Benefits (and overcoming the fear) of Inversions

A few weeks ago, I finally had to face the moment I feared, head on (literally) –  having to do a head stand. Maybe it was a good thing that I was the first one in the class to try it, because that gave me no time to feel scared and chicken out. But another major factor was that I know that with Master Sree, we were in good hands.

There is definitely still alot of practice and room for improvement before I can nail my first supported head stand (against the wall). I realise that fear has alot to play in the pace of improvement. When I am upside down, the fear of losing balance tends to flood my consciousness, such that my brain is unable to effectively tell my elbows to push inwards, my neck to stay strong and my belly muscles to suck it in.

Perhaps for now, to encourage myself (and anyone else out there who is overcoming the fear of inversions) to do more inversions, I would like to share some of the benefits of yoga inversions.

An inversion is when the heart is placed higher than the head. Adho Mukha Svanasana and Prasarita Padottanasana can be considered as semi-inverted poses, where the feets are not off the ground. The main inverted poses consist of – just to name a few – Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), halasana (plough pose), sirsasana (headstand) and handstand.  

Physical benefits

Inversions stimulate the immunity system. In an inverted position, lymph moves to the key areas of the body eg. lungs more efficiently, thereby improving the elimination of toxins from the body.

Further, inversions can strengthen the abdominal and core muscles, which are key to maintaining a good posture. As Master Paalu said, in a headstand, you are also working the muscles in the upper body such as the deltoids, neck muscles and trapezius.

Inversions can also help to relieve spinal pain, as it counteracts the pressure on the spine in an upright position.

As being in an inversion defies gravity, it supposedly helps to slow down ageing (eg. less sagging of facial features).

Psychological benefits

Inversions allow an increased flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, which invigorates the brain and improves mental clarity and focus. Inversions also help to calm your mind and nervous system, and is a good way of relieving anxiety.

In addition, inversions can help us to look at things from a different angle –  literally and figuratively! Perhaps the next time you get stuck with a difficult problem at work, try doing a headstand in an empty meeting room!

Another benefit of inversion, which I really hope to achieve, is the increase in confidence and patience, which can be applied to our daily life. To accomplish a challenging pose such as an inversion, loads of practice (and failing) are involved. By not giving in, we are training our minds to be more resilient. When we finally get into a pose, we feel confident of trusting our hard work and the process.

Spiritual benefits

Inversions guide the energy of the pelvis towards the heart, enabling inner growth and self-exploration.

To close out this post, here are some important points to note in practising inversions:

  • Besides being physically ready (in terms of strength), it is key to learn the correct alignment for each pose, to avoid injuries especially to the neck.
  • It may be beneficial to practise how to “fall out” of an inversion, in order to be less fearful and also reduce the chances of injuries.
  • As Master Sree advised, an inversion should always be succeeded by balasana (child pose), to allow the blood flow and therefore, heart rate and breath, to return to normal.
  • To all ladies, it is recommended to avoid inversions during a menstrual period, as the reversed blood flow opposes the body’s urge to release stale blood and endometrial lining.
  • Last but not least, always listen to your body. Be kind and be patient with your body!

With that, lets work hard towards nailing our headstands! Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

 

References:

https://www.juruyoga.com/popular-yoga-inversions-and-their-benefits/

https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/strike-a-royal-pose

https://www.yogapedia.com/10-benefits-of-inversions/2/9632

How I ended up at the YTT200

I have a confession to make – I signed up for the YTT200 programme with Tirisula the just the day before it was slated to start.

I have actually been thinking about it for a few weeks. However, the lack of confidence kept pulling me back.

You see, I have various physical imperfections and limitations, which made it challenging for me to achieve many asanas.

To add on, I had not been diligently practising yoga prior to this – I bought yoga packages but never completed them. And to be honest, I first started doing yoga 5 years ago because it seemed like an ‘in’ thing for office ladies to do.

