Santosha sutra

Santosha anuttamah sukha labhah – an attitude of contentment

Santosha is the practice of enjoying each moment as it is, being content with who you are and what you have at this current moment. Right now. No matter what has happened yesterday or what will happen, you are content. The practice of this mindset will allow you to lose greed and you do not need anything more. We do not seek contentment or happiness from external sources, only from within.

This practice of contentment has fallen in and out of my life many times. In great times of my life, where I am alone and in tuned with myself, I am able to appreciate every bit that I am, and every bit around me. However, as soon as life moves a little more fast-paced, I forget to be content. Although I chase dreams fast and hard on one hand, one the other, I tend to let anxiety back into my life, self-doubt and comparisons. It is definitely always hard to be content, being raised in a society that is academically-oriented and filled with a large talent pool. We tend to start comparing ourselves to others in terms of many aspects, be it academics, money, status, social status, fitness, talents, love, friendship, etc. The list never ends. I have seen far too many peers of my age constantly worry about something in their lives, and do not focus on the bigger picture – to realize that they can hardly ever be content without understanding this sutra. Human nature introduces greed to us, and we need to understand that for most, enough is never actually enough.

In yoga, some days our bodies do not perform as well as we want it to. Maybe, we feel a little weak in our Chaturanga, a little unstable in our downward dog. Maybe our regular beautiful postures are not turning out right, or maybe lifting ourselves to stay in crow or headstand isn’t happening. But it is what it is. We aren’t perfect bodies and we have up and down days, just like in our lives. So I constantly try my best to keep reminding myself   – do what your body feels good in. Don’t hurt yourself to force for a backbend, because then you will be discontent with the fact that you have injured yourself. Take what you have and make the best of it. Still on my way to practicing contentment, but as all practices require – time!

JT

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

When I first started yoga, I didn’t realize that I was always incorporating parts of a Sun Salutation sequence within the practice. Now that I have started YTT, I learnt more about the different types of Sun salutations and its increasing difficulty. Although seemingly simple, the practice to do these sun salutations with controlled breathing is truly a challenge. Especially, when it comes to Sun Salutations A and B, these require more strength and endurance. However, I find that there is such a beauty when you are able to slow down the flow, breath correctly and indulge in every pose. Having to do these sequences often for the last few weeks, I have grew to love them so much. That is for that fact that it is always still a challenge for me, especially when done in high counts. This means that I will always have room to improve and something to work towards. With this one sequence, it’s amazing how it can continue to benefit you in many aspects – discipline, endurance, strength, mindfulness and flexibility.

I have also delved deeper into how the Sun Salutations came about. The Sun Salutations were formed roughly 2,500 years ago and in the past, people believed that the Sun is all source of energy and how life even began.  For the Hindus, the sun is the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), seeing and uniting all selves in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine. No wonder people revered the sun in this way!

The traditional count of sun salutation rounds is 108, which takes a period of practice to move up perfectly to. Even though this seems hardly possible to me at this point in time, I believe that constant disciplined practiced will make a difference. Like Master Sree mentioned, habits are ideally formed when you are able to practice it for 48 days straight, which is a cycle also known a Mandala. Eventually, this yogic practice will settle into the system as a part of your life.

 

JT

Anahata (Heart) Chakra

When I first read up about Chakras, I was curious as to how they regulate and can be unlocked. Reading through a few online sources and youtube, I came to really connect with one chakra in particular – the heart chakra. This Chakra speaks to me a whole lot as I find that it is the key to spreading love and compassion to everyone around.

The main characteristics of the heart chakra is that it promotes compassion, peacefulness, generosity, kindness and you are loving to others, including yourself. An open heart chakra can allow for one to completely be open and accept themselves, thereby being able to heal others. It is not only about being open to all requests either, but also knowing when to say “no” to anything. It is living in balance, giving and receiving with equal ease.

In yoga, there are several poses that activates the heart chakra. Mainly, postures that open up the shoulder and chest help with it. This includes Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Camatkarasana (Wild Thing), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) and more.

When not in balance, the heart chakra can also cause some issues. When overactive, it develops into a constant pressure to please people. At the end of the day, your acts might sometimes lead to negative impacts on yourself. Personally, I have experienced this pressure to make everyone around me happy before. This makes it hard to make decisions and you fall into dilemmas very often. You might also over-tire yourself from always being kind to others. There are instances where by I have also experienced extreme denial, from realising that not everyone in reality is kind as well. However, meditation and constant yoga practice will counter this. The key is to also be aware of your own feelings and reflect often. That way, your heart chakra is likely to be more stable, without being overactive or underactive.

