Experiencing the hip-hop Yogi

brochure.jpg  Practicing yoga with Duncan Wong in a whole day yoga workshop today, is not your regular, regimented, structured, calm breathing type of yoga.  It took about 30 something of us, yoga teachers and practitioners, blown away out of this world following his instruction and movements!

Sponsored by BaliSpirit on their upcoming BaliSpirit festival in Ubud next Thursday until Sunday, 13th-16th March 2008, Duncan Wong, whose creation was described as Yogic Arts, held a one-day workshop at the Ritz Carlton Jakarta on 08Mar08. Duncan is known to be one of the teachers to Madonna and Sting.  As read in his official website, his root is Ashtanga Yoga, combined with martial arts (wushu) and tantric yoga.

Duncan started the morning session with his elaboration on yoga and its philosophical meaning, what type of yoga that we were going to do the whole day.  Then it started… (and all the way through) with hip-hop, rap music, you name it, from Mary J Blige, Wil Smith and others which I am not familiar with, but enjoyed the beat (maybe in some other occasion, but for now, I had to disobey my self mental-blocking, to just enjoy the moment)!  People started to squirm and comment that this was not what they expected, including myself.  As time progressed, I kind of enjoyed and followed his erratic and sometime, very fast New Yorker instructions.

Ujjayi Pranayama (‘the victorious breath’) was used all the time and the movement were following the vinyasa (flow of movement) of Ashtanga Yoga as explained by him in the beginning.  But in between, Duncan inserted the martial arts movements, the usage of third and forth chakra (the energy center of concentrated prana), by exercising bandha (whereby we exercise to lock or unlock the prana).  The combination of ujjayi and control of bandha energized and warmed each of individual in the room, and we started sweating profusely. 

His movement was lithe, fast and strong.  He posed for us from time to time with the advanced series in Ashtanga.  But, man, he did not stop talking towards the purpose of the pose, and other matters which seemed to be incoherent, or he would lip-synching the song played.. what a bundle of energy! 

He adjusted us one by one, and each difficult asana (pose) he asked us to hold for at least 10 breaths.  It was rather tough to hold parivrtta parsvakonasa (revolving side angle pose) for 10 breaths, while waiting for his adjustment. Duncan also emphasized on different types of dristi (gazing point), whereby he sampled nasagrai (the tip of the nose) in upward facing dong (urdhva muka svanasana).  He also taught us the various techniques of standing transition from the end of suryanamaskar (sun salutation) Duncan Wong style, the importance to strengthen the hand, wrist, upper thighs, hamstring and the core muscles in the tummy.

Other challenging and more advanced poses were practiced, such as bakasana (crow prose) into bhujapidasana (arm pressure), tolasana (scale pose), marichyasana I & II.  All of which needed to be done with caution, especially for beginner practitioner, who had not developed enough strength in hand and wrist.

Towards the end of the first session one, he explained to us that he was going to adjust us using tantric approach.  So it could be perceived on the position that he was doing when adjusting us, was beyond the personal boundaries of people.  For example, he would be on top of me (literally), minus the sexual action, of course… but he already warned all of us that it was going to happen and it could cause him trouble in some Asian countries – so he said that if we did not like the way he did, either we could say it and ask him to stop.

The morning session finished at about 12.30 and I continued to chat with him on a personal level.  Duncan used to live in New York until about 4-5 years ago and now he is basing himself either from Japan and China, he did not specify clearly.  He learned the technique of Thai Massage and he practiced it to one of the participants during the break.

BaliSpirit and Ritz Carlton prepared afternoon refresher and beverages, which were mostly vegetarian, except for some prawn and chicken skewers.  By the time I approached the buffet table, most of the food were finished.  I could relate to the crave for carbohydrate on something more energizing and filling.  Hey, but still would go through the afternoon session, so no need to fill it up.

Afternoon session started around 2, and boy, were we slow to follow his instruction.  He was a bit impatient but recovered quickly because his favorite songs were played.  Some of the participants were gone, either had something else to do or did not enjoy the first session.  We were still doing some challenging seating and reclining poses, such as halasana (plough pose),  which I bet would make Ann B went wild, because we just did it on the floor without any support or precaution for the neck and shoulder.  Ooh, well, just for this one, Ann, next time we will do it Iyengar way! Also supta kurmasana (sleeping tortoise) and urdhva mukha paschimattanasana (balancing forward bend), in these very advanced poses, Duncan asked us specifically to watch.

Towards the end, we did supta padang usthasana (lying down leg raises); during sivasana (corpse pose), Duncan promised to do tantric-Thai massage to each of us, which he did, and it felt soooo good and muscle-relieving.  Simultaneously, Daphne Tse, the guitarist/singer, came in to celebrate our journey with her Kirtan songs. 

The day was completed and another new journey accomplished…this time we did it with the hip-hop yogi.


We practice yoga – Not to attain enlightenment

We practice yoga – Because we are enlightened.

(Duncan Wong, Yogic Arts)


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