Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Display Of Yoga Skills

Supple: A participant demonstrating one of the postures during the competition.

Over 200 take part in inaugural posture competition

THE Malaysian Yoga Society held its first Open Yoga Asana (Posture) Competition recently with more than 200 people taking part in various categories.

The competition was a chance to witness a discipline performed at its highest level.

Each competitor had to demonstrate five Asana (Yoga posture) of their choice from a minimum of three traditional Asana groups. The five Asana must be completed within four minutes with each full Asana to be held steadily for at least five seconds before proceeding to the next Asana.

Among those who participated in the competition were S, Lalitha and P. Devasri, both 12, from SJK (T) Elfingain in Damansara Utama.

They started yoga lessons at their school two years ago.

"Yoga postures are not really difficult if you practise daily," said Lalitha who won the silver medal together with her schoolmates in the team category.

For best friends Yulia Borodina and Yana Cheryapina from Sekolah Sri Acmar in Bandar Baru Klang, it was their first time competing in such an event.

"I have taken part in dancing and singing competitions before.

"My mother taught us Yoga personally and encouraged us to compete here," said 14-year-old Yulia who previously lived in Russia.

Proceeds from the competition and the jumble sale held outside the competition hall will be channelled to the Malaysian Yoga Society Fund for the building of a Yoga home in the Klang Valley.

According to Malaysian Yoga Society (MYS) treasurer Tay Slew Leng, the society hopes to raise RM500,000 this year from various other fund-raising projects to build the home.

"The home will be able to house about 15 underprivileged children and we will provide them with education as well as Yoga classes," said Tay.

Tay also added that the home which will be ready next year will be a place for the less fortunate children to learn Yoga free of charge.

At present MYS volunteers conduct flee Yoga classes at SJK(T) Kinrara in Puchong, SJK(T) Effingham in Damansara Utama, SJK(T) Sungai Renggam in Shah Alam, National Cancer Society, Karuna lllham Girls' Home, Ambu lllham Boys' Home and Desa Mentari in Old Klang Road.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Straight Forward Guide

YOGA is Yoga is Yogacharini Florence Thomas’ first book – a simple and straightforward guide on how yoga asanas or postures can help alleviate common ailments and conditions.

Thomas, who has been practising and teaching yoga for more than three decades, was a columnist for a local daily for several years. She also occasionally contributes articles to various magazines and publications.

However, it was the encouragement of her students and family that made her think about writing a book.

"I have been teaching yoga for about 30 years and many of my students are now based overseas. They urged me to write a book which they could carry with them, and refer to should they forget certain postures which they had learnt," Thomas explains.

There are about 120 different postures in the self-published Yoga is Yoga: from postures to strengthen the abdomen, chest and lungs, to those that can lessen the pain in arthritic fingers; postures that help with asthma, and bladder and urinary problems, and even those that can ease sexual tension and frustration!

Digestion problems? Try the complete bow posture illustrated on page 50. Feeling hot? Check out the "cooling breaths" Thomas highlights (p48). Suffering from headaches? The "arms beyond the head" posture might be just what you are looking for (p84).

The basis of yoga, she explains, is breathing or pranayarna. "We all breathe, of course. But most of us do not know how to breathe properly ... we take shallow breaths. In yoga, breath training helps you breathe rhythmically from your diaphragm. This will help those doing the asanas (postures).

"Just by breathing properly, you can alleviate problems like migraines or jetlag," she says.

Thomas also includes several breathing exercises in Yoga is Yoga, namely the Tidal Breath (for asthma), lobular (breath control), the crocodile posture (breath training), the knee-raise position (proper breathing technique), and the fish posture (breathing difficulties).

However, given that breathing is fundamental in yoga, she could have perhaps focussed more on pranayama.

The book does not dive right into the different asanas. Instead, the author begins with a brief explanation on yoga, followed by another chapter on nutrition and diet control, from a yoga point of view, of course.

A vegetarian herself, Thomas writes: "Nutrition and diet to a yogi is the eating of small quantities of food that require a minimum expenditure of energy for digestion. This will give the body a feeling of lightness and well-being, revitalising the whole system and simultaneously providing proper nourishment and maximum life force."

She goes on to explain that "natural" food (which can be eaten in its original state) is best, while food that has been refined, canned, preserved, aged, smoked and fumigated should be avoided.

But readers should not be alarmed and think that they have to alter their diet immediately. "These ideas should be taken as a guiding principle as a sudden change in eating habits or (switch to) vegetarianism may be too radical," she writes.

Thomas also cautions that executing more complex yoga postures without instruction may be harmful for novices. As such, she has only included basic and simple postures in Yoga is Yoga.

"The postures in this book are very simple ... most people can do them +easily. However if you are not well, consult a doctor or a yoga instructor first."

Each asana is illustrated with images of models (all of them yoga practitioners, including her son, who also teaches) performing each pose.

There are also clear instructions on how to execute each pose, as well as explanations about each posture and how it improves or alleviates a particular condition.

Yoga is Yoga is a functional guide on basic but useful asanas. The explanations are lucid and therefore easy for novices to understand. However, as technique is very important in yoga, it may be advisable for those whose only encounter with exercise is a walk to their bed to consult a reputable teacher first. – By S. Indramalar