My yoga journey to find “inner peace”

Yoga – clear your head from thoughts. Pretty impressive and unreal.

As the modern human being has a fast life due to globalisation, technology, very busy and long days at work, complex relationships and multiple daily life hassles, our mind systematically work from the moment we open the eyes till the moment we close them. Sometimes, the mind continues working and thinking even during our sleep. So how is this possible? can we really shut down our mind? even for a few minutes?

Well, this is what brought me to start my yoga journey. Find the inner peace within me. Be able to clear my head from thoughts. Not because I wanted to create a space between my current life and myself, but instead of that I wanted to be able to embrace it fully and completely. I do believe that when you acquire such agility in the mind which is most of the time supported by an agility and flexibility in the body, you will be able to control your emotions hence make better decisions. Also, it would enable you to improve your day-to-day life by being more relaxed and at the same time focused when necessary. So how can we achieve this practice? What is the secret?

One day, my yoga teacher told me that “if you want to be happy, you should be detached. Then you will find yourself and your inner peace”.  This is so impactful and at the same time so subjective. Let’s dig more.

Happy – what did he meant by happy? because happiness itself is so complicated and varies from one person to another. However, we can all agree that being happy is having this feeling of satisfaction, peace, and joy most of the time in a single day.

Detached – this one is complicated too and even delicate as it is related to other people surrounding us. Detachment is achieved by giving up everything but yourself. This includes material things and non-material ones such as people around us. How this could be possible? This is completely the opposite of my yoga journey objective which is to embrace fully my current life in order to make it better. In one second, my motherhood instinct woke up and kept telling me that I cannot and will not be detached towards my child. I do not want to give up on him. That would make me very sad instead of happy. So, what is wrong here? Maybe I missed something. Then, I looked on the internet for the definition of “detachment”. According to Google detachment is “the state of being objective or aloof”. There are different types of detachment: scientific, professional, emotional, and material… Maybe I refuse it, or I am not ready yet to practice a complete detachment. Consequently, this would mean that I would not be able to achieve a full inner peace. Am I ok with partial inner peace? Is this even possible? I do not know as I am in the beginning of my journey.

Not sure, but I assume that the message behind such statement is that once you give up everything and you find yourself you would be able to embrace your life again in a better way. The process to reach that point is supposed to be painful and full of sacrifices. Am I ready for such sacrifices? I guess so. But not all of them. Let us see how it goes. How about you?

Yoga philosophy: truthfulness and contentment

Yoga has a strong philosophy that brings together the mind, the body and the spirit. Its fundamental purpose is to foster harmony between these three elements. Yoga is based on the following ten principles which are all related to positive ethic qualities.

– Non- violence          

– Truthfulness

– Righteousness

– Wisdom

– Simplicity

– Worship of the spiritual goal

– Sacrifice the ego

– Self-discipline

– Self-study

– Contentment

It is hard to imagine in our days that one single man or woman could have and practice at the same time all these qualities and values. Indeed, we live in a corrupted world and a damaged environment within which simplicity, contentment or sacrificing the ego have become impossible or very hard to achieve. That is why once you start your yoga journey; yoga would definitely have a strong impact on you as well as on the environment you are living in.  Let us focus on two of these principles.

Truthfulness – how many of you have never ever lied in his/her life? including the little lies of inconvenience? Not sure that I know one person like that. However, we all adhere to the idea of being honest to ourselves and to others. If you ask people if they want to know the truth, most of them would answer “yes”! But only a few would effectively tell the truth. This lack of consistency between what we want and what we need or do is the factor that feeds this state of lack in truthfulness. Thus, I do believe that before being fully aware about what truthfulness is, we should first be consistent between our needs, wills, and actions. These three shall be aligned. This is the starting point to a truthful and honest path.

Contentment – the state of being satisfied with what we have. Is it even possible in a time where everyone wants more and more? Contentment may be sometimes perceived as a lack of ambition.  Particularly in the professional area of our lives, contentment might be perceived as a stagnation or even carelessness. The current world pushes us to constantly evolve, change, mutate but not necessarily grow. Evolution in not synonym of growth, we can evolve, innovate without achieving growth. Wars and economic crisis of the last century are a good example for that. Therefore, can we practice contentment and at the same time grow professionally speaking?  I believe so. Contentment will help you to fully appreciate what you have, work on it, master it then enhance it. And this is itself a kind of growth. Besides, once others would see your positive contentment, your confidence, and the respect you show towards what you have, they will trust you and offer you more. So, contentment, when truthfully practised, can bring more and not less.

