KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — In our pursuit of better fitness, KL-ites have long turned to the benefits of yoga, with many a studio springing up across the city. In recent times, Pilates too, has been enjoying a surge in popularity. The mind-body connection advocated by both, however, is often lost among crowded group classes where the focus tends to be on sweating it to the maximum rather than listening to one’s body and conditioning it to its optimum form.
Massages and movement therapies are often part of that holistic health package, and some may even add meditation to their routines for top-to-toe, inside-out wellbeing. This usually means signing up with different outlets in order to access those facilities — or you can just head to Our Body Space, which brings all that under a three-level townhouse roof in a serene neighbourhood that’s part of Kuala Lumpur’s Embassy Row.
Space to breathe
Our Body Space may be barely a month old, but founder Elizabeth Buri has been involved in fitness for over a decade now. A qualified FISAF personal trainer, she is also a certified instructor in Body Balance, Pilates, Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonics.
Our Body Space came about organically, in response to her own needs and those of her clients. “I have been a freelance personal trainer since 2003 and later, a Pilates instructor. Some days, I had classes at up to five different studios, which meant spending a lot of time on the road just getting from one place to another,” says Elizabeth.
While she was content doing that throughout her 20s, a decade on and with the city’s increasingly traffic-choked streets making commuting even more time consuming, she decided that she had had enough. “I lived in London for a year, in 2013, and when I came home to Malaysia last year, I found the traffic to be unbearable. Moreover, freelancing as a fitness instructor just wasn’t paying well enough.”
She quit her freelance gigs to take a break, but her students started calling up and wanting to continue classes with her. They even offered to find a space for her to teach. “My business partner, who is also a Pilates instructor, owns this house so we thought why not make use of what’s already available? I started doing small classes with those former students and it grew from there, through referrals and word-of-mouth.”
Ohm, two, three
While Elizabeth takes on the mat Pilates classes herself, yoga is taught in collaboration with YogaOneThatIWant Studios, and she also recently introduced a pre-natal yoga session. Both the Pilates and yoga classes are held at a cosy space on the second floor, with ample natural light streaming in during the day. Classes are kept small, with no more than eight people at one time so that students get more personal attention.
If you’re doing the yoga classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, you may want to head there half an hour earlier to join Elizabeth’s free meditation sessions, which can help you become more centered and get more out of your class. “Yoga means unity with yourself, and meditation is a big part of it. The asanas (poses or movement) make up the physical part of yoga, helping you strengthen the body so that you can sit still for long periods of time when meditating.”
Elizabeth first discovered the benefits of meditation five years ago, when she signed up for a 10-day Vipassana course that is essentially a silent meditation where no phones or even books are allowed. “I used to be quite hasty in my decision making, and meditation has really calmed me down. I would wake up at 4.30am every day to meditate for an hour, followed by one hour of yoga.”
She slowed down when she was in London, until she discovered the MeetUp app and set up a meditation group in South Kensington. She has now done the same in KL, called ‘Free meditation evenings KL City’. “I must admit I have selfish reasons for setting up the group – as without it, I would just get lazy and not meditate at all!” Elizabeth says candidly, adding that meditation is a sacred activity and as such, she believes that it should not be chargeable. Her meditation sessions are thus open to all and if you wish to stay on for yoga after that, the first class is free while subsequent sessions are priced at RM35 each.
The CORE of the matter
Meditation was not the only thing that Elizabeth occupied her time with while she was in the UK. She developed an interest in sports massage and took up a course at the North London School of Sports Massage, which included classes that were taught by a varied group of body workers: Chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, osteopaths, Rolfers, and myofascial release therapists.
That was how she discovered CORE Bodywork, a form of healing developed by American Noah Karrasch, a former piano teacher who had been practising Rolfing – a German movement therapy for recalibrating muscles and nerves — for over 25 years. Noah survived a plane crash, but it left his body riddled with injuries. That led him to start exploring more about the human anatomy.
Elizabeth studied with Noah in Missouri and is, in fact, the only person in Asia to be certified as a CORE Bodyworker. CORE Bodywork is based on the premise that stress, trauma, disappointments and challenges — be it emotional, mental or physiological — are stored in the diaphragm and hip flexors (the latter is also known as the psoas muscle, which for Noah stands for ‘primary source of all stress’), that manifest as pain and disorders. CORE Bodywork can thus be used to treat a broad range of physical ailments as well as emotional issues such as depression. It does not promise to “fix” your problems, but help you ascertain what is causing them and more importantly, enable your body to fix itself.
Unlike other therapies, the patient is not a passive recipient but actively participates in the process through their breathing. “Noah explains CORE as an acronym for ‘Coax Order, Restore Energy’,” Elizabeth elaborates. “It’s about letting your body do the work within its own limitations, while the body worker facilitates. It’s never about forcing the body but rather, gently coaxing it into doing what you want and getting it to open up organically.”
Elizabeth doesn’t have a fixed duration for her Bodywork sessions, preferring to tailor it to the client’s condition and needs, so it can be anything from one hour and upwards. Once the client is comfortable on his/her back the massage bed, Elizabeth gets to work by starting right at the source.
She presses gently but firmly on the diaphragm while guiding the client to breathe in and out deeply, which calms the person down and opens up their minds. She pulls downward from the diaphragm to lengthen it and in doing so, releases the stress that’s held within. She continues by working on different parts of the body, nudging and kneading slowly with not only her hands but also her elbows.
An interesting aspect of Core Bodywork is what our bodies reveal to the bodyworker, through our reflexes and reactions. A blockage in any part, usually accompanied by pain or soreness, is an indication that the person is not ready to face an emotional issue or has put up a mental barricade around it. Those who are suffering from depression, for example, will find it more difficult to open up. “It’s like the body is saying stop, do not enter this section,” Elizabeth explains. The number and frequency of sessions that one would need depends on the condition and its severity.
Additionally, Elizabeth is also a Pranic healer and psychotherapist, having trained at Prana World in Kuala Lumpur. A form of energy healing system founded by Filipino-Chinese Master Choa Kok Sui, in Pranic healing, the healer “scans” a person’s body to check for congestion along the chakra points. Blockages are cleansed out, and the affected area replenished with positive energy. Its efficacy has been put through scientific research and observations, and a number of hospitals even offer Pranic healing as a complementary therapy.
Elizabeth often starts off a client with Pranic healing but only if they are familiar or comfortable with it, and sometimes combines elements from her other training (sports massage, for example) to help alleviate a problem.
Her integrative approach makes Our Body Space the embodiment of holistic health, where physical fitness and healing go hand-in-hand with emotional and spiritual wellbeing. There is also a shop space that carries Australian brand Divine Goddess’ yoga apparel, Earth Care’s handmade bath and beauty products, and Italian bag label Ines Milani – so you can also add retail therapy to that mix.
Our Body Space
A5 Albakri Court, Persiaran Ampang Hilir, Kuala Lumpur
Tel +603 4265 2756
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/OurBodySpace
The free meditation sessions are at 6.45 pm on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (join their MeetUp group ‘Free meditation evenings KL City’ for regular updates)
Vivian Chong is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer. Read her other stories at http://thisbunnyhops.com