Monthly Archives: March 2013

Balispirit in all its glory

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This year’s Balispirit happened to be the first yoga related festival I had ever attended and wow, what an experience it was! I was excited for a very long time, both for the prospect of visiting Bali for the first time AND attending such a huge event consisting of all things commercially yoga. As I am making my flight back to Kuala Lumpur, I found myself reflecting on this trip. What have I learned from the cornucopia of different classes, workshops and sessions I had attended?

Surprisingly (and I may be a little ashamed to admit this) nothing too life changing that I would want to apply to teaching my own classes really. Thinking back on how this could be possible, because after all I was in the presence of so many respected teachers whose names are akin to what Google is to search engines and Facebook to social media. A moment of contemplation made me realize that I had been far too busy judging the teaching styles, the asanas chosen for the vinyasas, the conversation and what sometimes seems to me incessant unnecessary chattering in class. I arrived in Ubud with an open mind, excited to take part in only the biggest annual yoga event in this region. The minute my first session began, and unfortunately throughout the entire weekend, the open mind quickly switched to judging, evaluating, comparing.. and all those not so yummy habits that only resulted in me sitting here in the plane right now thinking, ‘so hrm, what new exciting things can I bring to my own classes now?’

And a resounding silence as my mind searches through every unturned corners of this experience for an answer.

What did in remember instead? I remembered the mental notes I made as a checklist of ‘things to avoid doing in my own class’. Why? Because I remembered the silent moments sending out mental messages to the instructor of the session begging him to stop talking already. Have you ever tried following a class, wanting to return to your inner self and quieten that self chatter only to have it totally replaced by the booming chattering of the instructor relating about something or other about his day through his clip on microphone?

There were 2 sessions which I appreciated though in one we were asked to attempt an udhiyana bandha and nauli (a type of Kriya which involves the individual freely contracting and relaxing the stomach muscles in a certain motion) less than 2 hours after lunch time. I hope no one had indigestion that night.

Perhaps a festival such as this really is to serve a ‘buffet’ of yoga to attract and cater to a large number of people. It allowed me to experience Kundalini yoga, Vinyasa (with rock music), Ashtanga yoga with influences of Shamanism, Hatha with precise scientific techniques borrowed from Tai Chi. And another session which involved a lot of running around in circles whilst doing Bhashtrika, an experienced which struck me both as different and close to some sort of insane version of yoga created by the western world.

Perhaps it is a gathering of like minded people celebrating the diversity within and outside of themselves. Although as a first time participant the like minded part seemed to be more about the staggering proportion of people wearing lululemons, and carrying either a Jade, Manduka or (surprise surprise) lululemon yoga mat. Admittedly, I was one of them too minus the expensive mat as my Manduka Eco mat was far too heavy for me to hand carry all the way to Ubud. Most of the time it felt like people moved in their own groups. I didn’t sense an open-ness but again, this was probably largely colored by looking through my judging lenses.

So what was my main takeaway from this entire experience? I learned that judgement closes the mind to accepting what is, to acknowledge the different things that are subtly present and most importantly it impairs your memory so that it selectively remembers all the unpleasant things and overlooks the ones that could be beneficial.

Not all was lost though as throughout the few days I was there, I come to understand the fascination that a lot of people have on Bali as I felt the pull and the need to pack up and call Ubud my new home. A walk down Hanoman Road brought me back to being right in the middle of Brunswick Road in Melbourne, minus the cold weather and plenty more sunshine ūüôā At the night music event where a lineup of talented international World Music artists, I was exposed to an awesome array of music, one of which was a song called Lullaby by OKA. Below is an excerpt of what one of the nights were like at this year’s Balispirit

Be students, be teachers..be truth seekers

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This year’s International Women’s Day was especially special for me as I had my first experience of teaching a corporate yoga class at the IWD event that is annually held at the place that I work for. I had made known my intention early in November last year, and as circumstance and fate came together I was eventually given a 1 hour slot during the activities portion of the event.

Of course they failed to tell me that my yoga session would be at 4pm, 15 minutes after the afternoon tea break and will be running at the same time as the manicure/pedicure session, the ‘luxury’ goods auction and the treasure hunt which they called “the amazing fund walk” where participants search for clues and get to keep the prizes they find along the way (which I found much later included cosmetics from Bobbi Brown)

Nevertheless, 7 people turned up in this beautiful studio. Earlier in the day as I was rolling out the mats for the class, looking through the ceiling to floor glass windows and the green park outside, it felt for a few seconds like I could own this studio  and be teaching in this kind of space for the rest of my life. It felt surreal.

 

One day, my future studio will look similar to this too

One day, my future studio will look similar to this too

The 7 ladies that turned up had a varying mixture of experience with yoga. Some were completely new to it. As I went through my sequence, one that I had been prepping for a few days before (which is rather unusual for me) I realised that makes teaching fun for me was the spontaneity it allows me while I am in front on my mat demonstrating one pose flowing to the other, and another until we finally come to Savasana. So out the huge sunny window went my plan and I taught what I knew.

