Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is Yoga a religion?

Referring to the article placed on Borneo Bulletin front page on the 30th October 2008, I felt compelled to clear the misunderstandings of what people actually think what yoga is all about. As a yoga teacher, I am always asked if yoga is a religion in its own. My answer is ‘no’. It is seen as a religion or cult by some due to it’s origin from India within the Hindu culture in 8500 BC to 5500BC. Or for some, as early as Indian civilization in 3000 BC. Yoga in old Indian Sanskrit language means the union of the body and mind. It helps you become more aware of your body’s posture, alignment and patterns of movement. I practice hatha yoga which is a compilation of different postures that stretches, strengthens and tones the body. It makes the body more flexible and helps you relax even in the midst of a stress stricken environment. This is one of the foremost reasons why people want to start practicing yoga- to feel fitter, be more energetic, be happier and peaceful.

Yoga is a science that has been practiced for thousands of years. It is consists of ancient theories, observations and principles about the mind and body connection which is now being proven by modern medicine. Substantial research has been conducted to look at the Health Benefits of Yoga - from the yoga postures , yoga breathing , and meditation. Yoga has been beneficial in three parts-physiological, psychological, biochemical effects. Furthermore, scientists have laid these results against the benefits of regular exercise.

In the last two or three decades, when yoga was introduced to the modern world, it was received with some scepticism. At first people thought that it was another religion. But in spite of this, young people took up yoga and soon others began to notice its amazing effects. Then the psychologists, medical doctors, criminologists, and philosophers started making investigations and they were surprised to find that yoga is not a religion but a science

Yoga is not a religion
—remember that. Yoga is not Hindu, it is not Mohammedan. Yoga is a pure science just like mathematics, physics or chemistry. Physics is not Christian, physics is not Buddhist. If Christians have discovered the laws of physics, then too physics is not Christian. It is just accidental that Christians have come to discover the laws of physics. But physics remains just a science. Yoga is a science—it is just an accident that Hindus discovered it. It is not Hindu. It is a pure mathematics of the inner being.

I personally practice it as keeping fit and healthy is important to me. I do not chant mantras with my students as I am only interested in sharing the beneficial physical and psychological aspects of yoga. There are choices, just as you would do if you were practicing karate or kung fu. Just because you are interested in the benefits of the physical aspects of it doesn’t mean you have switch over to another religion due to its origin. Did you know kung fu was created by an Indian monk named Bodhidharma?. Bodhidharma invented a self-defense art called Eighteen Lohan Hands based on the movements of animals he saw in the mountains. This he taught the Shaolin monks so they could protect themselves from wild animals and bandits.

He also created Yijinjing or Muscle-Tendon Change Classic, a series of yoga-like movements to develop qi flow so the monks had more energy to practice Zen.

If you like to more about Bodhidharma, click

So really, if yoga is discriminated as a religion because of it’s affiliation with its origin, wouldn’t the rest of other yoga originated forms of exercise such as pilates, kung fu and tai chi be seen as a religion too? Just like martial arts in its different forms, yoga comes in different practices too. As far as I know, most of the yoga teachers in the south east practices Hatha yoga, which most of the time doesn’t include chanting mantras.

Here are some physiological benefits of yoga exercises
Posture improves
Strength and resiliency increase
Endurance increases
Energy level increases
Weight normalizes
Sleep improves
Immunity increases
Pain decreases
Steadiness improves
Depth perception improves
Balance improves
Integrated functioning of body parts improves

I hope this helps clears out the misconception people have about yoga.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tasek Lama 2nd November 2008

I hardly slept last Saturday, praying hard the rain will stop by 5am. But it didn't by 5.30am and I had to text everyone to cancel the outing. Maybe it wasn't meant to be. Nevermind, we have postponed the outing to this Sunday on the 2nd November at 6.30am. So, if you are interested to join us, let me know. See ya later alligators...... :P

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hoorah, the weekend is here

Ahhhhhh, Sunday's just around the corner. I love Sundays. Even if I have to get bright and early at 4.30am to get ready for our yoga event at Tasek Lama. But I am looking forward to it. Jen and Fui have been around at the studio today and we were thinking of doing some photo shoots by the waterfall after the session. It was fun messing around the studio, figuring out what poses we could or couldn't do. The lessons today were fun too. We did some partnering poses and played around with some arm balancing poses. That's what I love about yoga, we can explore our inner selves while we are meditating and practicing but the best part is to have a laugh with it too.

Besides yoging (if there's such a word as that.....oooooh, just googled it and there are people using the word 'yoging' for practicing yoga), have been lazing about in the studio, watching movies on the laptop. Meet the Fockers was funny. Love Barbara Streisand and Robert DeNiro. They are such good actors! I wasn't very keen on Max Payne. Just thought some parts were very weird and not much of a storyline to follow. Very confusing in the first part of the movie. Embarassingly, I have been watching Gossip Girl. As much as I don't like the title or the thought of it, I bought it since there wasn't much new movies about on the big screen. But so far, love the series. It's very teenage like but ahhh, who cares! I think I'm still childlike at heart most times.

