Kapalabhati – Skull Shinning Breath

What is Kapalabhati Pranayama?

In Sanskrit kapal means “skull” and bhati means “shining.” Together they mean “shining skull.” Kapalabhati is considered to be so cleansing to the entire system that, when practiced on a regular basis, the face shines with good health and radiance.

Kapalbhati is an excellent breathing exercise to warm up the respiratory system and internally warm up your body in preparation for the following physical practice. It is an easier version of the pranayama Bhastrika and suitable for most levels of experience and fitness.

I have recently started  Kapalabhati pranayama first thing in the morning to wake my body and mind so I can energise my day with an awaken body and breath. I can definitely feel the positive difference!

How to do Kapalabhati pranayama?

Let’s begin with the setting up

 

Let’s begin Kapalabhati

  1. Inhale deeply through both nostrils, chest expands
  2. Expel the breath through forceful contractions of abdominal muscles with belly in and relax
  3. complete 30 rapid breath in  1 round. 
  4. After each round, deep passive long inhalation and relax before next round
  5. Recommended 3 rounds and also on empty stomach

What are the benefits?

It has been proven and shown that by including Kapalabhati in one’s daily routine, it has many benefits :

  1. Increases the metabolic rate and aids in weight loss
  2. Clears the nadis (subtle energy channels)
  3. Stimulates abdominal organs and thus is extremely useful to those with diabetes
  4. Improves blood circulation and adds radiance to the face
  5. Cleanses the skull 
  6. Improves digestive tract functioning, absorption, and assimilation of nutrients
  7. Results in a taut and trimmed down belly
  8. Energizes the nervous system and rejuvenates brain cells
  9. Calms and uplifts the mind

Who should avoid practicing Kapalabhati pranayama

Avoid practicing this breathing technique if you have an artificial pacemaker or stent, epilepsy, hernia, backache due to slip disc, or have recently undergone abdominal surgery.

Women should not practice Skull Shining Breathing technique during and shortly after pregnancy as well as during menstruation as it involves vigorous abdominal squeezes.

People with hypertension and heart problems should practice this breathing technique only under a yoga expert’s guidance.

 

Conclusion

In our 200hr YTT, we have been introduced to different pranayamas and I am super grateful to learn all different types.

I personally practice Kapalabhati pranayama first thing in the morning when I wake up on an empty stomach to awaken my body and mind. I also practice it during times of mental stress or hectic at work  just to cleanse my skull for a better concentration and focus. It definitely helps me overall in for my health and mental.

 

 

Knee – Common injury & my personal experience

The knee is one of the most common body parts to be injured. Types of common knee injuries include sprains, strains, bursitis, dislocations, fractures, meniscus tears, and overuse injuries

In this blog, I will be sharing my personal experience on meniscus tear and the challenges I went through post surgical and to some extent till present and how Yoga is helping me to increase my body awareness especially in movement and daily workout activities using knee joint e.g compound movements etc.

 

Introduction to the Knee

The knee is the largest joint in the body. The knee allows the leg to bend where the femur (thighbone) attaches to the tibia (shinbone). The knee flexes and extends, allowing the body to perform many activities, from walking and running to climbing and squatting. There are a variety of structures that surround the knee and allow it to bend and that protect the knee joint from injury.

 

What muscles are responsible to move the knee?

The quadriceps and hamstring muscles are responsible for moving the knee joint. When the quadriceps muscles (located on the front the thigh) contract, the knee extends or straightens. The hamstring muscles, located on the back of the thigh, are responsible for flexing or bending the knee. These muscles are also important in protecting the knee from being injured by acting to stabilize the knee and preventing it from being pushed in directions that it isn’t meant to go

Liagaments

There are four ligaments that also stabilize the knee joint at rest and during movement: the medical and lateral collateral ligaments (MCL, LCL) and the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments (ACL, PCL).

Knee Cartilage & Meniscus

Cartilage within the joint provides the cushioning to protect the bones from the routine stresses of walking, running, and climbing. The medial and lateral meniscus are two thicker wedge-shaped pads of cartilage attached to top of the tibia (shin bone), called the tibial plateau. Each meniscus is curved in a C-shape, with the front part of the cartilage called the anterior horn and the back part called the posterior horn.

