I am delighted to share this heartwarming reflection on ANTARIKA by a conscientious and devoted practitioner - Meng Hwi. ANTARIKA is a healing movement system that I have enjoyed developing over the years. (In case you'd like a bit of background, do read this piece - And Now, ANTARIKA...)
Meng Hwi writes:
"I first got to know Antarika at the end of 2016 when my teenage son was recommended to attend a class with Nirmala to learn about breathing and movement for stress management. At that time, I was actively looking for an alternative to gym workouts which had begun to fail me. I didn’t know what I needed then but just felt that the usual gym or aerobics classes weren’t for me anymore.
I have always been an active person, I love walking and enjoy workouts in the gym. All was well until I enter my 40s. Suddenly, I no longer enjoy them as much, my exercise tolerance dropped drastically, I had slight depression, persistent anxiety and stress issues from work and family. My body condition had seemed to deteriorate at a fast rate with mysterious aches and pains appearing at my joints and muscles. I was miserable. I put on weight, felt unfit, unmotivated and anxious most of the time. It was horrible. I felt out of control and utterly lost. My mind is often unfocused and my thoughts are often scattered. My work has suffered too as I tended to feel worn out and tired mentally by mid-day and I couldn’t accomplish as much as before.
After that first Antarika session along with my son, I knew I had found a way to change my life for the better from that point onwards. It was a revelation for me. I started attending Antarika sessions regularly and Nirmala taught me useful moves and techniques which blend both purposeful breathing, gentle body movements and stretches for optimal mind and body health. It is a very healing experience for a body and mind battered by years of stress of our everyday life!
The techniques and movements taught by Nirmala have helped me immensely in training my mind to be calmer, more focused and have more self-control. The mindful breathing soothes my stressed out mind and calms my bouts of anxiety while I have also learnt breathing exercises which give me instant energy or mood boost during a blah-day.
The dance-inspired movements have opened my eyes and mind to how my body could possibly have a will and existence which I have taken for granted for so long. Nirmala has taught me gentle but effective exercises to strengthen my core, legs and shoulders without causing any discomfort or stress to the body. This is in such contrast to the usual gym workouts with trainers! For once, I could complete an hour’s strengthening exercises without feeling any strain to my joints and yet could work up a sweat! With new confidence in my body, I have returned to the gym 3 months after starting Antarika and started working out again without issues. It is also a surprise to me that I now have better focus and control, greater awareness of my body, I would actually work out better at the gym than before with less aches and pains.
After each Antarika session, I would go home and practise what I have learnt. I am keen to know if I can fit all that I learnt into my daily life so I would practise certain mind exercises while on the train to work, I would practise the breathing exercises in my office whenever I need a break and would try to work in a few sets of the body stretches or strengthening exercises during lunch breaks. I can’t always practise in 1 day ALL of what Nirmala has taught me because life gets in the way, but Nirmala encourages me to take what I can use and just do that for that day. In this way, Antarika becomes extremely useful and relevant to me as it becomes a habit in my daily life and does not become another source of stress.
I also apply the mindful breathing techniques whenever I encounter unexpected stressful or anxious situations. If I have the presence of mind to start my mindful breathing at the onset of the stress or anxiety, I can always manage to calm it down before awful feelings consume me. Even if I only remember to breathe mindfully in the midst of a full-blown episode, it is still very helpful in shortening the bad feeling and giving me back control.
In order to have THAT presence of mind to breathe mindfully, I realised I need to practise Antarika regularly and faithfully to build up the discipline and resilience of the mind. With regular practice, mindful breathing becomes second nature, a lifeline I hold on to and rely upon whenever the need arises. Breaths are nourishing to the body and soul, as Nirmala would say and I couldn’t agree more. Practising is never a chore. In the course of practising, I would already have benefitted from the moments of calm and clear-mindedness that Antarika has given me.
Practising Antarika is a gift that keeps giving!
I have still so much to learn on my quest for mental and physical wellbeing as I continue on life’s journey, and I am thankful that I found Antarika and got to know Nirmala. She is a very creative and inspiring teacher, I have benefitted immensely from all that I have learnt from her and hope to continue to strengthen my mind and improve my health under her kind and nurturing guidance."