Monthly Archives: December 2014

A love affair

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I woke up this morning with a clear thought, it felt like someone was actually narrating to me in my head out loud. “Do not force anything to happen, you will injure or hurt yourself in the process”. And of course that incredible feeling of me getting into a supta kurmasana on my own during yesterday’s self practice washes through followed by a dull discomfort on my right hip rotators. Achievement not to be seen as one, pain not to be understood simply, and practicing through all of these as it rises and fall is something that I am beginning to relish more and more.

I had been sitting with this topic for a little while, to allow it to simmer and gain further depth before attempting to put it down into words. Reflecting on this growing love affair that constantly surprises me with delightful insights, like little candies found in the most unexpected places, my relationship and journey into Ashtanga yoga has been to a certain extent predictable given the company that I have grown close to in the second half of this year, but the intensity of which was completely unplanned. Sometimes I catch myself thinking how different my classes would be, my views of teaching, my commitment to a daily practice – how different my entire daily structure of life – my world would be without my current practice.

And that sounds really drastic doesn’t it?

Last night’s dinner with some good friends from high school, the ones that I have walked with through the better and worst part our twenties, made me realise that I am currently inhabiting an entirely different world. A world that seems both removed yet a part of reality. As soon as I sat down on the table of 4, I knew I had stepped into a different world where conversations would be different, not any better nor worse, but just different. Like the different perspectives of 2 different person looking at one single painting. Same subject, different ways of interpretation and understanding. I love these 3 people equally, when they hurt I feel their pain, like that time when A cried while relating a personal story to us right in the middle of Rasta while having dinner. But I also realised, the capacity of understanding each of our unique experiences are limited to the extent of what they know and have experienced themselves. And hence, trying to relate the story of that deepest backbend I got into last Friday (which is a BIG deal for me) felt at best a feeble attempt of trying to describe to them the taste of an exotic food that neither of them has ever tasted.

It got me thinking, what is it about Ashtanga and the practice that feels like I am walking through a ring of fire in which at the opposite end is an entirely different view and understanding of the world around me. Why do I do the same sequences over and over 6 times a week but never once has it felt the same as yesterday? Why do I keep diving into it further and further without a clear sight of an end nearby? I don’t know if this time next year, I would even be saying the same things about the practice. I don’t know what to expect or even if there is a need to have any expectations at all from the practice. Going into this, I remembered thinking – cool now I have a set of tried-tested and proven sequence I can memorise,  and do this over again instead of feeling like I’m plucking random yoga asanas out of thin air and do it when I feel like it, or do it because that famous practitioner on IG does it and it looks beautiful. There are 840,000 yoga asanas known to man, like come on – certainly there has to be some logic and reasoning to performing these asanas. The Type A in me is tickled and pacified currently with the Primary series.

And perhaps, this love affair is fuelled by a sheer feeling of wonder, curiosity, novelty and awe. Much like how most other relationships begin. But there is an additional dynamic to this. It goes both ways. Just as the practice and commitment of others floors me, so too the transformation that I am observing within myself. The physical changes are obvious, but these I believe are only the secondary benefits. J. Krishnamurthi’s explanation on relationship seems to have shed an entirely different, better and brighter light to my own understanding of it. His articulate thoughts have put into words everything I knew and understood of this thing called ‘relationship’, in all perspectives, romantic, platonic, with a person, an idea, a system or whatever else that allows one to ‘relate’ to the other. The idea of communion. Of falling into the one-ness, when the observer and the observed disappears, and all that remains is the present moment. The moment that is neither being experienced nor being process into an experience, a memory.

It is exactly this that I feel has been the construction of my world lately. When I step onto my mat, heels and toes together, palms in front of my heart just before uttering the opening mantra. The moment I close my eyes and bow down, the physical world around me slips away. And then it is just the breath, the movement and the occasional awareness of others around me. Of course on days when focus seems non-existent, there are conversations going on with the Self, or wandering drishtis. Similarly outside of practice, it is when I enter into an engaging conversation, a topic that I genuinely identify with or passionate about, the moment when there is an indefinite locking of hearts and mind, when thoughts arise not only from logic, but understanding that comes from the heart. That, I believe are one of those beautiful, rare but entirely possible moments of communion. It is a world that I am much happy to be pulled into deeper and deeper, though it is also a world which has left me wondering if I am able to reintegrate back into ‘the other world’ where the majority idea of ‘drop back’ is literally being physically dropped back to ones house from another location. And if I can’t, what would it mean to my existing friendships and social circle?

It feels painfully familiar, like discovering the similarities and amazing connection with a person of the opposite sex and being so incredibly enchanted by it that you want to allow all parts of your life to be entirely drawn into this world, to be lost in its wonder, and at the same time to have the parts of yourself be revealed like turning over the stones from the bottom of a river one by one. It is not so much the experience of ‘falling’ in love, but rather ‘drifting’ into this strong pull of love and allowing all previous understanding of yourself to be unearthed, burned, and renewed. And perhaps this is one of of its valuable lessons, to allow myself to be moved by the pull, without resistance, without force, without wanting something to be a certain way at a certain time, but rather to allow more moments of being absorbed into the present, engaged, aware and at ease. With ease there is openness, and when one is open, magical things happen like moving into that one asana that you once thought was completely impossible. And that I believe is the essence of all romantic, poetic love affairs, on and off the mat.