There is also articular cartilage that lines the joint surfaces of the bones within the knee, including the tibia, femur, and kneecap

 

What is a torn meniscus

A torn meniscus is damage from a tear in the cartilage that is positioned on top of the tibia to allows the femur to glide when the knee joint moves. Tears are usually described by where they are located anatomically in the C shape and by their appearance (for example, “bucket handle” tear, longitudinal, parrot beak, and transverse) to determine if it is medial or lateral meniscus.

 

What causes meniscus to tear?

A forceful twist or sudden stop can cause the end of the femur to grind into the top of the tibia, pinching and potentially tearing the cartilage of the meniscus. This knee injury can also occur with deep squatting or kneeling, especially when lifting a heavy weight. Meniscus tear injuries often occur during athletic activities, especially in contact sports like football and hockey.

Motions that require pivoting and sudden stops, in sports like tennis, basketball, and golf, can also cause meniscus damage. The sports injury does not have to occur during a game but can also occur in practice, where the same motions lead to meniscus damage.

Age plays a part

The risk of developing a torn meniscus increases with age because cartilage begins to gradually wear out, losing its blood supply and its resilience. Increasing body weight also puts more stress on the meniscus. Routine daily activities like walking and climbing stairs increase the potential for wear, degeneration, and tearing. It is estimated that six out of 10 patients older than 65 years have a degenerative meniscus tear. Many of these tears may never cause problems.

 

 

Me and my Right lateral meniscus tear experience

I personally underwent surgery to repair my torn right lateral meniscus 5 years ago and since then it has never been the same. I was involved in an intense week of high volume performance training in New Zealand and it involved repetitive weight bearing barbell exercises. 

Prior before the trip, my training was HVIT (high volume intensity training) for couple of months and I believed that with the accumulation of stress and could have been more of mobility and stretch led to the sudden pop.

Ever since the surgery, there is always occasional swelling and tightness around my right knee. Range of motion decreases by 10-20%. Post surgery also caused quite a fair amount of scar tissues.

 

Does it impact my training?

It doesn’t impact my training but I am more mindful and take extra time pre-training to activate my Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO)

It is one of four quadriceps muscles which sits medially or on the inside of our thigh. Its primary function is to extend the knee. 

In Yoga class :

Due to the wear and tear of my lateral meniscus, I personally find it challenging to be in any poses requiring bending my knees fully especially in seated postion for example :

  1. thunderbolt pose, Vajrasana variations 
  2. recline hero pose, Supta Virasana and variations
  3. Lotus pose, Supta Ardha Padmasana
Options:
 
 

Conclusion

Staying mindful, be patient and keep trying. My aim is to work towards mobility of knee joint through Yoga and work towards the day when I can slowly get into lotus pose.

 

 

Let’s talk about the HEART Chakra

Anahata Chakra – Heart Chakra: 
All about LOVE

What are Chakras?

Chakras are the energy centers of the body. They are located in the astral body along the spine, starting at the base of the spine and running upwards to the crown of the head. The Chakras coincide with a gland in the physical body and each radiate a specific color and energy. Since each chakra relates to specific spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical aspects of our being, it is said that the blockage or malfunction of the chakras can lead to physical, psychological and emotional disorders. The conscious awareness and the balancing of these energy centers on the other hand is believed to lead to well-being and good health. That is one of the purposes of asana practice: to stimulate and balance the chakras or energies in the body

In my blog, I like to elaborate on Anahata Chakras- Heart Chakra

 

Why : I have deeply resonate with this chakra as perhaps big part of what I do daily is working with people coming from all levels and background and it is important for me to have a balanced heart chakra so I can have an open heart to develop good fulfilling working relationship. This is also important towards my family relationship, my husband and our 3 dogs.

So….

Anahata Chakra is the most influential energy center out of the 7 chakras. Exploring divinity through pure love inspires this fourth chakra. Opening the channels of heart in order to receive and give freely is brought by our Heart Chakra.

 

In Sanskrit, Anahata means “unstruck” or “unbeaten”. This signifies an impartial and infinite love allowing a deeper understanding of self and others. It is located in the region of the heart, in the center of the chest. It invites a person to meditate on the different levels of relationship experiences with an open heart.

