Saturday, October 30, 2010

Practice this morning was somewhat slow, but fruitful. The weather here is starting to get colder, and my practice room is only moderately heated. So the coldness in my body made me more stiff, and I had to start slower. Moved slowly through Suryas A and B, but was very pleasantly warm by the time I started the standing sequence. I think the cold is a double-edged sword: It forces me to move more slowly, but ironically, I get more out of the practice, because I have to be more munidful of what my body is feeling at every moment. Whereas, in a warmer environment, there is a tendency to just bask in the warmth and zip through the practice.

Worked on a few things during this morning's practice:

(1) Tried to practice the tips I got from Kino during her Chicago workshop last weekend. In standing postures and forward bends, I work on grounding through the 4 corners of the feet, and engaging the bandhas. When one does these, the spine lengthens naturally, and forward bending becomes more an organic unfolding rather than a tug of war with one's hamstrings.

(2) Perhaps because of the cold, I find myself feeling restless at times and just wanting to "get the practice over with." At such times, I call to mind my teacher's advice to take everything "breath by breath", and focus on the drishti. The posture itself is, in this sense, of secondary concern.

(3) My pet project at the moment is working on trying to get into handstand after the fifth navasana. I'm trying to follow Boodiba (aka Queen of the East Village)'s advice to exhale strongly before lifting off, and using the bandhas to get my ass above my shoulders. Managed to get my ass part of the way there today, before gravity pulled me down into chaturanga. Will continue working on it.

I went to Kino's workshop in Chicago last weekend. I will be posting my thoughts, impressions and (mis)adventures at the workshop over the next few days. I'll start by sharing with you the video interview I did with her at the workshop. If you have ever wondered about questions like "Why dropback/standup before second series?", "Why does 2nd series impose all these seemingly conflicting demands on the body?", or "Why are there 6 series in ashtanga when most mortals will probably never finish 3rd", you should watch this interview! The interviewer in the video is yours truly (now you know how I look like :-)). Claudia has also posted the same video on twitter. In any case, here it is:



  1. Yes, I saw the video and really liked it, it is so cool that you did this Nobel, I also outed your blog in twitter, will be the first fan :-)

    Look forward to the things you learned while at Kino's I had some insights too while at Vipassana and will probably be posting about that too. I am really happy you have your own blog now, it was about time! :-)

    Welcome to the blogosphere

  2. Smiling. Nice to see that a blog supports your Ashtanga yoga practice now, too. Have fun on the journey.

    PS: I wish you many readers.

  3. Thank you for your support, Claudia and Ursula. I am very happy to be part of the blogosphere.

  4. Woah Nobel, what an amazing interview, thank you!

  5. Nobel, thanks so much for posting the interview. Kino is a wonderful teacher.

  6. Hi Nobel, I found your blog through Jaime (Skippetty)'s blog and so happy to find another Singaporean Ashtangi! :) Really enjoyed this video thanks for sharing!

  7. Hello Helen, Globie and Danielle: Thanks! So happy that you guys liked the video. Yes, Kino is a wonderful teacher. I'm also very impressed by how down-to-earth and approachable she is.

    Danielle: So you are also from the fair island of Singapore! As I was telling Jaime, I came to the states for grad school in 2001, and haven't got back since... (just so you know where I stand on the political spectrum)

    But yes, it's great to meet another ashtangi who is from the same part of the world as I am. Funny thing is, I never practiced yoga until I came to the US.

  8. Haha! I've been here (CA) for 3 years and we just got our Green Card. I'm quite the cynic about politics in general, so the system is not going to prevent me from going back. The fast-paced life and locals' attitude to materialism is what keeps me away. I did yoga on and off for about 6 years, but it's only here that I've actually been doing it consistently. And an ashtanga practice no less! My first class in SG almost killed me, so it was a really pleasant surprise to discover the Mysore approach.

    Anyway, sorry to hijack your comments thread :o Looking forward to reading your posts!

  9. Hello Danielle,
    hey, don't worry about hijacking the comments thread. It's not often that I meet somebody from SG who understands my views and "speaks my language", so to speak. ("Quitters of the world, unite!") I totally hear you about the fast-paced life and the materialism. Which is why I had to get out in order to find the space to do something I really need to do with my life. I still have friends and family in SG who keep asking me, "Why don't you come back? It's so much better to be at home! There's no place like SG." I never really know what to say to things like that.

    I don't know if I would have even practiced yoga if I had stayed in SG. Life was so fast-paced that I never felt I could afford to take any time for myself. Now I can't even leave the house in the morning without my yoga practice!

    Which part of CA do you live in, if you don't mind me asking? I have a few friends whom I went to grad school with, who now live in CA. Two of them live in Orange County, and one of them lives in the Bay Area (although she just moved out to New Jersey to take up a teaching position, so she's not actually living there anymore!).

    Ha, now it looks like I'm hijacking my own thread :-)

  10. I live in the Bay Area and practice in a tiny tiny shala in Palo Alto (Ashtanga Palo Alto). Drop me a line if you're ever coming out here! Where are you based btw?

    I've received that question alot too, each time I go back or speak with friends from home. To the statement that "there's no place like home", I reply with "Well, what is 'home'?", which is usually met with silence. Hee hee, it's evil of me, eh?

    My husband is French, and we are making our life me, home is wherever our life is. Singapore is where I came from and it will always be special, but it's my remembered experience of the place that makes it special, which is not an accurate reflection of what it has become in the time I've been gone.

    Ahh, this has gotten me all anthro/sociological about Singapore - one of my fav intellectual exercises :D

  11. At present, I live in Moorhead, Minnesota. Right now, I am here on a one-year appointment as a fixed-term assistant professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Before that, I spent a year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Marquette University. And before that, I spent 8 years in Florida for grad school (3 years for my MA, and 5 years for my PhD).

    I think of myself as an itinerant scholar-teacher :-) I am trying to find a permanent position, so I won't have to move around so much. But it's actually kind of nice, in a way. My girlfriend (she's American, from South Carolina; we met while going to school in Florida) and I have gotten to see quite a bit of the country as a result of our wanderings!

    There's no ashtanga shala here in Moorhead, so I mainly practice on my own. I try to go to workshops by senior teachers (such as Kino) whenever I can find the time.

    I totally agree with you that home is where one can make a productive and fulfilling life for oneself (and I don't just mean in material terms). The funny thing is, I tried saying this to an American friend once, and he thought it was total bullshit! But this was in the south, so maybe it's kind of understandable; it seems that many Americans (especially in the south and in the midwest) are just as traditional about family as many Asians are.

    I have great respect for your ability to say what is on your mind to your family. I have a problem that I think many other Asian people have: When I speak to family and friends, I have a tendency to say things that they want to hear (or at least not say things that they don't like to hear). But this creates a lot of frustration and anguish for me. I am trying to become the kind of person who says what he means and means what he says. I feel that I am getting there, with my yoga practice and Buddhist practice.

    Singapore holds a special place in my heart too, but as with you, it's also my remembered experience of the place and certain people at certain points in my life there that I cherish and find special. It is impossible to recreate a place as it was at a certain time. As for people, while they are still around, they have moved on with their lives, and things just won't be the same.