Newsletter October 2010


News and links

We were quite amazed to notice that Meng Foong’s Asana demonstration video that we posted on YouTube early last year has had more than 45,000 views. If you haven’t seen it already you can view it embedded here on our website.

You can also read Meng Foong's inspirational yoga blog at this link:

http://mengfoonglai.blogspot.com

Thank you all for the positive feedback on the relaxation podcast on our website. Apparently Marc’s 25 minute final relaxation is sending people to sleep all over the planet.

Depending on your browser and media setup you can listen to the recording directly or you can download it as an mp3 file and play it like any other mp3 file. You can use it as a guided relaxation at the end of your own practice or instead of a sleeping tablet to send you off to sleep at night:

relaxation podcast

New

Yoga and Nature Discovery Retreat

Langkawi has one of the best preserved natural environments of all the islands in South East Asia and we feel very lucky to be based here. Only 3 of the 99 islands in the archipelago are inhabited and the Malaysian government has understood the importance of keeping it this way, rather than repeating the mistakes of overdevelopment made by neighbouring Thailand. Langkawi is classed by UNESCO as a world Geopark (the only UNESCO Geopark in South-East Asia) and home to what are arguably the world’s oldest rainforests. The mangrove eco-systems and the unique geology make Langkawi a unique destination for any naturalist.

Trees in Langkawi Rainforest

We have joined together with Rimbawi GEO Discovery, a locally based operator, to put together a yoga retreat that allows you to discover some of the unique natural aspects of Langkawi in the company of qualified professional nature guides as well as practicing yoga and meditation.

To find out more you can follow this link:

Yoga and Nature Discovery Retreat

Or this link to learn more about Rimbawi GEO Discovery :

www.rimbawi-langkawi.com

Asana of the Month

Vrikshasan – Tree pose

Concentration, focus and balance are the key points in Vrikshasan. The main challenges in performing this pose are mental rather than physical.

How to do Vrikshasan:

  • Stand straight with both feet on the ground.
  • Close the eyes and take a few long slow deep inhalations and exhalations.
  • Bring the awareness to the soles of the feet and the contact with the ground.
  • See if your weight is balanced evenly between both feet.
  • Open your eyes.
  • Fix your gaze on a point in front of you – something small and unmoving.
  • Shift all your weight to the left foot and then raise the right foot placing it either:
  • - A against the left calf muscle.
  • - B against the inside of the upper left thigh (gentlemen take your precautions).
  • - C in ardha-padmasan (half-lotus).
  • Once you have your balance raise both hands over the top of the head and join the palms together in prayer position.
  • Inhale deeply and stretch upwards lifting the ribcage and bringing the biceps beside the ears (or even behind the ears if your shoulders are flexible enough)
  • Keep that upward extension and as you exhale visualize roots spreading out from the sole of the foot anchoring you solidly to the ground.

There are trees on this planet that have stood in the same spot for more than 4000 years – that’s worth contemplating when you are aiming at achieving treelike stability for just a few minutes.

Trees in Langkawi Rainforest

If this is easy enough for you and you want an extra challenge then try closing the eyes and visualizing whatever you were staring at as a point of focus. This is an excellent practice for building up the concentration required for meditation.

Hold the pose for as long as comfortable/possible and repeat on the other side.

The concentration required to hold the position helps to centre the mind and bring us firmly into the present moment. If the mind is moving and jumpy then the pose will be difficult to hold. If the mind is calm and peaceful then it will be much easier.

When we concentrate on anything the breath is automatically affected. Whether it’s listening carefully (with ‘bated breath’) or performing a complicated mental calculation or trying to keep balance, the breath automatically tends to become very quiet and shallow. This means we are getting less air coming into the lungs and less oxygen into the bloodstream which ironically makes it more difficult to concentrate. Hence the importance of breathing calmly and evenly while doing vrikshasan, or any other balancing pose for that matter.

Another very interesting aspect of this asana is what happens when the weight is shifted onto one leg. We know that the left hand side of the brain controls the right hand side of the body and vice versa. Yoga (life) is a two-way street – the mind influences the body, the body influences the mind. When we spend a prolonged period supporting the body weight on the right foot then we are stimulating the left-hand side of the brain. We might even notice that during our daily lives that we may tend to favour one leg or another, particularly while standing. The side you favour is a clear indication that the opposite hemisphere of the brain that is active at that time.

Modern science generally accepts that the left hand side of the brain is concerned with rational-analytical activity while the right hand side of the brain is more intuitive, expressive, non-linear and artistic. The ancient Rishis (sages) understood this and gave a lot of importance in yoga practice to balancing the flow of energies in the ida and pingala nadis – balancing both aspects of our personalities. Alternate nostril breathing is another way this is achieved, but the simple Vrikshasan should not be underestimated as an efficient asana for balancing the pairs of opposites – the sun and the moon, the ida and pingala, the male and female, the yin and yang, however we choose to name or define them.

Achieving, or maintaining this balance in our daily lives is all the more important in this predominately right-handed, left-brained world in which we live, where things are so obviously out of balance.

