Satya Yoga

True to Oneself
  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : Louise Vanderput

    By Satya Yoga | August 7th, 2017

    An incidental grandma yogi with a never-say-die attitude, Louise has been a great inspiration to us in many ways. We admire her perseverance and determination throughout the years of practice. She is a true testament that Ashtanga Yoga is for everyone and anyone (not just for the young and flexible) who is willing to put the effort, discipline and consistency.
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    Louise and her husband, Richard who has been encouraging and supporting her yoga journey.

    1. What is the MOST challenging aspect of the practice for you?

    My lack of confidence in myself that I can do the challenging poses. I am not very flexible and added to that I have had a bad knee for quite a few years and more recently left shoulder pain. I took a break from yoga for about a year and procrastinated about returning to the mat because I thought I would have to start from scratch. However, once I did re-start, I realised that yoga is like riding a bicycle – you never forget, you only get rusty from lack of use. What I thought would be challenging actually was not!
    2. What is the BIGGEST breakthrough for you in the years of practice?
    I have many! First has to be touching my toes! As I mentioned earlier, I am not the most flexible person around and I could not even do this when I first started practicing! That I can now do a backbend and headstand (albeit assisted), is my current “BIGGEST breakthrough”. How cool is that!
    3. Mysore (self practice) or LED?
    I do not really have a preference for either one. I enjoy both – Mysore allows me to move at my own pace and enjoy my inner peace and LED refreshes me of the “correctness” of poses, the importance of breathing correctly, the need to listen. Hence, every few weeks I do enjoy a LED class.
    4. How has the practice changed or influenced the way you live your life?
    The most important is that yoga has taught me that it is alright AND important to set aside “me time”. Once I accepted this, I was able to deal with a few difficult personal issues in a calmer, more focused way. I have accepted that it is sometimes far better to let go and move on, that I am not able to solve everything – that with patience and understanding, things will change – whether for better or worse, whichever way it is better to have change than to stagnate!
    5. Do you think Ashtanga Yoga is suitable for seniors based on your personal experience? 

    I started yoga in my mid-50’s and this year I will be 61. For me, practicing yoga has helped me to improve my well-being, my stamina, my strength both mental and physical. It was challenging to begin with because, first, I had to commit to the practice on a regular basis and, second, I was using and stretching muscles I never used. On top of that I had to remember the sequence and many a time I had to repeat till I did remember!

    I ached like crazy and wanted to stop many many times when the aches got bad. But I refused to give in! And so yoga has given me the resolve to work through difficulties and accept alternatives along the way. Much more than that too is the determination to remember the poses and sequence (which took me quite a while to do) – to exercise my brain at the same time which is so important as you age.

    And today I am proud to say that I do remember and can practice what Shirly has taught me on my own. With Ashtanga Yoga you can progress as fast or as slow as you want, push yourself however much you want and set your own goals – it is not a race or competition with your fellow mat friends, you are your own judge and jury. So yes I do think Ashtanga Yoga is suitable for us “seniors” but like all physical activity, you have to always bear in mind your own limitations.

  • Your Teacher Is Not On The Screen

    By Adeline Lum | August 7th, 2017

    “We should rather work in our own environment and then meet our teacher from time to time in order to find a point of reference. Having a point of reference is absolutely necessary. We need somebody who can hold a mirror in front of us. Otherwise we very quickly begin to imagine that we are perfect and know it all. Books or videos cannot replace this personal connection. There must be a relationship, a real relationship that is based on trust.”
    ~ The Life and Yoga of Sri T. Krishnamacharya

    The Ashtanga method in a Mysore class setting, in my personal opinion, holds a very intimate space between a student and the teacher.

    It is the first brick that is laid to build a bridge that requires much observation and communication, thus hopefully an area of mutual understanding and growth together.

    That is why most teachers would prefer students not to get too obsessed with social media as a reference to their practice.

    In most cases the students may misunderstand an ideal practice situation against their own practice in reality (most of the time we tend to feel bad of our own body in comparison to what we watch in videos).

    During my last trip to Mysore, I came to know of some practitioners who did not have the privilege of a residential teacher in their city that they could practice with regularly.

    They thus formed their own community to support one another’s practice, inviting traveling teachers or sending one person within the community to KPJAYI in Mysore to learn and share their experiences back home.

    Here we are a lucky bunch as we have a couple of good Ashtanga teachers in town that we can go to regularly, who will look out for us and invest their energy and effort to work with us in the practice.

    Why wouldn’t we appreciate this more than the ones in the videos?

