Inspired and thankful

What is a good yoga lesson? To some, it is a good workout or physical challenge. To others, a good stretch or rest for the mind. Whichever the case may be, a good lesson is often seamless. It flows through the pranayamas, warm-ups, asanas to the peak pose (optional) without your realization. A good teacher guides you from asanas to asanas, section to section, breath to breath with smooth and continuous instructions. Alignment variations and physical adjustments are inserted in between with little disruptions.

I have always thought that being an experienced student would equate to being a good instructor. Of cos, I have done it hundreds of time, I can just draw from memory and repeat the instructions if i wanted to! I have severely underestimated the work put into each lesson plan.

When writing our own lesson plans, my classmates and I churned out scripts. Yes, scripts of instructions! Detailing breath intake, alignment, and adjustment ques, muscle benefits, much like a screenplay complete with “exit stage left or stage right”. The plan must also be balanced in terms of working the muscles equally and also within the required duration. Then, you have to memorize the script and deliver that in a class of live students, whilst demonstrating the asanas to the best of your abilities. I have not gone into mirror movements yet!

Now I am thankful. Thankful for all the teachers that piqued my interest in yoga with their amazing lesson plans. Thankful for the effort and time that you have devoted to the plans, and in turn your students. I hope my lesson plans will do the same too.

 

It’s a dog eat dog corporate world out there. With Covid-19, job security is at stake and stress is at an all-time high. This post will teach you to shine in front of your boss and also release some muscle stress at work.

First volunteer for your boss’s latest useless side project. What better way to catch his attention than to extend your arms up like the star employee you are.

Additional benefits – eccentrically contracting your latissimus dorsi, teres minor/ major, and releasing them from the hunched posture you probably have.

Next, abduct your arms to the side facing your work buddy to saboh them to volunteer with you. Avoid their murderous eye contact by gazing at your elbow. Remember to abduct both left and right arms to arrow enough people to form a team.

More benefits – same as above and also additional release for the obliques with the gentle twist.

Realize that your colleagues are all going on leave! Silently cry into your flexed knees as now, you not only have to do the boss’s project but also cover their work.

Feel better as you eccentrically contract your gluteus muscles, bicep femoris and rectus spinae.

Finally, surrender and steal a nap by drawing your belly to your thighs. Sink deeper with each exhalation and relax. Tomorrow is a better day.

Namaste 

Dip your toes into yoga philosophy

Yoga philosophy, specifically Patanjali’s yoga, consists of a set of guidelines for one to live a morally disciplined and purposeful life, in order to advance along a spiritual path towards enlightenment. Yoga poses, or asanas, are simply a part of these guidelines. The other parts include Yamas and Niyamas, roughly translating to moral codes/ right thinking and right living/ behavior respectively.
The underlying rule is that everything is interconnected. Strictly speaking, Yamas and Niyamas form the foundation of a yoga practice as opposed to asanas which serve more as a physical extension. One cannot truly improve on asanas without achieving an understanding and practice on the philosophical aspects.
I approach this topic today from a point of personal observation and takeaway. Today, many of us approach yoga seeking clarity and peace of mind. However, we are often less receptive to the philosophies and some even shun the guidelines as idealistic rules to achieve so-called enlightenment. This is understandable since we have lived decades by our own moral/ behavioral rules, set by schools, religion and family. Moreover, enlightenment is often thought of as fiction depicted in movies as a seated man with rays of light shining out of his bald head, or lady with 1000 hands holding a vase, depending on which movie you watched.
Yet can we question the legitimacy of seeking peace and clarity through physical activity alone? There are hundreds of other sports to do. Is it just because yoga is slower moving..?
Of course, I am only human who has also lived decades by the pre-dictated moral/ behavioral rules. Reading the Yamas and Niyamas, one guideline stood out to me and resonated with something deep within – Asteya.
Asteya means “non-stealing”. On the surface level, it literally means not stealing other people’s physical possession. On the next level, it also means not stealing resources, such as taking other people’s ideas and credit, or things that could be better used on others. Finally, It also refers to non-stealing of time.
Are you stealing other people’s time by being late for your appointments? Are you a no-show at your booked workout session? Are you stealing time from yourself by misappropriating your hours scrolling on social media? I am definitely guilty of these. When I am supposed to be working, I am procrastinating. When I am out with my friends, I think of the work left undone. These are time stolen from both myself and my friends, leaving me anxious and distracted all the time. How good do you think your asanas are when you are anxious and distracted? Remember, everything is interconnected.
For now, I set my intentions –
I will honor and respect my time, and that of others. By being present on the mat, at work, and in life. To start and complete what I set out to do.
At present, even though I have only just begun practicing this mindfully, I do observe some improvements. Every time I want to laze, I ask myself why I am disrespecting my time for the sake of some cat videos online! The results are more consistent asana practices, better work productivity, and less mentally distracted. I also practice ahimsa – kindness on myself when I do fall off the train sometimes (it happens!).
So if you are one of the aforementioned seeking peace/ clarity, do read through the Yamas and Niyamas and see what resonates to you. Then apply it on the mat and in your life. You can use my intentions as your own too, I will not consider it stealing😉 While cherry-picking is frowned upon in philosophical studies, I invite you to do so. This is because there could be many entry points in a single journey but the destination still remains the same. Remember, everything is interconnected. Even though we may never achieve enlightenment, I hope at the very least, we will lead a life in which we are present in every moment.

My Backache

A few years ago, I woke up with a backache. Like any normal young adult, I decided to ignore it and went about my days. The pain grew over the months to the point where I could not sit for extended periods of time. I would drive and exit the car in numbing pain. I went for massages which only provided temporary relief. The pain would return with a vengeance and extended into radiating pains down my thigh. I was worried that I had a spinal injury, a herniated disc perhaps. I went for checkups, scans, and second opinions but alas, my spine was in good condition! The doctors simply sent me to physiotherapy that only helped minimally.

After more than half a year, I was introduced to a Chinese physician. After listening to my condition, her team proceeded to give me the most painful deep tissue massage (tui na) I have ever had in my life. I have a high tolerance for pain (case in point: half a year of radiating pain) but I will not send my worst enemies to her. I have seen grown men cry in her clinic. However, it was worth it. 90% of my pain went away after just one session. What surprised me was that she did not massage my legs nor my back much. Instead, she pressed deeply into my buttocks in all angles, seemingly searching for gold. I did not understand why or what she was doing but I recovered fully after 3 sessions, so I told everyone it was a miracle that Western medicine could not achieve.

Fast forward to my YTT course today, I learned about the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle originates from the anterior part of the sacrum and inserts into the greater trochanter of the femur. In short, it starts from the front/ bottom of your spine to the top of your thigh bone. It is in charge of externally rotating your femur and also abducting it when hips are flexed.

More importantly, when the piriformis muscle is inflamed, it will impinge on the sciatica nerve. This causes lower backache, pain down the back of thigh/calf/ foot, and pain after prolonged sitting. Sounds familiar? This is also known as piriformis syndrome.

This is the pot of gold that my Chinese physician was looking for! Causes of piriformis syndrome include overexertion due to impact or exercise.

Today, I wonder why my doctors and physiotherapist did not diagnose me as such. Nevertheless, this lesson has taught me the importance of body awareness and anatomical knowledge. Your physical body is the only vehicle carrying you for the rest of your life. You are the passenger, driver, and mechanic. Take care of it.