Meditation to relieve depression

Depression is a mental health condition that presents many symptoms such as low mood that cannot be shaken off, loneliness, sadness, sleep problem, suicidal thoughts, anxiety & irritability which are the more common ones. If you have these signs for more than two weeks, you might have a depression disorder. As a natural alternative to anti-depressants, you may want to try practise meditation. It can help to you manage these symptoms if you know how to do it. If you make it a regular practice, it can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which can cause depression.

Through meditation, you will realise that you have more control over your mind and can cut through the dark cloud of depression to a place of balance, peace and joy. When you meditate, you can override the triggers stimulated from the prefrontal cortex (area go into overdrive when you are stressed) and the amygdala (fear region that triggers fight or flee when faced with danger). This explains why your stress levels fall.

There is more than one type of meditations that can help to relieve depression. You may want to try all and find one that suit you and your can practise regularly.

  1. Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating an attitude of love and kindness towards yourself and others.
  2. Mindfulness meditation is using your breath to create an anchor to keep bringing your attention back to the present moment and help with cognitive retraining.
  3. Breath awareness meditation uses the object of your breath to focus on, to help with mind training so as much as 15 minutes a day of focusing on inhaling and exhaling can yield mood benefits, including lessened emotional reactivity.
  4. Kundalini yoga incorporate chanting and specific techniques to manage fear, banish anger, and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Transcendental meditation uses sound or a personal mantra, often one or two syllables to anchor your attention.
  6. Body scan meditation involves focusing on different parts of your body sequentially. As you shift your attention to different parts of your body, you also focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.
  7. Walking meditation takes walking to another level. Aerobic walking with Buddhist meditation not only reduced depression but also improved flexibility and balance.

Let us focus on Kundalini yoga with mantra chanting to help relieve depression. WAHE GURU is a powerful mantra that take you from darkness to light, from ignorance to true understanding. It involves Kundalini energy to purify your past karma and to give you vitality. This is the mantra of ecstasy and it will remove loneliness, doubts, fear or confusion. By chanting this sacred mantra, you embody divine healing vibrations and raise your energy field to the vibration of Love.

Wahe Guru (pronounced “Wah-hey goo-roo”) Mantra

Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Jio

Meaning

Wahe is the statement of awe and ecstasy.
Guru is the one who brings us from darkness to light.
Wahe Guru is an expression of complete ecstatic awe of the Divine.
Wahe Jio is great beyond description is the experience of God Blessing the Soul.

Steps to meditation

  1. Sit in Ardha Padmasana (half lotus pose) or Sukhasana (easy seated pose). Apply a light neck lock.
  2. Hold out your hands in a reverse prayer mudra from your chest. Keep your thumbs separated and your fingers pressed against one another, creating pressure on the back of your hands.
  3. Focus your eyes at the tip of your nose.
  4. Take a few long, deep breaths in and out of the nostrils to prepare yourself.
  5. Inhale deeply and chant Wahe Guru mantra 10 times as you breathe out. One complete cycle should take 20-25 seconds.
  6. Try this for 10 minutes and gradually build to 30 minutes.

Besides meditation, regular exercise including yoga asanas and pranayama can also help to ease symptoms of depression. It is good to choose an exercise that you enjoy and if possible, find a supportive partner or group to exercise with you.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Yoga Philosophy – Brahmacharya

The Yoga Sutras, also known as The Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Raja (King) Yoga, was the first fully developed by Patanjali around 400 CE (Common Era) and recorded system of yoga. The Eight Limbs of Yoga will introduce yogis to the basic of concepts of yoga philosophy which will greatly enhance the benefits of yogis practice and put him/her on the path to mindfulness & self-realization.

