorite subjects and I would be one of those annoying ones that gets overly excited on days that we are due to dissect some sort of animal parts. One of my best memories of Biology was seeing a pair of cow’s lungs and watching another classmate blowing through a tube to inflate it. Gross to many, completely fascinating to me.

Through the years, I find the things that leaves me feeling strong are when I can positively add value by helping another person to feel better, be it about themselves or about a specific challenging situation. I realised I liked helping people. And I realise to a certain extent that has been the one common thread that has been guiding me through the all the critical life decisions I’ve had to make concerning my education and my career. It explains why I was obsessed with the kind of work that United Nations Development Program are involved in, why I spent 2 summer breaks interning with them, why I got a Masters in Social Development. It is what that has guided me into a job as a public health consultant, and now, a change management consultant. 

People fascinate me, helping them and seeing positive changes in them, enlivens me. So the thought of being able to combine my love of movement on the mat together with the possibility of helping to influence people to make healthier, better choices towards a more empowering life felt like I had just discovered the solution to a very complicated algebra question.

Which then brings me to my next realisation, your dharma should not necessarily be something that you have to search for, sometimes it is already there, always have been a part of you, just waiting for you to piece it all together and come to a realisation that this perhaps could be what your life’s purpose is. 

 

Jakarta 2013

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Of the many years since I left Melbourne, I recently got the opportunity to usher in another new year in a foreign country. This time in the hectic and chaotic city of Jakarta.

I spent four days in the company of C, who was also the kind woman who gave up half of her bed space in Koh Samui in the final week of our Teacher Training Course together. I got to meet her family, had meals together with her parents and entertained my inner child by playing dollhouse with her nieces. I am now aware of such things like the Sylvanian Family. Ah, the things kids can teach you.

Jakarta hit me like a familiar sequence of Surya Namaskar underlined with some variations. I could understand almost 90% of a conversation carried out in full Bahasa Indonesia if I really pay attention. Most of the time it doesn’t take a lot of effort to catch key words and have an idea what the gist of that conversation is all about. I could reply comfortably to 25% of the conversation in the same language, of the remaining time, I choose to converse in English. Not bad for my first trip to Indonesia. I love how effortless and musical the language can be.

The traffic though was another story altogether. Life seems to revolve around the heaviness of the traffic condition. Progress and growth seems to be dependent on how fast or how slow you can go from point A to point B. I could not have been more glad to come home to wide roads (sorry, yes this is utterly not very Hijau of me to say this), but one must be ever so thankful for well planned and connected roads and the availability of environmentally friendly public transportation to ease up the congestion.

I am glad I made the decision to close off a great year in Jakarta. It is now 2013, and though it may be getting off slightly on a very challenging note, deep down it feels like this year would be twice as better as it was then 2012. Insya’allah.

The best brunch in Jakarta resides in Bunga Rampai