Friday, October 23, 2009

Until My Next Trip

So long until my next Mysore trip. Saving this blog for my future Mysore trips. I have started another blog - Crazy Cacat in the City. Feel free to drop in. It is not a yoga blog - just anything that comes into my scattered mind. But it will contain updates/progress in my yoga journey. Happy practicing, everyone!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Saraswathi's Birthday - 11 Sept


How fitting that my last practice in Mysore should fall on Saraswathi's birthday. How I missed it last year is a good indication of how spaced out a person I am. Was early at the shala, and noticed the senior (senior not in age but in practice) aspirants bringing some flowers to the changing room. I went through a mental checklist - is it some festival? is it Guruji's birthday? is it Friday's prayers? All wrong. The answer came after class ended. A birthday cake was presented to Saraswathi at the stage, and then the senior aspirants went to give Saraswathi the flowers. After that, we all sang Happy Birthday. It was really nice to see the respect and love shown to this great teacher.

I was very lucky as I had planned to give Saraswathi a gift after my last class. After the cake cutting, I got changed and went to the office to say my thanks and goodbye. But not before offering the gift as a birthday present. What an opportunist I am - shameful! I took it further and ask for permission for a photo with Saraswathi. Digital camera nowadays come with many features - and one of them is that you can customise the camera in such a way that when a picture is taken, you will hear a dog barking instead of a click. Of course I had change the settings (for the kids!). Anyway, Sharath was in the office at that time and I ask whether he could take the picture of me with Saraswathi. To my horror, I heard a dog bark as he took the picture. He gave a quizzical look at the camera and then at me. At which point, I was completely mortified. Stripped of any dignity, I went for broke and ask for a photo with Sharath! Saraswathi also gave me the same look as Sharath when she took the photo. But it was worth it!

What a great two weeks it has been. It has been both enjoyable and inspiring. Now I must remember to change my camera settings back to normal settings.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Last Self-Practice Class - 10 Sept


Mixed feelings about today's practice. Today is the last of Mysore styled classes for me. One part of me wish I could stay on for another 2 weeks, but the other part is already looking forward to seeing family again. Two weeks is a short time, but at this stage in my life, it seems like the right duration. Maybe in years to come, I'll stay for one month, or even two!

These two weeks have been really memorable. Starting practice at 5am (4.45am in real time) was something I did not expect, but turned out to be such a blessing. After practice, the outside temperature is still cool and having a coconut after practice, perfect! Imran (I hope I spelt right) always serve the coconuts out with a quiet smile. And then, breakfast at my hotel's rooftop - really nice. But don't leave your plate unattended for a minute or the birds will be your breakfast friends.

So, only tomorrow's led class left, which I am really looking forward to. I wish there is someway adequate to describe the first opening inhale, but it's probably best to experience first hand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Practice - 9 Sept


It's funny how natural it has become to start getting ready for bed when it's still light outside. At first it took some getting used to; but now 7.30pm felt like bedtime. Last night I was woken up by a knock on my door in the middle of the night. Well, I say in the middle of the night; it was really around 9. He asked whether I was ready to go some place. He only realised he had the wrong room when his friend told him. After that, I was wide awake and quietly cursing him, planning ways to steal his sleep. The thought of knocking on his door when I'm leaving for yoga the next morning (this morning) came to mind. "Are you ready to go to class? Oops, sorry, got the wrong room." Soon as "yoga" flashed into my mind, I quickly admonished myself for entertaining such thoughts.

Nevertheless, practice continues to be enjoyable. There is something about practicing together with such dedicated aspirants (I picked up this word from Yoga Mala). In football, the standard of play generally goes up when you are up against a really good team. I think it is the same practicing here. Not that I'm up against anybody; I hope you know what I mean. Binding continues to be easier - well, incrementally - but at least it is not going backwards. What I really enjoy is the energy in the shala and Saraswathi's presence - always watchful and always there when needed.

This morning I caught sight of Sharath! He was with his son. Nice surprise as I thought he was away on a world tour. I don't think he will teach, but how nice it would be if he did for my last 2 practices to come!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Practice - 8 Sept


Beginning to feel more and more settled practicing in this famous shala. Was able to remember the alignment that I've been trying to get into for Mari D, and applied the same alignment for Mari C. It certainly felt different, and the binds were deeper. On one side, I'm almost reaching my wrist! And doing this for Mari C seemed to help for Mari D. It was quicker to bind, and I hope less work for Saraswathi this week than last.

Last week in Mysore. Time has flown! Going to savour the next few practices till I leave.

7 Sept - First Use Of ATM In Mysore


Took me all of 3 weeks before I found an ATM that I could use in Mysore. If your ATM has an icon with the word "PLUS" on it, there's an ATM machine next to Barista (coffee outlet like a Starbucks) that will work. It is an Axis Bank ATM, and it's on Temple Road. Sorry, just a reference point for future use, plus it is a big relief to know I have access to my bank account in Malaysia.

