Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lessons in Ayurveda

Attended a week of Mysore classes with Jessica Blanchard in Yoga Manila's beautiful Ortigas studio (so far, the best smelling studio I've been to :)) It was an immense learning experience for me. Jessica caught a couple of my bad habits (Oops! Not binding properly, feet not aligned) but was supportive and constructive throughout. I truly appreciated her mentoring.

Jessica adjusting in Supta Kurmasana
Image from neworleansashtanga.com
And despite my tardiness in booking an appointment, I had the good luck to catch a spot and have a private consultation with Jessica. Some things I learned:

Vata - Pitta
She asked questions about my diet, my practice and my daily routine. She checked my pulse, looked at my hands and nails and asked me to stick out my tongue. My constitution was declared to be Vata - Pitta. From this, a couple of recommendations were given:

  • Moisturize skin, even if humid. Vata skin tends to be dry
  • Use Coconut Oil on dry heels and peeling toes (aka Ashtanga feet) 
  • Remove green bell peppers from my vegetable juice. The peppers aggravate Pitta
When you oil your feet at night, you can dream of being in the beach...

Prior to meeting Jessica, I listed down my meals for the past 3 days. The practice of itemizing what I ate and drank was enlightening in itself. Jessica added a few more suggestions for me to chew on: 
(with a bit of embellishment, for comedic effect)
  • Jessica: Try to have one vegetarian meal a day
    Thought bubble: I will try, try, try :)

  • Jessica: If you have meat in your meal, stick to that one meat. For example: if you have chicken for lunch, only eat chicken and do not have additional bites of pork or beef. If you have seafood, only eat seafood for that meal.
    Thought bubble: You mean malulugi na ako sa buffet?! *

  • Jessica: Add vegetables to every meal. You don't need to have dessert after every meal.
    Thought bubble: Waaahhhhh!!!
Bye bye, desserts!
  • Jessica: And no more midnight snacks
    Thought bubble: Double waaahhhh!!!

  • Jessica: Due to your constitution, it is better to have hearty comforting meals like soup, stew, porridge, etc. Minimize fried food.
    Thought bubble: I can do this!! Take out from Tao Yuan, Gloria Maris and Summer Palace!

And guess what, I was able to teach Jessica a couple of things as well. O-ha!

Lesson 1Use Coconut Oil from Day 1 of pregnancy to avoid or minimize stretch marks
Lesson 2: Atis = Custard Apple
Lesson 3: Pork floss. A yummy bread topping. Well... it's technically pork-based. But it's worth a try!

As you can see, the exchange of knowledge was not proportional...

Yummy pork floss. Image from creatingwithmymind.blogspot.com

To end, let me just say that this post does not do justice to the lessons I've learned from Jessica. The knowledge, warmth and energy she has shared cannot be captured with written words. Thank you Jessica for your presence. I hope you come back to Manila soon. 

* Translated: I won't get my money's worth in a buffet anymore?!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Skinned Elbows and More

The past few weeks have found me with skinned elbows. Not the greatest thing in the world. I found the effect of dressing up and wearing platform heels thwarted by the icky brown, red and black marks on my elbows. Hindi bagay!

Imagine this, but with dark elbows. Eeek!

On this thought train, I started listing all the "injuries" I acquired throughout my 2 year Ashtanga life. And I asked myself, why am I doing this to myself? Why do I bother getting manicures and pedicures when I just ruin them the day after? Why do I even bother looking for a good cut and color when my hair is just tied up and sweaty during practice?

Despite all the China Gel, Tiger Balm, Arnica and KT Tape, I still find myself looking forward to the mat each day. It doesn't matter that my husband thinks I sometimes "smell kinda funky" (his exact words). It turns out that with each ache, pain and injury I learn something about myself and my body. Which I think brings me a step closer into understanding myself and embracing who I am. 

Eau du Tiger Balm. The scent of yogis and yoginis

Sarvangasana Tattoo
I used to have a Sarvangasana tattoo at the back of my neck. I didn't know how to balance my weight on my shoulders. Instead I would put the weight on my neck (not good!). The pressure resulted in a black round stamp on my nape. I had since learned to reconfigure my weight to my shoulders so the stamp eventually disappeared. Sometimes, I even put a blanket behind my back to give an extra inch of space between the mat and my neck.

Assisted Shoulderstand

Other Lessons, Realizations and A-ha Moments
Twisted lumbar spine - I learned not to abuse my back with too many backbends. I also got into the habit of icing my lumbar area after a particularly intense practice. 

Overextended left shoulder - I learned to keep my shoulder in a neutral position instead of swerving off to the side just so I could "grab more". I realized that "more" is not always better.

Strained right knee - From Janu Sirsana C, I learned to respect the limits of my body when I hurt my knee by pushing it to the ground.

Photo from Monkey Yoga Shala

Banged chin - Through much trial and error, I eventually gained balance in Bakasana and Bhujapidasana. Overcoming my fear meant letting go of the towel I use to cushion my falls. I learned to appreciate small steps of progress instead of hankering for big, all-in-one moments.

