November 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
I have recently moved to Finding Samasthitih. I’d be ecscatic if you check it out and follow me there! 🙂
November 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
Have you ever noticed that people in the society today measure you by what you do, what profession you’re in, what schools you went to, what degrees you got, and how much money you earn? The answers to those questions are usually the first impressions of the stranger we’ve just met. We live in a society that’s all about social status, and the respect that comes from it. We like to judge how smart a person is by asking which college or university he attended, and what professional degree he earned. We judge how successful a person is by his profession and the money he earns. We sometimes even judge a person’s personality by where he came from and where he grew up. We’re always judging, judging, judging. We structure the stranger’s answers to form our own illusions and opinions about that stranger. But what makes a qualified to judge others?
Why is it that rarely do we ask a new friend about his/her stories, history, background, and culture when these actually make up the bigger portion about the individual of who he/she really is? We only really start to know a person when his stories become part of you and part of your life, when we feel what he’s feeling when he tells his stories, when there’s a connection and understanding between the two of us, and when we have multiple stories that we feel we can share with that new friend.
In yoga, we call this phenomenon avidya, or ignorance, which is one of the five obstacles mentioned in the Yoga Sutras that we must overcome. The ignorance stems from our own mapping and idea about a person, which is not always the truth or reality of that individual. Our own thoughts and emotions get in the way of really knowing that person. Like looking down a murky lake, you see the lake and you see the water, but you cannot see through the depth of it. You don’t know how deep it is, what’s underneath the waters, and what the real color of the lake is. Your mind is like the lake and your thoughts are the murk in the water. You have to remove that murk to see past the surface of the lake, of the person, so that you see clarity. When you let go of your ego and opinions, then do you truly see.
The wise master of Ashtanga Richard Freeman actually mentioned this during the 6-day immersion this week. He said that in our life we meet many, many people, but we actually truly know very few. Most of the time when we meet new people, our minds are closed and we automatically put layers of figments on the new information that comes into our minds, making our own opinions about an object or a person. It is when we let go of who we are and step into the other’s shoes do we see, experience, and understand.
This is why I love the yoga community. Everywhere I go I feel like I’m part of a family. Indeed, most of us are brought together for our love of yoga, but it is also because most of us don’t judge one another by their occupation and schooling. We don’t care. We ask each other what has brought us to yoga, and some people have excellent stories about how they found yoga. I find it so easy to talk to other yogis, because we are mostly unafraid to share our stories. We give feedbacks and words of encouragements to one another when someone’s going through a tough time. Nobody is going to judge you. A few fellow yogis whom I’ve only known a few months have even heard some of my stories that some people I’ve known for years have never heard of.
Again, back to Richard Freeman. There he was in front of the class, demonstrating a pose. He said that if you can’t touch your belly to your thighs, then so what? Nobody cares. Now, if you can touch your belly to your thighs, then so what? Nobody cares. In other words, why care what other people think if you can do what you feel is comfortable and right for you? Just because you can put your legs behind your head or reach your chin to your ankles, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a smarter, kinder, better person. How you get into the pose is the golden process. Are you just laying the front of your upper body upon your stretched legs in paschimottanasana with a splat because you are flexible? Or are you really trying to feel each step of getting into the pose, each engagement of certain muscles and relaxation of others, each primary and counter rotation, each new wave of sensation with the inhale and exhale? Are you simply doing a pose because you want to show off your skills? Or are you doing the pose to really feel it, and be in it, be it?
Don’t let the opinions of the society shape your own opinions of yourself. Instead, work on finding yourself, wipe those glasses clean, remove that murk from your mind lake, unwrap the cocoon to reveal the beautiful butterfly that is you and you alone. Take a breath a see clearly for the first time.
November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment
Today, I learned from the great master Richard Freeman that the feet are symbolic to feeling grounded. You go stand somewhere, say the top of the mountains, by the beach, or on top of a tall building, to look out. You look everywhere over the horizon to search, think, contemplate on the meaning of life as you stand there. You look everywhere, but the answer is not in the everywhere, but in the under…under the feet! And…here’s the pun…that is why and how we understand.
Here’s another from Paul Dallaghan. He’d always say to open your feet in baddha konasana as if there are secrets to enlightenment written there.
