IT’S been a while since the last time I attended Namaste Festival. It was two years ago as last year it wasn’t held. I remember in 2015 I came to the festival as a media volunteer, working as a blogger and then getting an access to a class or two, which was quite good because we did it for pleasure and fun. We love yoga and nothing is hard to do when you do it for passion. At least for me. But the committee unfortunately no longer deemed the existence of media center volunteers necessary and vital to the event so we can’t do anything about it.
This year I made a comeback as a full participant. That didn’t necessarily mean I used up all the class tickets though. I tried to stay sensible by not exhausting myself to death from participating in 6 classes all day long. Besides, this festival is not always about taking more classes and see cool teachers from foreign countries or idol teachers you’ve been longing for since the first second you’re stalking his or her Instagram newsfeed. It’s more about to find a fresh approach to my own yoga practice, to me.
When a friend mentioned the name of Mark Yeo, I subtly felt the attraction. Inexplicable one. Maybe because it isn’t a household name for yogis actively sharing their practice on Instagram. So I got curious as to what kind of style this teacher was about to present us. But I had a feeling that his class was different.
The first time Mark told us to do was lying prostrate on our mat with our knees meeting opposite ankles. Pretty much like double pigeon pose which I’m famiiar with. His words were less demanding. He provided alternatives, rather than instructions. There was no need to try very hard. We just had to do it naturally.
“Relax and breathe comfortably and deeply,” he said as he spread his view around the class. Good Yoga was the title of his class that afternoon.
As he found a participant was spotted struggling to reach the full pose, he told her not to do so. “You’re tense. Your body tells…” Because he argued that tension may be counterproductive. Then I knew his approach is unconventional.
The Middle Path
Mark believes that it’s important to find the middle path in our practice. How to find it? Listen to your breath. An asana which is too easy for you can only make you fall asleep, and your breath too slow and effortless. You’re wasting your time of practice. Yet, too much of effort causes tension, which is not a good idea either. Your breath is short and hard. Plus, you struggle too much to sustain it. That’s not a good yoga. So good asanas are just good, balanced configurations of your body. Conventional ways of stretching our body may only cause discomfort and tightness problems in other parts, he said.
He also demonstrated how we can in fact massage ourselves and release tension with our own body. In this case, no props are required. For instance, when we feel fatigued around forearms, we can massage them with our kneecaps slowly accompanied with slow and deep breathing. This method is quite new to me, which is great because that was what I was here for. To learn new things, rather than draining my energy out with ‘yoga marathon’ throughout the day.
His approach is more effortless. Ease and comfort are the priority in good yoga practice. Meanhwile, certain forms are not central.
Mark has previously learned and practiced Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga but seeing his way of teaching here, he seems to offer a totally different perspective. And this may resemble yin yoga approach to some extent as far as I’m concerned.
His practice focuses on relaxing, stretching, less resisting and less push in every asana we perform in a yoga class.
He can’t emphasize more on the importance of long, nice and even breaths. Because when we focus more on perfecting our asanas, we tend to lose our breaths, forgetting the significance. And the benefits of asanas once we forget our breath is “vastly reduced”, he said.
In this class, Mark helped me with some postures and he pretty much knew at the first sight my abnormally loose joints and long tendons. In a supine pigeon pose, he adjusted my body to reach the deepest stretch my body can reach. (*)