May You Be Free, Aparigraha

Aparigraha, listed as 5th in Yama, Yoga Sutra, means non-possession of anything that gives suffering for someone and abstention from greed. In psychological terms, it means a state of non-attachment, non-craving and self-satisfaction.

It is seemingly hard to practice this in this modern world, where we are dominated by materialism. Aggravated by social media, we are trapped in a vicious cycle of “Pursuit of wealth – New creation of desires – Pursuit of more wealth”. Our individual happiness has become more and more dependent on external factors such as luxury lifestyle, significant public influence and so on. As a result, our attachment towards materialism has constrained us from achieving internal peace and happiness. The endless creation of temptations in this modern world has made us become impatient and feel easily unsatisfied. Without practice of Aparigraha, it is hard for us to reach a status of Santosha as mentioned in Niyama.

Other than materialistic aspect, Aparigraha also entails “detachment from the past”. It reminds me of a book called “The Courage to Be Disliked” written by Japanese writers, Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. The book leverages on the psychologist, Alfred Adler’s theories, explaining how we are all free to determine our own future, regardless of our past experiences. One may believe that his current status is affected by his past trauma, which has shaped whoever he is now (this is under Freudian Psychology). However, Alder believes that we can change who we are at any given moment. This is the application of Aparigraha, which if we choose not to possess ourselves in the past trauma, we can direct ourselves to the way we want to head to.

To practise Aparigraha, we can start to pay attentions to the things that we have pinned our expectations on. Try to let go of these expectations and allow ourselves to live in the moment. Besides, we can also let go of physical things that we do not need. Try to clean out the clutter by getting rid of the things we do not need. Finally, hope we can free ourselves and let inner peace come with us.

Discover Kundalini

As we know, Kundalini is a form of divine energy that is believed to be located at the base of spine, muladhara chakra. Kundalini awakening is way of tapping into a deep and powerful energy that exists within us all. When one experiences Kundalini awakening, he or she will experience a significant boost in confidence. It also gives one a razor sharp intuitive judgement and great enhancement in empathy.

For ages, Kundalini has been represented by symbol of serpent. This is because in Sanskrit, “Kundalini Shakti” means serpent power. This coincides with the energy that is released from the base of spine up to the crown. It is said that Kundalini energy is like a snake coiling at base of spine and waiting to be released to the highest power. Hence, what is the underlying symbol of the serpent? Since in ancient times, the spirit of the serpent represents a rebirth, a transformation and healing of old form since it sheds skin and regenerates a new form.

There are many ways to awaken Kundalini, for example, by mediation, yoga practices and pranayama. During Kundalini awakening process, one can experience tingling down the spine, feeling of deep connection with all living things, relief of any negative emotions and thoughts. It is seemingly tempting to unleash this potential energy in our body, however, there are dangers associated with Kundalini awakening if it is not adopted correctly. Physical symptoms include headaches, hallucinations, fevers and chills while mental symptoms include intense fear, bipolar mood and paranoia.

So what is the scientific explanation for individual’s disorder caused by inappropriate unleash of Kundalini energy? There are many school of thoughts. Researchers refer this as “Physio-Kundalini Syndrome”. Some believe that it is resulted from an electrical polarization spreading along sensory and motor cortices, in turn induced by acoustical standing waves in the cerebral ventricles. While some believe that spiritual evolutionary features are still important part in defining this process. Some doubt the actual activation of Kundalini in the process and believe it is more of profound effect of bioenergy. Although there is no common agreement on the scientific aspect regarding to Physio-Kundalini Syndrome, it is a fact that some people do experience this because of incorrect practice of unleashing Kundalini energy.

Therefore, if one would like to explore the potential energy in himself, it is of ultimate importance that he should be mentally ready for it. It would be better to consult professionals to check if the practice adopted is suitable or not. In the last, I believe that one should not have excessive attachment to the outcome, but the enjoyment of the journey in self-discovery.

Pelvic Tilt and How Yoga Helps

Today, many people live in a sedentary lifestyle. The prolonged sitting has led to some musculoskeletal disorder such as knee pain, scoliosis and pelvic tilt. Today we will zoom into pelvic tilt and study its causes, symptoms and how yoga postures can help improve it.

