Sometimes it feels like the more I try to do “quickly” “out of the way” and then I can go do my morning routine the less I get done or at least not without a great deal of struggle. Face palms away!
If I just say you know, I’m going to go do my morning routine first and then everything else I feel much better, things get done very smoothly and well indeed and I don’t find myself wondering where did all the day gone and how did nothing get done at all?
Some snippets from the past few days and this morning.
“What do you want for your birthday?” B has been asking me this off and on for the last two months. So sweet and I wish I had something great to say other than
“Tea and some sleep and someone to please wash my hair for me”
“And I just want to go to yoga”
I used to just order a whole bunch of Asos clothes as my birthday treat. The thought of getting more clothes right now starts off as sounding like a lovely idea but then I balk at the knowledge that I’ll have to put them away in the closet neatly which I still am working on decluttering. Every Christmas we head back to Australia for the holidays and I do a crazy bunch of shopping for things I just can’t get for a reasonable price here in Indonesia. When it comes time to fly I get crazy worried about the excess baggage. After months of trying to declutter my wardrobe this year I decided that is it with the clothes shopping. I’ll only buy one or two really wonderful quality items, sorry, PIECES. More expensive but they will last and not date. I look at photos captioned “wardrobe goals” and think argh, no thank you. I get wardrobe envy at the sight of near empty closets so you get the idea of the turnaround I have had.
Not when it comes to baby clothes though. I may be having less of a turnaround and more of a redirecting haha. B sometimes asks me if I want to donate any of The Child (TC)’s old clothes and I look at him like, “who even areyou?” But I tell you, if I could get my hands on some baby Dior I would be tempted to go minimalist too. Oatmeal and spinach stains on Dior though, hmmm, never mind. Also TC goes through two to three outfits every day. Sometimes after dinner we need to do another clothes change because TC decided to just grab dinner by the fistful and most of dinner becomes some sort of accessory all down the front. I’m flattered that my cooking was so enjoyable but I also feel like I could raise a few pigs with the dinner scraps that I am shaking into a pail at the end of every evening.
Incredible how our priorities keep changing as we grow up. I’m still growing up so who knows. Although I have been considering getting a necklace with TC’s name on it. Or a Pilates reformer. Preferably both. So there you go. But in the last few months I have just been prioritising experiences over anything else. In Sydney I was very pedantic about taking TC to the playground and Taronga Zoo etc. I went to the shopping centre but most of my time was spent in the children’s play area. After lunch, of course, and after I had picked up a cup of teh tarik, of course.
If we haven’t spoken about teh tarik before, it means pulled tea. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood growing up in Singapore and we would go for breakfast at these lovely shophouses. You could get all sorts of food such as chicken rice, fishball noodles or you could get kaya toast or roti pratha with some curry sauce. The roti pratha is my dad’s favourite. Anywhere you can find food like that there is a drink stall and you can get pulled tea or a really dark earthy coffee. The tea or coffee is poured back and forth at a great height until it gets really frothy and smooth. The person is practically standing on a ladder doing the pouring. Just before I became pregnant I stopped drinking coffee and now it’s been so long that I love the idea of coffee but my tastebuds have changed. It’s easy to get teh tarik everywhere in Singapore, a little less so here in Indonesia but still possible. Especially if you are determined. I’m extremely determined, driven by mostly that feeling of “I just want SOMETHING for a treat“. Can you still call something you get pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day, a treat?
I love tea and coffee house culture. It’s such a lovely feeling. We woke up extra early this morning (more like TC woke up extra early and decided to haul me out of bed) so I ordered some teh tarik with some roti pratha from a kopitiam my friend took me to. Whilst I waited, my dad was messaging me about ingredients for Chinese porridge and how to make it. We both bought the same rice cooker so he has been messaging me about that quite a bit since I am the only one in the family who reads manuals. (edit: he found his manual so he is reading it as well. We are the only two who read manuals in our family.)
I’m pretty easy going in restaurants but that cup of milky tea was half empty when it came. Soooooo just as well that I ordered two. It was a lovely start to my birthday weekend.
Now I just want some yoga and to wash my greasy hair.
