Category Archives: Women

“Fate will carry the willing man…”


“Surrender” she said.

There’s a bolster lying vertically down my mat, and I’m standing at the top, feet apart. I had just come up from what seemed like a failed attempt of an unsupported drop back…because the floor seems so far away, and the breath just wants to leave me hanging midway.

“But it’s not the same as letting go. If you let go, there will be too much weight suddenly on your hands when you reach the floor. Just..surrender”, adding in the technicalities with a little smile.

I am beginning to marvel at this one simple word “surrender” that embodies within it an immense articulation of what it really means to allow life to play out on its own course. On the mat and equally off the mat. A word that is supercharged with a lot of energy and emotions that not many are willing to venture past beyond the point of contemplation. Because surrender is possibly the hardest thing one could attempt to do in the face of the unknown.

Fata viam invenient, Seneca once wrote. Fates will have its way. Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt, fate will carry the willing man and drag the unwilling. Reminding us all that there is a higher hand that is at play, or a discourse of life that has perhaps been written somewhere beyond our own ability to see and understand.

It is not even the end of the first month in this year, yet the word which I have made a point to work on more, delve into deeper, understand it further has been featured so many times since the start of the year – both in my own personal life and in the conversations I seem to hold with those around me.

Like that conversation I had with H a couple of weeks ago over lunch when she related her desire for a child and the emotions that arises as she goes through rounds of fertility treatment. I asked what it felt like every single time the process did not work, that time of the month that arrives to let you know yet again your effort, money and hope has yet to produce the kind of fruit you’ve been wanting. “Agony” she says. “Partly because of the effort you put into preparing your body to be at its healthiest, you plan your life and your schedule around this process and mostly because the doctors and those around you are confident that it will work this time around…and then it doesn’t”.

“This time, I’ll need to get things in order up here before I go in for the second round” referring to her second upcoming IVF treatment while pointing to her head. We spoke of expectations and keeping that in check, but mostly of surrendering to the process. And preparing the mind to accept the possibility that she will never be able to experience the sensations and emotions of an expecting mother.

But the word is steeped in so many different connotations. Letting go. Acceptance. And in a less positive light, complacence, or even worse having the ‘je ne sais quoi’ attitude to life. But these are just semantics I believe. There are inevitable situations and circumstances that we have to eventually acknowledge as being out of our control. As Gregory Maehle puts it “totally accept that you are a machine operated upon by God”. That our own bodies can betray the best of us for reasons unknown.

There is however, a distinct beauty that lies beyond that point of surrender. A beauty that presents itself in moments of silence unravelling a bigger picture that is so often overlooked because the desire to have things the way we want it to be, at the time we want it to happen, to have the final say to the outcome is far more persistent than the desire to see what may lie ahead and beyond the actual ‘wants’. Which reminds me of a beautiful verse from Al-Baqarah that reads “…and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know” (216:2). And perhaps that is the essence of surrender, giving in entirely to the unknown despite our best efforts and allowing fate to carry us through willingly.


“When you meet the right one, you will know in your heart”


I am finally coming around to working my way through that box of books I brought back from Mysore in November. There is a book about Shri K Pattabhi Jois and the personal accounts of his students and family members

It’s a new habit of mine lately to scan the table of contents first and to jump straight to the part which catches my interest first. Naturally, I zoomed in onto Saraswathi’s interview. I think Donahaye and Stern did an awesome job in keeping her answers in its most original form, edited only as much as is required, but still allowing her voice to come through. Because it certainly felt that way. Reading it was like listening to her talking at the Sanskrit College in October when she and Sharath were invited as honorary guests for their contribution towards spreading the light (and method) of yoga.

I remembered the first time I had ever seen her in person. In Brickfields when she was in Kuala Lumpur for her 2014 Asia tour. My journey with Ashtanga yoga then was new, and I wanted to find out what the hype was all about being able to practice with immediate family members of Shri K Pattabhi Jois. I remembered a room packed with people so early on into the morning, and the gentle rhythm of chanting from the temple nearby. When I saw her it wasn’t really anything special. She struck me as a regular woman. And though it may be anti-climactic in that sense, there was an energy that emanates from her and throughout that entire LED class. I didn’t know what it was or exactly which moment in that entire class that made me realise I wanted to spend an extended period of time practicing with her, but I knew that very night I will be headed to Mysore sometime in the year just so I could practice in her class again.

In an earlier account somewhere in this blog, I wrote about the first 2 weeks in Mysore being filled with a combination of confusion and disappointment. I loved being close to her but that persistent thought of “I learn more and progress more at home with other teachers then here” was the main theme at least for those first few days. Week 3 & 4 was when the magic took hold and I began to understand that learning and progress occurs in so many other ways that the traditional method of learning I grew up with.

My experience of her are fond and warm, very much like a warm embrace of coming home. Even when I barely knew anything about her personal life aside from the fact that she is the daughter of Pattabhi Jois and the mother of Sharath Jois. I remembered at the end of my first practice in KPJAYI when she stood next to me, leaning against the rows of pictures lined up on one side of the shala, and casually asking me where I had come from. “Malaysia”, I said and her face lit up and immediately peppered me with questions about Ganesh and his wife.

There is a firmness in her touch, yet a kindness that follows through closely behind that. The only adjustment I would ever get from her are the rare support in Utthita Padangusthasana, and at the end in Shirshasana. One morning she called me to stand next to C, who was also about to enter into her Utthita Padangusthasana and made us complete that posture next to each other while holding our legs steady with both of her hands. I wished someone had took a photo of that! C and I laughed about that all throughout breakfast admiring her skills at multitasking all these students in her shala.

