Monday, March 17, 2014

Suzanne Morgan from Penang Spirit Interviews Nirmaya Yoga

How did you first get interested in yoga?

I was facing a rough patch in my life in 2004, I had a broken relationship and was lost. I happened to stumble upon some yoga classes at the gym, and I threw myself completely into it. I haven't been away from yoga ever since.


How did you get into teaching? (can you include details of your training and the style of yoga that you teach).

I trained with Sun Yoga KL in 2005. My training lasted 4 months, full time learning, and I taught classes in KL as part of my training. It was per-requisite of my school's modules to graduate. I was trained in Hatha by Dr. Jacqueline Koay and Ashtanga inspired Flow by the late Vincent Tam. Currently, my style of teaching is an eclectic mix of styles, pulling from sources like Anusara, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Yin and Vinyasa. But I particularly enjoy the Anusara style of yoga.

Do you specialise in any particular areas, e.g. pregnancy, retreats etc.

I specialize in combining yoga and psychology, being a psychology major. Using specific psychology methods of overcoming fear, addressing issues and mental blocks is what I do best while combining it with the physical yoga practice for better understanding of one's body and breath.

What do you love most about teaching yoga?

I love that people always surprise me when they're on their mats and in turn they teach me about being a better person and teacher for them. I love the way I get to inspire others and touch other people's lives. When I cease to exist anymore, I will know that people will still remember me in their hearts.


What, in your opinion, are the primary benefits of practising yoga?

 Its a great form of anger management and soothes mild depression, in other words, it brings joy to the practitioner and joy in the practice itself


What advice would you give for people who have never tried yoga?

"How do you explain the sweetness of honey if one has never tasted it before?"

What is your favourite asana?

Its a toss up between Downward facing dog and Chaturanga

http://www.facebook.com/michquahyoga

I'm now contactable by LINE

Talk to me.

Michelle Quah

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To teach is to serve

To teach is to serve. I became a yoga instructor with the sole purpose of serving my students. They entrust me with their bodies, mind and breath and in turn I give them all I have to offer, and all I know, if not more. Along with that, comes a responsibility of seeing that your students grow, learn and to be able to see themselves in a different way, to make their own lives better, to bring forth the feeling of hope and joy. My students come to class looking for answers in life, even if they don't know it. I don't have the answers for them ready at hand, neither do I claim to have all the answers to all their questions but I do have the passion to show them ways to understand themselves more on and off the mat, which also sometimes leads to the answers they have been searching for.

A great philosopher Osho once said, when the student is ready, the master will appear. I like to think that I took this to heart when I approached my student Evan(name has been altered to protect my student's identity) at the end of class. I felt like it went a little like this, when a student offers himself up to a higher power, a path will appear. I took my chances with Evan, because earlier in the month before, he had disclosed to me he had sleeping problems and the inability to shut his mind off at bedtime. For me, what I had experienced with Evan in the same room as I, sent frightening chills down my spine. I guess I was detecting his subconscious energy which is released during a physical practice. When students entrust me with their bodies, this is what happens... I sense things. I pick up on the finer details, unseen. Its an energy I feel so intense that I know what my student is feeling at that point. And with Evan, it was anger, searing anger, if not hatred or worse contempt. It really scared me. I knew the anger was not directed at me. It was pent up in him and  it was "screaming" in my face. It was Evan's tumultuous silent cry for help, and perhaps he didn't even realize it.

Then I reminded myself, I'm there to serve my students. And for me, what better way to serve my students in offering my effort towards a higher power. I love the fact that I can combine what I know from psychology study and being a yoga teacher for the past 9 years or so. I feel that I'm in a position to help others find their path, regardless of whatever answers they are looking for. So I asked Evan, "How do you manage conflict, do you get angry, if so, how often in a day?" He looked surprised and stunned for a moment. Like he was found out like a school boy who had been caught playing truant. What ensued confirmed my suspicion that he was indeed having issues dealing with anger at work, and perhaps that anger spilling over at home too.

We talked for a good 20 minutes after. He too agreed that he was getting angry and annoyed over the work phone calls, and surprisingly enough, inducing a Pavlov-like conditioned fear of answering his phone at work or after. Anger and fear had tied in. Did him in at night resulting in disrupted sleep, with not much of quality resting time for the mind and body. Hence, leading him to see the world at a slightly more pessimistic angle. The brain cannot function properly with lack of sleep, or without quality rest. Hormone levels decrease, putting the body in a state of high acidity causing depression, obstructed circulation and weight gain among other unpleasant side effects. It really broke my heart to speak to him about his pent up anger, as I think it broke his heart too to acknowledge it, as I could have sworn I saw him tear up(but he held it in like he felt was needed) as we spoke. My whole heart went out to him, and I truly wanted to help him, however way I could.

I told him, when we get angry, we lose ourselves. But if we watch our anger, it disappears just like that. No magic or sorcery involved. As a teacher, we have got to truly want to serve our students, as long as it does not damage ourselves. And I knew, Evan needed help. Everyone needs help from time to time. I find nowadays people don't take the time to care about others, as we are too busy taking care of ourselves. Where is the universal love in that? Where is the OM in our day? Who are we if we do not reach out to our fellow men, seeing that they need help? Do we turn a blind eye? I have come across many a time yoga teachers so called teaching yoga but treating it like a perfunctory cardio class and no more. I am appalled at how the gall some people have to call themselves yoga teachers. Especially remains true for fresh out the mill yoga teachers, who only think about how they perform(what super yogi advanced poses they can hold and how fancy it looks) instead of the welfare of their students. That's what teaching means to me. To give yourself to students, as a stepping stone along the path they are looking for, or to keep them on the right track, to reassure them that they are doing well, or could use to reflection time upon their quality of life. If one is to be called a yoga teacher, you have to be ready, available and truly want to give to your students, its not about the teacher, and never will be. That is what I call a teacher indeed, someone who inspires, gives people hope, teaches students to love themselves, and to accept or change whatever comes their way, knowing that they will be only given what they can handle by the big guy up there.

I could see by the end of our little heart to heart talk with Evan, I could see a part of him had softened and melted knowing that someone out there cared and wanted him to experience a better quality of life, and was able to give him hope that things could be turned around, if, and only if he decided to make the change, by watching how he responded to life, instead of reacting. He told me that he would feel his blood boil to his face, and he would mouth off to his colleagues or anyone who would listen to his rant. I said to him, now you are reacting. Its time to respond, to watch your anger as it rises, as quickly as it does, it will disappear. But Evan has to do the work. I can't do it for him. He has to become the watcher, not the person who does. Only to watch. He can still go about his work, but he has to be aware. With awareness comes relaxation.

We left the room, knowing that he had also indirectly taught me a lesson in forgiveness in my own life, and letting go of anger is crucial to one's spiritual growth and health. Whereas I hope Evan went home knowing that he has the ability to respond in life, instead of his bursting reactions, so that in turn he may be fully present to experience his life and moments as a loving father, supportive husband and a happy worker at his company.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Random Access Memory

Clever use of Daft Punk's album title for my blog post isn't it. No, I'm not a fan of their music. But my blog today has something to do with memory. I'm always a huge fan of word play, it makes my day more interesting. And so that you don't fall asleep reading this, assuming you do read this blog.
I have been absent from writing, only due to me gathering my thoughts as I have embarked on the journey of self discovery and introspection. Yoga  would call it turning your focus inwards also known in Sanskirt as Pratyahara. But today's post is a more personal side of me.

