Monday, December 27, 2010

True discipline is just self-remembering, no forcing is necessary

My yoga practice gets waylaid by the side whenever I do not get to go to class.   For the past three days, although I had planned to do a self-practice, I have given myself excuses why I could not do the self-practice.  I did not even do the stretching poses that I normally do before getting ready to go to work in the morning and I could not even force myself to do even a few sun salutations. 

This evening when I reached home early as there was not much traffic, I did a self-practice before I had my dinner.   It was just something that I wanted to do immediately when I reached home.  Although I could hear a lot of background noise… the TV was on, children were screaming,  someone was hammering… these distractions faded away as I began to practice and  moved from one asana after another using my breath as my focus.

I emerged from the practice feeling energized and a smile on my face.  It felt great that I did not force myself to do the practice. It just came naturally to me as my body and my mind connected and remembers that it is time to do the practice after three days of non-activity.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

May this Christmas end the present year
on a cheerful note and make way
for a fresh and bright new year.
Here’s wishing you a
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Surya Namaskar

Lifting my wings, being given breath,
        I salute the sun.
Returning that gift, I bow
       To salute the earth.
Hovering now, over its' firmness
        I feel it, belly to belly.
Swooping, first upward, then backward,
Lifting playfully, facing the earth,.again,
        I rejoice.
The patterns of evolution embedded in my cells
Move me in and out of poses,
Riding on my breath.

-Janet Hockfeld, 2004

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Evaluating My Yoga Practice

Azmi has told us that he will be evaluating our practice and will be giving us a “report card” next week during the Christmas Gathering.   He has been observing us in class for the past week and will be evaluating us on our strengths and weaknesses.      I am quite apprehensive to know how Azmi has evaluated my practice but I know it would be good to have the evaluation as it would give me the guidance to progress in my practice.

Meanwhile, I have been doing some thinking about my own practice and made some evaluation of my own.  I think sometimes, I pushed too hard in my practice when I let my ego take over in trying to show the teacher that I am able to do the poses.  Instead of listening and checking in with my body on how I am feeling in the pose, I try to go beyond my limit and it becomes how I look in the pose.  I also feel that I need to be more present in the pose as I sometimes get distracted by how another practitioner is doing the pose which causes me to compel myself into a pose instead of observing and focusing on how my body is feeling in the pose.   I think this is one of the reasons why I like the Mysore class as I feel that I am able to be more present as I am more focused using my breaths to hold in the poses.  

"If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A to Z Reflection on what Yoga has given me….

who is my favourite “Cikgu” whom I have been practicing since I started my yoga journey four years ago.  Azmi’s guidance and encouragement has helped tremendously in my progress in the asanas.   From him, I have gained a lot of insights on how to apply what I learned from the asanas into my daily life.

B for Blog
I started to write this blog after practicing for one year.  My first blog post was about Yoga and Life where I wrote about how my approach to the asanas mirrored my approach to life.  This blog has become an important part of my life as it documents my practice, my research on the poses as well as sharing of information with my fellow practitioners and bloggers.

C for Compassion
Yoga has taught me to be compassionate when dealing with myself as well as when interacting with other people.  To learn to accept my own failings and as well as others.  To think how my actions will affect the other person and not to react immediately but to always learn to listen first.
D for Daring
Yoga has made me more daring to face the challenges in life.  Not to be afraid to fall down but to get up each time I fall and try again. 

E for Excitement
The excitement of going to my yoga classes… the growing camaraderie between my fellow yoga practitioners and the enthusiasm shown in learning the poses makes going to class so much fun.

F  for  Foundation  and  G for Grounding
First, we learned to build the foundation to the pose, then we learned how to ground our foundation.  A good foundation will ensure stability and keep us balance.   “Balance in the body is the foundation for balance in life. In whatever position one is in, or in whatever condition one is placed, one must find balance.”  -  B.K.S. lyengar

H for Headstand  
Headstand is my challenge pose for 2010 and having accomplished the challenge before the year-end has given me the confidence to meet any challenge whether in doing the asanas or in life.

I for Inversions
Doing Inversions allows me to see the world upside down which teaches  me to look at things from a different perspective . 

