In recent years, I've moved from an alignment-based yoga practice to an intuitive, inner-guided, interoceptive somatic movement repertoire, listening to the subtler, quieter places within my body. This is a little video of a morning flow. It's edited down to 7 mins long. The first half of the video is the actual pace of my movement. The second half is sped up 5 times :)
Grief & Expansion
On 29 December 2018, I received a phone call that changed the world I knew forever. My father passed away, without warning...
Everything around me crumbled in that instance. I felt my limbs went numb, and I stood frozen looking at the phone in disbelief...
In the last few years several major events happened in my life, including falling severely ill over a period of time. My approach to yoga, especially the physical aspect of the practice, has to evolve with my changing body. I used to live my life so I can thrive on the yoga mat - twisting and contorting my body out of any pain or lack I might be experiencing from the inside out. But now, I work with an exploratory, somatic approach to yoga, one that can teach me how to listen deeply - as relational inquiries into our body and mind, into self and other, into how we live our lives.
One of the many healings I gained from this embodied shift in perspective is the courage and humility to reconnect and forge new bonds with my family in Singapore, after living (and running) away for so many years. Consequently, the seemingly abrupt departure of my Dad left me devastated. It was difficult for me to try and come to terms with all that's left unspoken and undone, and what I would give to have him back again...
A couple of months have now gone by and the world beckons me to resume back into "normalcy". It is "business as usual" ... because the system that we live in expects us to "buckle up and move on".
In a cognitive universe in which we need everything to make sense, we can even atttempt to contextualise sufferings - put a label on grief with an expiry date, and set it aside.
But sometimes sorrow has no resolution.
Sometimes tragedies aren't accompanied with answers.
Are we able to lean into our broken-heart when it asked to be witnessed? Can we deepen our relationship with ourselves instead of running away from the pain? Are we brave enough to surrender to the imprint that an untenable loss has left upon us? Can we find the gateway to grace that grief has inevitably opened up for us to walk through?
In every mourning moment that my heart closes in and the walls around me erect, I pray that I will keep expanding, in his legacy of love ...
Musings on grief ~
I stood watching you
Sitting with grief
It all begins with 1.
In the Chinese tradition, we are 1 when we’re born. The Chinese take into account that life begins in the womb - the moment of conception, when our journey in this realm begins.
When we study embryology, we go back in time to explore and inquire into this imprint, this period of time when chance and change reign supreme, wherein a higher order dictate the choices and decision in renewal, change and growth. In this time before there is conscious intervention driven by our nervous system, we completely rest in the womb of “being”.
When we study how our form morphs from one into two, two into four, four into eight and into the 70,000,000 cells that we are now, we tap into an intelligence that is unchanging, an order that nature calls forth in order to survive and thrive. This is what embodiment is about. It is the becoming of this magnificent journeying, a recognition in the miracle of our cellular imprint, a knowing of which is unique and yet abide in the selfsame laws of the cosmos, an allowing of this divine template to support us in our expression and homeostasis.
Join me in this exploration ~ Embodiment & Bodywork Immersion this July.
I enjoy exploring non-linear movement using a prop to change things up for sensory feedback. This is a short clip where I'm using a weighted ball (about 1kg) to add load and resistance. It helps me to track movement into the scapular, rib cage and spine. The spirals of my bones help to recruit the elasticity of the myofascial chains. Allowing for information from the distal to inform the proximal body in initiating movement.
I'm pleased to be facilitating the next instalment of Embodiment and Bodywork Immersion once again at the gorgeous MalaDhara retreat centre in Chiang Mai this July.
This program keeps evolving year after year as I continue to morph and grow as an educator, therapist, practitioner, and most importantly, a human being. Many people ask me what kind of Yoga do I teach now, and what do I mean by calling it Embodiment. So this is my attempt to shed some more light on this immersion.
Movement. Inquiry. Embodiment. These 3 words have been the guiding pillars of my content and offerings the last 3 years. In these deeply personal journeys, I hope to hold a sacred space for inquiries to take place, through movement, through touch, through curiosity, through connections - to delve into the relationships with our body, with our self and with others. To offer a safe space to explore, to question, to challenge and to let go.
This program is NOT about scoring quick fixes.
It is NOT about perfecting your alignment in Yoga poses.
It is NOT a promise package to finding your bliss.
This program will help you -
Learn more about your habitual patterns in the body-mind
Cultivate awareness, acceptance and spaciousness from within
Learn to listen so you can transition from a dogma / goal-oriented movement approach to one that is informed by body intelligence
Rest / Restore / Rejuvenate
Learn / Relearn / Retrain / Rewire
And therefore, it is not Yoga of any lineage or any style. It is about coming home to our being, curated through the lens of wholeness, an embodiment of body-mind-spirit.