Anterior and posterior pelvic tilts are two main types of pelvic tilt. Pelvic tilt, other than prolonged sitting as mentioned previously, some are caused by genetic factors while some are also caused by poor postures over the time. This results in increased curvature of lower spine and upper back of the body. Muscle imbalances is another symptom caused by anterior pelvic tilt and lack of stretching and strengthening activities further contribute to pelvic tilt.

There are some yoga poses that help correct pelvic tilt. For anterior pelvic tilt, one is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana/ Bridge Pose. Bridge pose requires one to engage his glutes and hence the pose helps to strengthen the glutes. Weak glutes, on the other hand, may result in hamstrings working overtime and hence are more prone to injury. Meanwhile, anterior pelvic tilt makes hamstrings feel even shorter and one would be trapped into the cycle of anterior pelvic tilt – shorten hamstring – difficult in stretching and overwork of hamstring – more serious anterior pelvic tilt. Practicing bridge pose allows one to strike a muscular balance between glutes and hamstring.

Another yoga pose that helps with anterior pelvic tilt would be Santolasana/ Plank Pose. Anterior pelvic tilt means that hips consistently pull down, having strong abdominal muscle helps pull hips back up. Santolasana strengthens one’s abdominal muscles and hence help improve anterior pelvic tilt. To deepen the practice, one can add side plank during the practices.

For posterior pelvic tilt, one yoga pose that helps is Bhujangasana/ Cobra Pose. It helps to stretch tightened abdominal muscles and hence lengthening them and pull the pelvic bones to a more neutral position.

Another pose to correct posterior pelvic tilt would be Eka Pada Rajakapotasana/ Pigeon Pose. This is because pigeon pose is a great drill for opening up through glutes and outer hips. It is easier for individual to maintain a neutral pelvis and hence correcting posterior pelvic tilt.

Today, with our lifestyle being more sedentary, we have encountered many musculoskeletal disorders which affect us daily mobility if being serious. By engaging these yoga poses in our daily life can help gradually improve the situation.

Comparison Between Yoga and Qigong

As we know, Yoga comes from India and Qigong comes from China. Interestingly, although they originate from 2 oriental civilisations where the culture, history, and philosophies are different, we can find some similarities in the philosophy and practices of Yoga and Qigong.

The Energy System – Prana (Yoga) and Qi (Qigong)

In both Yoga and Qigong, there is a concept of “vital life force”. It is referred as “Prana” in Yoga and “Qi” in Qigong. In Yoga, there are 5 main categories of Prana: Apana Vayu, Samana Vayu, Prana Vayu, Udana Vayu and Vyana Vayu. Comparatively, the idea of “Qi” in China has been applied to Traditional Chinese Medicine, which refers to 6 common types of weather, “Feng”(Windy), “Han”(Cold), “Shu”(Hot), “Shi”(Humid), “Zao”(Dry), “Huo”(Heaty). The disturbance in the energy results in diseases.

The Storage of Energy – Chakra (Yoga) and Dantian (Qigong)

In Yoga, there are 7 Chakras in human body, which are Muladhara Chakra, Swadhisthana Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Anahata Chakra, Vishuddha Chakra, Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara Chakra. However, in Qigong, it is believed that Dantian is the only place where stores “Qi”.

The Channel of Energy – Nadi (Yoga) and JingLuo(Qigong)

In Yoga, there is an idea of “Nadis”, which are channels that energy flow through the body. There are 3 principal nadis that run from the base of spine to the head, and are the ida on the left, sushumna in the center and pingala on the right. Ida is associated with the lunar energy, it controls more mental process. Pingala is associated with solar energy which controls more vital process. Sushumna interpenetrates the cerebrospinal axis and it refers to both nostrils being open and free to the passage of air.

In Qigong, energy is channelled via JingLuo, aka meridians. There are 12 main meridians which connects between organs in the human body. There are 2 types of meridians, “Yin” and “Yang” respectively, where Yin can be mapped to “Ida” in Yoga and “Yang” is mapped to Pingala.

