Friday, July 31, 2009

Conscious (of) Breathing

Warning: This is going to be a post on yoga, and I could get a bit boring with my navel-gazing.

I've been thinking of my breath in the past week. Specifically, my ujjayi breathing during my yoga practice. Of course, if you practice Ashtanga yoga, you'll know that ujjayi or "victorious" breath is what we use throughout the entire practice. Breathing only through the nostrils, restricted slightly at the back of the throat so that it makes that slight hissing sound (like a pervert prank-caller deep breathing down the phone in the middle of the night. ...Or as one teacher put it before, like Darth Vader).

Thank you, youtube! Here's what I mean (except you should be making that sound while your mouth is closed, about 2:30 into the video)

It's a measured breath, each inhale & exhale should be the same count, and there should be an evenness throughout the practice. I always know when I'm trying too hard in a posture when my breath starts unravelling and getting short, or I start breathing too hard.

Of course in Ashtanga there are the other 2 points of focus apart from the breath - the bandhas and drishti, but that's not what I've been mulling over this week.

The thing is, I've suddenly become extremely conscious of the way I breathe in Ujjayi. In 7 years, it never used to bother me before... until earlier this week when I practiced next to a girl in a mysore class who was onto the Advanced "A" series. Can I just say: WOW.

Of course I was supposed to be in a state of pratyahara - sense withdrawal, focussing on my own measly Primary series, but when the person next to you is onto such super advanced poses, and at the same time making it seem SOOOOOOOO effortless... it makes you think about your own practice and the way you carry yourself through it too (in a good way, I think). This girl - she seemed as light as a feather, flowing through the Advanced A poses like she had no issue with strength nor flexibilty even though she was the tiniest little thing... but most of all what struck me about her practice was... she was so SILENT.

I mean, of course she was breathing and using her ujjayi breath, but you could barely hear her. Then that made me think about my practice - you can always tell with the poses I struggle with: I start huffing & puffing and have to be reminded to slow the breath, or back off from the pose a bit coz my breath has become too ragged.

And then the very next day after practising next to Advanced A Girl, in the same mysore class, I was practising next to a relative beginner. Well, I've only noticed him at the studio in the past few weeks or so, and he's only practising half the Primary series and struggling in a few places, so I think he's relatively new to the sequence... plus, I got distracted by his breathing because I could hear it. I mean... In contrast to Advanced A Girl,it was pretty in-your-face-pervert-caller type of breathing, and you could tell when he got tired coz the breathing became ragged and short (like me, in Supta Kurmasana!)

So that made me even more conscious of my own breathing. In the sense of... I wonder if my breathing distracts the people next to me... I wonder if my ujjayi breath is being done "right", whatever "right" means. This teacher has never told me to breathe louder or softer, only just brought my awareness to my breath whenever it's gone ragged.

And then it made me think of a teacher I had before who said "breathe loud enough so the person next to you can hear you too"... And then there was yet another teacher who had said the exact opposite "breathe loud enough so only you can hear it - you're trying too hard if the person next to you can hear you".

I was recently at a yoga workshop, and after one of the vinyasa classes, the guy on the mat next to me said something along the lines of "it was great practising next to you coz your constant ujjayi made me aware that I wasn't engaging mine enough". Sounds like a compliment but I was mortified. It made me self-conscious (ARGH! Was I really THAT loud?! That can't be a good thing, right?) And in the past few days, this memory is haunting me now.

Which is probably why I'm in a kerfuffle now... how loud is "loud enough"... Does it even matter? Isn't it to each his own? I'm only asking coz I've noticed that the first few Sun Salutations I've been doing in the past few days, I've caught myself adjusting the volume of my breath... which is completely RIDICULOUS coz I know I'm just making this stuff up in my own head, and since its never mattered before, why should it matter now... and what do I do now since it's obviously become "my thing" this week? (At least I hope it doesn't roll over into next week!)

I think this is also my weak spot coz one of the trainers in my yoga teacher training had written in one of my assessments something along the lines of "I suspect you struggle a bit with the breath in some poses. Always bring your awareness back to your breath." ...This is how stuff just lies dormant in your subconscious, only to spring backatcha when you least expect it. DAMN!