As a student of psychology, I have learnt that people have creative thoughts or inspirations in 3 places. In the context of the 3 Bs, Bath, Bed and Bus. I had mine in the bath. I was using my Perlier Lily of the Valley shower gel which I adore and already had John Frieda conditioner sitting in my hair as a treatment. And I think the combination of the two smells triggered a long forgotten memory. A random memory at that too. But we never forget smells. The amygdala in the seat of the brain is responsible for memories, smells and emotions. It was awakened. The lemony fizzy smell had  evoked a memory from my childhood. The memory I had was when I  was about 2 or 3 maybe, in Tokyo in our apartment bathroom. I could see my chubby legs and toes, and I know I was butt naked watching the fizz in my bathtub fizzle and emit the lemony carbonated scent as it made the water cloudy and I was fascinated by this sight, always have been. There was even a tinge of orange scent too. Japanese are so great making such simple things a novelty. Bear in mind it's around the year 1987. I would dip my fingers in the tub to  swirl the cloudy water before getting into the hot tub. What fascinates me as I relive the memory is that I can remember the very comforting heat coming from the hot water in the tub and the temperature of the bathroom obviously, combined with this fizzy lemony scent.

I feel like my subconscious opened up another gateway to me, to reveal itself. To teach me something from my past experience. But I  wondered as I stepped out of the bath all cleaned, what did it mean? Why did my inner self choose to reveal it now? I always feel like when the body or mind shows us something, its a sign for us to work on a part of us which has been hidden for whatever reasons. The trick is to not be afraid to uncover the truth or the deeper message of the memory. If we are prepared to do that, then I think half the work is done. I find a deep calm and contentment from just letting the memory float across my minds eye and then allowing myself to unravel the gift embedded within this memory. Yoga has given me the tools to access(not a typo here) myself courageously and to be fully aware of the moments in my life.

My question to you is, are you pushing away precious memories(pleasant and unpleasant) which are poised to help you transform and transcend?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nirmaya closed 24th Dec and 31st Dec 2012

Dear Nirmayans,

The studio will be closed for 2 consecutive Mondays, the 24th and 31st Dec 2012. So I would like to make Saturday classes 29th Dec 2012  and 5 Jan 2013 both 90 min classes.

Happy Holidays, stay safe and don't overeat during the festive season!

Warm regards and Namaste!

Michelle Quah

Friday, December 30, 2011

Nirmaya Closed 1st Jan 2012

Dear Nirmayans,

We will be closed on 1st Jan 2012. We resume 2nd Jan 2012. Hope to see all of you back at Nirmaya Yoga then! 31st December 2011 Saturday class as usual. :)

Namaste!

Michelle
Sent by DiGi from my BlackBerry® Smartphone

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lululemon Athletica - The Best Yoga Wear I Swear by

Dear Nirmayans,

I'm bringing in Lululemon Athletica, which makes excellent yoga and exercise wear. I will be the pioneer in Penang to do so. I am offering it to my students first, as I myself am a huge fan of Lululmeon yoga wear, I wear it everyday to teach classes, so you can say it is instructor tested. My favourites are the deep breathe tank and Groove signature pants. These apparel run higher than Nike or even Adidas, but offers up to 20 times more performance than you'll ever get out of them. I have worn my Lululemon pants for the past 3 years and they still look new, I love these pants because they lift my butt, makes my thighs look toned, holds in tummy without constricting breathing and makes me feel like superwoman. And I teach the least 14 classes a week in Lululemon. My deep breathe tank keeps my girls up and the Luon fabric keeps me cool, hides bulges and smooths down to give me a sleeker look, it is also made of anti-stink/anti-odour material. I swear by Lululemon, trust me once you've tried Lululemon, you'll wonder why you bothered with Nike or Adidas. 

I thought you might want to have a look at it, http://www.lululemon.com
(Tops will run about 250- 280, pants will run you up from 370-400, depending on design after shipping charges and tax, will quote upon placing of order) The pants will last you about 5 years easy, so do the tops while still looking new.
I even wear my Lululemons out and about after class to do groceries or meet friends for coffee without having to bother if I stink from class, IT IS performance wear at it's finest. I cannot say enough good things about Lululemon. 

http://shop.lululemon.com/products/clothes-accessories/women-tanks/Spin-Me-Tank-80050?cc=6467&skuId=3417322&catId=women-tanks



 http://shop.lululemon.com/products/clothes-accessories/women-tanks/Scoop-Neck-Tank-30792?cc=9525&skuId=3431799&catId=women-tanks

FEEL FREE TO BROWSE THROUGH THE WIDE RANGE OF APPARELS AND if you'd like to order , let me know which colour and size(if not sure on sizing, I can help). I'm putting through my compiled orders soon, to save on shipping costs. SO IF THERE'S ANYTHING THAT INTERESTS YOU OR ANY ITEMS WHICH YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE, Please let me know within these 3 days. 

Warmest regards,
Michelle

Monday, September 26, 2011

BYOM (Bring/Buy Your Own Mats)

Dear Nirmayans and new yogis from I Love Discounts,

I would like to again encourage all of you to have your own mats, due to hygiene issues. For a limited time, I'm have 4 new mats for sale at Nirmaya for a special price of RM65. It's a standard mat, non waxy with good enough traction, boasting 6mm thickness, just nice for Nirmaya Yoga practice. It comes in a few shades of green and one grey.

Otherwise if sold out, you would need to get a standard mat from Fitness Concept(the grey colour one is a very good one) from either Gurney or Queensbay's outlet. That retails for RM69.

Please message me if you'd like to reserve to buy one of the mats from Nirmaya and this applies to a first come, first serve basis.

Namaste!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

We're on I Love Discounts again!

http://www.ilovediscounts.my/penang/nirmaya-yoga/nirmaya-yoga-unlimited-classes-for-1-month/

Buy now, don't wait till the time runs out!

Looking forward to having new faces at Nirmaya Yoga. :)

Love and Light,

Michelle

Monday, September 5, 2011

Acroyoga weekend at Nirmaya!!!!!

What is Acroyoga?

Acroyoga is a form of yoga which combines yoga, thai massage, and acrobatics. It cultivates trust, connection and playfulness among friends, family, lovers, best friend and even complete strangers. Acroyoga celebrates mutual support of and from others and realization of the divine.

Who can practice Acroyoga?

Anyone who is generally fit, if you have some form of yoga background will be great, but if you don't, all you need is an open heart and mind to begin the flying and healing benefits welcome you to a whole new perspective of yourself and of others. 

When is the Acroyoga jam session?

10th Sept 2011, Saturday 8am-10.30am, a minimal fee of RM50 is incurred for this jam session.

Where will the Acroyoga jam session be?

Nirmaya Yoga, 8 Kennedy Road, 11600 Penang. My contact is 016 4911 685, drop me a line if you need directions.

What do I need to know before joining in the Acroyoga jam session?

Not much, actually. Just bring your sense of adventure, fun and surrender to the new experience of Acroyoga. :)

Who is leading the Acroyoga jam session?

Marc Bauchet, from France who is certified Acroyoga instructor who is in Malaysia for a limited time.

