#mindfulmonday: Mindfulness in yoga

My journey in yoga started on 26 September 2006. It was an important day, that day I signed up at a small yoga centre with my friend in Sea Park, because prior to that, I had never been seriously interested in fitness and exercise. Walking was something I did to get from point A to point B. Running was something foreign to me. Swimming was a hobby, and the closest thing to an interest in exercise in my whole existence at the time.

Omega_Institute_Yoga_Girl_Wordcloud

 

Most people started playing sports rather early in life – from childhood, to their teenage years, and their 20s. I heard from quite a number of people that they kind of get sidetracked after that. Exercise sort of took a back seat to work, social and family life, and relaxation time.

I was 30 when I started yoga. No spring chicken, but optimistic and hopeful nonetheless. It is never too late to try yoga. Of course, I had trouble touching my toes and all that in the beginning, but I refused to give up. After weeks and months, my body got used to it, and I began to enjoy the practice.

Yoga is a Personal Journey

There is presently a wide selection of classes available for students of various levels and capabilities. Hatha yoga, widely available in yoga centres throughout Malaysia, offers basic yoga training for all levels. Ashtanga is a series of graceful yoga postures synchronised with the breath. Some practice prajna paramita, where the focus is on the breath – practising various breathing techniques and meditation. There is also mindfulness yoga, which I have not had the good fortune to experience yet.

Yoga means different things to different people. To some, yoga is a challenge to be conquered – to master difficult poses such as inversions and arm balances. To others, yoga in a hot room is great to work up a sweat to detox the body after a whole day of sitting in a cold air-conditioned office. To a few, yoga is a form of stress relief and therapy for aches and pains from past injuries, as well as sore back and limbs.

To me, yoga is a personal journey, and each of our journeys is special and unique. Due to anatomy, not everyone can master the same poses, and not everyone can master all poses. Certain people will find certain poses easier than others. Some may be flexible, so they can be good at poses that require bending, stretching and binding. Others may possess good upper body strength, hence they can be good in arm balances.

Tulipmania @ Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Mindfulness in Yoga

To me, mindfulness is an important aspect of yoga. We usually begin our yoga practice with sitting meditation – it is a centering exercise, where we focus on the breath to help us calm down, empty our minds of all thoughts and concentrate on the present. We take deep breaths, fill our lungs with oxygen to energise our body, and we settle down into the class. Our heartbeat slows to a relaxed rate. Then, there is only the here and now in the yoga class for an hour.

Over the years, I have cultivated mindfulness during the yoga class as well. I focus on the yoga instructor, his or her voice and demonstrations, and I focus on my own posture, the poses and the sensation in my limbs and body. To balance, I clear my mind of thoughts and gaze softly at a single static point in front of me in the room. In this way, I cultivate a semi-meditative state throughout the one-hour class. In doing so, I not only build strength and flexibility, have a good stretch and a good workout, but I also come out of the class with a relaxed and calm mind.

Most people think of meditation as a static practice, where people traditionally sit quietly on the ground or on a chair, or even lie down. However, there is also a form of meditation known as dynamic meditation, where there is movement involved. For example, even walking can be a form of dynamic meditation. In this dynamic form of practice, the movement is frequently repetitive or rhythmic, and so I have brought the essence of this idea into my yoga practice. I find BodyBalance most conducive for this, where the class incorporates repetitive Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates moves.

Tulipmania @ Flower Dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Yoga for Life

To me, yoga is something that can be practised by people of all ages throughout their lives, according to individual abilities. Just do what is suitable and holistic, rather than force ourselves to achieve impressive poses through pain and suffering. At the end of the practice, we should feel good – our body should feel good, and we should feel good about ourselves. 🙂

Further Reading

1. Bring More Mindfulness onto the Mat
2. Hatha Yoga
3. Ashtanga Yoga
4. Prajna Paramita
5. Yoga & Mindfulness for Kids

 

 

 

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#BeWoW – Diary of a Quirky Girl, 4.03.2015

OK, this is the first time I’m participating in the #BeWow blogshare started by RonovanWrites. BeWoW stands for Be Wonderful on Wednesday. The idea is to post something nice or wonderful on Wednesdays to brighten up someone’s day. It could be a  wonderful experience, a fond memory, something inspirational or motivational, etc.

Today, I’d like to add my third instalment of my experimental diary writing as part of the #BeWoW blogshare. 🙂

Diary of a Quirky Girl, 4.03.2015

Here’s the blog post in plain text, in case you don’t like reading it in the coloured background above:

Wednesday, 4.03.2015

Exercise was never my kind of thing when I was young. I was an awkward kid who twisted both ankles fairly regularly, so much so that my ankles finally built resistance to getting twisted. Nowadays, after I trip and fall, or just twist an ankle, I can just get up, shake the seemingly hurt ankle, do my weird kicking motion, and it’ll be just fine.

In Form 4, an English teacher told me nonchalantly that I was a late bloomer. Thinking back, I had the amusing thought that this probably encompassed my interest in the unrelated topic of exercise as well. My interest started at 30, when I registered for my first yoga class on 26 September 2006. I think discovering yoga was almost like falling in love. It was something that fascinated me; I see it in magazines, on TV and on websites. I’ve wanted to try it for ages, but never did. Of course, the first few weeks could only be described as the most daunting physical challenge of my life. I could not fathom tying myself into knots, standing on my head, or doing the handstand. Some days, I would just feel exhausted, but on other days, I felt queasy. It was all I could do to keep from puking towards the end of class. But I kept at it, and little by little, my body stopped fighting it and accepted the practice. After that, it felt good and energizing. In relaxing classes with breathing exercises, stretching and meditation, I would emerge totally calm and relaxed. It’s something great I look forward to at the end of a tiring work day. It’s been eight years and counting, and my interest in yoga has continued unabated. Although I can never accomplish some of the anti-gravity and mind-boggling poses, I am satisfied knowing that the practice has contributed to a happier and healthier me.

Then, I developed an interest in walkathons. I signed up for the 7-km Kordel’s Walk for Healthy Joints in 2011 and never looked back since. I signed up for all manner of walkathons – the usual distances were 3 km, 5km and 7km. Of course, as with a new physical challenge, it was hard the first few years, but I got progressively better at it.

The ultimate challenge arrived on the day I decided to join a run. I’ll admit that I hated running. I had the fear that I would fall and hurt myself, as in my school days. But sign up, I did. The first run I signed up for was the famous Energizer Night Race 2014, 7 months ago, in August 2014. The first thing that attracted me was the free headlamp. Ha-ha… Yes, I was enticed to join a run by a headlamp. I laugh at the memory till this day. I practised for it for a few weeks, walking and jogging from 3 km to 5 km in the evenings. Since it was my first race, and I was certain that I was in no danger of winning anything, I decided to sign up for the shortest distance (5 km) and do my best to not finish last. It turned out to be extremely challenging and exciting. In its 4th year, the run attracted 15,000 participants and we lit up the night with my little headlamps. No, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I walk and jog. It’s a race, but that doesn’t mean we need to run the whole way. My objective is to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and so far, it’s been great. At 37, I overcame my fear of running and falling flat on my face, and did not finish last. Hurray! 😀