Stretcher: Intense side Stretch (Parsvottanasana)




·        Chest opener

·        Calms the brain

·        Stretches the spine, shoulder, wrists, hips and hamstrings

·        Improve digestion and overall balance


Yoga Home Practice: A Must or an Option?

The most challenging thing for beginner yoga practitioner is whether to develop a home practice.  I do not think this is the challenge for only beginners, but practitioners at all stages.  Whether practicing in the morning or evening; if it is in the morning – how early should I wake up or go to sleep the night before; if it is the evening, it might be too taxing physically, I need time with my family or other social engagements… ooh.. so many reasons, so many excuses.


We all face this at some point.  It is our nature to want to do what is easy and comfortable, which means we would ignore our own practice and instead rely on a class or group setting.  However, to deepen the experience and self-finding journey, one should consider taking it up a step further and develop a home practice.




Few things to pay attention to when developing home practice:


My intention – Form a positive intention, think about the reasons why I want to do the practice today and what the emphasis of this practice would be. 


My own space – it is important to set up a personal space which provides consistency.  It is just having a space that does not require to store or stow major furniture around, just moving a few chairs.  Try to dedicate a space with no disturbance, low traffic and relatively quiet.  Set a regular time each day for practice.  Practicing in the morning will get it out of the way and will set me up for the rest of the day.  Evening practice, not too close to bedtime, is also beneficial – since the body and muscle are already warmed up and might be concluded with more relaxation and restorative poses.


My equipmentsclothes:  comfortable, breathable, things which will not be getting in the way while doing the poses, or reveal more than I may be willing to reveal; mat:  a must have is a yoga sticky mat which helps me to be in place by providing traction.  Mat provides comfortable experience, it is much softer than the hard floor; blanket:  I have two at home, the woolen one and the coarse cotton one.  Both are useful to help support head, back, head, sit, lying down, either separately or together; blocks:  help to improve body’s alignment, especially in standing poses in which hands will not reach the floor, or to give marking to separate both palms, or to sit own in cross legged or in sitting hero pose; strap:  useful to bound poses if your hands do not reach each other, to strengthen alignment of arms.




My traps of excuses and obstacles – believe me, it is easier and faster to decide NOT to practice.  What are they? ‘I’m too tired today, I’ll do it tomorrow’, ‘I don’t have time right now’, ‘I’ll take a break today’.  As soon as it appears, try to recall my original intention.  Usually I just move myself to open and spread out my mat, do a brief stretching and start with the humble Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) A for 3-5 times for each side, which will definitely make my body warm.  After doing this, I am just ready and start to sweat to continue with more poses.  But be aware to avoid trap of judgement and competitiveness.  Whatever I do should be right.  If I can devote 15-20 minutes, rather than the usual 60-75minutes, that’s fine.  Daily practice and reflection are a commitment, which can be a valuable asset that I can use throughout my life.


My view is that home practice is a must while group or class provides you with a good foundation, structure and guidance to develop into a home practice.  It is also refreshing to be in a class, meeting the teacher, friends, sharing knowledge, getting new skills, understanding my areas of weakness and at the same time, opportunity to develop.



Lasem dan Kisah Tiga Kelenteng Tua

Cuplikan tulisan M.Herwiratno: Lasem, Antara Jawa dan Cina.

Kontributor Jakarta

Femina, Januari 2007


Layaknya daerah pecinan, disini akan ditemukan 3 kelenteng, tidak hanya 1 seperti di pecinan lain.  Istimewanya, kelenteng-kelenteng ini memiliki keunikan dan sejarah masing-masing yang sulit dijumpai di daerah lain di Indonesia.


Kelenteng Cu An Kiong di Jalan Dasun, misalnya, yang diperkirakan dibangun pada abad ke-16, merupakan kelenteng tertua di Lasem.  Dewi Laut Thian Siang Seng Bo sebagai dewi pelindung para perantau dari bahaya di lautan ditempatkan di altar utama.  Karena awalnya, masyarakat Cina Lasem memang kaum pedagang peratauan yang kemudian menetap.