Yoga as a key remediation to spinal problems: true or false?

What is the spine?

§  The spine is made up of 24 semi-rigid presacral vertebrae (seven cervical,
twelve thoracic, five lumbar) separated by discs. Five sacral vertebrae
fuse to make up the sacrum, which helps transfer upper body weight to the
pelvis through the sacroiliac joint. The coccyx makes up the bottom of
the vertebral column and is composed of four vertebrae.

§  The spine is therefore composed of 33 vertebrae that form the spinal canal.  

§  Intervertebral discs hold vertebrae together, act as shock absorbers, and allow
dynamic spinal movement
. These discs measure around one
centimeter in height and consist of a gooey center (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by
connective tissue (annulus fibrosis).

Spinal muscles

§  We can subdivide spinal muscles into the four following categories for better understanding:

1.        Cervical Spine muscles: there are many muscles in the cervical region, not all of them attached to the cervical spine, but many of them do such as levator scapulae, trapezius, cervical erector spinae, deep cervical flexors and suboccipitals.

2.        Thoracic Spine muscles: these muscles are the intrinsic back muscles as their embryological development begins in the back and are composed from the erector spinae which is formed of 3 muscles: Spinalis, Longissimus and Iliocostalis; Semispinalis thoracis, Multifidus and rotatores.

3.        Lumbar Spine muscles: these muscles are very important as they support the weight of the upper body and are involved in moving, twisting and bending. These are: iliopsoas, Abdominal wall muscles, Quadratus Lumborum, Lumbar Erector spinae and Multifidus

4.        Sacral Spine muscles: The purpose of these muscles is primarily to provide stability to the joint not to produce movement. They are classified to anterior surface muscles – attached to the anterior sacrum (Piriformis, Coccygeus, Iliacus); and posterior surface muscles which are attached to the posterior sacrum (Gluteus maximus, Multifidus lumborum, Erector spinae)

How can yoga remediate spinal problems?

According to Harvard medical school, yoga is one of the most effective tools for helping soothe low back pain. The practice helps to stretch and strengthen muscles that support the back and spine. Yet unfortunately, yoga is also the source of many back-related injuries, especially among older adults. So, the question is the following: how to get the benefits of yoga practice while avoiding back-related injuries? The answer is “proper form” and good “alignment of the spine”. In yoga, you should use your muscles to bring the foundation of the posture or the stretch, and then follow proper form that slowly lengthens and stretches the spine.

Benefits of Pranayama

Most of the time we breath mechanically without consciousness as we watch TV, work on our laptop, or do dishes. We just breath without noticing our respiratory system and because this is simply part of a natural process. Yet do you know that you can enhance your state of body and mind only by controlling your breath? And thus, being fully conscious about your inhalations, exhalations, and the circulation of the air within your respiratory system and your body. This is what Pranayama about.

Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. It is the practice of breath control. The goal of pranayama is to connect your body and mind. It also supplies your body with oxygen while removing toxins and may benefit your health in a variety of different ways.

   1. Increase mindfulness: as explained above, the tendency is to breath mechanically without awareness of our inhalations and exhalations. But during pranayama, you need to be fully aware of your breathing actions and how the air circulates within your body. To achieve this, you need to focus on your current breathing actions thus on the current moment, instead of the past or future. This is known as mindfulness.

    2. Decrease stress: while breathing in a conscious way, the mind is calmer because the air is circulating in more efficient way within the body to the mind. Therefore, breath control exercises (pranayama) enable to calm down the state of mind and reduce stress.

     3. Improve sleep quality: the stress relieving effects of pranayama could also help to enhance the quality of sleep. Indeed, we sleep better when our mind is calmer and relaxed.

     4. Improve lung function: as you practice the breath control, via deep inhalations, deep exhalations and sometimes holding breath, this practice is itself an exercise to your lungs. Like any other parts of the body when it is trained it performs well and better. Therefore, via pranayama practice, lungs become healthier with a better functioning.