Here comes the last day of our YTT. 20 lessons over 10 weekends seemed long at the beginning, I can recall the feeling of physical tiredness and muscles soreness after the two lessons back in July. Now all the time has passed and we have completed the course in a blink of eyes!
I have learnt so much from the YTT. Not only improvement in performing asanas and building physical strength, also the new language to me – Sanskrit, the yoga theory, breathing techniques, meditation, body anatomy and more of the nature. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Master Sree, Master Paalu and Master Satya, for all the knowledge, lessons and experience you have shared with us. Not forgetting my dear friends in the YTT, Kristle, Fiona, Yousra and Neng Du, who had encouraged each other to improve ourselves, sharing information and helping each other during the entire course. All the lessons would not be as fun without you guys 😀
When I signed up for the course, it was for my own improvement and I have no intention of teaching. But now, I wouldn’t mind to share what I know from yoga, how to improve our practice, helping and guiding through the practice. I also hope that I will learn more as the journey goes on.
Towards the end of my YTT course, people around me, especially family and friends are getting excited and looking forward to have me in their yoga session. Even my mother-in-law reminded me that I must also be able to teach the elderly. This really gives me a *finger snap* moment in my head. During our very first Ultra Beginner Lesson planning, after observing other lesson plans prepared by my colleagues, I realised that my lesson plan may not be suitable for the elderly.
Here are some of my takeaways:
- Getting yourself comfortable. Before start the practise, we may help the students to find their comfortable positions. Be aware of any physical conditions, injuries or medical conditions. If find difficulties sitting in Padmasana or Vajrasana, sit in simple crossed-leg, or whichever sitting position which is comfortable to them. If find troublesome to be on the ground, he/she may sit on a block, on firm cushion, or even on a chair. Come to a position where he/she can feel as though spine is lifted and sit up tall. When in table top position, you may also use towel to pad your knees.
- Gentle deep breathing: Breathing exercise allow some time to calm ourselves down and establish concentration. With shoulder relax, focus on breathing, set a foundation and carving some time to explore body and breath. Allow breath flowing in and out within the body. Learn the right breathing technique.
- Slow and gentle movement: While planning for a lesson, the main consideration should be the students capability, so that the lesson plan is able to help them. Simple body movements can be performed to warm up the body. It is not necessary to be intensive or to perfect the asanas. Introduce asanas with stability, preferably 3 to 4 limbs on the ground. As the practice has become regular, simple balancing pose with strength can be introduced.
- When conducting class, observe the students, be aware and practice with care!
We are born breathing into this world. We breathe throughout our life, be it involuntarily when we are awake, sleeping or consciously when we are anxious in order to calm ourselves down. When practising yoga, we are often told to breathe properly, control or regulate breathing to our body movement in asanas, practise deep inhalation and deep exhalation. Before joining YTT course, I didn’t know that there are various breathing techniques and breathing exercises in yoga, known as Pranayama.
Pranayama is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which means expansion of vital energy, prana. Prana in Sanskrit means breath. The science of pranayama is the technique of expansion of prana without movement of thoughts or thinking. In another word, let the thoughts disappear.
There are 120 ways of pranayama. Here are the 5 most common pranayama exercises. All of the following exercises can be done in sitting position: Sukhasana (simple cross-legged sitting), Adha Padmasana (half-lotus pose), Padmasana (lotus pose) or Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose).
- Nadi Shodhana. Also known as alternate nostril breathing, it can purify nerves and calm the mind. In Nadi Shodhana, one nostril to be blocked with right hand in Vishnumudra, left hand in relax meditating lock Gyanamudra, exhalation and inhalation though the open nostril before switching sides. It is recommended to practise this exercise for a duration of 10 mins each day. To activate the body in the morning, this exercise should start from inhalation on the right nostril; to cool down and relax the body in the evening/night, start from inhalation on the left nostril.
- Anuloma Viloma. Similar to Nadi Shodhana, this alternate nostril breathing attempts to balance the left and right brain functions. It is performed with a sequence ratio of 1:4:2, that is 1 count for inhalation, 4 counts for breath holding, and 2 counts for exhalation. We may increase the counts with multiplications of 3 to 12 as we progress in the practise.
- Kepalabhati. It means skull shining breath, is a cleansing technique which helps to clear the air passages and create pressure in abdominal area. It can build heat in the body and increase serotonin level. To start, sitting in comfortable position with straight spine, inhalation through both nostrils, then exhalation through both nostril sharply or forcefully while pulling navel in towards spine. The inhalation is passive. Both inhalation and exhalation are short and quick, for one round of 30 counts exhalations and rest for a minute with some deep breaths, before repeating subsequent round. This exercise can be done in the morning, but don’t do it with a full stomach. It is also not suitable for pregnant women, and those who suffering high blood pressure or heart conditions.
- Bhastrika. Bhastrika is a thoracic breathing, done through the chest and engages intercostal muscles on the rib. Unlike Kepalabhati, both inhalation and exhalation are forceful when perform Bhastrika. When you inhale, the rib expands; when you exhale, the rib is squeezed. As the exercise will generate heat in the body, pregnant women, people with high blood pressure or heart issues should avoid this. Bhastrika should also never be done on a full stomach or at night.
- Ujjayi. Ujjayi which means ‘victory over mind’, is a throat breathing exercise. It activates the thyroid gland. This breathing is often used in asana practice. It can be practiced at any time of the day, assist in calming the mind by focusing on breathing. To practise, inhale steadily through both nostril until you reach your lung capacity, exhale slowly through nostril again while constricting the muscles in the back of throat. This exhalation will sound like a gentle rush of air.
In Ayurveda tradition, the three basic types of dosha are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “The Science of Life”. Dosha is the energy present in the body, governing physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Since birth, each person has the original body type with unchanged attributes, while lifestyle, diet, climate, environment etc can often shift you out of balance with compromised immunity and health. Each person has a dominant dosha or combination of doshas. No one dosha is better than any other.
Pitta contains the properties of the fire element, and a small amount of the water element. Having Pitta as dominant dosha, they are of medium height and build, and their hands and feet are usually warm. Pitta people generally have a strong metabolism and strong appetite, and a lower tolerances for heat. Mentally, Pitta people have good memory and organisation skills with tendency to be perfectionists. But after prolonged heavy workload, they might have difficult time relaxing and sleep disorders can occur.
Exercise is good for Pitta people, especially activities with moderate exertion to let off the energy and strong emotion. Similarly, the food should calm the fire associated with Pitta. It should not be too pungent, salty, sour or spicy. All food with sweet, bitter, astringent and cool flavours can reduce the Pitta fire. Barley, oat, rice, wheat, all leafy green vegetables and sweet fruits are recommended. Sour fruits should be avoided, except for lime to be used sparingly. Eggs should be taken in moderation, other meat products should be avoided. Sweet dairy products are good for Pitta, with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds occasionally. However, hot and pungent spices shall be avoided. Corriander, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, fennel and cumin can be added sparingly.