J for Jump Back and Jump Through  
Jump Back and Jump Through helps to keep the flow of an Ashtanga practice, maintaining the energy level for the endurance of the whole practice.  I am working on keeping my jump back and jump through light and graceful. 

K for Kicks
I am learning to kick up into handstand and although I am still not able to go into handstand by myself, I am kicking higher each day and I believe that one day I will be able to do so.  

A teacher and a friend.  She has taught me not only how to execute the poses but to see the light in every tunnel.   Her enthusiasm and attitude towards life has been an inspiration to me.

M for Music for Yoga
Music is used to provide a soothing and relaxing background while we practiced our asanas.  I love to listen to music for yoga while I am working and the station Anima Lumen on plays the best types of instrumental, new age and Celtic music which are suitable for yoga and meditation.   I have the pleasure of attending a Kirtan session with Daphne Tse, a regular performer at the yearly Bali Spirit Festival and was introduced to this genre of music which involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments in a call and response manner.

N for Never Say Never
When I first saw photographs of people doing yoga poses such as Headstand and Tittibhasana, I was thinking there was no way I could ever do them.  Now, I know that by using the 2Bs – breath and bandhas, I will be able to execute these poses and more.

O for On-going Journey
I embarked on my yoga journey four years ago and am enjoying each experience where there  is no permanent destination but an on-going  journey of self-discovery as I go through each phase of my life.

P for Posture
Before I did yoga, I used to hunch my back.  Yoga has improved my posture due to increase body awareness.

Q for Quite Mind
Meditation has taught me how to quite my mind when my life is in chaos and to focus on things that are present and not let perceived thoughts affect me.

R for Retreats
This year I have gone to two yoga retreats.  Being able to do yoga and enjoy the beautiful sights of Bali and Angkor Wat (Siem Reap) have been a wonderful and memorable experience.

S for Strength
Yoga has helped to improve my physical as well as my mental strength.  The poses have helped to strengthen my joints and muscles and tone my body.   By learning to stay focus during the asanas, my mental strength has also improved as well as greater attention through body awareness.  

T for Teachers
To all the teachers who have taught me, I wish to thank you all for your guidance. 

U  for Urdhva Dhanurasana
Urdhva Dhanurasana,  my nemisis pose.   The pose that taught me about the virtue of being patient; waiting for the pose to  come to me when my body parts are opened and ready for it. 

V for  Virtual Friends
Virtual friends in the form of fellow bloggers who share their passion for yoga by writing about their practice and sharing and giving comments to my blog posts. .   Learning that someone else is experiencing the same problem that I am having when doing certain poses makes it less daunting.

W for Workshops
I have attended a few Yoga workshops this year for the simple reason that the workshops provide a more in depth instruction on specific yoga poses.   I also met a great teacher and sister blogger, Michelle Myhre when I attended her workshops on Forward Bends and Back Bends in July this year. 

X for  X-hilaration
X-hilaration (exhilaration) after Savasana especially when you have the feeling of having "returned" from somewhere.

Y for Yin Yoga
Yin yoga for days when the body needs a relaxing and stretching workout.  Yin Yoga is the perfect complement to balance my Ashtanga  “yang” practice.    

Z for Zealous 
Yoga has shown me that being zealous about something is not wrong.  It can only get better and better if you continue to pursue it. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Jump Back

In an Ashtanga and a Vinyasa flow class, we will be doing a lot of jump back and jump through.  Being able to do a smooth jump back and jump through will help to keep the flow in the practice.  

Whenever I do a jump back during a vinyasa, I have this problem of going straight down to Chaturanga Dandasana.  Instead, I will hover in plank before going into Chaturanga.  At first, I thought that it was due to not having enough arm strength but the funny thing is I would be able to go straight down to Chaturanga from Chakrasana.

I have been viewing some videos on instructions for the jump back (thanks to Youtube!) but still have problem executing the pose in my practice.  Recently I found the video below on vimeo. 

Blanca Aviles - Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from Van Yang on Vimeo.