Not for the faint-hearted.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of life our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
… T.S Elliot
Contemporary yoga culture has to realise the fundamental disconnect between a relatively universal and modern intention that the practice should lead to self-awareness, self-responsibility, self-agency; and a teaching methodology that emerged in the early 20th Century based on telling people exactly what to do and how the practice should make you feel.
Any way you consider them, these are logically incompatible.
~ Theodora Wildcroft, Yoga Teacher & Researcher
I saw this post today and it struck a chord with me, as I’ve been told many times that what I’m teaching “isn’t” Yoga as what people expect, and that it could be confusing to seekers of the practice of Yoga to call it Yoga.
If Yoga is defined as a union, a connection that bridges the gap between personal and universal, between shadow and light, between past and future, between body and mind, isn’t Yoga then a practice of self inquiry and exploration, an innate curiosity to explore these fundamental questions of existence - of who we are, why we are here, of our relationships with our body, self and others.
But it is so easy to seek the safety net of a label, a lineage, a style, be classified and put in a box, be told what to do instead of having to think and act on our own terms, so we are less dangerous, more predictable. I’m sure there are many out there who genuinely want to help others, and their opinion is what they think is the best, and they are dishing it out on a silver platter - formulated and sequenced.
For me what truly propels change is the embodied wisdom that honours our fundamental needs as human beings to explore, question, challenge dogmas. Insight is a connection to the present moment, a deeply personal experience that often manifest when judgment and labels fall away.
This, is what I hope to facilitate as Yoga.
Sitting with grief
The quiet amongst the chaos
The stillness amidst the turmoil
Your eyes your smile
Your warm embrace
Your voice your words
That open door that
Your shadow still lingers in
Awaits your footsteps
Hand on my shoulder
In silence in company
We sit in grief
I stood watching you while you rested
The sense that your closed eyes
Might blink open
In the brilliance of your light
I stood watching you while you slept
The beauty of your heart
Beat an invisible rhythm
Reciting the nourishment of your care
I stood watching you in your repose
The scent of your skin
Wrapped around your body
A warm haven of embrace lays in wait
We walked the long road
Into the furnace of rites
I bow down in your grace
As your flame licked away my tears
These ashes of memories
Scattered into the ocean
Into the eternal
Ebb and flow
May the light of the sun
Dance and celebrate
In the colours
Of all your love
May the moon watch over you
A mirror of your soul
Reflecting the tender beauty
Of all your strife
May the sea birds sing you songs
Of your children
Offering your protection
In your journey safely home
In loving memory of my father, Chua Kian Peng❤
My father left this world in the evening of 29th December. The dreaded phone call that I hoped to have never received. My sisters and I lost the man who gave us life.
My father loved life. He taught me to how to sing and dance and laughed without a care.. He said to always to live fully, love deeply. He showed me what grit is when the world crumbles, what faith is when our hearts shatter. He believed in me even when I've let him down.
For all the words that were left unspoken, for all the deeds left undone, for all the tears still left to be shed, we mourn the loss of our beloved father, our best friend, our partner in crime.
I love you Papa. Rest In Peace
Spring greetings from the Blue Mountains! This October marks 2 years of my stay here in Australia. I remember arriving fresh off the boat (plane) on October 13, 2016, being greeted by spring blossoms and the (sometimes too) crisp mountain air.
In learning how to adapt to a new temperate climate, I've come to appreciate the ever changing colours and elemental vibes of the seasons, observing Mother Nature's order of phenomenas. The quiet life here afforded me the lens to pay attention to the details, a sneak peek into impermanence - through the relentless shedding of the weeping eucalyptus, the luscious radiance of waratahs, the sheer gleen of a lethal toadstool, the celestial engineering of cricket wings...
I've conceded that nature is not linear, and that every being has its place and time in this world. Life on earth is simply birthing, existing and dissolving. These are essential events in the macro and microcosm that somehow only the human species have the inkling to wield cognitive control over.
The last 2 years has also been a distillation of my own mind-body work through deep inquiries - into how we relate to ourselves, to each other and to our inner and outer environment. My personal practice and teaching is now an interoceptive, non-linear study. One that delves into sensory awareness on allowing the quiet and subtle to come into light.
I have inadvertently opened an existential Pandora's box, uncovering the innate power of nature to reconcile, to mediate, to heal...
I’ve slid off the blogging / writing bandwagon for a while. Excuses are plentiful… from being inundated by the constant demands of running a one-woman travelling stint to plain old procrastination. Truth is my creative writing juices have stagnated, I found myself scrapping the bottom of the inkwell. Truth is I caved in to the comfort of non-expression, it’s easier than finding words to validate or to rehash my opinions. Truth is I ran out of inspiration when everyone has something to say on every single social media platform.
