That was the ice-breaker question of American yogi Copper Crow last June 9 as he started an intimate session on Tibetan Heart Yoga with a class of eager enthusiasts, some with international training themselves and others like me, barely a regular practitioner.
But that’s the beauty of yoga. Your practice as you sit on your mat is yours with the yogi a mere guide for the experience. It is not stressful and competitive, with your stats flashed on the screen for all to see.
Why take yoga? Answers were flying around the room. For stress management. It’s my “me” time. To clear the mind. To center myself, I offered. Copper said he was surprised because he normally gets answers like losing weight or improving flexibility.
There are no wrong answers, because yoga does address several levels of one’s self—the physical, mental/emotional, wisdom and bliss. Copper compared it to an onion and every person’s experience and yoga’s impact in their lives can be in any or all levels.
We were told that the Tibetan Heart Yoga or Yoga of Compassion combines the physical poses or asanas with a Tibetan meditation technique called tong-len. Copper said it is a practice of giving/sending and receiving.
A very generous and engaging teacher, he tried to compress a lot of interesting information into three hours, including the practice itself.
He skillfully loaded our practice with the experience of all the other techniques aside from the poses such as the use of mudras (hand gestures), mantras (especially the “om mani padme hum”), the mala beads (he even gave us our own 108 mala beads) and, of course, the tonglen. Copper made us do poses and asked us to visualize and take the pain or suffering of a loved one as we inhale and to give them love, peace or what we wish for them as we exhale.
Truly, he opened my eyes to the fact that yoga is not a selfish practice—centered only on one’s self—but can be used to heal others. The concept of being open and generous so that you can also receive abundantly resonated well.
Copper was flown in by Vida Yoga, which opens its first location in Alabang first week of July. He will conduct a 200-hour Hot Yoga Teacher Training (HYTT), which is a Yoga Alliance-registered course. A first in the Philippines, this is a great chance for those who want to be certified in 20 days right in Vida Yoga Alabang.
Three yoga enthusiasts, Amanda Griffin-Jacob, Karmela Oreta and Ginger Diaz (a hot yoga teacher herself), realize their dream of sharing their passion for yoga as they embark on opening two Vida Yoga centers in Alabang and BGC (opening September). Amanda is so proud of this accomplishment because it’s a realization of her mission/vision to “help others awaken to their own journeys of wellness.”
Despite her hectic schedule, Amanda indulged our few questions:
THE PHILIPPINE STAR: As yoga enthusiasts, what criteria did you have in mind when you were looking for a certification provider to bring to Manila?
AMANDA GRIFFIN-JACOB: Having been a yoga practitioner for 16 years, I have become adept at recognizing when a teacher is not only good at teaching, but is also able to inspire, engage, and motivate one to seek to delve deeper into their practice. This is what we look for when we bring trainers and expert yogis into Manila.
In your own opinion, what makes Copper Crow a special mentor?
Copper has been inspiring Karmela and I for eight years now in Singapore. We even took his CET course because he influenced us so much. He is a veteran teacher and trainer with over 20 years experience. He lives and breathes yoga and is so passionate about sharing his knowledge. He is caring, understanding, and knows just what each student of his needs to take it to the next level.
What is your vision for Vida Yoga in the Philippines?
Our vision for Vida Yoga is to bring an improved yoga experience and offerings to the Philippines by bringing the best local teachers together with handpicked yoga specialists from around the globe. We are so excited to go beyond the mat with educational workshops, spiritual retreats around the world, and the best teachers we can find. Our mission is to help guide Filipinos to a new level of awareness about the connection between mind and body for a healthier way of living.
What sets Vida Yoga apart from the rest?
Instead of the traditional forced-air systems, Vida uses the premier infrared heating system from the US that provides clean heat, promotes better blood circulation, as well as reducing dust and allergens. Every Vida Yoga student will practice on Manduka Pro mats, the No. 1 mat recommended by teachers worldwide with ultra-dense cushioning that provides superior support, stability, and joint protection. Meticulous attention to cleanliness and safety is provided via top-of-line air purifiers.
What specific benefits did you get from your yoga practice that you consider life-changing?
Hot yoga was my first step in my health and wellness journey. The transformative effects of this practice come from consistency. It is restorative, challenging, and detoxifying for the mind. It’s an all-around curative routine that has produced incredible derivative benefits for me by expanding my interest and exploration of living a healthier and more satisfying life.
What three benefits will non-yoga practitioners get from trying out this mind-body workout?
There are so many benefits that anyone can derive from hot yoga and non-hot yoga. Off the top of my head:
Better sleep. Yoga practitioners tend to sleep better. That’s been proven. A regular yoga routine helps your quality of sleep because the combination of gentle movements, meditation, and regulated breath reduces stress and calms the nervous system.
Depression relief. Yoga makes everyone happy because it helps you to relax. Many studies have concluded that yoga is an effective method for helping to reduce depressive symptoms.
(Side note: Infrared heat may stimulate serotonin production, which we have from our heating panels—the hormone linked to mood regulation —and benefit people suffering from depression.)
Alleviates stress. Many people turn to yoga as a natural way to deal with stress.
A National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) found that 94% of people use yoga for wellness reasons, 55% of yogis reported improved sleep, and over 85% reported a reduction in stress A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that a 16-week program of hot yoga significantly reduced stress levels in sedentary and stressed adults.