There’s a piece of recent news depicting an Instagram yogi who suffered a stroke performing a Hollowback Handstand - an “advanced” pose requires the practitioner to extend spine and create a deep backbend, all the while holding the legs in mid-air. The hyperextension of the neck resulted in a rupture of her carotid artery which sent a blood clot to her brain.
It was played up dramatically across the media, and triggered a lot of fear mongering as to whether Yoga (as a physical practice) is indeed as beneficial as it purports to be.
Yoga is an ancient practice on a mind-body connection. However, what seemed to hold true in contemporary postural yoga is the emphasis on the end game.
1. In a group class format, students are instructed based on pre-conceived notions of shapes or aesthetics, i.e what a pose should look like in mimicry of the form. In social media, we scroll through contortions performed by hypermobile yogis hailed as an advanced practice.
2. There is so much speak in terms of alignment principles and how to get into poses successfully. These supposed universal principles sees the body as standard human architecture of parts that fit together.
3. In an attainment-focused, you-snooze-you-loose society, we are consumed by the notion of Mind over Matter, of what we’ve got to show to the world. It’s about pushing harder in everything we do, from our career to the exercise regimes we choose. It’s about 5-steps programs and quick-fixes and how to lose weight in a month. We want everything packaged and delivered.
In the trainings I facilitate, I often go on ad nauseam on this line - It’s not about WHAT we do, it’s about HOW we do it. It is not about placing your feet here and turning your head there, and voila, you’re in a yoga pose programmed for bliss. It’s not about getting deeper into a backbend so your heart can be wide open. And it’s definitely not about the teacher coming in to push you into what is considered as the correct expression of an asana to add compensatory patterns upon compensatory patterns.
It’s about what happens as we’re moving from point A to point B, it’s the moment-to-moment attention our mind affords the body during the transition. It’s about noticing what we are holding on to, or what we have disassociated with. It’s observing what is happening to the breath, what runs through the mind? And once we arrive in the pose, it's the continuity of how each moment is unfolding, what is the body informing us? What do we sacrifice in order to persist? How many other possible ways can we explore?
Rene Descartes’ famous theology of I think, therefore I am, led us into believing that our body and mind are separate experiences that are relational only in the ways that the latter reigns supreme. This body and mind duality leads to a conundrum of us thinking that we need to outdo our body in order to attain what our mind tells us to. And our body does abide, it finds creative ways to work around limitations such as fatigue, stress, anxiety, until it can no longer….
Moshe Feldenkrais said, “You can’t do what you want until you know what you’re doing. Once you know what you’re doing, then you can do what you want.” It is often easier to do what someone tells us to do than to actually notice what we’re doing.
To self-inquire is arduous and dangerous, as it often defies dogmas. It requires us to let go of old beliefs, step outside the comforting realm of familiarity. But what it will unleash is the courage to be true to our authenticity, a reimagination of perspectives, unearthing a wisdom through learning how to listen to a deeper and more subtle consciousness .
It’s not about What you do, but How you do it. Someone once told me this is a heavily-loaded statement. And indeed it is. It puts us in a volatile position of not knowing, of beginner’s mind, of not trusting our fabricated storylines that are rooted in fear. It requires us to actually have to slow down enough to glimpse into the spaces in between. But it brings us to a whole new level of a grounded, embodied intelligence that gives us back the power to make choices, the right to BE who we really are.
Embodiment is a somatic experience, an exploration into the deconstructing the phenomenons that have been recorded in our nervous system, conditioned by expectations and ego.
It is the ability to move into an empathic path of coming into relationships with self and others, a relearning of choices, a bridging of the body and the mind.
If you're interested in exploring this work, join me on the next Embodiment & Bodywork Immersion this July.
A little rolly polly floor time playing with initiating from the soft midline, from navel to limbs. Playing with low falling and reversible spiralling movements, fascia continuity and biotensegrity in finding tension and rebound :)
Heartaches can be deeply isolating no matter how many friends we have, and how much we try to count our blessings. But we are not alone. Each one of us is on our own journey. And It can sometimes be fraught with shattered dreams and losing battles. No matter how pretty a picture we paint to the world, there are days when the feat of pulling the blanket off of our faces and getting out of bed is a testament of our grit and resilience.
We hang on to unrequited emotions for fear of losing our sense of identity. We cling to the security of an arbitrary reference point, the yearning of a resolution. We are afraid of being forgotten, archived, our existence buried. It is easy to focus on others’ validation of our self, and hard to sit with hopelessness, paradox, ambiguity.
But what if we take a pause, look around, into the eyes of the people who truly love us unconditionally... will we even contemplate the possibilities of non existence? What if we sit for awhile, without moving left, or right, and tend to the pieces within us with cool loneliness, will we be able to bask in the solace of not knowing?
Listen to this recorded meditation
A little psoas play inspired by Liz Koch of Core Awareness. Begin by sensing the structural support of the psoas from the initiation of the breath in the diaphragm. Tune into the undulating waves. Move into the fluidity into a continuous flow through the whole body. Explore the different planes of perspectives. Lean into PLAY.
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.
Registered Yoga Therapist, Somatic Movement Educator, Bodyworker, Yoga Teacher Trainer