Alternative Healing

In a world of data overload, unprecedented scientific and technology advancement and where man now have the knowledge and means to travel to outer planets – many of us are turning to alternative medicine and natural remedies. I find myself pulled to learn more about each of these alternative medicines, from Reiki to homeopathy. Here I will introduce a few of these practices:

1. Reiki 

Reiki is a healing practice codified in the early 20th century in Japan. In Japanese, rei roughly translates to “spiritual”; ki is commonly translated as “vital energy.” Reiki Healers silently place their hands on or over a person’s body to evoke a “universal life force.” A Reiki treatment can even, practitioners believe, be conducted from miles away.

Over the past two decades, a number of studies have shown that Reiki treatments help diminish the negative side effects of chemotherapy, improve surgical outcomes, regulate the autonomic nervous system, and dramatically alter people’s experience of physical and emotional pain associated with illness. But no conclusive, peer-reviewed study has explained its mechanisms, much less confirmed the existence of a healing energy that passes between bodies on command. 

2. Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a medical system based on the belief that the body can cure itself. Those who practice it use tiny amounts of natural substances, like plants and minerals. They believe these stimulate the healing process. It was developed in the late 1700s in Germany. It’s common in many European countries, but it’s not quite as popular in the United States.

A basic belief behind homeopathy is “like cures like.” In other words, something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person can — in a very small dose — treat an illness with similar symptoms. This is meant to trigger the body’s natural defenses. For example, red onion makes your eyes water. That’s why it’s used in homeopathic remedies for allergies. Treatments for other ailments are made from poison ivy, white arsenic, crushed whole bees, and an herb called arnica.

Homeopathic doctors (who also are called “homeopaths”) weaken these ingredients by adding water or alcohol. Then they shake the mixture as part of a process called “potentization.” They believe this step transfers the healing essence. Homeopaths also believe that the lower the dose, the more powerful the medicine. 

3. Ayurveda

Ayurvedic medicine (“Ayurveda” for short) is one of the world’s oldest holistic (“whole-body”) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India. It’s based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems..

Students of CAM therapy believe that everything in the universe – dead or alive – is connected. If your mind, body, and spirit are in harmony with the universe, you have good health. When something disrupts this balance, you get sick. Among the things that can upset this balance are genetic or birth defects, injuries, climate and seasonal change, age, and your emotions.

Those who practice Ayurveda believe every person is made of five basic elements found in the universe: space, air, fire, water, and earth.

These combine in the human body to form three life forces or energies, called doshas. They control how your body works. They are Vata dosha (space and air); Pitta dosha (fire and water); and Kapha dosha (water and earth). Everyone inherits a unique mix of the three doshas. But one is usually stronger than the others. Each one controls a different body function. It’s believed that your chances of getting sick — and the health issues you develop — are linked to the balance of your doshas.

4. Sound Healing

It’s unclear how exactly singing bowls are supposed to work. However, there are theories as to why it might have positive health and well-being effects. These theories include:

  • The sound from the singing bowls can actually change your brain waves to types of waves that make you feel relaxed.
  • The sound waves from the bowl act on the energy field of your body and cause you to relax.
  • It’s not the sound from the singing bowls but the vibrations that lead to its effects.

There’s also some evidence that music therapy more generally can reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When your levels of cortisol are lowered, you feel more relaxed. Listening to music may also help boost your immune system by increasing production of certain immune cells.

4. Cold Therapy

Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy. It works by reducing blood flow to a particular area, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. It can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain. 

In conclusion, many of these alternative healing methods may have limited to no scientific backup. However, it is undeniable that many people find benefit and solace in practicing either one or multiple healing methods. Once modern medicine, pills and hospitalization does not work people turn to these as gentler but more effective ways to healing the body, mind and soul. It is to up to each of us to find what works for ourselves – as the power of mind over body is greater than any medicine. 

My Journey Inwards

My journey to yoga started circa 2000. I was living in Virginia at the time, and my best friend and roommate introduced me to Yoga. She had grown up in an ashram, in rural Virginia along the James river. Yogaville was founded by Yogiraj Sri Swami Satchidananda. At the time I had little interest in Yoga and found appeal purely on a superficial level at the high-level concept of union between body mind and soul. Of course, I had no idea what yoga was other than a set of what seemed like some hippie ideals and pretty-looking asanas. My friend gave me a book – the yoga scriptures by Pantanjali – which I quickly put on a pile of books and never once cracked open. The book accumulated dust for 20 years – until I remembered it a few weeks ago when starting my YTT.

