Me & Yamas

Yama is the first of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. There are 5 Yamas: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. In this blog post, I will share my understanding of each of the Yama along with how it relates to my experiences. 

  1. Ahimsa
    Non-violence. a: no, himsa: violence

    Violence comes in different forms. To practice ahimsa, we have to be mindful of our words, thoughts, and actions to prevent hurting ourselves and others. Understanding our boundaries and respecting our body is a form of self-love that can be applied in both yoga and life.
    When Master Sree shared some examples of “Himsa” things we do to our body, I instantly recognized them and realized that I have been treating myself poorly. It’s unhealthy to keep increasing the expectations of what my body “should” do when I’m always neglecting its need for rest and recovery. However, I find it difficult to come to terms with the sense of guilt whenever I choose to rest because I feel like I’m under-performing/being lazy. One way I try to cope with it is to tell myself that resting will allow me to come back stronger the next day!
  2. Satya
    Truthfulness. sat: true essence/nature

    To be honest with ourselves and others in our words, thoughts and actions, regardless of the situation. We should always seek to maintain honesty even in disagreements, but if saying the truth will do more harm than good, we are advised to act compassionately instead of pushing to be “right”. Recognizing the situation we are in at the moment can help us to decide between benefitting the other party or proving our ego, which is important as words are powerful. What we perceive as a “casual statement” may carry a different meaning for another person and hurt their feelings.
    Referencing this to our practice on the mat, we have to be honest with ourselves when it comes to our bodies’ abilities. Perhaps we weren’t able to do a certain asana today in class, but it is okay because we know that it will come with practice. The ability to see the truth and accept it with grace allows us to put our ego aside and focus on what really matters— the practice.
  3. Asteya
    Non-stealing. a: no, steya: stealing

    Did you know that you can steal things from yourself?
    Practising yoga is a journey of self-discovery and growth; it should never be treated like a competition. When comparison starts to happen, we begin to envy and unhealthy desires arise. Asteya reminds us that we should appreciate our experiences, regardless of how “good” or “bad”. We do not want to steal these precious moments away from ourselves just because we were busy trying to be someone else and denying our feelings.
    Learning about Asteya has made me more conscious of how I want to develop myself as a dancer. Back then in school, I was constantly trying to be like someone else; I never stopped to take look at who I really am or how much progress I’ve made. This Yama has taught me that I am enough as a person, and that desire to improve should not come from a place of insecurity but an open heart and mind.
  4. Brahmacharya
    Celibacy, appropriate use of our energies

    “In order to be the best version of ourselves and to use our energy in the right way, we need first of all to listen to what our bodies need.” 1
    Diverting our energy from external desires to inner peace and happiness is one way of using our energy in the right way. Chasing external desires can bring joy and pleasure at the moment, but these moments are ultimately fleeting and can leave you feeling empty once it is over. Our happiness is within us, we can find it using the same energy that we put in to search for it externally.
    Listening to what our bodies need is a common message that appears throughout the 5 Yamas. If our body is feeling tired and not ready for an Ashtanga Vinyasa class today, forcing our way through would not be the best use of our energies. We want to make sure what we do is helpful and will bring us to become the best version of ourselves.
    Applying this to our daily life, we are often overwhelmed with so many things in a day that they can drain us physically and mentally. To make full use of our energy, take breaks in between and notice if there are tasks or people that leave you feeling empty. If we can amicably resolve these issues, we can put our energy and attention on other things that serve us better. 
  5. Aparigraha
    Non-attachment. a: no, pari: on all sides, graha: take/grab/seize

    Aparigraha teaches us a few things:
    – To b
    e detached from the outcomes of our efforts, in the workplace and during yoga practice
    – To be independent of material things and seek happiness internally
    – To embrace the ups and downs of life and let go of the things we cannot control

    I find Aparigraha the hardest Yama to practise. When the pandemic broke out, I had to let go of all the plans I had and live day by day without knowing what was going to happen next. The uncertainty was scary, but I also discovered a lot of things about myself when living my life unplanned. For example, I am now more comfortable with adapting to changes than I was before. Although forced into the situation, I felt like that period was necessary to help me learn about the uncontrollable things in life and how to see the good in everything.

    This main takeaway is that we should focus on our journey instead of the destination so that we do not attach ourselves to “what may be”, but do the best in our current situation and see where it takes us!

Researching more on the Yamas has helped me to see things clearer in my life and I hope that this post can inspire you to start your journey on practising these Yamas in your life! ☺

Sources: Chopra, EkhartYoga, The Yogamad

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021

My relationship with Yoga

My first encounter with yoga was about 4 years ago. I was in school and we had to do it every Monday for one semester as part of our cross-training module.
Back then, I didn’t really enjoy yoga. I found it too slow and repetitive (since whatever is done on the right side will be repeated on the left side). The warrior poses were my worst enemy. My teacher would shout “LOWER!” from across the room when I was already shivering and shaking.

My favourite pose? Well, I’m sure you can guess what it is.