Why do Acroyoga?

Because it will change your life. If you are a regular yoga practitioner, it will enrich and enhance your personal and individual practice.

How to get to know more Acroyogis in Penang?

Come for our pot luck at Nirmaya Yoga, 8 Kennedy Road on Friday, 9th Sept 2011 at 7pm, there will be a pre-acroyoga jam session to kick start the weekend. So bring food, and dress in yoga wear. Don't worry, we have a good mix of total beginners and regular Acroyogis.
Please let me know what you'd like to bring for the pot luck if interested. I encourage all to attend.

Where do I get more info and photos to understand Acroyoga?


http://www.acroyoga.org    <===== the official Acroyoga webstie

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=226558900724196   <====== if you're on facebook, check out the two links below and click the RSVP


Please email me or sms me to let me know your RSVP to this event, if interested. Thank you so much. :)


I look forward to seeing you all there.

Love and light,
Michelle

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mats

Dear newly joined Nirmayans, or those interested in joining, pls feel free to buy your own mats from Fitness Concept which retails about RM70 for one. Try not to be tempted to buy mats from Tesco or Guardian as they are not as good and do not suit our usage of yoga here in Nirmaya. Hope this little tip helps. Also if you have just purchased your new mat, please wipe it down with a wet cloth and set to dry, this takes of the layer or wax, which only slips when you sweat on your mat. We wouldn't want people skidding off our mats, would we? It is a one time only wax  wipe off. To upkeep and clean your mat, you can purchase dettol wipes or dettol hand sanitizer to clean your mats and keep it clean and fresh.

Namaste,
Michelle

--
'ChelleQ

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Parking at Nirmaya Yoga

Dear Nirmayan Yogis,

As you all know, parking is first come first serve basis, and is limited to about 8- 9 cars maximum which come in first. So I would encourage the most of you to carpool or even take turns to carpool.

However, in the event that the parking in the compound is full already, please proceed to the corner house along Cheeseman Road, which is 2 Cheeseman Road, also Nirmaya yoga property, and park on the grass, or in front of the gate also is fine, so no worries. It's the house with 2 brown gates. The other option is to drive a little further down Kennedy Road, take a first left turn into Phillips road, where there is a roundabout playground open grassy area, feel free to park there, and walk a little to Nirmaya Yoga, a little pre-warm up before class. Try to refrain against parking along Kennedy Road, as this might provoke complaints from the neighbours, and cause unnecessary friction. Thank you for your understanding. :)

Lastly, do try your best to come on time for the classes. I am willing to wait about 5-8mins for late comers, however if any later, it would be slightly unfair to others already there, we all want maximum practice time, don't we? :)

See you all in class! :)

Warm regards and Namaste,

Michelle Quah 

Sent by DiGi from my BlackBerry® Smartphone

Away on the 24th and 25th July 2011

Dear Nirmayans,

This 24th n 25th July 2011, I will be away at University. No classes will be conducted on these dates. Replacement classes to follow.

To those who have purchased vouchers from ILD website, please make ring/text/email me before you drop in for class so I may prepare necessary items.

Thank you and Namaste!
Sent by DiGi from my BlackBerry® Smartphone

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We're on I Love Discounts!

http://www.ilovediscounts.my/penang/nirmaya-yoga/nirmaya-yoga-classes-for-a-month/?utm_source=ILD+Opt-Penang&utm_campaign=a8b4d7f8f7-29_06_11_Pg_Bizzy_Body6_29_2011-pg&utm_medium=email

Dear Yogis everywhere and Nirmayan Yogis, we are on I Love Discounts for the latest promotion by Nirmaya Yoga.

Have a great week ahead.

Pls call me at 0164911685 to confirm your attendance for class, those who have bought the vouchers from I Love Discounts! website.

Love n Light,

Michelle Q

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Let's Fly!

Dear Nirmayans,

Today we will learn the secrets to flight, including your lifting gear and your landing gear when practicing the sun salutions in Ashtanga inspired yoga.

I hope today's lesson will be beneficial to all and bring more light towards this myth of 'I'm too heavy, or I'm not strong enough' to fly.

Fly high.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Yoga Trance Dance inspired by Shiva Rea workshop happening this 20th and 21st May. yoga trance dance is a meditative movement workshop on the 20th and the one on the 21st is for powerful flow alignment workshop called Tandava. Myself and sze ming are attending, and would like to invite all Nirmayans to join in too. :) The sign up is by 15th, please let me know if you're interested. Here is some video clip i found on yoga trance dance, a form of liberation dance to enable the body to move free, it is a matless experience. I encourage all of you to join, it will be our firsts. Do not feel intimidated even if you're a beginner, this workshop has no prerequisite and encourages yogis on all levels. :)




And for those of you who have FB, this is the workshop link. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=100103393410365

Note: 21st May, beginners class cancelled, replacement 22nd may 9.00am
Yoga Trance Dance
Friday 20/5/2011 (8-930pm) @ RM45/session
Created by Shiva Rea, this is experience in the mat-less universe using music as a guide. We move thru space effortlessly - rolling, spiralling & flowing as one & opening to Yoga in a new way. No experience in ance necessary as we are all born knowing how to move.

Lasya Tandava workshop
Saturday 21/5/2011 (930am-12.30pm) @ RM120/session

Experience Lasya (softness) & Tandava (power) in Flow Yoga. Taking time to align with a deeper awareness in our body as we soften & open, expand & empower, creating correct foundations so we can melt into the moment & flow down the river of asana bliss!

Lasya: The gentle & graceful movements of Lasya with its feminine & fluid energy represent the soft & tender aspects of existence.

Tandava: The vigorous & powerful movements of Tandava symbolise the cosmic cycles of creation & destruction, as well as the daily rhythms of birth & death. During this workshop we explore the many layers and elements which make Yoga whole, from standing in Tadasna/ Mountain pose, which enables us to feel space and lengthening in the spine to inverting the body and standing on our hands with a calm and clear mind. Students are encouraged to draw upon their own life experiences and work with their own softness and power during this workshop.

Register & pay before 15 May 2011

Both Trance Dance & WOrkshop at RM130
Workshop only RM100.

I hope to see you all back at Nirmaya very soon!

-- 

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Class structure and Fees

Dear Nirmayans,

As of June 2011, there will be a restructure of classes and fees, please stay tuned.

Namaste,
Michelle Q
Sent by DiGi from my BlackBerry® Smartphone

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My philosophy and teaching style (part 11)

It’s extremely rewarding for me, when I see my students being able to breath correctly , and experience the prana of their practice, holding the posture comfortable and steady, both values of which are prescribed by Patanjali. I know at the moment in Penang, most yoga practitioners are so obsessed with how a pose should look, how far one can touch their toes to their head, how high they can lift their legs, get totally sidetracked with the mere aesthetics of poses, rather than feeling the energy and the silent point of their practice. The deep connection formed with the breath, when movement merges into breath, breath into movement, when the movement pauses, so does the breath, and when the breath moves again, so does the movement. That is the principle of vinyasa. The tricky part is to see them as one. Breath and movement. I cringe when I see people ‘Doing’ yoga rather than ‘Being’ yoga. I feel like telling them, that there’s so much more to yoga than just a physical workout. Yoga is the start of internal work. Lame men think that when you breath, only the areas in the chest rise and fall, but little do they realize that even the deeply intricate muscles in the pelvic floor are connected to your breathing. Even the skull expands slightly with your inhalation. Breathing is a FULL BODY EXPERIENCE.

