Friday, December 16, 2011

Yoga 2.0

I'm back on the mat. After a 5-year hiatus, I've somehow found my way back on the mat again and this time, it's so much more mellowed, and a hell lot better.

Yoga was introduced to me in my teens by my cool aunt, after an ankle injury forced me to detour from doing classical ballet the professional route. I was given a copy of the original Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar in its orange cover with Iyengar illustrating all the fascinating bendy poses.

What started as my rehab got all serious when I hit my early twenties. The perfect post-yoga mental calm was just what I needed at that time; an effective antidote to the mental stress brought on by a constant existential crisis and an avalanche of bad romantic situations. It was an hour and a half of Ashtanga before sun rise and an hour and a half of Iyengar for alignment at night, six days a week, with a subscription of Yoga Journal and a shelf full of yoga books thrown in no less.

Then came the teacher training course of almost 2 years and yoga trips in India at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai and Sri Pattahbis Jois in Pune, completed with the infamous "Delhi Belly" for 2 weeks post-India (strange cos I thought I would get it during India). Next, I found myself studying the Vedas, The Yoga Sutra, The Bhagavad Gita and Vedantic text, all of which now covered in dust on my bookshelves. I was so devoted I could write in Sanskrit the entire opening prayer of Ashtanga yoga which I made myself learn by dictation.

It was hardcore. Yoga was me. I lived, breathed, ate, talked yoga and even dated a yoga teacher (who turned out to be a big mistake!). Then, came subbing in for a couple of Ashtanga classes at On The Mat (now defunct, used to be at Robertson Walk) before teaching 5 classes a week while holding a job in a luxury company.

That completely ruined it. Teaching yoga was fun for the first couple of weeks. I loved my yoga practice but hated teaching. The whole "Find something you love to do and you'll never have to work for the rest of your life" is a complete farce for me. Instead of doing my practice in a 6am Mysore class, I was teaching, adjusting my students in different stages of their "pretzel-ness" when all I really wanted is just to do my own practice. Led classes were even more tedious, with the constant need to give out instructions on the asanas, watching everyone and correcting them. My dream job turned out to be a complete drudgery and it was a disappointment I couldn't understand.

First the teaching stopped and slowly, over a period of a year or so, my 6 days a week routine whittled down to drips and drabs before drying down to nothingness. I have no idea how it happened. I traded yoga for Power Plate training and pole dancing but despite being physically fitter and stronger, something's missing.

Then, some weeks back, I clutched my mat and went back to the yoga studio I started out at over a decade ago and then I feel home again.

This time, gone are the obsession and addiction of using yoga as a form of escape and respite from my troubles, it feels so much more mellowed. Yoga used to bring me peace in the 20s but for the simple reason that I wasn't at peace with myself then, my dependence on yoga manifested into a somewhat toxic reliance on it. It was too serious, too intense and it burnt out.

Now that I'm a lot more at peace with things, yoga brings new perspectives, new joy and new teachings. There's no gripping, no stress, no pressure. The way yoga should be.



Shirley said...

Hey Bertha! It's Shirley! I took your Led class at On the Mat on the weekends and used to Yoga with you at Shambhala. Remember me?

Just wanted to say hi and I've been reading your blog and I enjoy it! :)

Where do you practice now? Back to Shambhala? You planning to teach again?

It's been so long since we spoke!

B said...

OMG SHIRLEY!! Of course I remember you! Yes, I'm back at Shambhala 2 or 3 times a week. Just taking it easy and glad to be back on the mat. Changes in the teachers as expected but Vivienne S still there haha!

I don't think I'm gonna teach any time soon and even if I do, I doubt it'll be Ashtanga. Btw, Celest from On The Mat has now got Back On The Mat! She's started her own studio again.

Where are you practising now?

Hope you're good and as spirited as before!

Tiffany said...

hi Bmuses
i like to get started on yoga too and have been thinking where to go about/how to start the whole morning . a min ago, when i visited your blog, your title came in so aptly, i was taken aback! hahah fated fated la

dear, do you mean you go to this "on the mat" e.g.

do you recommend for new beginner like me stupid stupid type? hahaha i scare my bone crack crack old ages since moving my body, sit in office all day long for decades!! hahaha

i like to get started on yoga for health benefit, heard it can rectify our poor body posture, breath better and improve overall health system.

thanks! and i also heard there are scams on spa as read on newspaper and hearsay, is there any yoga center to avoid?

B said...

Hi Tiffany,

Back On The Mat is the new "On the Mat" :) On the Mat used to be at Robertson Walk and they shut for some years and only last year or so that the owner, Celest (great teacher), started "Back On the Mat" and yes, it's the same one as the facebook link.