I noticed that as she pressed her palms into the ground, she draws her hips up to her belly, rounding her back and leans forward before gracefully jumping back into chaturanga.   By drawing her hips up, she was creating a lot of space between herself and the floor and at the same time, engaging her core. I have tried this out in my self-practice yesterday and noticed that I am able to go straight into chaturanga but the execution of the pose still needs some working on to have a more soft and graceful landing.

From my research for the pose, I managed to find this great article “Pick Up and Jump Back” by Maty Ezraty which provides more insight on how to execute the pose  and  I would like to quote this from the article.  “Let this journey be a metaphor for your life. With the grace of your breath, start at the beginning, move with awareness, and open yourself up for the ride. Step by step, you'll get there.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tripod Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana II)

If you have been following my blog, you would know that I am getting more confident in my Headstand and have sometimes managed to add in a variation by opening my legs wide in the pose.

In the flow class I have always been just doing the Half Tripod Headstand where my knees would be resting on my triceps.    For the past few weeks, I have managed to lift my legs up for the Tripod Headstand but with Azmi’s help.  Yesterday in the flow class, I managed lift my legs up on my own and stayed up for the five breaths.   

What’s the difference between the Traditional Headstand and Tripod Headstand?   In the Traditional Headstand, the elbows are on the floor shoulder width apart while in the Tripod Headstand, the palms are on the floor with the elbows pointing skyward, shoulder width apart.

How to do the Tripod Headstand

Begin with your hands and knees on the mat. Lower the top of your head to the floor so it is in front of your hands. You'll know your head is in the right position because your elbows will be directly over your wrists and you'll be able to see your hands. Your head and both palms will form the points of an equilateral triangle.

Once your head and hands feel stable, straighten both legs and walk your feet towards your face as far as you can. Shift your hips over your shoulders, and keep your hands planted firmly on the mat. Bend the legs and bring the knees up onto the elbows.  Stay here or work on lifting both legs up into the air coming into Tripod Headstand. Keep your legs together and point your toes.  Hold this pose for five deep breaths.  To come out of the pose, bend your knees, fold them in towards your chest, and lower your feet to the floor.  Bend your knees and push yourself back into child's pose.  

The Tripod Headstand puts more weight on the neck and head and requires more core strength but with the knees on the elbows, the pose feels more stable as you slowly lift your legs.  I find that in order to lift my legs, I need to engage my core and lifting both legs together keep my center of balance. 

It feels great that I have fulfilled my wish to be able to execute my challenge pose for this year which is Headstand (read my January blog post). and I believe that if we change our mindset, nothing is impossible! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rooting in Urdhva Dhanurasana

I love this blog post from Five Minute Yoga on Rooting: a yoga lesson from the garden. Quote: “In the garden of our practice, we cultivate our poses. Sometimes we have to pull out weedy bad habits. Always we have to till, prune and water. Neglect usually results in decay, but sometimes, as with a perennial tucked away in a far corner, poses bloom when we least expect them to. And then there’s patience: in a garden, as in a yoga practice, nothing happens overnight. But of all the links from your mat to your garden, nothing is more fundamental than understanding that what goes down must come up. Learning to root down will revolutionize your yoga practice because it gives you the ability to lift up and create space in your body." 

Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose) has always been my nemesis pose…this pose has always been difficult for me and on certain days, I would rather not do the pose especially when I feel the compression in my lower back when I lift up.

At the recent yoga retreat in Angkor Wat, as Azmi helped me in the pose, with me holding onto his ankles as I lifted up and using his hands to help me to draw in my shoulder blades, I could lift higher in the pose as I pushed down on my feet.

Today in the Flow class without Azmi’s assistance, I managed to lift higher than usual and did not feel any compression in my lower back.  It was a sensational feeling as I could feel my shoulders opened more as I draw in my shoulder blades and keeping my toes turned in and my feet parallel as I pushed down on my feet.  I believe I have found the root to this pose..:)

 "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can." — Little Engine That Could

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Angkor Wat Amazing Yoga Retreat

I have just came back from my Angkor Wat Yoga retreat with Azmi and had such a wonderful time there. 

