Yoga said “you will live happily ever after”.

happinessOne thing that I am committed to my growing son is to offer a fairy tale story to him every night before bedtime. It’s a beautiful moment that I know he will always remember because I remembered one of my childhood’s favourite pastime was to read all the library’s fairy tales in a small town where I grew up. I used to believe that one day, the stories that I was a part of would turn into my own fairy tales, and I would one day meet my Prince Charming and live “happily ever after” where the “evil stepmothers and witches” could no longer get near to me again.

 

Till now, I somehow know deep in the truest self, the part that still believes in fairy tales still alive within me. For me, the most amazing things in life did not happen during childhood. The details was history. But from hindsight, some familiar patterns when I entered adulthood seem to produce that relatable feeling I had reminiscing back to the time when I was a fairy tales dreamer.

 

When I was young, it made sense then that “happily ever after” existed externally and to be achieved through ambition and willpower. The only lesson I learned and relearned as I journeyed into adulthood is that evil stepmothers and witches’ spell are everywhere while Prince Charming is nowhere to be found. It did not take long for me to discover that “happily ever after” is all people seek-for all their lives. We share the same desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

 

That lead me into the wonderful world of Yoga and joined the rest of the “serious seekers” from diverse school of Yoga traditions that seem determined to learn more about this mystery of spiritual practice that promises eternal happiness. More than ten years into Yoga, I realise that no insight will be gained by imitating practices which promise one thing but developed under a totally different direction. Everyone is preaching their own “Yoga”.

 

While I am writing this, someone very dear to me is fighting cancer battle and crying her heart out for the Mighty One to take her life as she could no longer cope with the excruciating pain which is tormenting her in most of her remaining living hours. She had abandoned her body long time ago when things started to fall apart. I don’t know much about cancer care and my anatomical knowledge does not serve any practical purpose when life situation challenges the relationship with our body.

 

I mean, real life threatening situation can happen anytime to anyone and when that happen to me, where should I place Yoga in my life? How do I bring Yoga into real life when the sunshine has become unbearable, flowers are no longer beautiful and the sound of birds are a nuisance to the listening ear? Into that creepy forest that Snow White escaped through, will she still gripped on to “doing good and trusting in the good”?

 

When Gert was here last year, he talked about developing “intimate emotional relation with our body akin to building healthy relationship with our partner/spouse”. At that time, he was teaching directly to my heart. To some extent, we abandoned our body too when we moved from B to C.

ABC

When I came across Gert’s book, Yoga Critical Alignment, I felt strong sense of connection with the deep belief I had when I first involved in Yoga as spiritual practice.

Although most of us never live a day without food and clothing but somehow the food, clothing and roof over our heads can never touch the growing frustration, anxiety, loneliness, anger, hatred, shame and guilt that permeate all our growing years. When we move from B to C, we adopt various strategies to avoid coming to grips with that inner negativity and in that it is no wonder that much of the common Yoga experiences come about almost exclusively in our head with all that constant hunger for more anatomical knowledge and titles in order to be successful.

 

The common aim is to become successful and culturally, we are trained to become successful in every aspect, successful in Yoga through knowledge and reasoning in our brain. Most of us never allow our real relation with the body to unfold because that face to face contact is hard to bear. Rather than supporting the working through our inner stress and strain we develop a habit of denying or not listening to our body and get flooded with more skills and knowledge. We may generally close off our ability to move from B to A.

 

I read from somewhere, that mental illness is brought on not because we have “gone out of our minds” but because we are “too much in them”. We are sick because we cut-off from a more integral way of knowing ourselves and remains locked in self-deception. We are good at moving around our pain but the truth is that, our bodies remember, every details of stress and strain as we travel our life journey.

 

Everyone know Yoga is about the body and so everyone is chasing around like hungry ghost on the run towards knowledge and academic of how to stretch this muscles and how to tighten muscles and it’s a never ending story. Everyone can talk about the body but fail to incorporate it into our spirituality. We don’t know how to do that because we are not trained that way because no one tell us that “happily ever after” is an inside job and not outside.

