Dawn, not Dusk.

I pondered (and spoke) very long before doing it,

Yet I was still not as prepared and that worried me more than a bit.

 

I thought I was fit but I was nowhere near my classmates,

Their poses alignment more beautiful that what I had seen to date,

Their strong core and flexibility was beyond my imagination,

They inspired me to have new ambitions!

 

The pace of the course was fast and intense,

But Heightened Alert (HA) gave me some time to build up my defense,

I tried to use that time to practice,

To do something other than play with my niece.

 

I was lucky to meet very nice people in class,

They were helpful and encouraging when some of the poses I did not pass,

The teachers were also patient and kind,

These are the real perks I didn’t mind!

 

Physical practice, theory, planning and executing a class,

Sometimes it felt like the stress was going to shatter me like glass,

But I pranayama-ed and promise to persevere,

To take on of the most challenging (and enriching) course with no fear.

 

The course is ending soon,

But I feel that this is just the beginning of the boon,
I have become stronger both body and mind,

A different me I find.

 

I took a leap and never looked back,

Got more than I thought I lack,

I may teach or I may not,

But practice I definitely have to, a lot!

My new hobby is BREATHING.

I always thought that breathing is an autonomous process – but while I was doing some research, I learnt that breathing is the only autonomous system of the body that we CAN control, through conscious breathing practices such as pranayama.

 

In addition, I found out that there are MANY ways of pranayama, each with its own benefits. The more I know, the more I want to find out – I never imagined I would find breathing interesting.

 

Anyway, just for fun – I decided to test out some of the things I read about Pranayama/ breathing and below are my results:

S/N What I Read/ Heard My Test Results*
1 Pranayama helps with weight loss – the practice of breathing techniques is an effective way to reduce body fat. TRUE that pranayama reduces body fat but FALSE that it helps to lose weight. I practised Kapalbhati everyday for a week and found that my abdominal muscles became more defined.
2 Pranayama improves sense of well-being and immunity, among other numerous health benefits. TRUE.
I find that my rhinitis did not act up for the period that I was practising pranayama, and I did not have to use my nasal spray for that week!
3 According to some studies, breathing more slowly and taking longer breaths can reduce one’s appetite. FALSE.
I tried this before meals and even in between my meals but it did not work for me.
4 Some clinical studies have shown that Bhramari pranayama slows down breathing and heart rate and this may help calm our body for sleep. TRUE for Ujjayi breathing, not for Bhramari pranayama. I practised ujjayi breathing for about 5 minutes and it helped cure my insomnia.
5 When we breathe, we are either right nostril or left nostril dominant. It is believed that the right nostril is more open or breathing more smoothly when we are more fired up/ active/ aroused. Dominance in the left nostril tends to happen when we are relaxed and at ease. FALSE.

I tried this for more than 10 times over three days but my right nose was almost always more dominant. However, I think this could be because of my rhinitis that blocked one of my nostrils.

 

*These results are not conclusive as they were not done in a controlled environment and there could be several other factors affecting the outcome. They are meant for sharing purposes only, please feel free to conduct your own experiments as the results could vary for different individuals.

Lastly, it is said that we only have so many breaths in our life. If we could extend our life span a little longer just by taking as many slow, deep breaths as possible, why not? Start your daily 10mins pranayama practice today!

 

WILL I PASS THE APARIGRAHA PRACTICE?

Aparigraha is the last Yama (moral guidelines with regard to our relationship with ourselves and the world around us) in Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. It is often translated to ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness’, and ‘non-attachment’. This important yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment, and to let go when the time is right. These moral codes can be applied both on and off the yoga mat and I would like to share my story with you.

 

Was I too GREEDY At The Start Of My Yoga Journey?

I started the Yoga Teacher Training Course feeling a little stressed. My classmates were stronger and more flexible while I struggled with several of the poses.  I could not help but compare myself to them and at some points, I considered dropping out of the course because I felt I was not good enough.