I was also fearful of inversions and balancing poses. After having fallen down during a simple forward fold and getting a few stitches at the A&E (drama, I know), I developed an even greater fear of falling,

Last but not least, I was intimidated by the uncertainties – it was a significant investment. What if I fail? What if I give up halfway? What if after 20 weeks, I still can’t invert or do an arm balance?

As you can see, I was judging myself and comparing myself to others before I had even stepped foot into the studio. How ridiculous, right? But that is how I have always been like – a perfectionist by nature.

All these negative voices kept ranging in my head, but deep in my heart, there was a tiny voice urging me to just go for it.

At that time, I had just left my job of 7 years. For most of my life, I chose the route which was the safest, the most conventional. I was never one to take risks, because of the fear of changes and losing. This is the summary of how I ended up in a job which was unsuitable for me, and even stayed for 7 years.

A few months ago, I reached this stage in my life whereby I was constantly questioning myself, who am I? I did not want to continue living my life like an empty shell. In order to do that, I need to take responsibility for my own decisions. For once, I decided that my own health takes precedence over any other area of my life. I needed to be healthy and motivated again, to be able to face the obstacles that life throws at me.

It was a very turbulent period, and I felt so lost. I felt that I really needed to shush the noise in my head, and to think calmly. The only thing is, I didn’t know how to. Over the years, I have lost the ability to listen and connect with myself.

It was during this time when I thought of doing yoga again. As Master Sree said before, many people come to yoga because they have problems in their lives. Haha, how true is that.

So why taking up the YTT instead of just going for yoga classes? Well, it is really to hold myself accountable. I truly wanted this to be different from my previous times. I wanted to commit to my practice this time round, as part of my self healing journey.

In addition, I wanted to learn more about yoga, not just the physical aspects of it. I felt that I wanted to enhance my practice, by understanding the meaning of yoga and not see it as just a workout.

I wanted to learn how to detach from my emotions, because I tend to allow them to overwhelm me. As a result, I react in ways which I often regret. I somehow felt that yoga would help me find my ‘zen’.

Lastly, I wanted to conquer my fears. I wanted to stop fearing failures and criticism. I wanted to learn to stop comparing myself with others, or even, the person I was a few years ago.

I am happy to say that after less than a month of classes, I already feel transformed mentally. I am calmer and more peaceful, and I have learnt to slow down and listen to my inner voice. 

Increasingly, I am beginning to realise that actually, I don’t have to think so much about what happened in the past and why I am here. Perhaps, let me just enjoy my breath and go with the flow of life 🙂

Why I follow a Sattvic food diet

Have you noticed the impact food has on your mind and body? If you notice carefully, what you put in your body has a tremendous effect on how your body and mind function. I am not only talking about the obvious physical effects such as bloating, gas, indigestion, acid reflux etc. but also of other subtler aspects.

Let us first familiarise ourselves with the 3 types of diets according to Ayurveda.

Tamasic food is any food that bring lethargy or inertia to the body.

A few examples of Tamasic food:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Coffee
  3. Tea
  4. Fizzy drinks

Rajasic food; Rajas is related to activity. Rajasic foods heighten the five senses and empower feelings of sexuality, greed, jealousy, anger, delusion.

A few examples of Rajasic food:

  1. Hot spices
  2. Spicy herbs
  3. Meat
  4. Onion
  5. Garlic

Sattvic food is anything that is grown under sunlight. These foods bring energy and lightness into the body and mind, they keep lethargy at bay. They are digested easily and are extremely nourishing to the body. They bring balance and harmony into the system. Sattvic foods reduce your sleep quota and make you more productive.

