Posted: January 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: random, yoga | Tags: , | Comments Off on Relationships

Keeping a journal/blog is like yoga.  It takes a lot of discipline and focus.  By nature, I’m not a writer but I appreciate how “writing” stuff  down is helping me to retain a lot of the new info. We learned that yoga means relationship.  Just as I am getting to know myself more through this training, this blog is another aspect of a relationship with myself.  >_<

The other night, I went to a professional talk on data visualization and it really inspired me to think about visualization projects I can tinker with.   Notable projects include Nicholas Felton’s data viz’ed annual reports which depict all aspects of his life from the relationships he’s made to the food that he’s ingested.  I mean, isn’t this a great way towards becoming more mindful and aware of your life? What if I tracked how many downward dogs I’ve done during the year?  Or how many times I’ve meditated?  Not really as a goal but just to keep stats.   Another project I loved was Laura Kurgan’s Million Dollar Blocks.  Saw this a few years ago when it was up and was blown away then.  The project has progressed and the numbers she shared that night regarding how much was spent on putting folks in prison was staggering.  During the Q&A session, someone asked about the speakers’ design process and Laura said that she sees it as the relationship between 2 data sets.  Hmmm.   Aren’t we just made up of data?  In class, we’re learning about the main relationships in each asana so maybe I can visualize that in some way.  🙂

“Each time you make a decision to do or not to do something, that becomes data.”

Meditation session #1 on January 10, 2010

Posted: January 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, meditation, yoga | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Meditation session #1 on January 10, 2010

We’re required to do two meditation sessions per week and make entries in our diary.   This is the very first entry for meditation.

I thought that I should probably go to some group sessions to ease into this practice.  It’s just so hard to sit still by yourself.  There’s always something to do.  Luckily, two yoga buddies from the OM Costa Rica retreat last year invited me to a talk at The Interdependence Project that would include a brief meditation session.  I’ve been curious about the ID Project and so I decided to check it out with them Monday night.

The meditation session was 7 minutes and included a combination of body scanning and contemplation.  I also did some Shamatha meditation.  For the contemplation portion, we were asked to think about our names.  My mind went first to the fact that Cindy is not my “official” name and how I think my real name sounds too masculine and oh! how I wished my parents gave me an easy to pronounce/easy to spell name.  And then, how my name means something like continuous happiness or joy.  I looked up ‘Cindy’ once and I think it means moonchild.   Next, I contemplated how the middle character in my Chinese name looked like a fish skeleton with wings.  All the while, the right side of my body was feeling achy.

OM TT Day 4 – Jan 9 (10am-5pm)

Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, yoga | Tags: , , | Comments Off on OM TT Day 4 – Jan 9 (10am-5pm)

I made it through the first weekend of OM Yoga teacher training.  Woot!  It felt somewhat easier today for some reason.  And there was more a feeling of camaraderie, or sisterhood.  It’s my favorite day of the weekend so far.  But I’m not attached to it or anything.

Today we learned the ingredients of a good teacher: Clarity, Confidence, and Compassion. And maybe Charisma?   All I know is that all of my lovely teachers at OM have oodles of charisma.  Compassion is probably the hardest but Ahimsa (non-harming) and Maitri (loving-kindness) are building blocks towards that.  So are generosity, patience, discipline, exertion, meditation, and prashna. Cyndi says the Sanskrit word “prashna” means something like wisdom or discriminating awareness. Wikipedia says it means question. Chinese equivalent might be 智慧. Also, we learned the term “idiot compassion” which is when you give to make yourself feel better.  Someone in class referenced the movie “Please Give” which I also watched recently and it’s the perfect example for what idiot compassion is.

I took it easy today and didn’t take a class during lunch break. Instead, I walked to Panya bakery to get some eats. I really enjoyed it when some of us practiced together after lunch. It didn’t matter if you felt ready or not, the environment was just so warm and nurturing. I lead Ardha Surya Namaskar for the first time and got more confident as I repeated it again and again. It’s rote learning but I try to remind myself that each time, it’s different. I am more and more in awe of my teachers. It really is a three ring circus. Knowing how/when to adjust and just keeping up with the class is tough but to have to say things at the same time…oy.  But I can tell that some of my fellow classmates will be amazing teachers.  They can already lead with a clear voice, confidently walk around the room, and adjust with compassion.