Tapi, yang paling menarik dari kelenteng ini adalah ornamen ukiran kuno dalam bentuk dan warna yang sangat indah.  Ornamen yang menghiasi atap bagian dalam kelenteng mengandung berbagai kisah dari filosofi Cina, serta melambangkan berbagai harapan.  Misalnya, bunga empat musim melambangkan harapan akan kedamaian, gajah melambangkan kebijaksanaan, kijang dan bangau melambangkan panjang umur.  PIhak kelenteng menyediakan papan informasi khusus yang menerangkan tentang symbol-simbol ini.


Dari kelenteng Cu An Kiong, saya naik andong sekitar 10 menit menuju kelenteng Gi Yong Bio yang terletatak di Jalan Babagan.  Walau bangunannya sederhana, kelenteng ini merupakan kebanggaan masyarakat Cina Lasem.  Kelenteng ini memang dibangun khusus sebagai penghormatan masyarakat Cina Lasem yang bersatu dengan masyarakat pribumi dalam melawan penjajahan Belanda tahun 1745-1752.  Pemimpin perjuangan tersebut yaitu Mayor Ui Ing Kiat dan Tan Ko Wi yang memimpin kaum Cina, dan Raden Panji Margono yang memimpin masyarakat pribumi.  Masyarakat memberi penghormatan dengan cara menempatkan arca mereka di altar khusus dalam kelenteng tersebut.




Satu lagi kelenteng tua di di Lasem adalah Poo An Bio.  Kelenteng ini didirikan setelah tahun 1740, ketika masyarakat Cina Lasem meningkat pesat karena datangnya pengungsi Cina dari Batavia.  Akibatnya permukiman Cina meluas hingga ke daerah selatan, ke daerah Karangturi.


Meningkatnya komunitas Cina Lasem yang sebagian berasal dari daerah Quanzhou, provinsi Fucien atau Hokkian, membuat mereka perlu membangun sebuah kelenteng untuk memuja dewa pelindung mereka, Kong Tik Cun Ong atau Guang Ze Zun Wang.  Arca Dewa Kong Tik Cun Ong sering dibawa oleh para pedagang Cina dalam bagasi perahunya sebagai dewa pelindung para perantauan.  Kelenteng di Desa Karangturi ini kemudian diberi nama Poo An Bio atau Bao An Miao, sesuai gelar sang dewa, yaitu Bao An Zun Wang atau Raja Terhormat Pelindung Ketentraman.  Lukisan cerita klasik Cina menghiasi sekeliling tembok dalam kelenteng.  Cerita 24 anak berbakti dan cerita Sam Kok terlukis di tembok bagian kiri dan kanan kelenteng.


Ketiga kelenteng di Lasem tergabung dalam Yayasan Trimurti, yang mengadakan berbagai acara ritual.  Misalnya, untuk memperingati ulang tahun dewa-dewi kelenteng Lasem, mereka mengadakan ritual Gotong Tepekong.  Ritual ini dilaksanakan dengan menaikkan arca dewa-dewi ke atas tandu, lalu diarak keliling kota.  Tujuannya, agar para dewa-dewi tersebut memberkahi penduduk dengan rezeki dan juga menolak bala, demi keselamatan dan kesehatan penduduk di daerah tersebut.


Upacara ritual lainnya adalah Sedekah Laut.  Ritual ini dilaksanakan dengan menaikkan dewi laut Thian Shang Sheng Mu ke perahu nelayan dan kemudian mengarak keliling Pantai Laut Lasem.  Ritual ini dilaksanakan agar dewi laut memberkati keselamatan para nelayan dan penduduk Pantai Lasem agar terhindar dari bahaya laut, khususnya bencana tsunami.



