Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks For The Inspiration, Mysore!

Since I've been back from Mysore, I felt I have carried back a bit of its magic with me. I'm managing to practice on my own - which is great for the days I can't make it to the yoga studio. The last class I went to, I'm binding in Marichyasana D on BOTH sides (with help, of course).

The trip to Mysore has certainly inspired me. Practicing in the shala, one could feel a certain energy that is quite special. The Jois family, the students there, all add to my inspiration. Also, reading about the blogs of other people's practice, their dedication is also very inspiring.

So, I like to share a Malay song from Malaysia with you all. It's called "Kau Ilham Ku" (which is translated as "You Are My Inspiration")

Translation -
Thousands of stars in the sky now disappear
Leaving the darkness to caress me
The drifting moon now starts to fade
My inspiration vanishes and leaves me lost
A flash of your face appears in this silence
A flicker of ray appears
Is it merely a star or a ray of moonlight
And I express my gratitude
Allow me to steal a shadow of your face
Allow me to steal a dream with you
Forgive me ...oooo....
If this song disrupts your life
Your smile ...oooo.....
Is a figment of my memory within this arena
You are my inspiration
You are my inspiration

Allow me to steal a shadow of your face
Allow me to steal a dream with you
Forgive me ...oooo....
If this song disrupts your life
Your smile ...oooo.....
Is a figment of my memory within this arena
You are my inspiration
Allow me to steal a shadow of your face
You are my inspiration
You are my inspiration
Allow me to steal a dream with you
You are my inspiration
You are my inspiration
Allow me to steal a shadow of your face
You are my inspiration
You are my inspiration
Allow me to steal a dream with you
You are my inspiration

Credits to Youtube users Adeputera and Greenie85

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday's Led Primary - 7 Nov

Although the rain has started coming these few days, Kuala Lumpur is still hot. In fact, with the rain, the humidity increased. So, led class yesterday was like doing ashtanga in a sauna.

I must have won the prize as the sweat king in the studio. The positive thing from all this heat is Manoj managing to bind me in Marichyasana D on my left side! This is the side that was so far away from binding just a few weeks ago. I am stoked! Binding on this side has never happened before. Practice, practice and all will be coming. I was so tempted to stay for 10 breaths. However, the moment I thought that, my right elbow has slipped from my left knee.

I know I should be practicing detachment from this breakthrough, but I can't wait for class tomorrow!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Upward Plank

I noticed in my earlier video upload that I was rushing through my upward dog. It kind of looked like a plank with my neck arched back. So I wanted to see how it would look if I took a longer inhale during upward dog.

Ok. It looked a bit different but that was a looong inhale (for me). Not sure if I could keep that up during normal practice though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hot and Humid in Kuala Lumpur

These past few days in Kuala Lumpur have been HOT! With its humidity, practicing this morning was like practicing in a sauna. By the end of the third sun salutation A, sweat puddles were forming where my palms meet the mat. It is fortunate indeed for the yoga community in Kuala Lumpur that I was practicing by myself. There was real fear that if I did not use a cotton rug over my mat, my palms will slip from under me and my face will be flattened (some would speculate improved).

Anyway I was prepared for an easy practice, it being the first day after a moon day. However, with the heat, I found I was going quite deep (for my standards). Marichyasana D is coming along. I could bend my left arm around my right knee and the right hand could find my left thigh (or maybe it was the left side of my shorts). Left side is still faraway but my right arm could bend a bit and can reach my left foot so that's encouraging.

At this stage of my practice, I'm also trying to focus on my back bends. Normally I would just do 3 back bends. These days I'm adding one more after taking a breather. For this last one I would try to walk the hands in. Haven't succeeded yet. All I managed was to lift my hands a centimeter off the mat and come back down.