Thing is, they do only Ashtanga Yoga, which is a somewhat vigorous style of yoga that follows a series of poses. If you're someone who doesn't really exercise on a regular basis or aren't exactly flexible or fit, the Ashtanga style might be quite hard and intense for a true blue beginner.

I would recommend doing normal yoga beginner classes first to get your body started and acquainted. There are many styles of different yoga and they all appeal to different people. It's a matter of personal preference really.

I remember you mentioning back pain to me before (??) and for people with back problem, the Iyengar style is beneficial as it focuses on getting your alignment right and correcting postures. I've recommended some friends with back problems (slipped disc, bulged disc) on Iyengar and they all said it helps.

So I suggest just getting started with taking beginners class (non-Ashtanga) but before you do, you would want to think about which yoga place to go do.

Personally, I do not like big classes and yoga chains like Pure Yoga or True Yoga. The classes are so big that sometimes you're really packed and squeezed into the class and can hardly stretch our fully. The problem with big classes is that you don't get enough attention from the teachers cos there are so many students and you might not get adjusted properly when you're not doing your poses correctly. But the plus side for these big chains is that they have so many classes to fit your schedule.

Smaller studios with smaller classes mean more personalized teaching but you'll have to fit into their timing. It's give and take.

I would suggest taking the smaller classes first and once you're more comfortable and more aware of your poses and alignments, then you can consider moving to the bigger classes if you're keen to try them out.

It's very important to get your alignment right especially when you go more advance with your practice .

Currently, I don't go to Back On The Mat cos I don't practice Ashtanga yoga much these days. I go to Shambhala Yoga at Forum Shopping Center (on the 6th floor). Classes are smaller with no more than 20 people in a class.

Here's there website for your consideration

Hope this info helps :)

Tiffany said...

Thanks so much Bmuses, really detailed and i am greatly and i have noted . yes you are right, i am not of the "Stiff" type as i don't exercise well often, surely i need to get myself acquitted with the beginner class as you advised.
yes, your memory is superb (is it the ginkgo at work? hehehe) i have a bad backache for close to 10months+ and i got it healed through a loyal following of my chiropractor weekly lesson for 3 months. sometimes i went there every 6 months for "maintenance" . thanks and here is my early christmas kiss to you, hope u don't find it too sloppy hahahaha

Tiffany said...

oops. typo i meant to say i am "more" of the "Stiff" type :)

B said...

Hey Tiffany,

Oh Chiropractor always works magic! I'm a firm believer of it although man ortho doctors said it's never good but it works wonder for my neck alignment that used to cause migraine.

You should try taking a trial beginner's class and see how you like it. Thing is, when you first start yoga, you might want to try out different teachers to see whose style you prefer. A matter of personal preference and who you're most comfortable with. And don't worry about being stiff because yoga is never about being able to do the poses. It's about alignment and being able to do an uncomfortable pose while not "suffering" in it. You'll get more flexible as you go along :)

Let me know how your first class goes! Have fun and merry christmas to you too xx

Shirley said...

I moved to Beijing for work a year and a half ago so I go to a yoga studio there now. I had a bit of a break from yoga for a bit too and was practicing irregularly but I got back into a regular routine about half a year ago. And I also don't do Ashtanga so much these days as well. I'm doing Sivananda yoga mostly. I'm so much lazier these days and I think it comes with age!

How come you don't do Ashtanga anymore?

I didn't expect you to drop off the mat for so long! 5 years! Couldn't tell you didn't like teaching too. What a shame cos you were good at teaching. I really enjoyed your class cos I remember you touched on yoga philosophy unlike many teachers. Though I think most people just wanted the asanas. It's the same everywhere to be honest, especially so with big yoga chains ala Pure Yoga. I was with Pure for a bit up until I left for Beijing (went to Yoga Space after Joan and Yusuf left Shambhala)and Celest was teaching Ashtanga there awhile too. I just didn't like the big classes.

But glad to know you're back practicing again! Maybe you'll teach again some day and set up your own shala? I'll come for class for sure if I'm back in singapore!

B said...

Hey Shir, wow so cool you're in Beijing now! How long will you be there for? Enjoying it? We should catch up if you fly back and go for yoga together!

I don't do Ashtanga these days cos I don't like to restrict my practice to a fixed set of series. I very much prefer doing vinyasa and listening to my body and doing what my body tells me too instead. I'll still do Ashtanga every now and then but most days, I'm doing vinyasa flow instead.

Haha, I don't think I'm gonna teach any time soon. The market is so saturated anyway. I enjoy the practice a hell lot more. In fact, I wouldn't mind doing the whole teacher training all over again cos I loved it so much but it's too expensive!!

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