When I was first introduced to this topic “Karma” in YTT, the thoughts that came to my mind were “What goes around comes around”, “as you sow, so shall you reap” and “good karma, bad karma”. After the Master Ram covered this topic, little did I realize that my understanding of Karma is so shallow, and there exists multiple definitions and different meanings.

There are 3 types of Karmas, namely:
1) Sanchitta Karma

The way I understands this is “past karma”. Sanchitta is the total karma accumulated from all our actions, be it good or bad from our past lives. These are latent which is awaiting to become an action.

2) Prarabdha Karma

I classify this as “present karma”. These are portion of the past karma, or Sanchitta Karma that comes into fruition through actions in present life. 

3) Agami Karma

Then finally, Agami Karma would be the “future karma”, which are the consequences based on present actions that will define our karma for the future. So these are more like impression which we are creating on the future.

With the new understanding of Karma, I now translate Karma into “Cycle of Cause and Effect”. I read an example about caffeine addiction which I would like to share to help you relate to the understanding of Karma. Suppose you have been drinking coffee every morning, and one day you skip your coffee and you got an headache. It is because you had coffee in the past, the impression of  it in the mind makes you crave for it. The moment you make coffee to satisfy your craving, you are creating a craving for the future.

I am still very new to this entire Karma philosophy and I am hopeful that over time, I can undo some impressions that I have gathered over the years and have a better control of my mind.

So where do I start? I begin to observe the karma that is being manifested in my daily life. I became more aware of my day-to-day actions because these produce impressions in my mind. I remind myself that my present actions are affected by my thoughts and actions of my past, and what I do now will affect my future. Before I made any choices or actions, or even harbor any thoughts, I will question myself…. “is this due to an impression I’ve created in my previous lives? how can I break free from it?”

I’ll encourage you to start small and practice the above. The next step I would like to move to, is to remove the desire of the fruits of my actions, focusing only on the process and not outcome. This ensures that I will always be doing my best and find contentment in what I do.

Understanding your Chakras

Ever since I started YTT program, I’ve made an effort to develop my self-awareness and be more conscious of my surroundings. Other than practicing yoga and pranayama, learning about the chakras and knowing my chakra has definitely helped me gained a deeper understanding of myself emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

There are 7 chakras and each chakra has its own position and purpose. It is important to find balance in your chakras such that you can find harmony within yourself. And before you can find balance in your chakras, you will first have to identify which chakra is blocked.

Let’s run through the 7 chakras:

1) Muladhara (Root Chakra) is associated with our most basic physical needs like food and security. The shadow of of this chakra is fear and anxiety. When this chakra is in balance, you should feel safe, grounded and have a sense of security physically and emotionally.

2) Svadhisthana (Sacral Chakra) is associated to creativity, pleasure and connection with others. When this chakra is blocked, you tend to feel uninspired and struggle to express emotion or desire.

3) Manipura (Solar Plexus Chakra) is related to our ego, will and drive. Signs of imbalance are low self-esteem and feeling unmotivated. Symptom of a blocked solar pexus chakra can be manifested in a form of obsession like overeating, powerless to gain control or being attached to an unhealthy relationship.

4) Anahata (Heart Chakra) is located near our heart and as you can guess, this chakra has to do with love and compassion. A closed heart or an imbalanced Anahata are emotions like jealously, anger or fear of loneliness. Likewise, when it’s in balance, you will feel joy, gratitude and love for people around you.

5) Vishuddha (Throat Chakra) is about pure and honest communication. When it is overactive, you are probably talking to much and needs more listening. On the other hand, if you have an underactive throat chakra, you are probably refer to as being shy or an introvert, who is not able to express yourself well.

6) Ajna (Third-eye Chakra) is located in the center of the forehead and is about dreams and intuition. A blocked Ajna will cloud your judgment leading to poor decisions.

7) Sahasrara (Crown Chakra) is positioned at the top of the head and is about connection with the universe. You will likely have difficulty connecting to a spiritual living if you have an imbalanced sahasrara and also may be attached to material achievements.