Indeed, my feet are my best friends. They allow me to walk, run, jump, hop, frolic, and practice yoga asanas. In yoga, the feet are said to be alive and breathing, because your feet are the foundation of all your asanas. Take tadasana or standing in samisthitih for example. Your feet are the first to connect with the earth, which then sends energy up your legs, spine, neck, your soft palate, and through the crown of your head. They automatically engage your mula bandha. They help draw in prana, or the vital life force, into your body by maintaining your erect posture. If you have sloppy feet, you’ll ultimately feel imbalanced.
If the feet are my best friends, then the balls of my big toes are my bestest of best friends. By digging them into the mat, they allow my toes to lift apart like feathers, and send energy up my inner legs. They help keep my balance in poses like tree pose, utthita hasta padangusthasana, and ardha baddha padmottanasana. They remind me to lift my kneecaps and contract my quadriceps to protect my knees in trikonasana, padangusthasana, prasarita paddottanasana, and parsvottanasana. In sitting forward bends, the fointing action (flexing my feet but pointing the balls of my big toes forward) helps tone my hamstrings, protecting them from overstretching.
So next time you curse at your feet for tripping, not running fast enough, or being smelly, think again, because they just might be the path to enlightenment. 🙂
November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Not really once upon a time, there is a bus driver who drives the 285 bus that goes from the center of Taipei city to uptown Taipei. Perhaps he is a husband, perhaps a father, but he is most definitely the kindest, most upbeat bus driver I have ever met. He greets all the passengers that board the bus with a joyous “Hello”, and a sincere “Thank you, good bye,” regardless whether there is only one person, or twenty. He reminds everyone to be careful, especially those standing, as he slowly leaves the bus station each time.
He always announces the upcoming station, and the landmarks, malls, markets, schools, etc., that are nearby the stations, which is always helpful to tourists or passengers who are unfamiliar with that area of the city.
I’ve had the pleasure to ride on his bus 3 times, and each time he never failed to bring a smile to my face. Alot of bus drivers I encounter are bitter, but he is one of the few who brings a little joy into his job as a bus driver. Bitter drivers are never fun to ride with because you can feel their bitterness rubs off on you too. On the other hand, happy drivers not only make the passengers appreciative of them, the happy drivers also feel good inside to have made some people’s days. This particular bus driver has taught me a lesson, a lesson we should all learn from this him. No matter what situation you are in, how unhappy, mundane, irksome you are with it, you always have the choice to shine a positive beam of spirit at it to turn the situation around. Not only will you be a little happier yourself, that happiness sends vibratory waves to those around you.
November 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
In continuation of 10 Common Things About Ashtangis, I present to you some more of my observations…
You know you’re an Ashtangi when…
1. You insert “bandha” into every other sentence. Seriously, everything you do, you begin to think that you can do better by engaging your bandhas.
2. Waking up at 4am becomes natural and 6am is “sleeping in.” We are all crazy enough to wake up at ridiculous hours to put ourselves through 2 hours of rigourous practice. Self-induced torture? Maybe.
3. Your body “doesn’t feel right” if you go 2 days without practice. Your muscles and joints feel stiff, your abs feels “flabby” due to the lack of bandhas in your life.
4. You start eating less and less at night so that you can get that Marichyasana B and D the next morning, or to attempt to “float” through your jump throughs. Having dessert after dinner now becomes less important than getting your twists on the following morning. For me, I find Supta Kurmasana easier on an empty, empty stomach and clean bowels.
5. You can easily dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween. Hurrah for ujjayi breaths!
6. You need to bring at least 5 towels with you into the shala. To wipe your own sweat, to wipe the sweat that’s beginning to form puddles around your mat, to put over your mat to avoid slipping in jump-backs and throughs, a big one to cover your entire body in Savasana, and a small one to cover your eyes in Savasana.
7. You follow Moon Days religiously. Because you might get in deep doo-doo’s if you practice on these days.
8. You watch YouTube videos of senior Ashtanga teachers demonstrating the advanced series for eye-goggling and jaw-dropping moments, and wondering when in your next life (or next next) you will be able to accomplish all that.