As there were only Bee Yen and myself, Azmi had specifically planned poses that work on the shoulders and upper back for me and balancing and foundation for Bee Yen.   I learned so much more about opening my shoulders and not to force the resistance in my left shoulder but instead to work with it with awareness.  The yoga sessions were held in the morning before we venture out to explore the temples and on the final day we also did a session of yin yoga in the afternoon before going out for a relaxing and heavenly massage at Bodia Spa to end our trip. 

The Angkor temples were amazing and I love Ta Prohm which was both beautiful and eerie with gigantic roots twisted round the stone pillars of the temples and Bayon temple was majestic with its 54 towers with four large faces on each and the large smiling faces gave a welcoming and serene feeling to the place.  It was worth the effort of getting up early to watch the spectacular sunrise at Angkor Wat as sunlight slowly bathed the five towers.   As we visited the inside of Angkor Wat in the evening, I managed to see the sunset from one of the turret inside the temple.  Before the trip I had posted in FB that I would be doing the tree pose in Angkor Wat and I actually did two yoga poses;  the tree pose as well as utthita hasta padangustasana (extended hand to big toe pose) while I was there.   

One of the special moments of the trip was when we went to a concert by Dr Beat (Beatocello) Richner who plays the cello.  It was so heart-warming to see how Dr Beatcello had started and continues to embark on his life project of providing free health care treatment to the people of Cambodia by building the chain of Kantha Bopha hospitals.   The free concert is held every Saturday evening at 7.15 and donations are welcome with a special appeal to young tourists to do a blood donation.

As we had stayed in the heart of the city, it was a short walk to the cafes and local hawker stalls and we had our dinner three days in a row at our favourite local hawker stall where the food is cheap and delicious.  We also got to learn some simple Cambodia phrases like Aw kohn (thank you), Sohm toh (sorry), Niak sohk sabaay te? (how are you today) from the local friendly people and when buying souvenirs that they are "same same but different". 

It was an enjoyable holiday with beautiful sights (with lots of photos for memories) meeting lots of  friendly people and eating the delicious Khmer food (love the Amok fish!) and being able to practice yoga with Azmi and Bee Yen in this amazing city has been fantastic.   Thanks Azmi for being our tour guide and photography teacher besides the great yoga sessions and insights on incorporating the yoga asanas into our daily life and Bee Yen for the company.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yin Yoga Self-Practice

There were no classes for the past few days with Azmi away, so self-practice is the option to maintain a constant practice.   However, it is not easy to do a self-practice as it takes a lot of discipline and there are always many excuses about not being to find time to do the self-practice. But in actual fact, we only need to do a 10 to 15 minutes practice daily to reap the benefits.

Often most of us would think that we will need to do a yang practice for the self-practice but have you considered doing a yin practice instead.   A yin self-practice has its benefits especially if you have been doing a lot of yang classes.   A yin practice allows us to focus on those tight spots in our body and there are many yin poses that help to stretch out those tight muscles.   And if I am feeling lazy, I can do the poses lying on my back and still get the satisfaction that I have done a self-practice.  In yin yoga, the pose is held from 3 to 5 minutes to stretch the connective tissues in our body.

The following are some of the yin poses that I have been doing in my yin self-practice where the target areas are my tight shoulders, hamstrings and hips.

Before ending the practice with Savasana, I do Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall pose) which is a restorative pose and a gentle way to do an inversion pose.

Below is a video from Yogatic where a few yin yoga poses are demonstrated. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Open Shoulder for Backbend poses

Azmi has added the backbend poses for the Ashtanga Led 2 classes and Kapotasana is one of the poses.  Whenever I do the pose, I would feel compression in my lower back even though I am just lifting my hips off the floor with my head resting on the floor and my hands behind my ears.  Azmi has advised me to wait the pose out as my body is not ready for it as my shoulder is not opened enough for me to do the pose.   He said that the pose will come to me and it would be worth the wait like it did for Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose).  Meanwhile, I would need to get my shoulder to open up more and the following pose is recommended by Azmi.

