Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Live, Love, Laugh and Be Free with Angeline

Today was my first class with Angeline Liew although I have known her for some time.  I never managed to go to her class when she was replacing the classes at the studio I was practicing at that time.   I was delighted to find Angeline's name in the schedule for the Hatha class this morning and today being a state holiday for Selangor, I was able to make it to her class.  

I have always followed Angeline's blog Live, Love, Laugh, Be Free and I know that being a student of yoga herself, she always teaches from the student's perspective.    

Today's class focused on some balancing poses as well as chest and shoulder openers.  When we were in tree pose, Angeline mentioned that there must be some wind blowing in as the trees were swaying.  It lightened the atmosphere and reminded us not to take our practice so seriously and throughout the class, she gave us the encouragement to try the poses and not be afraid to fall as she herself had fallen numerous times before she nailed the pose. 

I received some great adjustments from Angeline as she assisted me to open my chest and shoulders in some of the poses and she also reminded me to work my thighs in my downward dog. 

Recently, Angeline and Raymond have opened a new studio Prana Yoga KL which is located at Pusat Creative Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainum, Taman Tun Dr Ismail.  If you are staying or working around that area and is looking for a place to practice, do check our their studio.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Notes from my Practice

This is just a short post on my observation in my Mysore Self-practice this morning.  As I am still recovering from my shoulder injury,I have been doing variations in some of the poses for the past few weeks of my self-practice.   I have also skipped some of the poses in the series if I feel that it will aggravate the injury especially if I feel pain in my right shoulder when I do the pose.  

This morning, I did most of the poses in the Primary series; doing a variation of the pose when necessary.   When I reached Setu Bandhasana, the last pose of the series, I was contemplating whether I should do the pose as I have been feeling a crushing pressure in my neck when I do the pose.   

I decided to do the pose as I have been told that the pose you avoid most is the pose you need the most.  As I did the pose, I paid attention to the feeling in my neck by not settling the weight on my head.  Instead, I kept my sternum and upper back lifted and open and my legs engaged and internally rotated.  I did not feel any crushing pressure in the neck and was able to stay in the pose for five breaths. 

Below is a video with clear instruction from David Garriggues on how to do the pose.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Progress in my Practice

It has been more than one month since I posted about doing my Mysore Self-practice every Sunday morning in Chi.  I have been going regularly and so far, have not missed any practice which I hope I will able to keep it up.

During the past few self-practice, I have also started incorporating poses that I need to work on which sometimes meant that I have to skip some of the last few poses in the Primary series as I have to finish the practice before the next class starts.    

I have been setting an intention before the start of each practice as I believe it would helped me to focus on what I should work on during the practice.  Some of my intentions have been finding length in my breath and in the poses, paying attention to my alignment in the poses especially in the standing poses and finding ease in the poses. 

I have also learn to accept that progress in my practice meant that I do not have to be able to do the full version of the pose but to be able to go further in the pose each time I practice.  I have learn to appreciate the little progress I have made in the poses that I thought I would never be able to do.   

I am been using Kino MacGregor "The Power of Ashtanga Yoga" book as a reference to check on my alignment in the poses and Kino have provided techniques and modifications for the poses which I find very helpful in my practice.  

"At first you might find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred space and use it, eventually something will happen. Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again." ~Joseph Campbell

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mysore Self Practice

After making the decision to start our Mysore self practice together on Sunday, this morning, Kathryn and myself were at Chi to do the practice when there was no yoga class going on.  

After going through the sun salutations and standing poses without any hitches, when it came to the seated poses, I had a bit of difficulty binding in Marichyasana D initially but managed to keep my fingers locked  together for the five breaths.   As there was no teacher to assist me in Supta Kurmasana, I did not managed to go deep in the pose as I was not able to cross my feet and put them behind my head and clasped my hands behind my back.  I did managed to place my hands on my lower back and slide my feet together in front of my head.
Supta Kurmasana (easier variation) 
From today's self-practice, I know that doing the full primary on my own without any teacher's assistance might take me a longer time to progress in some of the poses but I realized that I was actually getting too dependent on my teacher especially so when I was doing full Garbha Pindasana.  With Kunal around, I would normally gave up on turning around while rolling upwards in the pose on my own, but today, although it was slow and with difficulty and collapsing at the last roll instead of lifting up, I made the effort to do the pose on my own.   