Now at home, having finished dinner. My dad cooked dinner and he made some Japanese Sweet Potatoes with salad, a big pot of home made pumpkin soup (Peter's favourite), and yum yum........he also bought me some 'tarap' ......ahhhhhh, spoilt for choices.....

Well, am going to sign off and watch The Rock with Peter. ................see ya later, alligators.........

Gorgeous boys, Max & Gabriel

My nephew Max, playing hide and seek.
This is Max with his recent haircut.

This is Max's little brother Gabriel at 3 months plus. He is absoloodley gorgeous.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Making it into your own practice

Teaching yoga for less than a year and I am learning so much not only from my own practice but the students too. I watched them and have seen their own made progress from each and very movement they do. It's not the arm balances or the number of headstands they do, rather it's the focus they have from one pose to the other. Last night the students practiced their postures well with their breathing techniques. Each breath taken was synchronised with their movements during the vinyasa flow.

Breathing in deeply and effectively into and out of the poses helps mobilise the joints, muscles and spine more fluidly without jerking or overstretching any parts of the body.

I used to practice in the house garden in the evenings before taking the practice to the studio. It was nice breathing in fresh air into the lungs, just doing 3 rounds of sun salutations. It made such a difference to the day I had. During the practice, I found it important to bring awareness into how I moved with my breaths, at the same time, enjoying each and very movement I did without rushing into the next pose.

So, do enjoy what you do in yoga without having to feel you need to achieve a certain 'standard'.
It's a gift to yourself to remain supple and healthy, not a competition or a sport event.

See you soon in class again

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yoga at Tasek Lama 26th October 2008

Hi everyone!

Time for another yoga session outdoors ! Our beach yoga event was very successful and this time we will hold the next session in Tasek Lama on the 26th October at 6.30am. Come join us, don’t miss out on it. Get to know all the other yoga students and have fun! Be sure to let me know if you are joining us for the morning at 6.30am. Do bring your own mats.

See ya!!!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don't rush, take your time.

At last, Sunday's here. This week has been pretty good. Have been practicing astanga yoga with the students and they seem to have responded well. It may seem defeating first but with constant practice, I am sure each individual will come through in the end. It does require a lot of arm strength and the ability to do some 'locks'. I look at some of the students and some seem quite disappointed when they aren't able to achieve the full results. With yoga, it requires constant practice and patience.

A student asked me how long did it take me to get into most of the poses I did, I answered honestly,"I practice often as much as 4 to 5 times a week before becoming a teacher. And even now, I still have to discipline myself to practice."

I wasn't able to touch my toes when I first started and felt like I was going to 'throw up' when I first did my downward dog. I looked at other students around me and felt so hopeless. What kept me going? It was perseverance to touch my toes!!!

So, if you go to any yoga classes, don't feel so overwhelmed by the postures. Instead, be encouraged to keep practicing and know that you will get to where you want to be. Don't rush into it, enjoy each and every improvement you get from each pose. It's like in life, some days can be good, some days can be bad, but overall, be patient enough to get through to the better days.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Astanga Vinyasa

" I am unaware of anything that has a right to be called an impossibility" Thomas H. Huxley

"Have patience. Everything is difficult before it is easy." Saadi

As a yoga teacher, I am always constantly learning how to improvise or improve the postures or movements. How to get into the pose without struggle and to gracefully come out of it without a ‘huff’ and a ‘puff’. Those who have studied yoga with me would have practice hatha yoga. Hatha yoga comes in various forms and some postures includes poses from astanga vinyasa yoga. I didn’t really get to practice astanga yoga in full till I attended the Langkawi retreat a week ago. The movements are dynamic requiring agility, arm strength and flexibility. The core principles that underpin this practice was to combine ujjayi breath, muscular locks called bandhas, the synchronization of movement and breath, and to maintain a steady point of focus called drishtis.

During the practice with Master Satya and Master Paalu, along with other students, I found myself in a struggle with the postures. Partly because I had a bit of a cold, but to be truthful I wasn’t prepared to do the movements myself. The movement required a great deal of arm strength, bandhas ( the lock system- uddiyana, moola and jalandhara bandha) and concentration. My arms were giving way some parts and within less than 40 minutes, I felt exhausted. It felt defeating at first. I had a lot of thought about it and wondered if I should incorporate it into my teachings.

I felt I was learning yoga “all over again”. Over the past week, as I slowly recovered from my cold, I started my own practice again. I tried the movements on my own and through perseverance, I have managed some of the postures better than before. I did land hard on my bottom more than 20 times on the floor but I guess it’s through the falls I am able to understand what is required to do astanga yoga.

To fully understand the term, the concept and principles behind it, I read through Tara Fraser’s book and it really helped me to improve my steps. For those who aren’t familiar with astanga yoga, here’s a short summary from T.Fraser’s book.