Bend your elbows 90 degrees, and carefully place the backs of your elbow on the front edge of the chair seat, about shoulder-width apart or slightly closer and clasped your hands together.  Walk your knees away from the the chair until your trunk is parallel to the floor and your knees are directly under your hip joints. Draw your front lower rib cage upward so it does not sag toward the floor, and keep it there throughout the pose. Exhale and move your hips horizontally backward to lengthen your spine, slide your outer shoulders toward your ears, and draw your head away from the edge of the chair seat.  Allow your head to hang down in the space between your trunk and the chair.  Keep your hand pressed together and squeeze your elbows towards each other to find a strong and yet comfortable stretch.

This article "Shoulder Responsibility" in Yoga Journal  writes about shoulder movements require for the backbend poses which is an important aspect to prepare the shoulder opened for the poses. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mysore Practice

I have been going for the Mysore class on Saturday morning at Azmi’s Home Studio for the past three weeks.  Although there are a few of us in the class, everyone is doing the poses of the Ashtanga Primary series at our own pace.  

I am pleased that I have been able to remember the sequence of the poses which help me to set my pace and connect my breath to the movement.  Keeping my breath in sync with the flow of the movements helps me to be focused and energized throughout the practice.

A Mysore class is a like a self-practice but with the benefit of having a teacher assist and adjust you in the poses when he sees the need to.   I am also able to take my time to go into the poses especially when doing the binding for the Marichyasana poses which ensures that my grip is tighter in the poses which enable a deeper forward fold for Marichyasana A and B and a deeper twist for Marichyasana C and D. 

I find the Mysore class very motivating as I can see my own progress and the advances I have made in some of the poses. I am now more confident of my headstand and have started to add in a variation by opening my legs wide in the pose last Saturday and managed to stay in the pose for at least 5 breaths before coming down.   I intend to work on my jump back and jump through so that I will have better transitions between the poses which will help to keep my practice light and fluid. 

"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.  The better your practice, the brighter the flame" - B.K.S. Ivengar

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beautiful Quotes to inspire your Yoga Practice

I find the following quotes very inspiring for my yoga practice and hope they do the same for you.

Motivation for me to do those poses that I still can't do....

Whenever one side of my body can't do the pose...

For me to continue my journey of enlightenment.....

And I find this picture very inspiring......

Love and light.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Yoga Adjustments for a Deeper Practice

There were only three of us in the Flow class today and the benefit of a small class is that Azmi got to observe and went round to adjust and assist each of us to go deeper into the poses. As Azmi has been my teacher since I started practicing yoga, I have learned to trust him to take my body to places where I didn’t think I could go to as I believe the teacher-student exchange during adjustments is a very important. Instead of resisting the discomfort, I have learned to use his breathing to help me to go deeper into the pose which has helped me to progress in my practice. From his adjustments I have learned to become more aware of how the body should feel in a particular pose and I will try to execute the same alignment required for the said pose the next time I do it.

Azmi adjusted me in Triangle and Half-moon pose by asking me to lean back at bit against his leg and he used one hand to stabilize my hips while the other hand pressed my shoulders slightly up towards the sky. The adjustment helped to open the heart more and with him holding my standing leg, I could pressed on it more firmly to lengthen my torso.

In Gomukhasa or Cow Face pose, I have always been able to do only one side i.e. hooking my right hand on top to my left hand at the bottom. For the other side, I would need a strap or towel. This morning with Azmi’s assistance, I managed to lace my left fingers on top to my right fingers at the bottom and could feel a deeper stretch along my shoulder joints and rotator cuffs as I lVeaned forward to hook my chin over my knee.

The other pose that I got a great adjustment was during Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel pose. By holding Azmi’s ankles to lift up, I could lift higher in the pose by straightening my arms more and with his hands around the sides of my torso and his palms covering my shoulder blades encouraging them to widen away from the spine, I could feel the difference in the backbend in this assisted pose as compared to doing it on my own as it gave me the extra height to open up my shoulders and chest without feeling compression in my lower back.

Each of us received Azmi's magic touch during Savasana where he gently pressed our shoulders to open the chest and gave a light massage to the neck before slightly lifted our head to lengthen and release the neck as we relax into the pose. It was a wonderful way to end a great practice.