I bowed out without signing off.
I begin to wonder if a part of my brain has shut down, or perhaps a place in my heart has closed. Whatever happened to the raw open honesty I used to put forth relentlessly?
Perhaps there are too many unanswered questions left lingering and I couldn’t be fussed to find a starting point.
So here I am. My head whirling, my hands shaking, my breath shallow in my attempt to make words so I can bring myself out of the writing rut. My world felt small sitting here on a rainy spring evening in solitary silence. They say silence is amplified through sound. I can hear my stomach churn like a bird cawing through a valley…
I scroll through Facebook.. Notifications reminds me of a post from 10 years ago "On this day". It says I am a magnet with 2 like poles.
I wonder what inspired this cryptic notion a decade ago. 2 like poles = repulsion. Was it a self-reference? What was the younger, feistier, fresh-out-of-corporate me going through at that time? A lifetime ago... Do I still recognise myself in her? Were my creative juices flowing more freely then?
That was before life took me on a path of learning, to observe phenomenas as impermanent instead of identifying with the perpetuity of sentiments. Have I come away a better version of myself? Have the poles of the magnet been polarised and recognised as one single piece of ironic object?
In an obscure night
Fevered with love's anxiety
(O hapless, happy plight!)
I went, none seeing me
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be…
The Dark Night of the Soul (Spanish: La noche oscura del alma) is a poem written by the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross.
St. John wrote: "In this first verse, the soul tells the mode and manner in which it departs, as to its affection, from itself and from all things, dying through a true mortification to all of them and to itself, to arrive at a sweet and delicious life with God."
I’ve often spoke about Shadow work - the inner work of owning up to our own struggles, deep fears, self-doubt, judgement. In light (pun intended) of all the “blissing out” propagated in the yoga and spiritual community, I feel this work is necessary in embodying the full spectrum of who we are into our human experience. We can’t move into the light unless we can become comfortable in the dark.
The concept of the Dark Night is thus akin to the realm of confronting our shadows. We arrive at an existentialistic juncture whereby what used to excite and satiate us now leave us standing in a void. And perhaps we helplessly cling on to any shred of identity, resisting the unfolding of yet another empty moment… desperately conscious of being trapped in an abyss of disconnection, a suspended animation of another drawn out storyline. The despair is juxtaposed by an acute awareness of immense possibilities and grace that seem hopelessly out of reach. Our mortality stark and looming.
Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dąbrowski coined a term Positive Disintegration, which views this as necessary in the process of psychological maturing. Ram Dass spoke of this horrible beauty of suffering essential in helping to polish the mirror of our soul, to illuminate the nature of reality, and glimpse into our Jivatman, or true nature.
So tonight I offer my inquiry to this void, this darkness. I mourn my loss for words, for meaning, as I open out to this sacred process of clearing out, of cleansing, of giving in to the truth, of showing up night after day after night after day... a softening to the brutal tenderness of metamorphosis…
I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.
– Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra“
Breathing out of the cocoon...
Today is Guru Purnima, dedicated to all the teachings and teachers from within to without. Today is the day of the full moon eclipse, amplifying our shadows, reminding us of the inner work, of self exploration, drawing us back to our purpose, calling for clarity in our intentions to be more fully integrated as human beings.
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the real
Lead me from darkness to the light
Lead me from the earth to the open sky
Lead me from death (limitations) to eternal life (freedom)
Forget about enlightenment.
Sit down wherever you are
And listen to the wind singing in your veins.
Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones.
Open your heart to who you are, right now,
Not who you would like to be.
Not the saint you’re striving to become.
But the being right here before you, inside you, around you.
All of you is holy.
You’re already more and less
Than whatever you can know.
Breathe out, touch in, let go.”
The first leaves are morphing to colours of autumn in the southern hemisphere. In a few weeks the street we live on will burst into flaming shades of red and auburn and magenta, adding yet another filter to the landscape of the Blue Mountains. Mother Nature holds our attention in her nonchalant ways of always being in flux. She captivates us with her sense of humour in impermanence. Ebb and flow. Water carving rocks. Every single moment is one of creation, sustenance, dissolution. If we stay quiet enough to notice...
Wabi sabi. The Japanese Zen Buddhists coined this term to describe the acceptance of transcience and imperfection. The aesthetic is the beauty of which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete - the law of nature.
In Sanskrit, the word Purna: meaning fullness, wholeness, perfection, as it is at any given moment.
The universe's celestial architecture functions on the premise of this law. Perfect straight lines do not exist in Mother Nature. Her canvas is filled with squiggly lines of skies and mountains and trees and rivers and streams and rocks and leaves. These manifestations serve as a constant reminder of the passage of time. Nothing in nature possesses perfect symmetry. Everything has to be taken as it is, with all its cracks and warts and uneven shades.
