Yoga: My journey to a happier life

I came to practice yoga in 2019 when I wanted to have a better health. At that time, my health screening result was quite bad and it took me to a point that I should do something to improve my physical health, then yoga came to my mind. I signed up for a yoga package later.  

I had been practicing yoga on and off from then until late 2020, I started to practice regularly and I saw some positive changes in myself – physically and mentally.

  1. I am healthier – this has proved by my job as an assistant to mural artist. When I have to draw at site, I tend to stand for long hours. Previously, I had painful back and legs every time after I finished my work, but now, I have no pain at all and I am not easily get tired like I used to be. I am more productive – it’s just wonderful!
  2. I love my body even more – with yoga, I can see improvement in my body. I become more flexible and stronger. With the regular practice, I am able to do some poses that I was not able to do before and I don’t have to compete myself with anyone, it’s just myself. It’s a kind of development that I can see in my body. Also, after yoga classes, I feel good to eat healthy food and I opt to eat vegetarian more often. I feel that my body is much lighter when I eat Sattvic food.
  3. My mind is clearer – I easily get stressed and yoga helps me to relieve stress and anxiety. Being mindful with the practice, it helps me to stay present and enjoy the moment. It’s a kind of meditation to me. Especially, when I came to practice Yoga Teacher Training, I learned more about alignment and when I practice with correct understanding of the alignment, I have more body awareness and the practice become even more mindful and joyful.    
  4. Lastly, I am happier and just feel I can achieve what I want in life easier. From yoga philosophy I have learned, maybe it’s just because I am contented and grateful for what I already have.

I believe yoga will continue to give more benefits to me, so what I can do is…KEEP PRACTICING.   

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) – Simple pose but not that simple (at least for me)

When I came back to practice yoga in 2014 (after my first trial in 2009 and thought yoga is probably not for me), I only went for hot yoga. The reason was so simple – I didn’t feel good doing Downward facing dog! I felt very uncomfortable holding the pose and I didn’t know that I totally did it wrong. In fact, I just understand the correct alignment and do it better at Tirisula and especially during Yoga Teacher Training. With the correct weight distribution and alignment, I don’t feel bad holding the pose anymore!

How to get to the pose:

  • Hands shoulder-width apart, spread fingers wide.
  • Feet hip-width apart, toes point forward
  • Microbend the elbows
  • Relax the neck
  • Draw shoulders down along the spine. Shoulders are away from ears
  • Engage the lower belly and draw the navel back to the spine. Lengthen the spine.
  • *Squeeze and Lift the hips up to make the body as an upside down V shape* To me, this helps a lot to distribute the weight equally between hands and feet and this technique helps me to hold longer in the pose and can be rest in the pose.
  • Place the heels down on the mat
  • Gaze towards the navel

Terms of movement

  • Scapula depression
  • Arms flexion
  • Hips flexion
  • Ankle dorsi flexion
  • Torso extension
  • Knee extension

Muscles used for Downward Facing Dog

  • Stretch Gluteus Maximus
  • Stretch Latissimus Dorsi
  • Contract Abdominals
  • Stretch Pectoralis major
  • Contract Triceps
  • Contract Quadriceps
  • Stretch Hamstrings
  • Stretch Gastrocnemius and soleus
  • Contract Tibialis anterior

I hope my experience of getting into downward facing dog can be useful to someone. Enjoy the pose!

When Santosha (being contented) hit me hard!

People always want to have something they don’t have and never feel enough for things they already have. We keep seeking happiness from outside. Me too!

When I studied yoga philosophy, this Santosha which is the second of Niyama of the 8 limbs of yoga has hit me hard.

Niyama is freedom from all observances, consist of:

  1. Saucha: purity of thoughts
  2. Santosha: contentment, acceptance
  3. Tapas: discipline, persistence
  4. Swadhyaya: self-study
  5. Ishwara-pranidha: devotion

I felt that Santosha is telling me something. From young, I always wanted to be successful especially in my career and whenever I got what I wanted e.g. promotions, salary increments, I still wanted to have more and took more actions to get more. I thought that when I get what I want, I will be happy. Yes, I was happy for a moment and started to want to have more again – sounds so greedy, but I am sure I am not alone. The result was I rarely enjoyed and appreciated what I had, I aimed for more and more. My next goals were bigger and more challenging.   

In Santosha, being contented (not happy or sad), enjoy every moment, supreme joy is achieved. Wow, it sounds easy than I thought and from my own experience, it’s so true. Yoga teach me to stay present. When I practice yoga, I am mindful with my body for movement and alignment, I forget about my past and my future. I enjoy the moment. That’s why I fall in love with yoga.

Off the mat:

To adopt Santosha into my life, I practice to be more mindful in my daily life activities. I practice to be grateful and appreciate with what I have including my work, my health, my relationship, my possession, and even my food. Yoga, pranayama, and meditation help me a lot to be more mindful and I added all these into my daily life. I meditate every morning and practice yoga and pranayama at least 3 times a week.

On the mat:

I also adopt Santosha to my practice in a way that there are some poses that I can’t do well, for example, all hips flexion poses like Paschimottanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana. I need to keep practicing to make my hips more flexible. Sometimes I am unhappy that I can’t do the poses like my other classmates. With Santosha, it makes me understand that I should enjoy that I still can do the pose, it is not perfect, but it may be better than last year and it’s enough. Everyone is different and I should be contented with the way I am, the way my body is. With continued practicing, one day when my body is ready, I will be able to do the pose 🙂 

Anulom Vilom and its benefits to my body and mind

I am personally interested in spirituality and I have been trying a few kinds of meditations. But I only learned more about pranayama techniques in the yoga teacher training (YTT) with Tirisula, so Pranayama is new to me. I practiced some pranayama when I attended some yoga classes earlier, but I didn’t know much about its benefits and details. 

 

In Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ means life energy and ‘Ayama’ means expansion. I am interested in pranayama because the course manual says it’s a link between body, emotions, mind and spirit – so interesting!

 

Because of the homework of pranayama practicing, so I have been practicing Anulom Vilom every morning for a few weeks. For myself, I want to be more mindful and energize my body before I start my day so I choose to do Anulom Vilom to see if there is any effects to my body and mind.

 

Anulom Vilom is an alternate nostril breathing. To breathe with Anulom Vilom technique, we use the right hand with middle and index fingers folded towards the palm. Place the thumb on the right nostril and ring finger on the left nostril. Close the left nostril (or right). Inhale through the right (or left) nostril, close and exhale through the left (or right) nostril. Focus on the breath and continue for at least 10 rounds. It’s best to be done on an empty stomach.

 

From my studies, there are many benefits of Anulom Vilom:

  • Intake more oxygen and purify blood
  • Relieve stress and tension
  • Improve concentration and focus
  • Energise the body when do it in the morning
  • Calm the mind down when do it at night

 

When I do Anulom Vilom in the morning, it helps to improve my concentration and energise my body. I like the fact that we can control our mind by control our breathing.

 

At night, when I can’t sleep, I will lie down on my right side so I can breathe well from my left nostril and it helps me to fall asleep faster. I don’t have insomnia, I only take time to fall asleep and Anulom Vilom helps!

 

This is only one pranayama technique among many other techniques that I learned e.g. Bastrika, Brahmari, Sheetari, Sama Vritti, etc. I will also use other pranayama techniques to suit the benefits I want for my body and mind and I would encourage everyone to try too 🙂