What a long post, sorry if it got boring. And if it did, maybe this video will help even things out. This cat's like the "breath stuff" in my subconscious... biding its time, stalking me. But way cuter.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Yogis, I'm on Twitter

Hello! I've noticed lots of you are new to this blog, following links from fellow yogi bloggers. If you'd like up-to-date tweets with a yogic angle, follow me on Twitter.

You can click on the link to the right of this blog, or you can also follow me from your account. I'm @skippetty. I've got more yogayogayoga on Twitter and I'm more active there at the moment. x

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Did Anyone Say "Chilli Crabs"?

There is usually one thing that unites Singaporeans. And that is: FOOD!

As if we hadn't already gorged ourselves enough this past weekend, first thing on Monday morning my cousin B sends me an email with a menu of a Chinese seafood restaurant (seriously, I just checked the time on that email and it was sent at 9.25am).

One of her foodie friends had a craving for Chilli Crabs (at 9am on Monday?!), and another foodie friend had just checked this place out the night before and sent him the menu. Then the menu got emailed around town and suddenly by the end of yesterday, the whole chink-gang (it's a colloquail Singaporean term) turned up to Don Heng Century Seafood.

I was in two minds the whole day... since I've been waking up at 5am to go for mysore yoga most mornings, its pretty much killed my social life (not that I had much of one to begin with anyway!) But honestly, with the first page of a menu that reads like this, how could you not go?


#1 on the menu had me salivating already (haha, so much for a vegetarian way of eating. See previous post).

It was the most random place - in Sydney's western suburb of Ashville. Sydneysiders always make fun of people living in the Western suburbs, and now I think I can kinda see why. It's huge, sprawling, with no personality and full of car dealerships. Wait. Actually, it reminds me a lot of Johannesburg!

So anyways, this was a full-on Chinese restaurant located in a Rugby League Club. I didn't quite know what to expect since I don't follow rugby at all, and kind of expected to end up at a sports pitch with a Chinese restaurant next to it. But this place was like a megaplex for geriatrics. As in... there were bars, slot machines, and generally it's like a country club. But without the swimming pool & golf course. It didn't even have a sports pitch!

And here in the middle of this was a full-on Chinese restaurant. Very surreal. Complete with 10-course set dinners on the menu, which made me realize I haven't actually stepped into one of these in a really looooong time. And it felt like a Chinese wedding banquet was about to be served, complete with disco lights, dry ice/ smoke, and waiters walking out of the kitchen in one row to the Superman theme song or Europe's "The Final Countdown". (Yes, this is seriously a part of my "culture"). Can't believe I can't find any videos on youtube with this waiters' entrance... but here's a good blog entry on someone's experience of said Chinese wedding dinner.

Between the 11 of us, we had 5kg of crabs (that's 4 crabs in total), half was cooked Singapore Chilli Crab style, the other half was Black Pepper Crab style. Mm mm good! I had 2.5 (deep fried) buns to mop up all that gravy with. Oh, and we also had a peking duck, pork cheeks (Yuck! I didn't try this), salt & pepper calamari and veggies. Really, so much for my sticking to a more vegetarian diet...

Even though I made it to bed past my bedtime, I'm happy to report that I did indeed wake up at 5am to head to yoga. But my body definitely felt heavier and more sluggish than usual, and I'm pretty sure I could still feel that crab in those twists.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Low-carb Vegetarianism

So I'm going through another phase again... trying to go back to a more vegetarian diet again, but I'm also trying to make it as wheat-free as possible and low-carb too.


So many veggie recipes invariably are pasta dishes, and quite frankly, I'm also getting sick of eating tofu at practically every meal. ...And I'm not even going into the school of thought that believes phytoestrogens are carcinogenic, which rules out soy, coz I don't believe it! (coz that would rule out my main protein source too!)

So... apart from legumes that are the protein-substitute such as chick peas, lentils, beans, etc. Does anyone have any other recipe suggestions? I'm seriously uninspired at the moment and can't find anything good online.

(Photo credit here.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mini Family Reunion

My father's 1 of 10 children, which means that of the total of 20 uncles & aunts (including all spouses) in that generation, they bore 24 children (my cousins and my generation, not including their spouses). If you include the spouses of my cousins who are married, I think that would take it to about 32 in my generation, and the generation after that (my cousins' kids) is about 14 children. But at this point, I think I've lost count of all my nephews and nieces already.

