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Urban Ashtangi : Hanya

Patricia Cheok Krounchyasana

Like a strong willed flower growing out from the brick wall, Hanya is bigger than her thought of herself. The lady, who seems to be whitewashing herself in the crowd, is in fact making her presence felt with her lengthy physique, a big wide smile, the desire for more knowledge and an interesting story she shared.

1.  What’s your story?

I have a really bad monkey mind and a worse habit of taking on too many things. 

I started yoga as a way to get out of my mind and to give my body a good stretch.  It started 20 years ago; I did Hatha Yoga at a community center, followed some DVD (that was way before YouTube) and then had my 2nd girl. After that, yoga stopped.

2. How did yoga re-enter your life?

When my girls got a little bigger and things got a little less hectic, I searched for something to do again. It started with a lunchtime yoga class near work. Every Monday we did 45 minutes of Ashtanga Led class. 

The weekly repetition of the same sequences suited me. From not being able to touch my toes, I could put my palms on the floor… almost. Sometimes I bend my knees… but it’s my practice! 

Having to remember the sequence moved the monkey out of my mind. When the classes stopped running, I sought for a place to continue and landed in a Led class Adeline was teaching. 

This time it was Monday nights for 90 minutes (but not the full Primary Series yet). I learnt more poses in the sequence and my body got stronger. 

All my life, I have had zero self-efficacy in my ability to do anything sports related. But here on the wrong side of 40, I felt that doing a headstand was within my reach. So I started coming to the Shala. One year on, still no headstand, no drop-back but hope abounds.

3. What interests you most about the practice / learning process?

I feel that if we are not careful, we can fall into a lull. Life becomes routine. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but that’s not how I want my life to be. I suspect it’s also because I want to show my girls that life is never stagnant. It can flow with grace and strength. In practising yoga, we practice living. 

“There is progress in the repetition; there are always blunders to reflect upon, movements to refine, breath to smoothen and thoughts to quiet down.”

4. What do you struggle most to keep the practice in your busy routine? How do you manage/ overcome this?

My greatest struggle is to stay on the mat!!! 

I have not managed to overcome it. Over time I learned to be kind to myself. It’s ok to unroll the mat, do 1 sun salutation and be done for the day. But I have to accept that no headstand will happen this way. 

To keep to a consistent practice, my best guess is we need to know ourselves and work with what we have. So, I have a very literal mind and no body sense. 

Recently, I stumbled upon Stu Girling talking about serratus and chaturangadandasana. My chaturanga is absolute rubbish. I can’t hold my upper body steady. 

Teachers at the Shala are always saying lift. Honestly, I have no idea what I am supposed to be lifting until Stu Girling explained how the serratus and scapula muscles hold the chest steady. 

With my aha-moment, I can convince myself to stay on the mat, most mornings, to do 5 sun salutations. The objective is to practice activating this set of never been used muscles and see what happens next.

5. How do you apply what you’ve learnt to be better at playing different roles required in life?

I don’t consciously apply what I’ve learnt on the mat to my life but I’m sure that all the goodness is spilled over. 

The irony of this practice, if done properly, is it’s time-consuming yet creates a sense of spaciousness where you can find calm.

6. During the Circuit Breaker, was there any new exploration of interests that you enjoyed doing?

The copy-cat in me started baking sourdough and discovered that there is such a thing as over-fermented dough. Started some crochet projects as an experiment to see if I can whittle away my nervous energy. 

Thinking back, I dabbled in all sorts of nonsense except building a solid home practice. My best guess is I need someone to watch me else I will get off the mat. 

Housework and the kitchen have a strange lure during home practice! My challenge is to figure out a way to maintain sustained focus on an activity that I don’t enjoy. 

Truth be told, this yoga is hard. Staying on the mat is really hard. I suspect part of the reason is skills-related. I don’t have the skills and strength to do a solid Primary Series set. 

The monkey mind typically enters right about the end of the standing sequences. It has given me an indication of where to focus. The plan for now is on work on serratus and chaturanga… brick by brick monotonously.

7. How would you describe yourself as a person 10 years ago? How have you evolved as a person today?

Me, 10 years ago, will say headstand is for other people. Now I say I can do headstand if I work on it. More seriously, I am a left-brain person bound to logic. 

Yoga moved me out of my head, it taught me to feel and trust my body and perhaps even allowed me to consult my intuition occasionally.

8. If there is one thing you want to make peace with yourself, what will that be?

I don’t need to be the one to hold everything together. It’s ok to drop a few balls… once in a while.

9. I want to keep practicing until……… it doesn’t make sense anymore.

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