Thursday, June 30, 2011

Just For Now

Just for Now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness.

Just for now, lay down the weight you so patiently bear upon your shoulders. Feel the earth receive you, and the infinite expanse of the sky grow even wider as your awareness reaches up to meet it.

Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience. Breathe out whatever blocks you from the truth.

Just for now,be boundless, free, with awakened energy tingling in your hands and feet.

Drink in the possibility of being who and what you really are – so fully alive that the world looks different, newly born and vibrant, just for now. ~ Danna Faulds

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ashtanga Yoga Opening and Closing Chants

The Opening chant is a blessing of gratitude offered to the lineage of teachers and their students who have enabled this ancient practice to survive through thousands of years so that we can experience its benefits today. The recitation of this mantra cleanses the energy of the space we have chosen to practice yoga, as well as preparing the mind, body and emotions for the forthcoming Ashtanga sequence.

Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
Abahu Purushakaram
Shankhacakrsi Dharinam
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
Pranamami Patanjalim


I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).

Closing Chant

The Closing chant brings the practice to a peaceful end; sealing in the work done and offering the efforts of our practice to improve the state of the world.

Svasthi Praja Bhyaha Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mahim Mahishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubamastu Nityam
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi


May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations.
May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Om peace, peace, perfect peace

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Do You Practice?

Have you ever ask yourself "WHY DO YOU PRACTICE?"   What was your intention when you first started doing yoga and has it changed?  Do you ask yourself why you are not able to come up to a certain pose after you have been  practicing for a long time?

Azmi has written a post on Why Do You Practice? UTMOST IMPORTANCE! at his blog.  He wrote that people move away from their original intention of doing yoga which  may be to alleviate back pain, relieve from stress or become flexible and instead of searching in their own bodies and understanding its capacity, end up injuring themselves as they push, fight and force their way to be who they are not. 

Last Saturday, I attended Azmi's Ashtanga Led class and there were quite a few beginners in the class.  During the sun salutation sequence, Azmi was instructing them to do knees chest and chin pose but I could still see some of them struggling to do chaturanga instead.   Often, instructions from the teacher are being ignored although it is given for their benefit.
T.K.V. Desikachar had written in his book "The Heart of Yoga - Developing A Personal Practice" that "Yoga means acting in such a way that all our attention is directed towards the activity in which we are currently engaged.   The advantage of attentiveness is that we practice each task better and at the same time are conscious of our actions.   When we are attentive to our action we are not prisoners to our habits.  There is a possibility of considering our actions fresh and so avoiding thoughtless repetition".

So the next time you practice, set your intention and be aware and attentive whether your actions are in line with your intention. 

Azmi is doing a workshop on "Finding Your Peace In Your Practice" at My Yoga Sanctuary this Saturday, 25 June 2011 from 2.00 pm till 4.30 pm.  This Anchors and Foundation Workshop will benefit you tremendously in terms of your techniques, breathing, postures and etc.  It also intends to especially help beginners who are earnest in pursuing their yoga practice by learning a great deal about grounding foundations, the feet, which by far the most important entity in coming to a posture and also finding anchors so to allow you to move deeper in a posture. 

You can check out more details about the workshop at My Yoga Sanctuary website and call My Yoga Sanctuary at tel no. 018-355 3676 to book  a place for the workshop.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inspiring Yoga Teacher

"When I look at life I see two options. Either to participate in my own inner development, through awareness and practice, and allow grace to take over or to just get up and go on with the day, where the subtle law of gravity takes over. Go away for a year and leave your car in your driveway. No care or attention given to it. Come back and examine its state. It will have deteriorated no matter what. But if someone is to start the engine every few days and polish it it will work pretty similar to the level at when you left. It, however, is a mechanical device and can't be changed in its current state. We on the other hand are conscious organic beings. When we work on ourselves we not only keep ourselves fresh but we grow." - Paul Dallaghan from his article "Why Do I Practice?" at Centred Yoga website.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Yoga Class Sucks, Do You Stay or Leave?