Namaste, Cikgu Azmi.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Inspiring Yoga Teachers

This world is ready and waiting
For you to break on through.
It's time to recognize,
To realize,
You're the only one like you.
Step on up,
Step into your greatness.
Don't be afraid.
There's a place where you will rise up to;
No one else could do what you do.

(Keb Mo - Let Your Light Shine) 

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

(Josh Groban - You Raise Me Up)

If I can see it, then I can do it
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it
I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar

(R.Kelly - I Believe I Can Fly)

Alternate Nostril (Anulom Vilom) Breathing

I have been going to a new teacher, Amy's class in Be Yoga and she has been teaching us a breathing exercise, Alternate Nostril Breathing in some of the classes.

Alternate Nostril Breathing is an excellent technique for focusing on your mind and improving your concentration. It is a good breathing exercise to do after working your body and your breath in a sequence of poses, as you will have the energy and concentration to sit and focus on your breathing. With the poses, you are working with your body, using your breath as support while here, you are working with your breath, using your body as support. Focusing on your breath turns your attention inward and is relaxing and energizing.

1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Keep your body very still and your eyes closed.

2. Use your right hand to control your nostrils. Rest your left hand in gyan mudra by touching the tip of you thumb with the tip of your index on your left knee.

3. Gently place your thumb on your right nostril. Put the inside of your third (ring) finger on your left nostril.

4. Breathe in through your left nostril, closing your right nostril completely by pressing with your thumb. Control the flow of air coming in through your left nostril by partially closing it with your third finger.

5. When you have finished inhaling, close the left nostril completely with your third finger and breathe out through your right nostril. Partially close your right nostril with your thumb to control the flow of air.

6. Leave your thumb and finger in place and continue by breathing in through your partially closed right nostril. The left nostril should still be closed by your third finger.

7. Finally, close your right nostril and breathe out of your left nostril. This is one round of alternate nostril breathing and takes two breaths to complete.

8. Keep repeating the sequence. When you have repeated it a few times and have establised a slow, smooth inhalation and exhalation, try pausing for a second or one count after each inhalation and after each exhalation. Gradually increase the length of the pauses until they are up to four seconds long or four counts.

9. Make your breath slow, smooth and quiet. When you have finished, return to normal, relaxed breathing for a few minutes before getting up.

The way the breathing is measured is at a ratio of 1:2:4. This means if you breathe in for a count, you hold for four times as long, and breathe out for twice the amount of counts you breathed in.

If you feel dizzy or light-headed, stop for a while and continue after breathing deeply three or more times.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yoga Poses in Daily Life

These are the poses that have been integrated into my daily life…

When I am blow drying my hair or brushing my teeth....

The tree pose or Vrksasana, is a standing pose that improves balance and concentration when practice constantly. The pose helps to strengthen your thighs, calves, ankles and back.

When I need to use a public toilet…..

The chair pose or Utkatasana is a pose that tones your leg muscles and build lower body strength.

When I need to scratch my back…..

Cow face pose or Gomukhasana opens the shoulder joint giving a wider range of motion. The full pose in the seated position opens the hips where stuck energy in the body is stored and the pose helps release that energy.

Which yoga poses have you incorporated into your daily life?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Yoga Journey

These sayings reflect my journey with Yoga during the past three years….

When I first started my yoga practice......

When I can't do headstand......

When I can't do the arm balancing poses...

When I finally manage to come up to Wheel pose...........

Now when I am doing Yoga....

Thanks to all the teachers who have been with me throughout my journey....Namaste...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mysore Class

This morning, Azmi changed our Ashtanga Led class to a Mysore-style class.   There were only four of us in the class and we started by doing five rounds of Sun Salutation A and five rounds of Sun Salutation B on our own pace.    Following that, we went into the standing and sitting poses and ended with the closing sequence of backbends, shoulder stand and head stand poses. I was glad that I could remember the sequence of the poses up to the sitting postures although today was the first Ashtanga class after one week of no Ashtanga classes due to Azmi being away.  

I found the class to be fun and full of energy as we were all trying our best to go into the poses.  It was challenging without being overwhelming.  Azmi went round assisting and adjusting us individually in the poses, helping us to go deeper in the forward bends and helping us to bind our hands in the twisting poses. 

