By Finder Blogger: Andrea McKenna
Is this the year you decide to try out yoga? Or have you been practicing for awhile and wondering what’s next? Hot yoga, stand up paddleboard yoga, goat yoga, beer yoga… things have changed over the years!
In Singapore, yoga has become more popular than ever. In my six years here, I’ve seen more studios open and more and more people getting teacher trainings. It’s a huge business and an ever-growing market. But I think it’s important to revisit the true nature of yoga, which is balance. And to get there—surprise!—it’s not just through asanas (yoga poses). The end goal is meditation and the connection to the universe or the divine.
Full disclosure: I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years and teaching yoga to adults and kids for 18 years. Basically, when I realized how beneficial yoga was to both my physical and mental health, I decided I must learn how to share it through teaching. Here, I teach workshops and trainings at a few studios around Singapore and occasionally teach private classes. It has taken awhile to get used to being a teacher here and I watch as literally hundreds of people get certified as well as take on yoga as a new practice.
But the landscape and vibe are so different now.
When I started doing yoga, I realized I could prevent injuries from sports by strengthening my body and improving my flexibility, and it really helped me manage my bipolar disorder, which was challenging as a full-time journalist. (keyword—STRESS) In fact, the part-time yoga teaching job was a kind of therapy for me, as it kept me calm, grounded and full of purpose to share more than just the tricky poses.
Even today, I read about yoga every day to keep up my chops and make sure I understand what’s going in the yoga market. I am particularly drawn to the articles, videos, blogs, etc…that talk about the true nature of yoga. Clearly, the commercialization of yoga does not sit well with everyone. Me included.
I can tell you two things from my perspective: One is that looking the part is nonsense. When I started, it was rare to take pictures of yoga or have yourself photographed doing yoga. One time—one time—I had a teacher take pics just to show us our alignment. That was a very unusual approach.
But nowadays, with social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, photos of beautiful people in beautiful yoga clothes doing beautiful postures in beautiful places is the norm. It rubs a lot of more traditional yogis the wrong way because, while it is beautiful to behold, it’s not the true nature of yoga. Not everyone looks the same in a pose for one thing and you do NOT have to look beautiful to do or teach yoga. It’s not a “looks” thing; it’s how you feel inside that counts. It’s the balance and connection that matters.
The other thing, related, is that you don’t have to be a ballet dancer, gymnast or contortionist to do or teach yoga. I weigh over 1
00 kg and I have more experience in yoga than most people I’ve met here. I no longer do Handstand Scorpion. The last time I did was at my 38th birthday party almost 9 years ago. But I’m done now showing off the hard stuff. And while I “don’t look like a yoga teacher” (Ha!) I am indeed an experienced one and I try to hold onto the fundamentals that asanas (poses) are meant to prepare you for meditation, which is what connects you to your spirit, or you to the universe or whatever power you deem to be higher than your earthly existence.
So, if you’re looking for more in your yoga practice, I suggest you look inwards and seriously, don’t skip out on the meditation part of the class. You may even want to supplement your asanas class with a meditation class or home practice. There’s lots of places for that teach meditation in Singapore, including: One Heart in Joo Chiat, Kadampa Meditation Centre on Neil Road, The Golden Space in Little India, Basic Essence in Bukit Timah and SoulCentre on Bencoolen Street, among others.
If you’re just getting started, please don’t feel like the yoga poses are everything. Do what you can and don’t push too hard. It really is what’s going on inside that counts. Remember that balance is the key, which requires both the physical asanas and mental meditation. That balance produces the connection.
And by the way, when we say “Namaste,” in yoga, it means roughly that “the light within me honours the light within you.” That light is for both beginners and veterans of yoga. You just have to learn to turn it on.
About Andrea McKenna
image: E. Chiau
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.