A student of mine, Ernest, asked me what is the real purpose we do yoga? I asked him if he wanted the yoga truth or superficial answers. So I ended up telling him that yoga is actually teaching us the art of dying. Wait, let me reassure those of you reading not to navigate away from this blog just yet. It’s not morbid. Yoga is not morbid, in fact yoga teaches us how to live, so we can die in the most graceful way. A dying person will fight, fighting what is certain and imminent, yet a dying yogi would be meditating on AUM, which would be most appropriate, it is said that the atma(soul) will merge with pure consciousness and not be reborn. Yoga teaches us to live in the moment, as the saying goes, the present is a gift. We live life often not to the fullest, but yoga teaches us to be in totality with the moment itself, to be fully conscious of the moment, and not seek out anything more. I mean sure, yoga won’t make you a rich man, but yoga will give you the greatest wealth of spirituality. We suffer from creating attachments, and we are attached to attachments, we don’t know how to live without them, and yet everybody says they want to be happy, this is not possible. What makes us happy, equally makes us sad, have you ever noticed? Because it is an exterior stimuli, thus anything exterior is “not real” and therefore can be taken away. Everybody is so afraid with death, but death is always with us, it is within our breath, the moment we were born, death was also part of it. Birth and death are no two separate things, if you notice the pauses between the breath, there is a calm, dead, quiet silence, where you “die” for a second or so, where there is no breath in the body, and we are merged with our higher self. Each breath we take is a risk, we actually don’t know if the breath will come back each time we exhale. Life ends with an exhale, and begins with an inhale. So death is within us, not something exterior. It is said in the yoga scriptures, that everyone is born with a predetermined number of breaths in this lifetime, and so not to exhaust that number too quickly, we slow down our breath, pray, we may live longer on earth.

A wise old woman once told me that the relaxed state is the most beautiful state of all, but do not let these words imprint the thought of wanting to be beautiful, that is not the focus. The most relaxed state brings out the most natural side of us, and what is organic, is at in its purest form. I have a friend who always is uptight, and very edgy. But one day, I was fortunate enough to catch this friend of mine at the reflexology centre and had his head laid back on the comfy massage chair, he was resting, the deeply relaxed kind, I had never seen him wear ‘natural’ before, at that moment, only did I see a pure natural side to him I had never seen before previously, I wish I didn’t have to put a definition to what I saw, but for understanding purpose, I was moved by such ‘beauty’. I saw an innocent child in that seat, for that split second. For that moment, he had no barriers up, he was like a hollow bamboo allowing purity to flow right through him. I really wish I didn’t have to define that moment, because anything with a definition becomes “ugly”. It loses its original value. Osho teaches one such type of inner relaxation technique; to simply sit quietly, and allow the lower jaw to hang softly open, and breath a shallow breath throw the mouth, I tried this, and what I noticed is the that upper palate of the mouth will lift up towards the cranium, and thus creating a blissful effect, a centering energy as it lifts towards the crown of the head. It somewhat resembles the Shambavi mudra in yoga.

That's all for now,

Light and love, namaste.

Michelle Q

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Head over to a table at the Gratitude cafe - Thanksgiving 2008

Today is my first day back to my practice after 10 days, I had over strained my back and hips, not from doing yoga just for the record, it was from the other physically demanding exercise I recently delved into. My injury reminds me not to take my body for granted because in those 10 days of recovery, I was in such agony just to move around. I apologize for the one class I had to cancel, because there was no way I could go through a class without heading for some chiropractic treatment.

It reminded me that every single movement begins with the hips, exactly the same way you would want a car to turn, you have to turn the wheel first in that direction, but first you have to willingly turn the steering wheel. And for those long 10 agonizing days or so, my "steering wheel" had problems turning. Excuse my analogy, but I think it's a simple way to put how the body moves. I could barely squat because the pain went straight to my sacro-illiac joint and picking up things was the same case, climbing in and out of bed I had to use arm strength to support my body instead of swinging my hips off the bed as usual. I mainly had to rely on arm strength to move around and get things done. Even sitting became a problem. Even now, there are slight murmurs of discomfort in my lumbar area, but much better than in the beginning. I'm not asking for empathy but merely reminding you to be grateful for a healthy body and never take your abilities or priviledges for granted. Easier said than done, but try.

This Thanksgiving, be thankful for all that you have, accepting the blessings you have, not hankering for things/goals you don't have. Just be thankful, be filled with gratitude for all that is bestowed upon you. Eminate love and send it out the world this Thanksgiving.

Love and light,

Michelle Q

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (a peek into my practice)

Just the other day, I was practicing on my own, but feeling less than motivated, yes, even I get that way sometimes, so I put on a random audio yoga track to encourage myself. Nowadays you can download audio yoga classes off the net, some free, some not. Being a teacher myself, I always opt for the ones payable by Paypal, because I know how much effort is put into a class, credit is well deserved. Some you can listen to, several complete practices for free, is http://www.eionfinnyoga.com/ , plus he has such a soothing voice. But the audio track I chose to put on, was by one of the highly acclaimed yoga teacher for Yoga Journal, a young female.

And the moment her voice came on, it was anything but pleasant to my ears, she sounded like she was in a rush, and less then welcoming. I was about to switch off her audio track, when I chided myself, because I remembered that it's never about the teacher, but really about my own personal attitude towards my practice. Yoga begins with an attitude. Beyond everything else which goes on in your day, it's the attitude which you bring to class, so I consciously made a wide awake decision to accept the audio teacher's unpleasant voice and go with the flow. The first couple of minutes were the hardest, I struggled not to run to my player to turn off the audio track but another little voice in me spoke up, I was reminded that it's not how we fast we can run away from the unpleasant experience but how we deal with it, which makes up our yoga practice and that inevitably affects how we deal with similar discomforts in daily life. Yoga builds character. In yoga we are taught that all experiences are only temporary, the pleasant and unpleasant. Although some Swamis would strongly digress by saying that there is no pleasant or unpleasant, there is only remaining unattached and aloof, merely watching the experience. Osho says, be the experience, be in totality with the experience. More often than not, we end up fleeting the unpleasant situation, and not learning a single thing from it. Pain/irritation or unpleasant/unfavourable experiences can be our greatest teachers, if you want them to be, emphasis on "if you let them". In a heavily sedated society of the comforts of a good life, we are taught the "fight or flight" response to an unfavourable situation. Osho says don't fight, because you are only fighting yourself, fleet from it and you have missed the lesson intended for you to learn. So I stopped fighting the irritation, and neither did I flee from the irritation. I stayed with it, I nurtured an astounding amount of acceptance of the unpleasantness but most importantly, acceptance for myself, to accept just the way I am. And with that new found acceptance, I had reaffirmed self love, a feeling of the world inside me, and me inside the world and I couldn't ask for anything more. I can't find any better way to describe it. It's a beautiful feeling.

