May You Be Free, Aparigraha

Aparigraha, listed as 5th in Yama, Yoga Sutra, means non-possession of anything that gives suffering for someone and abstention from greed. In psychological terms, it means a state of non-attachment, non-craving and self-satisfaction.

It is seemingly hard to practice this in this modern world, where we are dominated by materialism. Aggravated by social media, we are trapped in a vicious cycle of “Pursuit of wealth – New creation of desires – Pursuit of more wealth”. Our individual happiness has become more and more dependent on external factors such as luxury lifestyle, significant public influence and so on. As a result, our attachment towards materialism has constrained us from achieving internal peace and happiness. The endless creation of temptations in this modern world has made us become impatient and feel easily unsatisfied. Without practice of Aparigraha, it is hard for us to reach a status of Santosha as mentioned in Niyama.

Other than materialistic aspect, Aparigraha also entails “detachment from the past”. It reminds me of a book called “The Courage to Be Disliked” written by Japanese writers, Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. The book leverages on the psychologist, Alfred Adler’s theories, explaining how we are all free to determine our own future, regardless of our past experiences. One may believe that his current status is affected by his past trauma, which has shaped whoever he is now (this is under Freudian Psychology). However, Alder believes that we can change who we are at any given moment. This is the application of Aparigraha, which if we choose not to possess ourselves in the past trauma, we can direct ourselves to the way we want to head to.

To practise Aparigraha, we can start to pay attentions to the things that we have pinned our expectations on. Try to let go of these expectations and allow ourselves to live in the moment. Besides, we can also let go of physical things that we do not need. Try to clean out the clutter by getting rid of the things we do not need. Finally, hope we can free ourselves and let inner peace come with us.

Discover Kundalini

As we know, Kundalini is a form of divine energy that is believed to be located at the base of spine, muladhara chakra. Kundalini awakening is way of tapping into a deep and powerful energy that exists within us all. When one experiences Kundalini awakening, he or she will experience a significant boost in confidence. It also gives one a razor sharp intuitive judgement and great enhancement in empathy.

For ages, Kundalini has been represented by symbol of serpent. This is because in Sanskrit, “Kundalini Shakti” means serpent power. This coincides with the energy that is released from the base of spine up to the crown. It is said that Kundalini energy is like a snake coiling at base of spine and waiting to be released to the highest power. Hence, what is the underlying symbol of the serpent? Since in ancient times, the spirit of the serpent represents a rebirth, a transformation and healing of old form since it sheds skin and regenerates a new form.

There are many ways to awaken Kundalini, for example, by mediation, yoga practices and pranayama. During Kundalini awakening process, one can experience tingling down the spine, feeling of deep connection with all living things, relief of any negative emotions and thoughts. It is seemingly tempting to unleash this potential energy in our body, however, there are dangers associated with Kundalini awakening if it is not adopted correctly. Physical symptoms include headaches, hallucinations, fevers and chills while mental symptoms include intense fear, bipolar mood and paranoia.

So what is the scientific explanation for individual’s disorder caused by inappropriate unleash of Kundalini energy? There are many school of thoughts. Researchers refer this as “Physio-Kundalini Syndrome”. Some believe that it is resulted from an electrical polarization spreading along sensory and motor cortices, in turn induced by acoustical standing waves in the cerebral ventricles. While some believe that spiritual evolutionary features are still important part in defining this process. Some doubt the actual activation of Kundalini in the process and believe it is more of profound effect of bioenergy. Although there is no common agreement on the scientific aspect regarding to Physio-Kundalini Syndrome, it is a fact that some people do experience this because of incorrect practice of unleashing Kundalini energy.

Therefore, if one would like to explore the potential energy in himself, it is of ultimate importance that he should be mentally ready for it. It would be better to consult professionals to check if the practice adopted is suitable or not. In the last, I believe that one should not have excessive attachment to the outcome, but the enjoyment of the journey in self-discovery.

Pelvic Tilt and How Yoga Helps

Today, many people live in a sedentary lifestyle. The prolonged sitting has led to some musculoskeletal disorder such as knee pain, scoliosis and pelvic tilt. Today we will zoom into pelvic tilt and study its causes, symptoms and how yoga postures can help improve it.

