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Urban Ashtangi : Serene Lee

Serene with her kids holiday

There are 6 series in the Ashtanga Mysore practice with the additional 7th unofficial series, known as family duties. While most students started their practice systematically from the Primary series, some students jump started into the 7th series way before they finally unrolled their first yoga mat.

Serene is one such student who has been dedicating a big part of her life as a stay-home-mom with house chores and her children. Not having more time to herself can be frustrating and exhausting. It was only in recent years that she gave some attention and energy to herself.

With a higher level of patience, Serene found a new hobby of baking during the circuit breaker period. A mother at heart, she finds joy in seeing the smiles of her family members as they indulge in the sweet treat!

1. How did your first yoga class happen?

Back in 2013, I accompanied my friend to a yoga studio where I attended my first yoga class. As a first-timer, you would think I went for a beginners/basic class. But, that wasn’t the case. I attended an advanced Hatha yoga class unknowingly. 

During the whole one and a half hour class, I sat with my mouth ajar as the teacher in class demonstrated all the advanced poses which I could never imagine myself doing. That was when I realized I stepped into the wrong class as I cluelessly followed through the class. Surprisingly, that class didn’t scare me away from continuing attending yoga classes. 

2. What made you decide to follow the Ashtanga Mysore method?

Spending most of my time taking care of my children and other family members, the hustle and bustle has definitely made me lose track of time. This led me to lose the discipline to take out time to work on myself, or my body. 

However, I realized that I needed to find something which allows me to not only help improve my body’s physical condition, but also have a better sense of time.

The Ashtanga mysore method helps me slow down and immerse myself into another space where I could separate myself from the other chaos in life. This allows me to find peace within myself.

The Ashtanga mysore method also motivates me to get out of bed before sunrise and start my practice on the mat. Hence, I’ve become more self-disciplined and have stronger persistence through this practice. I started my first mysore class in 2017, it has since been a very enriching and fruitful 5 years journey.

3. In your own opinion, what is considered an advanced practitioner?

When I first started, I would only think of how to achieve the asanas. I continued to practice and after many years of perseverance, I finally managed to do asanas that I could never do. The practice has made me realize that so long as I don’t give up and persevere on, the impossible will become possible. Just like what many would say, ‘no pain, no gain’. 

But I later realized that the practice is more than just being able to do asanas. It has interconnected into my lifestyle as the practice allows me to have a better mindset and positive attitude in life. 

Simply speaking, an advanced Ashtanga practitioner is someone who has improved and become a better version of their previous self through the practice. 

4. What is the biggest fight with yourself in life and in practice?

My body is always very tense as I focus on doing the asanas. I always remember a teacher once telling me that these are emotions that we feel in our daily life and we just have to deal and overcome these negative thoughts and feelings on the mat like how we do in our everyday life, on the mat.

Guided by the teacher to always emphasize on “body relaxation” and “focus on breathing”. Only recently, I realized how having the ability to “focus” and “breathe” is way more important than being able to do the asanas. During every practice, it feels like I’m talking to my own body. It is a very intriguing process. Through the practice, I’ve learnt to let go of the many things that made me feel suffocated back then. 

5. What has been your experience dealing with some of your old practice habits? 

You need to clear your mind and tell yourself to start again. My method is to repeatedly take your practice seriously, doing simple asanas everyday at the same time and same place, with the guidance of the teacher. 

6. “I will only practice yoga when I am feeling good and ready”. Do you agree or disagree?

I feel everyone will have their different reasons for practicing Ashtanga. Some will say it’s for weight loss, there’s also others who will say it’s for their health. 

Whether it’s because I practice because I feel good that day or practice has become a habit, so long as one doesn’t give any excuses such as age, body feels tight or no time, that moment of being able to stand on the mat is already an achievement of the day.

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