“I’m too old.”
“I’m too fat.”
“I’m too heavy.”
Lek Hong says them every time on the mat, every single time!
The first time I met this face-blushing lady (more than a year ago) at The Yoga Shala, she caught my attention with her heavy body, struggling with every breath and her extremely humble attitude on the mat.
Her signature moves: head shaking, nervous, apologetic laugh and feeling conscious about her heavy body while I sat down to assist her. Nevertheless she puts in her 100% effort into the practice.
Definitely looking better today (no more black baggy attire), Lek Hong walks through the shala door in vibrant colored clothes, shedding off some excess weight. She is no longer on medication* (after getting approval from her doctor) and she feels better about herself too.
Bravo! She didn’t let those excuses stop her from practicing instead she keeps coming back, even stronger than before!
1) Tell us what got you started with Ashtanga Yoga?
25 years ago out of curiosity, I decided to attend a yoga class at a nearby community club. To my surprise after few sessions, my asthma was miraculously cured. Since then yoga has become a part of my life. I have attended various yoga classes (Yin, Gentle, Hatha, Sivananda), I loved it so much that I increased from once to thrice a week.
Having to juggle my schedule among work, family and household duties, I was looking for a yoga class that was much early in the morning. That was when I found The Yoga Shala that fits into my schedule perfectly, knowing that I could practice yoga at 6.30AM before a hectic day!
2) What were your initial thoughts and feelings about this method? Have you ever thought of giving all up and why?
Initially I felt that the Ashtanga Yoga method was extremely hard and taxing on my body. The practice requires both physical and mental strength from me. I felt depressed and almost wanted to give up but I persevered. During that 1.5 hour of practice I felt physically lighter as I perspired. I sensed that this practice forces me to challenge myself till a glimpse of mental clarity.
3) What are some of the changes that impacted you that we still see you on the mat regularly?
My health. I witnessed a significant improvement with my past health issues with high blood pressure, water retention, morning nasal congestion, stiff shoulder and skin diseases. My immunity and energy level improved as well!
4) What is the one thing you discovered about yourself taking this practice that you didn’t know before?
The effort in controlling the breathing and maintaining my body in a steady pose. My muscles feel more stretched and toned. My joints are more flexible, my blood circulation has improved and the practice has also helped with my weight control. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this practice creates internal heat (yang) and brings a more balanced nervous system (yin); resulting in a healthy level of my blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.
I had been trying to do a headstand for the past 20 years. With regular practice in Ashtanga yoga, I am stronger now and finally do it! Truly amazing!
5) Please share with us the fears that you are experiencing during the practice and how you manage them?
Learning the drop-back was a HUGE challenge for me. I was afraid of falling and it challenges me both physically and emotionally. Another was getting into Marichyasana (a deep twisting pose). I always feel suffocated and frustrated doing this pose and I fear of not being able to do it on my own ever.
6) What is the one thing that you are secretly proud of yourself (for making to the mat regularly)?
My age. I am in my 50s now looking at hitting 60 and still going to persevere. Before this I could never imagine that I can get into poses like Sirsasana (headstand) and dropping-back (backbend). With many good teachers in The Yoga Shala, I know I will have a good support while I continue to challenge myself.
7) One last question – how would you tell your peers about Ashtanga Yoga?
I would tell them Ashtanga Yoga is especially good for the elderly. It’s a great practice for building strength and toning the body. Regardless your age this practice pushes your limits and makes you a healthier person, just like me!
*Disclaimer : This is Lek Hong’s personal experience that she has shared with us. It is not a guarantee or a claim that Ashtanga Yoga treats or heals any pre-existing medical conditions. Please consult your doctor prior to start the practice or if you intend to go off any medication.