Conclusion

We can see the similarities and differences behind Yoga and Qigong. There is no concrete rule saying which idea is superior to the other. Today, we can see that both practices are adopted for individuals’ health and wellbeing. And one may see a trend of convergence in these two practices in the future. Adoption of whatever practice depends very much on individuals’ preferences. The ultimate idea is to achieve the balance among individuals’ mind, body and spirituality.

 

 

1 Day for 100% Sattvic Diet

Breakfast – Energy Sandwich

  • 2 slices of Wholemeal bread (Carbohydrate)
  • Butter (Fat)
  • Apple (Vitamin)
  • Milk (Mineral)
  • Small portion of Almond (Protein)

Lunch – Rainbow Salad

  • Steamed Potatoes (Carbohydrate)
  • Corn (Carbohydrate and Vitamin)
  • Chickpeas, Organic Chia Seed (Protein)
  • Tomatoes, Red Cabbage, Baby Spinach (Vitamin)
  • Dressing: Olive Oil (Fat)

Dinner – Burrito Bowl

  • Kale (Vitamin + Mineral)
  • Black Bean (Protein)
  • Quinoa (Carbohydrate)
  • Avocado (Fat)
  • Cherry tomatoes (Vitamin)
  • Yoghurt (Mineral)

To start, we can schedule and start to apply one day on Sattvic diet in a week, it could helping us increase our purity, strength, health and joy, and also in our Yoga practise. 🙂 

An Hour Yoga Class for Beginner

One of our learning objectives in YTT is plan the lesson plan for different level of students. It can be a lesson plan designed for ultra-beginner, beginner, intermediate, advance or a workshop.

Here is sharing of my lesson plan for beginner class.

  • Introduction (5 mins)

– Introduce yourself to the class, checking on any medical condition

– Sit in comfortable position and start the class with 3 Om chants

  • Breathing  (5 mins)

– Anuloma Viloma (Alternate nostril breathing)

  • Warm up (10 mins)

– Seated Stretch (Upward and Side)

– Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)

– Parivrtta Sukhasana (Seated Twist)

– Parsva Upavistha Konasana (Side Seated Wide Angle)

  • Asana (30 mins)

– Bharmanasana (Table-top – single leg, single arm extensions)

– Chakravakasana (Cat–Cow)

– Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

– Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

– Tiryaka Tadasana (Swaying Palm Tree)

– Vrikshasana (Tree pose)

– Padangustasana

– Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

– Balasana (Child pose)

– Virasana (Hero Pose) with modification

– Urstrasana (Camel pose) with modification  

  • Cool down / Recovery (5mins)

– Balasana (Child pose)

– Paschimottanasana – Seated forward bend (Counter pose)

– Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby pose)

  • Relaxing (5 mins)

– Lie in Savasana

  • Closing (5 mins)

Namaste 🙂 

Tips in Backbend

Backbend helps with:

  • Improves posture, spine flexibility and mobility
  • Strengthens the back, help alleviate back and neck pain
  • Improves breathing

Often, people do not practice backbend properly, as a result, they injure their back instead of alleviating their back pain.

Some tips to improve on your backbend:

1. Do not extend from the lumbar spine area.
The lumbar spine is naturally arch and quite flexible and mobile. This is is the area where most people focus on backbend since it can bend easily. However, too much of extension at lumbar spine will cause pain around the area.

 

2. Lengthen the spine to allow greater spinal extension and focus on extending the thoracic spine

The thoracic vertebra has a bony piece that sticks out towards the back of our body known as spinous process. If the spine is not lengthen before extension, these spinous process are compressed, creating a “jam” feeling. This limits your ability to bend. This will cause the person to bend on his lumbar spine.

3. Avoid engaging the gluteus Maximus and focus on internal rotating the thigh at hip joint area

Our gluteus Maximus is one of the biggest muscles at  hip and it externally rotates our thigh outwards. You will notice your right feet will tend to point outwards rather than forward. What this means is that it creates more range of motion, which allows us to easily slip into bending our lumbar spine. To prevent this, avoid engaging the gluteus Maximus. Instead focus, on internally rotating at the hip joint, lift our knee caps and press onto our feet, with our feet toes pointing forward. This helps to minimise bending at the lumbar spine.