Back to my practice. Mysore style today. Was taking it easy as I was feeling tired when I woke up. Somehow, found some energy midway through standing. Was able to stay steady during Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana but I had help - plus the counts are faster when there's help during self practice classes. Yay! But she stayed to make sure the leg stayed parallel to the floor when hands are back at the waist. So, can't let go of focus.

Marichyasana D seemed easier to bind today - well, I hope Saraswathi think so too. I think I'm getting an idea of the alignment she wanted during Marichyasana D. It makes it harder to bind as it requires more twist in the body. In the long run, it will be good for me.

I'm still quite pleased I found out about the ATM. Next time I don't have to lug around a money belt with me all the time!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sunday Led Class - 6 Sept


Had been looking forward to today's led class. Having Friday and Saturday off felt like a weekend - so much so, yesterday I had a mild panic attack and thought I missed Sunday's led class. Talk about spaced out yogi!

As expected, the shala came to life with the first resonating inhale as the hands go up in unison. Managed not to dance so much in Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana, although my breathing has none of the serenity associated with yoga. Was really grateful to Saraswathi when she came to adjust me in Mari D. Even though I was bit stiff, she gave me two goes on the right side, and then stayed to help with the left. By Navasana, I was trying to catch my breath from my efforts in Mari D. But then, with the slow counting during Navasana, I lost my breath again and by the fifth Navasana, I was a shaking wreck. So, haha, made it through Navasana. Now, I could relax and watch the rest sweat. Just as I got comfortable, Saraswathi smiled and ask me to do Bhujapidasana. So much for resting, but I was like the dog I met this morning, happy for any attention.

After class, rushed back to clean up and made it to Mass at Sacred Heart Church at Yadav Giri. Made good time and was even early. All of a sudden, I was asked by one of the church helpers to read the first reading. I wanted to say I can't but somehow "sure" came out. Was so nervous that I nearly read the wrong reading. Thank goodness, someone came to help with the microphone and I discretely pointed at the section I was supposed to read and got a discrete nod back.

Well, considering the last two days of not doing much, except read, eat, and walk into shops, I felt really productive this morning and it's not even half past ten!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Led Class - 3 Sept


Led class this morning. Not sure whether I was nervous, but I slept badly the night before. Woke up tired, and thought, thank goodness, tomorrow is moonday. I would just practice and go back to rest. Reached shala early and took a space at the back - less pressure, I had hoped. I was glad I went early. I could sit and look around the shala. There was a big painting of Guruji at the center of the stage and another big picture beside it. Felt moved, just sitting there and looking at the painting, with Guruji smiling back at us.

Slowly the shala began to fill up. One thing that struck me is the reverent atmosphere before class begin. There were no chit chat in the room. Any voices heard were from the changing room and even then it's kept to a minimum and in low volume. It's quite something to see so many people in a room, waiting with total silence.

Then Saraswathi came and all stood at the front of the mat. Opening chant, and then the class began. That first inhale, as the hands went up, was so breathtaking. I guess I was taken aback as I had not taken a led class with so many students. Any tiredness felt earlier was replaced by adrenaline from that first inhale. Even my breaths seemed noticeably louder.

Class was fun. Everyone was moving in unison, each transition is held until the next vinyasa is called. This year, Saraswathi's count seem to be a lot longer. By the time, I reached Navasana, I was a spent force. After that, I happily sat and watch the other inspiring practices around me.

Joined back at backbends. Was glad I had the rest between Navasana and backbends. The counts seemed like it was played out in slow motion. Class finished with closing chant, which I could barely do as I was out of breath. Next practice is another led class, coming this Sunday. Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Third Practice - 2 Sept


Already third practice, and already settled in the daily routine of waking up early. No noticing of mosquitoes during practice, but they are still around during savasana. Obviously, yesterday's slap to the ear had done me more harm than them.

Bound again on both sides - of course, with a great deal of help from Saraswathi. I wonder how is it she is always in my vicinity when I reach Marichyasana D. Could she be planning her routes when there is a quiet period? Amazing. The shala is so big and packed with practitioners.

Led class tomorrow as Friday is moonday. Am looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Second Practice - 1 Sept


Had my second day today. Quite like the idea of being the first batch to practice. The walk to the shala is so calming. No one is up yet - only us crazy people. Once I heard the sound of a motorcycle approaching behind me and I took a mental wager that it would be a yoga student. And it was!

