Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's talk about..... Karma

I knew that sooner or later the word "karma" would pop up ... and yes, on the second Saturday training, there it was.... "karma".

A story on how some kid had stole a bike and saw his bike stolen a few weeks later was enough to throw in karma as a yogi-explanation for the events. Simple as that.

I wonder if anyone ever did some decent statistics on how many bad things versus good things happen in people's lifes (on average). There is probably a certain factor to take into account with each event - the birth of a child most likely outranks driving to work without traffic jams. Maybe there is a recalculation formula or table on the internet somewhere, who knows. And in the end, should Karma be neutral again at the end of your life - and in this life, or how many lives do you need to take into account? Is there a timing between events? If something good happens to you, do you need to start living in fear as something bad is about to happen. Or can you just have all the luck all of the time and then die.... ?

Maybe I should have thrown in these questions once the topic was mentioned. But in that perspective, something has changed.... years ago, I would have loved these kind of topics to start a discussion, to throw in the opposite perspective just to get things going, to stir things up just for the fun of it .... and now, I just let it go.... I wonder if that is because I am getting older, or is it the yoga effect on me to "live and let live"?

In the end, our yoga teacher challenged us with an exercise on this matter. He said - "go walk around in a shopping mall, looking angry or scared for an hour.... and then walk around for another hour, looking happy, smiling, open .... and see for yourself how different the effect is on other people".

I'm sure there will be places in the world where you blend in perfectly with the crowd in the first hour, and end up in a straitjacket after the second hour... but he probably is right, what you reap is what you sow.... that's Karma for you!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


So yesterday was the second training day of my yoga teacher training.

The theoretic part focussed on the 8 limbs of yoga - just for reference, this link will give you some more info on them.

There were some nice discussions in the group, when discussing Yama and Niyama (that is how far we got, only the first 2 limbs).

It started with the whole "do no harm" as expressed in "ahimsa" - first part of Yama -- suddenly the discussion moved towards vegetarism and veganism, as you don't want to do harm to any living things. I can see that with killing animals to eat them, but milking a cow? And a few minutes later, I was assured (indirectly) that yogi are not really into veganism either - a story on how someone was invited to share a meal, and there was only on bottle of yoghurt.... so they do milk cows!!!

Anyway, I have nothing against vegetarians, it would be the way to go to save the world as the return on investment to create meat is not in nature's favour.
Could I become a vegatarian - I probably could.
Do I want to become a vegetarian? Nope, not on my to do list at the moment. I'm sticking to my chicken and fish, don't eat a lot of pig or cow. But I have no intention to become a full time vegetarian -- and certainly not one of those "vegetarians" that do eat fish from time to time.... there is no such thing as a part time vegetarian, is there? Why can't people just say that they don't eat meat, occasionally some fish, without throwing in the word vegetarian? Or is it OK to customize something trendy in a way that it suits you so it makes you feel like you are on trend?

I that case,  I will from now on consider myself a "breakfast vegetarian" (I always start the day with muesli and milk).

I'm still digesting the rest of the theory, so will come back on that in a next post....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bad yogi :-(

It's been 12 days since the start of my yoga teacher training.

I practiced my  3 versions of the sun salutation nearly every day.

Not Sunday after the first day of the training - my muscles were still in shock, especially my back and my bottom. The trick to getting more flexible and bendy is to make your muscles longer, so I was told. So it is not about stretching your back, it's about increasing the length of you muscles at the back of your legs and your bum. It's a bit the opposite of what power trainers and body builders do - they want to shorten their muscles so they look bigger. Coming to think of it, that is probably why they walk around with their arms wide - I thought they had something in their armpits, but it just all the muscles getting shorter (and too short to keep your arms down when you walk, so it seems).

So physically I'm doing OK. I'm happy with the amount of time I spend practicing and start to know  the exercises by heart. I hear you thinking - it's only 3 sun salutations, how difficult can that be?
I admit, A and B were pretty easy (and in line with what I had learned out of my pile of yoga books I used to practice), but the one with all the mini vanyasa (which are then repeated 3 times) still gets me puzzled from time to time. Knowing that there are still 32 postures to complete the entire flow, I'm convinced I will need to keep practicing on a daily basis.