There was some discussion about the idea of feminine/masculine energies in the body as some folks don’t believe in that and want to explore it more before they use it in their own teachings.  I thought that was interesting because Thai yoga massage also has similar traditions.  You would massage on the left side first if the person is female, and the right if the person is male.  The concepts of yin/yang energies, the five elements, etc are also very prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture which has been around for thousands of years but I could understand why there might be skeptics.  While Cyndi spoke thoughout the day, I found other similarities to Thai yoga massage.  (Perhaps that’s why I love both!)  First, it was when she says to look at the students (body)…”they will tell you everything”….in the same way that a body would tell you what it needs during massage.  Second, when you adjust someone (which is almost like a mini-massage imho), it’s like a dance.  Cyndi does it so fluidly.  I do it like a crazy moth fluttering from one person to another :P.  So naturally, with all of these comparisons in my head, I thought of Ananda and flipped through her book again.  I can’t believe I never even read her bio until now!  Hope she’s having a good meditation experience in India.

When I returned home, V surprised me by taking me out to a fancy dinner at Amanda’s Restaurant 🙂  It’s was just so sweet since he says it was to celebrate my yoga teacher training endeavor and for keeping up this blog.  a tear….  :*)

Quote of the day:

Only a spontaneous feeling of empathy with others can really inspire us to act on their behalf.  Nevertheless, compassion does not arise mechanically.  Such a sincere feeling must grow gradually, cultivated within each individual, based on their own conviction of its worth.  Adopting a kind attitude thus becomes a personal matter.  How each of us behaves in daily life is, after all, the real test of compassion.

-HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA (taken from Thai Massage Sacred Bodyword by Ananda Apfelbaum)

Or as V would say, “BE NICE!” 🙂

OM TT Day 3 – Jan 8 (9-6pm)

Posted: January 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, meditation, yoga | Tags: , , | Comments Off on OM TT Day 3 – Jan 8 (9-6pm)

It’s only Day 3 but it actually feels like I’ve been at teacher training for a while now.  I started the day at 6:30am and left my apt at 7:15am after having my usual oatmeal and coffee.  I didn’t want to be late and tried to arrive at OM Yoga earlier to continue reading.  But it only took me 45 min door to door.  As I was walking towards the PATH, there was no one else on the streets except for a man who was disheveled and walking a bit oddly.  My yogi sense led me to cross the street since I knew that when I passed him, I would feel really uncomfortable having him behind me.  At the same time, I just couldn’t help feeling bad that he must have known I crossed the street to avoid him.  How do you balance having no adversion in your heart but still performing an action that is the very meaning of the word simply because you care about your physical well-being?  :\  As I approached the Hudson, the cold winter morning’s colorful hues greeted me.

I was the first to arrive at the yoga center but the front door was locked.  So I went to Grey Dog’s to get some coffee.  First lesson of the day: Don’t drink that much coffee right before class.  I needed to use the restroom when class was about to start but there wasn’t time to go.  About 30 min into class, I had to pee like a racehorse but waited and held it in.  When we were about to move into the opening OM and warm-up vinyasa, I couldn’t hold anymore and quickly told Cyndi.  She simply said, “Please go.”  And so I went.  Apparently, most of the other students had to too!  Which made me realize that if you’re thinking or feeling something, chances are that at least 50% of the other people in the room think or feel the same way.  Everyone is nervous or scared or have to use the little ladies’ (or boy’s) room.

We began with some mindfulness (Shamatha) meditation (also known as loving-kindness or metta).    Now I understand what Dad was saying when he was teaching us Vipassana meditation!  I used to think Vipassana = Shamatha …that the method was the same.  It’s similar but different.  We practice yoga in order to gain strength, stability, and clarity and meditation is a critical part of that.  So that’s why we are required to sit for 30 min every week and write in our journals about the experience. The parts of meditation are Ground, Path, and Fruition.

“We are not meditating to get somewhere…”

One of the reasons I love learning from Cyndi is because she often pulls personal snippets or anecdotes to frame a lesson.  While she was teaching us meditation, she mentioned something about how there are household meditators and monastic meditators, which she will become “later in life” …I thought that was very interesting.  We sit, not to shut down our thoughts, but to slow down in order to become aware of those thoughts.  Whenever a thought arises, label it “thinking.”  As Cyndi says, our mind is like a James Joyce novel (full on stream of consciousness) or like Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.  Some people didn’t know who/what that was so one of our homework assignments was to Google him.  There you go.  Something I learned today (or perhaps I’ve learned it but just forgot) is “dot” meditation.  The idea that something would focus you and bring you to the present.