The word astanga yoga means eight limbed yoga. Pranayama (breath control-third limb) and asanas (postures-fourth limb) are the two fundamental practices of ashtanga yoga. The core practice of ashtanga vinyasa is a set sequence of postures (asanas) that is said to have been described in a text called the Yoga Kurunta. The yoga kurunta is said to have described three series of postures: Yoga Chikitsa( yoga therapy) which we know as the “Primary Series”; Nadi Sodhana(channel cleansing) known as “Iintermediate Series” and Sthira Bhaga (divine stability) which can be broken down into four parts and is known as the “Advanced Series”.

The primary series consists of forward bends of various kinds. The intermediate series contains a lot of back bending poses and the advanced series contains more variations of both with some difficult balances.

At the moment, I still have a lot to learn about the primary series of astanga yoga. I am taking it step by step, which is the right thing to do when you need to grasp the basics and the concept behind the movements prior to teaching it.

I do feel that astanga yoga is essentially a young person’s practice unless you have been practicing astanga yoga for a long time. However, Shri. K. Pattabhi Jois has recommended older people to concentrate more on yogic breathing exercises and possibly include the primary series but without the vinyasa in it.

I think I will slowly prepare the students, this way I can learn the series at my own pace.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Back to Seraphina

I started teaching today again. It was nice to see the students and as well as practice. My voice sounded a bit rough in the second class but it got better in the later part. I couldn't really do any movements with the students, tried to reserve the energy for the voicebox. Peter came over after the class and we went out for dinner at Grips. I like the drinks they have on the menu. I needed something a bit icy to cool my throat down. We then went over to the the dvd shops and Peter got me Mamma Mia cd. Pretty cool. I played it on the way home. Lucky for Pete, we drove home in separate cars! All the songs in it are good. Still not sure about Pierce Brosnan's voice. Too stern over the tunes.

On the way home, got to see fireworks display in various areas. It feels very festive, wish it could be like that every night.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Getting well again

The last few days has been a bit of a struggle with my cold. Trying to get rid of the chesty cough but still congested. Still find it hard to talk at times. I thought I was better earlier but it seems to to get worse in the night. Cross fingers and hopefully I will feel well enough by tomorrow. I will keep you all posted.

Thanks for all the well wishes everyone. I will hopefully see you soon enough.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Sister's Keeper

My head feels heavy like lead. The cold is so bad I can't even breathe properly, it feels like there's superglue stucked in my nasal. I have tried blowing my nose, but feels like I'm blowing half my brain out everytime I do it. The goo is stuck! I have been told to drink plenty of fluid to keep hydrated which is what I have done the whole of yesterday and today, making plenty of visits to the loo. It feels pretty frustrating unable to get rid of the cold. I have made promises to friends I will visit them during 'hari raya'. Have to cancel them now, don't want to sneeze and cough all over them. Suppose to be spread the cheer, not the germs.
Then again, it's not been all that bad. I had time to catch up with my last read on Jodi Picoult's book called,"My sister's keeper". I didn't get to finish it when I was in Langkawi with all the yoga activities taking place. So, I decided to put my comfy socks on, snugged in bed, with my cup of lemon tea nearby, I continued reading where I left off. The book tells of Anna, a donor to her sister's unfortunate illness, leukaemia. Anna has been born for the purpose of saving her sister's (Kate's) life, as her parents have told her, and have been so as she grew older to age thirteen. Anna's mum, Sara has her life revolved around her daughter's illness. Then there's Jesse, Anna's older brother. He's rebellious and a troublemaker. Sara's husband Brian tries to keep the peace in the family. He's supportive of the family's decision, he tries to be. The story tells how Anna comes to a decision that's both heartbreaking to herself and her family in regards to her sister's illness. Jodi Picoult has written the novel so well in ways when you read, you could self relate yourself to each and every character in the book. It's hard to take anybody's side while reading, all the characters have their reason to everything they do and why they do it. This book is a very good read and very hard not to continue reading till the last page. I definitely recommend it if you're looking for something real and heartfelt.
It felt as if you were so close to the characters, as if you were listening to their conversations closeby. I learned to love each character, no matter what they think, say or do. They were real in the book, they probably are in real life.
The issues in the book are things I haven't thought of in relation to a donor's opinion, or in an opinion of a sick mother. Not in the depth Jodi Picoult has written.
I would definitely pick another Jodi Picoult book any day.
My cold's a bit better today then yesterday. But don't think I can make house visits. Have text message my friends. Peter's home with me but fast asleep. He sleeps much more than I do. Although he would argue he doesn't have enough rest most times. I think men just generally need more sleep than women. Perhaps we'll just take it easy and just watch a bit of TV. Peter will probably fiddle the playstation 3 he borrowed from a friend. As long as he doesn't sit and play at it all day long. Hopefully.