Headed towards Ahimsa

I can remember the first time I attempted Sirsasana; Headstand.

I was both engulfed in awe and fear, I thought to myself ‘Wow that’s cool’, ‘I’m seeing the world from a completely different direction’, ‘Can my hands take all my weight’, ‘What if my hands give may and all my weight is dumped on my head and neck, will my neck break?’

In the years to come I did not attempt inversions, mostly because I was too afraid of weight distribution and arm strength, this all changed when I joining the Yoga Teacher Training Programme.

Why?, well, here we go, brace yourself, we had to do a headstand for 3 minutes.

For those who fell off the chair, I’m going to give you a minute to get back up.

Right, well you heard me right, headstand, 3 minutes, part of exam.

After numerous attempts and multiple thuds on the mat, I was left with neck pain, arm pain and feet pain, yes, lots of pain, therein lies my realization and lesson on Ahimsa.

What is Ahimsa and how is this connected to a headstand, will Ahimsa help me get a headstand right?

It may, but believe me, getting a headstand right is not the goal here, understanding and practicing Ahimsa towards ourselves and towards others is the Goal.

I know what you are thinking, hey dude, what is Ahimsa man?, you keep saying it, now explain it.

Ahimsa is the practice of not inflicting violence or injury and extending love to everyone and ourselves.

When I was attempting a headstand, I looked around me and saw that all my classmates were getting it right, I was the only one who was not getting it, so I pushed myself, i tried my best ti brave through the fear and then I tried to muster all the arm strength I had, I told myself that I absolutely have to get it done. In the end I only manged to get up for a few seconds, and then back down again with a thud.

I felt dizzy, my neck was hurting and my arms were shaking, it was too much for me, but I pushed myself anyway. I didn’t want to attempt that it was too much for me.

So tell me, what was I doing when I continued to push myself beyond my limits, yes, I was treating myself in an injurious and violent manner, and what is the opposite of that, yes that’s right, it is Ahimsa!

So now, what should I have done?

Here are some steps on how to introduce Ahimsa to your practice:

  1. I should have tried my best within limits, we should push ourselves to progress but be aware of our limits. How do you know you are going beyond your limits, one clear indication is PAIN, when it hurts and your arms are about to give way, pull back and rest, remember yoga is not a destination, rather a journey.
  2. Props!, use them, the Yoga Blocks and Straps are there for a reason. There are many Ashtanga Yoga Poses where using a block will reduce the strain on your thighs
  3. Support, lets take the headstand as an example here, start off my raising one leg up and then kicking the other leg up towards the wall, so yes, use the wall as support
  4. Modifications & Options, Yoga Teachers always give us some modifications to the poses they are teaching, if you need them, take them, sometimes its too early and our hamstrings have yet to warm up, so consider the options and modifications for each pose.

As we consciously include Ahimsa in our practice, be sure to include it off the Mat too, let us treat ourselves and others with love.

Namaste

Release and Relax

OHHHHH….AHHHHH, aiyah I feel so full, like bloated leh, my food is like at my throat.

We all have that one friend who just gorges down all the food without thinking and then feels bloated and keeps rubbing his/her stomach like a pregnant lady, or maybe that friend is you!

Either way, I am here to say that Yoga has a solution for you.

All you foodies, whose mind goes blank when they enter the buffet hall, listen up!

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, I am not encouraging you to join a pie eating contest or any other stuffing-food-down my throat contest. No please don’t do that.

Gastric issues arise from various different situations, one very common one in our fast pace lifestyle is gastric due to irregular eating hours.

One way to relieve gas naturally is by exercise, a more structured solution is Yoga and a precise panacea are postures.

I can hear your mind voice, what?, postures?, what are these postures?