By the way, is the dristhi for upward dog the nose tip or the third eye space? I was searching Yoga Mala but could not find the answer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Making Patanjali Palatable

That's the title of the book, launched by my teacher last Sunday. Manoj has always said yoga is more than asanas and is constantly making an effort to make us students more in touch with the yoga sutras. I've attended his workshop on the sutras once. Although I enjoyed it, laziness has now erased what knowledge I learned then. Sorry, Manoj!! Now, with this new book there can be no excuses...

I've also noticed, at the back of the book, endorsements from Lino Miele and Richard Rosen (editor of Yoga Journal)! Wow. How cool is that?! (Sorry - I'm easily impressed by famous names.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Testing Video Upload

Sorry. Just got to try uploading a video - to make the blogging experience complete. Also chance for me to see myself in action. Haha - now I can see how stiff I am - my version of upward dog is basically a plank with my head tilted back!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Moving Around In Mysore

This is what I used to get around Mysore -

Some yoga students who are staying for a longer duration, rent scooters or bicycles. It looks a lot of fun -

But look out for wildlife on the roads ...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mysore Class - 21 Sept

Went to a Mysore class at the yoga studio I go to in Malaysia. Someone complimented me on my breathing after class was over. Wahoo! I take what I can get. Though, I'm not sure whether it was because I was focusing on deep breathes to stretch the muscle that was bothering me in the ribs or whether my breathing has improved because of the regular practice in Mysore. But, hey - for a stiff guy, any compliment you will take.

Manoj (my teacher) managed to bind me quite comfortably in Marichyasana D on the right side. I'm still working on the left side. It's coming. Patience, patience. I think my back bend has improved - I'm not so exhausted after the 3 back bends. Again, I could be just stronger from the regular practice. Feels great to be back and had an enjoyable practice.

Memories of Mysore are still fresh in my mind, which is good. They will help me with my self practice.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My First Practice After Mysore - 18 Sept

It's been 5 days since my last practice in Mysore. So I unrolled my mat for a rare self practice at home. I felt lethargic so I decided to focus on deep slow breathes, rather than getting deep. Besides Malaysia is a lot more humid and hotter than Mysore. As I was doing sun salutations A, I wondered whether I should do 3 instead of 5. I decided to do what I did in Mysore - which is 5 sun A and 3 sun B.

Throughout my practice, I kept the memory of Mysore in my mind. That had somehow helped me get through my practice. In fact, I felt more energy in the middle of my practice and managed to get quite deep in the asanas. I still can't bind in Marichyasana D but I feel I'm progressing in the right direction. Practice, practice and all is coming!

And I still remember Sharath's conference - you do what you can in this lifetime, and continue what you don't finish in your next lifetimes. Also, he mentioned Santosha - be happy and content with what you have (in material things and in other things, such as luxury of time to practice and your own physical limits).

With that, I think I've brought back something from Mysore that I can use anytime.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Last Practice in Mysore - 13 Sept

Today is my last day in Mysore and I had a great led class with Saraswathi. Practice was good - my ribs did not bother me too much. Because it was a led class, I didn't focus on slow breathes, instead I focused on Saraswathi's count. Well, thank goodness, her count was not slow or I would have passed out in Uth Pluthi.

It's has been special coming here to practice. At the same time, I'm looking forward to heading back to Malaysia, and taking back a bit of Mysore with me.

Practice - 12 Sept

Today, when I started, I did not expect anything but just focused on deep breaths and extending my ribs. Somehow or other, when I got to the sitting asanas, I felt much more energy than yesterday, and the ribs did not bother me too much. When it came to Marichyasana D on the right side, I got more of my fingers to interlocked and Saraswathi could even let go of me! Wow, when I least expect it. The left side was also better - I could get the right elbow round the left knee. Saraswathi even asked me to try it again. Still could not touch the fingers - but much improvement from yesterday! Celebrated afterwards with breakfast at Santosha.