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  • When Change Is Necessary To Progress

    By Shirly Oh | August 7th, 2017

    Many times we are caught up with habitual patterns that change is the last thing we desire. Change is uncomfortable, daunting, unfamiliar and scary. But sometimes change is necessary and can be rewarding.

    Recently I went to the dentist and had to learn a new way of brushing my teeth. Apparently the current brushing had been ineffective and more damage will be done if I continued the same method. I was clumsy and had to condition my head around the new routine. It was hard but the change was quick because I was determined to stop the ‘damage’.10changequotes

    When the pros outweigh the cons we are more likely to change and adapt. But sometimes the results may not always be instant and obvious. It took me many years of practice to appreciate the benefits of Primary Series. After a week of intense Intermediate Series and deep backbends, the therapeutic effects of the Primary Series (a.k.a. Yoga Cikitsā [Therapy]) kicks in.

    On the other hand, sometimes we want change so badly that we don’t listen or pay attention and we keep repeating the same mistake that is blocking us from moving forward. Often we see students get so stuck in a certain way of practicing that they become resistance to change. The ‘comfort’ and ‘familiarity’ set in, even small changes seem hard to comprehend. We can get so caught up with the end results that we overlook the importance of the adaptability along the way.

    Making any progress (not just yoga practice) requires time, effort and focus. It is not what you do once in awhile, it is the daily practice, consistency and commitment that brings you closer to your desired outcome. And sometimes change requires you to change your mind and actions intentionally. Don’t get stuck in the same way of doing things (in the practice as well) when you are expecting a different outcome.

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  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : David Rogers

    By Satya Yoga | July 1st, 2017

    Cool, calm and superhero-like, David embodies the fictional ‘X-Men’ demeanour except he is likely to be found either on the yoga mat or sharing his passion for Ayurvedic cooking. An avid photographer with a great eye for detail, David loves to capture people in their most natural and unpretentious state to bring out the beauty of true living and being.

    This month we are in for a treat as he opens up to us on his yoga journey, experiences through Ayurvedic healing and more recently being KPJAYI Authourized Level 1 by Sharath Jois.

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    1. Please give us some background about yourself and how you started the Ashtanga Yoga practice?

    I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota in the upper midwest region of the United States. In my youth I studied judo, but after college that gradually gave way to simpler gym workouts. After a few years I decided to try Bikram Yoga to supplement my strength training, and quickly realized that it was more than flexibility that I missed, but the mind-body connection.

    In 2002 I completed the Bikram Yoga teacher certification program, and in 2003 opened a Bikram Yoga studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Five years later I sold the studio and in 2009 was hired by True Yoga to manage their newly established Bikram Yoga operation at Pacific Plaza. I later taught at Bikram Yoga City Hall as well, but found myself becoming curious about Ashtanga Yoga as I explored yoga traditions that did not require artificially heating the practice room.

    I was attracted by the discipline and consistency of the Ashtanga method, and was won over by the experience and passionate teaching of James Figueira at the Yoga Shala. In 2012 I made my first trip to Mysore to study at KPJAYI, and I have traveled there annually ever since!

    2. In your personal practice experience, what is the most challenging aspect of the practice and how do you overcome it?

    If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you have encountered the concept of the “dosha” – or individual constitution – that each person has. My predominant dosha is Pitta, which means (among many other things) that I do not mind working hard physically, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. The most challenging aspect of the Ashtanga practice for me has been learning to cultivate a sense of ease in my postures, rather than just assuming that I can solve everything by working harder. Ashtanga has taught me that the breath is a key aspect of achieving ease with stability in yoga, but I still have to remind myself of this constantly during my practice. This is one of my biggest challenges!

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    3. We often hear that yoga is for women as they are more flexible. Any thoughts / tips / advice for men who are thinking that about starting Ashtanga Yoga?

    The idea that yoga is not for men is a by-product of social and cultural stereotypes that have nothing to do with whether or not men benefit from yoga practice. Flexibility itself is an effect of yoga practice, not a requirement for taking it up! If you are looking for purely physical reasons to do yoga, the main one is to increase circulation.

    Each yoga posture increases the distribution of oxygen throughout the body through a combination of extension and compression of internal organs and glands. Regulated breathing ensures that the blood is highly oxygenated; the pumping of the heart moves the blood through the body more quickly than normal; and the compression/extension effect helps push the blood deeper into the tissues, breaking up blockages and improving the functioning of internal systems.

    All of this, though, is a happy byproduct of a practice whose main intent is to enhance the ability to concentrate and – with experience – experience greater peace of mind. That is the goal, not flexibility. Naturally flexible people have their own set of challenges in the practice.