Today we focused on plank pose, chaturanga dandasana, and upward facing dog.  We covered the Step Back Surya Namaskar as well as Surya Namaskar A.  Whew.  Now I have to practice saying the instructions until it becomes part of my DNA.  😛  But in all seriousness, I feel so fortunate to be learning all this.  Even if I don’t become a yoga teacher as a profession, it’s helping me so much in my personal practice.   During the lunch break, I took Frank’s intermediate class.  We received 45 asana classes with the tuition and are required to make a journal entry for each session.  I’m going to do all my journaling on this blog.

After lunch, my body was sore and I can feel my energy ebb.  Fortunately, instead of more asana practices, we did an exercise in our study groups (btw, my group is called New Jershree) where we came up with 5 verbs for each letter of the alphabet to use in future yoga instructions.  I was so amazed by what people came up with and at the same time, excited by all the creative possiblities.   This training really pulls the creativity out of you!  🙂  After more lessons and taking turns being the person adjusting and being the person getting adjustments, the room grew hotter and hotter and it was becoming hard to retain what I was learning.  Pretty soon, the class came to an end…one hour later than planned!  It went by so fast.  At least we get to sleep in a bit now.

Quote of the day:

I always try to do an adjustment that teaches opposition

-Cyndi Lee

OM TT Day 2 – Jan 7 (6-9pm)

Posted: January 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, yoga | Tags: , , | Comments Off on OM TT Day 2 – Jan 7 (6-9pm)

I thought Day 1 was intimidating enough by the sheer amount of knowledge that a yogi must retain.  Day 2 felt like twice the amount of information.  Having done yoga for years, it felt like second nature to do the asanas but to learn the various parts of the body that we must think about in minute detail, especially having to look for it in others and understand the correct way to handle adjustments, is HARD.  Even more difficult is remembering all the Sanskrit names for the asanas!  Reminding myself to… Breathe in.  Breathe out.  I haven’t led any sequences yet but we learned today that just describing the steps can be a challenge.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – It’s kind of funny how there are many correlations  between yoga teacher training and my professional as a UX designer.  One of the main takeaways for me today is that you must understand who you’re teaching (i.e. who you’re “designing” the sequence for).  Use simple, clean sentences for easy poses (no need to elaborate or use flowery language) but describe harder sequences with more detail for advanced students.  I think having an engineering background will help me out here >_<.  I’m all about functionality and straightforward “technical” language. Ha ha.  I’m really looking forward to making the class plans!  🙂  I read ahead and saw Cyndi’s little stick figure drawings for various sequences.  Yoga wireframes.  Indeed, the whole class is just a storyboard for the asanas.

Today we went over adho muhka svanasana (downward facing dog) and ardha surya namaskar in depth.  Practiced it.  Analyzed it.  Adjusted one another.  I won’t elaborate here since I have other homework and have to continue with the practice of said sequence.  It was a good way to meet more of the other students and reminded me of Thai yoga massage class.  You just chill out, have fun, and touch each other.  Not inappropriately, of course.

Quote of the day:

Beginning teachers teach what they know.  Advanced teachers teach what students don’t know.

-Cyndi Lee

OM TT Day 1 – Jan 6 (6-9pm)

Posted: January 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, yoga | Tags: , , | Comments Off on OM TT Day 1 – Jan 6 (6-9pm)

OM. I took this pic (of Cyndi Lee) while on the OM Yoga retreat in Costa Rica.  Nearly a year later, I am happily one of the 22 students in the OM Yoga JHE 200 hr TT Express Track.  Tonight (Thursday) was the first class. I was trying to catch up on reading all day and knew that I needed a miracle to focus if I want to complete all the required readings on time.  Work has been slow so that helps but the office always has distractions.

I was the first to arrive and immediately settled in to continue my reading.  The yogis trickled in and soon the Forest room was pretty full.  I was really happy to see Bonnie who I met last year at the retreat.  SO nice to see a familiar face and to go through this with a friend.  As we went around the room for introductions and to describe our yoga/meditation background, it was really interesting to hear the stories of how folks came to that moment and place.  There was a girl who moved from Kansas City to do this.  There is only one male in the class.  There are 4 Asians including myself.  Why did we all choose OM TT?  Other than the fact that Cyndi is teaching, I think the group consensus is that it just felt like the right time and the stars aligned to allow each of us to meet this endeavor. I’ve always had a connection with OM Yoga.  It’s where I took my very first yoga class.  Part of it has to do with the integration of Buddhist principles which I’ve not found anywhere else.  2011 is my year to deepen both my yoga and meditation practices.  As a child, I’ve gone on multiple meditation retreats with my parents but looking back, I probably didn’t do it right.  And now as an adult, meditation is something I need to become acquainted with again, like an old friend.   Dad has told me repeatedly to meditate more as well so this will make him happy.  Perhaps later this year, I will go to Myanmar again and really dedicate myself to a vipassana retreat at Chanmyay.   When I went there in 2004, my mind was all over the place and my heart was definitely not open.