9. You’ve had at least one case of injury from practicing Ashtanga. But as long as you’re not near crippled, you continue to practice regardless of any slight injuries.
10. Visiting Mysore, India is on your bucket list. Duh.
November 15, 2011 § Leave a comment
This video has been circulating on my Facebook news feed for the past couple of days, but didn’t watch it till this morning, a few minutes ago. Chris Kuo is a classmate of mine from Taipei American School, and a member of the dance crew Instant Noodles. This video is him talking about his brother, Stanley Kuo, who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, and now only has a few more days to live. It brought tears to my eyes.
Cherish what you have, cherish your family and friends. Let’s all pray for Stanley Kuo, his family, and all others who are going through the same ordeal.
November 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
I guarantee you that there are many beautiful moments worth smiling for everyday in each and every one of our lives, but sometimes–most times–we take them for granted. Sometimes, common things and common people you see everyday are what make your life just a little happier.
My Beautiful Moments Today
5:40AM. I walked out of my house, the sky still asleep, but the birds singing their songs and catching worms already. I smiled knowing that I was not the only living thing awake at that time. I witness this almost everyday, yet only today had I truly appreciated it.
5:45AM. My bus comes, and the bus driver said “Good morning” to his first passenger (me).
6:25AM. The guard at the lobby of the building greeted me with a “Good morning,” and I’m sure also to every other sleepy-eyed yogis that pass him every morning around 6AM.
6:33AM. I stepped on the mat, up on the 16th floor, into Samisthitih to begin my practice. I think my toes actually smiled as they spreaded across the mat, as if saying “hello, good to see you again!” In fact, the next 2.5 hours of my practice are beautiful moments. I love downward facing dogs.
8:25AM. My teacher assisted me to almost reach my ankles in Urdhva Dhanurasana, and smiled and said “Great job” to me.
9:20AM. The first sip of water after almost 3 hours, and of course, that warm, blissful shower.
9:50AM. The refreshed feeling after practice, and green tea latte at Starbucks.
10:35AM. People giving up their seats for little children and seniors on the crowded MRT (the Taiwan subway system). And the 5-year-old brother hugging his 3-year-old sister tightly on his lap on his seat.
10:40AM. My favorite Sarah Bareilles song comes up on my iPod.
Go ahead, give yourself some time everyday to reflect on your beautiful moments of the day.
November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Because someone as little as a year old…
…to someone who has lived almost a century…
…can do yoga.
No one is too inflexible, old, little, fat, skinny, dumb, smart…etc etc etc…to do yoga.
“Body is not stiff. Mind is stiff.“ –Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
November 7, 2011 § 4 Comments
1. We are self-driven. Hmm…it explains alot why we’re crazy enough to wake up between the hours of 3am-6am to practice 2-3 hours of intense non-stop yoga. Occasionally, we do have a few “slip-ups,” but most of the time we’re on top of our game. 🙂
3. We care about how we look. Some of us may deny it, but deep down we all know we’re proud of our sculpted muscles from all the chaturangas and downward facing dogs (a teacher told me she counted that we do about 160 chaturangas and vinyasas for the entire Primary series, which is like doing 160 push-ups!)
4. We have high pain-tolerance. The “no pain no gain” saying is kind of true for Ashtanga. Rarely will you meet a devoted Ashtangi who hasn’t gone through some sort of pain, injury, and the like. Yet, as long as we’re not near crippled, we continue our practice. We just adapt the poses into something more bearable.
5. We do not mind routine. We do the same friggin’ routine 6 days a week (moon days are exceptions). We must like routine.
6. We have an addiction to it. We practice religiously every morning, save Saturdays and Moon Days.
7. Other yoga practitioners think we’re insane. And they have right reasons to be. What normal human beings would put themselves in such pain and restrictions?
8. We live in our own bubble. We hang out with other Ashtangis. And once you get into Ashtanga, most of the time it becomes the yoga of your life.
9. We gossip. Alot. Don’t be fooled by our serious and emotionless faces during our practices. We do have senses of humor.
10. We insert “bandha” into every other sentence. Everything we do we think of our bandhas. Riding a bike? Bandhas. Really needing to pee but no bathrooms around? Bandhas. Carrying heavy stuff? Bandhas.