720000 seconds

and that’s 200 hours..

I can’t believe that it’s nearing to the end of YTT! Where did all the time go?

Doing YTT on top of my regular job has proven to be quite a task because it absorbs a lot of my attention and energy.

But I love it! Even though it comes with many sacrifices, but life is always a balancing act right?

Now that this training is ending, I’m starting to reflect on my journey. Even though we only spend 20 days (ok, 18 so far because there are still 2 more days) in the studio, a lot of learning actually takes place outside of that for me. When I’m revising the content, reading up articles and books for my project research – there’s always constant learning and reflection.

Some takeaways or small things which i’ve learnt and managed to apply to my daily life:

1.Living in the present.

People always say you only live once, so you gotta live in the present. But how do you actually live in the present without worrying about the future or get hung up on the past? It’s easier said than done.

A few days ago, something happened at work which really made me feel very upset and kept me up. After awhile, I started to think to myself – why am I getting so angry? It’s bad for my health and I know that. Then I started to shift my perspective. I thought about the things I can do in the present, instead of worrying about what the outcome will be and if it will still be unfavorable to me. I choose to focus on what I have in the present moment and embrace what comes. Then, I found happiness again. Not too bad, right?

2. Withholding judgements

Well, I will admit, I have a tendency to judge. Who hasn’t been met with the occasional comment  – What’s with that shirt? Well I’ve had quite a few of these similar comments when I was younger and that snowballed into my sense of judgement forming. Of others, and myself.

But after going through this training course, I feel humbled. There are so many things that I do not know and have yet to master though I’ve spent months and hours in this topic. It led me to appreciate the people who are good at what they do, because they made the effort and discipline to learn and hone their craft.

It made me look at my hair dresser in a different way. As I watch her skillfully cut my hair, I wondered about the amount of time and effort she must have put in to be able to give her clients good haircuts. Instead of first judging her clothes, her hair, etc. I learnt to see her as a person.

When I let go of my judgements of others, I let go of my judgements of myself as well. I’m slightly more expressive than I was reserved. Because I realised, we’re all human afterall.

3. Yoga is much much more than just Asanas.

It’s not just about posing for nice pictures in challenging asanas on instagram. It’s a practice that encourages you to discover your inner self (not the self your ego defines you as) to eventually attain peace and happiness through various practices. Asanas are just one of them. There’s also pranayama, pratyhara and so on..

Atha yoga anushasanam. 

I know, this journey has only just begun.

Namaste.

Actions and Karma (4.7 – 4.8)

Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.

In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)

  • karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
  • ashukla = not white
  • akrisnam = nor black
  • yoginah = of a yogi
  • trividham = threefold
  • itaresam = of the others

The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.

In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.

(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)

  • tatah = from that, thence
  • tad = that, their
  • vipaka = fruition
  • anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
  • eva = only
  • abhivyaktih = manifest
  • vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints

Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.

When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.

What about Karma yoga?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.

It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.

Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.

To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!

Inhale & Exhale.

Sometimes when I get angry and start ranting to my best friend, she’ll tell me “Just breathe”. Sometimes, I feel like her saying this makes me feel angrier. But lately I discovered that, there’s some truth to what she’s saying. Afterall, there is 1 limb dedicated to Pranayama in the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga..

What is Pranayama?

Prana means ‘life force’ and yama means ‘expansion’. It’s a series of deep breathing exercises that helps to regulate our breath.  Simply put, if there’s no breath, there’s no life. Breathing can happen involuntarily and voluntarily. When we practice pranayama, we’re consciously controlling and regulating our breath, our life force to take in more oxygen and removing toxins from our body. When we breathe consciously, we also bridge our mind and our body.  

Some benefits of Pranayama:

  1. Relaxation

When we’re angry, happy, sad, or stressed our breathing patterns are different. It is very much connected to our emotional states. Like in my case above, if I was upset, my breath would probably be shallow and fast. To combat this, sit in hero’s pose, and do a simple balancing pranayama like annuloma viloma.

