Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yoga for Scoliosis with Viviane

After the Ashtanga Led class at Beyoga this morning, I stayed on for the Karma Yoga class after I met the guest teacher, Viviane De Doncker who told my sister and me that she specialises in yoga for scoliosis. My sister had met her at the ladies shower room after her Pilates class and had told Viviane about having back problems and Viviane had asked my sister to bend over for her to check her spine. Viviane told my sister that she has scoliosis which causes an abnormal curve of the spine.

In the class, Viviane took us through poses like the cow and cat stretch, pelvis tilt, cow face pose, seated side stretches and downward facing dog which she told us would help us to balance our spine if they are done correctly and regularly.

Although the cat and cow stretch and pelvis tilt are simple poses, it was an awareness practice and movement sequence where we stretch muscles that have tightened and strengthen muscles that have become weak from the imbalance of our spine.

While doing the seated side stretches, I noticed that one of my hips tend to lift up as I overstretched myself. Viviane came over to press my hip down and told me to keep my ribs slightly pulled down so as to lengthen the spine.

For the downward facing dog pose, Viviane got us to partner up and we were told to loop a strap around the hips of our partner while she is in downward facing dog. As we pull the strap up and away, this helps our partner moves her hips up and away from her shoulders while releasing the heads of her thigh bones deeper into her pelvis as well as lengthening her torso. We were also taught to wrap our fingers under our partner hips to lift their hips up and shift their weight back to the center giving them a deeper stretch.

There were eight of us in the class and Viviane told us that she could see that all of us were having scoliosis as we tend to lean to one side when we were doing the poses. Scoliosis may cause the head to appear off center or one hip or shoulder to be higher than the opposite side.

Yoga for scoliosis requires us to have inner awareness; to accept the imperfection of our body and to feel where our body needs realignment and balance to find back our center.

I am very glad that I did not miss this special class with Viviane and with the other practitioners asking Viviane if she will be doing any more classes, I hope that Beyoga will have Viviane come to teach more classes at the studio.

Viviane De Doncker took her first yoga class over 25 years ago and has been teaching since 1997. Viviane believes each student is a unique individual and that this uniqueness is a cause for celebration, rather than a source of frustration. Her classes integrate the principles of alignment and technical precision to ensure a safe practice, while concentration and enthusiasm are cultivated through the use of breath and well-and-lesser-known bandhas.

When Viviane first started teaching Yoga in Singapore, she was strongly drawn towards Vinyasa, and she was the first teacher to offer it there. This style of Yoga was at that time not really considered ‘serious’ Yoga, but to everyone’s surprise, students liked her Vinyasa classes. Today, many teachers in Singapore offer Vinyasa and Ashtanga Yoga classes, and it has become one of the most popular styles of Yoga in Singapore.

During her years of teaching, Viviane became very interested in the physical transformation which can be achieved through Yoga and its effects on the spine. She has worked intensively with students suffering from back problems and over the last couple of years, she has been focusing on students suffering from Scoliosis and she is currently conducting specialised courses and classes for them and have obtained some very encouraging results, which have been established medically.

Viviane has also conducted workshops for students and Yoga instructors (including Vinyasa, Back Care and Scoliosis) in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Up Close and Personal with Azmi Samdjaga

Those of you who have been following my blog, would know that Azmi Samdjaga is one of my two favourite yoga teachers and I have written some posts about my practice with him.

Azmi often shares the grace of his practice with his students in his classes.

Recently, I had a chat with Azmi and managed to get him to talk about his favourite subject; Yoga (what else!) as well as provide some advice to yoga beginners.

How long have you been practicing yoga and what made you take up yoga and become a yoga teacher?

This is my 12th year into my practice. Yoga came to me by accident. I had missed an aerobics class at the gym and having traveled all the way from home, I just wanted a workout and a Yoga class was the only thing that was available. And I thought I had never sweated as profusely ever before. I hated the class because it was too hard. But when I came back 4 months later with no expectations, I felt a sense of uplift, totally invigorated and felt so light! Since then, I got addicted and I kept going because it had just kept me on my toes, feeling healthy and refresh every time after each class. It has since taught me how to be more tolerant, embrace kindness and accept things the way they are. More than anything, I learned how to be detached of negativities and letting things go the positive way and also it has taught me how to be still and calm in a challenging situation. And the only way I can share this beauty is to teach. In my 8th year of practicing, I decided to get formal training and became a teacher.

Very often in class, you would say that it takes more for a practitioner to come to a resting pose with the class still going on then someone going into a difficult pose, can you elaborate more on this?

The common thing about a human trait is, wanting to excel, wanting to be good at everything we do and getting intimidated by people who do. So more often than not, we push ourselves hard and force ourselves to do things that we don’t normally do. In the end we hurt ourselves physically and emotionally. It's so easy and common to do that but it takes great humility to actually accept and understand yourself to step back and observe than to try and look like everybody else, afraid of being seen less able and weak. To have the humility to show weakness in front of everyone is very humble.

What advice would you give to a yoga beginner and how should they progress in their practice?

