The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Riding The Plateau

Growth in all aspects of my life has suddenly come to a grinding halt. And I am standing on this motionless terrain wondering what it will take to get the winds blowing again.

This year began with my lucky star locked perfectly over my head, showering its golden rain over me. In the boardroom, I climbed mountains that once loomed menacingly but now resemble nothing more than molehills. On the mat, my newly discovered Ashtanga practice took me to places I never knew I had within me. Not to mentioned the muscles and lean structure that seemed to develop overnight! I daresay I felt invincible.

Then, without rhyme or reason, things started slowing fact, at times it even feels like the gears are in reverse. At work, no glass ceilings have shattered recently and it feels like I'm squinting to make my way through a fog. But it's my practice that keeps me wriggling in anxiety.

The Uttanasana B-Chaturanga-Urdhva Mukah Svanasana sequence is becoming increasingly difficult. Where I once used to land with bent elbows, nowadays I jump back and then lower myself. Then, when I get into the asana, my shoulders shoot up to my neck and everything feels clumsy. And pushing upwards is such a struggle, I sometimes collapse in frustration.

I just don't understand how I could possibly go from 10 effortless Sun Salutations to this mess. How could I digress this way? What is it that I'm not seeing? The only comforting thought right now is that perhaps I've hit a plateau.

In geology and earth science, a plateau, also called a high plateau or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. Perhaps that's where I'm travelling right now.

A fellow teacher said, "Sometimes I struggle with an easy pose and I don't understand why. But I just kept practicing and it went away just as suddenly as it appeared. So I guess you just have to keep at it."

I've been diligently practicing for three months and the plateau (if that's what it is!) persists in stretching itself even further out. I'd really like to ride it out but I also need to know that the landscape will change down the road. Preferably very soon down the road!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Oh What A Week!

Road Transport Department
Godforsaken places during rush hour traffic

All to be struck off the list within 3 days. This week will feel a month long.

I'm trying to calculate how many Om Mani Padme Hums it will take for me to survive this week.

But I will have a new car by the weekend and a new passport for Bali, so the end justifies the means. I suppose.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Yoga Of Sleep

"What a great weather for yoga nidra," I commented, as I walked into Swarupa Yoga, brushing the rain sprinkles off my arms and hair.

PDN eyed me suspiciously. "I hope that doesn't mean you're going to fall asleep during the session."

So of course I did. :(

But - based on the erractic times when I was awake - it was a very good session. Yoga Nidra literally means yogic sleep, though not the slumber we crash into at the end of each day. In yoga nidra, one melts into a peaceful stillness while still retaining awareness of the body and the teacher's guidance. Yoga Point describes it aptly as 'the state on borderline of sleep and wake fullness. It is nothing but Perfect Relaxation'.

I would love to write more on this, but I'm afraid that a lengthier piece will have to wait until I am awake throughout the entire session! Luckily for me, that time will arrive in a fortnight.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Curious Cat dropped me a note to ask if I have exchanged hatha yoga for ashtanga and why. I thought I'd answer that in a blog post - saves me the brain power of thinking up another topic! ;)

First things first; no, I have not traded one for the other. I still practice hatha on a regular basis. If I am doing an ashtanga practice, then I wind down with a hatha sequence. And if my body is on strike, then I pamper it with a pure hatha practice. Sometimes - and the ashtanga purists will clutch their hearts in horror at this! - I turn the ashtanga series into a hatha/Iyengar practice by holding the asanas for eight breaths instead of five.

Funny thing is, I had resisted ashtanga for the longest time because it was too high powered. Then, sometime last year, I began yearning for a more strength and stamina-based practice. One night, I attended PDN's dance performance and marvelled at how he didn't look the slightest bit breathless in all the 75 minutes. Backstage, I asked him where his endurance came from and he replied with a smile, "Ashtanga". I was sold even before I did my first chaturanga leap.

For a solid two months, I had a daily Ashtanga practice. And I loved it. It gave me strength, stamina and a meditative practice. It showed me how grace exists within strength. But it is demanding. And after a while, I missed the gentleness of hatha and the unforgiving precision of Iyengar. So I allowed myself to romp freely among all these different styles.

Personally, I don't think it is necessary to commit yourself to a certain style. Yoga is a personal journey and you can't build fences around your practice. The jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none rule doesn't apply here, because you can never truly master your practice. No matter how many years you've been practicing, each time you step on the mat, you learn something new. And you have to be open to receiving that.

So don't feel you have to forsake one style for another. Your journey will only be richer if you explore, discover and understand without struggling to honour boundaries that should never have existed in the first place.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What Have You Done To My Thighs!

Two months ago, my favourite brown workpants was a struggle to pull on. But since it had always been a little snug, I hung it right at the back of closet and thought nothing of it again.

Last month, one by one my other workpants started going on strike. That's when I took a good hard look in the mirror and realised my thighs have...shall we say, blossomed. They are firmer, stronger and definitely bigger. Then I looked at pictures of Yoga Journal's models and noted that their thighs are pretty healthy too.

So my question for all you Ashtanga practitioners out there is - has Ashtanga changed your size?