A few examples of Sattvic food:

  1. Most fresh fruits and vegetables (organic and seasonal)
  2. Most grains
  3. Millet
  4. Legumes
  5. Nuts
  6. Ghee (clarified butter)
  7. Buttermilk

Foods to avoid while following a Sattvic diet:

  1. Meat
  2. Garlic
  3. Onion
  4. Chilli
  5. Yogurt

Following a Sattvic diet has brought about tremendous changes in my life. I sleep less, about 5-6 hours a night versus the compulsory 8 hours I used to sleep earlier. I feel little to no lethargy, I am always full of energy and have a better command over my emotions. Overall, I have a better command over my day 🙏

How yoga can help with depression

Depression is usually caused by high levels of stress, for example, an illness, unemployment, the loss of a loved one or trauma. According to the World Health Organisation, over 300 Million people world-wide suffer from depression which affects a person’s family, studies or work.

Neurologists believe that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin due to the suppression of new brain cells. This is why the most common treatment for this illness is “serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs), an antidepressant. Unfortunately, SSRIs can cause many side effects. Although mild, they include insomnia, rashes, headaches, body pain, nausea and diarrhoea, eventually the drug would’ve lost its effectiveness because the brain has developed a tolerance.

However, there is another way to combat depression without having to deal with any side effects and it is the continuous practice of yoga and meditation. There’s a study that proves, Hatha yoga which is a combination of physical practice, meditation and breathing exercises that has helped people suffering from depression.

Here are 4 Postures for Depression:

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

  • Balasana is one of the most comfortable postures. It helps to calm your nerves by stretching the lower back and hips allowing the body and the mind to relax.

Adho Mukha Savanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

  • Downward Dog calms the body by allowing the chest to expand for deeper breaths. It also increases blood flow all over the body which would energise you.

Halasna (Plow Pose)

  • Halasana is known for calming the nervous system. This posture reliefs strain on the back, opens the neck and shoulders.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

  • Savasana is a very relaxing pose which helps focus your attention within, giving the body the ability to notice things like, the pulse and breath for a calmer and more relaxed state.

 

 

 

Anahata (Heart) Chakra

When I first read up about Chakras, I was curious as to how they regulate and can be unlocked. Reading through a few online sources and youtube, I came to really connect with one chakra in particular – the heart chakra. This Chakra speaks to me a whole lot as I find that it is the key to spreading love and compassion to everyone around.

The main characteristics of the heart chakra is that it promotes compassion, peacefulness, generosity, kindness and you are loving to others, including yourself. An open heart chakra can allow for one to completely be open and accept themselves, thereby being able to heal others. It is not only about being open to all requests either, but also knowing when to say “no” to anything. It is living in balance, giving and receiving with equal ease.

In yoga, there are several poses that activates the heart chakra. Mainly, postures that open up the shoulder and chest help with it. This includes Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Camatkarasana (Wild Thing), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) and more.

When not in balance, the heart chakra can also cause some issues. When overactive, it develops into a constant pressure to please people. At the end of the day, your acts might sometimes lead to negative impacts on yourself. Personally, I have experienced this pressure to make everyone around me happy before. This makes it hard to make decisions and you fall into dilemmas very often. You might also over-tire yourself from always being kind to others. There are instances where by I have also experienced extreme denial, from realising that not everyone in reality is kind as well. However, meditation and constant yoga practice will counter this. The key is to also be aware of your own feelings and reflect often. That way, your heart chakra is likely to be more stable, without being overactive or underactive.

 

JT

Does Yoga Stay?

Here’s a thought – would you say it is true that somehow when we all reach our 20s, we look around for something that sticks with us for life? In this fast-paced, 20th Century world that we live in, it seems everyone, especially the educated, has slowly come to realisation that the individual seeks to be balanced in life in all aspects, including taking up sport. I was never one to think that I would pick up Yoga. At 16, my Dad took me to my first Yoga class, and for that 45 minutes of continuous Ardha Mukha Swanasanas (Downward dog), and Santolasanas (Plank), my shirt was drenched in sweat. I was ridiculously impatient through any of the poses I learnt that day and simply could not understand how one would slow down the breath doing these poses. These poses, seemingly easy, had me panting at the end of it. I lacked patience. I was annoyed.

I thought to myself – “There’s no way yoga is the sport for me, for the rest of my life. It’s slow, it’s boring.”