Super lola doing Bakasana

Running into a wall - I learned to come up from Urdhva Danurasana using my legs instead of just powering through. Balance is better than force.

Bumps on the head, bruises on the legs - Before learning how to balance in Sirsasana, I first had to learn how to fall from Sirsasana. Falling without injury meant rolling with my body instead of tensing up. Learning headstands taught me how to be accepting and patient.

So, have I learned anything from my skinned elbows? Nothing yet, except that I ought to wear long sleeved tops when going out. In the meantime, it's practice, practice, practice...

Photo from Pedro Moura Pinheiro

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Yoga+ at the Fort

Kick Ass Flow Class
First of all, let me say that I love the concept of a one-hour noon class that people can take over their lunch breaks. It was very convenient. The vinyasa flow class I attended was spot on. It had a great warm up sequence and the peaks were challenging and well-timed. Two of the highlights for me were: Birds of Paradise and Utkatasana to Parsva Bakasana. The teacher gave helpful cues and adjustments throughout. The energy never wavered and by the end of class everyone in the room enjoyed a well-deserved savasana. 

One Practice Room, Many Shower Stalls
Yoga+'s spacious practice room is equipped with Manduka mats that are cleaned after each class. The floor is made of a rubberized material that is merciful on our joints as we jump, fall and ka-bloog from balancing poses and inversions. Yoga+ also gets a thumbs-up for having a gracious and well-spoken receptionist. There are multiple changing rooms scattered throughout the common area, and there are lots of shower and toilet stalls to choose from. Clean and spacious lockers are also provided.

Yoga+ is A+! Looking forward to its regular Ashtanga classes

Photo from yogaplus.ph


Saw Varekei last Thursday and it was uh-mazing! Where do I begin? The costumes were eye-popping. Yet, they were still superb technical clothing. The aesthetics did nothing to compromise the performer's range of movement. You could barely see the rippling. And I kept looking for the seams. Where were they?! Did the performers pour themselves inside their costumes? The leotard has truly gone a long way. 

Eiko Ishioka is the genius behind Varekei's costumes

My favorite act was the net contortion routine by the Icarus character. Egad! Who was this guy? A former Olympic gymnast? His moves were pure strength and grace. I'm pretty sure he knows where his bandhas are!

Icarus does aerial contortions in a net

The last act by the Betrothed was magic as well. She did a series of handstands and backbends on canes. I call her moves Eka Pada Tic Tac on Steroids. It was truly jaw-dropping. 

Is it a handstand? A split? A leg behind the head move?

I can only imagine the amount of training and dedication the performers of Cirque du Soleil have given to their craft. And here I am complaining about my skinned elbows. Shame on me! Kudos to the Varekei crew! You are an inspiration and a wonder. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Workshop + Workshop + Workshop...

All this thinking about expenses came about because of the teachers coming to Manila to offer classes and workshops. How exciting! Prices range from Php 700 - 1500 per class. Add them all up and the sum total is not a pretty picture. 

But why pass up on a great opportunity to grow your practice? I think these workshops are good investments. They are also fun events to meet fellow yogis. Makes me realize that the yoga community in Manila is alive and growing :)

So in no particular order, here are the teachers coming to Manila

Govinda Kai through Bliss Yoga. Ashtangi. Govinda will be offering Mysore practice and a yoga retreat at Tali Beach Resort. The retreat should be fun! Yoga, beach, and farming for 5 days. Check out Govinda's biography at www.lunaticmonk.com 

Jessica Blanchard through Yoga Manila. Ashtangi and ayurveda expert. I attended her Mysore and ayurveda classes last year. Will repeat this year! She is a kind and warm teacher. She has great cooking tips and offers one-on-one sessions.

Jessica used to work for Andersen Consulting before turning yogini

Mark Robberds through Bliss Yoga. Ashtangi. Highly recommended by my other teachers. He has a surfer yogi look going for him :P Mark is authorized to teach the Intermediate series of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. He is an Advanced student of Guruji and R.Sharath. Looking forward to his Mysore class and "Fire Away and Play" workshop.

Gwapo diba? But not as gwapo as my husband :P

John Scott through Stillpoint Manila. Ashtangi. His workshop is the Alchemy of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. One breath, one body, one mind, one consciousness, infinite potential. How can you not get excited with that tagline? I have heard many, many good things about John Scott and I am looking forward to meeting him this September.

Jules Febre through Yoga+. Jivamukti. Jules is a nephew of Sharon Gannon and David Life, has been practising Jivamukti Yoga since the age of 6 and is an advanced certified Jivamukti Teacher. He will be offering workshops on Inversions (I'm in!) and Chakra Tuning (I'm in again!)

Pim Swatewacharkul through Yoga +. Hot Yogi. Pim is offering a Balancing and Backbending workshop. She shares her experience as teacher trainer with Absolute Yoga Thailand, and her knowledge of Yin Yoga, Hatha, Vinyasa and Anusara Yoga.

