How I keep healthy and sane thru Yoga

“My body is my temple and asanas are my prayers.” – BKS Iyengar

My yoga journey started more than 12 years ago. I have always been an active person since I was young. When my sister and I were children we always go to GBK every Sunday to jog and when I was a teenager, I went along with my mom to a gym nearby to join aerobic class and I also play tennis with my Dad. Growing up I always make time to exercise.

My love affair with yoga started when I took a yoga class in Bangkok in one of my business trip. It was my first time and I liked it. I started searching for yoga class in Jakarta and attend regularly.

The only thing that can keep me away from exercise is work. And I had some difficult period in my career life that caused me to abandon any kind of exercise because I can’t seem to find the time. As you would have guest nothing good come out of it. I ended up hospitalized for 2 weeks from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). My doctor said there is nothing wrong in my digestive system but he asked how was work and if I was stressed. He told me I could have IBS which was triggered by stress and told me to read about it in the internet. That period of time was one of the lowest moment in my life where I decided to leave the company. Not that good of a decision because I was running away from a problem being a conflict avoider at heart, instead of facing my problem and work on it. However the good thing is, I managed to take on 2 weeks holiday before I started with the new company. And during those time off, I reflected on how things went wrong and vowed to myself that I will never not put my health as my priority.

I enrolled to yoga class in Rumah Yoga studio, a very nice zen studio in a quiet location in Blok M. I become a regular and started attending yoga workshop and festival. Two and a half year later I get acquainted with Iyengar yoga. My regular studio was closed for maintenance and I stumbled into an Iyengar yoga studio, conveniently located on the way home from work. The class seemed boring at first because the pace is so slow and why do they care so much about alignment. Not to mention why do I have to hold asana for so long 🤣 What get me hooked with the Iyengar class is I got some really good teachers who taught me how to be able to do headstand. With yoga my most memorable milestone was when I finally can do independent headstand and hold it. As I get older I get to appreciate Iyengar yoga more and finally after a long journey trying all style of yoga, I settle with Iyengar yoga for good.

Iyengar yoga is named after and developed by B.K.S. Iyengar who was a direct disciple of T. Krishnamacharya. Together with Pattabhi Jois (who developed Ashtanga yoga). Iyengar Yoga focuses on three aspects: alignment, sequencing and timing. Iyengar yoga teachers undergo a strict and in-depth training of two years before they get their first certificate. Afterward, their training is ongoing according to standards set by the various Iyengar Associations in the world and supervised personally by the Iyengar in Pune. This is also the reason why Iyengar yoga class taught by certified teacher is more expensive Vs other style of yoga.

A lot of people who are in my yoga class have become yoga teachers by now. I’ve seen people get so hooked with yoga and they ended up taking teachers training and start teaching yoga. 12 years fast forward to today I am still a yoga practitioner. I haven’t transformed into a yoga teacher although from time to time I imagine myself quitting and start teaching yoga. But no, I don’t have that calling yet and I am happy with being a yoga student and I feel content with my practice and enjoy the little progress that I make.

Yoga taught me to face my fear of failure when I learned how to kick my leg to the wall and do handstand and it taught me to focus and be present when I have to hold my headstand for 10 minutes.

There is a lot of misperception that yoga is a stretching class and finding calm. Some people think it’s boring and it doesn’t burn as much calories as when you run or do aerobic class. Though yoga does help me calm my mind, Yoga is actually a form of strength training. Yoga develop strength in both muscle and bones and you can get stronger doing this kind of exercise. Yoga is also referred as a bodyweight exercise. This means you are supporting the weight of your body when you do it. Of course it depends on the pose, class style, and approach. Don’t expect a lot in the beginner class. But as you progress beyond beginner class you develop strength in your bone and muscle and that is when you start supporting and lifting your body weight. Inversion such as pincha mayurasana or arm balance such as bakasana and titibasana are example of lifting your own body weight. You cannot do it with out upper body and core strength.

Yoga helps me during my pregnancy with my second kid. I got pregnant when I was already 38 years old. For some it was a considered a high risk pregnancy but I was actually very fit throughout the pregnancy. I keep attending my regular yoga class until I reached the third trimester and move to a prenatal class. When my baby was breached on my 6th month, I did headstand regularly and hold it on the wall to help her rotate back to the correct position. My yoga practice and gentle birth class helped me to deliver naturally without pain killer and shorten the labour process.

As we grow old (I’m talking past 40), our metabolism changes and we will experience muscle loss if we don’t intervene that aging process. I have always been on the slim side, but it was not without effort. Until I was 35 I took it for granted, I could eat anything but as long as I exercise I will not gain weight. However pass 35 and especially after 40 I have to watch what I eat. I am not on a strict diet like Dian but I do watch what I eat. I keep mental count on how many calories I eat on weekdays and I treat weekend as cheat days. If you are slim when you are in your 20s and 30s do not take it for granted and start watching what you eat after reaching 35 or after you have a baby. Know that you will start paying for your lifestyle in your youth once you pass 40. Build a healthy habit when you are young so you won’t be sorry later on in life. Choose exercise you like and do it regularly but make sure to keep a good balance between cardio exercise and strength training. I run 1-2x/week on top of doing yoga because I still need cardio for endurance.

Thanks to pandemic lock down and WFH, now we have many online exercise classes we can do from the comfort of our own home. I am able to do more yoga Vs pre-pandemic and because of that I finally progressing on my arm balance from nothing to finally nail bakasana and its variation. Arm balance used to be my weakness and yes it took that long for me to use my arms to lift my body weight.

I still have an aspiration to do handstand without wall. But what I really want is to stay healthy as I grow old so when Hubbie and I stand next to Alyssa on her wedding night, we won’t look like grandma and grandpa with walking stick.

Tips: Morning jogging/walking is never gonna be enough to burn calories and don’t count doing household chores as exercise.

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