I believe that doing the self-practice would give me an opportunity to watch myself grow and change.  As I would still be going to the Hatha classes, I would still be learning the techniques and getting assistance for those areas in my practice that need attention from my teachers at  Chi.   

I would also be doing research on my own  by reading yoga blogs and visiting yoga websites such as  Yoga Journal and I have also found many yoga videos posted by some of the great teachers such as Kino MacGregor, Christina Sell and David Garrigues where they provide tips and techniques to go into the poses. 

I am so glad to be practicing together with Kathryn as we will be providing support to each other to keep up the self-practice.  

Below is a video on Garbha Pindaasana with Maria Villella which provides a step-by-step breakdown of the pose. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Farewell Tribute to My Teachers

I am quite sad to have to say farewell to two of my teachers who are leaving the country and I am writing this post as a tribute to them for being part of my yoga journey.  

Yesterday morning was my last class with Kunal  who has helped me to progress in my Ashtanga practice for the past year.

I remember my first class with him was when I attended a trial class at Chi Fitness in April last year.  I was the only one who turned up for the Ashtanga class that day and ended up doing a Mysore style practice with him looking on and assisting me in some of the poses. I think it was from that class that I know I have found another teacher who will have an impact in my yoga journey as I decided to sign up for my membership with Chi Fitness after the class as I wanted to continue attending his classes so that I can learn from him. 

As I could only attend his Ashtanga class on Sunday at 4.30 pm, I always tried not to miss the class as all his other classes were in the morning or early evening when I was working.   I would also go to his Hatha class which was a breath-focused practice where he would emphasized the connection of  the  breath with the movement in the poses whenever I was on leave during a weekday. 

As Kunal teaches the traditional Mysore way, I could see my own progress during this past year under his guidance as I had to wait for him to give me the poses; from needing his help to bind in Marichyasana D to binding on my own, being able to catch my fingers in Supta Kurmasana as he helped me to go deeper in the pose, holding my chin with my fingers in Garbha Pindasana and given full Primary and also Pashasana from the Intermediate series

I will always remember his subtle way of telling me to align my feet correctly in the standing poses, keeping my fingers together in the poses, having me do two to three sets of going up and down for Urdhva Dhanurasana while walking my hands in and him doing crow pose on my legs as I did my bridge pose in yesterday's class which I know is his way of reminding me to keep on working on strengthening my legs for  the dropbacks

This morning was my last class with Tea who is a very dedicated teacher who always prepare her sequence of poses based on a theme for the class.   Her theme-based class would have us doing poses that work on opening our hip and shoulders in one class, a core strengthening sequence in another class or a back bending class which would start with poses to open the upper, middle and lower back.  

I will always remember her encouragement to hold on for one more breath in the pose, to work the legs by keeping our abductors engaged  and to listen to the breath to keep our mind  focus as we do the poses.

Thank you Kunal and Tea for all your teaching and guidance and being a light in my yoga journey and I wish both of you all the best in your endeavours.  Namaste!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Showing up for our Practice

For the past two Sundays, only two practitioners including myself were in the Ashtanga  class at 4.30 pm with Kunal.  Normally, there would be 5 to 6 practitioners coming to the class.   Although the class is an Ashtanga Led class, Kunal would ask those of us who are quite well-versed in the sequence to do a Mysore practice while he would lead the rest of the students who are not familiar with the sequence. 

I have heard some students who do not turn up for the class regularly complaining that they are not able to progress in their practice.   My answer to them is “Just show up”.   

Showing up means we are making the effort to change and along the way, we will find the transformation in our practice. 

If you do not attend the class regularly, you will always end up starting all over again each time you go to the class if you also do not have a regular home practice.     

Showing up for the class also means a lot to the teacher as most studios look at student numbers and you may one day find the class you want to attend being taken out from the schedule.