One more practice, which is a led class tomorrow. Then it's back to Malaysia. I had an absolutely great time and experience here. But I feel ready and looking forward to going back to Malaysia. Hopefully, I'll bring home new and productive habits when I get back ...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Practice - 11 Sept

Whoops - I think I tried too hard on Monday. The tiny muscle pull I felt in my ribs when I tried binding in Marichyasana D on the right side has increased. So today's practice was a bit more cautious and less deep. Still, I felt good as I concentrated more on breathing deeper.

The rest of the day was spent shopping at Sudha's and Rashinkar's, which are close to the shala. They sell great cotton rugs to put over the mats and some nice gifts to take home. Now the mindset has switched to going back on Saturday - which meant shopping for loved ones at home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Practice - 10 Sept

I'm getting so comfortable practicing in the shala, that after my headstand, while I was in child's pose, I was thinking of having a Dosa for breakfast. Of course I tried to eliminate the thought. But once it's in, it stayed with me during padmasana and savasana. Needless to say, after practice, I went to the Green Leaf for Dosa.

Got my fingers to lock in Marichyasana D on the left side, of course with Saraswathi's help. We were quite pleased with the right side as she said, "Maybe tomorrow it will bind". Fingers crossed ...

Internet Cafe

Other than Anu's, I frequent an internet cafe just over 5 minutes walk from the Green hotel. The computers are older and internet speed slower, but hey, at 10 rupees an hour, it's fine with me.

Yesterday, just as I was settling down to my assigned cubicle, there was a power cut. So I leaned back and noticed a boy in the next cubicle looking at me. I smiled back and then sat and waited for the power to come back on. All of a sudden, the boy was standing in front of me, just staring and smiling. Trying to be unfazed, I took out my camera and took a picture of him. Of course the flash brought his friends along as well - which was a relief. There were the usual questions - where I'm from, do I have any Malaysian coins on me, etc. Turned out these kids were from a local secondary school and they use the internet for chatting.

By this time, our friend has positioned himself next to me. Before I know it, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Immediately I stood up and said in my gruffiest voice, "Ok boys. Got to go. See ya!" and left in what I hoped looked like a dignified exit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rail Museum - 9 Sept

The museum is great for kids - has a small playground and a mini railtrack where you can take a ride round. Small museum, with only 5 trains but I enjoyed it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Santosa Cafe - 9 Sept

Today I had breakfast at Santosa Cafe, a short walk from the shala. It was GREAT! Operated by Westerners, it serves great western breakfast - organic oatmeal, fresh cookies, even the sugar is organic (well, not the white sugar - I can't give more details). Super. And after that, I was walking around the area and I found Rashinka's Emporium, where they sell cotton rugs. I'm a bit early - the shop is still not opened. But I'll be back. Now that it's my last few days in Mysore - a shopping hunger has started ...

Practice - 9 Sept

Today as Saraswathi was helping me bind in Marichyasana D on the left side, she remarked "So close. Let's try again". I was so impressed with her efforts that I gave it extra effort. This time, instead of just fingertips touching (ET style), the fingertips can actually pressed and locked against each other. Thank goodness cameras are not allowed in the shala - my expression during the asana would qualify for face contortionist of the year.

The right side is still long way off but the right side of the body has more movement and Saraswathi was pleased. Slowly, slowly - it's coming!

Chamundi Hill - 8 Sept

The view from the top of Chamundi Hill was fantastic. You can see the whole of Mysore. There are two temples at the top of the hill. Some flowers with a small wooden Ganesh was thrusted into my hands just before I entered the temples. This guy says it was offerings and it was free. Naive that I was, I took the flowers. The guy then took me on a tour of the temple, claiming to be a temple worker. Needless to say, at the end of the tour, in a quiet corner of the temple, he said that the flowers and the wooden statues cost 2,000 rupees (1,000 rupees per temple). Rather than arguing in the temple, I gave in and treated this expense as tuition money on how to handle similar situations in the future.

