The Road to Yoga-Enlightenment

If you thought yoga was just meditating and stretching, think again. This intensive workout pushed me beyond my limits, yet strangely enough, I wanted to go back for more !BY JENNIFER HO

Getting my om on was more physical than mental for me. I thought I was relatively fit as I exercised weekly but half an hour into the classes, I discovered muscles I never knew existed, turned turtle several times, and almost took down the people around me like bowling pins with my unsuccessful attempts at shoulderstand. I was a rolling hazard and clearly, had this whole yoga thing completely misunderstood.

As I was to find out, yoga is more than just sustained poses and controlled breathing. It’s also about really knowing your body and respecting its limits. After attending consecutive classes for a week at True Yoga, I’m pretty certain there is no “one size fits all” approach, only a yoga practice that is completely unique to the individual. Here’s what went down.

Hatha Yoga
The teacher, Guat, moved at a slow pace, explaining how to execute each pose as we progressed from downward-facing dog to triangle to tree. I managed each stance with ease and started to think I had the flexibility and balance down pat for yoga.

But who was I kidding. When Guat started moving on to the intermediate poses and even incorporated jumps into her workout, I started to have trouble keeping up. My thighs quivered as I tried to keep it in lunge position while I twisted my body to the side and reached one hand to the ceiling. Holding the pose there only made my muscles scream more, and I learnt my first lesson for that day – flexibility is a product of yoga, not a prerequisite.

Report Card
FIT FACTOR 6/10
FEAR FACTOR 2/10

Yoga Basic
This class was perhaps the easiest of the lot. We focused on doing variations of the camel pose, which is supposed to help strengthen the back, arm and gluteal muscles. I could feel every muscle of my upper body being engaged intensely as I tried to open up my chest and hug my shoulder blades together. Teacher Adeline made us practise doing backbends first whilst standing to get it right because it is the thoracic spine that’s to be stretched, not the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back).

When we moved to the real deal though, I felt the tension in my neck and back and realised I may not be lifting my sternum up enough. Then maybe because I dropped my head too far back, I felt

light-headed when I straightened up.
Second lesson learnt: Don’t forget to breathe. 

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FIT FACTOR 4/10
FEAR FACTOR 1/10

Hot Yoga
I honestly thought I was going to pass out halfway. The poses were not only physically challenging, it also didn’t help that I wasn’t familiar with their names so I couldn’t prepare myself for the next move, which broke the flow and made my breathing erratic.

Initially, I thought the heat was bearable even though the studio’s temperature was cranked up to 38 degree Celsius. Yet as time progressed and we did more forward bends, blood kept rushing to my head so I had to stop awhile to relieve the throbbing. My shirt was soaked at the end of the 1-hour session and I felt achy – the good kind.

Third lesson learnt: Although sometimes you leave the class feeling a little less energised than when you first walked in, there’s a certain cathartic release that draws you back to it. 

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FIT FACTOR 8/10
FEAR FACTOR 3/10

Hot Pilates
I thought this would be a walk in the park because I’ve had prior experience but teacher Sudhir was not one for games. He worked us to the core (no pun intended) and I actually enjoyed pushing myself.

The class size was small so we all got a lot of attention, and lucky me got corrected in front of everyone for doing an exercise wrong. There were certain high-intensity stretches that were too difficult to execute but thankfully, Sudhir provided alternatives.

However, I got distracted at certain balancing poses and had to pay attention to my breath again to bring my focus back to the present. Although the class was slower-paced, it was thorough and I had a good abs workout!

Lesson learnt: It’s always good to get the foundations right first.

Report Card
FIT FACTOR 7/10
FEAR FACTOR 2/10