However, the trainers and my course mates were very encouraging. The Covid-19 Heightened Alert period when the course took a break also gave me some additional time to practice. The regular practice made me stronger, being stronger made me more confident, being more confident allowed me to attempt (and achieve) more poses. Honestly, the progress was slow and I did not realise it myself. It was when we returned to class after the break that the trainer commented on the improvement and I came to notice it. Today, I am still unable to do some poses that my classmates can, but I am a much stronger version of myself two months ago – this is what matters and I will constantly remind myself that.

 

Will I Ever POSSESS Enough?

I think I am quite vain and perhaps a bit of a shopaholic. I enjoy buying new clothes AND shoes! I once bought two pairs of the same shoes because I forgot that I already have a pair at home. I wear only 10% of my wardrobe 90% of the time, the rest are mostly neglected and sometimes forgotten.

During Circuit Breaker last year, I had time for reflection and also some housekeeping – I managed to clear some clothes for donation to the Salvation Army. My house is not Marie Kondo-ed, there are still a lot of clutter left and there are some apparels that I could not bear to give away even though I have not worn it for several years. However, it is still a tiny step that I have taken and I choose to celebrate small wins. 

My new resolution is not to buy new clothes for six months – hope this can help to clear the clutter in my room, my mind and my heart

 

Am I too ATTACHED To My Food?

Food is my life – my favourite pastime is reading food articles, trying out new cafes, planning my next meal and the one after that…

I also have a habit of over ordering which I blame on genetics because growing up, my dad (who is also a foodie) loves feeding us and he always made sure the dining table is full – “better more than less”, he says. As I dislike wasting food, I almost always finish my food. That also means I tend to overeat when I overorder so I need to resolve the root cause which is ORDER IN MODERATION!

Fortunately, I think the Yoga Teacher Training Course has improved my eating habits slightly – two days a week to be exact because that is the number of days we go to the studio. Intermittent fasting never seemed possible for me in the past because I am always hungry – my family and friends are witnesses to this. However, as our weekend classes are 11am-2pm and we are advised not to eat two hours before class (and I do not wake up earlier than that!), my first meal on weekends is around 3pm. Then, I am cautious not to eat too much in case we are asked to do breathing exercises during our theory classes at 4pm. I do eat a lot more for dinner but my overall consumption for the day is much lesser than on days when I do not practice. This routine has made me realised I require less calories than I think.

I would like to share this phrase that I came across and really like – it is “Hara hachi bu” which means “Eat until you are 80% full” in Japanese. It originated in the city of Okinawa, where people use this advice as a way to control their eating habits. Apparently, they have a fairly long life expectancy and one of the lowest rates of illness from heart disease, cancer and stroke.

 

Focusing On The Journey Instead Of The Destination

I am far from attaining Aparigraha, if ever. But just knowing about it and trying to practice it (even if occasionally) makes me feel good. Regardless of the results, I am going to enjoy this process.

The Deceivingly Easy Pose (for me at least)

PASCHIMOTTANASA (SEATED FORWARD BEND)
Paschim (West) + Uttana (Intense Stretch) + Asana (Pose)

Muscles Involved

  • Erector Spinae
  • Iliacus
  • Tensor Fasciae Latae
  • Rectus Femoris
  • Sartorius
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Gastreocnemius

Benefits
To motivate students to fold deeper/ hold longer when they are in the pose

  • Stretches/ tones the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, calves and opens up the hips
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion and releases blocked gas
  • Relieves the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache/anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions
Take note of students practising this pose if they have the below conditions

  • Asthma
  • Diarrhoea
  • Pregnant
  • Arms, shoulders, back, hips or ankle injuries

Fun Tips!

Get a buddy to help you fold deeper! Go into the pose and then have the buddy gently press his/ her hands against your lower back and pelvis as you exhale. Ask the buddy to check that your spine is straight as you fold forward – try to bring belly to thighs, microbend your knees if you need to!

If your hands are at your shin, reach for your toes. If you are holding your toes, aim to wrap your hands around the feet. If you are holding the feet, put a block against the soles of the feet and hold the block!