This post came about after a discussion last night between Azmi and some of my fellow practitioners.

Your regular teacher is away and you still want to go for your yoga class knowing that the class will be taught by a replacement teacher whose class you have already been to and have never enjoyed.  You feel yourself getting agitated in the class as you don’t like the way the poses are being taught and wish you were somewhere else. What do you do?

There are two choices here...1. You can leave the class or 2. You can stay.

During the discussion, it was agreed that it is better to excuse yourself and leave the class as you are showing respect both to your body and to the teacher by letting him or her know that you feel the class is not suitable for you. If you choose to stay in the class but shows your displeasure by fidgeting around and are reluctant to do the poses, you are disturbing the other practitioners as well as causing more harm to your body.

After giving it some thought, my response is to come back to our intention of why we came for the class in the first place. If you already know that you will not like the way the replacement teacher is going to teach the class, why did you come to the class? If your intention is to have a workout or just because you have already paid for the class, it would have been better not to come to the class as you are setting yourself up for disappointment when your expectations are not met.

However, if your intention is to have a yoga practice, it is even more pertinent that you stay in the class. By staying, it will allow you to work on issues with yourself as yoga teaches us to deal with our emotions. As we find and go back into our own centers, we begin to take more responsibility for the anger, criticism, judgments and expectations we project onto others. We learn to take a step back and open our minds to new possibilities and along the way, we might learn something new from the class; be it a new technique to go into the pose or just a change in our attitude.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Evolution and Personal Transformation


When I first started writing this post, it was to be a daily account of the classes I had went to at the 5th Evolution Asia Yoga Conference which I attended from 9 till 12 June 2011 in Hong Kong.   I have decided instead to write a post about my feelings towards my own practice after attending the conference and some of the things I have learned and insights I have gained from the conference.

My intention when I decided to register for the conference was to find out how I could deepen my practice by attending the various workshops in the conference.  However, at the back of my mind, I was also thinking that by attending the conference, I would be able to jump into a handstand immediately after learning the Shakti and Siva kicks from Sadie Nardini at the conference and being able do a perfect backbend after attending Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman’s workshop on Sequencing for Backbends.

What I learned instead was that my practice has only been scratching the surface of yoga where I have only been concentrating on the asana aspect of the practice whereby being able to do the pose has taken more prominence. 

The teachers at the conference have shown that yoga has to be learned from the inside out, where awareness on what is happening in our body; being aware of our limitations without judging them, sensing how our breathing ties with the pose and finding a place of inner calm will bring us closer to realizing our inner self.

In the classes I attended at the conference, the teachers all emphasized on the anatomy as knowing the body mechanics will help us to find the optimal alignment to maximize the benefits of the yoga practice.

In the David Life’s Twist All Night class, he talked about knowing the geometry in the asana which will create a feeling of stability in the mind.  When we mindfully place our hands and legs in the asana to the shape of the asana in relationship to the earth, it will help us to feel grounded.  When doing a twisting pose, we can visualize two equal spirals moving in opposite directions; one moving upwards as we inhale to lift the spine and the other moving downwards as we exhale to twist.

In Rodney Yee’s class, he talked about Prana and Apana which are two complementary movements coming from the core of the body.   The prana controls inhaling; it is felt as an upward floating, branching, and flowering pattern. Its home is the core of the heart. The apana controls exhaling. It is the downward rooting flow, which contracts, or tones, into a seed point at the center of the pelvic floor. 

With each breath we take, prana and apana organize the movement of bones and muscles. Prana lengthens, or extends, the spine (as in a backbend) and brings the legs into internal rotation; apana rounds, or flexes, the spine (as in a forward bend) and rotates the legs externally.

Rodney also pointed out the importance of the dristhi as we move in the asana to keep us from going all over the place. When we let our eyes wander, we create distractions that lead us to stumble and lose our balance in the pose. 

