the past week.

Just logging classes.

Thursday: Vinyasa. Yoga for Runners.

Friday: Hot Hatha. Yoga Wheel (I really loved what I did in this class).

Saturday: Bikram.

Sunday: Bikram (hot…). Pilates Flow (wow, so much core work).

Monday: Vinyasa (slower than usual but more intentional). Hot Hatha.

Tuesday: Hot Vinyasa.

Wednesday: Hot Hatha. Ashtanga (hoping not to have a repeat of the ‘muscular arms’ situation from past experience of practising Ashtanga).

 

 

black!

On a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning, I woke up at the usual time that I would on weekdays (yes I can imagine all the drop-jaw expressions on your faces) and headed for yoga class. Unsurprisingly, the class at 8am was not empty. It wasn’t packed to the brim like weekday peak hour classes but I would estimate attendance to be more than 50 percent, and that is a conservative estimate. Yogis, or I would think exercise/fitness enthusiasts, can be people who don’t mind foregoing some sleep for an early rush of endorphines.

I had another reason that morning though. That 8am class wasn’t the usual class I went for, but I needed to be there early and leave early, as I had to then shuttle to the airport. My sis-in-law was jetting off for 3 months with my little baby nephew, to visit her sister and as well as to take a break abroad perhaps. I could only wish that I could also take a long break somewhere, but I guess it will happen if I want it to. I just need to stop thinking so much.

It started to pour really heavily while we were at the airport. And it felt a little strange, being there and not being the traveller. My usual routine of stepping into the airport terminal would be to head to the check-in counter, then immediately proceed to the departure gates straight into the passport control area. I don’t hang around outside because there was never a need to and I’d much rather be checking out DFS.

After her check-in was done, the family went to have breakfast/brunch at Toast Box, and this was what I ordered:

20130917-092312.jpg

Kopi-O with a cupcake (or also known as 鸡蛋糕). I had wanted to try Kopi-O for the longest time and see if there is any difference between this and black coffee (western-style). I know there shouldn’t be too much differences yet there should be because of the types of beans used and how the beans are prepared. I don’t know too much about the mechanics of bean-roasting in Asian/Chinese-style versus Western-style, but the coffee does taste a little different. The next time I try Kopi-O I will try to remember how it is like, but will request for siew-dai (less sugar) or maybe kosong (no sugar) to really be able to decipher the taste of the coffee. I was worried it’ll be too bitter and acidic so I had just ordered a normal Kopi-O. Even my dad drinks Kopi-O and not kosong. Haha.

But well it was drinkable and in fact not as acidic as I’d imagined! In fact, I’ve had much more black coffee or Americanos elsewhere that turned out to be way more acidic than this. Or maybe the sugar made the difference, because on the other occasions I hadn’t added much sugar, or used brown sugar instead.

On the other hand, the 鸡蛋糕 that I ordered wasn’t that great. It was on Instagram that I saw someone posting a picture of the soft fluffy traditional cupcake that she bought from a confectionery, and she mentioned that Crystal Jade’s cupcakes are good. So when I saw it at Toast Box I decided to order it and it wasn’t fantastic. It’s just like a normal sponge cake that was pretty spongey/airy and it lacked the fragrance that I generally associated with these cupcakes that I also used to enjoy when I was a kid.   20130917-092322.jpg

The good thing about it though, was that it was not really sweet and it went well with the coffee. I think I will drop by Crystal Jade one of these days to buy one of their 鸡蛋糕 to try!

Bikram Yoga, Paris, Grands Boulevards

In April, I checked out Bikram Yoga in Tokyo while I was on vacation. Exercise doesn’t have to take a break while we are on holiday, as I have realised, is not just my personal mindset because one of my two friends whom I travelled with was also hitting the gym almost on a daily basis! I suppose besides that we try to incorporate exercise into my daily lives, much like how we need to eat and sleep each day, it also helps us to burn off excess calories from all that good food that we enjoy when we are on holiday.

Maybe the fact that I am trying to maintain a regular exercise regime also affected how I think about what my job requires. Last year, I had crazy travelling schedules, by my measure; it wasn’t entirely hectic, but having to be out of the country each month, for either a week or two each time, could seriously disrupt this routine, besides screwing up my body clock and causing some health problems. Jetting across timezones can take its toll on my physical as well as mental health and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It might also be due to age, where somehow the body is not reacting well to the physical stresses of travelling, coupled with other forms of stress that this endeavour creates. Finally, I have probably also felt the desire to spend more time with my family now. Although I am still not what some would describe as being very close-knitted with my family, time does change people to a certain extent.

Anyway, on this last business trip to France, I decided to find out before I went if they had a Bikram studio too. Well, most big cities have some form of Bikram yoga, and I found two studios located in Paris, which I thought to check out during the weekend. I couldn’t go on weekdays because the office, as well as the hotel where I was putting up at, isn’t located within the city, and it easily takes about an hour to get to the heart of the city. On the first day that I arrived that was Sunday, I made a trip downtown but was too tired physically to want to drag myself to the class. From the website, I saw that they conducted lessons in English, once a day, at each of the two studios. As I could only make it for the 4pm class, I wasn’t able to last that long outside and still pull through, so I left Bikram for the coming weekend.