By then I was already half way into the audio track, and really riding the breath, there was no longer any irritation for the voice, but only a purity which was left in it's wake. I found that through acceptance, we transcend, transcend ourselves, and become closer to our inner true selves, the Atma, where bliss is possible. Throughout my practice that day, like any usual practice, I was using the Ujjayi breathing(it's the Darth Vader breath you hear rather audibly in class). There were points in my postures where I could feel vastness of space in my upper back, and midback. I wish there was a word in English to describe the feeling of wonderful spaciousness. My breath had gone straight into to my upperback, I was no longer thinking about the physical part of my posture but had become the breath. Each breath I took, I was breathing into pure space. To an extent, this feeling of openness and fluid space equally scared me too. I could really only hear myself "being breathed by the great Breath" as Sally Kempton puts it, I couldn't agree with her more. To me, my breathing sounded like inner roars of the ocean, and I wondered if I was still on earth but I knew better of course, that's the experience of breath, a journey inwards. As some would teachers say, the only way out is in. There's a fulfilling state of calm when we manage to breathe seamlessly and fuse that with yoga postures. I can only describe the "texture" of the breath as weightless and expansive. At the end of the practice, I am filled with such gratitude for the lesson I learned, just being bringing and keeping the right attitude towards my practice. So to wrap that up, yoga starts with an attitude, and "ends" with character building.

That's all for now,

Lots of light and love,

Namaste.

Friday, October 24, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 9 - subtle energies)

As I take a new interest in instrumental music, I realise that at the end of the day, words don't really matter at all. We say alot during our waking hours, perhaps too much, most of the time knowingly or unknowingly hurting other people. Words, as time goes by, change meaning, as the world changes, the best example is the word gay, in the 1920's it meant being happy and joyous, nowadays the word is used to represent an individual or a society who are homosexual (and just for the record, I've got nothing against homosexuals). And as we know by now, prakriti is the nature which is in constant changing motion, thus it is not something real or eternal. But if you must insist that words still matter, I can't entirely be against that either because like the Sanskrit names of the poses are said to project their own vibrational essence when vocalised. A stirring is said to occur in the realm of consciousness when the posture is vocalised. Or when you say someone is ugly, you destroy their confidence, or when you thank someone for a kind deed, it changes the person from the inside. So in that way, words matter.


But in my humble opinion, the less one says, the more impact there is. Less is always more. So by right, I shouldn't be saying so much in this blog, but I can only try to adapt so much to the changing times. There should be pauses, silences between instructions, when students find their own voice, their own inner guide, it's not about what I have to say, but what the student has to listen to their personal teacher, most often that little voice in the back of the head, or for the intermediate student, perhaps their breath. The intermediate student will then perhaps back off from the pose or any present bad pain, or go further into the pose depending on the depth and length of the breath, thus the breath basically becomes their inner guru, as I always say, I can only suggest, but you know your body best.

When I see the alignment of posture, I think of two things, one is how the body moves in accordance of the midline of the body and two, how the body maintains the natural skeletal organisation when in postures.

For example, when one is holding Warrior 3, one engages the inside of the standing leg, because that is closer to the midline of the body, to get a better image, draw a line from the centre of your forehead all the way down to your navel. So muscular energy wise, one will engage the thigh of the standing leg, and energetically shift energy towards the inside line of the leg, as anatomically, the larger leg bone is on the inside, providing better stability. From a skeletal view, the hips have to stake over the heel of the standing leg, and chest remains higher than the hips while in Warrior 3. The same observation can be made if you study the organisation of the skeletal bones, I mean, have you REALLY noticed that your hips will always have to stack over your heels, and chest is always above the hips, while in a simple standing position, if otherwise will always cause discomfort.

Another example would be Cobra pose, when viewed from the front, one would need to keep both legs zipped up closer together instead of extending beyond the front view line(legs taken wider then hip width) of the body which places undue strain to the lower back, especially if you don't engage the uddhiyana bandha(the navel energy lock). Thus the legs have moved closer to the center line of the body, just by drawing the legs together. Yoga in this sense can mean bringing your limbs closer to the core of the body, while mantaining a dynamic tension holding a certain posture, keeping the limbs working in harmony with the center line of the body. Muscular energy wise, you would need to engage both sets of thighs to fully lift them off the floor, pressing the big toes down and front of your feet downwards(where your shoe laces are meant to be), to sustain your posture in equinamity. Then you would need to energetically lift the sternum to feel like someone is supporting the head like a bouy floating on the water surface. Have you REALLY noticed that your hands or wrists are always hanging below your shoulders in a simple standing position. The same is replicated in Cobra pose, where I would remind you to stack the shoulders over the wrists, and not have the wrists anywhere else. I hope I'm making sense and not confusing you.

So speaking of energies, even if you don't do any yoga, you have definately come across subtle energies which can affect us dramatically. A simple hand shake or a simple friendly hug can determine the sort of person you're dealing with. Some hands I shake feel very dead, like no one's home, just like an empty shell, and they transmit a negative energy, their hands generally feel heavy, cold, and are aurically closed up. I cannot read any positive energy from there. Individuals who are self absorbed tend to not emit any welcoming energy from their hands for obvious reasons. Same thing is readable from a hug. We all have the ability of an energy radar chemically and energetically embedded in our skin, it's only whether you have chosen to listen to it, or not. Some are more sensitive and observant, some less, or not at all.

Coming back to a bit more on breathing, have you noticed why most monks/religious teachers speak quite slowly? It's not because they're old, think slowly, or feel like they need to make a point by speaking slow, but rather, their breathing is slow and deeped, it's so paced, that there is no way for the brain-mouth connection to move fast. It is impossible to speak quickly with slow deep breaths. Try it. You would also notice that when a person is angry, he speaks fast and loud, because his breathing is short, shallow and irregular. Do you see a connection between breath and movement now? When breath moves, the prana(energy) moves. Which brings us back to the basis of vinyasa(flow), when the breath moves, the movement follows. Hence, if your breathing is faster, your movements should move at the same speed as the breath. If breathing is more quiet, the movement is generally slower and graceful. It does not mean slow breath or faster breath is better. There is no competition here, merely you gotta listen to the pace of your breath. Embody your breath.

There is a reason why Tantra yoga students are taught to equalise the length of the inhalation and the length of the exhalation. Tantra is a branch of yoga which is founded by a school of thought whereby when you unite male and female, they re-enact the same union Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti which was the precursor to a new world. As the yoga scriptures go, they were once united, and then the Goddess left her seat of home(the third eye center of consciousness) then walked 7 steps down, (thus creating the path of 7 chakras in our spine) in her wake, then She lies dormant at the base chakra, coiled underneath it waiting to be awaken and reunited with Lord Shiva, and when that happens, a new world is born again, or in Tantra, a cleansed soul will be revealed, of pureness and light. According to Osho, he says that the Tantrica students are taught how to make love for hours without having orgasms, reasoning that when the inhales are equal in length and depth as the exhales, there is no expanse of energy, it stays within the field itself, but because of shortened, shallow breaths, the result is wastage of energy, and the energy needs to channel outwards, to rebalance the flow, thus resulting in an orgasm.

That's all for now,

Lots of light and love,

Namaste.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 8)

My students at Nirmaya are able to be on auto pilot mode, (i.e. needing no real instructions from me) and they know what their bodies want and need, I only help them see it better. They know how to transit from one pose to another, offering their practice to the higher self. They need not rely on my instructions 100%, and I let them fly, in this way, to spread their wings and take flight. In fear of sounding too cliche, I must say that they did not start out like that. They started as beginners, and from there, their practice evolved.

