Ann dances (clumsily) to her own tune in life. She believes many of life’s problems can be solved simply through self-inquiry and observing nature. She appears nonchalant about most things but has a beagle-like mentality towards the few things she loves. An outdoor enthusiast, Ann chases sunsets, gazes at stars and finds solace in the majesty of mountains. She also goes gaga over silly things like fluffy bunnies, chocolate ice-cream, waffles, sashimi… well yes mostly food.
1. What is the most common myth about practicing Ashtanga Yoga based on your personal experience?
I think most people with little-to-no yoga experience tend to view Ashtanga Yoga as an intense and challenging form of yoga meant for advanced practitioners. The practice is challenging for sure, both physically and mentally, and this is true regardless of yoga experience.
However, it is definitely not meant for advanced practitioners only. You can be a complete beginner and be given specific instructions on how to move through the practice. You just need to be open and have a little patience. People with the stiffest bodies (me included!), injuries, different ages and abilities, all practise in the same room. Put simply, everybody can practise ashtanga.
2. How has the practice of Ashtanga Yoga changed your life – e.g. the way you live, your priorities, your values etc?
I guess the biggest benefit is some clarity on who I am, and I say “some” because this journey of inquiry is never quite a straight line. Oftentimes it takes a detour and you find yourself more confused than ever.
It has also taught me to be present in the things I do. It’s not about how many things I’ve managed to complete or achieve, or ticking the boxes off a list. These days it’s more about being fully involved in everything I do. It’s about seeing things I would normally miss, going deeper into what I see (and sometimes this can be uncomfortable), creating beautiful and meaningful memories, finding joy in simple things and being grateful.
The practice is an allegory for life. How you hit the mat is also very likely your approach to life. The realisation of that is the start of change.
3. How do you manage between work and practice? (any tips or advice?)
You need to make practice a priority. Once you decide on the days and times you want to practice, stick with it. I started practising two days a week, then three and then slowly building up to a five / six-day practice. Start small but be committed. I don’t let regular work or social gatherings get in the way of practice unless absolutely necessary.
These days I also look forward to the eve of Moon Days (full moon or new moon days in the lunar calendar where Ashtanga practitioners traditionally take rest) because that means I can make plans for play and feasting! Practising in the morning helps since there’s less chance for distractions and you start your day feeling energised.
4. What is your biggest obstacle in your practice and how do you overcome this?
Fear and ego. I don’t think I overcome them. Every day is different. I enter my practice as a blank sheet of paper and try my best to observe how I feel physically and emotionally. At some point in the practice, you will notice contention. A simple example is when I move into a pose and feel stuck. Do I try to inch deeper or is it time to back-off? How do you make the call and are you at peace with your decision?
Some days I feel strong enough to arrest fear and ego. Other days I crumble and succumb to them. You might win today and lose
tomorrow. That’s why it’s called practice. It’s a never ending process. But there is always hope. I think the most admirable thing
about Ashtanga practitioners is the will and courage to face this whole cycle over and over again, every single day.
5. Mysore or LED (which do you prefer?) and WHY?
Mysore. You get to dictate how you want your practice to be – fast/slow, work more on certain poses etc. But most importantly, the time and space for inward growth and self-discovery.