Stop judging and start seeing

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.

You know you’re an Ashtangi when…

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.

Yoga knows no age

November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Because someone as little as a year old…

I took this picture with my phone awhile ago at my studio--one of the yoga teachers with her baby girl.

…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

10 Common Things About Ashtangis

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. 🙂

2. We do not give up. You think we can just magically do a headstand and do those drop-backs into Urdhva Dhanurasana? We fall many times on our way to get there, but we keep trying.

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.

World’s youngest yoga teacher

April 14, 2011 § 3 Comments

I know this post is out of the blues, as I haven’t said a word on here for the past couple of months. The reason why I am here again is because I have some pretty juicy and inspirational story to share with you guys (that is, if anyone is still reading!).

Meet the world’s youngest yoga teacher, 6-year-old Shruti Pandey.

Shruti in Ganda Bherundasana. "Spine? What spine? I have none!"

She saw her brother doing it, and became interested. With only 6 months of training, she could now do the toughest postures. Personally, I don’t know which ones are the toughest postures–it’s all subjective, I guess.

Every morning at 5:30am, she greets her students, a class of up to 30 adults, with enthuthiasm. At merely six, she already knows how to connect with her students, physically and emotionally. One of her students says: “‘I have noticed a positive change in my life. I used to be short-tempered, but now I’m able to control my anger to quite an extent and it’s all thanks to a little six-year old.”

I bet she is a reincarnation of a great yogi, and she deserves the title of a child prodigy along with Mozart and Schubert and many others.
Click here for original story.

Feline power

August 29, 2010 § 14 Comments

Hello blogworld. It’s been awhile hasn’t it?

The past few days I’ve been doing doing sponsor training for an Asian American students sponsor program, and our schedules are literally from 9am-9 or 10pm every single day. That leaves none to minimal time on the computer. Now that August is coming to a close, the weather is getting chillier, and summer is bidding us a “See ya later!” Which also means that school is starting.

Can you believe I’m starting my senior year in college? Okay, maybe you can, but I can’t! It feels like I will “officially” be an adult once I graduate from college. I will be working full-time, be on my own. Me, and the big world. It’s a scary thought, but not completely horrendous.

However, this scary world also has its beauty when we least expect it. For example, the following story I’d like to share with you all today. The story is actually a news report from a Buddhist temple in Korea, and this story absolutely just astounded me.

There’s a cat who lives in a Buddhist temple in Korea. This cat, however, is very different from other cats–it doesn’t eat meat, and it doesn’t prey, hunt, or kill. More astonishingly, the cat would sit in front of a Buddhist statue and look at it humbly every morning and every night as if the cat is paying its respect or praying to the deity before it. The cat would usually sit there like that for hours, until it’s meal time then would it leave unwillingly.

This cat was discovered by a monk of that temple four years ago. The cat was severely burnt when the monk found it, and was merely a kitten. Well naturally, the cat was taught to be quiet and respectful when in the praying hall,  follow a vegetarian diet, and to not kill. Those who own cats would know how hard it is to train a cat, but this cat obeyed every single rule of the Buddhist temple, and have never misbehaved in all these four years.

When it was time to eat, the cat would follow the other monks to the dining hall, but would only sit quietly while waiting for its owner to feed it leftovers from her palms. Often times, the cat would drop tears as it ate, as if it was dropping tears of gratefulness.

After hearing about this cat, several tourists would come visit the temple and take a look at this mysterious cat. They would purposely tease the cat by putting grilled fish or meat in front of it, but the cat merely ignore everything, turn its head, and walk away.

Here’s  a video that shows the cat and its behaviors. I don’t understand a single word, but it’s really cute and seriously just amazing!

My mom and I speculated that perhaps this cat was some sort of Buddhist god or a spiritual being of Buddhism in his/her past life, but had done some wrong deeds and was thus punished to be a cat in his/her next life. I think this cat is the perfect example of karma and incarnation that the Buddhist philosophy keeps stressing over and over again.

On another related note…

This was sent to me by Dmitri a few weeks ago. At first, I wouldn’t believe what I’m reading, until I googled the term “cat yoga” and BAM! there it is, 285,000 Search results.

Like the excerpt pointed out, cat yoga has gained much popularity in recent years. I’m just kind of skeptical about how to train the cat to do poses like that. I believe the story above, I really do, but I just don’t see it as an exercise that cats would willingly delve themselves into. I could be wrong.

However, if everything is indeed true, from the story to the popularity of cat yoga, then I think we have all learned a lesson. Yoga isn’t just for the human body. Yoga doesn’t shun anyone or anything. Yoga is made for all living beings on earth. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj”, meaning “to yoke” or “to unite“. This alone, can mean many different things. It can mean the uniting of one’s body, mind, and soul, it could mean the union of all things, whether living or nonliving, on earth, or it could mean the sharing of the same benevolent, nonharming spirit amongst all living things.

Perhaps we really should give more credits to cats for their feline power.

Om Sweet Om –> Home Sweet Home

July 30, 2010 § 24 Comments

Hello my lovely bloggettes!

I’m sure you’re glad that I made it safe and sound and in one piece to Taiwan.

The flight was actually pretty eventful–I slept a couple of times for a couple of hours each. The rest of the time was spent reading and watching some pretty darn good flicks.

Not a fan of Robert Pattinson, but this was actually not bad. The ending was pretty sad :(.

Cool effects and mythical creatures.

Hilarious movie, not to mention how hot Jennifer Aniston was in this film (actually, I can't think of when she ISN'T hot).