 

 

How to bring your loved ones into yoga world?

“I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga”, “nah,I don’t think I can…..”;

These responses were always what I got when I invite family members and friends to join yoga together. Yoga is always a misconception of you need to be flexible or thin, or it’s connected with religion.

Yoga isn’t “too hard” or “too easy.”. Yoga isn’t a religion. Yoga is for everyone at every level, and yoga can fit into every lifestyle. If you’re open to trying the practice, you just might discover how inclusive and uplifting yoga can be.

What can we do to help our loved one to roll on their first mat and try? Here what’s in my mind: ~

  • Give them a picture of what will be happened from the start of class till end of the class. Tell them what’s the entire process; it could from a sign-in section / pranayama breathing exercise / who when how during the class, a simple studio etiquette brief. Let them have a clue beforehand so that they are not totally lost.
  • Help them not to shy away. You might want to share with them about suitable outfits, props and mat. Of course, most of the studio now did provide what are needed for practices. Most importantly, let them know no one is judging at them when they’re in studio practice. Why did I say that? This is because many yogis have been where you are and they relate to what you’re going through—regardless of what they look like now, and what they’re capable of on the mat now. Let them know yoga is so much about personal experience and development. Basically, what they need to ready are just themselves with water bottle and small towel =)
  • Choose the best fit first class for them. With the wide range of yoga class available out there, you can find some interesting class that may helpful to introduce yoga at their first class. You might also want to choose classes that might fit more into their personality. However, we still want them to have their own experience.
  • Share your story with them. Not only sharing how yoga has benefit your physical health, but also mental stability. Yoga helps calm our mind, de-stress and relax, relieves anxiety. Through yoga, you get to know yourself and building self-trust. You became self-conscious and mindful, you able to understand yourself with compassion and love, as well as toward others too. Mental health and self-awareness are issues need to deal by every individual to balance life and find sense of inner-peace.

We have to appreciate that everyone is different, and yoga is so much about personal development and understanding. At the end of the day, we can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. We can however share our stories, gently present them with the opportunity to try, and let them experience it at their own time and in their own way. A small introduction might be a good starting point that will help ease them into the world of Yoga.

Journey to Front Splits: A Hip Opening Flow

Source: Yoga Dharma

 

Hip openers powerfully stimulate and balance the muladhara, or root chakra. By physically rooting our pelvic floor and the base of our spine into the Earth, we plug ourselves into the vibrational current of the planet. It also activates the sacral chakra, Svadisthana, which is translated as dwelling in a place of the self. This energy center relates to fun, freedom, creativity, flexibility, and pleasure. When we open our hips, we restore our reproductive organs, which at a base level represent the original force creating existence. Through creating balance in these chakras we can become grounded, comfortable within our own identity, inherently creative, and flexible in changing environments, not excessively holding on to what you thought before. Before you start this practice, meditate on something you would like to let go of that you feel prevents you from expressing yourself fully.

Each asana holds meaning that’s intended to connect us to our deeper beings. This hip opening flow ends with Hanumanasana, the yogic name to the famous front splits. Hanuman, the ancient Monkey God in the mythological times, was famous for his powerful leaps, as he was able to jump over South India to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita, the Queen, who was kidnapped by the Lord of Darkness. Such leap is memorialized in the pose. Similar to Hanuman’s devotion in saving the queen, this asana expresses the expansiveness possible when you fully commit to your practice.

This flow will focus on the following major movements and muscular engagements:

(1) Opening the Hamstrings

(2) Opening the Hip Flexors

(3) Lengthening Your Stride

(4) Engagement of Glutes, Pelvic Floor, Psoas, and Core

(5) Keeping the spine neutral while performing all (important to prevent lower back injury, don’t go into anterior tilt).