My advice would be for practitioners to try as many different classes as possible and from as many teachers until you find one that you can connect with. Meaning, one you can relate the instructions to, one you feel comfortable with and most importantly, how the class had made you feel after practicing. Find one that made you feel great after the practice. Stay consistent and practice regularly to achieve that change in energy. Also being consistent is the only way for you to see progress in your practice. Once you find that you do not feel the change or satisfied after a class, that is when you should decide on taking your practice to the next level. You will soon notice that with each practice you find new length, new destination and new joy.

You can read more about Azmi from Interview with Azmi at

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Yoga Pose For The Month - Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II is my yoga pose for the month of November. This pose may seem easy but many practitioners are not doing this pose correctly. They tend to lean forward or have their knees buckling to the centre causing the hips to be not properly aligned.

Warrior II is a very good pose for strengthening and stretching the legs, ankles, shoulders and arms. It enhances balance on both sides of the body, expands the chest, encourages deeper breathing and improves coordination and concentration.

Doing the Pose

1. Stand in Tadasana. With an exhalation, step or lightly jump your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down.

2. Turn your right foot in slightly to the right and your left foot out to the left 90 degrees. Align the left heel with the right heel. Firm your thighs and turn your left thigh outward so that the center of the left knee cap is in line with the center of the left ankle.

3. Exhale and bend your left knee over the left ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the left thigh parallel to the floor. Anchor this movement of the left knee by strengthening the right leg and pressing the outer right heel firmly to the floor.

4. Stretch the arms away from the space between the shoulder blades, parallel to the floor. Don't lean the torso over the left thigh: Keep the sides of the torso equally long and the shoulders directly over the pelvis. Press the tailbone slightly toward the pubis. Turn the head to the left and look out over the fingers.

5. Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time to the left.

Points to note

In the pose, the hips remain open and you keep the hip of the back leg from creeping forward by rotating the upper thigh outwards.

The knee is pointing the same direction as the toes, and is directly over the ankle. If the knee of the bent leg is extending beyond the ankle, walk your foot forward to take unnecessary pressure off of the ankle.

Ensure that your shoulders are in line with your hips and slightly drop the shoulders away from the ears.

See video below on How to do the Warrior 2 pose.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beyoga Year-End Promotion

It is going to be Christmas soon and if you are thinking of what present to give to your partner, how about a yoga membership at one of the best yoga studios in Malaysia? Beyoga is having a year-end promotion where they are offering 1-month limited membership at RM100.00 (normal price is RM288). The offer is valid from 16 November to 15 December 2009 for the first 100 sign-ups only.

Beyoga which is located at Metropolitan Square in Damansara Perdana offers a variety of classes which include vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, yogilates, chi-lates, hot yoga, yin yoga, yoga dance, partner yoga, kds yoga and prenatal yoga. You can check Beyoga website for the classes details and time-table.

The strong line-up of teachers which include Azmi, Lila, Ninie, Matthew, Robert and Ken whose dedication and love for yoga has inspired so many students including me in our yoga practice.

You can contact Beyoga at 03-7728 6182 / 7729 6182 to learn more and be part of the Be Yoga family and hurry! before the 100 sign-ups are gone.

By the way, Beyoga is having a "BREATHS, BANDHAS & DRISHTIS" workshop with Azmi Samdjaga this Saturday, 21 November 2009 at 9.00 am to 12.00 noon. You can call them up to check if there are still any seats available.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fashionable Yoga Mat Bags 2

I had previously blog about fashionable yoga mat bags and posted the pics of some of them. These yoga mat bags can hold more than your yoga mat and can be used for outings as well.

Recently, I came across a website which sells designer Yoga & Pilates mat bags featuring high quality fabrics, chic design details, and luxe satin lining. The mission of the company is to make workouts another reason to look and feel amazing because the better she looks, the better she feels and the better she will perform.

The creator of the yoga bag line is a busy Pilates Instructor who truly understands the functional needs of a proper mat carrier. The bags are specifically designed to be an all-in-one travel tote with a medley of accessories pockets on the inside, easy to reach water bottle holders on the outside, and a strong golden zipper to keep your mat and workout essentials safely in place.

You can check out the whole collection at where you will find these lovely bags with bows, sparkles and brocades. Just read their shipping policy and they accept international orders outside of the US. So if you are a fashionista of fitness, you can always order one!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Yoga Adjustments

I just came across an article about a man suing a yoga studio in Boulder, California over an unwanted adjustment in class. This leads me to thinking about how I feel whenever the teachers come to adjust me. For me, it is a matter of trust; I would only allow an experienced teacher to adjust me as I would have confidence that he or she would not pushed me beyond my body’s limit which might end up injuring me. Teachers do adjustments by using their hands and sometimes even their body to help with your alignment or to get you deeper into a pose. If you are not comfortable to being touched, tell the teacher before the start of the class. And if you feel pain during an adjustment, tell the teacher to ease off or stop.