I had been trying to pack for our annual trip back to Sydney for Christmas for the past three days. Every single day came with its own obstacle course of reasons why I could not get everything done. Our flight was at 7 o’clock in the evening and as at noon I had:
sweated through one set of clothes;
got a sink full of things to wash up;
one toddler alternating between chasing me around the apartment and wrapping themself around my neck/leg;
suitcases open with the contents flung far and wide (thanks for the assistance UNPACKING, o child of mine).
My heart was pounding with adrenaline or angst. If you would only nap, I kept muttering to myself as I grimly dragged myself around the apartment trying to replace items back in the suitcase, child firmly wrapped around my left calf like a barnacle. IF ONLY.
Another hour went by and finally, finally, naptime. I retreated to the bedroom to lie down and regroup as well. I felt like I had ALREADY been on a redeye flight with a baby. Still needed to make lunch because feeding children is what we do. WOOSA.
In the back of my mind a soundtrack kept playing on a loop, “How the heck is this going to happen?”
I shook my head and thought well let’s just do our best and if anything gets let behind, as long as it’s not the baby that’s fine. As I walked to the kitchen to start making lunch, B said to me, “Hey, your flight has been delayed. By 3 hours.”
THANK YOU UNIVERSE. I bet no one ever appreciates a flight delay but this time I really needed it.
The child slept terribly on the flight as in not at all but was very happy just shimmying around our seats so it all came together.
Our jetlag lasted a week. But I’m still going to call it a win and I am GRATEFUL.
“perhaps just get more kind to yourself and those around you”
— apt words from my June horoscope
Once in a while I’ll stumble upon a horoscope, article, instagram and marvel at how perfectly these small happenings are timed to lessons and themes I am currently working on. For instance, the last few months have been really focused on the concept of kindness and softness. They’re NOT easy! It has taken so long for me to break down my need to never show softness and never backdown to really embrace how being soft can be a different kind of strength. Life isn’t just about how good a smackdown you can give or how feisty you can be. It’s terrifying and exhilarating to find that within all that being gentle, deep down there is a reservoir of true strength to withstand all outside forces as well as all the inner crazy. The best defence may be a good offence in sports but in life the best defence is inner strength.
Continuously working on the ability to stay perfectly gracefully still despite everything going on will build up your strength reserves mentally as well as physically. You’ll only get stronger this way and you’ll always feel centered, because your center is strong! Today’s drill is the perfect physical illustration of that wonderful kooky circular logic. You’re staying as still as you can, whilst working on strengthening your core and you won’t need to do a single crunch, hurray! It works for me and I hope it will for you too. Try it and let me know!
Enough chit-chat from me, let’s do this.
THE STAY STILL [Working title I’m sticking with this – besides aren’t we over ‘labels’ already?]
Repeat this exercise 3 to 5 times, several times a week and you’ll definitely feel stronger physically and hopefully get closer to experiencing grace under pressure, even if it’s merely during the course of a yoga class. It will be worth it – eventually that grace will translate to beyond your physical class!
Start in a kneeling position
Place your hands either side of your knees
Lean your weight into your hands and press strongly into the ground as you exhale
Breathe your belly button in and up towards your spine
On your next exhalation squeeze your knees towards your chest
Hold as you breathe in and out for 5 rounds of breathing (something like the picture above)
Inhale and squeeze your knees in a little more then
Lower down on your next exhalation. (Finally!)
Advance this by squeezing one heel off the floor and hold.
Super advance this by squeezing both heels off the floor. You’re basically ready to levitate.
If it feels horrible for the front of your feet then you can start off kneeling with your toes tucked under. As you press up you will come high up onto your toes. When you’re stronger you can try again with your feet flat.
Your back will naturally round — go with that instinct.
Use your midsection to pull your knees into the curve of your body. Squeezing your inner thighs together will help activate your core just that extra more. As much of your weight is off the floor, not just dangling into the fronts of your feet.
Even though your back is rounded, don’t hunch your shoulders into your ears! And don’t scrunch your face! All the work is deep, deep down in your core. The rest of you is to resemble the surface of still water.
What it do?
I’m glad you asked. This will work your entire core as well as your ability to maintain your straight-arm strength. With your knees sucked in as close to your body as you can you’ll notice how hard your belly is working to keep that knees to chest connection going. The back gets a great stretch too.