The first and second limbs, Yama and Niyama, form your foundation. Both lay the footing for awareness and realization to come. The focus of the first limb, Yamas, is on being an ethical and moral person, and on improving your relationship with the outer world. The Yamas are meant to help develop a greater awareness of one’s place in the world. When taking steps to transform our inner world, our outer world becomes a total reflection of this effort. There are 5 Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence
  2. Satya: Truth to be expressed in thought, word, and action
  3. Asteya: Non-stealing and non-covetousness
  4. Brahmacharya: Abstinence from sexual intercourse when not married, practicing monogamy and not having sexual thoughts about another person who is not your spouse
  5. Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-greediness

Let’s focus on Brahmacharya. It is believed that a life built on celibacy and spiritual studies done by free will increase energy and zest for life. If you are married or serious settling down with your soul mate, celibacy may sound like an unrealistic goal, but it may help to remember that brahmacharya is also about monogamy. When brahmacharya is fully realized in marriage, the sex lives of both partners improve because the level of trust and devotion deepens their connection. Sexual activity is an expression based on the highest level of mutual respect, love, selflessness, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the literally translation of Brahmacharya is ‘walking in the presence of the divine’.  In practical world, it means replacing superficial pleasure (e.g. smoking, fast food as comfort, drinking, etc.) with divine ones that fills us with aliveness.  In this sense, Brahmacharya requires the highest integrity and self-mastery – being honest in how you are connecting, with whom, and under what circumstance, so that your vital energies are utilized for transformation and not merely for entertainment.

Mindful living practice

How can you apply Brahmacharya to your everyday? It takes conscious self-reflection to become mindful of the ways in which you stray from the middle path. You can ask three questions below to help you become aware of situations and habits where you tend to take things to the extreme. Trying to ask the three questions below related to caffeine, alcohol, relationship, or anything that knocks you off balance and disturb your peace of mind.

  1. Where do I take things to the extreme through overindulgence?
  2. Where do I take things to the extreme through deprivation?
  3. How can I practise walking in the middle path in daily life?

Yoga does not ask you to avoid pleasure or giving up all the belongings and live in a cave in the hope of achieving non-existent spiritual perfection. In fact, it is actively encouraging you not to only avoid self-indulgence but also avoid self-denial. Why not let your intuition guide you to when you are straying from the middle path (such as over-eating or over dieting, etc) and mindfully bring yourself back by practicing Brahmacharya and treating your body as scared.

Pranayama

Your breath can use to quieten your nervous system and release your cravings for excess. Three-part breath, also known as Deergha Swasam, is a calming breathing exercise that allows you to breathe fully and deeply using your diaphragm. This helps to relieve tension, increase your supply of oxygen and calm the nervous system.

When I think of having a chocolate, I try three-part breath for five to ten minutes and it suppresses my craving as it is become more manageable along the way.

Three-part Breath technique

  1. Place your hands on your collarbones to feel the movement of the breath. You can be either lying on your back or in a seated position
  2. Breathing through your nose, into your belly and feeling it rise like a balloon. When you exhale, let your navel fall back towards your spine. Take five breaths like this.
  3. As you inhale, breathe into your belly fully. As you exhale, release from the ribcage first and then the belly. Take five breaths like this.
  4. This time, as you inhale, first feel your belly expand, then your ribcage, then your ribcage, and then fill your upper chest, expanding the areas around your collarbones.
  5. Exhale in reverse, from your upper chest, then from your ribcage and then from your belly. Take 10 to 15 breaths here, focusing on breathing smoothly and seamlessly.

Meditation

Meditation practice give you the chance to see when you are off balance. It is deeply somatic; fully grounded in the body and the physical sensations that arise. Anapana meditation is a simple practice that helps to calm and concentrate the mind by focusing on the subtle sensations of the breath.

Find your comfortable seated meditation position, close your eyes and breathe naturally and mindfully. Try to be aware of sensation of the breath around the nostrils and the upper lip and focus your attention here.

Observe any sensations that is happening. Notice the ordinary physical sensations that arises as you breathe. The coolness of the breath as it enters the nostrils, the heat on your upper lip as you exhale. You will feel a subtle tickling at the edge of your nostrils, tingling on the tip of your nose.