 

JT

Does Yoga Stay?

Here’s a thought – would you say it is true that somehow when we all reach our 20s, we look around for something that sticks with us for life? In this fast-paced, 20th Century world that we live in, it seems everyone, especially the educated, has slowly come to realisation that the individual seeks to be balanced in life in all aspects, including taking up sport. I was never one to think that I would pick up Yoga. At 16, my Dad took me to my first Yoga class, and for that 45 minutes of continuous Ardha Mukha Swanasanas (Downward dog), and Santolasanas (Plank), my shirt was drenched in sweat. I was ridiculously impatient through any of the poses I learnt that day and simply could not understand how one would slow down the breath doing these poses. These poses, seemingly easy, had me panting at the end of it. I lacked patience. I was annoyed.

I thought to myself – “There’s no way yoga is the sport for me, for the rest of my life. It’s slow, it’s boring.”

Then came a reintroduction to yoga when I turned 22. Between the years of being 21 and 22,  I was a extreme go-getter. Nothing slowed me down. Not even the pains I felt in my body. I was an aspiring chef/baker, motivated, driven, and every single day was me telling myself “you have to be productive.” I never let my body or my mind rest. I never knew what that meant. At 21, I found out that my lower back had severe dessications at the L4 and L5 level. And for the few months after finding out, life started to seem a little bleak. Not only would I focus my energy on scanning for every pain in my back, I just made excuses to NOT move, and stopped believing in myself a little. I developed a fear for pain of any level, letting it manifest in my head to something bigger that tells me, I simply cannot do it.

Cliché in many of the yoga stories, you seek for something to comfort you when you are met with upsetting news. I came to realize more about how I was as a person, and how I treated my own body. The self-realization was that for all these years, I did not care about my body. I cared about success, I cared about “making it big”, every other single thing except the wealth of my health. It was heartbreaking to realize all of it. I wanted to make a change and turned to yoga for comfort, to make me healthier in the physical sense.

Evidently, that was not it. I was doing yoga in hopes of getting rid of my back pain, achieving only all the physical benefits possible. And although I started going to yoga classes since then, I did not realize what would happen when I took my understanding to the next level. It was one-dimensional. Yoga = flexibility and strength = better health = less back pain. Again, I fell into a hole of self-scrutiny. I was doing yoga for the sake of doing it, for the hopes of physically feeling better, achieving more skillful postures one day. And I blamed my body when things did not happen. Yoga came in and out of my life. Up to the point where I decided I want to learn more about Yoga in detail. I needed to understand more about this practice in deeper detail, and why I was allowing these thoughts in my life.

Fast-forward to today in this YTT course. Something clicked inside me as with each day of philosophy with either Master Sree or Master Paalu. “Be kind to your body, but don’t be lazy.” – Master Paalu said. At that very moment, I felt like bursting out into tears. It just hit me so hard that I struggle with what my body can or cannot do, focusing on its limitations and it in turn manifests negatively in my head. I finally became fully aware of how i viewed myself.

Every single day since then, thoughts in my head became quiet. Insecurities disappeared slowly. I no longer had these thoughts with what my body can or cannot do. I just did what I could, in my capacity. I understood more about the human mind, its natural instinct for greed. Suddenly, I am less harsh with myself in every way. Even with my own goals in the culinary aspect. Suddenly, yoga was not just a physical practice anymore.

Back to my beginning statement, Yoga has now become the one sport that can keep me healthy in my body, healthy in my mind. I love every breath I take during practice and I can no longer imagine my life without it. This journey of life is going to be filled with ups and downs, and I am fully aware that Yoga would not be an escape – it is a way of living my life. Though I cannot say for sure if everything will work out, I will constantly remember the concept of Sadhana from Master Sree, because without it, there is no regularity. Sadhana is continuous practice, improving concentration, being disciplined. Yoga will not always feed me happiness, or decrease my days of anxiety, self-doubt. On some days, my mind will creep up on me and nothing can be helpful. On other days, yoga will empower me greatly, it will strengthen me mentally and physically. My biggest takeaway today is realizing that my practice is not my reliance, and there is mindful awareness that nothing can be an escape. Just do and be calm. Whatever you practice, to whichever extent, keep it regular. And so Yoga, that is how I know you will stay.

 

JT.