Tag Archives: Evolution

“Fear in itself, will reel you in and spit you out, over and over again”

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I’m getting some worthwhile music education lately from all the time spent in my car stuck in traffic. This one is Blue October that seems to be gaining frequent airtime lately. Don’t mind the guy that is screaming into the sea. I think he’s just letting go some of his own fear while shooting for this video.

I have been dwelling on the idea of fear since I heard this song. Perpetuated by some conversations that transpired during and after my yoga classes this week. There is a woman that comes in the morning at a small studio in the quiet neighbourhood of Shah Alam. Amongst the many obvious emotions I see surfacing up is fear. And though this is quite common to observe as someone who leads the class, it is also one of the most valuable lessons there is to learn about the human mind and its instinctual abilities to react to the unknown.

Across the spectrum of human emotions, fear is one that I remember growing up with a lot – fear of doing something wrong, fear of not bringing back the good grades, fear of watching the eldest brother ‘pay’ for having the courage to thread around the edges of ‘something wrong’ and a fear, I clearly remembered as a child sitting at the top of a slide, and frozen in place because I was so afraid to slide down.

Lately I have realised, with the recent shoulder discomfort in my Ashtanga practice that fear is like the shadow which exist at the heels of pain. Where there is pain and discomfort, there is a level of fear attached to it. Similarly, beyond the physical pain, where there is emotional suffering, fear would present itself in one form or another. That same question that popped in my head during practice at Dynamics about 2 weeks ago, how far should I go into this posture? How far beyond the pain should I be looking at in order to finish my practice today? and that motherload question of “AM I EVEN MODIFYING THIS CORRECTLY?!” became a daily conversation I have with myself while on the mat since this whole little adventure into discomfort started.

Because everything is an adventure isn’t it? Even the most uncomfortable ones always bring you down a road of discovery; revealing more about the world and its infinite perspectives. Sometimes your role as the observer, the outsider who is not even feeling these range of emotions is enough to teach you a thing or two. I remembered a conversation with I, who had assisted me into a backbend one morning when he said “I could feel your fear coming into that backbend. It was really cool!” I can tell you it was NOT cool to be the one dropping back, never quite sure whether I will break my back on the way down or slam my head on the floor or both, but it made me realised how precious these moments of vulnerability are in forming our understanding of ourselves and those around us.

Usually having been in the same shoes before makes it all that easier to empathise. So each time I see some students hovering their toes on the floor on top of their head, surrounded by hesitation, and that inevitable fear of breaking their neck, I let them explore this dimension while I stand behind them for assurance. And even as this one fear is eventually conquered, there are plenty more that each of us will come across over and over again, whether it be within the series or off the mat. Even as we think we merge as ‘victorious’ having finally crossed over that valley of fear, there must be a constant abiding knowledge that there are many more similar valleys to be crossed. Because as long as there remain possibilities of pain, injury, or emotional suffering, there will always be more of these dimension for us to plunge into with the sole purpose of revealing more of our inner world to ourselves.

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Dusting off the cobwebs

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OK so it has been over a year since my last entry. Whoever coined the term “time flies” .. they are NOT kidding at all. A person whom I am currently in business with, and who also has just completed her 200hr TTC at Vikasa commented recently that I should write more often and take this to a different level. It’s not that I have completely given up on writing, if in fact I have started writing in other places and this little corner unfortunately got a little neglected in the process.

A lot has happened and many changes has taken place since May 2013. Wow..May 2013. Just typing that out sends a little shudder down my spine because a year is certainly not a short time. If I had just 3 words to summarize my 16-month long absence from the blogosphere it would be “Everything is perfect”. Perfect in every sense, in every way that it is meant to be as it is today.

September 2013

In September of last year, I fought for (well ok a little, everything seems like a fight when you are in a big corporate setting it seems) and received a life changing international project. It sent me to Vietnam. To the city of Danang to be exact. I had always wanted to work as an external consultant to an NGO on a pro-bono basis. And I had also always wanted to experience what it’s really like to live and work outside of my own country for an extended period of time. Yes – the apt word for that would be as an expatriate.

It was to be the one project which not only allowed me to cross off the last final items off my list that I had wanted to achieve, experience and learn from as a management consultant, it was also the most valuable project that changed my perspective on the environment, my role within this world, my capabilities to achieve an infinite number of things that matter to me and creating real, genuine connections. I ran my first project all by myself, I worked with a number of French people who spoke in French a lot to each other which I’ve come to find addictive as I love the language, even though I can only understand maybe 5% of what was actually spoken, I volunteered to run yoga classes to a group of young Vietnamese adults. I later added 2 words to my limited Vietnamese vocabulary which was the equivalent to “Inhale” and “Exhale” in their language. I learned the power of body language surpasses all language limitations. I experienced my first major typhoon and the power of God that can so easily rip through the entire city in just one night. I was in a town that was on CNN and BBC for the entire week when Typhoon Haiyan was predicted to hit the city directly after it ravaged through Philippines. And I learned what it feels like to be in the path of Mother Nature’s wrath, and be in a place where curfews was put in place to ensure the safety of its people.