So my fellow Ashtanga practitioners, hope to see you back in class soon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Walking the Path of Practice with Christina Sell

Last weekend, I attended a 3-day intensive yoga workshop with Christina Sell which she named  as  "Walking the Path of Practice” and she combined her teaching on the techniques to go into the poses with asana practice.   

For all three days, the morning session started with standing poses to build strength in our legs before we do handstands with variations followed with some arm balances and backbends while forward bends and twists were taught in the afternoon.   New advanced poses were added each day but Christina taught some of the same poses throughout the three days as she believes that repetition will help us to learn the poses better. 

Christina also  taught some of the obscure advanced poses from the book “Light on Yoga” and one of the pose is Yogadandasana which BKS Iyenger says “It takes time and practice to be comfortable in the asana, but when you are in it.. is restful… In this pose, the spine is rested and the body relaxed.”

At the beginning, I was feeling quite intimated as I watched the other practioners who were mostly yoga teachers going through the poses earnestly while I was struggling with them.  But Christina gave us the option to do what we can and to always remember to ask ourselves “What is my next step?”  when we were not able to do the more difficult variations given to us.    Like in handstand, while some  of practitioners were working on the more difficult  variations to the pose, some of us who cannot jumped our legs to the wall were given the option to work on poses which will help us to progress into handstand such as the upside down “L” position at the wall and the scissor kicks.   You can watch Christina’s tips and techniques on handstand here.

All in, it was wonderful learning from a great teacher and I was also inspired by the dedication shown by the yoga teachers who attended the workshop as they became students during the three days so that they can become better teachers to their students.

Below are scenes from the workshop which has been beautifully made into a video by Christina’s hubby, Kelly Sell who also practiced with us at the workshop while being the photographer and he even  assisted Christina to demonstrate the King Pigeon pose.


You can also read about Christina's experience teaching the students in Kuala Lumpur here

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Notes from My Practice - Awareness

Wheel Pose (Urdvha Dhanurasana) has always been my nemesis pose and I find it even more so when doing it during the Ashtanga classes.

In the Ashtanga class, the Wheel pose is practiced after we have done the last pose we have been given.    We have to do three rounds of the pose; lifting up and holding in the pose for five breaths for each round.

I am able to lift up and hold in the pose for the 1st two rounds but would need to come down after one or two breaths for the third round.  This is especially so when I have to walk my hands closer to my shoulders after each round before lifting up again and holding in the pose for the five breaths.

As yoga teaches us to be aware of our body, I would  feel either compression in my lower back or pain in my knees when I lift up into the pose.   This has resulted in me dreading to do the pose as I would already anticipate what my body would be feeling when I lift up into the pose.

Today, I decided to place my awareness in keeping my shoulders, elbow, wrists and hands  in alignment when I lift up in the pose in each round after watching the video below by Kino MacGregor.   I found that in placing my awareness onto my shoulders alignment each time I lift up to the pose, I did not feel any pain in my lower back and I could hold the pose for the five breaths

Awareness of our body comes from using it, moving it, feeling it and paying attention to it. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Notes from My Practice - Patience

After almost eight months of practicing Ashtanga with Kunal at Chi Fitness, I was finally given the first pose of the 2nd series, Pashasana today.    I also did dropbacks  with his assistance which I have not done since my former teacher, Azmi Samdjaga left in March 2012.

I have been doing some poses of the 2nd series with Azmi but when I started practicing with Kunal, I had to stop at Navasana as I could only bind in Marichyasana D with Kunal’s help.  I was able to progress further to Bhuja Pidasana when I managed to bind in MD on my own but I was stuck at Supta Kurmasana for some time as I was having problem clasping my fingers  behind my back even with Kunal's assistance. 

Early this year, I was given Garbha Pindasana which I am still having difficulty doing on my own especially rolling backwards and upwards but Kunal had let me continued to do full primary in the class.  

It was a surprise when my Ashtanga buddy, Kathryn, who is having the same problems  in the poses, and I were given Pashasana today.     I am glad to say that I managed to bind in the pose although I needed Kunal’s assistance especially when doing the left side. 