As you can imagine, family gatherings are quite an affair. There's a saying that when you marry a Chinese person, you marry the whole village... and it's pretty evident with my family where that saying came from! With my family of 3 generations (It would've been 4 generations, but the grandparents have all passed on already)... there are about 66 people if everyone turned up to the party.

And this family's a pretty tight-knit one, meeting up once a month for a family potluck - where each family brings a dish (so you get 10 dishes on the table) and takes turns hosting the event. Kinda makes sense, so we spread the headache around of having to host sooooo many people.

Christmases are legendary with this family - the new rule is any cousin who is now working no longer receives a gift... coz as you can imagine, our parents' bank accounts must've hurt. But I remember when we were all young and growing up, there must've been about 300 presents under that Christmas tree - it was overflowing and spilling out with presents galore. A really spectacular sight, especially when you're a kid!

The thing with such a large family, and being Singaporean at the same time - we're all inevitably spread around all over the world. Especially now that my generation's all grown up and is in that "mobile" phase of life, about half of us are no longer living in Singapore. At last count, there was at least 1 family member living on every continent... but since I've left South Africa, the dark continent of Africa is no longer represented.

So it was kinda fun this week when my cousin M came to visit with her man from Melbourne and stayed with us. And then my mum emailed and said another cousin J, was also in Sydney for another conference. So then I called yet another cousin, Bee, who like me, lives here in Sydney, and we all decided to round the troops up and go out last night.

We had a fabulous Japanese Izakaya meal (kinda like Japanese tapas), then someone suggested we head to the Lindt Chocolate Cafe for dessert. Like, really? Lindt, the Swiss chocolate maker has a... dessert cafe?!?

(Their heads are slightly chopped off coz I was trying to get all the dessert in)

Apart from being a great place for their own product placement (there were Lindt chocolate bars everywhere, and towers of Lindor chocolate balls), the actual dessert menu read like a completely chocolate overload. I was getting a nose-bleed just reading the menu.

I settled on a dark chocolate & milk chocolate layer cake topped with a chocolate ganache on top. And if that wasn't enough chocolate for you, I topped it off with an Iced Dark Chocolate beverage too. The others had cakes of chocolate and orange, chocolate with hazelnut, macadamias and of course, the chocolate lava cake.

Ah! My little cousins are all grown up now! :)

It was all so rich and molten, we were rolling our way home afterwards... what a fantastic time we had catching up! We really couldn't remember when the last time was when we were all together, so these little catch-up sessions tend to get quite nostalgic.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I meant to upload these photos a couple weeks back, but didn't get round to it till now... Kelly was away in Auckland on a shoot (and visiting his mom at the same time!), so I did a little city walkabout on my own.

Of course I ended up buying something! Check out my new biker boots.

When I took them off at home, I realized how much I love my boots...

(Plus, I'm seriously considering getting those ugly Ugg boots. They look so nice and toasty!)

The Sydney Winter Festival was on, so I thought I'd go check it out. They basically used the empty courtyard space in front of St. Mary's Cathedral, and turned it into a "winter wonderland". Well, considering it was 18 degress celsius at the time, there was absolutely nothing wintry about it.

...not even down to the non-indigenous pine trees with FAKE snow in them. Yes folks, they stuffed cotton wool on the pine trees!

The major attraction there was an ice-skating rink. People had to book their spots in advance to confirm a 1/2 hour joy ride, but I was disappointed when I turned up to see that the entire rink was probably about half the size of a tennis court. (no wonder they had to make bookings!)

The cutest thing was they also had "snow" in the area around the skating rink - of course it was also all fake, made by this snow machine.

That pointy black bit on the end of the machine starts filling up with white fluffy-looking things (goodness knows what they make it out of), and there's an industrial fan behind the pointy bit that blows off the white fluff. If you look on the top left corner of the bigger picture, you can see the white fluff being blown off against the green trees.

It was the most bizarre experience. I was starting to sweat in my winter coat, surrounded by so many people in not-cold-at-all weather, with fake snow and fake ice all around me. Hahaha! Suffice to say I didn't last more than 5 minutes there. The rest of the "festival" consisted of food stands, which I passed on.

Decided to take a walk through Hyde Park instead, and it was a really gorgeous day.

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