Still nature has an order. The order in which no 2 sunrises or sunsets are the same. The order that moves through the wind that whispers in the peaks and valleys, through the pelting of raindrops, through the pounding waves and flowing streams...
The only place we find straight lines is in human dwellings. Take a walk through any metropolis and take in the geometrical wonders of the skyscrapers, Stand amidst the towering buildings and marvel at the engineering ingenuity created by human minds. Tune into the static humming of the electricity running through cable lines, the heaving of generators and air-conditioner compressors, the honking of traffic, mobile phones ringing…
"The order of Nature never moves in straight lines but basic human logic does. Nature creates perfect order from chaos. Human logic creates chaos from order. Nature was an indirect thinker…” ~ Sam Ovens
The application of yoga in therapeutic settings is still a relatively new field in the realm of modern healthcare. Its magic lies in the approach in bringing the body-mind into homeostasis - a state of moment-to-moment balance, by recognising the body-mind as an eco-system. Contrast this to the problem-solving, symptomatic methodological tactics of the western medical system - which has its place in playing an important role in saving human lives and preserving mortality.
In Yoga Therapy we observe the energetic qualities that arise in the experience without judgement. We recognise the three-dimensional, living, breathing, complex, messy creatures that we are instead of seeing our body as mechanical parts. There is no form to conform to. It is not about what we do but how we do it. Yoga Therapy is a non-linear science and a sensible art form with its roots firmly grounded in the order of nature. The focus is on the process, not the end result. It honours the body, instead of trying to conquer it.
This approach brings about the embodiment of everything that makes us whole. It is the awareness that spans beyond the frontal lobe of logical reasoning. Awareness is a cellular knowing, a witnessing that takes into consideration our personal context but being able to move past the storylines.
This work is labelled self-inquiry - the inward process of uncovering this blueprint, to uncover a timeless consciousness that is woven into the tapestry of our body-mind. It stems from a deep desire to explore, to surrender to the truth that what makes us whole does not exist outside of ourselves.
My hope is to bring the understanding of this work to as many people as possible. Especially in a time where as a species, we are starting to forget that we are not walking-breathing-thinking-doing machines. We are not a container of parts that make up the whole. We cannot "fix" our ailments and suffering by popping pills and acquiring things.
We need to slow down. Be still. See the interconnectedness of our environments, from within to without.
As a yoga practitioner for almost 2 decades, my foundational practice in Anusara Yoga has provided me with a solid map in understanding the musculoskeletal system in functional movement. And with that map, I’m now exploring the terrain - on how to embody the creative interplay of all the other systems - our fascia, organs, glands, fluids, brain! The complex universe of our body-mind is full of squiggly lines and bio-rhythms that echo the eco-systems of Ma Nature!
This year I’ve “re-labeled” the yoga therapeutics trainings I’ve been facilitating as Embodiment Modules to provide more clarity in communicating both my personal evolution as a practitioner, as well as my professional development as a therapist and educator. The Embodiment Modules will explore applications from my study and practice in areas such as the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body Mind Centering® in somatics, embodied anatomy and developmental patterns; Thomas Meyers’ Anatomy Trains in functional movement and fascia intelligence; as well as the applications of classical yogic philosophy in Yoga Therapy in the lineage of Krishnamacharya . They all speak of the same thing - that every one of us possess the innate capacity to heal if we learn how to listen deeply to what our relationships are telling us, from within to without.
Going forward,Yoga with Daphne’s embodiment, therapeutics and bodywork offerings hopes to cater to:
I’ll be offering my first 100-hour immersion and training this year in 2 separate 6-day 50-hours modules - back-to-back at the gorgeous earthy space of Maladhara Eco Retreat in Chiang Mai. It will be a 2 week deep inquiry into the intricacies of our unique blue-print, coupled with plenty of soothing restorative and hands-on practices to calm our oft-frenzied mind and body. All these while imbibing in the soulful nourishment of healthy food, good company and the squiggly wholeness of northern Chiang Mai.
I’ll also be back on the road from May onwards after a 4-month post-surgery hiatus.
City workshops & TTCs for the next few months here
And finally, a little plug for my multi-talented better half. He never ceases to amaze me with his creative wonders, from photography to music making to album productions and now to publishing his series of books on positive living! Check out his “All it takes is an hour” series here
"There is a natural order and harmony to this world, which we can discover. But we have to feel it in our bones, in our hearts, in our minds"
~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
~ Phenomenal Women, Maya Angelou
Many people asked me why I generally don't give direct answers when I teach, why are there no formulated fixes to Yoga Therapy, why do we have to keep doing "inquiries" which have no goals other than to observe... Maybe some of the answers lie here ~
This is an excerpt of an article called Conscious and Unconscious Dialogue from "Sensing, Feeling, and Action" by the ever-inspiring Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen.