I attended three of Sadie Nardini’s classes and in each of them, Sadie started the class by going through some basic anatomy.  She told us about the multiple head-to-toe interconnecting lines of muscle that make up our innermost support system and how using the Deep Core Lines along the skeleton, we can make quick gains in true power, making all the poses more possible as we keep our body healthy for years of yoga to come. Sadie said that when we go deeper, we balance stability with mobility, strength with freedom.

Sadie also told us that when we let expression takes precedence in the pose, we lose our foundation and core in the pose, loading layers of tension into ourselves.  When we build our pose from the ground up and learn to activate our deeper core muscles, we improve safety and stability in our practice as well as causing a more efficient total body/mind transformation.

During the Pranayama Intensive workshops with Paul Dallaghan, I was truly humbled as I found that I could not do some of the pranayama breathing exercises like Uddiyana Bandha and Nauli.  Paul advised me to do the belly breathing exercise to open up my belly as it is overly tight and I have difficultly relaxing and softening it in order for me to do the pranayama exercises. 

I attended Simon Low’s Anatomy and Yoga: The 10 Key Points for Every Teacher and Student where he went through with us the application of the 10 key points which are the foot and ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and SI joints, spine, shoulder and upper arms, upper limb: lower arm and hand, neck and skull and skull and brain in doing the yoga poses.  Simon reminded us to have self-responsibility, self-care and intelligence when doing the asanas and not to follow the path of least resistance where willfulness in doing the poses might lead to intense wear and tear injuries that might surface later in our life.

It was with all these new knowledge that I went into Sharath’s Led Primary Series class on the last day of the conference. I managed to survive the 2-hour class with little mishaps although there were times I was a little off in following Sharath’s count for the pose. It was an awesome experience - doing the opening and closing chant with so many practitioners and listening to Sharath’s talk after the class and I even managed to have a photo taken with him.

I am very glad that I attended the conference as it has given me a better understanding on where I stand in my practice, knowing now that I am still a very beginner in so many aspects of the practice and in order to deepen my practice and for my personal transformation, I will have to start to embrace the other aspects of the practice as well.

"Yoga is based on common sense. How to take care of yourself, how to treat others. It is based on truth and honesty, care for others and what you do being kind and patient.  It is not a dogma.  Rather it offers a remarkable and intelligent set of tools, through body, breath and mind to help every individual grow and transform." - Paul Dallaghan 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inspiring Yoga Teachers

"I used to be militant about doing every pose "right." In my quest for the perfect body on and off the mat, I developed an eating disorder as well as a ton of yoga-related repetitive stress injuries. Along the way, I did reach my goal of handstand without the wall. What I did not attain, however, was any sort of happiness or joy. Therefore, in my opinion, I wasn't practicing yoga at all, but dukha, or suffering. A focus on perfection will always circle back to the big D.

The amazing thing is, once I let go of my quest for the unattainable, many of the poses, like the hovering jump-forward that I could never before master, became available to me. Yoga, ultimately is a path of personal transformation, not perfection. Reclaiming this aspect of your practice gets you into direct connection with your core, and asks that you express your truth to the world in the way that's best for you" - Sadie Nardini (from her  blog post on "A Better Balance", Yoga Diary, Yoga Journal)

Click link to watch videos on Sadie's Yoga Biography and her Take on Yoga.

“In my own physical practice of Ashtanga Yoga strength was pure magic for me. I can still remember the sensation of my shoulder collapsing when I first trip to a simple plank position. Even worse was the sensation of falling out of headstand every day with a loud crashing sound for eight straight months. The experience was so devastating that I doubted my ability to ever build strength in my body at all.

The first step was that I had to cultivate a belief in the possibility that I, with all my weakness, would someday be strong. I was so weak that I had accomplished teachers give up on. One even told me that I would have to wait many lifetimes before performed some the arm balances that I do nearly every day now. Yet, I had to believe in my own dream and work towards it every day, even when I was the only one who left who had faith.” – Kino MacGregor (from her blog post on "Tending the Sacred Fire by Kino MacGregor")