A Monday Practice - 8 Sept

Slowly, I'm feeling more comfortable in practicing in this famous shala. I'm spending more time looking at my dristis, than at pictures that are hung around the shala. Today I could not touched my fingers in Marichyasana D on the left side. Well, it's Monday after all. However, when it came to the right side, I was surprised to get more movement from right shoulder to the left knee. It's still a long way off from binding, but it warranted a "very good on this side today" from Saraswathi. That will do for me :)

Sharath's Conference - 7 Sept

Every Sunday, Sharath has a conference in the shala, where he would sit on the stage in front of the students and give a talk or discuss yoga matters.

It's quite amazing to see all the students (and so many!) literally sit straighter as soon as he walks onto the stage. He came across as very confident and speaks in such a way that he held his audience captive; partly I suspect because he spoke so sincerely.

Today, he talked about choosing the right guru and being committed to a practice. Someone asked whether other types of yoga also lead to the same destination. Sharath's reply was that yoga done with spiritual intent would lead to the right path.

He also touched on Niyama and elaborated a little on diet. As someone who loves food, I kept my head down. Now and then, he would make light jokes. But his messages were quite clear - to follow the path of yoga requires studies or research, commitment, following the right guru, always reflecting on the practice and discipline.

Yikes! I guessed I'm still quite far away. Although he did say, even if one don't get there in this lifetime, there are other lifetimes to catch up. Well, that's something to build on ...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sunday - 7 Sept

The autorickshaw stopped beside me just as I was getting hungry and the drizzle had just started. Thinking it's a good time for lunch at the hotel, I agreed to use the ride. Not before some bargaining for I have now been in Mysore a whole week. "How much to Green hotel?" "20 rupees" "Oh, ok"

So much for bargaining. 20 rupees is the cheapest quote I ever had; normally I'm charged between 30 to 40 rupees. "So, this is the true rate", I reflected knowingly when unexpectedly the autorickshaw came to a stop. Curious, I looked out and saw the Green Leaf foodcourt ahead of me. Feeling glad the driver could not read my thoughts, I nonchalantly got out and hand him the 20 rupees. Besides, I had heard of this place but have yet to try its food.

I had a great vegetarian briniani.

Incense Stick Being Made - 6 Sept

Devaraja Market - 6 Sept

Celebrated start of weekend by going to this colourful bazaar.

Led Class - 6 Sept

Saraswathi's count during led class was very even - not fast nor slow and consistent! One thing I noticed was the number of sun salutations B was 3, rather than 5. Saraswathi came over to help when I was wobbling around during the balancing poses. I tried to focus on my dristhis (gazing points) as I feared if our eyes should meet, she would be asking, "why dancing?"

I could at last look around when my part of the asanas is over. The practices of the other students are very inspiring. Maybe one day, I'll reach there.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Friday Practice - 5 Sept

Today, as I reached the shala just before 8am, I could hear Sharath's voice counting. Sharath was conducting a led class, where he would lead the students through the primary series and count the number of breaths one should take in a particular pose.
When it came to Uth Pluthi, where you lift up with your hands while in lotus, Sharath counted one and stopped counting for a good 30 seconds before he called out "two". Those of us who were watching laughed while the looks of those practicing, well, looked worried! Tomorrow I have a led class, so perhaps I should not laugh too much.

Today's practice was great. Because of the led class, students in Saraswathi's class start at almost the same time. It is nice to now recognise familiar faces, one of whom I'm thankful for as her blog has helped my preparations for this trip. As always, Saraswathi came to help me at the asana I'm stuck at, Marichysana D. It's amazing - this small 67 year old woman doing her best to bind this stiff man. So I also tried my best to get into position. My face must have gone either red from the effort or pale from lack of breathing. So there we are - the both of us trying our best. And when the moment passed, we smiled at each other. That was a great moment to remember.

Back to Practice - 4 Sept

Yesterday shala was closed as it was a festival to celebrate the birth of Ganesh. Some of the practitioners practiced on their own. Me .. I took a day off. Already I've been vegetarian since I arrived (does eating eggs count as being vegetarian?).