Then came a reintroduction to yoga when I turned 22. Between the years of being 21 and 22,  I was a extreme go-getter. Nothing slowed me down. Not even the pains I felt in my body. I was an aspiring chef/baker, motivated, driven, and every single day was me telling myself “you have to be productive.” I never let my body or my mind rest. I never knew what that meant. At 21, I found out that my lower back had severe dessications at the L4 and L5 level. And for the few months after finding out, life started to seem a little bleak. Not only would I focus my energy on scanning for every pain in my back, I just made excuses to NOT move, and stopped believing in myself a little. I developed a fear for pain of any level, letting it manifest in my head to something bigger that tells me, I simply cannot do it.

Cliché in many of the yoga stories, you seek for something to comfort you when you are met with upsetting news. I came to realize more about how I was as a person, and how I treated my own body. The self-realization was that for all these years, I did not care about my body. I cared about success, I cared about “making it big”, every other single thing except the wealth of my health. It was heartbreaking to realize all of it. I wanted to make a change and turned to yoga for comfort, to make me healthier in the physical sense.

Evidently, that was not it. I was doing yoga in hopes of getting rid of my back pain, achieving only all the physical benefits possible. And although I started going to yoga classes since then, I did not realize what would happen when I took my understanding to the next level. It was one-dimensional. Yoga = flexibility and strength = better health = less back pain. Again, I fell into a hole of self-scrutiny. I was doing yoga for the sake of doing it, for the hopes of physically feeling better, achieving more skillful postures one day. And I blamed my body when things did not happen. Yoga came in and out of my life. Up to the point where I decided I want to learn more about Yoga in detail. I needed to understand more about this practice in deeper detail, and why I was allowing these thoughts in my life.

Fast-forward to today in this YTT course. Something clicked inside me as with each day of philosophy with either Master Sree or Master Paalu. “Be kind to your body, but don’t be lazy.” – Master Paalu said. At that very moment, I felt like bursting out into tears. It just hit me so hard that I struggle with what my body can or cannot do, focusing on its limitations and it in turn manifests negatively in my head. I finally became fully aware of how i viewed myself.

Every single day since then, thoughts in my head became quiet. Insecurities disappeared slowly. I no longer had these thoughts with what my body can or cannot do. I just did what I could, in my capacity. I understood more about the human mind, its natural instinct for greed. Suddenly, I am less harsh with myself in every way. Even with my own goals in the culinary aspect. Suddenly, yoga was not just a physical practice anymore.

Back to my beginning statement, Yoga has now become the one sport that can keep me healthy in my body, healthy in my mind. I love every breath I take during practice and I can no longer imagine my life without it. This journey of life is going to be filled with ups and downs, and I am fully aware that Yoga would not be an escape – it is a way of living my life. Though I cannot say for sure if everything will work out, I will constantly remember the concept of Sadhana from Master Sree, because without it, there is no regularity. Sadhana is continuous practice, improving concentration, being disciplined. Yoga will not always feed me happiness, or decrease my days of anxiety, self-doubt. On some days, my mind will creep up on me and nothing can be helpful. On other days, yoga will empower me greatly, it will strengthen me mentally and physically. My biggest takeaway today is realizing that my practice is not my reliance, and there is mindful awareness that nothing can be an escape. Just do and be calm. Whatever you practice, to whichever extent, keep it regular. And so Yoga, that is how I know you will stay.

 

JT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Yoga Asanas in Sankrit

“You must be kidding me!” That was what I responded to Master Sree and Master Paulu upon hearing to qualify for a yoga teacher, being able to say the yoga asanas in sanskrit is part of the deal! I frowned upon hearing it. It’s a foreign language. Why can’t I say or teach in English? It’s easier to understand and definitely effortlessly to pronounce. For example downward facing dog in sanskrit is Adho Mukha Svanasana. What a long sentence to remember. Forward fold is Uttanasana and chair pose is Utkatasana. I’m like gosh they sound and spell almost the same to me. How am I going to remember them without confusing myself? Master Paulu proceeded to explain that the original Yoga texts were written in Sanskrit. This age old language is believed to be more effective and powerful because of its spiritual sound quality.