“One of the principle characteristics of my teaching is that I tend to teach both to the unconscious and to the conscious in the student. For example, when I present an exploration in class, as soon as I feel the “mind of the room” resonate the consciousness or mind state central to that exploration, I’ll move on the another exploration.
The moving-on might be premature for people in the class who did not recognize consciously that they were in that mind state or exactly what that mind state was. They knew something happened, but they had no ides what it was.
My intention in teaching this way is so that what people have learned unconsciously will come out later in the circumstances of their own lives. I sow the seed so that they can continue to learn at home. It might not come to them for a year or two, when all of a sudden they have some realization of their own. That way there is an excitement about discovering something themselves, rather than is being just another piece of information that has been given to them. I try to slip in under the consciousness, while still giving people enough of the conscious experience so they can recreate it in some way or be able to keep that doorway open until the information comes through by itself, through a personal experience.”
Christmas eve 2017, a cool summer night in the Blue Mountains. I’m back home to wrap up the year… and while I await the arrival of my other half to come home just before the clock strikes midnight, I sit here with my thoughts in the quiet of night.
Year-end is when searching questions are asked. It’s that time of the year where we give ourselves permission to momentarily believe in reindeers and unicorns, elves and Santa, perhaps pause for a reflection or two. These moments create a space where we can indulge in the excitement of uncertainty, celebrate the fears we have had to keep at bay most of the functional year, and revel in the brimming promises of the new year. We can ask big questions, 'fess up on what we could have done better, untangle our hearts and minds from the vines of shackling thoughts and beliefs, and find courage to hit a reset button in our life.
This year I battled with a number of debilitating illnesses, from a sacral-iliac joint injury to a viral infection that hit me like a landslide crushing me into the deepest trenches, a discovery of a genetic blood disorder, and finally a decision to go under the knife for the first time in my 42 years in this body.
This year I moved to a foreign land and experienced the true meaning of solitude. I confronted bouts of anxiety and shadows of depression. I was broken and put back together many times over.
This year I learn that gifting myself the option of being vulnerable brings me clarity and resilience.
This year I had to let go of belief systems and conditionings that were the cornerstone of my yoga practice and teaching.
This year I’m humbled by the sheer joy of having good mental and physical health. I learned, through so much of my own resistance and ego shattering moments - that awareness is gained through deep and sometimes difficult self inquiry coupled with relentless practice in what we preach. I learned, heartbreakingly, to first acknowledge that it is easy for us to run away from the moment we are dealt with any discomfort, but we often end up treading on a hamster wheel of made-belief volitions.
As the wise ones say, life is a journey that is often times shrouded in darkness, interspersed with light. When we honour the duality of shadow and light we see that they are two sides of the same divine coin. Too often we get caught up in chasing the light that we spend the rest of our life running away from our own shadow.
In our current internet finger-swiping era, we tend to live our lives like we know it all, and if we don’t, google is there to help. No-thing should be left in wonder because we’d create a fix for every known problem. We expect life-changing, transformative understanding at every point, reflected in the current smorgasbord of intellectual, spiritual even emotional pursuits on offer.
In the last year many people have asked me what made me decide to take a seemingly “pointless” approach in the style of yoga I’m teaching now. Why don’t I facilitate the much more physically challenging and ego gratifying, sweat inducing, endorphins loaded practices anymore? Why do I choose to go out on a limb with a slow, somatic, process-oriented, experiential, inquiry-based, why-am-still-trying-to-feel-the-connection-between-the-arch-of-my-foot-and-my-pelvic-floor methodology that can be infuriating for the quick modern minds and bodies waiting to be pumped? Why don’t I just teach the set poses to do for this condition or that injury, or better still, on how to get into that handstand? How can "planting a seed in the subconscious” be therapeutic??
Mary Taylor, a well respected teacher of the Ashtanga tradition, wrote in a recent blog about teaching yoga -
"People will always try to put you on a pedestal, to simplify their path into one that avoids the necessity of not knowing. All of us as students go through phases where we want the shortcut - someone to do the work for us, a path that doesn't require courage, patience and insight. So as teachers we need to carefully hold space for our students - providing enough support for them to stay grounded without imposing our own ego-driven agenda onto them. This means that as teachers we need to stay awake so that we don't identify with other's projections "
I also read somewhere lately that we need to allow oneself to swim in the sea of uncertainty, and in those moments, we’ll be touching reality; that we don’t have to understand all things, and that the end of every thought process does not have to be a conclusion.