I then practiced yoga on and off for 20 years without ever truly committing to a specific teacher or practice. I took classes here and there and followed teachers in the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. I went for a yoga retreat in Thailand, workshops in Bali, and took an Ashtanga Mysore class with Kino and Time Feldman. I have always been intrigued, pulled towards yoga, curious… but not until recently have I fully immersed myself in the practice, study and inward journey of yoga.

20 years of only scraping the surface of an iceberg… I am in awe of the breath and depth of the teachings and realize just how little I know. I am excited for the next 20 years chipping away at the iceberg!  

Asanas & Related Muscular Impact

Each asana, or physical posture, has numerous benefits. These benefits often go much beyond the pure physical benefits, and include significant emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits. For the purpose of this article we will focus on the physical benefits and more specifically, the muscular activations.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose).

The hip abductors, the sartorius draw the knees apart and toward the floor. The external rotators turn the thighs out, and the hamstrings flex the knees. Adductor Longus and Gracilis engage.

Mariachyasana D

The left hip is deeply externally rotated to allow the foot to, ideally, sit in the hip crease. The right hip and knee are flexed deeply to allow the leg to come toward the body. The right hip is also adducted to bring the knee toward the left shoulder before reaching for the binding. Both shoulders are deeply internally rotating in order to reach around the right knee and the torso to bring the hands together for the bind. Finally, we are twisting deeply through the whole spine.

Uttita Hasta Padangustasana A/B/C

In this pose, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, the contracting of the various muscles helps to hold the body in balance along with gaining strength with the muscles. The muscles in the arms: the biceps (at the upper arm), triceps (at the back of the upper arm), brachioradialis (top of the forearm, near the elbow), extensor carpi radialis longus (close to the wrists), and deltoid (near the shoulder) all contract. The muscles in the leg which at considered the longest: the quadriceps (front of the thigh), the hamstrings (back of the thigh), the calf (above the ankle and below the back of the knee) all contract. Apart from the above we have the gluteus maximus (at the buttocks), the Psoas muscles (joining the hips and the thighs) that contacts during the practice of this pose.

Navasana

When we lift our legs up into navasana, iliacus and psoas major (or the iliopsoas) primarily create that action since they are the strongest hip flexors. The quadriceps are working to straighten or extend the knee joint. The abdominals are working to stabilize the pelvis and torso relative to one another so that the iliopsoas can create the hip flexion.

Ado mukha Swanasana

Eccentric contraction of the hamstrings and the gastrocnemius (muscles crossing at the back of the knees). Soleus (muscles crossing the ankles with the gastrocnemius) are stretched when we dorsiflex the feet. When we straighten the arms, pressing the palms actively into the mat, pushing the body back toward the legs, it further deepens the stretch. When we deepen the stretch in this way we can allow ourselves to arch the lower back to give a full extension to the spine.

YTT Experience & Feedback

Why Tirisula?

My journey to Yoga and the decision to persue my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training came rather spontaneously. I had about 1 month of annual leave to clear before the end of March and given travel restrictions, I started thinking about ways to spend my free time in Singapore. My friend Quitterie had completed the 200YTT and greatly recommended Tirisula. She spoke highly of Master Sree and suggested I look into it. After taking a few classes (advanced Hatha and Ashtanga primary series with Master Sree) I felt more strongly about this path. I researched a few other YTT programs in Singapore and in the end decided that Tirisula was the best fit for me. In the end it came down to the choice of teacher – I wanted someone with whom I felt a certain connection and from whom I could learn beyond the physical practice. I found Tirisula unique as the school offers a truly holistic approach to YTT, focusing on philosophy, anatomy and spirituality as much as – if not more – than the physical aspects of Yoga. Whilst I was not found of the idea of spending all my mornings in a closed studio with limited sunlight and fresh air, I took a leap of faith and decided to go for it. In the end, I am so happy I did as the program, teacher and other students have brought so much insight and light into my life in such a short amount of time.

My experience Thus Far…

We are now more than halfway through the program and I feel I am only scraping the surface of yoga. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. It has been a wonderful, eye-opening, at times overwhelming, but always humbling experience. Everyday, I wake up with a smile looking forward to meeting my peers and Master Sree for another day of learning new concepts, un-learning old conceptions and challenging myself both mentally and physically. It has truly been food for the soul. Master Sree is profoundly knowledgeable and leverages his experiences to explain complicated concepts in laymen’s terms. He often uses examples from nature, animals and everyday life to illustrate philosophical concepts that would otherwise seem inaccessible. He is an expert storyteller with depth of experience to back up the fundamental concepts.

In a nutshell…

The YYT has been a life changing experience, another step towards the inward path of yoga. It has reminded me of multiple things I always knew to be true. Part of me wishes I had come to Tirisula 200YTT earlier in life, but Master Sree would probably tell me my karma did not allow it. Everything happens at the right time, at the right place, with the right connections.