 

So what is happiness? There is no happiness. You experience happiness when you understand all the factors which suppress happiness. Gert said, “there is no success in consciousness. When you move from B to A, there is nothing to do with being successful.” Why is there so many dramas and separation in Yoga? Because wanting success cut us off from the real human values that is already rooted in us which enable us to live the planet without destroying everything around us.

 

Critical Alignment method is not something marvellous. It doesn’t transform you into someone greater than who you are now. It travels the opposite direction. It’s about building an intimate relation with your body so that you and your body become one again in growth and in trust. Like every healthy relation, you can only love others and feel empathy towards the need of others when you go through your own empathy in relation to your body. You don’t do it with effort, you just allow it to happen. And that is the foundation in Critical Alignment method. This to me, is spiritual.

 

I am blessed to be part of the growth of Critical Alignment method all over the world, to see movement in Yoga towards building this relation with our own body beyond what thinking brain can offer which I call the “Art of Allowing”, allowing you to enter into a new experience, a space you have not experienced before. The “new”, like Prince Charming always flies with the wing of unpredictability and seldom arrive as expected. It comes more like a gift when we let something greater than our thinking minds to take over our body programming.

 

I wait till now to learn that “happily ever after” is already present in us, we just need to recognise it and sustain the recognition ever after.  Until then, we’re all wondering: When will the Prince Charming emerge? Not knowing that it is already in you.

 

My secret wish

Some years back when I was still a full time lawyer, I had a secret prayer every night before I sleep . I had always wished that I could find the purpose of my existence. Something more than just being a daughter to my parent, a mother to my future kid or a wife to my husband to be.

Then, Journey Within came into being. I have no idea what it is going to be, never intended Journey Within to be a Yoga Center. I wanted a place to improvise people’s life. It could take place in any form, body, mind or spiritually.

That was my intention, but there was no “way”.

It was in these recent 2 years I found the way that could effectively improve the lives of many people suffering with pain. And it is in the Critical Alignment way.

This is a new recovery story by one of my die-hard CAT fan, Lise.

“I have been experiencing pain in my shoulder blade for about 5 months. The pain was really disturbing on my right shoulder blade. I felt this pain like a knife-stabbed into my back and it has become worsen whenever I sat or laid down. I always had a rounded back.
In March 2015, I attended CAT training, I realized that my pain was due to my bad habitual postures. After the 8-week therapy sessions, I experienced an amazing relief on my back and thereafter my pain was gone and up until now it never returns.
CAT actually helps to cure my pain caused by postural misalignment and to re-align and mobilize my upper part of spine and I feel more freedom in my daily posture now.
And now, my Yoga Asana practice using the CAT alignment principles allows me to relax so much more. I am now introducing the strip exercise to everyone I know whom having the back issues like me.”

I found “the way”, and the rest is history.

“Keep your head neck spine, straight”.

In the course of training my own teacher trainee now, I had some of the flashed back towards my own 200 hours teacher training 10 years ago. I could remember, half way through my training one of my fellow TTC mate came to me and said “I have been observing you and I know you are not up to the standard to take this TTC, I knew it from the posture you perform”.

For years thereafter, even after I had my own centre, I could not bring myself out as a teacher and practically teaching a class. Somehow, those who are “up to the standard” are the ones with gifted flexibility. I was not.

Recently when I went through the pictures of my son during his early years, I found this. A perfect version of downward facing dog without the need to give any alignment cue.

zen dog

And it was perfect the way he sits and squat.

zen squat   zen seat

Those were the good old days when everything was perfect. 4 years thereafter, it looks like this.

zen now

And that matches his sitting position.

zen round sit

There is a famous riddles of Sphinx: what is it that has one voice and yet become four-footed and two footed and three footed?

The answer is human being, who crawls on all fours in infancy, walks on two legs in adulthood and leans on a cane in old age.

Almost everyone when we grow older changes from straight to bend over.

Is there a source of all our tension?