It’s important to note that any hip opening pose must be approached with humility, even if you’re already quite flexible. Many flexible people further stretch their already-open hamstrings but allow their pelvis to tip forward (anterior tilt). This creates an imbalance and leads to lower back pain when students attempt, as they should, to lift the spine.

Hanumanasana requires the work of the hips and hamstrings, while balancing the upper body on the pelvis. With the hips and the legs moving in opposite directions, the hip flexors and hamstrings need to be strong and flexible to attain the required balance and stability.

 

Warmup (5 mins)

  • Table Top Cat Cow (1 min)
  • Table top with leg pulsing on each side (1 min)
  • 5 rounds of Surya Namaskar A (3 mins)

Main Sequence

Standing Sequence (25 minutes)

  • Prasarita Padottanasana ABCD (3 minutes)
  • Parsvottanasana
    • Praying hands (1 minute)
    • Hugging and kissing knee (1 minute)
  • Surya Namaskar A Half til Downward Dog (30 seconds)
  • Vinyasa on Both sides: Downward dog – Three legged downdog with knee flexing- Active pigeon- Sleeping Pigeon- Child’s Pose- Repeat on left side (6 minutes)
  • Vinyasa on Both sides: High lunge- Warrior 1- Skandasana- Warrior 2- Birds of paradise- Tadasana (8 minutes)
  • Surya Namaskar A Half til Downward Dog (30 seconds)
  • Lizard pose + Quad Stretch Both sides (2 minutes)
  • Active Malasana (2 minutes)
    • Active Malasana Level 2: For more adduction stretch, step on the blocks while still pushing the thighs back and engaging hamstrings
    • Active Malasana Level 3: place forearm and palm flat on the ground, flap legs sideways
  • Goddess Pose (1 minute)

Seating Sequence (10 minutes)

  • Paschmitonasana A (1 minute)
  • Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana Both sides (2 minutes)
  • Triang Mukha Eka Pada admotanasana (2 minutes)
  • Split drills with blocks (Get two blocks. Put them near your pelvis. Keep on placing one block in front of another until you extend your arms to its maximum. Once arms are at maximum, fold forward) (2 minutes)
  • Hanumanasana (3 minutes)
    • Focus on leveling the pelvis instead of reaching to the ground
    • Keep hips squared; try to avoid going into an anterior tilt
    • Press your inner thighs towards each other to help support the pelvis.
    • Engage hip flexors, glutes, pelvic core, psoas, and core

Counter Pose/ Closing (5 minutes)

  • Hug knees in supine pose
  • Supine twist
  • Shoulder stand
  • Shoulderstand Lotus Pose (Padma Sarvangasana)
  • Inversion: Headstand or Tripod

Shavasana (5 minutes)

 

 

Ahimsa towards Yourself

Ahimsa towards yourself

Ahimsa, the first and foremost five Yama of Eight Limbs of Yoga. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning of “non-violence”, or in another words it means “absence of injuries”. Ahimsa is not only non-violence in the physical sense, but with your words and thoughts as well. It’s the absence of violence in physical, mental and emotional form.

Many of us could say good words and show pleasant behavior to our families and friends, or even could show generous kindness to stranger. But we seem to forgot the most important “myself”. You may not identify some thought and mind actually harm yourself. 

It’s important to remind ourselves of ahimsa throughout our yoga practices, it is easy to just judge at ourselves for not being at a level of enough strength or flexibility and push ourselves too much further which beyond what our body can do thus hurting or injuring ourselves unconsciously. This is not saying that we shouldn’t push ourselves to get better, but we need to be made the process slow and steady for improvement. We have to be thoughtful to our physical body and only go a little bit beyond your ability day by day, one day you will get here. While we practicing on mat, celebrate every moment between you and yourself. Practicing ahimsa over and over again, eventually it will become natural part of us.

The more often you practice self-care and compassion, eventually you become ‘ahimsa’ naturally and effortlessly. Take a moment for yourself, sit comfortably and upright, close your eyes and place your palms together in heart center. Take a deep breath in, notice whatever within you now, maybe you can feel your pulse or even a fluctuated mind, but they’re all fine. Whisper to yourself “Thank you, you’re great.”