Friday, November 27, 2015

It Is More Than Okey To Not Recover From Savasana. In Fact, It Is Fantastic!

This week I unlocked an achievement - having the most number of people who did not recover from Savasana! Bahahahahah! It was very surprising, considering there was music blaring its lungs out from outside the studio!

I am only now, as I am writing this, realizing that what I intended to talk about today was already covered last week! Dafuq! Change plan, change plan!

As a yoga teacher, I believe in creating a space where everyone can tune into their inner selves & freely express themselves in a healthy way, without fear of being judged, & without the burden of judging others either!  So I would definitely take it as a very big compliment if someone fell asleep in my class! Of course, ideally one is not supposed to fall asleep during Savasana, but how not to, when we are leading such hectic lives in today's modern age? & one of the reasons we come to yoga is to relax, so how not to fall asleep when we are relaxed??? :P

I never had trouble falling asleep - in fact, I think I sleep more than the average person...bahahahahah! When I told Gobuyan I wanted to be the Namaste Otter, he hinted at my spirit animal being a sloth. Meh. Can't really argue with that! All this changed, however, when I had hyperthyroidism a few years back. Before I got diagnosed, I started feeling jittery, nervous & anxious all the time, & during the nights, I could not for the life of me go to sleep. I would lie awake in bed for God-knows how long, tired yet heart palpitating & simply laying there in limbo between the Real World & Lalaland. It had a spiral effect: no sleep = tired = still can't gotdang sleep = more tired-er = bloody hell someone punch me unconscious already! = walking zombie! It was only then that I appreciated the ability to fall asleep. It also really had me experience the phenomenon of how one's emotions & physical body inter-relate.

Basically, hyperthyroidism causes the body to be in a hyped up state all the time, hence the heart palpitations & nervousness etc. This means that the 'off' button was broken, so even when it was time to wind down & relax, I could not, because my hormones wouldn't allow me to! So when the mind & body is not relaxed, how to sleep woh? :(

Thank God I made a full recovery. Yay! & besides that, my hyperthyroidism was the thing that brought me to yoga, so double yay! *confetti in the air!*

I also totally believe in the phenomena of 'sleep debt' - when we do not allocate enough time for sleep during the week, we have to 'pay off' our sleep debt over the weekend by sleeping in or having siestas.

I myself experienced this when I attended the 10-day Vipassana meditation course in Pahang earlier this year. During the first three days, it was a real struggle to stay awake. & I noticed many other students nodding off in the hall too. This was kind of surprising, as I've always considered myself lucky enough to have never held a nine to five job, therefore I never had to struggle with the stresses of common city folk. My job at the horse stables was easy, & considerably short hours, on top of that we worked odd hours, so rush hour traffic was never an issue.

Nevertheless, I still had sleep debt to pay off! However, after I'd paid off my debts, it was impossible to fall asleep during the day, even for a die-hard siesta fan like myself! So I would take walks round the compound, wash clothes (even including the ones which didn't really need washing!), anything to burn off some energy! Hahahahah! Makes me wonder if life back in the day was really that simple!

Looking back, I realize that gadgets, books, & other distractions are also things that can cause sleep debt! It's like, we voluntarily force ourselves to stay awake to 'layan' these things, at the expense of our rest time! Geez! Guilty as charged!

Yes, I am guilty of being too attached to my phone, especially since The Other Half lives in it. It was actually nice to have this 'tech detox' & period of enforced rest - not only from the world & its people but also from my environment. It really showed me how distracted I really am - before Vipassana I was already aware of how uncomfortable I can sometimes get when I have nothing to do - have you ever noticed how fidgety your mind can get, even when eating? Most of the time I can't eat my meal in solitary silence - I am either watching something on YouTube or reading an article!

So, other than learning the Vipassana technique, it was amazing to have those few days all to myself, although half of it was spent thinking about the outside world. :P *smack on the wrist!* Bad meditator! Bad! Bahahahahah!

It made me realize the value of doing nothing. Which, I was already doing from a long time ago, but at the same time, my 'nothing' was just an 'unproductive something' rather than a complete 'nothing'. Make sense?

To really spend time with yourself, getting to know yourself, without any expectations, any distractions, any absolutely wonderful!

I prefer not to talk much in my classes, other than giving alignment cues & mentioning quickly the benefits of the poses. & especially in my Yin yoga classes, I like to emphasis at the beginning of the class that my students take the one hour of class to really come back to themselves. 24 hours, 7 days a week, one month, one year, we are listening to others, we are focusing on things outside of ourselves. Would it be unreasonable for us to spend just one hour with ourselves, appreciating our bodies & minds, loving ourselves, learning more about ourselves?