 

I was sharing this with a Yogini friend of mine. She said that Sanskrit helps to connect us with the origins of practice. By saying the name and doing the pose together creates the unity of the body and sound. I told her that despite going for classes regularly, I still have difficulty remembering the names. She shared that it’s actually pretty easy. Like every pose has the word asana in it as it means pose. It is important to understand the roots and the common words first. For instance

Urdhva means upward hence upward facing dog is Urdhva mukha Svanasana

Adho means downward hence downward facing dog is Adho mukha Svanasana

 

So long I can remember the meaning, it’s easier to relate to the poses and remembering them in sanskrit. Now it’s making more sense to me.  It’s still tough for me to remember all of them though. But I’m getting there…

Healing through yoga

I was first introduced to Yoga around 15 years ago. It was at one of the local community centres. During that time, I wanted to follow my peers and be active hence I joined them. After 16 sessions, I’ve completed the term and stopped going to yoga.

About 7 years later, I wanted to be active again but hated cardio exercises hence decided to give yoga a try and turn out that I pretty like it and went on to sign up for a year member with Pure Yoga. Shortly, I was pregnant with my 2nd child and have to cut down on my choice of classes. After my second child was born, I hardly have time for myself so I stopped going yoga. It was hard juggling with work and a new born. Then came my 3rd child hence my focus was family.

Early this year, I decided to give Zumba a try after persuasion from my neighbours. I didn’t quite like it. So my neighbours suggested Yoga. I was on the fence as I was tired and aching everywhere. What if I don’t like it or half-hearted again. I rather be off sleeping or accompanying my family.

One fine morning, I just have this feeling that I should give it another shot thus I agreed with my neighbours to start off once a week for 8 lessons and hired Rachel from Tirisula Yoga to teach us. I felt so good after the first lesson that I fall back in love right away. I found myself googling to find out more about yoga and the classes being offered locally so that I can go for more classes weekly. I’ve also learnt that it will help to alleviate my constant right heel ache and right lower backache (sometimes it gets so bad that I can’t walk).

After some research, I’ve decided to go back to pure yoga as the centres are near my work place and I could go for yoga during lunch time and not on the expense of my family time. I was contemplating to sign up for membership as I don’t know if I will be discipline enough but I was glad I made the choice. Weeks after I start my classes, (going to yoga 3-5x a week), gone are my heel ache and lower back ache. I shared with my buddy, Silvy (who is a yogi for years) that I’m very impressed with the power of Yoga.

Then one Saturday, I was at the Hougang library with my children. They were exploring the kids section and to the corner of my eye, some yoga books were on the table display. It was the theme for the week. I felt like it was calling for me to reach out to the books and one particular book caught my eye, Yoga for a happy back by Rachel Krentzman. Hence I proceeded to borrow it. Shortly after I started to read it, I was full of intrigue and eager to learn more. I told Rachel about it and to my surprise, she shared that there is a TTC buddy programme going on in Tirisula.

I shared with Silvy on the programme and she was very interested as well. So here we are, on the journey to learning more about the science and the power of Yoga. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I have stopped going for therapy and acupuncture. And I am thankful that I didn’t give in to my doubts and proceeded for my calling.

Nerissa Kok

How did I come into Yoga

Hi

I am Madeline and I came into contact with yoga many years ago, but there was no connect.

In October/November 2018, I started using Classpass and went to a lot of HIIT and cardio classes. It was nice to get back into fitness again. Yoga has always been the least priority because I seen it only at the surface level. I saw it as a waste of 60 minutes because I wanted a class that made me sweat and Yoga simply was not one of them.

However, I was advised by my friend to try Yin Yoga… and that was how I fell into Yoga and connected with it. As I held to the simple poses and felt how tough a simple posture held over time could affect my body, my mind was changed.