Tattoo: Religion, believe and its meaning in India – Part 2

The story of the Ramanami


By Travellin’ Mick

Urban Ink 2009


It is not farfetched to think that the Ramanami might be an ancient cult, going back thousands of years in Hindu history, a remnant of times when Aryan and Dravidic tribes fought over rule of the land.  Or maybe it was an old tradition of ethnic minorities, inhabiting jungles and mountains? In actuality, it was none of the above.  Considering that there are only a handful of tattooed Rama devotees remaining, the cult is not that ancient after all.   It is young enough that there are still Ramanami alive who claim to have personally known the found of the sect. 


‘Parasuram was born into a poor untouchable farmers family in the mid 1800s.  Even though he always had to work hard in the fields, he taught himself how to read and spent a lot of time reciting the sacred scripts of the Ramayana.  He became a devout follower of Lord Rama and even lectured the Vedic scripts to other villagers.  When he was already an adult married man, he was unfortunate to be infected with leprosy and decided to renounce his normal existence and become a wandering sadhu, in order not to inconvenience his community and family.  Just before he left, he was visited by a wise man, who told him that if his faith in Lord Rama was deep enough, his name would be written on his chest.  Parasuram kept awake all night and recited the Ramayana and when first light came in the morning he found that ‘Ramram was tattooed on his chest, and that his terrible disease had disappeared!  Parasuram remained a modest family man and never wanted to be a guru, but soon he had a following of diligent students, who started ‘wearing the name of Rama’ on their foreheads.  Thus the Ramanami cult was born around 1890.’




Apparently the Rama cult started around 1890 as a tiny local group.  Many untouchables at the time were seeking moral support in their tough lives and welcomed a community where they could praise their Lord with out discriminating from higher castes.  It is hardly surprising that the Rama cult soon met fierce and sometimes violent opposition, since they according to traditional Hindu belief – ‘polluted’ the name of the Lord by tattooing it onto their ‘dirty’ bodies.  Consequently the sect moved even closer together and declared strict rules for their followers.  A real Rama devotee has to become vegetarian, cannot take alcohol and – most importantly – has to have ‘Rama’ tattooed on a visible part of the body. 


In 1907 a British colonial court declared the Ramanami a religion, which could not be discriminated against.  After Parasuram, who always denied formal leadership, had died around 1920, the sect reorganized and grew steadily into the 1960s.  An economic crisis in the 1970s changed the situation of the Indian rural population radically.  Many landless peasants had to seek scarce paid labour in the cities, a difficult feat for the Rama devotees, who were often ridiculed.  Fewer sect members tattooed their children, membership dwindled and tattooing vanished almost entirely.  Even though the Rama cult still exists in India, it has become more rare and a lot harder to identify. 


Ramanami and their Religious tattoo


The most interesting aspect of the religious tattoos of the Rama cult is that they are gender dependent.  Men and women carry identical visible and indelible marks of their belief on their skins; a rare occurrence in ethnic minorities, where tattoos tend to be gender-specific.  In the case of the Rama devotees though, the tattoo is the unifying element of an entire community that has been demonized as out-casts and consequently moved closer together.  To have the name of Lor Rama tattooed on the body thousand-fold is a clear statement towards higher castes; look, we too are able to worship our God and to have our own identity.  We, men and women alike, can even have His name on our skin! The tattoos are the visible symbol of the pride and steeliness of a deeply religious group of Hindus, a mark that conjures the highest respect for the devotion and spirituality of these human beings.




The last tattooist


To find out more about the secret tattoos of the devotees of Lord Rama, we tried to locate the last remaining tattooist of the sect.  We were given the name of his hamlet, but not its exact location.  Another needle in the haystack!


But I can always rely on my guide ‘ I have a feeling it is here., ‘ Jaspreet Augurs, when we  – once again – turn towards a dusty village road. ‘Let’s ask here at this hole-in-the-wall shop.’  We stumble into the semi-darkness of a tiny room, where the bare necessities of Indian life are for sale.  A few chicken scurry into open air and an old man jolts awake staring into our faces, disbelieving.  I am not sure who got the bigger shock.  His eyes penetrated the dim light and form a stark contrast to his dark, fully tattooed face.  They are a bright steely blue!  What a surprise, especially considering that we have been wondering all week why many Rama devotees had rather African than Indo-European features.