I don't even want my students to listen to me all the time. If a pose doesn't feel right for you, immediately come out of it, or if your body is telling you to move a certain way, then do it, regardless of what else is going on in class at that moment. Just don't be a nuisance to others, & don't start dancing the Macarena. The non-classical Harlem Shake would be acceptable, though. Bahahahahah! 'Do the Harlem Shake!' :P Just kidding..!

So yes, please do come to my class, even if it is just for the Savasnana!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Abhyasa - Practice & All Is Coming.

I enjoy creating non-existent words to express myself - it's 'allowed' in Manglish! - words like nicer-er (so much nicer), or ter-confuse (accidentally confused, hahahahah!), etc. I'm sure the language prudes out there would disagree with my speaking methods, but it's all just for a bit of fun, really. PLUS, sometimes it can really shorten a sentence!

Just a few basic examples of how Manglish can shorten sentences:

Can you or can you not do it?
Can or cannot woh? (This is one of my Aussie friend, Amy's favourites!)

Why are you crying/laughing/singing/doing-whatever-the-hell-you're-doing?
Why woh?

Why do you want me to do this for you?
Why ah?

You see! Saves time & energy! Hahahahahahah!

The other day in class, I unintentionally created a new word. I said, '...feel the spine lengthening & stretchening,' bahahahahahah! This was the first time I'd ever caught myself off guard, & at least the students who got it had a good laugh! Hahahahah! I myself had to struggle to suppress giggles for the next ten minutes, especially since it was a yin yoga class!

Besides the physical aspect of asana, what do you value about your yoga practice?

If I attend a yoga class (as a student), I am prone to laughing for no apparent reason. Yes, don't worry, I think I'm a very strange one too! :P

I feel that sometimes yoga is taken too seriously. You go to a class & everybody's stone-faced from either self-pressure or pressure from the teacher to 'perform' well. Or that might just be their 'inner bliss face', I don't know. Who am I to judge anyways, because I myself have what they call a 'bitchy resting face', hahahahah! :P

But it is quite shocking to me how some people are so serious about their asana practice that they can't even smile or laugh with others! If you can't smile or laugh, how relaxed are you to begin with?

Earlier this year I was recommended to start an Ashtanga practice, so I skipped over to the nearest Mysore centre, not really sure what to expect. & as most of you will know, Asthanga is famous for its ultra-sweaty vinyasa flow, which for me meant lots of chaturangas! *horror face*

I was doing fine in the standing asanas. When it came to the seated asanas, however...hooo! NOW, the laughter begins! In the practice, you have to take a vinyasa between forward bends on either leg (so for example Janu Sirsasana A with right leg bent, then one vinyasa before you go to the pose with left leg bent), & in my mind I was like, 'Homaigot! Teacher, you mad or what, why you do die me, noooooooo! Why you don't say do both sides then only vinyasaaa!'...LMAO! I did not expect to be doing vinyasas that many times!

That was the very first time I was a newbie in a new place, & not taking myself too seriously.

Asana practice can be empowering, yet it can also be a very humbling experience. I personally feel that the challenge in Ashtanga yoga is to accept the totality of yourself: your uniqueness & limitations - the latter being the more difficult to accept. Receiving adjustments & help from the teacher to go into a pose is all well & good, but at the same time we need to honour our bodies too - would it be too much to use a strap or towel to connect the hands in  Marichyasana? Or does it make more sense to have someone pull on your joints & soft tissues to 'help' you into the pose?

I really appreciate what Simon Borg-Olivier's idea about yoga. To him, yoga should get the blood is flowing freely throughout the body, whilst maintaining a normal heart rate. Therefore, if the limbs do not move naturally into a pose, if you need external assistance (in the form of another another person or even your own hand), if you are straining & exerting yourself into a pose, then yoga is not happening, & you may as well just call it 'exercise' instead of 'yoga'.

Dear friends, I'm not condemning any school of yoga. What I am trying to convey is that we need to practice humility & patience on the mat. Cannot bind the arms today - so what? Cannot do 238 chaturagas in a session - so what? Is it more worthwhile to risk your body for a moment's worth of satisfaction?

Me, I just laugh. Hahahahah... :P :P :P

I think sometimes it does annoy some teachers, but I try my best, & if after that I still can't do it, or it is too difficult for me, I ease off the pose a little & try not to laugh.

As Ashtanga founder, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois said, 'Practice, & all is coming.'

& as Deep once said, 'Be sincere, but not serious in your practice.'

Of course, there are times when seriousness has to come into play, but if things already are a certain way, then why put up a fight, why struggle unnecessarily?

To my beloved students, if you sometimes see me laughing in class, I am not laughing at you. I am laughing because I am remembering all the times when I could not do a pose. I am laughing because it makes me happy that you have allowed me to share this space in your yoga journey. I am laughing because I know you are trying your darnest best.

All the better if you start laughing on your own, or join me in laughter!

There is no 'should be' or 'must do' in class...if your mind & body are not up to it, then don't listen to anyone else, not even me.