Body was less stiff this morning - the binds on the Marichyasana D were easier, of course with Saraswathi's help. With less stiffness, comes with less strength - that was me this morning. Have to admit to dancing with Saraswathi when she came over to help with Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. I was quite glad when I reached Navasana. Shala was full today and the heat was more than yesterday. I was drenched when I finished with Navasana. I think those practicing next to me were relieved when I left to do the finishing poses in the changing room. Quite happy that my mind was less scattered than yesterday. Did not notice any mosquitoes during downward dogs. Just during savasana, when one of them kept buzzing around my left ear - that was when I quickly ended my savasana with a violent slap to my ear.

Had my coconut outside. I think I was the first to finish today, no one was around. So nice to finish early - the air was still cool and when I got back to my hotel, the security guy was still sleeping in the same position as when I left earlier! No dozing off today while waiting for breakfast to start - although I did lose time a couple of times while reading my book. So far, I kept to a vegetarian diet (well, except for omelette for breakfast) - although I have been thinking of the gin and tonic I had at the Green hotel last year. Very nice. Maybe dinner at the Green hotel this Thursday, as Friday is moonday ...

Monday, August 31, 2009

First Practice - 31 August


The big plus about starting at 5 in the morning is doing the opening chant together with the rest. And it's nice to start the practice with most; though, I'm puzzled to find still more people coming in at 5.45am or later.

Practice was great, but my mind was all over the place. In downward dog, I was noticing the mosquitoes around me. Do I swat at them? What if Saraswathi notice me? I think I'll have to risk dengue, concentrate on the dristhis! When I reached the first balancing pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana), I noticed Saraswathi coming over to help. Please don't dance (wobble), just concentrate on dristhis and breathe deeply.

Other than my wandering thoughts, practice was really enjoyable. Got help with Marichyasana D - I was a bit stiff but Saraswathi managed to bind me on BOTH sides! Yay! And I've got Navasana. On my first day!

Went back to hotel after practice. But not before a coconut outside the shala. That's when you get to say hellos to other practitioners. Anyway, cleaned up when I got back and still have time to kill before breakfast begins at 8.30am. The early morning start and the adrenaline of being back at the shala must have taken its toll. I dozed off while waiting for breakfast and almost missed the breakfast window.

Felt great to have started. But have started to miss my family - so big shout out to Aggie, Ching Li and Ching Yan. Haha. You can now google your names on the internet.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

5am Start Time


I thought I was seeing wrong or needed reading glasses. After extending the card further away, the start time still read 5am. Last year, my start time was 8.45am. Just when I got over my shock, I was then told to follow the time as displayed by the clock in the shala; which upon closer examination is 15 minutes fast! So, effectively, start time is 4.45am! Which means bedtime is latest at 8pm. So, sorry, can't stay up and chat. Got to get myself in sleep mode soon.

First Day - 30 August

Got into Bangalore Airport last night around 11pm. Felt relieved when I saw my bag at the pick up carousel - I had a really tight transit at Singapore Airport - had to literally run to catch the flight to Bangalore. Also relieved when I saw my name amongst the numerous name placards held up outside the departure hall. Thanks, Murthy!

It was 21 °C - such a nice change from hot and humid Malaysia. The ride to Mysore was eventful. Getting out of Bangalore, my taxi had to make a hard swerve to avoid this motorcyclist, who was flung from the oncoming side of the highway to literally just 20m in front of us. Then I saw 2 incidents of road rage, which I did not even see a hint of during my trip to India last year. It's Saturday, explained my taxi driver during a chai break in the journey. A lot of drink driving on Fridays and Saturdays. I was completely wired till we reached Mysore at half two in the morning.






I'm staying at a new hotel called Urban Oasis Compact, which is ten minutes walk to the shala. The size of the room and bathroom is half that of the room at Green hotel, where I stayed last year. Whilst the Green hotel has a lot of character and charm of an established colonial hotel, Urban Oasis is one of those new no-frills hotel, but has Samsung flat screen TVs in each room and comes with free wifi and breakfast at rooftop of the building. Speaking of rooftops, most houses in Gokulam have flat roofs and many use the rooftop for their own recreational use.

Found out the time to register is slightly after 4pm. I wonder whether there will be conference in the shala today. Usually on Sundays, there is a conference / Q and A at the shala. Great to finally be here!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Final Thoughts Before Heading Off

I'm finally leaving for Mysore tomorrow! It will be exactly a year to when I first left for Mysore. I thought I would not be nervous, but as the days grew nearer, some panic and doubts are starting to creep in. What am I doing again? The first time I went was to see the source of this magical practice, to feel the place where it began and to meet the people who started teaching this. Well, I've done that. Yet, the longing to go back has been building up over the year - so much so when the opportunity arises, I grabbed it.

What do I hope to achieve this time? I'm only going for two weeks. Well, in some ways, this time makes more sense. I've been there, studied there for the same duration. If the longing is there, it can't be a look into the unknown, be a tourist and take in the sights. I find myself looking forward to seeing and learning from Saraswathi again, looking forward to a regular practice, maybe even a vegetarian diet - although I'm slightly apprehensive as to whether I have made sufficient progress in this one year. Though I know it makes more sense to go for a longer period, I simply can't afford the time. These two weeks are already a luxury, and this I can't thank my better half enough. I'll come back a more patient man!