They listen to their body's energies and go with that flow, they need not much of external correction has I teach them self internal correction, how to go beyond the physical, but to listen to the feeling inside, of what feels good and what feels right. They will seek out an internal correction to go deeper into a pose, to use the organic energy within them, i.e. energetically lifting the sternum. Of course a certain amount of muscular energy is used to sustain the posture. Two students may be doing the same posture, but when one is doing internal correction, he will feel stronger, steadier, more receptive and definitely more centered. He will find an equilibrium between the body and breath. In my opinion, an asana should be held with the least amount of effort and energy to achieve "perfection", because only then would you be breathing fully and correctly. I always say, if you can't breathe, you shouldn't be in that posture.

Speaking of breath, I was not well about a month ago, and even myself as a teacher and practicing yogi, I realised that only in times of illness, only do we realise how precious the breath is. I was having a mild flu, and within that 7 days of the flu rising and subsiding, I was struggling to take my usual breaths, let alone deep breaths. I was humbled by a mere simple flu. I have to admit, I myself, was surprised at how tremendously important the breath became. But when we are fit and well, we never bother about the breath. Just like how we mistreat the body and never notice the tell tale signs of disease until it's too late. Or maybe I'm getting way ahead of myself. My point is that we should never take the breath for granted, it may go out, but who knows if it will come back? Each breath you take is a risk, as Osho says. So don't tell me you have never risked anything in your life before. What a pun, isn't it? In some way, having my flu taught me how to appreciate the gift of life, the ability to feel healthy, to be thankful towards my family and friends and for all that I have.

I take a few more moments of your time-space to share with you my experience of something deeper, about 6 weeks ago. I got up the next morning, and wrote it down.

"I settle in, and listen to my heartbeat, it's loud enough to be heard by only me. I let my body settle, and just as I begin to relax, my hand jerks for no particular reason, stirring me. Stretching out a little further to point my left toes, I feel the dynamic tension stringing all the way diagonally across my right arm. Odd. A certain feeling of rest and awareness present at the same time. I listen to my heartbeat again. Then my leg jerks once, as though shaking off a bug. I relax a little deeper, and my awareness is heightened, like an eagle perched high over the cliff watching it's prey, but nobody will be sacrificed today. I continue to watch my inner thoughts, and some answers are made crystal clear to me. The awareness continues to grow, it scares me, but I let it. Every movement I make is an offering toward my consciousness, adding on to the heightened perception of my mind's eye, which is by now so very awake, I am relaxed, but extremely aware of a feeling inside me, an aliveness I have never ever felt before. It scares me. As I try and put a texture to it now, recalling now, I can't. It has no form. I am completely awake in relaxation. I don't know how else to describe it. My passing thoughts settle for a moment on the stranger I had met earlier. I let it pass. But what really freaks me is, the sound of a motorcycle honk, I heard it come as though it was from a distance, the sound of the honk being "pulled", or slowed as though it was going through a semi-permeable medium of some sort, and taking it's time to reach my senses. The sound was slowed down. I feel light headed, slightly worried almost. I turn my head to the left to rest against the soft cotton fabric, and as my ear touches the pillow, I hear the friction of skin against fabric, again, in slow motion, even while it's happening. I drift in and out of this state for the rest of the night".

That's all for now,

Lots of light and love,

Namaste.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (yoga beyond your mat)

I had a morning on a day off so I went to indulge myself by attending a yoga class at one of the small scale gyms. The teacher started on time, which is always good, I think that's very important, but there was always the distraction of other students coming in later, like 10 mins after class is in session. Switching up the roles once in a while is good for my soul because in my line of work, I constantly give and hardly receive any back. So it was good to be a student for a change and receiving instructions. 20 minutes into the class, I hear a woman in the front row moaning. It sounds like something you would hear in the privacy of your own bedroom. Nonetheless she was trying to get the male yoga teacher to come over and see what she was doing wrong. Makes me wonder what has happened to class ettique. Oh well, just something I had to get off my chest.

3 weeks ago, I was at my usual chillout spot in Queensbay when the restaurant manager came to say hello. Having exchanged plesantries and name cards, he asked me what yoga is all about. Now this guy was smoking and I assume he drinks too, but nevertheless, I gladly entertained his question. I proceeded to ask him if he had any hobbies, or any particular activity which he liked to do for relaxation. He told me computer games, well, that was a starting point to tell me what yoga is about. I asked him if there was a point or moments when he was playing his computer games when he was totally absorbed in concentration that he was one with the game, in other words, he became the game itself where "he", the doer had disappeared. In yoga, we achieve glimpses of the higher self when we concentrate deeply, called dharana(the 6th limb of ashtanga yoga), then when that concentration is streamed(kinda like when you videos on the internet are streaming seamlessly), it's called dhayana(the 7th limb of ashtanga yoga), when in this state of no-mind, we are lifted into a space called Samadhi(the last, 8th limb of ashtanga yoga). We are one with the Supreme Consciousness. Of course I didn't want to freak the manager out so I just said that when you are one with the game, you have yoga, a union because you are no longer the observer, you become the observed.

The state of meditation is not only exclusive to a Bodhi tree or at your yoga mat. It can happen anywhere, and anytime. Just the other day I was teaching my Nirmaya students to listen to their internal sound, a sound which resonates within all of us, called the Nada, the Inner Sound(refer to Yin Yoga by Paul Grilley). It is done by sealing your eyes and ears completely and touching your tip of tongue to the upper palate, thus cutting off any external stimuli, this exercise also known as pratyhara(the 5th limb in ashtanga yoga). As we continue to practice Nada, our meditative state helps to reveal more subtle sounds, but when we start off, we hear it as a background static sound. But the culmination of this sound is said to be "AUM". Not the word "AUM" which we can pronounce but the sound "AUM" which reverberates throughout the cosmos. I bring this up because I want you to realise that meditation is not held rigid to where you are or how long you can maintain breathlessness.

This is my example, I was in a movie, watching an action film with my two good friends, and there was a moment when I had slipped into a meditative state, without even trying or even thinking about it, all I know is I was concentrating on the movie(perhaps it was Dharana),but yes, beyond the noise and colour from the huge cinema screen and beyond the chips being munched, I was at a point of calm and inner stillness, I was looking at the screen, looking yet, not defining, no attachment whatsoever to what was in front of me. I was detached from the movie, I became the observer. I could hear my own heartbeat, everything started to seem like it was moving slower than it should, and I heard my Nada, that sound within me. It was one of the most interesting moments I had since my spontaneous meditation early this year at a bookstore.

Now, there are 2 types of union. Both are union, only one of which is where you unite with your higher self, and the other you completely lose yourself, both use the mechanics of the mind, they pass thru the mind, only the losing yourself part does not constitute transcendance. In a union, the "I" part of the ego is no longer there. It disappears, one to a higher level, one lower, depending on the yogi's level of practice. When you become absorbed in something, say dancing, we tend to lose ourselves in the thrill. It's so easy to slip out, but it's out the back door. Or in anger, and we do things we would never do while conscious, you slipped out, out the back door, you were not there in that moment of anger, and most people cannot remember what they did when angry especially in crimes of killing, because they had slipped out, they were not present, all using the mind. But when we pull ourselves from the attachment to the certain object/activity or person, we slip out the royal door, or front door, so to speak. We connect with our higher self, the atman, or soul, inner divinity. A certain aloofness is noticed. If you ever noticed, that the traditional yogis or monks have a quality of aloofness, at least it is perceived that way by laymen. But what goes on is that they are in a state of peace, tranquilty, a state of no-mind. They are only watching, and as they continue to watch, all that is around them seems to crumble like ashes, a realisation dawns upon them that the world is not real.(anything which changes is not real, prakriti) Nothing is real except consiciousness(purusha), which is eternal. I have felt this realisation before.