A source where psychologically we change through life. If you observe it all over the world, it evolves the same pattern. We start live straight. Everything functions everything moves, we are sensitive just when you are children.

So when we did start to bend, ninety percent of mankind, started to bend forward from the source, the area in between the shoulder blades. So from the front, it pulls the heart region in. The area in between the shoulder blades is the source of all our tension.

Therefore, it was inaccurate for my ex-TTC mate to conclude that I was not “up to the standard”. Instead she should have said that “you are a victim of tension”.

We all know head forward, shoulders rounded and back slumped is the culprit to all common aches and pains now. Every therapy in the world aims towards aligning head on top of the spine. It is an accepted fact, if your head isn’t balanced correctly on the top of your spine, it’s putting 7kg of unwanted burden on your neck muscles.

To correct the misalignment, many therapy such as Alexander Technique, Mckenzie and treatment such as Atlas Profilax work at manually correcting the misalignment of the head to position the head on top of the spine.

drummer-2-650-80

Meanwhile, in the world of Yoga, teachers continuously giving alignment instructions in the class to counteract the misalignment of the head. It changes nothing because most of our faulty habits felt right by virtue of our long familiarity whereas improved posture felt wrong because of its unfamiliarity. So it makes sense when Gert said “Don’t listen to your body” and that’s when everyone laughed.

There has been a lot of study and teachings mainly by posture expert and Yoga and Pilates practitioners on the topic of posture alignment and how to maintain good posture. We all know the problem of postural malformation but none of them offer an effective solutions to all the posture issues in the world today. Even those Yoga styles who claim to be better versed in alignment may not realize that continuously instructing “keep your head neck spine straight” is not useful. Further requiring students to keep the gaze point up in trikonasana in fact do more harm than good.

Critical Alignment Yoga & Therapy (CAY/T) exercises aimed to give external pressure into the source of our tension so that we start to feel that area again. Once you could feel that area, you can give direction to that specific area then real lengthening in the spine can take place.

Otherwise, without feeling, there is no ability for direction. And when there is no movement in the upper back, the head could not be placed on top of the spine. Only when the area in between the shoulder blades could produce movement, you are able to neutralise the structural tension in the body and that is when the upper back could receive movement of the head. As Gert correctly put it “when you cannot place the head on top of the spine, you push the spine underneath the head”.

 

bend spine Picture1straight spine

I am blessed to have live long enough to learned this.”What a relief.”

禪修篇二 : 跟自已說bye bye

周星馳電影“西遊記”中最后有一幕唐僧師徒眾人目送自身隨風沙徐徐繼續向前走,但自已卻留了下來..讓人好奇究竟是怎么一回事? 一眾人為什么會分成兩半?

這一幕恰恰把禪修的意境形容得十分傳神,究竟是什么留了下來?

真正禪修不主張元神出竅,也不鼓勵冷水泡石的入定,更不講正負能量, 天使神鬼, 气場神通等等.

我們要求覺知,當心覺知到自心,會逐漸發現有許多東西在不斷流動,來去,生滅…它們是我們的念頭,感受,情緒,肢体動覺,身体覺受,五官刺激,五大變幻等等…彷彿走馬燈似的永遠沒完沒了.

但卻有一個恆常如如不動的中心東西留在原地,并不隨大家前進, 只單純的知道一切所有, 如此而己.
其實任何一個人都有能力發現這份澄然覺性,只可惜我們不相信它的存在,更不願意去與它長時同處,以致我們與這世界上最珍貴的內在寶藏失之交臂,相逢不相識!

八部瑜珈AsthangaYoga里每一部都朝這內在寶藏逐漸靠近, 如果你練的瑜珈不是這樣, 那便是在虛耗時光!

禪修篇二 : 跟自已說bye bye

周星馳電影“西遊記”中最后有一幕唐僧師徒眾人目送自身隨風沙徐徐繼續向前走,但自已卻留了下來..讓人好奇究竟是怎么一回事? 一眾人為什么會分成兩半?