Alternatives for wrist issues
Just do the same thing but laying on your back and imagine your pressing your hands into the ceiling and pushing it away. You’ll still get all the benefits and you’ll have a great time curling your body away from the floor. NOT EASY. You’ll know you’re doing it right because you’ll just know.
You can build up as you get stronger by doing the alternative in addition. Make the two versions part of your regular strength exercise.
Sorry, I’m a little deaf these days, there’s constant hammering away in the apartment above my head since we last chatted. They’re doing it to drive me crazy renovating.
Hence why, I still haven’t uploaded that video I have been promising! I need to construct a sound proof room first which reminds me of the old music room at my school. I would go there every lunchtime for piano lessons. The entire room was wall-papered with egg cartons and painted blue to accord with the school colour. The effect was, uh, very crafty and three-dimensional. But aside from being quite visually effective the egg cartons really didn’t work very well.
Which brings me back to where I am seated right now. It sounds like the people upstairs are diligently tinkering away with teeny tiny hammers and chisels at the ceiling above my head. Which makes me imagine they are either chiseling a statue or they are trying to tunnel their way into my apartment.
Am I annoyed? Sort of, I guess I’m half laughing at the imagery and half wishing the noise would stop. I am distracted by the incessant tunnelling hammering. That’s what is getting me, that I am allowing myself to be distracted and affected by this external activity. It is beyond my environment so why is it having such a huge impact on me?
It is just like in yoga classes, if you have had the fortune to experience, when a person, perhaps on a mat next to you is a REALLY LOUD BREATHER. Really, really, really loud. There is silence all around, except a sort of hum of coordinated movements and breathing… then this fantastically pervasive rasping sound emanating from the person next to you. Has that ever bothered you?
Or how about if the lady next to you in her struggle to do any postures is blustering and swearing away. “Oh geez. Oh !@#$%^&*#@#@***” on and on and on she goes for the entire ninety minutes. She hangs in there for the full class. She has paid her entry fee and by *&$#@ is she gonna get every last #$@&* minute out of that @#$%^&* session.
What about the self-appointed class joker (hey, why did you look at me for?) on the other side of the room, who takes it upon himself, everytime the teacher claims says “One more breath here” to do a countdown “Five, four, three, two aaaaaaaaaand ONEEEEEEEEEE!!!”
EVERY. TIME. No one laughs after the first time. But he persists.
Or what about the person who is just too sweaty? Or the showoff? Or the two ladies who won’t stop talking in the back? Or the person who doesn’t smell nice? Or the person who is wearing hardly anything and you can see right up their bandha?
The list could go on and on ad nauseum.
Well? Do you recognise these people? Do you think to yourself, “What classes do you attend, and why haven’t these people been thrown out?!”
Well, these people don’t just go to yoga classes. They also show up in your life. They’re in the supermarket, at your workplace, at uni, they’re on the bus with you, the train. Yep, sometimes they’re in the guise of your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, best friend, mum, dad, or child or brother, whatever.
And they’re doing something and it just bothers the bejeezers out of you.
What is a ‘bejeezer’? You don’t even know. You’re just so annoyed right now you’re creating new words. Oxford Dictionary look out, coming soon your way, get ready to take notes.
Oh, and of course you’re not being nitpicky. It’s them. Right? It’s always them.
Do they have to do that? And in that way?*
YES THEY HAVE TO. And the more that it bothers you, the more they have to do that.
If you have ever experienced this then my suggestion is below. It seems to snap me out of my egg-cartoned mindset quick-smart. What works for me, might work for you. If you have never experienced this, well done, I guess you can carry on reading for entertainment?
Here’s the solution: Change your mind. Leave the world alone. Your world will evolve with time to fit the shape of your mind. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like, as I like to tell my students about our yoga practice. The choice is yours. You can struggle, or you can float. You do get to choose. You always have a choice.
Take a good look at these supposed ‘challengers’ and be glad they exist. They’re your true teachers. You will learn more from them than a workshop with a ‘celebrity’ yoga instructor. These are the teachers that teach you how to live. And they do it so effortlessly.
all your fellow
humans and name
– Erich Schiffman
I have met all sorts of teachers in yoga classes and I have to say over the years I still catch myself feeling exasperated and yes, distracted! It happens less and less but it still happens sometimes! Sometimes it’s the small, seemingly insignificant things that trip me up the hardest. I forget and think, “I am beyond that point. I love life. I love everyone. I’m fine.”