After going over some ground rules for the course and a warm-up vinyasa, we were divided into our “study groups.”   We were basically grouped by geographic location when in reality, most students will probably meet at or around OM for study sessions.  I am in the “Jersey” group with 3 other ladies.  Meanwhile, there were a couple of groups of 5 because most people live in Brooklyn or downtown NYC. I looking forward to getting to know my group better.  But I’m just a little sad that I’m not in a group with Bonnie! 😉

Next, Cyndi led us through Ardha Surya Namaskar, Step Back Surya Namaskar, and Surya Namaskar A & B while Edward did adjustments (I love it when he adjusts me!).  In her usual witty fashion, she would answer people’s questions and throw random quizzes back at us.  Let’s just say there is a LOT of things I need to look up and I’m doubting my understanding of the poses.  We also split into groups again to evaluate each others’ tadasana so that was fun.

What I learned and/or relearned today:

  • Asana means “ground” or “seat” …to sit with whatever comes up (I used to think it just meant “posture”)
  • Heaven is all the spiritual aspects of the universe and Earth is all the physical aspects we can work with, the ground.  Joining Heaven and Earth…(union of the mind and body? aka yoga?)
  • Mandala means environment or “sacred space” (not just the circular diagrams one sees in Buddhist and Hindu art)
  • When standing in tadasana, the toes should touch and the elbows should face inward a little
  • When standing in tadasana, you can use a strap to measure the alignment of the ear, shoulder and ankle bone
  • I don’t know the meaning of OM
  • Ahimsa means non-violence
  • Some women have absolutely no hips or belly — amazing!

I’m exhausted.  Time to hit the sack and maybe read more in the morning.  Namaste.

quote of the day…

Posted: January 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: yoga | Tags: | Comments Off on quote of the day…

For a wrong done by others, men demand justice; while for that done by themselves they plead mercy and forgiveness.  The yogi on the other hand, believes that for a wrong done by himself, there should be justice, while for that done by another there should be forgiveness.

Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar

new year re(solutions)

Posted: January 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: doing it, yoga | Tags: , , | Comments Off on new year re(solutions)

I’m not sure how I feel about new year resolutions.  I make them sometimes but never seem to keep them.  So I feel like I just keep doing the same things over and over – repeating the same solutions and not really thinking about the process.  Recently, one of my favorite meditation teachers, David Nichtern, wrote a blog entry on the Huffington Post which really resonated with me.   I’d like to use what he suggested as a framework for the new year:

I intend to cultivate equanimity and balance in 2011 — not to panic when things appear to be off track, and not to relax when everything seems to be going smoothly. I intend to cultivate awareness and presence and not focus too hard on the outcome — paying more attention to the process and developing understanding and sympathy for myself and others.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to begin the teacher training program at OM where I know I will have to remind myself to have more compassion…for myself.  A friend asked if I was ready and my immediate answer was ‘No’.  It’s hard not to measure yourself against others in a class setting and to feel like you’re not at a comparable level.  I’m not advanced.  I know that and even though I practiced steadily over the holidays, I still can’t invert without a wall and am afraid of falling.  So it makes me a little anxious that I’ll have to start learning the ways to guide others.  Also, here’s the required reading list and I’m already behind..

Yoga Body Buddha Mind…………..Cyndi Lee
Yoga Body…………………………….Judith Lasater
The Breathing Book…………………..Donna Farhi
The Wisdom of No Escape………..Pema Chodron
The Yoga Sutra of Patangali………Chip Hartranft

These books are not required but are strongly recommended:

Sacred Path of the Warrior………..Chogyam Trungpa
Light on Life……………………………….B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga The Iyengar Way………………Mira Metha
Good Life, Good Death……………..Gelek Rinpoche

I say this every year, but I also want to go to bed earlier and have a normal sleep regiment.  These days, it’s normal for me to sleep around 2 or 3am, even when I don’t have any work!  I think that as part of my 6 weeks of OM Yoga TT, I will also challenge myself to be a vegetarian.  😛  We’ll see how that goes.

Tonight, I’m trying out CrossFit to see if it could be a cheaper alternative to core fusion.