On 21 June 2016, Tuesday, as I stepped into what has become the familiar and homely vibrations of the Singapore Hindu Centre for Vedic Yoga session, I was reminded that it coincided with a momentous occasion – International Yoga Day! At the end of the session, Shiva (yes that’s my yoga teacher’s name ;p) told us to get seated in our meditative poses and reflect back to the first time we practised yoga and observe how we have changed and progressed, and paying gratitude to the ancient Vedic masters who has passed down this technology to us.
The first time I did yoga was in Bali towards the end of 2014, where I took a plunge into Bali Silent Retreat for 4 – 5 days. Looking back, it was quite a radical thing to do for someone with no experience of yoga, but spiritually and mentally I was ready. I had done meditation before, and throughout 2014, I have felt surges of spirituality hit me through music, amidst frustration with my career (professional and DJ) and certain things and people in my life who felt mis-aligned to my authenticity. With no idea of what a Sun Salutation or Downward Dog even was, I booked myself in for a daily programme (with no talking allowed) like this:
5:30am – Meditation
6:30am – Yoga
8:15am – Breakfast
10:00am – Reading/writing
12:00pm – Lunch/personal exploration of Bali Rice fields
3:00pm – Yoga
5:30pm – Meditation
6:30pm – Dinner/personal time
I learnt that what I was doing was the various asanas from a popular branch of yoga called Hatha Yoga. I was sore and physically pushed but always very energised after each sesh, and enjoyed the fresh air and close proximity of nature. Coupled with their emphasis on meditation, breathing and daily serving of some ridiculously awesome and refreshing home grown organic food, yoga felt extremely right and therapeutic – the way I envisioned it to be.
My urge to do yoga was a spiritual and organic one – guided by a natural feeling to reconnect with mind, body and soul. In this sense, Bali was a great introduction of yoga for me, and I strongly encourage anyone needing a recharge, or a more organic way of relating to yoga to explore the various retreat options there. As I progressed through my Bali (solo) Journey, I obtained a deep seated clarity like never before of what served me, what didn’t and what really mattered to my soul. Where I previously spent copious amounts of time in inner conflict and worry – mostly borne out of ego and fear – I felt a significant weight off my shoulder after I left the silent retreat. And I was feeling so High everyday – higher than I ever felt when I was under the influence of substances like alcohol. With amazing clarity and energy, I felt something shifting within. I will detail some of the benefits and transformation that yoga (and the yogic lifestyle) has given me (to greater degrees every day!):
1. Energy, Prana & Breathing
I now have more energy through a yogic lifestyle (yoga, meditation, healthier food & thoughts), even whilst leading a double life – day job and music/spirituality – than when I was younger 7- 8 years ago. One huge thing that yoga has taught me is how to breathe again. Yes, oblivious to many, we don’t actually breathe properly as a society. In addition to the need to ‘catch your breathe’, proper deep inhalation and exhalation gives you more natural energy and detoxification. Doing the various asanas (yoga postures passed down thousands of years ago from the sacred Vedic scriptures) with proper breathing allows you to unlock the energy flow within each energy point (Chakras), and generate heat naturally (hence why I am not a fan of artificial hot yoga at all – a post for another time). Pranayama – the various breathing exercises such as alternate nostril breathing, ujjayi breathing, forceful exhalations etc have also helped a lot in obtaining focus, unlocking energy and letting go of negative thoughts.
2. Letting Go (Cessation of negative addictions, activities and people)
With the tuning into my body through yoga, I have greater awareness of how my body feels now. I realise what causes stress to my physical, mental and emotional body. With the deep stretching and holding of each asana, you observe how your body feels, along with whatever unpleasant or pleasant emotions and thoughts that arise. Eventually in stillness, you get to experience clarity and joy. The stillness of your mind certainly translates into the stillness of the pose. With stillness comes realisations and your unique truth on this planet.
When I was working in the Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI) in my first job, I used to pop 3 cups of coffee at times, to deal with the work demands and music (my real job at night). By the second/third year I was knackered, without realising it. Tired? just drink coffee. I didn’t realise how overall, my body was getting drained into lethargy and stress which affected my wellbeing and happiness. The alcohol at ‘social’ events and DJing certainly didn’t help. Ultimately, I realised that there was too big a gap between my career and what I really wanted to do, too much of showing up for the sake of showing up (work and social events). No amount of coffee can wake me up when my soul wasn’t there; the drinking of alcohol at various events was a mask and an escape from people and situations I didn’t really want to be with and in.
