A weekend of yoga with great teachers, amazing Indonesian food and relaxing hair spas – what more can I ask from a short weekend jaunt overseas?
In late November, I attended the Namaste Festival at Hotel Sultan in Jakarta. This was three days worth of workshops ranging from yoga classes to martial arts to recycle art. The yoga classes were the main attraction naturally. Because we signed up very early for the festival, we paid only S$130 each (it was a one-for-one deal) for the full festival pass. Barbara, who attended a similar festival in Hong Kong earlier this year, paid about S$500 for that event. This Indonesian one was a very good deal indeed.
The festival took place in downtown Jakarta at Hotel Sultan. We were fortunate that we were able to bunk in for three days with our Indonesian friend Rosiva who lived just 10 minutes away and didn’t have to waste money on accommodation.
The hotel grounds were humongous. All the tennis courts were converted into marquees for the yoga workshops. Here we posed at the pool.
I wore one of my favourite leggings, the blue Teeki leggings that I think blend right into the swimming pool!
Our first class was a workshop by Briohny and Dice. If you read my previous blog entry about these two yoga teachers, you will know that they love inversions and arm balances and their classes are really tough.
Each class was two hours. Yoga classes in Singapore are usually an hour so I was really knackered after each session. Here Barbara held a handstand with the help of Cheryl. She was wearing Kira Grace leggings. I like the cut outs at the side of her tights.
Following an exhausting two-hour class with Briohny and Dice, we then proceeded for a two-hour flow class with local teacher Dini (on the right). We were so so tired we were trembling in our poses and dripping sweat all over our mats.
At the end of two classes, we admitted defeat and decided not to go for the afternoon classes. After all, this was a three-day event and we had to reserve our energies for the next two days. We then proceeded for a lunch feast. Look at our happy faces – we were so happy not to be in downward dogs.
When we got back to Rosiva’s apartment, we felt our energies restored and proceeded to do yoga in the living room. Cheryl shocked us with a move we had never seen before – the front splits. It took her a year of hot yoga and various yoga stretch classes to get to this. I’m very inspired!!
We woke up bright and early for the second day of the Namaste Festival with our bodies aching. The first class was Tiffany Cruikshank’s workshop on engaging the arms for inversions. She said that too often people don’t know how to engage their shoulders and end up using too much of a single muscle, such as the deltoids (which form the rounded contour of the shoulder), which was less efficient and would create muscle imbalances.
Here Tiffany showed us her favourite way of practising handstands. She favoured doing it without a wall because it would make you really aware of your body but at the same time, she would keep one leg cocked close to her body to prevent herself from tipping over the other side.
One thing that really struck me was that she said it was better to take little hops and build the necessary shoulder and core strength to get into a vertical position. This was better than kicking up against the wall and then try to lift your toes off and “hope that you will find a magical balance.”
From that class onwards, I fell in love and Tiffany became my favourite yoga teacher. She teaches online classes at Yogaglo.
Following her class, we took an Iyengar yoga class with a local teacher Olop Arpipi. Iyengar yoga is a form of hatha yoga that focuses on correct body alignment so as to spread awareness to every little part of the body. I don’t have another photos of the teacher but suffice to say that he was very good as well. We focused on backbends in his class.
On the third and last day, we took one more class with Tiffany Cruikshank. This time, we learnt how to engage our core for poses like the crow. Although the crow seems to be just about arm balancing, we also need to tighten our core so that we can lift our butts.
Another anatomy trivial I learnt was that the rectus abdominis (the “six pack”), which we often interpret to mean “the core”, may not be as useful as we think it is. The main role of ” the six pack” is to crunch the spine forward and well, that’s about it. Very few poses in yoga require us to do that. Instead, when we talk about strengthening the core for yoga purposes, the most important muscle is the transverse abdominis, which is the deepest of all the muscles and goes around the spine to protect and stabilise it. Rectus abdominis, granted, you are pretty but maybe not as useful as I thought initially!
After three days of hard work contorting our bodies, we rewarded ourselves with a hair spa and the most delicious roadside food. I can’t remember the names of the food any more but the dish with the prawn crackers or krupuk is some form of gado-gado and was the best dish I had in my three days there.
Too soon, it was time to fly home to Singapore. I really enjoyed myself at this festival and hope to be back next year. I am really fortunate to have friends who enjoy the same activities as I do and are willing to take time off work to do these things with me.
My next goal is to find people to climb Mount Kinabalu with me next year. I wonder who I can coerce to come along with me…