    4. Congratulations on being Authorised Level 1 on your recent trip to KPJAYI. Please share with us how the journey has been for you and the significance behind the authorization.

    Thanks! When I first traveled to Mysore it was because I wanted to experience Ashtanga at its “source”. I enjoy travel, I love yoga, and I am a fan of south Indian vegetarian food. So, on the one hand, it was a new adventure. On the other, I knew that if I were going to dedicate my personal practice and professional yoga teaching to a different method I should feel familiar and comfortable with the lineage as represented by Sharath Jois. The trip was rewarding on all those levels! I also made some good friends among my fellow students at the Shala. Several of them, like myself, have continued to return every year since then. Itʼs a community!

    After several trips I did start to wonder if Authorization might be on the horizon, not because I felt like I “deserved” it, but because I felt that if it came, it would be Sharathʼs vote of confidence that he was comfortable that I could start working on teaching the system appropriately. Of course, Authorization is not a magic wand, and you have to put in hard work to teach successfully no matter what.

    Luckily for us, there are many excellent, dedicated teachers who are not Authorized who are putting in the hard work on a daily basis. At some point I realized that, just as in my physical practice, I needed to establish a sense of ease around the idea that Authorization would come at its own pace. And when it did come on my fifth trip it felt like encouragement that I should embrace teaching the Ashtanga system as much as possible!David_Posture_Bikram_Trikonasana

    5. How important is food (in particularly Ayurvedic cooking / Ayurveda) in relation to the practice (yoga)?

    Ayurveda emphasizes diet as the foundation of all healing therapies, with food being the first and most important form of medicine we have. Ayurveda also suggests that our diet is a reflection of our level of development, and that ideally it should express the higher qualities of peace, love and awareness. A sattvic or pure diet in Ayurveda starts with avoiding any products that involve the killing or harming of animals.

    The basis of the Ayurvedic concept of sattva is ahimsa, the principle of non-harming, which is also the very first principle of the Yamas in the Ashtanga Yoga system. According to both Ayurvedic and yogic tradition, eating pure, sattvic food is a critical component of bodily health and peace of mind.

    Beyond the idea of integrating the principle of ahimsa into your diet, Ayurveda suggests that we each have an individual constitution, and that this dosha is affected differently by different foods. Once you know your dosha Ayurveda offers guidelines regarding how to start understanding the impact different food items are having on your current state of health.

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    I experienced this first-hand when, shortly after completing my Bikram teacher training, I started to experience a troubling skin condition that my western medical doctor could not diagnose. After she tried unsuccessfully to treat me with antibiotics I decided to consult with the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The clinician there diagnosed my dosha and presented me with a simple list of foods to favor and avoid in my diet. Within two months of starting to follow these guidelines my condition cleared substantially. The rest I was able to figure out in consultation with the chef at the local Ayurvedic restaurant!

    If you ask me whether it is necessary to eat an Ayurvedic diet to reap the benefits of yoga, my answer is: the only thing that is necessary is that you find out what works best for you! What you eat influences your entire being, so it is very important to eat consciously. Just as with your yoga practice, the most important thing is to ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing – why have you decided to move in a certain way in your yoga practice? Or, why have you decided to put x, y or z into your body? How is this action serving you right now?

    I found that the Ayurvedic guidelines resonated deeply with my own experience, particularly after taking up a serious yoga practice and seeing that it made my body more sensitive to food. I do tend to be a bit suspicious of diet trends that seem faddish (such as low-carb diets, raw food diets, paleo diets, etc…) preferring instead to look for hints of wisdom in older traditions that have evolved over thousands of years and practiced by millions of people. But that is simply my preference, based on personal intuition. I started with the intuition, and then I tested it. You have to go with your intuition and then make adjustments based on the results that you experience. If it works for you, thereʼs nothing to fix. If it doesnʼt work, keep exploring and testing!

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    Bonus question:
    6. Can you share with us about your upcoming Ashtanga Yoga & Ayurveda cooking retreating in Ubud? What can one look forward to when they attend the retreat?

    Sure – thanks for asking! Weʼre holding the retreat at the beautiful Narasoma Retreat Centre in Ubud, October 23-29. I am co-organizing it with two people: Prakash Jagadappa – the Ayurvedic chef who helped me over ten years ago, and who has since become my cooking teacher – and our mutual friend Emily Glaser, who is a certified Ayurvedic clinician. Our goal is to give Ashtanga practitioners curious about Ayurveda a chance to keep up their daily yoga practice while getting a taste (literally!) of some of the concepts and practices of this healing science. I will lead Mysore-style practice in the mornings. Prakash will prepare our lunches, all of which will be vegan and gluten-free.