Well, time to pack and gather myself together. Next time, I'll be reporting from Mysore!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Update On Ashtanga Scene In Kuala Lumpur


Great news for Ashtangis looking for Mysore style classes. Received above flyer in my mailbox this morning. Incidentally, she also has Mysore classes on Saturdays at Yoga2Health, 3pm.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July Highlights

Fell off the blogging bandwagon, in part due to a failure to maintain my self practice. I've found it so easy to lose the morning practice routine. A 15 minute lie-in would eventually lead to a reluctance to get on the mat, with the excuse that a rushed practice is not an ideal practice. Soon 15 minute lie-ins became a regular morning habit, and so went my morning yoga habit.

I took to relying on classes for my practice. Sometimes it is a rush to get to class, giving opportunities for excuses to creep in. With a scattered mind, even during classes, the practices have felt laboured. Still, there were times when I remembered the breaths and forgot my expectations - these were the times when my practices have felt light and joyous. These, though, have been few and far between.

Highlight for July has been the arrival of Manchester United in KL for a friendly match against a Malaysia Selection. I managed to get tickets for the match, and even got a Meet The Fans pass. Of course, I took leave off work to meet the players up close. As the queue got longer, it became embarrassingly obvious that I was the oldest fan. Well, there were other older "fans"; but these were parents accompanying their children. My excuse for not bringing mine was that they were not really fans - they had only heard of Van der Sar (see this post) and Christiano Ronaldo (who hasn't?).

But I did bring them to the match - partly to let them see there are so many other people even more fanatical about Manchester United than me. As it turned out, the stadium was packed with a sea of fans wearing red. The atmosphere was charged with excitement. It was a great match, with Manchester drawing first blood with goals from Rooney and Nani. Then, when Malaysia scored with a fantastic goal, the stadium went feverish with everyone chanting "Malaysia, Malaysia". And, the whole stadium almost went into a frenzy when Malaysia equalised. It became a very open game; with Malaysia trying for an upset win, and Manchester trying to restore their advantage. It was almost story-like that the match was settled with the winning goal from Michael Owen near the end of the match.

My kids now felt some connection with Manchester United - they now know more players, notably Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Michael Owen. Although I did make a special effort to mention Paul Scholes and the way he reads the game, etc, but I think I tried too hard and lost them in the process.

August is now fast approaching. My next highlight will happen at the end of August, for I will be making a two week trip to Mysore! It will be exactly a year from when I made my first trip last year. I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bing


Bing is the name of my mother-in-law's dog. He is one of those small white dogs - small in size but plenty of yaps. That was when he was young. He is now eleven or twelve years old, which I guess in dog years is around 80! He still has plenty of running left in him, but his bark has gone noticeably softer.

I always make a point of greeting him with a pat; partly because everyone else is so used to having him around that they go about their own things first. I do it because if ever I were to be a dog, I would like to be acknowledged when visitors visit. Our routine would be him standing on his hind legs with his front paws on my thigh and me patting his head. We would be there until one of us get bored and leave to do something else. Then I would have this Obsessive Compulsive Disorder of washing my hands before touching anything else. Why I do this, I don't really know. Maybe he is getting old and sometimes he gets a bit smelly. But I just got to wash my hands.

I always have this strange feeling that Bing likes to mock me. Every time he notices me washing my hands, he would come over for a pat and our routine would start again. When it starts to get tiring, I would put off washing my hands but the mutt frustratingly would not come over. I would then wash my hands when he is out of sight and hope I can enjoy being in my in-law's house before my next trip to the basin.

Yesterday evening I was in my in-law's house again. A hot cup of coffee was brought to me and I had the use of the computer. Also, my in-laws have just bought this excellent bottle of peanuts; so everything seemed perfect for a spot of peanuts with coffee. Just as I sat down, I noticed Bing coming towards me. Instinctively, I closed my hands over the peanuts and stared intently at the computer to avoid eye contact. Ha! It worked. He did not come over and lied down nearby. I can then enjoy my peanuts guilt-free. Or so I thought. I found myself, discretely putting some peanuts into my mouth and chewing ever so slowly that Bing would not notice the crunch of the nuts.

How pathetic am I?! Or was I being selfish? Maybe I should be thinking about karma and be not so much into myself. Speaking of karma, I have been enjoying my practice; but the progress seemed to have plateau off. I need to kick it into another gear - or should I?