After that semester, I stopped practising yoga. Yet somehow I am here writing this blog post about my yoga journey today on the 21st of May 2021. The girl back in 2017 would have never imagined she would one day go back to practising yoga, let alone attend a YTT course. It’s interesting how life turns out, isn’t it? I’m always so amazed by the way life unfolds and how everything seems to link together at the end of the tunnel.

How I came back to yoga was because of my mental well-being during the lockdown in April 2020. I followed along with the videos on YouTube by Yoga With Adriene, which I highly recommend because I love her voice, and it made me feel a lot calmer and happier. I didn’t really understand how the physical act of yoga could help me manage my emotions (which I now know), but I kept going because I wanted to get better and improve both physically and mentally.

Around August 2020, I thought of expanding my knowledge in yoga and take up a YTT course so that I could have more career options in the future, but I didn’t take up the course back then because the lessons were going to be delivered online and I wanted to learn in person. I let the thought go and continued to practice yoga nonetheless. 

Then in April 2021, I came across a YTT advertisement by Tirisula and I just had a very strong urge to do it.
Like it was meant to be?
Like it was screaming to me “JUST DO IT” (perhaps it’s because I’m just an impulsive person).
So I asked my friend Xuan if she was interested in it and wanted to do this together. And she said yes!!! *cues wedding music*

So here we are, on the Friday of the 3rd week of our YTT. I’m just really happy and thankful. 

From seeing yoga as a workout that I hated to a self-help tool, it made me realize that perspectives can change— and it’s okay if it does. If we can accept it with an open heart and mind, we will open ourselves up to more possibilities. Who knows, it may even create a new beginning.

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021

Utthita Trikonasana: Anatomically explained

Utthita Trikonasana (also known as Extended Triangle pose)

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) | LaptrinhX / News

  1. The pose starts standing with the legs about 2-2.5 hip widths apart, beginning on the right side.
  2. The right leg is externally rotated such that the right toes are pointed towards the right side of the body. The left leg is parallel with the left toe pointing towards the front of the body.
  3. From this position, both arms are abducted to shoulder height.
  4. The body is then laterally flexed to the right with the arms maintaining in one line.
  5. The neck turns to look towards the left thumb. 

The muscles that are identified in this asana1, 2, 3 are listed in this table:

Name Function (based on performing the asana on the right side)
Sternocleidomastoid (Unilateral contraction of the right side) Rotates the head towards the left arm
Trapezius Depression of scapulas
Serratus anterior Abduction of scapulas
Deltoids Abduction of both shoulder joints
Triceps Extension of both elbow joints
Erector Spinae Extension and lateral flexion of the spine
Internal and external oblique (Unilateral contraction of the right side) Lateral flexion of the trunk to the right
Iliopsoas (Iliacus and Psoas Major) Flexion of the right hip joint
Gluteus Maximus Stabilization of the left leg, external rotation of the right hip joint
Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis Extension of both knee joints
Rectus femoris Extension of both knee joints and flexion of the right hip joint
Hamstrings (Bicep Femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus) Extension of the left hip joint
Tibialis Anterior Dorsiflexion and inversion of the left ankle joint
Peroneus Longus and Peroneus Brevis Plantarflexion of the right ankle joint

Please just take this as a guide and do other cross-references before using any information from here!

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021

Meditating before a dance competition

On the 13th of May 2021 —which is just yesterday as I’m writing this on the 14th— after the YTT class at 1pm, I went off for my 1st dance competition. Thus far, I’ve only ever performed professionally/in school throughout my dance journey, but never have I participated in a competition as a solo competitor. Yesterday was my first.

Something about the word “competition” drives me more nervous than I normally would be for a performance, although technically I will still be doing the same thing: going on stage to dance.

I was stressing out and overthinking the entire time while waiting for my turn, so I decided to try meditation to see if it would help me regain composure (another first for me yesterday) because I’ve only heard of but never experienced the benefits of meditation for myself. 

Ahamkara Mudra

I also googled “mudras for self-confidence”, as holding mudras during meditation channels the energy flow in the body and reinforces specific healing states of the mind1, and Ahamkara Mudra showed up. 

This mudra stimulates the solar plexus (definition: a complex of ganglia and radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach)2, and helps to overcome our fears and doubts, giving us confidence and peace3.

Throughout my meditation, I kept chanting internally “I can do this” while trying to visualize myself on stage dancing, but it was not an easy task at all.

 

 

I realized that I had to put in the effort to actively concentrate on the dance itself because there were so many other thoughts in my head and my legs were getting numb from sitting.

Towards the end, there were a couple of moments in which I felt that I was “floating” in my mind. I felt as if there is a huge water droplet shifting around in my skull. Although I’m not sure if it was my body physically shifting that caused the illusion, but what was interesting about it was that I did not recognize that I was in the state until I “went out” of it. 

I ended my meditation when I felt that I was confident in my abilities and mentally stable, which to my surprise was an hour-long. (note: it is not healthy to hold a mudra for more than 45mins!) The effects of the meditation were lovely. I felt different being on stage. There was a sense of comfort and reassurance that came from within while I was dancing, and I could feel the energy flowing through my body and my intentions coming from my heart. It was a good first experience and I would definitely practice this again for future performances! 

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021