Bhururam introduces himself as a neighbor and best friend of Gangaram, the tattooist we are looking for, and he immediately sends out a boy to fetch him.  While we chat with friendly BHururam, two Rama devlotees stride towards us from a distance.  It is Gangaram the tattooist and his wife Punaibai, who saved head and heavy tattoos give her a strangely androgynous appearance.


We are overwhelmed:  the couple is known to be among the most devoted Rama followers.  They both are naksik.  Every square inch of their skin is covered with the mantra ‘ramram’.  Everything:  face, palms, ears, eyelids; they had even tried to tattoo their tongues!  It had taken 18 days of hell to finish the tattoos, a challenge only to be concluded by those who are driven by the deepest beliefs in their divine leader.  Cult tattoos are never paid for; the tattooists see their task as service for the community.




The last large tattoo that Gangaram did was the murthi (statue) of Janki, a lady in her midforties now, who decided to have her face tattooed about ten years ago.  Gangaram personally knows nine Rama devotees with full body tattoos who are still alive, but suspects more individuals outside his own province.  Quite a few of those have already reached the winter of their years and the youngest naksik is the current headman of the Rama cult, a man in his fifties.  It seems that it won’t be long until the last human beings to totally devote their lives – and bodies – to Lord Rama will soon be a mere memory. 




O, my dear humble Ampersand

What makes me go crazy about you?

On your own,

You will have no meaning

Without two things to join


You are here, there, everywhere

How do I get to use you?

Your existence went all way back centuries ago

Honestly, it is a very personal choice

Whether to use & or and

You are classic, yet modern

The swirl I cannot resist

May be I will use you more often

May be you will be in my next tattoo

May be…


I found a generous blog referring only to you

It is called, of course, Ampersand

Here are some of your transformations

Here are some of your disguises


Whatever it is

You will continue to be my subject of admiration.




Tattoo: Religion, believe and its meaning in India

The following writing and pictures are compiled from various sources.


The Indian culture is penetrated by clerical symbolism. Colors, numbers and designed or from nature adapted shapes are used for cultural coherence same as for banal symbols.  Scientists have observed the higher caste and social position of the women, the smaller and canny are the designs.  As worshippers of Vishnu and Shiva, the two big Hindu divinities, or follower of a teaching which places the principles of the female energy above everything, Indians wear a tattooed or sometimes burned in point on their forehead, the only place on the body not bedraggled by any excrement, which coloration shows the wearers affiliation to the different religious communities.  The point called Bindi stands for the ‘Third Eye’, the connection between the earthly live and the divine beyond.  The wearer of this mark is hoping for the blessing of the god worshipped by him.


Not less important were the ornaments described by Marco Polo who traveled through India in the 13th century.  Even Indian divinities carried tattoos.  According to the legend

Vishnu drew a tattoo on the hand of his wife Lakshmi for protection.  Tattoos were mostly more of a female matter anyway and sometimes it was even a disgrace for a girl not to be tattooed.  In central India, the mothers of the groups of the Muria and Maria applied extensive tattoos on their daughters during puberty using sharp iron needles and black charcoal dust.  And very often traditional patterns also decorated from the kino tree which contained a tanning agent and milk or urine.  The tatauing process was very painful but was bravely sustained by girls and women.


In country sides of northern India and Nepal, suchlike body decorations are kept up together with the traditional coherency although it is not naturally for every family to have their children tattooed. 


The Ramnaamis, or Ramupasaks as they call themselves, are a sect of people considered to be untouchables in India.  They worship, and sing and dance the praises of Ram, the quintessential man of Hindu tradition. They have faith in the power of his name and recite and swear by the Ram Charitra Manas, a scripture that combines ethical values with the spiritual beauty of poetry. They neither maintain a temple nor worship an idol. The Ramnaamis are of a tribal origin.  They are scattered across the states of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in India.  These are a staunch devout of Lord Rama and they get his name engraved on their body in Sanskrit.  They get Ram’s name engraved on almost all the practically possible corner of their skin even on their tounges and inside their lips.