I've been thinking of returning to Mysore for two weeks - the same duration as my first time. My Home Minister has given the go ahead. If I can get past the guilt factor and embrace the selfish one, I could be in Mysore in September!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Paying Homage

Last Sunday's tribute class to Pattabhi Jois was very nice. A picture of Guruji was on a projector screen at the front of the class, and there were lots of people, including children. A section of the studio was set aside for the kids, and the studio was packed with mats just inches from each other.

As ashtanga is still in its infancy stage in KL and not many people know much about Guruji, Manoj started by talking a bit on the biography of Guruji and his dedication in teaching ashtanga. The picture of a 20 year old Manoj with Guruji was memorable, and brought some laughter (maybe because of the post practice hair!). Fantastic also to see Manoj's son and wife with Guruji many years later (how many is for Manoj to reveal, I'm afraid).

Practice started after listening to a CD recording of Guruji doing the opening chant. Quite fittingly, the practice also ended with Guruji's closing chant just before savasana. It was a very nice tribute and it left me wishing I had gone to Mysore earlier to hear his chant in person.

Thank you for the gift of a magnificent practice!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Class Tribute To Guruji This Sunday

There will be a class dedicated to Guruji, Pattabhi Jois, this Sunday at the studio I go to. It will start at 9.30am and last 90 minutes. Please go to studio 2, which is above Island Cafe.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farewell


Guruji, Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, passed away on May 18, 2009. Though I have not met him personally, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of him when I was in Mysore last year. I had wanted to say thank you to him for introducing this type of yoga to the world.

The practice has given me lots of joy. My trip to Mysore has certainly given me an insight to the generosity of the Jois family in teaching this practice to the world. Then I studied with Saraswathi, and I was so in awe of her endless energy and enthusiasm in teaching the class. Guruji must have set the standards; and I'm sure the teaching of ashtanga is in good hands with Sharath and Saraswathi.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back To Practice

Quick update on my visit to the cardiologist. Stress test is fine except that my base BP is on borderline hypertensive. Medication is recommended, although he did say it's not needed now - but early treatment is preferred to late. However, my doctor wanted to monitor the BP a few more times before I take the plunge to medication. Apparently, she felt the cardiologist tend to take the more aggressive stance, while she is the conservative one. So, I guess I'm still in a limbo.

Life continues and I'm back into my yoga practice. My first couple of practices were careful and slow. I'm pleased and pleasantly surprised that I haven't lost too much flexibility; and with each additional practice I'm reaching my pre-injured state. Stamina, though, has taken a hit. Vinyasas felt heavy!! But so nice to be back with the practice - the breaths, the movements, the sweat (it's been super hot in KL these few weeks) and the final releasing of everything at savasana!

Final test of my getting back in action later tonight. Have futsal this evening. Am so inspired - anyone saw Man Utd's third goal in the 2nd leg of the Champion's League semifinal? Counter attack to the perfection!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Getting Back

Went to the gym to get my battered body back into action, The fond memories of the gym came back as I entered the gym. This was the place where I have spent a lot time doing rehab exercises after the surgery on my shoulder. I haven't even started yoga then. But the awareness in healing my body started in this place.

Anyway, started on the treadmill. The back felt fine even at jogging pace. Then tested range of motion with light weights. Felt really good after the session. I think it may be good to set some time aside for strength and cardio work, besides the yoga. I find sometimes with ashtanga, where for me the sequence is repetitive, there is a tendency of overworking certain joint movements. Perhaps, sacrificing some practice days with gym days has its benefits.

Time, though, is a constraint. At times I'm tempted to just practice daily in my eagerness to advance further in the primary series. That's when I find the discipline to practice detachment hard. This may all be a moot point. I have an appointment to do a stress test with a cardiologist as part of my medical check up. With my family's history of high blood pressure and diabetes, I may well have to do a regular cardio regime. Question will be whether I need to go on medication ...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Out Of Action

Happened during futsal. A seemingly harmless shot at goal, I simply went to punch the ball out. Strangely, I felt my back seized up. Even more distressing, I could not straighten up and have to limped off like an old man. I didn't even have a fall to justify my exit.

It could be three things :
1) I've been concentrating too much on flexibility and neglected strength training;
2) sign of age;
3) these things happen.

Funnily, I could bend forward; but straightening up was very gingerly. That night was restless with attempts at all kinds of sleeping positions; but to no avail. The next day the physiotherapist noted one of the facet of the spine was blocked, and promptly manipulated it back. What a relief! That night I could finally straighten out my legs on the bed and was just getting comfortable when the wife decided to talk about her woes at work. Woe is me - I remembered reflecting then.