Well these postures are Asanas; Yoga Asanas, not just any yoga posture, they are twisting postures:

 

  1. Standing Posture: Revolved Chair Pose

I know this may be uncomfortable, but we are gonna start with the difficult pose and then go down the scale

Now stop rubbing your tummy

Come to the top of your mat, keep your feet together and your palms together in prayer position at the center of your chest, plant your feet firmly on the ground, inhale and as your exhale, bend your knees , push your hips back and imagine there is a low stool behind you and that you are on the way to sit on it, once your can’t sit any lower, inhale and as you exhale, abduct your arms to your right side and place your left elbow at the bottom of the right side of your right thigh and look upwards, try to stay there for 5 breaths.

Repeat this twisting posture on the left side

 

2. Sitting Posture:

This is a twisting posture, so try your best here.

Sit down on your mat with your legs stretched out straight, forward and  keep your feet together.

Keep your arms by your side and take 3 deep breaths

Now bend your right knee, rotate your right arm above your head and place your right palm, one palm distance behind your hip, then and raise your left arm, bind your bicep and land the left side of your left arm against the right side of your upper thigh, upper calf and knee, then turn your neck towards the right side and then turn your head further to gaze past your right shoulder towards the back of the room

Stay there for 5 breaths

Repeat this twisting posture using the left leg.

 

3. Lastly, the King of the Let Go!; the Pawan Muktasana, Pawan means Wind and Mukta means        Release

Yes, it’s a wind releasing pose and it’s a prone position pose, aha!, you can do this lying down.

So lets get to it, lie down on your mat, keep your legs straight and your arms vertically by the side of your body

Next, raise your legs up to 90 degrees and bend your knees, lower them to your chest and hug your knees close to your chest, raise your head and bring your forehead to touch your knees and stay there for 5 breaths.

Since this is The pose for wind release, let’s do this posture 1 more time.

After the Pawan Muktasana Pose, release your forehead from your knee and lay your head back on the mat, release your arms, release your legs and relax.

As you lie on your mat, feel how light and relaxed your abdominal region is and how you can breathe better, now before your re-evaluate  your food choices and scale down your consumption speed, just for a few more moments, lay there on the mat and soak in the feeling of divine release, just a suggestion here, you might want to hold your nose too!

Say It and Move It :)

Its 7.15 am, I am awake, sitting at the top of my mat.

My Yoga teacher is beaming and as she brings her palms to the center of her chest, she says pick a word or an intention for today’s practice.

My waking brain, started to exercise, the brain cells is a somersault and I came up with a word; Mindful.

I enjoy my practice so much more when I am mindful of every movement I make, the stretch descends into my being like a slow dollop of ghee, melting from the spoon and sliding down into the simmering port of chicken curry.

Please don’t go eat now, I am not done yet.

 

Being Mindful relieves my mind from running thoughts, increases and betters my ability to focus and concentrate,but is that all to it, can we take being mindful to a higher level?

And yes, the answer is a resounding yes!

 

 

During the course of my Yoga TTC, we have to learn how to breakdown the movements/steps in each posture and instruct the class in a way that they would be able to focus and follow. Aside from imparting the steps to get into the pose, we also had to learn about the muscles and the movements of the muscles.

Now this exercise brought being mindful during practice to a whole new level.

HOW?, HOW TEACHER, HOWWWWWW?!

It is easier than you think, but I am not going to spoon-feed you, we are going to say it, move it and shake it!

Lets experiment this with the Triangle Pose (Tikonasana).

Now come to the top of your mat, place your hands in prayer position at the center of your chest.

Are you ready?, say with me, ‘inhale, raise your right knee up and extend it to about 3 quarters of the mat’.

Now stop and stay there and say ‘exhale’.

Can you feel the muscles in the left side of your right thigh contracting that is the lengthening of your abductor longus, now you know what muscle you are engaging and how is it moving.

Now say, engage my Glutus Maximus, tuck my tailbone in and move my hips just a little forward.

Next say, using the ball and socket of my Scapularis, rotate my arms and extend them to shoulder level, now I feel my biceps, triceps, pectoralis major and minor lengthening and my deltoids anterior muscles shortening while contracting.

Rotate my right foot to the right side and place my left foot hip width distance apart and as I exhale, I am leaning towards the right side as far as I can, after that I lower my right arm to the mat and grab my shin. I can feel my right oblique muscles and brachialis  lengthening.