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The cold-pressed juice wagon

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It is a fad that was already slowly and quietly bubbling under the surface of general consumerism in Malaysia. If ‘bootylicious’ made it as one of the most used word that awarded it self-deserved place in the Oxford dictionary, ‘cold-pressed juice’ I believe should be somewhere in the list of most-used, most-marketed word and product of the year 2014. Probably not a place to be reinvented in the Oxford dictionary though, because the 2 words exist in its own right with its on standalone meaning but hey, when you place it together – what a wave it has resulted in! Obviously it didn’t just came about overnight as some would attest to the larger cold-pressed juicing companies that existed in the market as early as 2009 and 2010. Back in the days when a Hurom is not just a car-ride and a AEON supermarket visit away.

While I am all for efforts and advocacy made towards a healthier nation through easier and more widespread access of healthy food, the uprising of this trend is also somewhat disturbing. The fact that anyone with a decent income can own an equally decent cold-pressed juicer is great, what is not so great however is the fact that these days it seems anyone with a decent cold-pressed juicer also thinks they can become champions of the power of juicing by selling their own versions of cold-pressed juices bottled in glass jars.

Yes, I totally understand the idea of capitalising on market opportunities. It is all economics right? The general public now have more access to information on the internet. They can’t be as easily duped by a full page spread in the newspaper telling them that a carton of Tropicana Orange Juice (with REAL orange pulp added!) is any where as superior as a smaller sized fresh, cold-pressed juices that comes in a BPA-free plastic bottle or even better a shiny glass bottle. People want fresh. People want wholesome, raw, active juices. Because cold-pressed juices promises vitality, health, rejuvenation and a bang for your buck. Yes it costs WAY more than that carton of orange juice, but if it’s suppose to cure ailments, make you feel better, wipe out your wrinkles and make you look 10 years younger, spending double and sometimes triple the price of a conventional juice becomes an easy afterthought.

If there is supplies to match market demand, and this is a demand that is pointing towards a change for the better than it is well and good isn’t it? Not so.

Here’s a scenario. One day you woke up and decided to pay a visit to your doctors. Annual health examination. A few days later the results came back and your doctor delivers you the grim news that you had better get your blood sugar level under control because your reading awards you a comfortable place within the ‘pre-diabetic’ category. Or perhaps, more likely these days, the doctor circles a random number on the result paper and tells you that you should watch your cholesterol because by god, those hash browns and McValue meals aren’t really adding much valuable nutrition to your body but rather accelerating your path to the nearest cardiac surgeon office.

So while you are driving home, all these numbers and facts circling in your head and a real concern that something has got to change, your food intake or your physical fitness or your entire approach to life, and you get hungry. But no, there can be no more McValue meals for you, and someone told you recently a juice-detox is a great way to kick start this new resolution for a healthier lifestyle. So you stop at the closest available cafe that you know sells great cold-pressed juices. Along the counter sits many many beautiful, delectable sounding cakes. Cakes, that without a doubt contains an eye-popping amount of butter (even worse, margarine!) and a truckload of white sugar. What happens next? There is a possibility that your better judgement kicks in, you pay for your juice and off you go. But there is also that equal amount of possibility that the ‘naughty’ side of you will try to justify by thinking “If cake is bad and juice is good and I take both at the same time, the good will neutralize the bad right??”

The human mind will always find novel ways to justify anything that it wants. And before you know it, oh the poor consumer who thinks he’s doing good by drinking all that juice everyday and sometimes rewarding himself with that cake is referred to the endocrinologist office instead because his blood sugar level is soaring and his body has decided that it is much too taxing to be processing ALL that sugar coming from both the cold-pressed juice and the cake.

What disturbs me is not the fact that this health trend is picking up traction but in the way that cold-pressed juices are being marketed by the people who are advocating its benefits. Would you go to a doctor who is sick? Probably not. But many of our doctors are overweight, smokes a pack a day and battling their own health issues. The reason you still visit them is because you don’t know what goes on in their personal lives. But what if it is all out there for you to see? What if “buy our cold-pressed juices” photos is posted on instagram next to a bowl of Magee mee? Or photos of people enjoying a plate of KFC with the tagline “buy our family bucket and get 6 bottles of cold-pressed juices free!” would you still be willing to pay the same premium? Probably not. Which is good for the consumer and their wallets, but it does nothing to educate them about the healing power of food.

So here’s the deal, drinking a bottle of premium cold pressed juice to wash down that butter cake/magee mee/[insert food that contains high cholesterol, preservatives, sugar and other unnatural products disguised as food] won’t make you any healthier than the next person who decides to wash it down with a Vitagen or a conventional carton juice or even a can of Diet Coke. It does however, make that next person slightly more richer than you though. That I am pretty sure of.

So before you buy, discriminate. Question. Most importantly on the ingredient, the freshness, and the cleanliness. Was the vegetables and fruits washed properly before being juiced? If it uses orange and lemon rind, was it organic (because lord knows how much wax covers the standard, non organic version and can you imagine ingesting them in that RM15 ringgit bottle of juice?) and of course there is also the question of “Is the lifestyle of the person whose business you are supporting the same that you would buy into?” Not as important as the initial questions, but remember, what you buy also supports the lifestyle of its makers.