If anyone ever catches her eyes, there is a kind of gentle humor that resides in the depths of her soul. It’s like a gentle crinkle of the eyes and a smile that is just there for no reason at all. A day before Diwali, she was in class adjusting as usual, singing to her favorite songs. By then I’ve developed the habit of occupying my thoughts and movements within the perimeters of my mat but the strange voice of a woman humming eventually made me realised it was her singing. It was only when she stood in front of me, I realised she had an earphone in one ear and walking around with an iPod too.

It was luck that my stay there somehow coincide with that event at the Sanskrit College because that night, while she was giving her speech, was the first time I realised her immense contribution not just within the circle of Ashtanga practicing community but beyond that as a woman. I don’t know if she ever realised this, but being the first female Sanskrit scholar (largely thanks to Pattabhi Jois’ insistence as well that women should receive equal education) and later the first and perhaps the only yoga teacher at the time to be teaching Ashtanga to a mixed group of men and women opened up space to reconstruct, expand or even reimagine the role of women within the Indian society. I believe, her exposure in the Western world helped reinforce her presence within the social fabrics of the traditional Mysorean family life. Reading her accounts of having neighbours and family members giving her grief for moving back to Mysore after having her 2 kids while her husband was away working with Tata Motors was heartbreaking nonetheless.

I have been blessed to be introduced to yoga through so many other wonderful beings. The journey that started if at all by chance all the way back in 2003, and the amazing souls I had met and learned from since then is responsible in its own way for allowing me to be where I am today. Those that we learn from, especially in isolation for long extended period of times (as in committed to one teacher at one time) undoubtedly leaves its mark within us. The way they speak, adjust, teach and sometimes think eventually and to a certain extent is reflected in the way that we speak and teach. And that I believe is the most beautiful outcome from a student-teacher relationship.

At the end of her interview for this book she said:

When your mind is strong you stay with one teacher (…) when you meet the right one, you will know in your heart

Before I left, some of the more common topics circulating around the breakfast table in Mysore was “would you come back to practice with Saraswathi or would you try Sharath?”. My answer was always the same, to practice with Saraswathi for as long as she is around. Because I know in the depths of my heart that I would miss no other teacher more than I do for her.

Contemplating on Tbilisi..Tbili..what? – Day 2 Pre & Post Natal TTC


Day 2 of Pre & Post Natal TTC. We had a quick recap of yesterday’s module, and Haika joined the group. I remembered one of the teachers whose studio I go to once in a while mentioned that the yoga circle in Malaysia is really not all that big. It is in fact very small. And you will end up seeing/hearing the same names over and over again. And to prove that, Haika turns out to be one of the Yin Yoga teacher that used to teach at Upward in Saujana. Unfortunately though, she is currently in the process of moving back to Germany with her husband, so you won’t be able to find her there any longer.

Yesterday, Jaq (as one of the girls called her today which I thought was both informal and rather cool) broached the subject of having me teach and manage her studio in Tbilisi. I knew apart from the one here, Sun Yoga has another ‘branch’ all the way in Tbilisi. Except at that point I didn’t know where this city is apart from the fact that it has a very pretty nice ring to its name.

I have been restless for a while now having been in this country for the last 5 years with no real “move” in between. Of course this has always been the country and the place to which I will always call home, but the feeling that I am growing roots when my wings are yearning to flap and fly away is quite a feeling to decipher. So when the idea to jump on a plane, pick up and move to Tbilisi is presented right at my feet, I had to use my energy to keep myself from pouncing on it immediately.

Clearly there are more things to be worked out before any real move can happen. But my research of the city and country so far has made me even more keen. And having Jaq stopped momentarily during class yesterday to hand me Sun Yoga Tbilisi card and say “Here, I think this is meant for you. It keeps falling off my notebook all day long, it must be a sign” and today when I was asking around for change of coins to stock up on the parking meter and she pulls out a Georgian coin and goes “oh wait that’s a Georgian coin, ah there you go! Must be a sign”.

Coincidental? Perhaps. The question is now what do I do with my current life here? 6 months is the minimum should I agree to go, with a prospect of staying for a year. A whole year! Of adventure and travels to neighboring countries which by the way includes Turkey. At the same time, a prospect of learning the ropes to run a studio, a juice bar AND teach at the same time. I mean wow, this is like a tailored gift for my belated birthday!

Ok right. Day 2 Pre & Post Natal TTC. Where were we?

We got to draw stick men on mahjong paper, as we come up with poses specific for the first, second & third trimesters. We learned the basic sequence of a prenatal class irrespective of audience and how far along they may be in their pregnancy is spinal health. I had lines drawn in green marker pen all along my back and neck to demonstrate to the class of the trapezius muscles. I was enlightened of ALL the wonderful and not so wonderful things pregnancy does to a woman’s body. With so many complications, I wondered briefly in that entire time how any woman can voluntary and even YEARN to subject themselves through these phases in order to have a child of their own. Perhaps something that I can only  understand when the time comes for me to be wanting the same things. Perhaps an understanding that I will only gain when I see the faces of potential mothers and to-be mothers attend my prenatal class flushed with the glow of pregnancy and excited of the future to come.

The most important takeaway for Day 2 is – for a woman to be healthy and minimise the complications arising from pregnancy as much as possible, is to build strength and fitness way before she intends to conceive. That does not mean 1 or 2 months before you gear on your baby making skills, but preparation for that should happen at least 1 year before a couple plans to conceive. Even though you could technically make a baby overnight (given that timing is perfectly done so) you can’t build strong muscles nor gain strength in one day. So ladies, enrol yourself in some form of fitness program much earlier before talks of starting a family even begins. My biased suggestion would of course to start yoga, whether it be strict regimes of Ashtanga or a fast free flowing Vinyasa, these can only do your body good in the long run, with or without a baby on its way.

Happy Baby Pose! .. oh you mean this is actually a yoga pose?