Trees in Langkawi Rainforest

Irish novelist Orna Ross has kindly allowed me to “borrow” her intellectual property. Orna recently wrote an interesting blog post on the differences between what she calls “Rational Intelligence” (left brain activity) and “Creative intelligence” (right brain activity).

“Rational intelligence communicates through thoughts, concepts, opinions and ideas. Creative intelligence communicates through feelings, emotions, imaginings and intuitions.

Rational intelligence categorises, creative intelligence breaks the box.

Rational intelligence critiques, creative intelligence explores.

Rational intelligence controls, creative intelligence allows.

Rational intelligence looks out, seeing human reality as material and given. Creative intelligence looks in, seeing human reality as imagined and co-created with life.

Rational intelligence likes answers, creative intelligence likes questions.

Rational intelligence sees failure as defeat. Creative intelligence sees failure as a learning opportunity.

Rational intelligence persuades through intellectual opinion and argument. Creative intelligence persuades through story, symbol and song.

Rational intelligence consumes art, writing and music as entertainment. Creative intelligence creates art, writing and music as expression.

Rational intelligence sees life as random and ultimately meaningless.Creative intelligence makes meaning through pattern and metaphor.”

You can read and follow Orna's Creative Intelligence blog on this link:

www.ornaross.com

While we are on the subject of trees - If you have a moment to spare you can sign the petition to halt illegal logging in Langkawi’s rainforests.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/11/campaign-to-conserve-langkawis-remaining-rainforest/

Life and gratitude

We take things for granted – its human nature. My parents have been visiting us in Langkawi this month for the first time and we’ve taken the chance to spend some time with them and visit the island and some of the amazing sights it has to offer.

Last week we took a short boat trip to one of the neighbouring islands Pulau Dayang Bunting. One of the main attractions of this island is the freshwater lake, and being jellyfish-free it is one of my favourite spots for swimming.

When our boat landed at the pier we noticed a young man shouting at some of the other boat drivers that were already there. He was offering money to anyone who would take him back to the main island. The boat drivers just laughed at him and continued smoking their cigarettes. He seemed quite upset so I talked to him and he explained that his friend had just drowned in the lake. He wanted one of the boat drivers to take him back to Langkawi so he could raise the alarm, but none of them seemed to be taking him seriously (or perhaps they couldn't understand him).

We tried to call the police, but there is no signal on that side of Pulau Dayang Bunting. A young lady who works on the island explained that a boat had left an hour earlier to alert the police, so they should already have been aware. She told us that the fire brigade would come, but that they usually (the way she said it made it sound like it was a regular occurrence) take 2 hours to arrive on the scene.

Not being able to help any further (or indeed at all) we continued to the lake and found that the young man had been part of a large group from Sudan. The young man hadn't worn a life jacket, as suggested on the signboard, when he jumped in the water. Apparently he never came back up. His friends tried to dive down to get him, but in vain. Many of them were on their knees praying for their friend. Apparently the water is 30 - 50 feet deep - even within the demarcated zone off the wooden platform on the lake's edge.

Dusky Leaf Langur in Langkawi Rainforest

Though we are all strong swimmers and were looking forward to a refreshing dip in the lake, obviously we refrained out of respect for the victim and his friends. Instead we climbed back up into the wooded part of the trail and watched the dusky leaf langur’s acrobatics as they munched on fresh leaves.

While we were there the fire brigade finally arrived with diving equipment etc... We cut short our visit and left for another island. As we did, the sound of one of the women in the group wailing inconsolably was still ringing in the air. It was very tragic. Later that afternoon, when we made it back to the main island we learned the body had already been brought ashore. The young man in question was only 22 years old.

All our petty problems fade into insignificance when we contemplate our own mortality. Sometimes it takes an incident like this to remind us just how precious and precarious life really is.

Upcoming yoga retreat dates

Here are some dates we have pencilled in for upcoming retreats, but of course we can still work around your own dates even if they are not listed below.

  • October 17th to 20th
  • October 21st to 31st (11 day / 10 night Intensive Yoga Retreat)
  • November 2nd to 5th
  • November 7th to 14th (8 day / 7 night Intensive Yoga Retreat)
  • November 18th to 21st
  • November 22nd to 25th Intensive Yoga Retreat
  • November 27th to 30th
  • December 1st to 5th (5 day / 4 night)
  • December 6th to 9th
  • December 12th to 19th (8 day / 7 night Intensive Yoga Retreat)
  • December 22nd to 26th (5 day / 4 night)
  • December 27th to January 2nd (7 day / 6 night Intensive Yoga Retreat)

For more details on our retreats (and many other things) you can visit our website on this link:

Yoga Retreats

Thanks for your time and wishing you peace and harmony in your daily lives.

Hari om tat sat.

Marc and Meng Foong (a.k.a M&M)

May all beings be happy.

Determination, courage and self-confidence are the key factors for success. If we have firm determination, we can work out obstacles and difficulties. Whatever the circumstances, we should remain humble, modest and without pride.

- Dalai Lama