And then bang! I totally walk on my floaty cloud feelings into that trap my mind has set for me. I’m no longer practising yoga when that happens. I’m in somethingsomething-asana but it’s just a shape my body happens to be in. Because at that point, I have chosen to be more important than anyone else, more deserving to be there than anyone else and have decided that my comfort is more important than the comfort of anyone else, there in that class room. How egotistical does that sound when said out loud?
Instead of saying, “Oh, they’re so ANNOYING” but instead to phrase that as “I’m more important than they are.”
Yeesh! No, we have left yoga at that point. We’re just sweating and bending and stretching.
No yoga there. Just ego.
Oh, beware the ego trap! It is there all day everyday. There will never be a day when you reach nirvana and the trap is no longer set for you. You need to be on alert at all times. Be present in the moment. Live mindfully and completely in each moment. Question yourself.
And so, this is what I mean by
YOGA ALL DAY.
You do have to shout that a little at yourself, to get it through, past that ego trap. It has egg cartons painted in a hideous colour to distract you to the point of rage from realising that you have fallen deep inside. You can hear the sounds of life around you, but all you can see are those cartons. You are blind to the lesson in front of you.
There is far more to yoga than just yoga as I say. Our ability to do the splits, to touch our toes with our legs straight, or to stick one leg behind our head or stand on our head will not insulate us from the lessons of life. The ability to do any of those things are just acrobatic.
The goal of yoga is to cultivate an attitude of equanimity and one of compassion.
We’re all in this together, some of us swearing away, some of us panting loudly, some of us excitedly talking, some of us silently and we’re all chiseling away at this unshaped rock to make sense of our life purpose and find our way. When we look to our left and right and see we’re all trying in our different ways to do the same thing, live our lives any which way we can, the scales fall from our eyes, and the sounds and activities of life become what they always have been. Just a soundtrack of life.
Don’t get distracted by the soundtrack to your life.
Breathe. Practice your yoga all day. Know your fellow humans by name. Thank your teachers.
And between you and me, I don’t know what it is, maybe the renovations have finished upstairs, but I can’t hear any noise anymore. It is perfectly silent. All I can hear is the sound of my breathing and the sound of my fingers tapping on the keyboard.
Thank you thank you thank you. x
*Sometimes we are those very same people. We may not think it, but someone somewhere may be looking at us with disdain and think, “Oh go somewhere else, will ya?” How hurt would we feel if someone said to us that what we were doing was supremely irritating to them? Did we even aim our actions at them? Nope! We were just doing our own thing, right? Funny, that. Hmm.
Alright, alright, I hear you. Time to talk about yoga.
Let’s start from the top and talk about the REQUIREMENTS. Whaddya need and whaddya need to do.
You need your body. Check.
And just enough space to swing your arms around you. Check.
That’s it! You’re golden. Good to go.
There are no true requirements or criteria. Anyone can do it. You, me, Dupree, anyone.
People who learn that I teach yoga will usually say one of two things.
One: “Can you teach me? I’ve always wanted to learn yoga.”
Two: “Oh… I have always wanted to learn yoga. But you know, I’m just not flexible enough,” sometimes with an added “and now it’s too late.”
Somewhere along the line, as yoga has become more known, this criteria of possessing existing flexibility has fluttered into existence. But is there such a requirement?
No, of course not!
You won’t be turned away at the doorsteps of a yoga class if you can’t bend over and touch your toes with your legs kept straight. There’s no secret handshake to gain entry. There is no audition to become a student of yoga. A teacher won’t ever say to you, “I’m sorry. There’s just nothing we can do here.”
Over time with practice, one will start to see improvement in flexibility. But one does not need to be anything in particular to begin with. One just has to want to.
I remember when I was in primary school and failing miserably at a fitness test. Alright, timeout for a bit so everyone can have a good laugh. But no, seriously, I was really terrible at this test.
One component was the flexibility measure, and you had to plant your feet flat against a wall, and reach your hands along the floor towards feet whilst keeping your legs straight. I was truly a sorry sight. I will never forget it. I could not get my fingertips beyond my knees. I had the P.E. teacher trying to help me along, just about climbing onto my back to sort of wedge me closer to my feet. No one had ever seen anyone so hopeless. I mystified the entire staff. So young. So stiff. How is this possible? What does this mean? She is CLEARLY not trying.