I guess I must have grown comfortable with my Saturday group that teaching a completely new group came off as a little unnerving. I looked ahead at faces which I have never met, most smiling, ready, but some skeptical. Perhaps that little voice in my head was tuning in a little too loudly to the negativity that I seem to pick up from the room.

Although the class ended quite ok, I opened the floor to questions or comments at the end. One lady said she never knew yoga could be so hard. And of course that little voice in my head goes off on a bullet train speed chastising my choice of poses for the day. And I had to remind her (and more so myself at that moment!) that as with all things, practice, practice, practice and all is coming.

Needless to say, all of my energy was completely drained by the time my day ended. I couldn’t quite figure out why as teaching always leaves me high on a buzz or serves to pump up some of the energy life force but realised the answer a day after as I was about to start my Saturday afternoon class.

L, a lovely British lady whom married a Malaysian and settled her for the last couple of decades is one of my regulars. She walked in while I was setting up and said “you look really tired” and instead of choosing to explain my rather complicated experience from the day before, I replied that I had no make up on (like WHO actually puts on makeup before they teach??). Because she was my only student in that afternoon session, and because we have this familiarity about us as I had seen her for the last 5-6 Saturdays, I felt like I could give her the attention she needed, thrown in with the detailed explanation to suit exactly where she is now.

Towards the end, as she came out of her Sarvangasana, I felt somehow teaching this class gave me that familiar energizing feeling. I taught and I was reenergized. A completely opposite effect to the previous day. I took the opportunity to thank her and told her it was such a joy to teach her that day and that all of my tiredness seem to have just evaporated away. And she told me something that made me realise why I love what I do and why every moment that lead me to being able to teach yoga was absolutely worth it.

“Sometimes I dread coming down here with all the other things ¬†I have to do. But everytime I walk out of your class, I always feel 6 feet tall”

As I ponder back to this conversation, watching her achieve her own breakthroughs in her practice, I realise what makes teaching so enjoyable and empowering for me is to be able to follow through with the student as both mine and their practice evolve, improve and grow with time. On the flipside, what makes it draining at times is succumbing to the negative thoughts and the desire to make each session as accessible to everyone as possible, at the expense of my own peace of mind.

Ultimately, I think we are students as much as we are teachers to one another. And at the end of the day, beyond the peace, and happiness, we each seek enlightenment and truth in its own unique form, whether it be through our work, or how we generally choose to go through life.

Be students, Be teachers, Be politicians, Be preachers, Be believers, Be leaders, Be astronauts, Be champions, Be truth seekers

– The Script, Hall of Fame

“Teach what is inside you..”

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I have been struggling with defining MY own version of success for a little while now. If you had been following my writings in the past 4-5 months, you will see this has been the main theme running throughout the past entries. Truth be told, I had been so fixated with the idea of success which I had formed in my early 20s that letting go of this rigid definition of success became a starting point to which I began to question what truly, and absolutely matters to me.

My TTC last September-Oct was not the starting point to reconstructing my own idea of success, but it was definitely an enabler which opens up a floodgate from which passion, interest, and the desire to serve others were rekindled. Since the conclusion of the TTC last Oct, I had been teaching beginners-intermediate Hatha Yoga to a handful number of mostly women. Women who are my close friends, my colleagues, and also strangers that faithfully walked through the door of the multipurpose hall every Saturday to attend the sessions that I lead.

The more I teach, the more humbled I am. I know for sure, joy for me resides in the light that shines through the eyes of these women as they slowly open their eyes from their final Savasana pose. One weekend ago, a woman who had been practicing her shoulder stand with the support of a wall eventually pushed off and held her pose on her own. As I was assisting another person from across the room, she let out a tiny squeak and soft “wheee” as I am sure the exhilaration of mastering something new¬†washes through her.

When she eventually got out of the pose, and 5 breath of Matsyasana later, she rolled back up and told me “I did my first shoulder stand at home this week, and I was so excited I nearly wanted to call you straight away”

I smiled to what seemed like a HUGE grin, as a big ‘WOW!’ moment reverberated through my mind. In that moment, I know everything thing that has brought me to this very moment, was absolutely, and totally worth it.

Maya Angelou once said – Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.

I have not reached that point in which I can crystalize my own idea of success so coherently into one sentence as that. But I know it comes pretty close. And I have this suspicion that it has something to do with sharing what I know of yoga to the masses so that they too can journey through their own lives in the most peaceful & rewarding way possible.

All the same, the more I teach the more I feel that I am learning of the essence of humanity, what drives people? what is important? where are they now and where do they wish to go with their own lives?

I came across a powerful advice from the words of Sri T Krishnamacharya who is also the man responsible for the sparking the birth of Ashtanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga (both Sri Patabhi Jois & Iyengar were his students). He said “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other”

Thus serving as a constant reminder that to teach is not always to dump all your knowledge onto the next willing passerby, but to consciously form the understanding of where the other is at that very moment and structuring the next 75-90 minutes of your time together as it applies to them. And if I can do this, and have the same desired effects from every single person that attends my classes, that to some degree, is success to me.