As I turn my neck to look upwards at my thumb, I can feel my Lavator Scapulae muscle shortening and Sternocleidomastoudeus lengthening.

So now, not only have you done an Asana, you know which muscles you have engaged, other than bringing mindful to another level, don’t you feel stronger and ready to brave through the day?

 

Start Your Day the Yogic Way!

“That’s a nice rhyme!” Was that the first thought that came to your mind when you chanced upon this article?

Well, it is a nice rhyme, but believe me when I say, there is more to this title than meets the eye. So keep your eyes peeled, focus and let’s find out if this is indeed a sweet awakening from your slumber.

Picture this…A porcelain angelic face, supple apple shaped cheeks, eyelids lined with jet black lashes full and complete in all their glory and lips pressed lightly just to allow for the exchange of air. She had a very long day and is enjoying the well-deserved sleep bestowed upon her. Seconds turn to minutes, then to hours and then without any warning whatsoever, she hears ‘krrrrrrrrrrinhggggggggggggg!!!!!!!’.

She squeezes her eyes tightly, she doesn’t want to wake up. ‘Oh do I have to wake up? No I don’t want to. I want to sleep. 5 minutes more. Pleaseeeeeee’.

But she wakes up anyway, rolls over, with eyes sprung open and lands on her feet. Why? Why does she awaken from the sweet, peaceful, well deserved slumber? Why you ask?

Well ladies and gentlemen, the answer is that she knows, and what does she know? She knows that what is coming after, is sweeter than the sleep she was immersed in.

And what is that you ask. It is the seamless flow of life-giving force, the release of endorphins throughout your body and the empowering surge of energy that will get you through the day.

Really that sounds awesome. How do you get that?

It’s easy. Somewhat a chain reaction that will flow through your body and wait for it, you can do this on an empty stomach.

So let’s get to it…

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  1. You are already on your feet. Now stand up, let those knees bend a little. Be kind to yourself, it is early in the morning.
  2. Now inhale, stretch, arms up, nice and long throughout your body. Doesn’t that feel good?
  3. Next open your chest and bend backwards. It only gets better, doesn’t it? That feels so good and now the back of the upper body wants some goodness too.
  4. Swan dive down and reach your palms to the floor. That’s what we call a forward fold. Are your hamstrings tight? No problem, bend your knees a little and gently sway your body from side to side.
  5. Now your hips, calves and hamstrings are ready for some action. I told you it’s a chain reaction. So let’s get to it. Step your right leg back. Are you loving the stretch?
  6. Now give your left leg a stretch too, step it all the way back, now you have come to downward dog (Adho Mukha Swanasana). Yap, I thought I would include some sanskrit, a stretch for the body and the brain!
  7. Stay there, in downward dog for 3 breaths. Are your heels not touching the ground? No problem. Walk your feet 1 step forward, you will feel your heels getting closer to the mat.
  8. Now time to wrap up this morning flow. Extend your right leg forward and place it between your palms. Does it not quite reach there? No problem at all, just wiggle wiggle wiggle it to reach the center of your palms.
  9. Isn’t that a nice release? Well let’s give that release to the left leg too. Go on and extend your left leg to be placed between your palms.
  10. Now stand up, raise your arms up, and go for that chest opener as you bend backwards. 
  11. Its time to dive in!, fold your upper body forward, remember the swan dive and rag doll move you did before? Yes, that’s the one!
  12. Ok, now for the last leg. Inhale and raise your arms all the way up, then exhale, straighten your upper body, bring your arms towards your chest and place your palms in prayer position.

Now do you know what you just did? All that stretching, rising, extending, wriggling? That is a sun salutation sequence. Yes, I do alliterations too!

In 12 steps, you have just aligned your body and got the prana (life-giving forces) flow like a stream through the nadis (channels in the body), and yes that along with the release of endorphins is making you feel just so good and energized.

                                                                            Now tell me, isn’t this a sweet awakening?