Ramnaamis began their extraordinary custom during the Hindu reformist movement of the 19th century when they angered the upper-caste Brahmins by adopting Brahminical customs. To protect themselves against the Brahmins’ wrath, the Ramnaamis tattooed the name of Lord Ram on their bodies. About 1,500 strong today, the Ramnaami community still practices this painful rite, which is as much a demonstration of devotion as a talisman against persecution.









With a rich tradition and thousands of Deities, Hinduism itself is today the source of countless tattoo designs. Tattoos depicting popular Gods such as Shiva, Ganesha and Kali or sacred symbols like “Om” adorn the flesh of Hindus and non-Hindus alike. Some of the most elaborate tattoo patterns anywhere are on the women of the Ribari tribe of Kutch, the very region in northwest India just devastated by an earthquake. It is one of the places to which the Pandavas were exiled during the Mahabharata. The members of the nomadic Ribari tribe live as their ancestors did; their tattoos being tangible symbols of the people’s strong spirit and concern with faith and survival.




Tegep, Tetap Tegap dengan ‘Boots’

Oleh Rini Kustiasih

Kompas, 31 Maret 2009




Sepatu boot atau bot buatan Tegep Oktaviansyah diproduksi di tengah krisis moneter 1997.  Bot dari Bandung, Jawa Barat, itu tidak tergoyahkan ketika badai krisis ekonomi datang lagi belakangan ini.  Sepatunya dikenakan artis, pejabat, hingga ekspatriat.


Hobi yang ditekuni sungguh-sungguh akan mendatangkan rezeki.  Setidaknya itu pengalaman Tegep Oktaviansyah, pemilik dan pendiri sepatu bot merek Tegep Boots ini.


Kejeliannya melihat peluang dan keinginan kuat untuk menciptakan produk yang berbeda membuat Tegep Boots dikenakan artis, pejabat, sampai ekspatriat asal Amerika Serikat, Jerman dan Australia.  Omzet produksinya dalam satu bulan mencapai Rp100juta-Rp200juta.


Kisah sukses itu bermula dari hobi Tegep mengenakan sepatu bot sejak SMA pada era 1990-an.  Untuk mendapatkan sepatu bot, kala itu bukanlah hal yang mudah dan murah.  Harga bot yang berkisar Rp400,000 untuk ukuran Tegap, tergolong mahal.  Namun, demi memenuhi hasratnya, Tegep yang kuliah di Jurusan Desai Produk di Fakultas Seni Rupa dan Desain ITB, mencoba membuat bot sendiri.


‘Saya belajar dari nol, mulai dari melihat pengerjaan oleh perajin hingga membaca buku tentang pembuatan sepatu bot yang baik’ katanya.  Tegep mempelajari anatomi kaki agar sepatu buatannya nyam dipakai.  Pada 1997 dia menggandeng seorang rekan untuk membuat sepatu bot bermerek Kanselir.  Desain Kanselir masih sebatas model sepatu para koboi dan bot yang dipopulerkan oleh personal The Beatles.


‘Desainnya masih sepatu bot klasik, dengan bentuk jungle, seperti yang sering dipakai koboi atau pengendara motor besar,’ ujar Tegep.  Dia sendiri adalah penggemar motor besar dan anggota komunitas bikers Brotherhood.  Anggota komunitas itu adalah pasar awal sepatu bot buatan Tegep dan merupakan pelanggan setianya.


Lolos dari krisis


Badai krisis pada pertengahan 1997 memukul usaha Tegep dan rekannya.  Harga bahan baku sepatu bot dari kulit naik tiga kali lipat.  Kongsi usaha itupun buyar karena perbedaan prinsip.  Maka, Tegep memulai lagi usahanya dengan empat pekerja.  Krisis ia lawan dengan peningkatan kualitas material dan desain.