20130627-092605.jpg

On Saturday, I was out shopping on my own downtown, and after not having much success there, I found my way to the studio at Grands Boulevards. It is about 10 minutes’ stroll from Galeries Lafayette (on Boulevard Hausmann), and very near to the Grands Boulevards metro station. I spent a lot of time walking that day, and since the weather was rather good, I just walked around the city the entire time. The studio is pretty small, and it only opens its doors 30 minutes before class starts, so I was standing outside this door for quite some time since I reached way before 4pm.20130627-092623.jpg

They have a small changing room with lockers that you can operate with a one-euro coin, refundable when you open it, and 4 shower cubicles. It isn’t a large place, smaller than Bikram Shinjuku in Tokyo but it wasn’t crowded. The first time I went, the studio was only about half-full, which numbers probably about 10-12 practitioners, I couldn’t remember. The studio could supposedly accommodate up to 25 persons but perhaps being a fine Saturday afternoon, most people are out enjoying the weather in town. It was much warmer on Sunday, and so the studio was also more unbearably hot and humid, especially when the fans were not switched on at all. Sunday was also a day when most shops are not open, so that probably explained the higher turnout for the same 4pm class.

Perhaps the studio being small, the instructors could really focus on the students, and they even knew them by name. Also since I was a guest (of sorts), and obviously being very different in how I look as compared to the others, they would also call me out on the postures if I wasn’t doing something correctly. It was rather stressful at some point, but it’s a great way to improve! I had fun during the two days of practice at Bikram Yoga Paris, and I’m not sure if I will ever return because France is just too far away (and expensive to travel to too), but the instructors were great and I think the price is pretty ok, cheaper than Tokyo! I got myself a promotional offer, which was a 10-day pass at 35 euros. Considering that even though I only went for 2 classes in 2 days, it was already worth it cos a single class is priced at 25 euros (without adding on the costs of towels and mat).     20130627-092632.jpg

I wonder where will be the next city where I will get to practice Bikram Yoga at. It helps heaps that they had English classes in Paris, because although the 26 poses are always the same and the routine is the same, Bikram Yoga is still a dialogue-based class where we try to follow the instructions when to go into the pose and so on. When I was in Tokyo, the classes I went for were in Japanese (they also had limited English classes too) and I just went through the routine without knowing if the instructor would have been trying to correct me.

letting go

The more we want our lives to be simpler, the harder it is to attain that state of simplicity. In our society today, the relentless pursuit of anything and everything culminates in unhappy brooding people. I always lament that all I want is a simple life doing the things that I enjoy, yet it is this very want that makes it tough. How can a life be simple if it is about me doing what I want? At the end of the day, we can’t be divorced from the reality of a material world where costs of living rises exponentially from year to year, and despite our claims of the want for simplicity, it never really is.

Let me take a deep breath and focus on deepening the standing bow pose. 

20130528-111358.jpg

Honestly, I don’t know if I can say I have a passion for yoga. Yes, as compared to the normal person on the street some may say I have an obsession with yoga. How else can someone be so motivated to head to the yoga studio on such a regular basis that some of the counter staff knows me by name and face? But yet it is something that has become something of a habit, and perhaps a reliance, or addiction. It is a good time-filler that has given me a little bit of purpose in life, possibly redirecting the focus away from splurging on other material items that I used to spend on. Notice how I have cut down on my extravagant shopping habits, where these days even when I think about buying another IT bag (whatever that connotes now anyway), I don’t get as hyped or excited anymore. Have I lost my direction? Or have I just awakened to a new phase of my life? Of course, even with the reduction in expenditure in that area of shopping, the monetary resources have been guided elsewhere, and that’s where the yoga membership comes in. Maybe because I have invested such a large amount of money in it, it only makes sense to utilise it more regularly to make my money’s worth and get the full return on investment, so to speak, right?

I did some mental sums and on my basis of attending classes, I think the money I put in can probably break even within 2 years, or even less. I am 5 months into this new lease of membership so it shouldn’t take long.

Unhappiness seem to fester on some days and it’s a vicious cycle that just feeds on itself and makes it worse. I know I just need to focus my thoughts on one thing but being as human as I am, it is just me to start whining and wallowing. I need to learn to let go of my unhappiness, because only then will I have space in me to start experiencing the good. Is it possible though, that this can be done if I didn’t have my current job that brings in a decent monthly salary that pays for these things that I supposedly enjoy? Money is said to be a good servant but poor master, and it makes me wonder if I am now enslavering myself to money instead of the other way round as it is meant to be. In my current situation, I have to always think about money, money and still money, that pays for yoga, that pays for my holidays because I need to getaway from what stifles me here, that pays for my language classes that I sign up for to distract me from the mundaneness of daily routine life yet somehow wrestles energy away from my body… and of course, eventually that will pay for the apartment that I will have to myself!

