GETTING MY MANDALA ON AT YOGATARA WITH LINA TARA
SECRET BANDAR UTAMA LOCATION, KUALA LUMPUR
As I sit in my recliner - my bruised and tender self propped up with cushions - editing these beautiful photos from the day before I checked into hospital, it feels less like a week ago and more like a lifetime away that I took a step toward my dream figure with a helping hand. Honestly, leading up to the date of my breast augmentation and liposuction there were moments of last-minute indecision mostly fueled by my fear of the painful recovery and worse, never waking up from the operating table. The evening before I checked into the hospital for overnight observation prior to my cosmetic surgery; I sought to calm my nerves, introspect, and observe my feelings with some detachment. I did so with a mandala art class at Yogatara - a yoga workshop run by my friend Lina Ooi.
Lina (above), who I met through her sister Michiekins knows a thing or two about a life-changing decision: she gave up an Asian Tiger parent approved-career as a forensic scientist to teach yoga. Her year long journey of self-discovery and beyond began in Rishikesh, India where she was given her spiritual name 'Tara'. Meditation retreats in Myanmar in Malaysia followed, as did stretch therapy classes, and travels around the world - the experiences of which, plus her background in medical science are reflected in her workshops that aims to rediscover inner peace through the art and science of yoga.
An Introduction to Yoga
Last class of the workshop:
Mandala Art, Hip Opening, and Meditation
The workshop, led by Lina in Bandar Utama, is a series of 8 classes ideal for beginners and also intermediate practitioners who want to refresh their foundation in yoga. The classes are designed to build but in typical Jasiminne fashion I missed the first 7 classes - although I did show up on the penultimate class with a bag of McDonald’s (large french fries + a Spicy Chicken McDeluxe - lawd, no wonder I need plastic surgery...) and ate it with a sadistic, lascivious vigour while everyone else was struggling to keep their composure. Them: Ommm. Me: Om nom nom.
I used to enjoy labouring under the delusion that I am incredibly flexible. That notion was swiftly dispelled with - what I thought was an effortlessly executed downward dog was promptly wiped off my face when told that my feet had to be flat on the floor. Failure to do so earned me the diplomatic comment from Lina: “Your hips are tight” (that’s what he said hur hur hur).
The benefits to my
Friends who mandala together, stay together
Some of the group were already old friends, others new acquaintances being welcomed into the fold. Making a mandala as a group, we connected with one another - removing layers of social construct ie. race, religion, material possessions - to be joined in one common, simple goal. Letting our creative juices flow naturally allowed our busy minds to take a break while the more expressive sides were allowed to run free. As dusk fell and the ever-retreating sun cast a golden glow upon the group, we built the mandala in near silence but for the trickling of a nearby fountain and the evening calls of birds coming home to roost. I found the repetition of arranging and spacing out flowers, foliage, rocks, and other decorative items as evenly possible incredibly calming - a much needed respite from the trepidation of my impending surgery.⠀
Although symmetry was desirable in the mandala's shape, we were encouraged to simply follow our intuition and not overthink - there are no mistakes in mandala circle-making, because there is no "wrong". Though is must be said the majority - if not the entire - of the group have creative backgrounds in design or dabble in hobbies like photography, so there was some design consideration to our circle. A mandala is a reflection of the hands who build it, and I daresay ours read something like: "Proudly trained at The One Academy, Limkokwing University, and Central St Martins"...
"It began from the centre, radiating outward in a concentric manner.
Just like a flower, blooming into the world..."
By the time we had finally finished constructing our circle, the sun had truly set. We lit the tea lights and sat in the warm hue of candlelight...
...taking a silent moment to reflect upon the mandala as we sat around in a circle.
Next, we warmed up our bodies with the Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) as we faced the mandala, contemplating our work and losing ourselves in the moment. Well, the group did - I checked out to take photos for Lina, but my absent self is represented by my flamingo cushion.
Our teacher Lina then introduced some hip and heart opening asana (poses) to prepare the body, mind and spirit for the guided meditation. We learnt the proper way to sit comfortably than began looking within to find inner peace and answers on a postcard. Having spent my prior 3 weeks constantly on the go I realised that I had been flitting about from the moment I landed in Kuala Lumpur to distract myself from the nerves of facing a major invasive surgery under general anaesthesia. Building the mandala and the meditation session forced me to observe my feelings then detach from them to see the bigger picture. It took my volunteering to help take pictures for a friend's budding yoga business and then falling into the class on a whim for me to finally confront and acknowledge my fears. Despite the rather spiritual and emotional approach I found that the class had equipped me with some much-needed logic, which fortified me and helped give me the courage to follow through with my choice.
Clockwise from top:
NAZIM, NADINE, LINA, JILLIAN, DIQUE (THE ORIGINAL MVP RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS 'MAZING PIC), YOURS TRULY AKA THE REBEL WITH THE GANG SIGNS WHO ALSO MADE MICHIEKINS BALANCE THAT TRAY ON HER HEAD, MICHIEKINS, AND SUANNE.