Of course, no yoga since then. Am thinking of cutting back on the practice and spending some time at the gym. Not ready to cut out the futsal yet. But perhaps this latest mishap is telling me I'm getting on. Well, the body may be getting on but the mind is too stubborn to acknowledge that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stand By Me

Something to share this Easter Sunday. http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2539741

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Futsal Last Night

Went to my weekly game of futsal last night. There were 17 of us, so some of us would wait for one of the teams of fives to be eliminated before going in. It was towards the end of our allotted 2 hour session when another team was supposed to go in again. I was waiting to see how many players would enter the pitch when one of the players called out in my direction, "Vanessa, get in!". I looked up and a few others joined in, looking at me and calling in unison "Vanessa, your turn". Puzzled, I got up and muttered to my buddy next to me - "Why are they calling me Vanessa?". I got an all too loud reply, "They're calling you Van der Sar. Go and clean your ears, old man!". Nice buddies I have in futsal. I guess they are calling me Van der Sar because I look a bit like the goalkeeper at Manchester United. Not sure if it's a compliment but it beats being called Vanessa. For a painful moment, I thought I had been given a new nickname for playing like a girl. I was ready to blame the yoga - all this ahimsa nonsense!

Recently my wife noticed my spending a lot of time reading yoga blogs. The other day, she gave me a funny look when she caught me watching back to back episodes of "The Biggest Loser". If I'm not careful, she might start calling me Vanessa.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Death Wish

Had a close shave on the way to work this morning. This motorcyclist suddenly appeared in my front of my car trying get from the left lane to the far right. Luckily, traffic was congested so cars were not travelling fast. Managed to brake in time; but this guy didn't appear to realise that there may be a car on the next lane. Helpless, I watched him bumped into the car on my right; and somehow he managed to get to the pavement on the right hand side of the car! He seemed fine, but I'm guessing he'll be facing some verbal abuse from the driver of the car. So, the adage for today was - better late than never.

Practice today was great. Marichyasana D is getting there. Nowhere near binding by myself but I feel I'm getting deeper. Lately, during headstand, I'm starting to get a feel for Urdhva Dandasana. Somehow, today I could not seem to get the hips flexion to get the legs down. After a couple of seconds trying, I decided to give Urdhva Dandasana a miss. Better slow to advance in asana than be injured.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Practice This Week

The weekend at Port Dickson was restful and nice. No yoga. Just family time at the beach. Food there is so cheap, compared with KL's prices. Hainanese cooks still exist in some restaurants, and they make the best chicken chop with fries! The beach is all right. But you can't beat the east coast of Malaysia for quality of beach and clear seas.

Could not fit in practice this morning as I woke up late. But, managed to fit in a quick practice after work. Today's practice was sweaty as it was about to rain when I started. Somehow, rainy days make the air so humid. Am thankful for the cotton rugs I bought from Mysore as I was starting to slip and slide on the mat. As I woke up this morning with a stiff neck, I skipped shoulder and headstand during finishing. The abbreviated practice today felt great as I felt more energised than I normally would. Tomorrow is moon day, so no practice - which I'm quite happy about. Looking forward to class on Friday evening, although it might be a full vinyasa led class as last Fridays and Sundays of the month are full vinyasa days at the studio I go to!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Led Primary

Made it to the Friday morning class as I took leave from work today. Class started with ujjayi breathing while in a forward bend. "Focus on the ujjayi breaths. Use it to block out the noise outside. Along the way, you may pick up some sensations with the breath..." our teacher was saying, with tongue in cheek, as just then the garbage truck was making some ruckus outside the studio. Ya, ha ha, good one.

After the truck passed, led class started. Class was nice, the early awareness of the breaths was helpful to the practice. I find I'm getting my head to the mat at Prasarita Padottanasana A quite consistently during my practice now. My legs are quite wide apart, though. I'm still not able to put my head down in B, but I can now feel my hair touching the mat. That said, my last haircut was a month ago. I think I'll start moving my feet in after I can get my head on the mat in A. B, C and D and come up on my own. I have once got my head down in B, but my legs were bent and I found I could not get up without the use of my hands.

Great to have practiced in a class. Now off to Port Dickson for the weekend!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Road Rage

A car jumped queue and cut in front of me. All of a sudden, I felt this uncontrollable anger growing inside me. The lane cleared and I can feel myself pressing the pedal a little too harshly than I should. I had to literally hold myself back. Then, what do you know - I noticed the offending car stuck in a slow lane. As my car passed his, our eyes met and I'm so tempted to show him the finger. I took some long ujayi breaths - it worked long enough for me to pass his car without showing him the finger, but really, not enough to dissipate the rage inside.

Made it to class early today. I was the second one there. But the first student is staying out of the shala as Manoj (our teacher) was in the front of the studio, sitting absolutely still and meditating. It was the first time I see him meditating in class. I lay out my mat silently and also sat silently, just enjoying the stillness. At once, I feel the rage leaving me - the energy was so good. I wonder, though - did my negative energy sap his positive energy?