With your effortless gentle, loving awareness, observe the sensations like watching a sunset- no judgement, no expectations, no force. Always reminder to bring your awareness back to the sensations of your breath if you catch your mind trying to escape into the pastor future.

Practise the meditation from 5 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually, you will see your body begins to stop thinking obsessively and beginning to listen your breath & body to the quiet call of your heart.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Plan a Yoga lesson with theme- Chakras

In the past 10 years, I attended many different yoga classes. Every yoga teacher has different styles of conducting lessons. At time, they will inform the class what will be the focus of the day such inversion or upper body poses, etc. However, they are some who prefer to monitor the energy in the class and plan on the spot.

Since I started my 200hrs Yoga Teacher Training (200YTT) course in June -2021, I am pondering if I can create a theme for every lesson that I conducting in the future. My first theme will be Chakras.

Write a little story about Chakras and why it speaks to you

There are 7 chakras (Sahasrara, Ajna, Vissudha, Anahata, Manipura, Svadhisthana & Muladhara). You can go through all the 7 chakras in an hour lesson by touching on each of them briefly. You may also want to select 1 or 2 chakras in a lesson so that you can go into details for the poses and breathing. It is important to explain the identity, elements and location of chakras,

To me, chakras is a chamber in the temple of the body that receives assimilates and transmits life force energy. It creates an inner roadmap for awareness in the body. When all chakras are aligned and tuned, energy flows freely. The chakras are a helpful way to think about modern-day spiritual ailments, metaphorical though that may be.

Chants, quotes, mantras or poems that connect

Quote

“Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, that is really what matters. There has always been evil, and there will always be evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.”- Dr Maya Angelou

Bija mantra

  1. Sahasrara = Silence
  2. Ajna = Om or Ksham
  3. Vissudha = Ham
  4. Anahata = Yam
  5. Manipura = Ram
  6. Svadhisthana = Vam
  7. Muladhara = Lam

Phases or sentences to employ during the lesson

Opening

Chakras literally means a wheel or disc, that enables energy to flow through or around it at various speeds, different directions, with a center that is anchored to a fixed point. There are 7 chakras in our bodies. In our practice today, we’ll mediate on each one, connecting a pose to each chakra space and moving with the intention to allow energy to flow freely.

During movements

Think of the energy flowing from your root to your head. Breathe deeply, allowing it to flow freely in every part of your body. Nothing to be forced.

During pauses

While resting, we gain energy again. Rest, and tune in to the flow of your personal energy when your body is still.

**Remind the students about the chakras mantra.

Ending

Awareness of your chakras can start you on a path of self-discovery. Allow this knowledge to ignite your interest in self-study. The chakras are one more path to deeper self-knowledge.

Poses that work with chakra

Besides going into the poses below, you may want to warm up the students with 3 rounds of sun salutation A or sun salutation B.

(in sequence for each chakra)

  1. Muladhara (Coccyx) = Apanasana, Supta Padangusthasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Supta Virasana ending with Siddhasana
  2. Svadhisthana (Sacral area) = Baddha Konasana, Upavistha Konasana, Agnistambhasana (fire log pose), Eka pada kapotasana ending with Supta Baddha Konasana
  3. Manipura (Solar Plexus) = Standing side stretch, Virabhadrasana I, II & III, Viparita Virabhadrasana, Trikonasana ending with Ardha Chandrasana
  4. Anahata (heart) = Gomukhasana, Anahatasana, Parighasana 2, Ustrasana ending with Matsyasana
  5. Vissudha (Throat) = Sasangasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana ending with Karnapidasana
  6. Ajna (Brow) = Yoga eye exercise, Makarasana II, Pincha Mayurasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana ending with Bakasana
  7. Sahasrara (Cerebal cortex) = Paripurna Navasana, Purvottanasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana ending with Savasana

You can perform all the poses in one lesson or break them up into a couple of lessons. The above poses for each chakra are just some of the common ones. Some of the poses impact more than one chakras.