The color of Anahata Chakra is green. The corresponding element is Air that represents freedom and expansion. This chakra promotes a consciousness that develops boundless compassion. The Mantra of the Anahata Chakra is ‘yam’. It means to let go, to liberate, to give

What are the Characteristics of Anahata Chakra?

The life-giving element of air

The element of Anahata Chakra or Heart Chakra is the Air or Vayu. The Air symbolizes freedom of expansion and breadth. A heart that is absolutely willing to give without restriction. Vayu is connected physically to the sense of touch and emotional feelings. When the heart is open, a person feels optimistic, friendly, and motivated to believe in themselves. Building fulfilling relationships become easier when the Heart Chakra balanced, as we become more compassionate and understanding towards others.

The renewing element of green color

The green color of the Anahata Chakra represents growth and renewed healthy relationships. The color green is associated with nature, freshness, and tenderness. It is a healing and restful color for the human eye. Green suggests stability and endurance. Serenity, calmness, balance, and compassion for yourself, and others are the themes of Heart Chakra.

So what are the Signs of a Blocked Heart Chakra?

Issues with the energy flow in the Heart Chakra can make us feel lonely, isolated, and unable to connect. This is because when we are wounded and feel stuck in the past it leads to anxiety. A person may be scared to share and trust any relationship. Any resolved disappointment from childhood may affect our behavior as an adult. Any of the below-mentioned symptoms indicates that the Heart Chakra requires rebalance and healing.

  • Fear of rejection
  • Loss of trust in a committed relationship
  • Issues giving and receiving affection
  • Over dependency in a relationship
  • Distant behavior with people who care
  • Tough and unemotional appearance while feeling vulnerable
  • Physical symptoms such as heart palpitation, poor blood circulation, heart pain, angina, or even problems like Asthma.

Why do we need to balance the  Heart Chakra?

When the heart chakra opens, you’ll feel an abundance of empathy, compassion, and love. This translates not just towards others but also to oneself. A balanced chakra allows people to be who they are, instead of attempting to dismiss or change according to external expectations. A person with an open Heart Chakra develops trust in them self and respects others. Here are some of the ways to unblock the Heart Chakra.

Seed Mantra Meditation

Meditation can help to restore proper energy flow to the Heart Chakra. Meditation is a deeply personal experience that clears the path to experience peace within. It resolves the various anxious thoughts that bring imbalance in life.

The mantra associated with Anahata Chakra is YAM. It is considered to be the seed or beej of the heart depicted with the Heart Chakra symbolism. Chanting this mantra heals both the physical and the spiritual heart center. It also makes a person more open to experience unconditional love and compassion.

Sit cross-legged and take deep breaths. Focus on the Heart Chakra and start changing YAM. Imagine the chakra opening with the energy flowing throughout the body. The vibrations of the chanting YAM produces an overflow of positive feelings.

Daily affirmations build confidence

Affirmations – can help to increase the positive energy associated with the Heart Chakra. Keeping a journal of gratitude helps in acknowledging the gifts of the present moment. Some examples of positive heart affirmations include:

  • I deeply and completely love and accept myself.
  • I am wanted and loved.
  • My heart is open to love.
  • I forgive myself.
  • I live in a state of grace and gratefulness.

Pranayama – Breathing exercises

The fourth chakra element is air so breathwork is a gateway to opening your heart chakra. One of the best breathwork techniques that not only balances the right and left brain hemispheres but also opens the heart is Anulom Vilom. Practicing Anulom Vilom frequently brings calmness to both body and mind.

Green diet for balancing energy

 The predominant color of Anahata Chakra is green. Eating foods of the same color as the chakra you are trying to heal can balance the energy flow around that area. The foods that help restore the balance are – spinach, kale, broccoli, matcha, green apples, green tea, cucumbers, etc.  Green vegetables are also recommended by expert nutritionists for a healthy body and mind.

Practicing Forgiveness

When we have experienced loss and isolation, it can make us judgmental and jealous. Making an effort to practice forgiveness might seem a very difficult task. Not able to forget the past resentments and anger only stops us from moving forward into the future happiness. Talking to a close friend or meeting a professional counselor clears the mind and guides you through inner growth and peace.