Class was great. I've done some self practice early this week. It felt so energising practising with other people. Their energy just seem to add a bit more energy to my practice. After class, I find myself wondering whether to incorporate sitting still and do some sort of meditation as part of my practice.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Practice Notes - 5 March 2009

Am excited as I experienced something different in my jump back during practice today. I wanted to see how my jump back will be affected if I extend my inhale during the lift up. At the end of the asana, I prolonged the inhale during the look up part as well as the exhale as I put my hands down in preparation for the lift. I then started the lift and then concentrated on a slow and extended inhale as I continue lifting as high as I can in the span of the inhale. The result felt like a much higher lift back. Wished I had a camera to see the difference. Sometimes one feels a lot of difference in the movement but visually it is only a tiny difference.

Anyway, this may be peculiar only to me; or just peculiar to today's practice. The impact on savasana was terrible - instead of emptying my mind, I was thinking of documenting my practice. Bad man! The rest of the practice felt nice - it has been very humid in KL lately and it was like practicing in a sauna! Which made today's practice all the more surprising as I was trying to hold back and concentrate on the breath. Sometimes when you don't expect much, the practice can surprise you.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Marichyasana D Progress - 26 Feb 2009

Documenting my progress in Marichyasana D. I still cannot bind on my own in Marichyasana D. But it's getting there. A lot of improvement since the Mysore trip. This is also attributed to renewed commitment to put in a more regular practice.



Just reviewing the video clip; I'm noticing my lower back collapsing at the end of my upward dog. Now wondering how I can improve on this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Class Today

Made it to Tuesday's flow class today. First time since the Chinese New Year festival started! Started with a bit of pranayama; which is nice as it helps bring the mind to present after a day's work. Then asanas started with sivananda styled sun salutations. I think they are really good for someone like me with tight hips.

Today's focus was on backbends. I know it's good for me; but it seems so daunting. Anyway, I managed to struggle through it. There was one pose that looked so simple - it was a variation of cobra with one leg bent and one arm lifted at the same side - we're supposed to keep the elbow in line with the body but somehow mine just stayed splayed out to the side! Others can do it, some could even catch the leg that was bent behind!

I was quietly trying, but not too hard as I was trying to keep even breaths. All of a sudden, when it came to Kapotasana, my teacher singled me out to demonstrate a dropback to the posture! Maybe it was punishment for my lack of tapas, or maybe it's a demo that if this stiff man can try a drop back, then the rest can jolly well try!

For those who have seen my upward dog, (http://malaysianinmysore.blogspot.com/2008/10/testing-video-upload.html) there was no way that I could drop back successfully. But teacher has given the command, so I dutifully followed. Luckily he was kind - just when I was anticipating a drop to my head, I felt support from Manoj.

I felt great after class. It wasn't a tiring practice. It was softer and at the same time, so challenging that the mind had to stay present and focused. Of course, the focus came after the shock of having to demonstrate in class!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thaipusam And Chap Goh Mei




Today is a holiday in Kuala Lumpur, it being Thaipusam. Thaipusam is a religious festival for Hindus to pay annual homage to Lord Muruga. Near Kuala Lumpur, there is a procession to Batu Caves that is visually quite spectacular. Close to 800,000 people throng Batu Caves for this celebration.

Today also happens to be the final day of Chinese New Year festivities. I must say I'm quite happy to see the end of the festival. So much eating! Every time one attends a house visit, one is obliged to eat what is put in front of you. It is only polite, of course. However, being Chinese, the host will usually pile on more food than one could normally eat - after all it's Chinese New Year - the more you give the more you will receive!

As a result, it plays havoc to my practice. Every vinyasa feels so heavy. So, one more dinner tonight and then back to normal portions tomorrow! For the Hokkiens, tonight is also known as Chap Goh Mei, "the 15th night of Chinese New Year". Also known as the Chinese Valentine's Day, there is a tradition in Penang that single women will throw tangerines into the sea with hope of finding husbands. It is said that if someone else spots a floating tangerine and picks it up, the thrower will find a good spouse.

This reminds me of a time when I was watching the "Sound of Music". There was a scene of the nuns praying; at which point a young girl, next to me, asked "what are they doing?" My answer was that they were praying. Without a second lost, her next question was - "praying for husbands?"

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ox Arrives

No practice today as it is the start of the Chinese New Year, which ushers in the year of the Ox. Today also happened to be on a moon day. Well, of course, since the Chinese calendar is based on lunar cycles.

Ashtangis generally observe moon days as yoga rest days. For those curious to know why, click on this link. There is also a timetable listing of moon days in the ashtanga.com website.



Anyway, Chinese new year celebrations (a 15 day event) is usually a reunion of family members, who for most parts of the year are away for work or studies. There is generally a feast on the eve. On the new year, there are the customary offering of tea to parents, grandparents, etc followed by exchange of red packets with token monies in them. In the old days, firecrackers are a norm but it is now illegal, in Malaysia anyway.

