Yoga Philosophy – What I’ve learnt
I have always thought that Yoga was a slow and peaceful exercise to test your flexibility.
I first tried a yoga class with a friend in Oct 2019 and found myself weekly going back to the mat. I have always enjoyed the release of tensions in my body and calming the chaos inside my head after each lesson. Bringing the attention to myself and being aware of the present. This “being present” speaks about Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal). Pratyahara is the fifth limb of the Eight Limbs Of Ashtanga/Raja Yoga.
- YAMA- DISAPPEARANCE OF ALL SUPPRESSIONS
- NIYAMA- FREEDOM FROM ALL OBSERVANCES
- ASANA- STEADY AND COMFORTABLE POSE
- PRANAYAMA- EXPANSION OF VITAL ENERGY, PRANA
WITHDRAWAL OF THE SENSES FROM OBJECT AND SUBJECTS AND MOVING CONSCIOUSNESS INWARDS
MIND FIT FOR CONCENTRATION
- DHYANA MEDITATION
- SAMADHI SUPER-CONSCIOUS STATE
Practicing Pratyahara means to step back and examining ourselves. Withdrawing our senses to check our habits (eg. Simple things like slouching, not sleeping enough, over eating , drinking, smoking, focusing on the negative) that may be detrimental to our (mental) health and impeding our inner growth.
Sense withdrawal does not mean we switch off our senses but being present at the moment at hand, not worrying/anxious about the future, not easily distracted by the mind. Drawing the senses inward to bring attention to the inner world (ourselves) instead of expending energy exclusively on the outer world. For example, take our self-image, how we want to present ourselves to the world. How do I look? How do people see me? How do I want to be perceived? This kind of behavior exhausts a lot of our energy throughout the day. Being aware of how much attention we give the outer image and to reduce the energy wasted in creating it. Turn the focus inward we need to minimize outer disturbances/distractions, making an effort to calm our mind.
I wouldn’t say that I am completely good at being present and not distracted by the mind (or practicing Pratyahara) but I am still a work in progress. It is not an overnight recipe, it is a conscious effort and discipline to be better than yesterday.
Keep practising and don’t give up
I’m sure many woman (like myself) would experience cramps or some discomfort during their time of the month. Doing exercise would probably be the last thing on our list. However, some yoga positions are so effective at relieving menstrual pain that once you attempt them, they can be integrated into your pain management routine!
According to Women’s Health Concern (2020), about 80% experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. 5 to 10% of women suffer severe pain enough to disrupt their life. 40% of women experienced premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, tiredness, bloating, tender breasts.
There are 2 different types of period pain.
- Caused by the uterus contracting to shed its lining.
- Common in teenage girls and young women.
- Pain may be caused by the decreased supply of blood to the uterus.
- Pain is mainly at the lower part of the abdomen but may go into the back and down the front of the thighs.
- Some may feel nauseated as well.
- Occurs mid-twenties or later.
- It is unlikely to cease after childbirth.
- Pain is not restricted to “time of the month” bleeding and can occur throughout the cycle.
- Periods may become heavier and more prolonged, and intercourse may be painful.
- Can be a sign of other conditions, including pelvic infections, which may need urgent attention (seek professional help).
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
- Stretches the lower back muscles
- Relieves tension in the spine
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
- Sit on your knees, knees hip-width apart, toes together.
- Exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Rest on your forehead.
- Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground.
Stay here for 5 breathe or rest in the pose for as long as needed.
Supine Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
- Stimulate the blood circulation
- Release tension in the muscles of the abdomen
- Relieves menstrual discomfort
- Improves spinal mobility
- Lie on your back
- Exhale, Hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage
- Release your right knee to the left and if possible place in on the ground. Stretching your right arm straight out to the right. Your right hip should be stacked on top of your left hip.
- Inhale, Open your right arm to the right, to make a T shape with the arms. Palms facing the ceiling.
- Turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze over your shoulder to your right fingertips. You can skip this step if it does not feel comfortable on your neck.
- Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
Draw your right knee into your chest. Place both legs to the floor to neutralize your spine for several breaths.
Repeat on the other side
Safety and Precautions
Avoid doing this pose if you have a recent or ongoing injury of your knees, hips, or back. There should be no pain when doing this pose.
Let’s feel better with the simple yoga poses!
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is an ancient practice of controlling your breath.
Controling the duration, timing, and frequency of every breath and hold.
In Sanskrit, Prana = life energy, Yama = control
What is Anulom Vilom?
Anulom Vilom is a specific type of Pranayama/controlled breathing in yoga practice.
Inhale with one nostril closed, change side by closing the first nostril and exhale from the other nostril.
This process is reversed and repeated.
Anulom Vilom physical and mental health benefits
- Mood lifting
- Helps to focus
- Relieve stress & anxiety
- Maintain heart health, lowers heart rate and blood pressure
- Improves sinus
- Removes blockages present in your nostrils thus minimises snoring
- Improves immune system, keeping the cough and cold at bay
- Removes toxins from your body
- Good for skin
- Helps with muscles aches
Most people can practice Anulom Vilom safely as there is no known side effects,
however do stop should you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable.
Why Anulom Vilom and not other pranayama?
I choose Anulom Vilom and integrate in my practice because it is easy, no need of holding of breath and retention.
You can do it anywhere as long as you can sit in a comfortable sitting position.
Personally, I have some sinus issues and I have seen some improvement after doing 5 mins for about a week. I find myself calmer and less stress and anxious at work.
I also noticed that my skin also look less dull!
How to practice Anulom Vilom?
- Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, eyes closed, left hand resting on your knee.
- Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
- Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale slowly and steadily with your left nostrils till your lungs are full.
- Release your thumb, close your left nostrils with your ring finger, exhale slowly with your right nostril.
- Reverse and repeat process, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.
Try for about a minute for a start and slowly increase to 5-10minutes.
Best done on an empty stomach!
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This pose is widely recognized and it stretches and strengthens your ENTIRE body.
It seems like an easy pose, but not for me. Having tight hamstrings, I did not enjoy this pose at all. Since there are so many benefits to this pose, this must be integrated to my yoga practice.
I’m happy to achieve better results with much practice and endurance!
- Strengthens the upper body (shoulders, arms, abdominal muscles).
- Stretches the lower body (hamstrings, calves and ankles).
- Increase blood circulation as your heart is above your body.
- Improves your posture (opens your chest and shoulders, allowing you to straighten your vertebrae and align your spine).
- Palms underneath the shoulders, knees under the hips on the floor.
- Press your palms, tuck your toes, lift your hips,
straighten your legs to come up into downward facing dog.
- Press your heels and palms firmly to the ground, gaze towards the navel.
- Keep your head and neck relax, hold for 5 breaths.
(You can keep your elbows and knees slightly bent)
Variation (for those who have injury or other reasons):
Place palms on the chair.
- Shoulder flexors, pectoralis and deltoids are engaged.
- Latissimus dorsi is stretched.
- Transversus abdominis and spinal extensors are engaged.
- Gluteus maximus are engaged.
- Hips flexor is engaged.
- Hip extensors and plantar flexors are stretched.
- Hamstrings are stretched.
- Quadriceps are engaged.
- Gastrocnemius, soleus are flexor hallucis longus are stretched.
- Ankle dorsiflexors are engaged.