‘Saya tidak mau menurunkan kulitas produk.  Itu akan membuat kepercayaan pelanggan hilang,’ ujar Tegep beralasan.  ‘Saya belajar membuat desain baru dengan material yang baru pula.  Saya sering terinspirasi oleh katalog-katalog sepatu dan tertantang mengembangkan desainnya,’ tambahnya. 


Dengan sepatu bot Tegep didominasi motif etnis, seperti Dayak (Kalimantan), Mauri (Selandia Baru) dan Aztec (Indian).  Warna-warna pun dikombinasikan secara ekstrem.  ‘Kalau bisa saya bikin perpaduan warna yang ‘gila’, beda dan tak terpikirkan sebelumnya,’ ungkapnya.  Salah satu desain Tegep bahkan disimpan di museum sepatu dan kulit di Jerman.


Desain menarik itu dia terapkan pada material berkualitas dari kulit binatang, seperti ular, biawak, buaya, kelinci, sapi, bahkan ikan pari.  Kiat itu mampu menarik hati pelanggan.  Ditengah krisis, sepatu buatan Tegep tetap dicari meski harganya tinggi.


‘Saya juga mendapat berkah saat krisis ini, yakni dengan makin banyak pembeli beralih pada produk lokal.  Bot buatan saya mulai dilirik, sebab harga buatan luar negeri tak lagi terjangkau,’ ujarnya.  Hal lain yang membuat Tegep bertahan ialah pasar yang jelas dan tersegmentasi.  Sejak awal dia menyasar kalangan menengah ke atas dengan jenis produk tunggal, yakni sepatu bot.  Bagi laki-laki kelahiran Tasikmalaya itu, berebut kue besar dengan bagian yang kecil tidaklah menyenangkan.  Ia lebih menikmati kue kecil dengan bagian yang besar.


Melihat peluang


Jeli melihat peluang.  Tegep ingin mengatkan posisi di pasar dengan merek yang mewakili produknya.  Seorang dosen menyarankan produknya dinamai dengan nama dia sendiri.  ‘Nama Tegep kan jarang dan unik, jadi kenapa tidak kamu namai saja dengan namamu sendiri,’ ucap Tegep menirukan perkataan dosennya.


Untuk mengenakan sepatu botnya, Tegep membawa produk itu kemana-mana dan mengikuti berbagai macam pameran.  Omongan dari mulut ke mulut dalam komunitas bikers membuat bot buatannya makin dikenal.  Tegep tak ragu memberikan sepatunya agar dipakai manggung oleh artis atau komunitas band sebagai cara berpromosi.


Kini dengan kisaran harga Rp1juta – Rp12juta, pelanggannya menyebar dari artis hingga pejabat Negara.  Sebut saja Andi’/rif’, Prabowo Subianto, Fahmi Idris, dan pesanan perwira Polda Metro Jaya.  Baru-baru ini, anak Menteri Perdagangan Mari Elka Pangestu pun memesan sepatu sneaker dari kulit ular di Tegep Boots.


Tegep juga melayani pesanan sejumlah butik di Jakarta, Bandung, Bali, Makassar, dan Australia.  Pelanggannya dari dalam dan luar negeri.  Tegep juga menyuplai sepatu bot untuk took koboi milik Tantowi Yahya di Jakarta.  Menurut dia, menjaga kepercayaan pelanggan adalah kunci suksesnya.  ‘Membeli sepatu sama halnya dengan memilih tukang cukur.  Sekali merasa cocok dan puas dengan pelayanannya, Anda akan terus kembali.  Ini soal kepercayaan,’ katanya. 


Setiap kaki pelanggan diukur dan digambar.  Pemilihan warna dan desain pun diserahkan kepada pemesan.  ‘Setiap sepatu adalah pilihan personal.  Ia harus dibentuk dan diperlakukan berbeda-beda,’ ujarnya.  Tegep melayani keluhan pelanggan yang sepatunya tak nyaman.  Selalu ada garansi perbaikan sepatu untuk setiap pembelian.


