This post is courtesy of Tirisula Yoga.
Hello you guys! Its been a long while since I blog about my journey to restore my health with mindful eating and my yoga + Pilates practice, and perhaps this post would be a great way to get started again by sharing my Ramadan experience whilst going through an intensive yoga teacher training course for 5 weeks. As many of you might have known on my social media accounts, I’ve completed my full-time yoga teacher training (YTT) on 11 August this year but what you didn’t know was the first 2 weeks of my YTT training happened to be the last 2 weeks of Ramadan! Was i crazy to do it during Ramadan? Of course I was! but I had mentally prepared to go through it all cost for the betterment of my health. If you had followed me closely, you would know that I had a history of hospital visits and laboratory tests for my colon but having gone through that ordeal and managing the daily routine of having an irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) certainly does not stop me from pursuing yoga even farther.
I’m sure you’ve seen your colleagues, your close friends and Facebook friends posting pictures of them going to the gym (on an empty stomach, without any water and slightly sleep-deprived) during the long summer days of June-July, although it may seem a little loony at first, many Muslims sisters and brothers choose to continue their workouts during Ramadan even if its a notch down than usual. I’ve always been inspired by the courage of the fit(s) during Ramadan and amid the barrage of conflicting opinions on my pursuit with Yoga to keep me healthy, I still went ahead to further my knowledge on how I could be healthy for the sake of Allah.
Today, I figured it’ll be a good start to share with everyone some of the really important lessons I’ve learnt during my YTT so far, that has really transformed my yoga practice. Prior to starting my YTT, I have been practicing for 7 years on and off, and was only comfortable to have my self practice at home ever since I made my hijrah 4 years ago.
And while training at Tirisula Yoga has really changed my perspective about my own practice and my inner journey, this year was my biggest breakthrough to work hard during Ramadan and partake in the teacher training so I guess the pro of making exercise during Ramadan work for me, starts with a discipline. Thankfully, I had planned out a 30 day ramadan stretch project for Fitness for Muslimah‘s sisters on Instagram and the private Facebook group; it was a mini project I had embarked to continue my everyday evening practice so I could get more time to relearn the anatomical aspect of the body so that they could benefit from the simple stretch and expand on my asana practice at the same time.
I had thought waking up early and be ready for YTT at 7.30am was a piece of cake since I was already up by sahur during Ramadan but by the third day, I was already thinking second thoughts to snooze for that extra 30 minutes of rest and skipped sahur because my muscles were aching crazily in spasms especially on my shoulder girdles and posterior deltoids when I tried to lift my arms! It was easier thought than done to train my mind to be flexible in welcoming yet another day of intensive ashtanga training.
This realisation was one of my biggest exercise to remind myself that it was a sponsored YTT, why I am doing it in the first place and, honestly I couldn’t imagine the thought of missing out a valuable knowledge and opportunities after missing 2 days of training due to inevitable health circumstances! Here’s 5 lessons I learnt to make exercise during Ramadan work for me to endure the intensive training and finish what I’ve always wanted to do since last year!
1. Stay committed to decisions, but stay flexible in fitness approaches
While the quest for contentment to be healthy is not new, the physical context in which it takes place is. I’ve always shun away in exercising during Ramadan in the past until transmuted by my intention to share and inspire my wellbeing journey ever since I encountered a close diagnosis of having a colon cancer and ended up with an irritable bowel syndrome. (You can read more about that part here) While most fitness activities seems detrimental for me at that point of time, I’m glad I still had my yoga practice till today. Funny how I’ve been afraid to push myself farther in my practice before YTT when I used to love sports! So on 6th July onwards, I found myself oddly liking the intensely physical and athletic form of ashtanga yoga whilst fasting! Most of us would prefer to do light workouts during Ramadan but not me. My YTT has been a lot of unlearning and relearning what works for my colon even in seemingly basic poses such as Vakrasana (twisted pose) and Navasana (boat pose), trying out my first Sirasana (headstand) and enjoying the process of being in the most difficult but now achievable pose, Marichaysana C today after my Ashtanga mysore practice in the morning!
2. Embodied awareness
While I was keen to be renowned as “certified” yoga teacher alas, I found the very true purpose of taking this YTT was the intention to break through self-limiting and self-immobilising thoughts and behaviours that are detrimental to my wellbeing in the long run. It was only through my YTT that I’ve managed to see the connecting dots of my 7 years practice and be fully aware of the natural rhythm that supports my wellbeing. This natural rhythm that I experienced during YTT was more on the mental progress over the physical to reflect rather than react, to soften rather than harden, to open the heart and to see clearly how things are now rather than dwelling on the past or worry about the future, which I find gradually doable to be in harmony with everything around me, even on reconciling friendships and relationships. I don’t know if there is any other fitness that embodies these practice of self-awareness but I can tell you that Yoga has worked for me to retrain the mind to work for me rather than against me for enduring the intensive YTT, alhamdulillah.
3. Slowing down
That being said, I guess I would always be a student in refining this skill of being mindful! Like all practitioners, there are times I began to recognise that in between the ups and downs, and the coming and going, there is a matrix of stillness or pause that invites me to know when I can push myself and go farther and endure. But even so, it takes some time to grow out of the layers. There was one point during YTT that knowing when to slow down and stop was blurry for me and breathing became painful for me that I had to break my fast and quench my thirst for doing my ujjayi breathing during asana forcefully. It was a painful lesson of being disconnected in my breath, when I could have used my breath to “palpate” and reduce places of tension in my body. And do you know what’s the hardest asana? Its letting go and just be vulnerable 🙂
4. Being mindful in everything I do
I sincerely think that the secret to achieve balance of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past or worry about the future by anticipating the troubles to nourish your body and supplement your fitness goals, but to JUST live in the present moment earnestly and mindfully. This lesson was constantly present again and again during my YTT and amazingly besides having a razor mind to remember the ashtanga primary series and the sanskrit names whilst fasting, I found a sense of lightness in my body and mind as I focus on balancing strength, flexibility and stamina during asanas. Trust me once you’ve gained mindfulness, you’ll be able to “watch” your unconscious quest for happiness, and stop the casting waves of here and there, hoping to chase the rainbows of a better life instead of enjoying the present momentarily.
Mindfulness is about becoming an observer, practicing non-judgemental awareness of the present moment.
5. Motivation lifelines
For some people including me, we don’t heal in isolation, but in community, so, forming a support system with a buddy or two and a group of friends can be helpful in creating long lasting lifestyle changes and inculcating a regular fitness routine! I find this seemingly true to stay consistent in my practice! I try to stay connected with my YTT friends and in fact, some of us are going for Lululemon’s flow rider workshop today and Lava yoga’s bikini beach body instalment classes on Sunday! Besides having a support system, I think friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures and without friends, even most agreeable pursuits can become tedious! Evidently so, part of my spiritual, mental and physical progress in YTT are results of the influences and connection I share with my classmates and my teachers at Tirisula, my lifelines. ❤
….. and there you go, that’s how I endured my YTT whilst fasting! If you find this post inspiring, which I hope it would, remember to share it with your friends and families and spread goodness all around!