A Mysore class is different from other yoga classes as each student learns and practices the Ashtanga poses at their own pace.  I find that a Mysore class would requires a deeper level of commitment than the other classes as we have to memorize the sequence of the poses. But I love the high energy of the class as everyone was so deeply engrossed in their poses with only the sound of our collective breathing and occasionally Azmi’s voice giving instructions for the next pose for those who were not sure of the sequence of the poses being heard in the room.   

I had a fantastic workout and I am looking forward to the next Mysore class.  I believe that a regular Mysore practice will bring my practice to a new level as it requires me to be more focused as as well as allowing space and time for my personal practice to blossom. 

"Then there are those moments that make it all worthwhile. I’m carried on my breath like a leaf on the wind: folding, arching, twisting, bending, leaping lightly from one posture to the next. My body tingles with energy; my mind is quietly absorbed in the hypnotic rhythm of practice. The poses seem strung on the breath like prayer beads on a mala; I enter each one to the best of my ability, savoring the silky stretches, the pleasurable ache of muscles taxed to their edge." -  Anne Cushman, Yoga Journal, January/February 1995

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Yesterday was the first day of the holy month of Ramadan when our Muslims friends start to fast during the day. As I was eating breakfast in the office, a Muslim colleague came in and I realize that I should refrain from eating in the office. So, during our lunch break when another colleague asked me to pack lunch for her to eat in the office as she needed to complete her work, I told her to go out for a quick lunch with me instead. Often, we think only of ourselves and are not mindful of how our actions would affect other people.

In our daily life, we can practice mindfulness in a number ways such as letting the car that is stuck behind a stalled car to come into our lane, giving our place in the queue to a mother with a crying baby and putting the garbage into the garbage room instead of leaving it on the floor outside the room.

During our yoga practice, we also need to be mindful at all times so that we are present and have focused awareness. Having focused awareness means that we are aware of a discomfort in the pose and at the same time know how to recognize and react to the pain.  Listening to our breath or doing a variation to the pose means that we are mindful.

Be mindful of the knee not hyper-extending and be mindful of the body’s weight on the arms and lifting the hips into the air to float back into plank and of the hips not collapsing lower than the shoulders. Be mindful during our transitions in and out of the pose as injuries normally happen when we disconnect from our breath, bandhas and distri (gazing point) as we rush from one pose to another.

Mindfulness means having enough space between you and your neighbor’s mat so as not to hit each other when you do your sun salutations. Mindfulness also means switching your mobile off or to silent mode before class, not stepping on a fellow yogi’s mat when you need to cross to the other side of the room and laying down in savasana (corpse pose) before leaving if you have to go before the class ends.

"Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked." -The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Monday, August 9, 2010

Be Yoga Goes To Angkor Wat

Be Yoga is organizing a yoga retreat in the rustic and historic city of Siem Reap and you can experience doing yoga in the city where the majestic Angkor Wat temples are located.

The 5 days/4 nights “Chill Out, Let Go and Be Free” retreat led by Azmi Samdjaga will be held from 11 till 15 November 2010 at Royal Empire Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The retreat comprise of:

- One return flight ticket on Air Asia from KL to Siem Reap
- Airport transfer to and from the hotel to the airport
- 5-day / 4-night twin accommodation at the Royal Empire, Angkor
- Healthy breakfast
- 7 yoga classes and workshops with Azmi Samdjaga
- ONE complimentary massage

The topics in the workshops will cover:

• Arm balancing techniques
• Keeping the flow of your practice
• Inversions and its contraindications
• Keeping your practice safe

Hurry and sign up before 11 August 2010 to get the Early Bird Special Rate of RM2,488.00 (Full Price RM2,688). Closing date to book your place is 11 September 2010 and the retreat is limited to only 15 pax. Call Be Yoga at 03-77286182 for further details and enquires.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Up Close and Personal with Michelle Myhre

Last weekend I attended two workshops conducted by Michelle Myhre at Be Yoga. I found Michelle a very sincere and inspiring teacher who is very passionate about her yoga practice and teaching. I took the opportunity to ask her some questions for my blog and below are her candid answers.