The above 7 chakras when balanced will harmonize the prana in your entire body, mind and spirit. By understanding these 7 chakras, you can then identify your physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances with the chakras and empower them. Since I have been introduced to the chakras, I have been practicing self-awareness by asking myself questions relating to the characteristics of each chakra as I tried to identify any blocked or imbalanced chakra in me. After I started this, I became more aware of my emotions, behaviors and moods and I definitely feel more empowered and clear-minded.

Understanding Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti is a condition when there is a split between the two side of the rectus abdomens muscles. This condition usually develops during pregnancy, when the uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen to make space for the growing baby.

This is a simple test for diastasis recti:

  1. Lay on your back, flex your knees, feet resting on the mat
  2. Relax head and shoulder and place two fingers above the belly button along the midline 
  3. Place the other hand under your head and lift your head gently (like a crunch position)
  4. If your fingers can feel a space, you likely have a split rectus abdominals, which is diastasis recti

If you have diastasis recti condition, you will want to avoid movements and poses that stretch and open the midline of the rectus abdominals. Generally, these are backhanding poses like Danurasana (Bow Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Much Svanasana (Upward facing dog) etc. 

Instead, you should work on poses that strengthen your transverse abdominus and obliques. Transverse abdominis is the inner most abdominal muscle. The obliques are layer of muscles that overlie the transverse abdominis and strengthening the obliques can provide a more balanced core contraction, easing off pressure on the rectus abdominis. Recommended pose and movements are vasisthasana (side plank) , single-leg lift, hip raises.

As you understand the anatomy of diastasic recti, you may also modify the poses as necessary to reduce the pressure on the rectus abdominis by using the transverse muscles and obliques. By focusing on the right muscle and performing the right exercises reguarly, you will regain your core strength and notice the gap in your rectus abdomens closing up.

Recovering your pelvic floor after birth

Pregnancy stresses the pelvic floor muscles as your uterus expands to carry the weight and size of your growing foetus. You will experience an anterior tilt in the pelvis as the body supports the pressure. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles will also stretch and weaken further as you undergo natural childbirth.

What is the role of pelvic floor muscles and how can we strengthen them? Basically, pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Often, we are told to contract and relax our pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises. However, I have learnt to understand that we should explore beyond the pelvic floor muscles, consider the muscles attached to the pelvis as strengthening these muscles can also help to stabilise the pelvis. For example, our adductors are connected to the pelvic floor muscles at the pubic bone, so when you contract your adductors, you are also tightening your pelvic floor.

So here are the 3 yoga poses I’ll recommend that will improve our pelvic floor strength and I’ll briefly explain why:

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This is fundamental yoga pose but has great benefits to your pelvic floor muscles if the correct muscles are engaged. In this pose, your quadriceps muscles are engaged, thighs slightly rotated inwards and pelvic should be in neutral alignment. The psoas is lengthened and it helps to stabilise the pelvis. I also recommend that you place a block in between the thighs to engage the adductors. 

2) Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
When you flex your knee joints, you will engage your rectus femurs and the iliopsoas which help to stabilise the pelvis. Keep your spine lengthened, hips and knee joints in a line. Try to lift your pelvic floor upwards as you hold the pose. 

3) Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
The gluteus Maximus, medics and minibus, together with other smaller muscles act as a base for pelvis. This pose activates your glutes and also counterbalance pelvic floor.

In addition to the above, you can further strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through Mula Bandha. This focuses on activating your deep core muscles (transverse abdominis supports the pelvis).

Pelvic floor is one of the most important area that moms should start working on after giving birth. If you do not treat this area and jump straight into other activities like running, you may encounter an exaggerated pelvic anterior tilt as your hip flexors get excessively tight. Eventually, your pelvic floor will become so weak and may lead to more serious problems such as urinary incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. So…Maintaining stable and flexible muscles around the pelvis is important for both yoga practice and daily life!