 

Daily Asanas to balance Heart Chakra

Here are a few asanas to help open heart chakras :

It is also advisable to counter-pose with the following to ease lower back after:

Conclusion

The energy that the Heart Chakra manifests has a deep impact on our personality. A meaningful and balanced life can be achieved when our Heart Chakra is in balance.

Maintaining a balanced Heart Chakra brings knowledge of the Self, which helps develop a strong relationship with others.

How Yoga can help in the time of Covid-19

How Yoga can help in the time of Covid 19

In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re all navigating through uncharted territory. COVID-19 has caused levels of stress and anxiety to skyrocket and it’s (understandably) taking a toll on people’s mental health. Yoga can be one of the great remedies and it is suitable for everyone.

Yoga is a holistic and mindful practice that includes physical movements (asana), breathing (pranayama), meditation(dhyana) and relaxation (savasana).

As we are still swimming through getting back to normality which can takes a while, it is important to constantly recognize how we feel, assess our stress level and in-corporate some form of yoga practice in our daily routine to raise our baseline of well-being.

 

Yoga can be practice anywhere, anytime

The best part is that a mat space is only required. This can be done in your own room, anywhere in your house or in a park, beach or in nature. Ideally, we like to encourage beginners to practice in studio under the teacher’s supervision so as to build a strong foundation of alignment and technique (for movement), also understanding the options available. This is to ensure personal overall safety.

 

So what are the ways ?

  • Yoga Breathing, Prayanama

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama (In Sanskrit, “prana” means vital life force) is the foundation of yoga practice. It is the regulation of inhalation and exhalation and a link between body-emotions-mind-spirit.

It can begin with deepening our breathing with the 3-part breath, then moves into more advanced breathing exercises such as Kapalabhati and the Alternate Nostril Breath, nadi shodhana pranayama. I also personally like Ujiya breathing.

 

The 3-part breath involves the “three parts” :the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow. You can try this in a quiet place lying down or sitting upright cross-legged. Put one palm on your chest, one palm on your belly. Try this routine for 10mins everyday and you will feel the difference.

Ujiya breathing is another great technique that allows you to calm your mind by focusing on your breath. This helps you override thoughts that could possibly distract you from your meditative or focused state. Ujiya breathing also work hand-in-hand during asana practice.

I personally practice ujiya breathing technique when I am in moments of stress and making work decisions and hectic planning. Ujiya breathing calms my breathing and allows clarity to my mind and make right decisions.

How to do ujjayi breathing

  1. Keep your mouth closed.
  2. Constrict your throat to the point that your breathing makes a rushing noise, almost like snoring
  3. Control your breath with your diaphragm.
  4. Keep your inhalations and exhalations equal in duration.
  • Meditation, Dhyana

Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.

There are many types of meditation from mindfulness to breathe awareness meditation. It is always good to set yourself 1 type of meditation so you can focus during the meditation. I personally love this technique which our teacher trainer has shared and that is to close your eyes, empty your thoughts and focus on the tip of your nose in the darkness of your clear mind together with calm breathing. Another way is to draw a 50cent circle with a dot in the middle, having to stare at it which will lead to a focused meditative state.

 It definitely helps me to clear out unwanted thoughts entering my mind.

  • Physical Movement, Asanas

A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that “movement-based yoga,” defined as any form of yoga where participants are physically active at least 50% of the time (ie, flowing through poses), can positively impact how you feel.

The research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression or improved mental health for people living with a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and major depression.

So what are the poses which helps? There are no right or wrong poses as all poses in Yoga has its own benefits. A good way to start with is to identify which part of the body holds stress so you can counter release the stress and tension. In times of Covid-19, it is important to boost our immune system and reduce stress.

Here are a few poses which are recommended:

  • Relaxation (savasana)

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. 

In Savasana—also known as corpse pose— you lie down on your back and relax your body and mind so you may fully assimilate the benefits of your asana practice

During this pose, you close your eyes, breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana can have powerful benefits.

Savasana can also helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality. 

 

 

Conclusion :

The above are few ways to help condition our mind and body with Yoga to be stronger especially during this time of pandemic. Everyone has their preferred ways so hope that what I have shared will help anyone in any ways.

I like to also include music in my practice and meditation as it sets the tone and ambience. One of my favourite playlist on spotify is  ‘deep focus’ as the genre of music set is purposeful for studying and concentration.