As I have been practicing with Azmi and Lila for so long now, they have got to know my body very well as they know how much deeper to push my body into a pose and when I need help to get an extra stretch. During an adjustment by the teacher, it is very important that you work with your breath as it creates awareness. You become more in tune with your body and you will find yourself going deeper into the pose as you relax. A good adjustment should not cause you tension and pain. If you feel your breath getting shallow, jagged or held, it is your body telling you that you have gone beyond your limit as the body will tighten to protect itself. Always listen to your body, no matter what the teacher might say as you will only benefit from the yoga asanas if you feel good in them. There is good pain and bad pain doing a yoga asana. A good pain is one where you stretch beyond your comfort zone and challenge yourself to explore your flexibility while a bad pain is one where you go beyond your body's limit and end up injuring yourself.

“Practicing asanas began to teach me about myself. The body is such a great school of learning. It makes you pay attention.” Lilias Folan

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guided Relaxation for Savasana

Although I have been doing yoga for more than 2 years now, I still find difficulty being fully relaxed in savasana (corpse pose). I had previously written on savasana being the most difficult pose to do. Click link to read more.

In savasana, our mind tends to wander and instead of being fully relaxed, sometimes we let in thoughts that would affect our emotions. This is especially so when you have a bad day in the office and during savasana, your mind will be going through the events of the day and instead of being fully relaxed, you might end up feeling more agitated.

In savasana, we are told to still our mind and let go of our body, but I wonder how many of us can really do that. I find that as I listened to the instructions of the teacher and even when my body is at its most relaxed state, fragments of thought still continue to interfere and cling to my mind.

I have heard from some practitioners that they have dozed off during savasana and have dreams and sometimes, I can even hear someone snoring.

In savasana, you first have let go of your body until it is so relaxed that you need not be aware of it anymore. There are many different ways to relax your body. You can mentally scan your body from the toes up, for muscle tension and ordering each muscle to relax. Or you can actually tense up each muscle group - the toes, the right leg, left leg, hips and buttocks, abdomen, etc, and let them go, one by one, until your whole body is relaxed. The next step is to focus on the breath by merely observing your breath. The breathing should come as naturally as your heartbeat and feel in tune with the rhythms of your body and then let that go too. Finally, the most difficult part is the ability to detach yourself from your thoughts. You have to learn to let your thoughts float by and observe how it will slow down and even stop. When you have really let go and there is no tightness in the chest, throat or head, you will experience just a whisper that hints at true bliss. Keep a touch of that blissful feeling inside of you as you slowly come out from savasana. Awaken your body bit by bit by wiggling your toes and circling your fingers and when you rollover on your side, take your time and take a few deep breaths.

Don’t worry if you are still having difficulty doing savasana as it takes time and practice and even seasoned yogis cannot perform savasana at its fullest. But as you develop this skill of detachment, you are increasing your capacity for inner peace and knowing.

Listen to the audio recording below for a guided relaxation savasana practice.

Audio | Guided Relaxation

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sweating It Out With Hot Yoga

Hot Yoga class has not been one of the classes that I would like to go to but Beyoga had recently started the Hot Yoga classes and with Lila teaching the Saturday morning class at 9.00 a.m, my sister and I decided to join the class last Saturday and yesterday.

Hot Yoga is conducted in a heated room and promotes profuse sweating, which is believed to help rid the body of toxins.

For the two classes I attended, Lila had started the class with a breathing exercise. Last week's breathing exercise was Standing Deep Breathing while yesterday’s class started with Kapalabathi. These pranayama exercises helps to cleanse our body and brings fresh oxygenated blood into the body. I felt a bit light-headed while doing the breathing exercises as I was not used to the heated room and doing the pranayama exercises after such a long time (I have done them while practicising in YZ). Lila had advised us to stop if we felt dizzy but I felt alright after a while and managed to complete the 2 rounds of the breathing exercises.

After the breathing exercise, Lila guided us through some standing, stretching, balancing and forward bending poses which included different variations of the chair pose and balancing stick pose. The poses are quite challenging but the heated environment helps us to go deeper in the pose as the heat helps to warm and stretch our muscles and makes us more flexible. After the standing poses, we laid down on our stomach and did poses that help to strengthen our backs such as the sphinx, locust and bow pose. After doing some twisting poses, the class ended with savasana, the total relaxation or corpse pose.

I find the hot yoga class quite draining when it ended and last week, my sister and I had actually signed up for Azmi’s Hatha class after the Hot Yoga class, but we had to skip the class as we were too exhausted to continue another class. So it was also just one class for us yesterday.

The surprising thing about doing the Hot Yoga class is that after taking my shower, my energy level came back and I actually felt good throughout the day (I went shopping last week and yesterday after the class and did not feel tired).

Here are some tips when attending a Hot Yoga class:-

- Bring a towel to mop off your sweat as you will be sweating profusely in the heated room.
- Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after class so you don't get dehydrated.
-Rest in child’s pose if you feel dizzy and then join back the class when you feel better.
- Let your body cool down first before taking your shower.

Some practitioners like to go to the Hot Yoga class as they think that it will help them to loose weight which is a debatable issue. For myself, I will go to the Hot Yoga class once in a while to get rid of the toxins in my body and moreover, Hot yoga is considered to help correct and improve sleep patterns, promote better digestion, improve cardiovascular functions and metabolism.