這一幕恰恰把禪修的意境形容得十分傳神,究竟是什么留了下來?

真正禪修不主張元神出竅,也不鼓勵冷水泡石的入定,更不講正負能量, 天使神鬼, 气場神通等等.

我們要求覺知,當心覺知到自心,會逐漸發現有許多東西在不斷流動,來去,生滅…它們是我們的念頭,感受,情緒,肢体動覺,身体覺受,五官刺激,五大變幻等等…彷彿走馬燈似的永遠沒完沒了.

但卻有一個恆常如如不動的中心東西留在原地,并不隨大家前進, 只單純的知道一切所有, 如此而己.
其實任何一個人都有能力發現這份澄然覺性,只可惜我們不相信它的存在,更不願意去與它長時同處,以致我們與這世界上最珍貴的內在寶藏失之交臂,相逢不相識!

八部瑜珈AsthangaYoga里每一部都朝這內在寶藏逐漸靠近, 如果你練的瑜珈不是這樣, 那便是在虛耗時光!

Entering the “New”

Last October one of the participants from overseas asked me “How was your Yoga teaching journey?”. Spontaneously I answered “before I came to know Critical Alignment, I did not know what I was doing.”

Deep inside, I knew Yoga has its loopholes. I know Yoga Asanas has its benefits of gaining more strength and flexibility but still I was discontented with the conventional Yoga practice and in my teaching. My practice path was not satisfying for me as there was many questions marks always left unanswered.

Instead of wanting a new car, a new piece of antique, a law degree like the many things that people pursue, Yoga practitioners have allowed the practice to be an attempt to pursue other form of greed in life. We think “If only I can do the pose like her”, “If only I have longer arms”, “If only I can have a stronger core”. It is always “If only I were different from how I am now, then I’ll be happy”. The truth is that I want to see the possible changes in my practice so that real freedom at least in the body could truly manifest.

Before I came to know Gert’s work in CAT and CAY, I was just repeating traditions, following trends and new styles which claim eternal heaven. To sustain the numbers in my class, I have to attend more and more Yoga workshops and training in order to collect tons and tons of ideas on how to implement new postures or new moves in the classes so that I could impress my students and keep them entertained.

I was only introduced to Critical Alignment method not more than 2 years ago. My knowledge and practice in CAT is now still in its infancy. Still so much to learn and understand from this technique. For  Yoga teachers, choosing Critical Alignment is not an easy road especially in the beginning because many people reject the confrontation with their own limitations stiffness, restrictions and tensions.

In reality, most people does not want to confront changes and thus reject new experience. Initially, many of my students back off when I started introducing the Critical Alignment props and techniques. The props and the techniques work together in breaking habitual movement patterns and therefore there is hardly any escape for seeing your own imperfection.

CAT forces us into a face to face confrontation with ourselves which most of the times are not a pleasant experience and in total opposite of what people normally feel during Yoga Asanas. In general, Yoga students are very attached to their preferences and when people walk into a Yoga class, they are buying your ideas of getting a good stretch and creative workout flow.

My perfect partner in CAT/Y, Mei Leng once said, “if there are 10 students in your class, 12 will reject it because out of the 10 some will tell others not to come”. Yes, the numbers are depressing at first but because the technique is so truthful to your body, I noticed that people somehow do return. All my students who rejected the practice came back with much more enthusiasm and appreciation.

In mastering the skills to teach a Critical Alignment class, there is finally a stop in my external search. Recently, I got rid of my tons and tons of new Yoga ideas. I do not need those ideas because from an entertainer I transformed myself into a real Yoga Teacher. Every class means an opportunity for me to communicate directly to bones free from interference of the thinking brain which are driven by ego, ambition and willpower. The beauty of practicing Yoga in the Critical Alignment way is that the experience is real and your bones know although your thinking brain may reject it instantaneously.

It has been nearly 2 years now, everyone came to my class because of this wonderful techniques and even the person whom I least expect to appreciate this technique wrote the message to me because in Yoga, reality and the truth prevail.