As I delve into my own evolution as a human being and inquire into the many roles I play in this lifetime, particularly in my work as a yoga teacher, these are now the searching questions that I ask: how do we first create equanimity and honesty in our own relationship with ourselves? How do we recognise, allow/accept, investigate and not-identify (quoting the RAIN practice by Buddhist teacher Tara Brach) with discomfort? Can we develop equanimity with this body, these emotions, these thoughts, the very experiences of pleasure and pain? Can we then recognise the same self in others?
Come January I’ll be facilitating the third instalment of Yoga with Daphne’s therapeutics and bodywork residential immersion. This will be the last training before I take a little hiatus to go into surgery and recovery. I'm very excited about facilitating this intensive from the inner work and studies I've done the last year. If you’re looking for a way to understand more about mind-body connection, neuroplasticity, yoga therapy, trauma & mental health etc., as well a foundational framework to apply this knowledge therapeutically for self care and in holding space for another through movement and bodywork, please join me in this week-long inquiry, set in the charming UNESCO heritage old town of Luang Prabang. I fell in love with this special place with its gorgeous natural landscape and rich cultural offerings when I first visited in July.
May peace be with all this holiday season.
There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.
Dam a stream, and it will create a new channel.
Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground.
The only safety lies in letting it all in -
the wild with the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils
your vision with despair, practice becomes simply
bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your known way of being,
the whole world is revealed to your new eyes.
~ Danna Faulds, “Allow"
A tribute to an old friend, ex-colleague, filmmaker, artist, and brother, Butch Maddul ********************
Gone too soon my friend
A lifetime ago
Beer in one hand, camera in the other
Your rumbling laughs from the belly
Always the pillar, always the brother
In arms, in tears, in faith, in love
A lifetime ago
Music played to your honest beat
And life was bigger than the sum of us
Lives immortalised through your lens
Your boundless heart the only guide
And forever always
Your soul lives on, thrives
Across lands, beyond time
Your smile etched on the hearts
Of all you have touched
Gone too soon, my brother, but you never left
It’s 5 o’clock in the evening and the thermometer gauge on our front door tells me it’s 10 degrees celsius. The last light is hanging on to leaves in the trees in our yard, and the wind picks up a blended whiff of lavender, rosemary and budding spring flowers in the southern hemisphere... another cloudless sunny day in the Blue Mountains coming to a close.
It’s been almost a year since we packed up our little bungalow in Chiang Mai, left our idyllic much-ado-about-nothing Thai life behind to pursue other life opportunities in Australia. Packing, moving, unpacking, adjusting, house hunting, furnishing a new home, celebrating, mourning, holding on, letting go, accepting, resisting, surrendering… There were times when it felt like I would bump my head into every corner I turned, and every shimmer in the distance felt like an ad nauseum joke to trick me into thinking there was light at the end. The past 12 months has challenged me in ways I had never imagined. It forced me to show up each day when I just wanted to pull the blanket over my head and stay there for eternity. It pushed me to look really hard at how I could possibly grow as a human being, if I can truly be authentic and resilient.
I looked everywhere for answers but none came close to satisfying my cerebral mind. The heat from the summer dissipated, the leaves changed colours and fell to the ground, flooding our front porch with shades of brown. The ceaseless rumination followed me through the cold misty winter. I found myself clinging on to mere shreds of hope… till my mind gave up, and so did my body. In June, I battled a debilitating winter fever, a severe virus infection, and a toxic migraine. I crouched in front of the heater trying to warm my bones in futile, breathing hurt my ribs, any mental activity shot spasms into my skull. I prayed for an easier way out...
I came through the other side 10 days later, I felt a little lighter, my vision a little clearer, and a little voice telling me to just put one foot in front of the other, that life is still happening, and living needs to be done.
Onwards, I set out on my next round of teaching engagements back in the warmer climates of Asia, along with Frank my skeletal companion. Though I was still weak from the recovery, I knew I would be nourished by doing what I love, meeting new people and reconnecting with old students. However, I was as excited as I was nervous, because things were different this time round. My body has changed, my life experiences have thrown me curve balls, my understanding on the practice of yoga as a healing tool has morphed into an approach that is no longer about fitness and the best selling yoga high.
No longer armoured with a bag of tricks labeled “the Universal Principles of Alignment”, I decided to relinquish the handstands, the backbends, the rip-roaring hip openers… for seemingly goal-less somatic practices: spending hours uncovering breath patterns in the body, observing how our feet are turned, sensing our viceral organs, moving from our kidneys… we only work on processes, no peak poses, no quick fixes, no sweat-induced endorphins from copious amount of contortions and gravity defying postures… and no straight answers.
The late Sri TKV Desikachar said to “Look at our relationships” when taking stock of our progress in the practice of the living tradition called Yoga.