Soon after, I was exploring more Yoga studios through Classpass and started to really enjoy the various styles of Yoga. I personally enjoy flow classes a lot as it helps me to destress after a long work day.

The Beginning of a Union

“I don’t even like Yoga!”

This is my response if you asked me to comment about Yoga before July 2019.  Reason being all along, I have taken Yoga classes in community centres and I always find the pace too slow for me.  I prefer something more robust like Cardio boxing or Zumba.  So taking up YTT course will be the last thing on my to do list.  But the Universe always have something in plan for you regardless of whether you like it or not or shall I say, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

One fine day on the first week of July 2019, I woke up having this mentality of wanting to try out Yoga. This is very strange as I have no connection with Yoga in any areas of my life and neither do any of my close friends do Yoga.  Nevertheless, I go with the flow, did my research, compared the studio prices/location/timing and finally had my 2 best choices; which one of it is Tirisula – of course!

First, I tried out this Yoga X studio and my first lesson was disappointing because the trainer mainly go through the movements and was even using her hand-phone during class! Luckily for me, from the 2nd lessons onward, I started to enjoy the Yoga classes, mainly because of the trainer who corrected my alignment and explain clearly which muscles to focus on during the different asanas . At that moment, I understand how important it is for a good trainer to impart Yoga skills/knowledge to others especially newbies – it’s either you lead them towards the path or destroy the path for them – I was almost on the verge of “giving Yoga a bad name” after my first lesson! There and then, I was in a dilemma whether to continue classes with this studio and hence taking up the YTT course with them or to try out Tirisula.

After some thoughts and “CSI” work, I finally made my move and took up the classes at Tirisula and everything is history!  The incense’s smell as you walked up the stairs to the main door with the studio set up looks very zen and calming – it’s like “coming home” for me although it is my first time there.  The friendly trainers who generously teaches you and correct your alignment are a gem!  Initially I just wanted to attend class for this year before signing up for the YTT in 2020 because the last available weekend YTT course is in September and I already have holidays planned and do not wished to skip any lessons.

However ….
While I was casually browsing through the course dates, I was surprised that there were no classes during my planned holidays and my heart skipped a beat.
Is that a sign?
Is that really what I am supposed to do?

And so, I took that as a clear sign to me, and sign up for YTT course.

Days leading up to the YTT course were filled with “why am I doing this”, “what if I fail?”, “I can’t even do this and this posture”, “how would my course mates be?”, etc.  I read up all the blog post from YTT seniors and the more I read, the more worried I am .. 3 mins of head stand to pass the exam?!  OMG!  I can’t even ……. Yet at some point, I am actually looking forward to it and wondering where will it leads me to.

If you ask me what is the main purpose of me taking up this YTT course, my answer will is simply because I want to do the asanas correctly with the right alignment. I guess, being OCD in this aspect is positive and instead of depending on the trainer in class to correct my posture as and when he is available (he needs to attend to other people too!), I would rather learn it myself.

And the golden question – am I going to teach after the YTT course?
For me, if it happens, it happen – trust the process; just like how Yoga “found’ me!

**

I remembered the first time I stepped into a Yoga studio and I felt so intimidated.  The students all looked so steady and were in nice workout wear while I was wearing a frumpy T-shirt and leggings. And I signed up for the Ashtanga Primary Series class (at my 3rd class – so smart right)  not knowing this is for the advanced students and it’s a culture shock for me.  Everyone was moving in syn, while I was busy looking at the girl beside me and copying whatever she is doing.  Whatever she did, I can only do 40% and I was already perspiring like mad.  At the end of the class, I almost have to crawl out – no joke!  Thereafter, that is the last of me in that class.

I am just glad I did not give up Yoga.

After 3 months of Yoga, I feel more grounded and I think it helps me with my anxiety – at times, I wonder why am I not getting angry over a particular issue when in the past, I would have flared up already.

Yoga (life) is great and I am a true convert now!

21092019 Weekend YTT
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Shirley