Mentally, I monitoring myself to see change in my behaviour or my overall feeling.
At first I would say I feel more relaxed. Relaxed might not be the right word, I don't stress out that easily anymore - I get better at handling (last minute) change. And I'm not getting annoyed quickly either. Forget relaxed, I'm more in a state of acceptance - accept and deal with change. That sounds yogi like, doesn't it?

Until Tuesday evening - it had been a long day at work, and just after 11 PM I took off on a 1 hour drive home. In order not to fall asleep, I put on some music.... LOUD. Linkin Park and Jay-Z, Blink 182, Korn, Ozzy.... songs with a lot of rage in them. I started feeling the same "rage" I had when I was young, you know, the Grunge period in the early 90's - Pearl Jam, Nirvana, .... I started singing along. That kept me awake and it felt good, good to let it all out..... but then it struck me. This is not very yoga like, is it? Yogi always seem so calm, so in peace, .... as if they only know "rage" from wikipedia. I felt like a bad yogi...

So now I wonder, what will the effect of yoga be on this dormant "rage" I have inside of me? Or can that still be a part of me, even when I get my yoga teacher degree?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First lesson - part 2

After the theory, it is time to get moving.

We start with a number of sun salutations - 3 main variants with little tweaks to make them more challenging if you want, followed by 32 postures that flow from one into the other.
I knew I was not really in shape, but even at a slow pace I start feeling warmer and the first drops of sweat are there... yes, I defenitely need to get into exercise more.

"Never compare yourself to others" - it doesn't matter how deep someone else can bend, you have to focus on yourself and try to slowly stretch yourself.
I never question this rule - knowing I'm not the fittest or most flexible of this group, and taking into account my limited yoga experience, comparison would only make me unhappy (trying to avoid the word depressed!). It's a good thing that there are no mirrors in the room like in aerobics classes - guess that is done on purpose as well.

The flow ends with a mindfullness exercise - a body scan - where you have to focus on each part of your body starting at your toes, going through your legs, body and finally ending at the top of your head. The focus on yourself should block out other thoughts - or as they put it here - if an other thought appears, you have to accept it, and then let it go and focus again on your body in the here and now.... so in my language - no other thoughts allowed, no "I'm getting hungry", no "I could do with a nap now", no nothing....
I hear the first snorring in the room - at least someone is totally relaxed and without thoughts.

A quick break and than we start with the focus on the first part of the flow. Sun salutation A1 with mini vinyasa - it's a good thing that I have a book with pictures in front of me. Still, part of the exercise is to "teach" to other people in the room. 3 of them think it is a great idea that I would be the "teacher" for this.... oh dear, maybe it did not sink in that I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE. I'm ok with presenting, have to do that professionally from time to time, but I need to be familiar with the matter.... having done the sun salutation once is not enough to familiarize me with it.
But, I take on the challenge, and take them throught the sun salutation, with the book in front of me.
It was not as bad as I feared, and one of the yogi complimented me on my voice, that it is nice to listen to.... I hate my voice, but like the compliment.

The first day comes to an end... next lesson in 2 weeks.... but by then, I need to know the 3 sun salutations by heart.... Game on!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The program begins....

Saturday November 10th - a 90 minute drive brings me all the way to Bruges - a trip I will do at least 9 more times in the coming year.

The yoga room is light and spatious, in an old building with wooden floors. I'm not the first to arrive (normally I am the first to arrive as I rather be too soon than a bit too late). Some people seem to have taken their usual spot in the room with their yoga mat. They probably have been here more often...

I'm happy to see that the group is mixed - in most cases, men are a minority.... why would that be?  - hold that thought - I have a theory... but later...