You won't stop laughing one minute in this movie. I've actually seen this in theaters already, but I couldn't help but want to have another round of chuckles on the flight.

Anyhooz, I arrived in Taiwan about 6am (local time) just this morning (Friday here). First thing I do? Go to a yoga class at my usual yoga studio. This is something I always do. While my high school friends, who come back home to Taiwan after the semester finishes, would either hit up their fave restaurants for some munchin’, I hit up the yoga studio. With style too. This is how I get through my jet lag and the time difference. I know if I spend the day at home just sitting around, I’ll be more likely to fall asleep, and that’s a BIG no-no when you’re trying to adjust Cali time to Taiwan time.

Okay, I did eat a lil somethin’ before dashing off to yoga. My appetite has been wonky since the flight, so my “breakfast” was a bowl of homemade silver fungus and lotus seed soup.

Okay I agree. The name itself is enough to make you barf a little in your mouth (sorry to those eating breakfast right now!). But you must remember, that mushrooms are a type of fungus too! Silver fungus (aka white tree ear fungus, snow fungus) contains…

much iron, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. The fat and gum like protein in it is especially nourishing to the body. It is considered a good supplement to the body. Stew white fungus with rock sugar lubricates the colon and stimulates peristalsis. Thus, it is a mild laxative for constipation patients. White fungus is also said to be effective in nourishing the lungs, healing dry cough and clearing heat in the lungs.” [Taken from this source]

This is a sweet soup that can be consumed warm (winter) or cold (in summer).

Lotus seeds, on the other hand…

“…in traditional Chinese medicine is said to be beneficial for the heart, tone the spleen and kidneys, prevent insomnia, and calm the nerves. Lotus seeds have astringent properties, which makes them helpful in relieving the symptoms of diarrhea and improving appetite. In Buddhist traditions, the ‘Sacred Lotus’ is a symbol of vitality and purity.” [Taken from here]

I guess enough of the fungus and seed talk here. So I dragged my jetlagged butt to yoga today, got some 90 min of sweating (boy did THAT feel good after being tied down sitting for 13 hours!), and SNAP! I was awakkkkeee! It was also nice to catch up with my yoga teacher and some of my fellow yoginis (whom I know since high school when I still lived here).

Post-yoga, my mom and I hit up the store for some veggies and bread. And this is also very typical of larger supermarkets in Taiwan. Now girls (guys), don’t freak out.

Prepackaged sushi of all sorts. AND fresh too!

For some reason my appetite’s been kind of off today, so all I had post yoga was this yummy fresh celery fruit juice I got at the food court.

Celery fruit juice that almost tipped over while I was trying to take a picture of it in the car. And no, I wasn't driving.

It was back home after our mini shopping trip. Both my mom and I were in an afternoon slump (Me because of jetlag kicking in again, her because she had to wake up early to come with my Dad to pick me up at the airport). So, we decided to whip out the present that I got her.

We do have Starbucks here in Taiwan, but I don’t believe they sold Starbucks Via here. I chanced that notion and bought one packet to bring back. She loved it! (As did I)

Guess what else we found?

Cheddar Cheese Kettle Corn. Y’all know how much I love kettle corn, and this company had all sorts of flavas! Flavas include: dark chocolate, caramel, strawberry, plain, cheddar, and seaweed. We tried all of ’em, and decided Cheddar was the one to come home with us! 😀

I hung out with my new-found love (I’m kidding, Dmitri!) with an indifferent kitty cat. What a great sport she is.

Hi, my name is Mei-mei (Little Sister in Mandarin), and I like to stick my butt towards the camera.

You know what? I think I like my new “reading blog” time. Usually I read blogs after dinner, which is when everyone (well almost) decides to post. And no matter how hard I try to keep up, new posts pop up faster than I can read. But now, because my evenings will be when all you guys are soundly asleep in your bed, I can check off reads on my Reader leisurely, without stress! Muahaha I’m down to 5 more to go :D.

Want to see the typical meal fare in our family?

Our food is usually served "family style," so this is what I grabbed on my plate.

On the left is a type of Chinese veggie which literally translates to "Dragon whiskers." Yep see those curly thing? Dragon whiskers! On the right is just sauteed Chinese cabbage.

HOME-MADE SUSHI ROLLS! a la ma mere 🙂

Another weird one but definitel one of my FAVORITE MUSHROOMS! Yes, literally translated, these are called "Monkey heads" mushrooms. They're a little fuzzy, and very chewy. A-to-the-FRIKKIN-mazing!

You’re probably wondering what those stuff in the homemade sushi rolls are. Well, they’re actually “Taiwanese” sushi rolls. In America, we eat “Americanized” sushi rolls. Nowhere in Japan will you find California roll, Dragon rolls, Hawaiian rolls, Some-other-crazy-named-rolls…Nope. The most popular roll in Japan is probably the “Maki Sushi” roll. They’re usually stuffed HUGE (about 2 times the diameter of your regular Cali roll) with steamed egg, some pickled cucumbers and veggies, and some sort of cooked fish. In Taiwan, we like to make our sushi with cucumbers, steamed eggs, pickled veggies, and dried pork floss (or rousong). My mom made cucumber avocado rolls, both with vegan dried pork floss rolls.

And voila. That concludes my first day back home. I’m sure most of you are still waking up to a beautiful Friday at this point, while I’m concluding my Friday. I almost feel like I time-traveled! :mrgreen:

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