I have been doing yoga on and off for about 4 years now. Some years, I get really into it and go for classes daily and some years, I go on the mat once every few months. After 4 years of classes in studios, I feel like my practise had stagnated. I wasn’t learning much or quicker from the usual 1 hour classes that studios usually offer. Apart from that, yoga at studios were often asana-focused and I always felt “rushed” or “pressured” in practise.
Hence, I decided to take up YTT in order to truly understand what yoga is about. I was surprised to learn that asanas are actually just a little fraction of what yoga is. There is so much more to yoga – such as pranayama, meditation, diets and physiology.
It has taught me what my body is physically possible and to practise mindfulness during my practise. I can dare say that yoga is more a lifestyle than just a “fitness workout”.
I’m currently only halfway through my YTT but I already feel more grounded and elevated in my practise. I used to practise yoga so choppily and haphazardly, trying to keep up with the room, but now I practise it with mindfulness and grace. It truly has become my own practise instead of just doing what everyone else in the room is doing. What is surprising is that – when I am mindful and slow down in my practise, I actually become stronger in my asanas.
With this mental shift, I also feel like I’m also just now generally more aware of my body and how my body feels. I become more aware of the muscle/limbs alignments I need to make in my asanas to make it a more comfortable practise for me. I found strength and stillness in uncomfortable positions when I engage the correct muscles.
I’m excited to see what else I will discover about myself in my YTT journey!
Going on a yogic/Sattvic diet can be difficult for some people especially if you have a sweet tooth like me! Sattvic diet does not only mean plant-based foods but also food that are rich in Prana (energy). Pranic foods are foods that are whole and unprocessed such as fresh fruits and vegetables and also freshly prepared. It requires avoiding canned and processed food, and foods prepared with chemical fertilizers or sprays. Foods that also prepared with more love and care will add to their Sattvic quality. It is said that a Sattvic diet helps our minds to achieve clarity and calmness and was initially created for the development of higher concentration and consciousness.
Since the start of YTT, I have been more mindful of my diet. While I have not completely gone on a yogic diet, I have largely shifted my diet to a 70% yogic diet and incorporated more fresh food in my daily meals. This is a huge change for me as I’m someone who loves a sweet treat daily – be it chocolate or doughnuts and I always look forward to having these treats! Since being more mindful of my diet, I’ve went to do some research to see how I can still have my sweet treats in a “healthier” and fresher form to make this a more sustainable diet for myself.
Here’s one of the best recipes I’ve tried so far which incorporates pranic foods:
Easy 3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Brownies:
- 3 large overripe bananas
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 and 1/2 cup of raw crunchy almond butter
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Oil a 20cm x 20cm baking pan with coconut oil.
- In a large bowl, mash the bananas until smooth.
- Slowly dd the almond butter and mix with the bananas until smooth.
- Stir in the cocoa powder to the mixture until the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake it for 20-25 minutes until it has set.
- Once taken out from the oven, let the brownies completely cool down before cutting it.
Hope you guys enjoy the “naughty” treat like I did! 🙂
Prior to YTT, I lead a pretty active lifestyle by doing spinning and lifting weights daily. I love cycling, be it indoor or outdoor. I’m a self-confessed spinning addict and I go at least 4-5 times a week. I go to spin classes on the weekdays and on the weekends, I cycle at least 40KM outdoors across Singapore. I especially love spin classes because I love just grooving to the beat and having a workout is an added bonus 😉
People always ask me if I love spin or yoga more and I always tell them that I can’t decide as both activities are completely different from each other. On one end, spin is completely high-energy and intense and yoga, on the other end, is slow, controlled and mindful. I guess my answer is I do them both exactly because they are the opposites of each other and it balances out – the yin to my yang.
The reason is simply because during spinning, your muscles are contracted and tightened and in yoga after, the muscles are expanded. This action helps the body to recover quicker after an intensive workout and this helps to strengthen the muscles.
I noticed that for me, personally, my hip flexors and hamstrings became really tight. This is simply because during spinning, you’re seated the entire time. This shortens your hip flexors, especially, the iliopsoas.
These are some of the yoga poses which targets the lengthening of hip flexors that have really helped with my post-spin recovery:
- Uttanasana(Standing Forward fold): Stretches the inner thigh muscles and ilopsoas as well as hamstrings
- Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide legged folded fold): Stretches the inner thigh muscles and ilopsoas as well as hamstrings
- Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard pose): Stretches the outer hip adductor muscles
Another issue that I face from too much cycling is too much rounding on the upper back as you are basically hunched over the bike for long period of time. Some poses that specifically target the shoulders that have helped are:
- Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) – External rotation and depression of shoulders enhances the opening of the chest/thoracic area.
- Dhanurasana (Bow pose)
I highly recommend everyone to try this combo of activity in 1 day to really reap the benefits of both spin and yoga and see what your body feels like after!
Kapalabhati Pranayama is one of the pranayamas that I have adopted in my daily routine since the start of YTT. Its the first thing I do when I get out of bed. In my experience, I feel that it has helped me greatly in digestion and ability to expel negative thoughts in my head, thus, making me largely more productive daily.
Kapala means “skull” and bhati means “shining”. Kapalabathi is known as a method to cleanse the overall body system so much that when practised regularly, the face will shine radiantly with good health, hence, its terms Shining Skull. This pranayama involves passive inhalation and active forceful exhalations through the nose, using abdominal muscles.
How to practise Kapalabathi:
- Come to comfortable seated position such as Padmasana (lotus) or Sukhasana.
- Place your hands on your knees with palms facing the sky.
- Take a few deep breaths to prepare for Kapalabathi.
- At the end of the last inhalation, contract the abdominal muscles quickly. This will forcefully push air out of the lungs, making it an active forceful exhalation.
- Relax the abdominal muscle, and this will naturally result in passive inhalation.
- Repeat this by contracting and “pumping” your abdominal muscles quickly. Passive inhalation will follow. This is considered one pump.
- After 20-30 pumps, end on the exhalation. This is considered one round.
- Take a few deep breaths after 1 round. Repeat this for 2 more rounds.
- Aids digestion
- Strengthens and increases the capacity of the lungs
- Strengthen abdominal muscles
- Stimulates blood circulation
- Balances oxytocin
- Improves concentration and memory
- Removing any blocks in nadis
- Activates chakras in your body
- Regulates the flow of prana
Important things to take note of:
- It is best to practise this with no food intake.
- Women who are pregnant or on moon cycle should NOT practise this.
- People with major illnesses such as cancer or high blood pressure should also NOT practise this.