Get your checkbooks ready!!!

Yoga Ain't Cheap

Who says yoga is cheap?

I used to think yoga was less demanding (investment-wise) than other activities. You didn't need fancy equipment like those used in Pilates and TRX. No need for bike trails, boxing gloves or swimming pools.  All you needed was a mat. 


Looking at my expense sheet, I have come to reconsider this notion. Yoga expenses in the beginning consisted of tops, bottoms, mats and towels. It was a slippery slope from there. Soon came the books, DVDs, lounge clothes, pillows, jackets, etc. 

Aparigraha aside, I do not regret the things I have bought. (Okay, maybe some of them. But most of them, I consider valuable and worthwhile :D) I know that a pair of shorts and a plain t-shirt will serve me just as well in my practice. I don't really need the technical gear. Or do I?

Beyond Yoga. Valuable and worthwhile :)

In my opinion, our yoga gear is a reflection of our commitment to our practice. It's true, we can practice in ratty houseclothes. But as I am the kind of person who takes care in my appearance (sometimes!) then I would also like to give the same level of attention and detail to a practice that I immerse myself in. 

So maybe I won't mind spending for a good mat and towel that I will use everyday. But I probably won't spring for "energy flow" sandals. (See here). Some people will! Kanya-kanya lang talaga...

Juil Sandals. They won't block your feet's natural energy flow

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sick Leave

Was sick over the weekend. Still recovering now. Skipped practice for 7 days. Went on antibiotics. Random thoughts that sprung up in my brain:

1. Is doing yoga in your head almost the same as actually doing yoga?
2. I should really use socks when teaching on cold floors
3. I'm always wishing I could rest more, but now that I am why am I really antsy to get back on the mat?

Will post more as soon as my schedule gets back to normal

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Yogi's Best Friends

Best Friend #1 - the chiropractor. Lower back pain, crick in the neck, tight shoulders - a trip to the chiropractor is a good way to relieve pain

Best Friend #2 - the girl who does your pedicure. Clean toenails are a must

Best Friend #3 - the manang who gives you a deep tissue massage. A nice soothing massage is a great way to relax after all the hard work

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ashtanga Yoga Lounge

On a whim, a bought a music CD from the recently concluded yoga conference. I normally don't buy "world music" but I thought, what the heck. I had already bought a ton of stuff at the conference and was probably over my luggage weight limit. One CD wouldn't hurt.

Stuck the CD in, turned up the volume and waited for the kitschy sitar music to start. Instead, some pretty chill lounge music started coming out.  Tracks like "Govinda Jaya Jaya" and " "He Ma Durga" were not folksy at all. (If you can call Sanskrit chanting folksy)

I highly recommend this CD to anyone who wants to spice up their practice with some cool sounds. It's also a great dinner party accompaniment :) 

The set is composed of 2 discs, with 12 songs each. Artists such as Donna de Lory, Oman Chali and Jami Seiber comprise the list.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Samadhi... aka Eating in Hong Kong

After yoga, what else is there to do in Hong Kong but eat? 

First stop, dinner at Peking Garden in Pacific Place. Great food, fast service, child friendly. You just need to book your table in advance as the restaurant gets filled up rather quickly.

Scallops with Broccoli

Baked Crab with Cheese

Peking Duck, specialty of the house

Steamed Cod Steak with Red Pepper

Spring Roll

Next, brunch in Cafe Gray at The Upper House. Located at the top floor of a swanky boutique hotel. Great view, attentive service, delicately flavored dishes.

Parma and Gruyere Quiche

Poached Eggs Florentine

Tagine Lamb Stew, Apricots and Pine Nuts

Onion and Truffle Tarte Flambee

Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Candied Orange

Lastly, merienda at Crystal Jade in Harbour City. Chinese fast food at its best.

Xiao Long Bao

Tofu Skin with Mushroom

Shanghai-style Pancake

Thanks Hong Kong for the yummy treats! The next Asia Yoga Conference is on June 7-10, 2012 but hopefully I won't need to wait till then to go back :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 3 and 4: Asia Yoga Conference

Goodie bag for every conference participant

My haul: Anatomy books, a book by AG Mohan and an Ashtanga Lounge CD

Full house on Day 3. I counted about 100 participants

Ran into teacher Clayton Horton

Sharath talking about bandhas, and how engaging them will make lifts, jump backs and jump throughs "easy"

Getting my shirt autographed. Sharath was such a sport about it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 1 and 2: Asia Yoga Conference

Banner up at 6 AM, Day 1

Getting ready: Toe tape, water spray, towels and Kleenex for early morning sniffles
(pardon the yucky foot)

Early birds filing in. Hi Roland! Hi Monique! Hi Matty!

Manila contingent. Represent! Thanks Matty for taking this picture

My claim to fame: Sharath placed his arm around me. Haha!
(It's not obvious in the picture, but he did!)

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