There are all sorts of customs to be observed - amongst these are - new clothes are to be worn and there should be no sweeping of floors during the first day.

As is usual with the start of the new year, people tend to look to their horoscope to see what the year holds for them. The ox is one of the 12 Zodiac animals, which forms part of the 12 year cycle. The Chinese Zodiac is said to follow the stations of Jupiter's orbit around the sun, which is just shy of 12 years. Some also believes the animal can influence events through the year.

For me, I don't spend a lot of time on horoscope. I was, however, brought to ponder about it 2 weeks ago when I had lunch with an ex-colleague. He happened to be the president of Feng Shui Association (or so, I'm told). Out of the blue, he mentioned he looked into my birth date and apparently, this year will be difficult for me, with health problems and so on. Yikes! I was born in the year of the sheep. So, I'm not sure if this applies to all sheep or just me. I didn't know what to make of it so I didn't ask much about what it meant. But, I guess at the age of 42 this year, it's probably a good time to do a full medical check up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Practice Notes

Nothing much to blog about except that I'm quietly enjoying my practice - not trying too hard to achieve anything, but just enjoying the movements and breaths within the confines of my mat.

I managed to bind (with help of course) on both sides of Marichyasana D last Sunday. The last two mornings I was tempted to move past Marichyasana D this morning during my self practice. But for the time being, I think I'll stop there until I can bind by myself.

That said, I've moved past that in led classes. In fact last Sunday's led class comprised primary up to Navasana and then the first few poses of second - up to Kapotasana! I don't even know if that is the right spelling - well, Kapo it is for now. Those second series poses take so much out of me!! But, amazingly, the backbends during finishing sequence felt comfortable. My usual "machine gun" breaths during the backbends was replaced by normal sounding breaths and I could even play around with shifting weight between my hands and feet.

Tiring though it is, I can see benefits in doing those first few poses of second series. Someone mentioned doing those poses is very energising. I'm probably a long way from being there as 3 hours after the class, my energy level went flat and I was dead to the world. Lucky the class was on a Sunday!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pork Chops Or Cubs?

Just received this email today, which I thought is quite apt as a follow up post to my previous one :


In a zoo in California , a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately,due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and due to their tiny size, they died shortly after birth

The mother tiger after recovering from the delivery, suddenly started to decline in health, although physically she was fine. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into a depression. The doctors decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve.

After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species.The only 'orphans' that could be found quickly, were a litter of weanling pigs. The zookeepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger.Would they become cubs or pork chops??
Take a look...




Now, please tell me one more time ........?
Why can't the rest of the world get along??


P/S
I thought dressing the piglets up in tiger skin would be a bit disturbing ...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Intentions

One of the many invaluable things my teacher in KL tried to stressed on us students was to always have an intention or intentions for our practice. It could be a dedication or a prayer which can be done just before practice starts or after it ends.

The violence that is happening in the Gaza Strip has recently been highlighted in the media. It is distressing to see pictures of victims and the anguish it caused to the families affected. So, how about we all set an intention or prayer for peace to come quickly for these people the next time we practice?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Futsal And Yoga?

Was wondering whether to get up early this morning. So far, I've had a led class on Sunday and did self practice on Monday and Tuesday. That's three days in a row! So, I decided to give this 41 year old body a rest. Besides, I have futsal planned for this evening.

Ya ya I know - playing futsal makes my hamstrings tight and slow down my progress in flexibility. Still, playing football was my first love. And first love is hard to let go. It's a different kind of love to yoga. I don't think the spirit of ahimsa is quite there when playing football.

I do think yoga and football can complement each other. I know of footballers who were state players going through meditation program and they reported an improved focus and performance during their matches. If only I knew this during my school days ...

I like to think playing football does have its benefits in yoga. Maybe it helps with the breathing?

Whatever. Football is fun and we can all use a bit of that.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Practice Of The Year

Had the first practice in 2009 today, which was led primary at the studio I go to in KL. Felt nice to be back - I haven't been to the studio for 3 weeks. There were lots of hellos and happy new years amongst the practitioners who go there. Even the studio had a new feel to it, with newly painted walls and the absence of mirrors.

Took it easy as I have not practice for 2 weeks. As expected, Marichyasana D's progress took a step back, especially on the left side. Surprisingly, the Pasaritas were not affected. Anyway, it felt great to be on the mat again and to see all the familiar faces. Also, great to see my teacher, Manoj, looking fresh from his holiday in India.

Thinking of starting a daily practice this year. Will see how this pans out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Yes Man

A new start to the year - usually a time to reflect on the past and make resolutions for a better future. Watched "Yes Man" over the Christmas period, which gave me the idea for this year's resolution - Don't Shy Away From New Challenges.

For a creature of habit like me, the resolution itself will be a challenge. Anyway, here's to a new year and new adventures!