But being a follower of Osho, he has a "remedy" for union in our state of the world nowadays. It is a fusion of the higher and lower union. He says that for example when you are dancing, be totally present in your dancing, flow with your dance, be the dance, not the dancer. Remain aware of your consciousness, don't slip away, don't be tempted to slip away. Let the dance be your meditation, let it take you higher, to fuse with your consciousness. Try it, do it, and be totally present. In his words, be in totality. Don't miss a single moment of celebration.

That's all for now,

Lots of love and light,

Namaste.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 7)

I was recently asked why I do yoga. What benefit does it bring me? Stumped for a while, I take the time to answer this yet another pertinent question here. Getting caught up in teaching and giving the best to my students, I sometimes forget how it all started, why I continue to do it, but mainly how it has changed me in so many, many aspects. After teaching for about 4 years, and a practicing yogi, I know yoga has never failed me. It was my support system when I was going through the toughest of times, and it was a celebration at the end of the dark tunnel, and still each practice is a joy for me. Regardless, yoga has been a discipline for me, through good times and bad. It showed me how to deal with the upsets of life, and how to remain humble in the turn of good fortune.

Recently I was coaching a friend through some crisis he was having, and it made me realise why I teach yoga. I love to help people. In my line of work, I meet people from all walks of life, and their life is basically etched to their mats, they bring they personal life, work, relationships, dreams, failures, fears and doubts all onto the mat, and I see it. Because psychology, psychosomatic responses and how we move, and to what extend we are willing to move, is all correlated believe it or not. When I see a particular case in need, I extend myself, and touch wood in all cases, my help is warmly welcomed. When I get my students to the mat, I encourage them to open up, to be receptive to emotions, to feelings, and to sensations. One of the worst things which have befallen mankind is we have forgotten how to feel, in fact, we refuse to feel, we rather numb it however way we can.

Thus, people become disconnected from their own bodies, when someone comes a knocking, no one's home, you get me? The lights are on, you may be physically awake, walking, talking, or moving, but who is doing it? Because no one's really at home. Presence. The word itself conveys a multitude of meanings. But let's not dive that far. You may be "doing" your yoga but your mind might be completely at the Bahamas, or at the next activity you are scheduled for. It takes effort, constant discipline and patience to bring your presence to your practice. When I say disconnected, I mean there are students who don't know where their hips are, or can't figure out which hand is the left and sometimes can't differentiate front or back, some don't even know where their shoulder blades are, especially when they are attempting to hold the pose. Then again, knowing me and my methods, holding the pose is not the point of yoga. Stillness is the goal. A certain amount of let go is necessary.

As I may have probably mentioned before is, I can see students mentally wandering off into oblivion, and those who are just there for the sake of being in class. Sometimes I feel like openly asking them "Do you really want to be here or not?". I'm serious about my work, and I in turn expect students to do likewise. Another note, please try to be on time for class, as walking in half way through class does not show respect to the teacher, or the other students who are concentrating, regardless of who is teaching and what group exercise class it is. Plus, it's distracting. Please, have some respect for yourself and others. That's all I'm saying, not a huge bolder I'm telling you to move right?

The only time I see students let go is probably during relaxation, I know those who are deeply relaxed, those trying to relax but not getting there, those thinking of trying to relax, and those who have found a point of equanimity between the body and the breath. They say that the breath is the bridge towards the inner body. I couldn't agree more. Which is why I focus so much on breathwork and tell you not to compromise the posture by holding the breath. Breath takes you deeper into a posture, opens up energy channels and connects you with your higher self. Did you ever wonder why psychologist/psychiatrists make you lie down instead of sit for their session of deconstructing the problem(s)? This is because when you lie down, we awaken a very primal, very animal instinct to be at ease, to be peaceful, not on defensive mode, thus making their work easier. I mean have you ever seen a sad hippo or a depressed giraffe? Didn't think so. Animals are happy. Happy because they have no ego, no higher intelligence to think and to be conniving in any way. They are their natural selves. They don't pretend to be something else. So I'm trying to say that when we lie down, our defense, our guard is naturally let down, it falls apart, it cannot be held up, there is no way.
You try it, lie down, then try to get angry, try it, try real hard. There is no way. The body and the mind are one. Your primal instincts are awakened to be your natural self. The same reason why if you ever made a complaint to a Customer service department before, like to a Hotel manager, the staff usher you to a comfy room, they get you to sit down first, because you become less angry and lose your defenses. So, don't sit down if you wanna win your case(that's a little tip from me).

That's all from me,
Lotsa of light and love, Namaste.

Michelle Q

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 6)

What is Aqua Yoga?

I have recently introduced Aqua Yoga to my students at G hotel. I decided to take my class to the pool to experience the invigorating pulse of prana.


From a very surface point of view, pun intended, when we bring our practice to the pool, we can work our flexibility and agility, but really, knowing me, that's not even the point why I chose to shift my student's focus from a 4 wall room to open waters. My students who know my style know that I encourage spontaneity in class, to be relaxed and open to new ideas.


Throughout our day, we are bombarded with social expectations and it's a constant struggle for a lot of us, unless you have reached enlightenment that is. So my sole objective of Aqua Yoga is for you to forget your day and immerse yourself in movement, to be in totality with the moment, feeling it's flow, feeling it's calming energies, to drop attachments of whatever was holding you back from being a productive, compassionate being. When we merge movement and breath, we have meditation, since we are moving through water, we have dynamic meditation. We bring our attention to the present, not in the past, not to the future, because the future is merely a projected idea of an idealistic past memory. To bring our focus to the now, is very difficult, I have seen, some amateur students may be in the pool with class, but their mind is thinking about another 1 million other things, in lay men's term, totally zoned out. What is yoga then? Why do it when you don't want to be here? To have your consciousness drift off occasionally is fine, but quickly, quickly bring it back to now, without a feeling of guilt that you drifted, because we are only human. If you ever watched "The Love Guru" movie, you would know that when you lose awareness, you are nowhere, but bring light to your breath, and you are now-here. Excellent play with words by the scriptwriters, nonetheless.


Diving deeper into the yogic point of view, there is another significant reason why we practice water yoga, merging graceful and dynamic movement with breath, a deeper connection happens. When we begin to let go of the expectations of our self and society's expectation of us, a whole new world opens up within you. A very child like, innocent mind is unearthed. It's not childish, it is child-like, note the difference, let me stress. Children view everything with such curiosity, lightness, and freshness. to them, everything is something they have never seen or experienced before. As we get older, we forget how to truly experience life, bogged down by earthly strains. So when you let yourself let go, when you allow it to happen(you cannot force it), a certain bliss is attained. We cannot force bliss to happen, we don't have to, it is something we are ALL born with. It is inside us, not something to be discovered or unleashed, you ARE bliss. Always have been, only that we have forgotten.