I told my students we are doing this so we can understand our underlying conditioning and holding patterns, investigating through our own relationships with our body & mind, so we can form relationships within the environment we inhabit in - both macro & micro. I explained that when we can inquire into the Why, the How's and What's and When's and Where's will fall into place.
7 weeks of presenting relational inquiries from Laos to Singapore to Vietnam, via translations in some settings, in as much as I could give justice to the language of embodiment in English. I jumped through hoops and stumbled on hurdles. I needed to convince others as much as myself on this quest for truth, so I kept refining my approach as I soldiered on, sitting in hotel beds poring over teaching notes, reflecting on feedback, making changes to sequences, language, timing, and then laying out the mat to practice till its time to head into class again…
Upon my return back to Australia, I went straight into the next module of Yoga Therapy training in Sydney. As much as I was exhausted from teaching, I wasn’t sure whether I was quite ready to spend 2 weeks being a full-time student. My body yearned for rest, my head felt like there was no room left for anymore input…
If “synchronicity” was the best thing that a fatigued person needed for a boost, then it happened on that first day of the training - stark in bold on the projector screen that morning - “We as yoga therapists require - radical humility, an open, inquisitive mind, and a high threshold for divine insecurity.”
Our work begins when we inquire into our intuitive hearts, within which there are no assumptions, no projections, no pre-conceptions, no thoughts. We are a clear channel as therapists / teachers - we hold a space where change is permitted to permeate, in its moment to moment preciousness. We offer a haven through our wholehearted listening, we embody humility by showing up fully - because authentic expression comes from witnessing the cosmic play of light and shadow.
As I settle back into life in the Blue Mountains this spring, I hold within me a divine knowing that I’m on the right track - that our measuring device lies not in the answers we seek but in our courage to give up certainty. When we surrender to the sanctity of all our sacred relationships with life, we can tap into the immense power of our own healing - peel the blanket off of our face, and let the light in...
Furthering my study and work in somatic education & Yoga Therapy, I hope you can join me on my next sojourn - Moving from Within, in the last quarter of 2017 & beginning of 2018.
Immersions / Retreats
November 7 to 12: Yoga & Bodywork as Therapeutics Foundations (24-hours CEU), Yogarden, Koh Samui, Thailand
January 22 to 28: Yoga & Bodywork as Therapeutics Teacher Training (50 hours CEU), Luang Prabang, Laos
November 17 to 19: Yoga Therapeutics Applications: Working with Chronic Pain & Injuries (12 hours CEU), Yangon Yoga House, Myanmar
November 25 to 26: Moving from Within: Inquiry, Embodied Anatomy, Bodywork (10 hours CEU), Wild Rose Yoga, Chiang Mai, Thailand
December 3 to December 15: Private Bodywork & Yoga Therapy Sessions, Singapore
December 9 to 11: Yoga Therapeutics Applications (25 hours CEU), Outta Hatha Yoga, Singapore
Stay tuned for more details!
“As we increase our knowledge of ourselves, we increase in understanding and compassion for others.”
~ Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, founder of Body Mind Centering®
Today is Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere - the shortest day, the longest night. Yin trumps Yang. Pause. Reflect.
I woke up to a sunny, cloudless, windy morning. Being mowed down by a strange virus attack the past week, I got out of bed feeling almost human again.
I could feel my feet on the ground. I can breathe with almost no pain in my ribs, I can take another step forward without feeling the world closing in on me. The ceaseless pounding in my head seem to have dialled its screech down to just a dull static too.
Sickness can make days feel like decades, and pain can make minutes feel like eternity. My teacher tells me that Suffering = Pain + Resistance; and resistance is the story lines we create from the pain, which can easily build themselves up into epic dramas.
Solstice comes from the Latin words - sol, which means Sun, and sistere, which means stillness and incidentally, is “sthi” in Sanskrit - the root word for steadiness or stability.
Today is also International Yoga Day. And to honour these 2 auspicious occasions falling on the same day, I invite you to sit in the quietude that is right here within us in the eye of storm. Marvel at the power of our emotions. See how we can release, transform, or accept them.
Yoga teaches us how to suffer with an open heart, and a quiet mind.
During the Yoga Therapy training last week, an overarching theme revolving round how we handle deep-seated patterns (Samskaras) to bring about change and healing to our body-mind.
Pema Chodron spoke of a profound Buddhist concept Shenpa in her talk Positive Groundlessness: The Freedom to Choose Something Different. Through an understanding in the impermanence of all things in essence, and the ability to relax into this knowing. She offered a 3-step tools whom she deemed as "difficult", but with practice, will help in not setting us back into our habits / patterns that keep us trapped, to not get stuck in the status quo or our perceived comfort zone, and to revel in the "unknowing" of it all.