Since it is the first lesson, the introduction round is a given. Most yogi are from Bruges, there is one from Brussels, one from Antwerp and one from Hasselt, a 2 hour drive from Bruges.... respect!
And off course, part of the introduction is how long you have been doing yoga. I remember in Holland, where I did the 2 weekends, people liked to show off experience  - Belgians are more down to earth in that respect.... I hear 14 years (and already followed a different teacher training), 4 years, 10 years, 7 years .... but also 1 year and a few months. My 2 weekends and some bending-over-my-books-at-home-from-time-to-time makes me by far the leasts experienced of the bunch - but I look at it on the bright side - no previous experience with a certain style means no boundaries (right?).

The 5 hour lessons will always consist of a bit of theory (at least the first 4 lessons), the complete yoga flow (3 sun salutations + variants and 32 postures + mindfullness exercise to end) and then looking at a part of the flow in more depth, including how to teach and how to correct postures.

The first theoretic lesson is about the holistic yoga anatomy - the different bodies (huh?) from the human being.
There's the physical body - my cup of tea - but also the energetic body - I can see that - the emotional body - so far so good. When we move onto the spiritual body, the body of blessedness and the "self" I start to struggle. No need to throw in the rebirth and the afterlife.... you've already lost me. For the first time I wonder - what am I doing here....

I don't believe in life after death - I think it is a great concept that comforts people in the worst moments, but that is how far it goes for me. And for things that are not scientifically proven, I have to experience them before I believe them.... so, I decide to take a step out of my comfort zone (being the pure physical aspect, the body I can see and touch) and to open up to the energetic body part of the theory - the objective of the physical postures of yoga is to open up the energy current in the body and get energy flowing freely. I think I can handle that..... Good for me!

Tomorrow - part 2 of the first lesson

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How it began...

Why did I start with yoga?

Good question. It looks trendy in this day and age, but then again, I'm not a trendsetter, not even an early adapter in most cases - I don't own any I-things (no Ipod, Ipad, ....I whatever). ... so being trendy is most likely not it.
I guess I just wanted to experience what all the fuzz is about. People who are into yoga are generally very positive about it. It relaxes them, it has changed their life, it brings them joy and happiness.

And, be honest, everybody is looking for happiness - the ultimate quest in life.

I wanted to experience what the effects of yoga - in my case I'm referring to the postures - could have on me.  So that already triggers a first question - can the physical part of yoga already increase my happiness or do I need to open up to a holistic approach and allow the spiritual side to become part of me as well?

Yoga clubs, although very common in cities, have not reached the rural area where I live unfortunately. So I started yoga at home with a number of books, and try to follow the postures as described in them. I could see myself gaining flexibility, but had a hard time bringing myself to the yoga mat every day. And off course I wondered, am I doing it right?

My wife and I went on 2 yoga weekends over the past 2 years. This is where we met Alberto. Alberto has practiced all different kinds of yoga for over 30 years - and finally created his own type of yoga, Prana Yoga Flow.

Every time I took one of his yoga sessions, I felt good - tired but happy. It's a pity that his yoga classes are a 90 minute drive from where I live, otherwise I would join them on a weekly basis.

So my wife and I decided to join his yoga teacher training (part 1). Some couples go salsa dancing (been there, done that) but we think that going through the yoga teacher training together would be a great way to spend quality time together. We can help each other out and compare how we both go through this experience.... my wife is more driven by emotions whereas I am driven by ratio.... this could become very interesting in many ways.

Next blogpost - the first training day....

This blog....

Dear reader,

I started this blog to share my journey in the world of yoga.
I began a yoga teacher training a week ago, and want to register my learnings,  what it does to me and if it changes me over the next coming year.

Just to manage your expectations:
  • I'm an engineer by education - please don't expect well written blogposts but I'll try not to make it look like a detailed report of an experiment either
  • I'm very rational about things - yoga for me at this moment is bending my body in all the different ways you can think of. The whole spiritual part of yoga is at this moment not my cup of tea. Apparently, this is a very Western approach to yoga.
So if you are ok with that, I hope that you will enjoy my posts over the next coming year. If you want to share something, feel free to do so in the comment section.

Happy reading.