Urban Manila is experiencing a revolution in the health and wellness space. Filipinos are a bit more deliberate in maintaining a healthier lifestyle as we see a thriving market for organic food, wellness centers, gyms, vacation sites, and of course, yoga! I first got curious with yoga when my friends kept raving and just cannot stop talking about it… so much that I got acquainted to Lululemon (spray-on yoga pants are not for real, okay?). I eventually succumbed to the pressure and tried it out. Yep, big boy did yoga.
Oh, the irony! – Flexibility not required
Perhaps one of the biggest walls that stops people from trying out yoga is the misconception that one has to be nimble and flexible. To smash that wall (great will over any great wall), the folks from Urban Ashram Manila developed a sequence candidly called FNR (flexibility not required). The FNR practice is an ideal starting point for you to learn staple poses or asanas like chaturanga, shavasana (my ultimate favorite, I swear), child’s pose, and many more. It may be physically-challenging, but as the name suggests, you need not contort your body with your right foot over the neck wrapped around your waist… well, you get it!
One of the asanas that I can never forget is Chaturanga, or what I dubbed as yoga push-ups. You start off on a plank position with your arms stretched, palms touching the mat, and legs extended. After you have comfortably set up your starting position, gently bring down your knees to the mat, uncurl your toes so they face backward, then begin to bend your elbows while keeping them as close to the ribcage as possible. You then slowly lean forward as the bend of your elbows get deeper. Imagine there are two blocks in between your neck where you can rest your shoulders as you lean forward. Of course there are no blocks so you just have to give in eventually and rest your body on the mat! Probably the slow sequence of movements is what makes chaturanga challenging at first, especially if you have a heavy upper body.
The yoga teachers or yogis will guide you throughout the practice — from inhaling, exhaling, stretching, and even telling you where your leg is supposed to be placed. Everything is so clear; the instructions are eloquently precise, your goals or asanas are artfully vivid. That is the beauty of yoga — you do not have to over-think, you just need your mind to be present; and everything will fall into place.
Before you start looking for inner peace…
1) Bring a water bottle. Yoga is waaaay more than just stretching. It can be exhausting, especially for a beginner. Make sure you are hydrated throughout the practice.
2) Bring a yoga towel or bath towel. Yoga ashrams usually provide yoga mats but for hygienic purposes, bring your own yoga towel to put on top of the mat. Be courteous!
3) Respect the practice. Yoga is a community activity, but at the same time, is a personal journey for each one in the class. Make sure you do not disturb the practice (i.e. come on time, refrain from talking with that cutiepie over there, do not fart, etc.).
4) Try practicing on a weekday morning and a Sunday afternoon. Yoga is an amazing way to exhilarate your weekday mornings and boost you throughout the day. On the other hand, practicing on a Sunday afternoon can be very relaxing and peaceful – one of the perfect ways to cap off the weekend!
The light in me honors the light in you
When you start practicing yoga, you will often hear the word Namaste, which roughly means the light in me honors the light in you. Yoga is rapidly becoming a lifestyle, and the community—at least those I was exposed to—does not judge. Whether you are just scratching your curiosity’s itch, a yuppie seeking refuge from the stressful demands of a fast-paced metro life, #TitasOfManila looking for new activities to pass the time with her amigas, an athlete looking for an alternative to active recovery, yoga shall wrap you with a warm, welcoming embrace. Namaste!