No one else is responsible for you, except you.

So please come to class to practice sincerely! Bahahahahahah! :D :D :D

& also come to class to feel lengthening & stretchening of your body! Hahahahahah...LMAO!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Be Present With Those 'Around' You.

Is technology really a bad thing?

I know that many people see me liking & posting stuff on Facebook & Instagram throughout the day, & many wonder, 'Does she not have a life outside of social media?'...bahahahahah!

As with all things, I think it depends how you use technology/social media. Are you using it to learn more about the things you are interested in, to reach out to people, to share & grow?

I've had a very hard time discerning between having an 'actual life' & having an 'active social media life'. Yeah sure, there are always comics about children sitting hunched over their gadgets while a beautiful day goes on outdoors, but I have come to see that situations matter.

Now, one has to understand that social media is a way to connect to people. You can get in touch with someone on the other side of the globe with just a few taps on your phone screen. Amazing, no? You may find others who are on your same wavelength, something which you may not have been able to find in your immediate surroundings.

Information is always readily available, connections are always waiting to be built...only if we are open enough to them.

Things start going downhill when too much emphasis is placed on interaction through technology. When you'd rather talk with your friends through Facebook comments instead of across the table. Strange, isn't it; how two people can be sitting across each other yet choose to communicate through a tiny screen which sends signals to a satellite God-knows how far away which then sends the signal back to the other person's phone (who is sitting less than a meter away from the first person, hahahahahah!)...

However! I don't think it is wrong to want to spend time online with your friends & family who are living far away from you. It does not mean that one is sacrificing his/her life that is happening before their eyes, just because they choose to give a part of their day to another person through technology.

I have many friends & dear ones who live miles away. But we still keep in touch with each other, even if not regularly but once in a while.

Why? Why does this happen? One can easily say that we should live in the moment, we should focus on those around us, & all sorts of other philosophical quotes.

But my question to you is: How much do you value this other person? What do they bring to your life that no one else around you can?

You see, dear friends; times have changed. It is not like back in the days of Buddha when your brother had to take 5 weeks to go to the nearest village & you are sitting beside the window looking out into the distance every day, waiting for him to come home...hahahahah...

The very definition of 'those around you' has changed with the revolution of technology.

You can still go around your daily life, just devoting maybe 5, 10 minutes or however much you want to, in communication with your brother who is away from home.

I don't think that wanting to connect to your nearest & dearest is a crime.

Even if it's not your brother, say, your best friend has moved across the country. People will definitely tell you to find a new best friend, one with whom you can actually 'do things' together with.

What if you've searched, & you couldn't find another like them? Does that still make it wrong to reach out to them through technology? Does that mean you should still continue searching, knowing that this person who totally gets you is just right there 'in front' of you (so to say).

Again, don't take my word for it. Priorities. Priorities weigh heavily in this matter, & everybody's priorities are different. It is impossible to find someone whose priorities match ours 110% all the time.

'Those around you' - the definition of this has changed, but the phrase 'be present' has not. Another factor that is important is how present are you when you are using or not using your gadgets. I found this on Facebook a few days ago:

When you are washing the dishes, washing the dishes must be the most important thing in your life. Just as when you are drinking tea, drinking tea must be the most important thing in your life. Drink your tea slowly & reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole world revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is Life.

Similarly, when you choose to devote a piece of your day to someone, give that piece fully. Instead, we are hesitant when cutting the cake, so that the piece is bigger on top & tapers down towards the bottom, because whilst cutting we are continuously second-guessing ourselves, 'No, I'm giving too much, I should cut down a bit', & so instead of cutting straight down, the knife cuts inward a bit; & then when handing the piece of cake over, again second-guessing, & the piece is crumbling to the ground slowly but surely; & what is left when it actually reaches the hands of the other? Only bits & pieces, tiny crumbs.

So much wasted in doubt & over-thinking.

What & who is important to you, right in this moment of time. Everything else is secondary. To hell with the idea that gadgets take you away from 'real life', that gadgets are a distraction, that the Internet is a waste of time! Tell me, what do you do with a book? You read it, don't you? What do you do when you surf the Internet? You can also read, can't you? The only difference is the reading material you choose. The message can be the same, but the medium different.

Of course, you can't have a proper relationship or build a family with someone who lives miles away from you; but that is another story. What I am trying to highlight here is that sometimes we can get techno-phobia. We are so afraid of being sucked into technology & letting life pass us by.

I say, everything in moderation. 'Be present with those around you'. Hahahahahahah!

Coincidentally, a few days ago, teen model Essena O'Neill came out with a lengthy video  (which is no longer available on YouTube because she has deleted her account) on why she is quitting social media: AND! even more recently, Rachel Brathen's TEDxAruba talk was posted on YouTube! So much excitement for one week! So next post will be my opinion on these two very opposing perspectives of social media! Stay tuned!