Back to practice at 8.45am. I was slightly early but was slightly taken aback that Sharath was still there. He told me to come in. And I heard Saraswathi called out, "tomorrow you come at 8am". I'm assuming she's talking to me; otherwise it shall be interesting tomorrow.

Finally beginning to feel more settled. Was stopped at Marichysana D but this time Saraswathi got me to touch my fingers on my left side. Yahoo! The right side is still quite far away. But mini breakthrough is good.

Had lunch at Om Shanti. Very nice thali. After lunch, a student ask me to fill up a survey. Soon as I say yes, four other students came over with their own surveys. I think I spent 20 minutes, finishing up their surveys. Hey, got to give them a good impression of Malaysians, right?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mysore Palace - 2 Sept

The palace is situated in the heart of the city. Unfortunately, one can't take cameras into the palace grounds so I only have pictures taken outside.

The palace grounds are huge, around 450 yards each side. The palace is on the left as you walk in through the south gate and on its grounds, you can find 8 different temples.

Inside the palace, are exhibits of European statuettes, lamps from the East, etc. along with paintings and murals of the royal family and Indian history.

My favourite part is the Durbar Hall on the first floor, where you will have a panoramic view of the palace grounds with its fountains and towers of temples.

After the palace, I was walking around the palace lawns when suddenly I became a tourist attraction. A group of boys from Kerala wanted to include me in the picture with them, so I obliged.

Oh, I forgot to mention that you will have to remove your shoes before you enter the palace. Luckily I was wearing a pair of socks with no holes in them. Which reminds me, I need to send my socks to the laundry now.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My 7.30am Practice - 2 Sept

Today I was allocated an early time as it is the start of a festival. I went early to try and catch glimpses of the advanced practitioners, some of whom had started at 4.45am and had already finished by the time I arrived. There were 2 other people ahead of me in the waiting area. "One more", an authoritative voice rang out. I barely have time to sneak a peek when two "one more" rang out and it's my turn!

It is a whole different scene from yesterday when I went in. It was packed with mats side by side. For today, my class is mixed together with Sharath's students as well. I was told to put my mat at the back. Sandwiched between two practitioners who were in the midst of doing some crazy advanced pose, I quietly put my mat down and promptly went to the changing room to compose myself. Good thing about today was at least in my row there were a few men.

It was hard not to look around. The moment I looked around, I lost count of how many sun salutations I did. Never mind, just focus on the breath. Even then, these practitioners' breath are so loud, they play havoc on me concentrating on counting my own breath. But it was amazing to be practicing in such an atmosphere - in footballing terms, it would be like having a kick-about with Manchester United players at Old Trafford!

Saraswathi was great. The times she came to help or adjust me, she always had a smile. I got up to Mari D (I can't spell it!) before I was told to do the finishing poses. Can't wait for Thursday to start again ...

My First Practice - 1 Sept

I was 25 minutes early. So I walked around, and found an internet cafe nearby. I will check it out after my practice. I then waited in the waiting area when I was told to start my practice. I instinctively put my mat in the back row and started my practice. Soon more people turned up and it became painfully obvious (I hope it's coincidence) that all the men was practicing in the front row and the row I'm in were all women!

Anyway, too late. I had started to practice. It was hard not to be in awe being in this famous shala. As soon as I thought of this, I put my wrong foot forward in Sun Salutation B. Hoping Saraswathi did not notice I quietly went on as if nothing is wrong. Other than that, practicing with Saraswathi is great. She has such a strong presence that when she says something, you would do your best to follow.

Towards the end of the practice, she told me to start tomorrow at 7.30am. I could barely notice her next message about the shala being closed on Wednesday, being a festival day, for my head was starting to swell up. As if she could sensed that, she then said, "After holiday, you start again at 8.45am". My ego went back to the novice yogi state.

I can now say I've practice in the main shala!!