    Participants will be able to help Prakash cook if they want, and in the process learn Ayurvedic cooking techniques. In the afternoons Emily will be introducing and discussing the principles of Ayurvedic preventative medicine, and how to apply them in daily life. We will also discuss some of the ways Ayurveda might be used to complement the yoga practice itself. In the evening participants can explore the amazing dining options of Ubud. The retreat centre is located just off Monkey Forest Road, so most of Ubud will be in easy walking distance. And the town has great vegan and vegetarian dining options so people can stick to a more ahimsa-based diet if they want to!

    7. Any final thoughts about the Ashtanga Yoga practice?

    I would just offer a suggestion that, as often as you can, whether youʼre practicing yoga or not, you leave room in your mind for the space to ask “why”? The answer is not so important, but the perspective you gain from taking a step back and looking at what you are doing in the moment can enrich your sense of self immensely over time. Just remember to do it!

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    Retreat website: www.sattvicretreats.com
    My website: www.simplysattvic.com

  • Urban Ashtangis – Real People . Real Inspiration : Khalid Faiz Mohamed

    By Satya Yoga | May 31st, 2017

    “Hey! 你好吗! (How are you!)”

    Door pushed open with a loud greeting. That’s Khalid’s way of welcoming himself to the shala. He is usually one of the earliest few to report at the shala for his regular evening practice after work. One simply can’t ignore Khalid’s upbeat attitude, always looking eager to roll out the mat to start his practice.

    Pakistani on the outside yet very Singaporean on the inside. Khalid enjoys casual conversations in Mandarin and Hokkien with the others before heading to his regular practice spot.

    1. Please share with us how you got started with the Ashtanga Yoga practice?

    I started practicing around 2009. One of my hiking mates who was practicing with James at The Yoga Shala Singapore invited me to attend the Ashtanga Yoga class. The shala had just shifted to Yan Kit road and James was starting a Mysore class for beginners on Thursday evening. It was a small (3 or 4 of us) and a very painful class. I could not touch my toes. Breathing through the nose was not working for me. I sweated so much and we were only doing Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) A and B! The best part of that first class was lying down on our back to rest. That night I had the best sleep ever!

    After the first class I went for a weekly practice irregularly. My favorite class was when James conducted the half LED class on every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The camaraderie of struggling through the practice with fellow beginners kept me going. From doing a weekly practice for over a year, I started to practice twice a week and now 3 to 4 times a week. Initially yoga was an activity that allowed me to do something useful with my time in the evening. It has now become a habit that helps me to feel good after a hard day’s work.

    2. How do you prepare yourself for the day prior to the practice?

    I usually practice in the evening. On practice day lunch will be very light. Typically I would have porridge or sandwich and definitely no spicy food. I make it a habit to be in bed between 10.30 pm to 11pm and I’m up between 5.30 am to 6am daily.

    3. We know that your teenage daughter Nasreen has been practicing at The Yoga Shala too! How did she get into the practice?

    Both my wife and I practice yoga. My wife practices at Real Yoga. Sometimes when I practice at home, Nasreen helps to take photographs of me in poses. Thus she had an idea about Ashtanga Yoga even before going to the shala. When Nasreen was 13, I invited her to the shala for Ashtanga and my wife invited her to try out some yoga classes at Real Yoga. Nasreen decided that Ashtanga Yoga suits her best as she enjoys the discipline and challenges of the practice. She goes to the shala twice a week regularly.

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    Father and daughter share the same passion for the practice

    4. Which part of the practice is most and least enjoyable for you?

    I feel a sense of accomplishment when I am done with the practice. After a long day it feels great to sweat all the toxins out of the system. I feel refreshed and I sleep very well. The least enjoyable part is going for practice after one of my hikes or after an extremely heavy lunch.

    5. What role does the practice play in your life?

    The practice has become part of my daily routine. My week will not feel complete if I miss a practice, it makes me feel FAT and STIFF. I do make a habit to leave office by 5pm for 4 days a week so that I can start my practice no later than 6pm. My family, friends and colleagues know my schedule and priorities. They understand that I don’t attend any social activities if it clashes with my practice time.

    [BONUS QUESTION]

    6. How do you manage to keep up with a regularly practice given your hectic work travel schedules and family commitments?

    When I travel, I will try to do at least the standing postures or maybe just Surya Namaskara A & B. If I am not able to go to the shala I will do home practice. It is a form of training that keeps me ‘flexible’ and ‘fit’. So long as the practice does not eat into my family time there is no issue with allocating time for practice. It is MY PRACTICE so I allocate time for MY PRACTICE.

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    Khalid in Uttana Padasana