Thinking about it now has me laughing so hard. The look on the teachers faces.
Some of us are born naturally flexible. I was not one of those. I have a reasonably bendy back but I still have those days when I reach for my toes and I feel like I have a metre extra of leg length that I could really have used in my torso area. So if we’re talking about candidates for yoga, I would not be what the general populace would consider ‘yoga material’. Have heart, friend.
Have you ever seen that cartoon of Batman and Robin? It pops up from time to time on social media. The one where Robin starts to say, “But I’m not flexible enough…” and before he completes his sentence Batman has slapped Robin so hard across the face his head must be spinning, yelling, “That’s why you do yoga!” It’s obviously a joke and completely not appropriate for any of us to walk around town responding to people Batman-style. We’ll talk about yoga and the practice of non-violence another time. Baby steps, hey.
I think it is great to encourage people to find what is good for their bodies but one needs to walk the line and not transform into a vigilante in the process. Health vigilantes can be especially tiresome. Especially when they have just made the transition into health-lover. Probably because they have all that extra newfound energy. Quite often, a person who has just discovered how incredible they feel after modifying their lifestyle to include working out, eating well, yoga-ing and so on, will then start to hound everyone in their circle to do the same. No one is safe. NO ONE. Everyone will be forced to listen to the benefits of spinning and kale smoothies.
If I had a dollar for everytime a pal of mine would bemoan their partner constantly nagging them to do whatever life-changing activity they have discovered, I’d have a quite a bit of money.
“He loses 5 kg and now all day long he keeps telling me I should start running. UGH.”
“If she mentions the gym one more time…” (voice fades to ominous silence)
“He just isn’t listening to me! I don’t want to!”
That last one is especially telling. It’s about choice.
I learnt a long time ago that people will do what they will do when they want to and when they are ready to. And not a single microsecond before that. I’ve been blessed to have some incredible students, all of whom have heard some variation of the “You can’t make people do what they don’t want to do, no matter how good it is for them” speech. But it’s hard, I know, in the aftermath of a practice session, all those lovely endorphins and whatnot floating around. Sometimes one just can’t help wanting to share this little secret under the tip of their nose.
“If only they knew!” I can just about read the thought bubble over their head.
That’s usually when I find myself wedged in that awkward conversational space between two people, one of whom is a student of mine, feeling glorious after Savasana (it’s the one where you lie down and look like you’re asleep) and the other, a friend of theirs and not a student of mine. Student will pipe up, apropos of nothing, “You should learn yoga from Dom!”
By the way, my name is Dominique. Hi.
Non-student will look extremely apologetic and say,”Oh…. I would. I really would. But I’m not flexible enough.”
Before I can open my mouth to express understanding and try to turn the conversation to some other topic, Student will exclaim, “That’s why you should do yoga!” Student then turns to me for confirmation. “Am I right? Right?!”
I can just about see the Batman light glowing in the distant skyline. We just need a cape, and a poor disguise and we’re there.
(Who is Batman even kidding by the way? I’ll just cover my eyebrows, and wear this pointy eared thing and I will look totally different. Him and Superman with the glasses. We are not fooled. We are just being polite and going with it.)
Where was I? Awkwardland, yes. Gah.
What my student heard was, “I have been given to understand that one must be flexible to practice yoga. I am not flexible enough, therefore, I cannot do yoga. Such is my life.”
What I heard was, “I don’t want to. I’m trying to be polite and not offend anyone. Here is a reason so we can all move on. Away from yoga. Please. Let me live my life.”
That’s what I heard. Should I take what the person has said at face-value? Possibly. But what I have learnt is that a person who has been wanting to do yoga, but felt they were not flexible enough, would have immediately turned to me and asked for themselves, “Can you still teach me? I’m not flexible.”
If that question had been posed to me, then I would say this:
You do not need to be young, flexible or physically able. It is fine if you do not have a background in gymnastics or ballet. Perfectly ok.
It doesn’t even matter what shape or size you come in either. An acquaintance of B’s once turned to him, after meeting me, and exclaimed with relief, “I’m so glad she isn’t thin! I thought I was too fat to do yoga.”
