Say goodbye to “Ah Lian Ah Beng Yoga” in Malaysia

Years ago, my mother-in-law used to say, “Why do you choose to teach Yoga? Yoga teaching is meant for those Form 5 grads who could not get themselves enrolled in the university. You have Law degree and you chose to work like one of them. I don’t understand how people like you think.”


I could not blame how she view the Yoga teaching profession. From an outsider’s perspective, Yoga is about flipping your limbs outside the range of normal movement. I mean, you do not even need a sane person to teach a “monkey see, monkey do” class. Easy job to just mention “from here step the right leg forward , go to warrior 1, exhale to warrior 2, inhale and lean forward to side angle stretch with your arms up over your ear…blah blah” and at the end you make everyone sweat like hell. You can give it a sophisticated name like “Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Flow, Gentle Flow, Power Flow or the latest I had come across Rojak Yoga”. To me, they all mean the same thing, which is the “Ah Lian, Ah Beng Yoga” in Malaysia.


Throughout the years of practicing “Ah Lian, Ah Beng” Yoga, people can’t help but accumulate bucket and bucket of sweats and lists of aches and pains all over. Like my Yoga teacher used to say “Yoga has the ability to transform lives”. To many, yes, transform life to include more x-rays, MRI and chiropractors etc.


Lately, I have seen a change of Yoga trend in Malaysia which seems to head towards more therapeutic and scientific approaches in human anatomy. The hunger is on anatomical knowledge and how to stretch this and that muscles. Now, “Ah Lian and Ah Beng” Yoga teachers want to study and add on some taste of alignment into their classes or maybe to find out why they or their students have series of chronic pains all over after some years. It’s indeed a mature move to regain more public confidence in Yoga practice.


Now, the “educated Ah Lian and Ah Beng” Yoga teachers’ classes provide more props such as blocks, chairs, sticks etc and classes become slower with more complicated alignment principal, “raise your chest:”, “tuck in your belly”, “tighten your buttock”, “stretch your toes from the base to the tips”, “head upright, look straight”. Of late, Yoga teachers started running around like a headless chicken flapping their wings to learn “alignment techniques” and engaging in practice like they are in a military camps, under tremendous pressure to please the teacher.


Just 2 days ago, a new Yoga teacher (obviously not a JW teacher) asked us, “why are you all so into this “CAT” style” as compared to all other alignment (which must not be named) schools which existed much longer than CAT”. My answer is simply that “fortunately, I didn’t waste too much money and time into those so called traditional Yoga styles” which hardly make any logical sense”.


The Critical Alignment Yoga and Therapy (CAY&T) is based on learning: Why do you do asana? What is the benefits and why it benefits you?


The therapy training is based on the practical use of CAY for postural alignment and for people with specific physical and mental complaints which have a relation with the spinal column and stress.


My own finding is that, many Yoga practices do not encourage much research and thinking. I mean, why do you need to root your back heels down in Warrior 1? How does it practically improve your life and daily life activities? And why should you need to keep your leg straight in sitting forward bend? when that means you are pushing your back out in that bend.


In a proper Warrior 1, the back-bending movement does not become stuck in the lower back but is transferred to the legs. This pose can positively influence the discs through the positioning of the back leg in combination with the positioning of the lower ribs. This allows the affected lower back vertebrae to be stretched in combination with traction. The position of front leg can stimulate the backward tilt of the pelvis and position of the back leg can stimulate the lumbar curve in the lower back.


If the emphasis is placed in rooting the back heel down, the therapeutic value of this pose will be lost and I don’t see any reason for putting your body in such shape anymore. Same goes for any other poses.


Many have said, Yoga teachers cannot make money. The only area that stop the money making machine working in your life is in your own brain. You teach monkey class, you get paid peanut. That’s for sure.

I have trained teachers ranging from degree holder to master degree holder and also teachers with more than 10 years teaching experience. They are not “Ah Lian, Ah Beng” teachers and are only attracted to CAT/Y based Yoga. And my students are not Ah Lian Ah Beng either, they are highly educated, intelligent and mature adults which includes medical doctors who want to practice Yoga which “make sense” way.

Start to “transform life” from the spine with CAT/Y techniques where in return people are willing to pay more than just peanuts and return the dignity of the profession.