As we delve deeper, we find that our sacral chakra, the Swadhistana, energetically located at the level of the pubic bone, the frontal bone of the pelvis, the chakra translates itself as "self sustaining" and is connected to pleasure, creativity, and relationships. This chakra, housed in the sacrum, it is linked to sexuality and socialization, and organically related to the genitals, bladder and kidneys. What's this got to do with Aqua yoga? The Swadhistana chakra is of the water element, thus when we practice, we are inevitably brought closer to our water element energy. If you wanted to affirm your sacral chakra, one would chant "Pantha Rei", translating into "Flow like water". If you're familiar with deciphering dreams, when one dreams of water, or a pool, or the sea, it is often connected to sexuality, sensuality and passion. I have seen students who are so disconnected from their own sensuality, males and females alike. A perfect example I have is a male student I had who was rather androgynous, I grit my teeth and asked him(after getting to know him awhile that is), what colour underwear he wore, he told me black, I instantly recommended he switch his preference to orange, to balance his Swadhistana chakra, nowadays, he projects more male energies. Energies can be corrected through colour therapy which another branch of yoga. But what I'm trying to say is being in the water rebalances a very subtle yet monumental part of our energy, where the Swadhistana chakra is concerned. The feeling of being in the water brings us back to a very primal stage, and cleanses the body of bad vibes collected during the day, better effects in salt water though.

When we are practicing in the pool, proper breathing and spinal alignment becomes top priority of course, without sounding too cliche. The water pressure forces the body to work harder, especially the intercostal muscles to lift and drop the diaphragm, responsible for creating the internal pressure in order to take in sufficient oxygen into the body. We literally have to work harder, realising this fact of not. So those who rarely work the intercostal muscles will feel rather tense while in the pool. It is really important for students to maintain a lifted open chest, an energetically lifted sternum(breast bone) and strong quadriceps(thigh muscles, feel like you're hugging the thigh muscle to the bone). Do not collapse, or concave the spine. You would want energy moving up and down the spine freely.

Here are some reasons why students have problems expanding the chest cavity:
1. Lack of aerobic exercise
2. Smoking
3. Trauma to upper back, ribs, sternum
4. Scoliosis/malformations of spine
5. Weak abdominal muscles
6. Chronic constipation/abdominal bloating
7. History of chronic lung disease
8. Lack of confidence/power

Another few reasons why students have the inability to abdominal breath fully:
1. Habitual tension pattern of shallow breathing
2. Emotional holding pattern in the abdominal( due to fear, insecurity, and anxiety, etc)
3. History of lower back pain/disc problems creating guarding of abdominal wall
4. Excessive abdominal exercise, creating short strong muscles but no flexibility to expand
5. Respiratory problems such as wheezing/asthma

That's all for now,

Lots of light and love, Namaste.

Michelle Q

Monday, September 15, 2008

My philosophy and teaching style (part 5)

"When you know yourself, you will know others" was a phrase I often heard in movies, and read in books when I was younger, but never fully understood the meaning of it. The same reason I always wondered how my teacher could always catch me daydreaming and zoning out of class back in my schooling days. Now being a teacher myself, I know how they did it, even out of so many students to watch out for, I know if you're "in class" or "spaced out".

I can tell who's drumming their fingers(a sign of a fidgety unsettled mind), who's doing too much, who's hot and bothered with the task at hand, those who doesn't really want to be in class but just killing time before the next activity, those who pick imaginary lint off their clothes because they feel they know better, those who are not paying attention to a single word I say, those(normally gym yoga goers) who prefer to check themselves out in the mirror every 30 seconds,(my home grown students learn about internal self correction, instead of external correction, I mean what's the point if you treat the symptom without getting at the root cause? Same reason you water a plant at it's roots for greener leaves instead of painting green onto it's leaves. Do I make sense to you?), and the list goes on with these "yoga offenses".

But I can also tell who is at peace with their own body, accepting one posture to next with grace, and bringing a beautiful feeling into their practice, those who are concentrating hard, persevering through the discomfort by bringing attention to their breath, and those who are in effortless effort. Only a small handful of students achieve this because many do not understand the true meaning of yoga. The students' physiology changes when they achieve an inner calm, a no-mind state, I see it, or in yoga terms, I feel their aura change. I am quite sensitive to such changes, having knowledge of my own melting experiences. I recommend Osho : Yoga the Science of Soul for further reading. There's just something about the way the body is held in divine grace and aura which changes when one is immersed in one's own energy.

The hardest part of your practice, is to just let go yourself, and all your expectations from your practice. Everyday, we are pounded with social pressures and ideas of how we should be/look or behave, and this grinds our inner self into such fine grain, we hardly can recall the last time we felt wholesome and complete without outer stimuli constantly pounding our senses, telling us we're never good enough. We form attachments to things, people, relationships, money, worst of all, personality. We are not any of these things, because try to take them away, and then who are we? Anything which is not real changes, i.e. prakriti, and nature will always change, that is the law of the universe, but our consciousness(purusha) will forever remain, if we are aware of it.We think we are this and that, desiring this and that, hankering for more, always more. This gives rise to an unsettling behavioural pattern often brought with us to our yoga mat, as a teacher, I see it way too often.

A no-mind state can be applied in almost any situation, let me give you one, I was swimming the other day, and really enjoying the water, I did a few laps of the pool, and in that few laps, I completely surrendered to the movement(I was doing the freestyle, in case anybody was wondering), and just listening to my breathing against the water, just being, I wasn't "doing" a swim anymore, I was in moving meditation, sometimes known as dynamic meditation. I didn't even feel tired, didn't feel my body, it was just prana, energy, lifeforce within me. So it doesn't mean you have to find a mat, find a bodhi tree and meditate, no.

Lay men are afraid when I say no-mind. They are afraid that if the mind disappears, it cannot come back and they'll go mad, but how many times have you seen a mad yogi? You see more mad men, don't you? Let me explain, the mind is momentarily retracted within itself, it is like a sense organ, and we momentarily stop the sense from picking up stimuli, called pratyhara(sense withdrawal). We don't realise, when we sleep, in deep sleep, we are actually already in pratyhara, we close the eyes, you don't smell anymore, you don't hear or feel anymore but everything comes back the moment you wake, same thing applies to withdrawing the mind. So don't tell me you don't know yoga, if you can breathe and sleep. So as I was saying, the mind is sort of pulled back, suspended where unaffected by time-space but it comes back, when you need to use it, whenever you want it, you're the master. Yoga is the cessation of the mind, very aptly described by Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras. The mind is merely a utility, use it, only when needed in your daily life, be the master of your mind, not a slave to your mind.

There is an exercise which can be done to have glimpses of the infinite consciousness, called the Shambhavi mudra, now there are a few interpretations on how to do this, due to discourses given by different gurus who have their own take of the mudra. I shall explain one of the few I know. Sit comfortably as you can, close your eyes, leaving about 1/4 of your eyes open. Focus your vision on the tip of the nose for a couple of seconds, then close the remainder of your lids, you will feel your eyes roll towards the back of the head, thus creating a senses-meet-mind experience. Your mind will "blank" for as long as you let it, the experience of no-mind, thru the Shambhavi mudra.

Have a good week, my yogis.

Lots of light and love, Namaste.

Michelle Q