Coffee (I still love the taste of Melbourne coffee) and alcohol (apart from good wines at some gatherings) have permanently lost their grip over me since Bali, not that there is anything wrong with either of them in moderation, but a negative dependency is gone, a mental and energetic fog lifted. Without ever being on a diet, I am just naturally drawn to fresh foods and drinks now, and instinctively reject foods overly laden with artificial sugar and chemicals. I realise also who are the people that emanate the right vibrations for me. I realise that in order to progress, you need to let go.
3. Ego Killer
Related to the above, once you realise what serves you and what your true essence is, once you glimpse stillness in your mind that translates into a stable Yoga Asana, the chatter of the mind ceases, and there is nothing left to fuel the ego. In stillness you connect back to your original source of joy, love and light. You look back on times where you chose to hold on to burning coal, where you were furiously defending an illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity that you thought represented your ‘self’. Then you ask, was that you or your ego? I recall many occasions where the need to be ‘right’ actually blinded me to so many possibilities and gems along the way, while also spreading more needless friction in an increasingly connected but fractious world.
Beautiful Mantra for Ego eradication
4. The Power of Now (Focus)
Were there times where you were physically present but mentally not? Yoga teaches you to savour every experience be it good or bad for every moment is the destination itself. There are opportunities to grow and transform with each experience; lessons, realisations greet us everyday. Instead of waiting for the gold, yoga teaches you to embrace the journey and enjoy every breath and situation.
Read Eckhart Tolle’s seminal and transformative masterpiece “The Power of Now” here.
5. Facing Darkness instead of numbing it
This is a very important aspect of yoga for me. I have always embraced the need to face our own honest dark/shadow selves as espoused in the Dr Foo Go Deep, Go Dark, Go Progressive mantra. Progression can only happen when you face up to your fears and flaws, and shine the light on them. Yoga, in harmony with meditation, has been wonderful for this. In order to get into stillness, you train yourself not to run and distract, dumb or numb from the truth. It will be painful at first – all things worth growing normally are. In fact, it is very normal for people to experience outpouring of negative emotions and experiences on the yoga mat, or through meditations. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that light and divinity are never too far from the horizon of darkness. Its such a fine line. So stick with it, persevere and observe in darkness, before your sacred flowers bloom.
Yoga and Meditation go hand in hand. Yoga should always be accompanied by meditation. In fact yoga itself is a meditation. What I love and appreciate so much about yoga is that it has enabled my physical body to be more still while I meditate. I have since been able to meditate much longer and deeper. With this has come accelerated inner peace and journey and connections to beautiful, colourful sources and sacred geometric wonders.
7. Oneness, Spirituality, onwards to Samadhi
Yoga, from its original Sanskrit word, essentially means union, oneness or wholeness. First yoga facilitates union with your own consciousness, to make you whole into your authentic being again. Hence the dropping of facades into more truthful, joyful living. Through experiencing individual consciousness going deep and beyond your physical body as a medium, one eventually realises a connection to everyone else – oneness because we all come from the same source, regardless of colour, religion, language etc. This expands to all animals, plants, living beings, because we are all made from the same cosmic materials. The realisation of this cosmic source, the intelligence of the universe opens multiple spiritual gateways. Through constant practice of yoga and meditation, one can reach Samadhi – the state of meditative consciousness where you are totally aware of the present moment and divinity.
Bonus snippet for you to get into Samadhi
To do each asana correctly, an equal applying and opposing force needs to be felt, the right muscles used, the appropriate rate of breathing used and the full awareness of the moment. When I first started doing yoga, I thought everyone’s journey is unique, and that it is more than just achieving excellence in the harder poses like headstands/handstands. It still stands true, but I appreciate the journey and lessons in doing asanas such as the headstand now. I have realised that to do a headstand you need to have not just the core strength, but the awareness how much force you are exerting on your elbows, and where your centre of gravity is – knowing where your tipping point is. Understanding of yourself is important, and finding the right balance in everything you do allows you to move forward.
9. Music and Art
With heightened consciousness through yoga and meditation, my musical expression has progressed, which is the main reason and essence of this website. Music is now a means for me to connect even deeper into consciousness, meditation, reflection and to humanity, nature and the universe. Where I had an ‘us against them’, anti-establishment mindset that bordered on destruction previously when it comes to DJing in clubs/bars, now I very much prefer to focus on spreading more conscious vibes that unite like minded souls and aid those looking for something deeper in their lives. The mantras in trance and progressive music were the catalyst towards my spiritual path, and nowadays I still play progressive electronic music, but only those with a deep sense of consciousness, connection to a higher/or tribal/ethnic source and authentic intention of unity and oneness. A sample of my recent live sets:
And I love art that binds us all across the universe, in sacred geometrical patterns (fractals or mandalas) or gradient mesmeric colours that indicate a higher mathematical design that governs all life.