Dalam tiga tahun terakhir, bersama desainer Mardiana Ika dan Iva Latifah, Tegep merambah dunia fashion.  Sepatunya dipakai model dunia dalam Bali Fashion Weeks dan Hong Kong Fashion Weeks (2007 dan 2008).  Pada bagian bawah sepatunya tercetak: Handcrafted with pride in Bandung (dibuat dengan rasa bangga di Bandung).


Tegep sadar masih ada ratusan perajin sepatu di Bandung yang tak bernasib sebaik dirinya.  Dia pun aktif menjadi pembicara dalam semiloka dan pelatihan bagi perajin sepatu Cibaduyut di Bandung.  Kegiatan itu dimotori Departemen Perindustrian serta Kementrian Negara Urusan Koperasi dan UKM.


Tegep yang sempat menjadi instruktur tenaga kerja ILO-PBB (2001-2004) ini juga menampung mahasiswa dan siswa kejuruan untuk magang di tempat kerja sekaligus tokonya di Jalan Pelajar Pejuang 104, Bandung.  Dia menyupervisi langsung 24 tenaga kerja.  ‘Saya tak khawatir ilmu saya dibajak dan produk saya dikalahkan para anak didik.  Bagi saya, berbagi ilmu adalah kewajiban.  Kalau memang sudah rezeki kita, tak akan kemana-mana,’ tuturnya.



Tegep Boots

Jalan Pelajar Pejuang 45 No 104

Bandung – Indonesia


[Collecting pairs of boots is one of my partner’s favorite things.  We ordered a pair of Dayak tribal pattern boot from Tegep with red and black combination.  It took almost a month from the date of order, until it was sent to our door.  Their service, patient and attentiveness in the store until finished were excellent.  It is true that once the model and size have been chosen by the customer, Tegep himself will personally look and supervise the making for each pair of boot.]

Balancing pose: Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended hand to big toe pose)




·        Strengthen legs and ankles

·        Stretches back of legs

·        Improves sense of balance

Nesting with the Dolls

This is one of my favorite things, besides the obvious ones, of bags and shoes (sigh!).. Matryoshka doll.



Originated back in Abramtsevo estate Moscow in the year of 1890, it was born in a children’s education workshop salon. The owner of Abramtsevo was Sava Mamontov – an industrialist and a patron of the arts.  The end of 19th century in Russia was a time of great economic and cultural development.  Mamontov was one of the first who patronized artist who were possessed by the idea of the creation of a new Russian style.  Many famous Russian artists worked along with folk craftsmen in workshops Mamantov.  The concept of nested objects was familiar in Russia, having been applied to carved wooden apples and Easter eggs; the first Faberge egg, in 1885, had a nesting of egg, yolk, hen and chick.


A Matryoshka doll or a Russian nested doll is a set of dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside the other.  Matryoshka is a derivative of the Russian female first name Matryona, which was a very popular name among peasants in old Russia.  The name Matryona in turn is related to the Latin root ‘matter’ and means ‘mother’, so the name is closely connected with motherhood and in turn the doll has come to symbolize fertility. 


A set of matryoshka consists of a wooden figure which can be pulled apart to reveal another figure of the same sort inside.  It has, in turn, another figure inside, and so on, which traditionally all of the dolls look almost identical to one and another.  The number of nested figures in a set ranges from 5 to 30, but some custom-made sets contain many more.  The shape is mostly cylindrical, rounded at the top for the head and tapered towards the bottom, but little else; the dolls have no hands (except those that are printed).  Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, Russian native costume with a scarf on her head.  Inside, it contains other figures that may be of both genders, usually ending in a baby that does not open.  The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate. 

Matryoshkas are often designed to follow a particular theme, for instance peasant girls in traditional dress. Modern artists create many new styles of nesting dolls.  Common themes include animal collections, portraits and caricatures of famous politicians, musicians and popular movie stars.  Matryoshka dolls that feature communist leaders of Russia became very popular among Russian people in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Today, some Russian artists specialize in painting themed matryoshka dolls that feature specific categories of subjects, people or nature.

Areas with notable matryoshka styles include Sergiyev Posad, Semionovo, Polkholvsky Maidan and Kirov.