Most importantly, I learned that you can experience deep kindness and compassion from your client on your work, and my time there showed me what an immense amount of passion, curiosity, and the desire to help can truly do to ones own career and experience in life. 

Nothing after that, work-wise at least felt the same once I returned back to homebase.

February 2014

So in February of this year, after many sleepless nights, lots of conversations, and discussions of the same thing over and over again, countless hours of contemplation and endless prayers to be guided onto my next path in life, I made the decision to finally leave my corporate job. It was one of the most difficult and scariest decision I had ever had to make. The day I decided to have that conversation with the big people, my mouth went completely dry a full hour before the meeting took place. But once the conversation started, it felt like the most natural thing to do. I told them I wanted to go back to school. Traditional Chinese Medicine. The art of healing had always been close to my heart. So had the idea of taking my yoga teachings on a full time basis. I wanted to do both. I had a plan. Teach yoga full time for 7 months. Then commence school for a 5-year full time study. Some colleagues were amazed and encouraging, but I am pretty sure many more think I’ve gone bonkers instead.

That didn’t mean I danced and skipped my way into the non-corporate life. For a whole week after my last day at work, I woke up with a racing heart, thinking “okayyy, what if I can’t make as much as I did before? What if I can’t feed myself from my work as a full time Yoga Instructor?”

May 2014

Late April, a friend from high school connected me with her friend, a person who owned a yoga studio and was about to open another close to where I live. I was given first dibs into that new studio’s schedule that was opening in May, and asked to teach a few sessions to sub other teachers. I went from a maximum of 3-4 classes in a week to 21 classes a week. 

And though that was good for exposure, I did not anticipate the kind of energy that is required to back up a really intense teaching schedule such as that. I was sick for a short while (I believe the consistent yoga practice helped cut the down time and made it wayyy shorter) and powered through 2 classes pretending to be ok when I was really already running a slight fever by that time. The idea of self-care didn’t quite embedded itself deeply in me until that incident. 

Today

Mind Body Breath, the company which I founded was registered sometime in June. Today there are 2 parts to Mind Body Breath, personal, group and corporate yoga which I am responsible of, and personal fitness training program that my sister is currently running with much success as word of mouth spread. As an older sister, I am so absolutely proud of her.

Mind Body Breath has been featured in Healthworks.my with my articles on yoga. 2 of them were published in a national newspaper. In July, I was interviewed by one of the national news and it aired in earlier this month. A few days ago, I received a call from one of the female lifestyle magazine who wants to feature yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle. A lot of times throughout, I had to stop everything that I was doing for a little while, and breathe through the whole surreality of it.

A few months back, I was accepted as an apprentice with Ninie Ahmad, a yoga instructor whom I had always admired and been to her class before many times. She was mentioned in one of my earlier posts here. That whole experience was amazing. To be surrounded by like minded people, felt like I was back in Vikasa in 2012. A few of us now meet once every week, and talk about everything and anything yoga and the healthy natural lifestyle. Next month, I start teaching at her studio too.

On the business front, I became a partner to a cute and hippie yoga studio that first took me in May. I was actually invited to join 2 others to expand the first studio opened in Damansara Perdana. The studio is known as YogaonethatIwant. And just yesterday, we ran our first official event with Clarins in the newly renovated and expanded studio. I am infinitely blessed. 

One of the things that held me back in the corporate world was the family that I had found in all of the people whom I had shared many projects with. I didn’t want to leave a family behind. But I realised, you don’t ever leave a family once you have become part of it. We still keep in touch regularly. I see a select few on an almost weekly basis. In allowing myself to explore the rest of the world outside of the comforts of what I had come to know as my reality then, I have unknowingly become part of 2 new major families that are different in so many ways, yet alike when it comes to our love of yoga.

In October, I will make my first trip to India and finally dive in a month long Ashtanga practice with Saraswathi in Mysore. India had come to be on my list of places to visit since after Vikasa, to make that trip to the place of origin for all things Yoga. In November, I will be running 2 workshops at a national level Yoga Festival in Kuala Lumpur. 

And so here I am. In writing all of these, it is in no way of me to shout and scream about my achievements. If in fact, it is an exercise which I wish to undertake to allow me to reflect back on how far I have come since my last post here. It is a blessing in and of itself to be able to wake up feeling inherently blessed for everything you have got going on in your life.

 

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