Anterior and posterior pelvic tilts are two main types of pelvic tilt. Pelvic tilt, other than prolonged sitting as mentioned previously, some are caused by genetic factors while some are also caused by poor postures over the time. This results in increased curvature of lower spine and upper back of the body. Muscle imbalances is another symptom caused by anterior pelvic tilt and lack of stretching and strengthening activities further contribute to pelvic tilt.

There are some yoga poses that help correct pelvic tilt. For anterior pelvic tilt, one is Setu Bandha Sarvangasana/ Bridge Pose. Bridge pose requires one to engage his glutes and hence the pose helps to strengthen the glutes. Weak glutes, on the other hand, may result in hamstrings working overtime and hence are more prone to injury. Meanwhile, anterior pelvic tilt makes hamstrings feel even shorter and one would be trapped into the cycle of anterior pelvic tilt – shorten hamstring – difficult in stretching and overwork of hamstring – more serious anterior pelvic tilt. Practicing bridge pose allows one to strike a muscular balance between glutes and hamstring.

Another yoga pose that helps with anterior pelvic tilt would be Santolasana/ Plank Pose. Anterior pelvic tilt means that hips consistently pull down, having strong abdominal muscle helps pull hips back up. Santolasana strengthens one’s abdominal muscles and hence help improve anterior pelvic tilt. To deepen the practice, one can add side plank during the practices.

For posterior pelvic tilt, one yoga pose that helps is Bhujangasana/ Cobra Pose. It helps to stretch tightened abdominal muscles and hence lengthening them and pull the pelvic bones to a more neutral position.

Another pose to correct posterior pelvic tilt would be Eka Pada Rajakapotasana/ Pigeon Pose. This is because pigeon pose is a great drill for opening up through glutes and outer hips. It is easier for individual to maintain a neutral pelvis and hence correcting posterior pelvic tilt.

Today, with our lifestyle being more sedentary, we have encountered many musculoskeletal disorders which affect us daily mobility if being serious. By engaging these yoga poses in our daily life can help gradually improve the situation.

Comparison Between Yoga and Qigong

As we know, Yoga comes from India and Qigong comes from China. Interestingly, although they originate from 2 oriental civilisations where the culture, history, and philosophies are different, we can find some similarities in the philosophy and practices of Yoga and Qigong.

The Energy System – Prana (Yoga) and Qi (Qigong)

In both Yoga and Qigong, there is a concept of “vital life force”. It is referred as “Prana” in Yoga and “Qi” in Qigong. In Yoga, there are 5 main categories of Prana: Apana Vayu, Samana Vayu, Prana Vayu, Udana Vayu and Vyana Vayu. Comparatively, the idea of “Qi” in China has been applied to Traditional Chinese Medicine, which refers to 6 common types of weather, “Feng”(Windy), “Han”(Cold), “Shu”(Hot), “Shi”(Humid), “Zao”(Dry), “Huo”(Heaty). The disturbance in the energy results in diseases.

The Storage of Energy – Chakra (Yoga) and Dantian (Qigong)

In Yoga, there are 7 Chakras in human body, which are Muladhara Chakra, Swadhisthana Chakra, Manipura Chakra, Anahata Chakra, Vishuddha Chakra, Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara Chakra. However, in Qigong, it is believed that Dantian is the only place where stores “Qi”.

The Channel of Energy – Nadi (Yoga) and JingLuo(Qigong)

In Yoga, there is an idea of “Nadis”, which are channels that energy flow through the body. There are 3 principal nadis that run from the base of spine to the head, and are the ida on the left, sushumna in the center and pingala on the right. Ida is associated with the lunar energy, it controls more mental process. Pingala is associated with solar energy which controls more vital process. Sushumna interpenetrates the cerebrospinal axis and it refers to both nostrils being open and free to the passage of air.

In Qigong, energy is channelled via JingLuo, aka meridians. There are 12 main meridians which connects between organs in the human body. There are 2 types of meridians, “Yin” and “Yang” respectively, where Yin can be mapped to “Ida” in Yoga and “Yang” is mapped to Pingala.

Conclusion

We can see the similarities and differences behind Yoga and Qigong. There is no concrete rule saying which idea is superior to the other. Today, we can see that both practices are adopted for individuals’ health and wellbeing. And one may see a trend of convergence in these two practices in the future. Adoption of whatever practice depends very much on individuals’ preferences. The ultimate idea is to achieve the balance among individuals’ mind, body and spirituality.