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

When I was 19 years old my grandmother and I started taking yoga classes together. Unfortunately, around that time my mother was going through her ‘born-again Christian’ phase and she forbid me to continue studying yoga. Out of respect I stopped yoga for several years. But I was always drawn to the practices.

Then about 15 years ago I found yoga again, and it gave me so much joy and peace, I immediately started taking 2 classes a day, arranging my life around yoga. It was the Iyengar style, and that’s a great foundation.

Iyengar is alignment based, and the teachers I studied with had all been to India around a dozen times each. It was intimidating. I thought I could never be a yoga teacher, but a part of me loved it so much, it was all I wanted to do. Yoga was transforming me, my sense of self and relationships were getting healthier. I was completely addicted.

When I moved to Maui I started meditating a lot, and also found Bikram yoga, which is not meditative at all, but the two balanced each other out. There is also an amazing Ashtanga community on Maui, and what happened is I became a certified Bikram teacher, which was accessible. But my personal practice was with Ashtanga master Nancy Gilgoff or at Maya Yoga, which is a form of Vinyasa that is a fusion of Iyengar and Ashtanga.

Bikram was great at that time, but I needed more. In 2003 I traveled to Austria to study with Sharon Gannon & David Life. They certified me to teach Jivamukti Yoga. Since then I’ve completed three more trainings, and to be honest, I’m planning #6, I want to learn more about Yin Yoga. Each form of yoga is beautiful, and each has taught me essential things, but the learning and growth continue.

You have a blog named “The Devil Wears Prana”. How did you come up with the name and what do you blog about?

The name of the blog, Devil Wears Prana, came from a couple of cute boys who worked for me. They were teasing me… It’s just so witty, and playful, I loved it. Also, there is this notion that yoga teachers are perfect and calm all the time. Ha!

Devil Wears Prana is a place for me to learn and share all things yoga. Sometimes it’s about alignment, or a great quote I’m reading in class, a new sequence, or style of yoga, the definition of a chant, a beautiful photo, or a posture that I’m working on. I write a lot about the experience of teaching yoga too. Teaching tips, things that have helped me. The blog reflects my journey on this path. Like me, it’s a work in progress.

You just completed a 2-day workshop at Be Yoga and have been teaching in Malacca for about six months. What do you think of the Malaysian practitioners and how are they different from your students in the United States?

How are Malaysian yogis different from US students? Good question. First, people are more alike than different. Internally we go through the same things: struggle with challenge, feel joy when we make progress, and we all want to be happy. But people in the East do have more flexibility in their hips. Everyone can bind here. In the West, binding is for the intermediate/advanced yogi’s, but here, wow, everyone is in the bind. First time students can bind.

Malayaian students are also playful. I taught a workshop “Wild Thing! The Animals Of Yoga!” The students were growling and meowing, we jumped around, wagged our tails. It was awesome, there was so much laughter and freedom. I don’t know if I could get a room full of students in SF to cut-loose like that.

What advice would you give to a yoga practitioner on how to bring his or her practice to the next level?

To take your yoga practice to the next level practice every day. Just keep showing up and see what happens. Your body will let you know when it’s ready for more. But really, the definition of yoga is “stilling the fluctuations of the mind”, it’s a practice that helps us focus and quiet down our internal chatter.

Yoga just never ceases to amaze me. It uses the body to get inside, and once in it transforms everything. To access this, you have to step onto your mat and do the work. That’s where the magic happens.

Also, it’s helpful to take a couple workshops a year, or even a teacher training (If you’re in Vancouver late Sept through Oct 2010, train with me!). Work with master teachers when you can and use what you learn in your daily yoga class. Over time you’ll see your practice transform. The more embodied you become, the deeper your practice will be. The truth is, certain aspects of the practice take years to find. It’s all about the journey.

Michelle is currently teaching  @ European Spa Yoga in Malacca until 18 August 2010, after that she will be going back to San Francisco and will be conducting a 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training in Vancouver in September 2010.   If you would like to know Michelle's schedule, you can visit her blog and at the same time, read her inspiring posts.