Awareness (Jnana) ~ to notice when we get "hooked"- the baits, the triggers (expectations, fear, assumptions etc) that led us to believe that the rug is being pulled from under our feet, and our conditioned reflex to "fight/flight" by reacting with judgement, blame, anger, hate, even towards ourselves.
Desire (Iccha) ~ A desire to change - simply noticing or becoming aware isn't enough if our default ego-driven response still goes "Yes, but..." A solid willingness to transform (Tapas) has to goes beyond superficial cognition, but also somatically. When the mind closes, the body contracts, and vice versa. Being able to allow our mind-body to stay open in challenging situations and self inquiring into the status quo can fundamentally change our behaviour.
Action (Kriya) ~ A life-long practice to keep coming back to this groundlessness in our words and actions. To keep falling flat on our faces and getting up, to not let our sense of righteousness drive us into believing that being right is more important than being love, to let our bleeding hearts crack open as we fall, and to allow this sense of groundlessness be the womb in which kindness and compassion flourish.
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
~ Pema Chodron
There is so much speak revolving around alignment in the modern yoga world... so many jargon on where to place our hands and feet and rotate shoulders and turn pelvis and engage our core... to somehow conform to a set of universal rules to make our yoga body instagram worthy, and / or to fulfil some teacher's or lineage's perception of what is "correct".
As I delve deeper into understanding my own body, trying to make sense of the decades of habits and patterns intrinsic to my genetic make-up, lifestyle and conditioning, I've discovered a whole new terrain in uncovering movement patterns that are simply unique blueprints of our essential being, honouring who we are individuals, and melding into the universal sentience that is already within our innate consciousness.
As a movement teacher and therapist, this also means facilitating, encouraging, allowing, welcoming, and most importantly, not obstructing the flow of deep, self-manifested movement patterns to rise up from within, creating the space for inquiry, for practitioners to re-discover their own strength, balance and healing... Our moment-to-moment perfect existence, aka alignment.
"To unleash our life force, maybe even change our course, we can choose to consciously turn towards the brilliance of intelligent life. Unguided, self-movement (which is not directed by anyone) bubbling up from deep within is elemental for becoming integral. Valuing how intrinsic this self-movement is for supporting our quality of life, we can look no further than the river. Like the river, we too are part of a larger earth and cosmic life force. We are not inanimate (body objects) lacking perception and volition. We cannot achieve good posture by simply correcting, stabilizing, or objectifying. Rather being human, we must become flowing expressions, animated by the movement of the inner sea, the underground springs, and the outer planets…fluid, dynamic, ever changing, a life force… if you will"
~ Liz Koch on Core Awareness
It's been almost a year since I officially launched Yoga with Daphne as a RYS for teacher trainings & continuing education in the ever blossoming community of like-minded yogis and practitioners. I hold within my heart an immense amount of gratitude to everyone who has offered me immeasurable support in the evolution of my practice and teaching, especially in light of the big move from Chiang Mai to Australia.
As my teaching schedule now revolves around periods of my own retreat into studying and preparation in our little quiet cottage in the Blue Mountains, and then hopping on planes to facilitate intensive workshops and trainings in various places, there are days and nights of quiet solitude when I'm just sitting in a room poring over books and research papers, writing manuals, and being on my mat, waiting for the next breath to happen...
I have been seeking deeper answers into what I'm actually bringing to the table to offer practitioners, students, and the community as a whole. What do I want to embody that is also in line with my own evolution as a yogini, a teacher, a human being trying to be the best I could be, in every moment, one breath at a time...
Movement. Inquiry. Embodiment.
Cultivating the inquiry into how we inhabit within our body.
How do we truly listen - deeply, without judgement?
How do we relate / react / respond to the people, elements, environment?Facilitating the art of movement, through our embodied soul, through ceaseless inquiries into who we are, why we are, what we are, how we are, when we are...A deep dive into the essence of our being which is beyond just our doings. A quest into seeing how we are simply and deeply connected in this intricate flow of life, where reality begins and ends.
How then, can we live, love, cry, laugh, dance, sing, embody, die...
Our body is a treasure chest of information that we can tap into to move with more ease, less injuries. With a mind-body holistic approach, this work promotes wellness and self-care through inquiry and deep listening, and not a one-size-fits-all go-to quick fix. It is work for the curious, the inquisitive and the courageous. What is it like to let go of old beliefs that do not serve, to completely embody our true essence as a living spirit, to be a human-BEING instead of a human-DOING?
"Between stimulus and response there is a SPACE.
In that SPACE is our POWER to CHOOSE our response.
In our response lies our growth and our FREEDOM"
~ V Frankl
Logo "embodiment" designed by Jesi Kah
Yogini, Movement Facilitator, Yoga & Bodywork Therapist, Wanderluster, Homemaker, Student...