10. Physical (Elimination of body pains, Flexibility)
This, to me is the least important benefit of yoga, but the most apparent. One of the reasons that yoga has gotten so popular is that the physical, ‘tangible’ benefits of yoga are obvious. Many people have successfully healed injuries and various back/knee pains through yoga, while also toning their bodies to look better. I have had way lesser body aches and back pains since I started yoga. It definitely reverses physical aging, and increases mobility through flexibility and proper alignment of your postures. Yoga also improves the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and hormonal systems.
Current Yoga Journey (and Recommendations)
Vedic Yoga at Hindu Centre
After I came back from Bali, I practiced yoga on my own every morning. I wasn’t sure which yoga studio I should go for, as they were all relatively expensive (to the middle class). One day, while doing random walking in Farrer park/ Little India (what has become my favourite area), I stumbled across a banner saying ‘Vedic Yoga every Tuesday 7:30pm – 9pm’, offered by the Hindu Centre. I have never come across such yoga before, but it felt like it could yield some authenticity, and it said $60 per year (which sounded too good to be true). This turned out to be a perfect place for me – for a relatively new yogi who wanted to experience yoga in its authentic form. In terms of the overall layout: Chanting (light mantras), Yoga (imagine Hatha Yoga with longer held poses), Pranayama and Meditation, this is a perfect combo for 1 and a half hours, and I don’t see this authentic package offered anywhere else, regardless of cost. There is also a lovely communal spirit there, where people of all ages and races do yoga alongside one another, in very friendly vibes. This is why I continue to frequent this vedic yoga class. Other yoga studios may offer more advanced asanas, but not many espouse the authentic meditative, spiritual vibes of Vedic Yoga. Moreover, however adept you are in Yoga, the long holding of poses in this Vedic Yoga class offers great value and prana, and I always leave class feeling a deep sense of peace and natural pranic flow that reverberates for next 2 days.
Meraki Yoga (with Priyan)
Few months later, an ex-colleague at PA (possibly the most meaningful highlight from my short stint there) introduced me to Meraki Yoga, my first try out of the myriad of conventional yoga studios here. I loved it primarily because of one teacher there by the name of Nithya Priyan. Taking Yin, Hatha and Vinyasa yoga classes, he guides the class with immense meditative depth, infusing a gentle aura of spirituality with each instruction. Having undergone an extensive period of spiritual soul-searching in India, his level of consciousness through yoga is night and day compared to most other yoga teachers teaching in modern studios that I have experienced. Only under such spiritual conditions, I acquiesced to a non traditional yoga studio, thus progressing gradually in several more advanced asanas, core strength and flexibility.
Earlier this year, I signed up for KFit membership. Paying $99 a month, I now have access to a maximum of 10 classes a month, from a whole range of different yoga studios, gyms, spas and other interesting classes. Of course my main focus was on trying out different yoga classes. Its definitely super cheap for regular yogis, amounting to $9.90 a class compared to the usual $25 – $30 for a class at a modern yoga studio. I have experienced some really good classes, such as Yin Yang and Arm Balancing/Inversions at Tirisula Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga at Yoga In Common. There’s a whole range of different yoga classes that can suit your palette, but I am grateful to have naturally attracted myself to classes that resonate with the consciousness and spiritually driven yoga classes through KFit.
Kundalini Yoga is admittedly my current craze, in addition to my staple of Vedic, Yin, Yin Yang and Vinyasa styles. It is quite an underrated and misrepresented form of yoga in my opinion in my opinion, and to my knowledge I only two regular Kundalini classes here in Singapore. I quite like the one every Thursday – Intro to Kundalini – by Lynn. To fully describe Kundalini Yoga would take another blog post, but you can read this article on Introduction to Kundalini: The Yoga of Awareness for further background. If you like the use of more spiritual music (like those from Snatam Kaur), breathing techniques (an energetic activation called breathe of fire) to accompany unique postures (Kriyas) to activate the various energy centers (chakras) around your body, definitely give this a shot. I am probably selling this form of yoga short, but I have experienced some tremendous vibrations after class, and I feel wonderful in deep stretch to music that resonates with the soul. Below is my testimonial after a class:
“Just wanted to say that I am feeling pretty amazing right now, few hours after Lynn’s Kundalini yoga class. The inner heat, and intense vibrations in the navel area (Manipura chakra) and a little bit of the heart centre (Anahata chakra) are sensations I have not felt before in yoga. Much greater energy flow and improved digestion.”
Gratitude and Peace
In conclusion, I would like to pay homage and gratitude to the great lineage of masters, teachers, visionaries and ancient Vedic traditions who has passed down this transformative technology and lifestyle of Yoga. Life has only just began. Do join me on the mat sometime, and feel free to post your queries here or at personal Facebook. Namaste