After the Savasana, don’t forget to give your ending phase to complete the lesson!

Tips when planning yoga lesson with theme

  • Write down how you want your students to feel end of your class. This will be the destined goal for the class.
  • Next write out your road map to reach the destinated goal. It should include a list of sequences, poses, music playlist, and quotes, etc. You may also use online template for theming yoga lesson.
  • Examine the road map and identify potential road bumps (such as pregnant student walk in to attend your lesson focusing on backbends, technical issue with music app, etc). Not forgetting to find alternative for those road bumps.
  • Lastly, smile and find contentment in the lesson even if events do not go according to your plan.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

What is Urdhva Hastasana? 

It is literally translated to “Raise Hands Pose” aka “Upward Salute”. At time, it can be called Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) or Utthita Hasta in Tadasana (Mountain Pose with Arms).

To me, it is Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with both arms raise to the ceiling and palms together. It may sound like a simple pose but have you thought of the muscles you are engaging and how it benefits your well-being.

Benefit of Urdhva Hastasana

  • Reduces fatigue, anxiety and stress
  • Relieves back pain and sciatica
  • Realigns of posture when standing
  • Improves digestion and better bowel movement by compressing your digestive tract during stretching
  • Lubricates your joints better & healthier from the full body stretch (side of the body, spine, shoulders, armpits and abdomen)
  • Improve chest congestion by creating space in the lungs & chest during the stretch

How to move into Urdhva Hastasana

  1. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet.
  2. As you inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and then up toward the sky. Both palms and fingers face each other, coming into prayer over your head. Straighten your arms completely, but do not lock the elbow joints.
  3. With an exhale, release your shoulders away from your ears to open the chest. Draw your front ribs in, toward your spine, and lengthen your tailbone toward the ground.
  4. Tilt your head back gently and gaze up at your thumbs.
  5. Hold the pose for up to one minute or 5 – 10 breathes. Breathe smoothly and it should be moving across the entire body. Lift up through the sides of your waist as you inhale. Soften your shoulders as you exhale.
  6. To release, exhale and sweep the arms back down to the sides of the body.

*Tips for beginner- You can practise the pose backed up against a wall. There will be a slight curve in your lower back but make sure your heels, buttocks, and shoulders touch the wall. Keep your head away from the wall, with your ears in line with your shoulders.

What muscles are you engaging?

Trunk

  • Erector spinae together with the muscles at the back helps to lift the spine and hold you upright.
  • Abdominal muscles together with the back muscle helps to support and balance the torso which draws the rib cage downward.

Shoulders and Arms

  • Lower trapezius depresses the shoulder downward.
  • Middle trapezius and rhomboids draw the shoulder blades towards the spine which helps to open up the chest.
  • Upper trapezius (back) and anterior deltoids (front shoulder) lifts the arm up to the ceiling.
  • Triceps straighten the elbows.

Pelvis and Legs

  • Psoas (front of the pelvis) flexes the thigh and glutei (buttock muscles) makes the thigh lengthen. The two muscles balance each other.
  • Muscle of the pelvic diaphragm are active to create Mula Bandha and tone the organs of the pelvis.
  • Quadriceps are shortened to straighten the knees.
  • Gastrocnemius balances the ankles on the feet.
  • Muscles on the top and bottom of the feet balance each other to ground the pose firmly.

My thoughts & experience of Urdhva Hastasana…

Urdhva Hastasna is a beginner standing pose involving shoulders, spine, knees and obliques muscle. When I practise and hold this pose after long desk-sitting time, I feel the stretch of my legs and elongate of my vertebra. This helps to relieve my stress, anxiety & back ache of long sitting. Not forgetting, it also improves digestion & bowel movements.

I feel the healing spiritually as it secures a connection with mother earth & allows free flow of energy. With that connection, it prepares me to move into other standing poses or deeper stretches/twists such as Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bending Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) etc with confidence and steadiness.

Try it and feel the power of this standing pose.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)