So if you were thinking something similar, I hope that answers that.
You don’t even need to be fit. There is really only one requirement:
You must not, absolutely cannot, be lazy.
You just can’t.
” Every one can do yoga, young, old or sick people. Only lazy people cannot do yoga.” R. Sharath Jois
And, as long as you aren’t lazy, you can do yoga.
We can even break the idea of laziness down to choice. A person who wants to and chooses to do yoga will never ever be too lazy to do something about it.
It is not so much can you or can’t you, or may you, but will you or won’t you. Do you want to?
If you read this, and thank you by the way, but if you read this, chances are very high that you want to do yoga. Chances are extremely high that you are not lazy. Therefore, you can do yoga. Please never let yourself worry about the need to be flexible enough anymore.
Are you still worried about the flexibility thing? Or the not fit thing?
Have no fear, I’m editing, hopefully in time for the weekend, a video of a short yoga practice you can do no matter how inflexible you are.
If I can get the spinning rainbow wheel to stop turning, that is. Talk about will it or won’t it.
For starters, here is what you can do. Hop up and walk to your mirror. Look into your reflection and say the following:
“I am clever and capable of doing anything I want to. I want to do yoga.”
By the way, the above works for anything. Not just yoga. You are never not enough for anything. You are just the right amount of you to do whatever it is you want to do.
Do you journal? I try to always keep with me something to write in for whenever I see or hear something interesting to me. If I experienced something that makes me laugh out loud. A random stray thought for a possible short story or just something I want to keep, an amusing voice that emerged from my internal monologue. Usually along the lines of what makes me laugh because aren’t those the things that make for the best memories?
A typical diary entry for me looks like this
Maybe think about giving it a go.* It’s a new week, why not? No pressure or anything, but you may find it interesting to have a look over the kind of things that catch your attention. Are they mostly positive or negative? Keeping a journal has been really helpful for me as a tool to practice mindfulness. You don’t need to be on best behaviour, just be natural! You don’t need to be cool.
What does ‘be cool’ even mean? I wouldn’t know.
Your scribblings are private, unless you post it on the internets like what I just did here, so you can feel completely safe about voicing and taking ownership of what is going on inside your mind. Observe your thoughts, without judgement, and just practise being a witness. This is step one in approaching stillness and calmness. These journals you keep become a crucible for your thoughts. And then eventually you can start to observe, whether or not, your insides match your outsides.
Journals don’t need to be extensive insightful works of art. This is where I lost focus and used to give up the exercise after a few days. The idea of having to produce fantastically clever essays in tidy journals used to put me off because I essentially gave myself performance anxiety. I was getting all angsty about making the leap from my 9 year old self who wrote things like “Today I had school. It was nice.” to Homer and writing the sequel to Odyssey. The pressure was just TOO MUCH and I was getting self-conscious with myself. I would look back on what I wrote a few weeks back and groannn. Just don’t get too worked up the way I did, like most things, getting to know your internal voice takes some getting used to. Practice kindness! Be kind to yourself! Don’t get too serious about it!
(Now I remind me of my neighbour. Yelling words of kind encouragement. You KNOW I mean well.)
You might be able to tell sometimes my internal voice does not take me seriously at all. Sometimes meaning most times.
Oh! Speaking of exciting, something else I did today besides sneeze loudly: I learnt how to really, really get the tarnish off my silver jewellery really, really quick and easy. Because who has time to sit there really, REALLY polishing silver like an extra on Downton Abbey? Not us.
The results are very satisfying. I don’t mean to sound like an infommercial, infomercial, informercial, informmercial, I GIVE UP, infommercial. If you’re interested, I’ll be posting the how-to up in the next few days. I’m heading next door to say hello to my neighbour.
My spell check insists that ‘infommercial’ should be spelt ‘informercial’ or ‘infomercial’. Mmm, I don’t know, you guys. I’m experiencing that face a person makes when a word looks wrong even when spell check says otherwise. Help me out?
*Hmm, realised after posting that the rules of grammar would suggest I meant sneezing loudly and then hiding. And then I found the idea that I suggest people sneeze loudly very funny indeed so not bothering. Can we pretend I was using a witty writing device?