From the Ashtanga class which I only get to practice once a week on Sunday, besides being able to see my progress in my practice, I also learned to be patient as I wait for the next pose to be given to me.    The class also helps to settle and clear my mind to face the week ahead, as I know I will be able to deal with whatever that comes my way with patience and understanding.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Notes from My Practice - Be Consistent

Every so often a new practitioner would attend our Ashtanga class with Kunal and I would hear him tell them to be consistent in coming to the classes so that they can see their progress.

I find this to be especially true to my own practice as having been consistent in going to the yoga classes during my first year of practice has helped in my progress , not only in terms of doing the asanas but also in my spiritual growth.

Going to classes regularly will help to build the foundation for our self-practice later as we learn the poses under the guidance of a teacher who will be able to answer questions about the yoga practice that might crop up when we delve deeper into the poses. 

Here are my suggestions on how you can be consistent in going to the yoga classes. 

-  Choose a studio that is nearby to your workplace if you intend to go the yoga classes after work.  If you have to fight traffic going to the studio, chances are you will either not go to the classes at all or you will feel flustered every time you attend the class which will be disruptive to your practice.

-  Find a teacher that you can relate to and set an intention to attend the teacher’s classes regularly.  Choosing to follow one teacher would mean that you will be practicing the style of yoga that teacher is teaching.   This would avoid the confusion of learning different techniques to go into the poses each time you attend classes with teachers teaching a different style of yoga.  After you have been practicing for a few years, you can explore the different yoga styles, but during your initial practice, it would be better to stick to one style.

The other benefit of following one teacher is that the teacher will be able to get to know you and your body better and you will find yourself reaping the benefits.  The teacher will be able to provide you with adjustments your body needs and your close relationship will make it easier for you to ask any questions that you might have about the practice.

-  Commit yourself to attending at least 3 classes per week.  Once you start attending the classes regularly you will find yourself clearing your schedule to ensure that you make it to the classes.  

Being consistent in going to the classes also means that you will begin to have a consistent yoga practice.  You will find your body becoming stronger, toned and flexible and you will learn to calm your mind when you are stressed.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Feeling Safe In My Yoga Practice

Recently, I read this blog post  at Yoganonymous  which is about teachers keeping  students safe with hands-on assists.    It got me thinking about what other things teachers can do to make the students feel safe in their practice during the class.

As I have been practicing mostly with my teacher, Azmi Samdjaga during my first five years of practice, I have always felt safe in his class.   I not only felt safe during his hands-on assists  as he knows my body very well but also whenever  I am in his class.   Azmi always tell us to respect our body and to know our limitations and have the humility to go into child pose whenever we feel the need to.    He always shows us the techniques to go into the poses and allows us to do a variation if we are not able to do the advanced version of the pose.

Ever since joining Chi Fitness last year, I have been practicing with more teachers and there have been times, I do not feel safe in my yoga practice during the class.    Sometimes we are asked to do a challenging pose and although I am not comfortable doing the pose, I had let my ego took over and tried to do the pose.    I have also been given hands-on assists that had me asking the teacher to stop. 

With the above experiences in mind, I would like to list down below some suggestions to teachers on what they can to do to make students feel safe in their practice during the class.
  • Please check by asking the students how long they have been practicing before the class.  If the majority of the students are new practitioners (I do not like to use the word  beginners  as all of us are beginners in our own way), please do not do a class with a lot of advanced poses.    
  • Please do not assume that every student has the flexibility to do the pose.  You need to show the variation of the pose so that students know what they should do if they can’t do the more difficult one. 
  • Please do not ask students to go into pose after pose after pose and tell us that if we are not able to do the next pose, just stay in the first pose.    It is like challenging our ego and chances are some of us might just hurt ourselves trying to go into a pose that we have never done before. 
  • Please tell us the techniques to go into the pose instead of just demonstrating the pose.
  • Please breathe with us when you give us hands-on assists.  If you just pull us into the pose without warning, you might just have a student screaming his or her head off.

Finally, I would like to share what Joey who is one of my teachers at Chi, always says to us during her class which makes me feel safe in her class.

“This is your practice...I am here just to guide you…listen to your body and let it tell you what it needs."

And we all need these in our practice as teachers and students.