Mysore, At Last! - 31 Aug

Finally, I'm in Mysore. The hotel I'm staying in is called the Green Hotel. It has really beautiful gardens and my room looks out onto them!

After quickly settling in, I set off to the shala to register. I was reminded of my university days when we approached the shala - there were pockets of what looks obviously like yoga students standing out amongst the locals. I saw Saraswathi for the first time - she was friendly and also has a strong decisive presence. She led me to a room to register and there was Sharath sitting in the room! So, I quickly said namaste and smiled like an idiot. I hope I don't practice like an idiot tomorrow. I was told to practice the next morning at 8.45am.

Shatabdi Express - 31 Aug

The Shatabdi Express would take 2 hours from Bangalore to Mysore. To pay 300 rupees for a normal coach or 600 rupees for an executive coach? After last night I decided to treat myself to the executive coach. Boy, was I glad to have chosen the executive for it came with soup and lunch served to your seat. I had not had anything to eat since last night - so I polished every bit of scrap on my tray.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Expect the Unexpected - 30 Aug

Landed in what looks like new airport in Bangalore just before midnight. I had the option of a 4 hour taxi ride to Mysore or spend the night in Bangalore and then take the train to Mysore the next day. I choose the latter.

Initially I had booked the hotel through a hotel search engine. However, it turned out to be an adventure finding the hotel. Went through empty streets flanked by 1 storey shops. It was quite bizarre - although the streets was empty, we would come across small groups of people walking or talking in a huddle every few blocks. Almost like a scene off the Twilight Zone.

We finally found the hotel in a quiet section of the city, after calling for directions no less than 4 times. Turned out my internet booking was no use as the guy at the reception just looked at my booking slip blankly ( I had a feeling he would rather continue with his sleep). I looked around and saw no signs of a computer in the vicinity. Luckily he had a spare room after I agreed to pay the rate listed in his brochure.

I woke up early the next morning, partly because I became concerned when I asked whether it's easy to get to the train station and all I got was a good night wish and a head wobble. There were still no signs of other guests when I checked out. The hotel looked great, though. I'm pretty sure if I had checked in at a reasonable time, I would have a better impression.

Friday, August 29, 2008

One More Day!

Tomorrow is the day I finally leave for India. Panic has already sown their seeds. "What else can you tell me about Mysore?" I questioned my wife again and again. Any macho image that I have left has surely left me by now. Someone else teased me - "Isn't going for yoga trip a very gay thing to do?". And this is from a gay guy. Now, paranoia is starting to sow its seeds ...

Indeed, I have gone through many mental checklists of what to bring. I even caught up with my best buddy for lunch just now. I'm only going for 2 weeks! Still, the fact that I can't find my backpack doesn't bode well. The past week, I've been reading up on Mysore blogs. I have now a clearer idea on what I'm going into. Unfortunately, questions like the following has also emerged - what is this novice doing, mixing together with seasoned yogis?

I better start packing - time to pack the doubts away, time to look forward to meet the source of ashtanga yoga and to a new adventure ...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Week to My First Mysore Trip

One week to go!  It's finally dawning on me that I'll soon have to leave my comfort zone and see how I cope with 2 weeks as a yoga student in Mysore.  

Why Mysore?  To get an opportunity to see the man who started this system of yoga called Ashtanga Yoga.  (See )  Shri K. Pattabhi Jois is now 93 years old and apparently still teaching.  Though I'm not learning from him, I'm going to spend 2 weeks learning from his daughter, Saraswathi.

My existing yoga practice comprise 3 times a week at classes that are scheduled either around 8 in the morning or in the evening around 6.  This trip to Mysore will mean a daily practice (albeit for only 2 weeks) and will start at 7.30am.  My intention is to try the yoga student life and this meant also being vegetarian.  Two weeks should be fine, right?  As the time draws nearer, panic and doubts are starting to sow their seeds.

This is also my first attempt at blogging.  Ha ha.  It's one of many firsts.  Hopefully this will be a transformative event ....