 

  1. Helps improve concentration, relieves mood imbalances and stress

Ujjayi breath or victorious breathing is useful in this case. Whenever I’m practicing ashtanga yoga, I make use of ujjayi breathing to help myself be more focused. Because this breath has an ‘ocean’ sound to it, I find that it also helps take my mind off things by making my focus be on my breath.

 

  1. Reduces high blood pressure

Stress is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension, is also a pre-cursor to many other heart conditions. Our respiratory system is also closely related to our cardiovarscular system. Changes in breath rates can also contribute to changes in heart rate. When practicing breathing techniques, it also helps to lower our heart rate and thus stress, which may in turn help in alleviating hypertension. However, not all pranayama techniques are suitable for this particular syndrome. Hence before practicing different pranayama techniques, it is good to look out for contraindications and use appropriate modifications for your unique conditions.

One good pranayama to practice for people with high blood pressure is simply, Sukha Pranayama. When inhaling, belly should move out. When exhaling, belly should move inwards. This can be practiced for ratios 1:1 to 16:16. Note that as you begin increasing the ratio, you should also regulating your inhalation or exhalation such that you use the full 16 seconds to inhale or exhale.

Reflections on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.2

I always knew yoga was more than what I’ve been doing in physical classes, but the philosophy side of it was a whole new world and it wasn’t necessarily shining or shimmering to me at first. I didn’t know what all the Sanskrit names meant and there were so many of them in the teachings.

Physical practice was still more interesting. In it, I break a sweat, do interesting poses, focus on my breath. It takes my mind off stress, worries and makes me be more present in the moment by instilling mindfulness. But after being assigned my project topic and doing more research on it, learning more about chakras, 8 limbs of ashtanga in classes, I found all the teachings revolving around yoga to very interesting and intriguing.

In one of the first few YTT classes, Patanjali, the Father of Yoga was quoted. To be frank, I didn’t know who’s Patanjali at that point in time (I just pretended to nod and know, haha).

Who is Patanjali?

From my brief google search though, there’s not much known to modern people about him. There are legends about his birth and how his teachings has spread[1]. But people most famously know him as the author of the Yoga Sutras which is the guide book of classical yoga.

But first, what are Sutras?

The word, Sūtra, means “string, thread” and it comes from the root word, siv – that which sews and holds things together. Thus Sūtra can be defined as any short rule, or a string of words woven together to form an aphorism (an observation which contains a general truth).

The very first sutra of Patanjali’s yoga sutras reads: atha yoga anushasanam.

Interpreted as: Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.

The interpretation of each word as follows (Because sutras are a string of words, it’s important to know what each word means):

atha = now, at this auspicious moment; implying the transition to this practice and pursuit, after prior preparation; implying a blessing at this moment of transition

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate; same as the absorption in samadhi

anu = within, or following tradition; implies being subsequent to something else, in this case, the prior preparation,

shasanam = instruction, discipline, training, teaching, exposition, explanation; Shas implies the imparting of teaching that happens along with discipline

My interpretation of this sutra, is that it is a warm blessed welcome and beginning to this practice. Once you have picked up the Yoga sutra book, or started to read it even, the practice has begun. “Atha” interpreted as “now”, where we are encouraged to be in the present. And in this present moment, we are going to unite all our prior experiences that has brought us to this point in our lives, with the methodical teachings of Yoga. 

The next sutra that follows is Yogash citta vrtti nirodha.

This sutra can be interpreted as: Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

Simply put, Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind. 

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi

chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field

vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind field

nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of

The sutra briefly explains what Yoga is all about.

To me, it also very nicely sums up the reason why I practice yoga at all. Like I mentioned on top, practicing yoga helps me to be present in the moment, and not be distracted by all the thoughts in my head. I focus on my breath, how my body is moving and how it feels like, instead of living in my head and what I perceive. However, something I can further work on here is to to actively make my mind be still, work on being conscious and present, rather than let it happen passively in physical practice.

I think it’s quite amazing how these texts were written maybe thousands of years ago. Now we are here, learning and practicing these teachings to continually discover and improve ourselves. It makes me feel grateful to be able practice and learn the art of yoga that was passed down from many years before. 

[1] https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/who-was-patanjali