The making of nesting dolls


The basic technique of nesting doll making remains unchanged. As a rule nesting dolls are made from lime, birch, alder and aspen. Lime is the most abundant material. The trees chosen to manufacture nesting dolls are cut down at the beginning of spring, usually in April when the trees are full of sap. The felled trees are stripped of their bark leaving a few rings to prevent the wood from cracking. The logs prepared in this way with their butt-ends smeared over are arranged in piles with a clearance between them to allow aeration.

The logs are kept in the open air for two years. Only an experienced master can tell when the material is ready. Then the logs are cut into work pieces for nesting dolls. Every work piece can be turned as many as 15 times before the nesting doll will be ready. Making a doll on a turning lathe requires high skills, an ability to work with a beguilingly small set of tools – a knife and chisels of various length and shape. The smallest figurine which cannot be taken apart is usually made first. The bottom part of the next figurine which can be taken apart is turned first. Then a work piece is turned to reach the necessary size and the top end is removed. Then the ring is made to fit on the upper part of the nesting doll and then its lower part can be made. Then the nesting doll’s head is turned and the necessary amount of wood is removed from within the nesting doll’s head to slip on the upper ring. All these operations do not involve any measurements, and rely only on intuition and require high professional skills.

The upper part of the nesting doll is stuck on to its lower part. Then it dries and tightens the ring so it sits securely in place. When the turning work is over, a snow white doll is thoroughly cleaned, primed with starchy glue to make the surface ideally smooth and to prevent the paint making smudges and then dried. Now it is ready to be painted. The first Russian nesting doll was poked and painted with gouache and covered with varnish by S. V. Maliutin.



The above article is collated from various sources.

Life cannot be Hurried

[Lately, whenever we experienced ‘diarrhea of words’ between my partner and I.. meaning they can be worth, because of getting rid of it from your system.. or just meaningless flow of unnecessary spitting… he always said ‘the important thing is now, not the past.. because now I am with you!  It took me a while to digest it, until I bumped into the following entry by Leanne in True Yoga website (  And it goes very well within the context of being in the now, not only applicable for yoga practice, but, indeed for life.  You may notice by now, no matter how I have practiced yoga and which level I have attained.. as long as I cannot practice it in my real life as a day-to-day behaviour, attitude and approach to life.. I may as well continue to practice, to learn, to draw experience, to be humble.. to improve myself and becoming better every day.]



[Gyantze Tibet – photography courtesy of Gladia Budianto]

This is a Maasai saying.  The Maasai people live in Magadura in East Africa, a small village in the highlands above the Serengeti.  When I first read this quote the other day, I felt tremendous amount of relief.  It is simply another way of saying ‘life is a journey, not a destination’ yet everytime I hear this I awaken to a new perspective of life and a deeper experience of peace and well being.  Said another way: The good life is a process, not a state of being.  It is a direction, not a destination. – Carl Rogers.


Recently in class, I’ve been reminding students to experience the fullness of each breath.  So often we are breathing with the intention of getting to the next place, the next moment, the next breath.  This becomes particularly obvious in our yoga practice.  Not long ago, as I was practicing yoga, I noticed I was hurrying through breathing in each pose.  I began to see how this shows up n my life.  This obsession with always looking to the next moment…


My practice is beginning to shift and slow down since I’ve had this awareness, as well as, my teaching.  I am realizing the true practice of yoga is in the quality of our breath, not the pace of our movement or the number of poses we get into each practice.  The true practice of yoga and living yoga, is in breathing each breath to the fullest.  To feel each breath be complete and fully expanded, before we seek to take our next breath…


The following poem is called Lost, by David Wagoner:


Stand still.  The trees ahead and the bushes beside you

are not lost.  Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat is as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes.  Listen.  It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same Raven.

No two branches are the same Wren.

If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost.  Stand still.  The forest knows

where you are.  You must let it find you.


May we awaken to the joy of the journey with each full breath of the way.


Happy, Full and Peaceful Breathing!


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