In the meantime, it is also paying for these that recently I have started to indulge in. 20130528-111407.jpg

Tuesday. Mid-week will be upon us soon.

Bikram Yoga Japan, Shinjuku

This post is not so directly related to the holiday but it took place in Tokyo anyhow. I believe most people who read this are gonna go “What? Are you crazy or just pure obsessed?” I know that most people, when it comes to vacations, means taking a break from everything about daily normal routine life, which includes work, maybe family or commitments, and as well exercise. We often decide that when we want to rest we go all out, enjoy whatever we can of the place we visit, sights, shopping and of course, the food, and exercise takes a back seat. I do that too, but Tokyo is some place where I have visited often in the last few years. In fact, I think I have not really gone a year without visiting Tokyo, or at least some city in Japan. There are many places yet unexplored in Tokyo, and definitely the rest of Japan (like Hokkaido that I really want to visit soon one day), but I just like Tokyo a lot to keep going back, even if it means I am not having any planned itinerary of what my holiday is. To me, going on holiday means relaxing myself in a place other than Singapore (or rather going to some place that I really love and enjoy), and it doesn’t have to come power-packed with activities like sight-seeing or the likes.

Since it was a trip that I took at a leisurely pace, I thought it would be a great idea to check out Bikram Yoga in Tokyo since I picked this up recently. There isn’t a gym in the hotel otherwise I might have been tempted to just head to the gym and pound on the treadmill, but I have been experiencing some pain in my left hip so I had decided to keep my trainers for the time being. It would definitely be more convenient if it’s just going to the gym because going to yoga means I have to bring along with me shower stuff and all the rest of the works, outside of the hotel to the studio, which frequently means a huge bag of toiletries. Fortunately, the Bikram Yoga studio in Shinjuku was located fairly near my hotel, about 10 minutes’ walk away. 20130424-095806.jpg

I first went to look for it one morning before I met my friends R and G for breakfast, but they weren’t open yet (the Shinjuku branch opens from 10:00am), so I went back in the evening and got their schedule, which is also available on their website. Within Tokyo, there are six outlets but this location worked the best for me although in terms of timings it isn’t. Nevertheless since I am on holiday, I could work the Bikram classes around my activities.   20130424-095825.jpg

I dropped in for a class on a weekday morning, and it costs 3,000 yen per class (includes towel mat), which works out to be about S$40. It is not cheap I would agree, but in Singapore that is perhaps also the kind of rates we are talking about for a one-time class I think, or at least from what I recalled what a friend told me in the past, several years ago. I paid an additional 150 yen for rental of a set of bath and face towels, but you could bring them yourself (maybe from the hotel) if you want. I didn’t want the hassle of bringing additional weight of towels so I paid the 150 yen. This is one row of the lockers, where the lock and key are provided.20130424-095851.jpg

And this is how the locker looks like. Pretty compact but I was surprised I could fit everything in, my huge bag plus the carry-all I brought along for the gear and my toiletries, the bath towel, coat and the layers of clothing I had.20130424-095904.jpg

The dresser; I like that they are so thoughtful to provide cotton squares with make-up remover for us! Wished they would do this in Singapore but I’m pretty sure us Singaporeans will just abuse and maybe bring such things home. Besides, in terms of the membership base, as this is a one-studio place, at any one time there are not as many yogis so the place doesn’t become packed and crowded. 20130424-095916.jpg

And the shower cubicles. Again as you can see, everything is neat and compact, and this is about 10 shower stalls we see. The shower cubicle isn’t big or roomy but it sufficed for me. What I really am impressed with is that the cubicles are all very clean, and the flooring used in the stall is of some material that dries really fast because after I showered and towel-dried myself, the floor is almost already dry.20130424-095928.jpg

The Shinjuku studio is relatively new, from what I read from the website so that probably also explains its cleanliness and maintenance. When I compare it with the state of (dis)repair of the studio that I go to in Singapore, the latter really pales in comparison. Of course, our facilities are all heavily used and abused, so it is tough to maintain it well and also many members are not civic-minded and considerate enough to help upkeep the place. I really enjoyed the experience I had despite the price I had to pay for the three sessions I attended. Maybe in future when I return to Tokyo I will check out the other outlets to see if they also offer the same kind of good experience and facilities, or if they will also suffer from the same problems once the studios entertain high numbers of practitioners. Even when I went for a 8:45pm class one night, as the 7pm class was emptying out, it wasn’t that packed, not like we are used to seeing in our own Bikram yoga studios.

I didn’t manage to take any photos of the studio itself as there was a class going-on and on another occasion the lights were already off. Besides, I don’t know if photos are allowed since I didn’t ask… so if the above pictures are not allowed and someone from Bikram Japan wants me to take them down, please let me know! I took care to snap the photos only when everyone left the locker room in order not to risk snapping anyone in the buff.