1.Muscular system & 1 asana
Kakasana, crow pose.
Ever since I started yoga, when all I could do was touch my toes, I have successfully witnessed my progress with inversions, hip openers, you name it, …except kakasana. Tumble after tumble, and faceplant after faceplant, kakasana has always eluded me. Well, I’ve finally caught this bird!
Kakasana is an arm balance pose that incorporates the lower body as well as the upper body.
- To arch the back, the serratus anterior, which connects the sides of the rib cage to the shoulders, draws the shoulders forward.
- In arching the back, the trapezius and rhomboids are stretched. The lower trapezius, which spans the back, also helps press down the shoulder blades.
- To stabilize the shoulders, the pectoralis major is activated.
- Engaging chaturanga-like arms. This engages the pectoralis major (and minor) and the triceps. The biceps and brachiaii help stabilize the elbows.
- To bend the knees, the hamstrings help bring them in.
- To squeeze the knees, the adductor muscles draw them together and towards the upper arms.
- To bend the hips, the psoas and rectuc abdominus are engaged and contract.
- To position the feet, the tibialii anterior hold the feet up.
Like most asanas, kakasana is achieved via a combination of various muscles. Knowing which ones are responsible for positioning which aspects of the pose has allowed me to focus on strengthening and engaging each of them in order to finally set this crow free and flying!
2.Discuss how 1 yama applies to your life
Asteya is the third of the yamas, and translates to “non-stealing.” To want to steal something implies satisfying a desire or want of it. And that desire or want of it can stem from feelings like jealousy, insufficiency, inadequacy, or a coveting. As soon as we sense that lack, the desire kicks in, as does the greed to want it, or ‘steal’ it.
The ‘non’-stealing part comes in when feeling that there is already enough, that there is no need for anything else, and hence, no need to steal. By consciously feeling enough, the wanting and desiring becomes weaker and weaker. That jealous urge and desire to steal will be replaced with an enough-ness, a satisfaction that can truly create inner happiness. That’s asteya.
This yama is one that I find applicable to my life because of situations I sometimes find myself in where I compare myself against others, and feel like I need to be doing more and am not enough. One example: at work, we are often ranked and benchmarked to peers and targets. This has the effect of constantly monitoring personal levels to others’, anytime you are ahead of others, you are in the clear, while anytime you are lagging others, you will need to catch up.
In a corporate sense, one can argue that competition is a good way to drive performance and productivity; however, when taken too far, this competition can breed jealousy and feelings of inadequacy. In extreme cases when people do act upon their feelings of jealousy and inadequacy, rarely do good things result.
What asteya means to me is to be fully conscious of myself, a reminder to feel full and adequate with what I already have and who I already am. I am not lacking, and therefore there is no need for me to desire or covet. Practicing asteya is a call for a greater sense of self and wholeness, and to not lose sight of oneself.
It is not an excuse to ignore what is around me (like my peers or my targets, as in the example above) or the situations I am in. Rather, it is an acceptance of my firmly-rooted self and the very experiences I am having. When I become aware of this, I am able to appreciate the ways in which we (like myself and my colleagues, in the example) are different and it allows me to meet them with openness and respect.
3.Discuss how union/yoga has affected or helped your daily life recently
If I could sum up in one word the effect yoga has had on my life recently it would be: awareness. More specifically, self-awareness.
This awareness has largely come from my better understanding of the union between breath and movement, one of the very core yoga fundamentals. One is incomplete without the other; one is enhanced by the other. Incorporating this understanding and conscious collaboration into my practice has tremendously added to my life.
This deeper understanding has opened my eyes to my personal practice. I used to think that yoga was a one-hour session where I would passively listen to an instructor telling me to try some poses (not even the word ‘asana’ here) as best as possible. Now, I am much more aware of the relationship between movement and breath, and it has enabled me to really deepen my perception and practice. It is no longer something I intake passively, rather, a mindful proactive approach.
My awareness, and specifically, self-awareness, has also been enriched by my philosophical understanding of yoga itself, including the eight limbs of yoga and its various principles. Much revolves around the relationship between thought and action, ourselves and others, and how as mindful beings, we are able to conduct ourselves.
Learning about these principles has really awakened me as a person. I am much more conscientious about the thoughts I allow, the things I say and do, and the ways I act to externalities. In the past, most was driven by impulse and reaction. Today, it is more purposeful and mindful. I find that I have been able to apply this when I am by myself, as well as when I am around friends, colleagues, family and even strangers on the street.
I feel much more in tune with myself thanks to this greater sense of awareness and self-awareness. I feel that this has allowed me to become much more present and to truly grow more into my own being. This has been a byproduct of the intense 2+ months of yoga training, one for which I am very grateful.
4.Discuss how practicing asana/pranayama/etc has made a system more efficient
Practicing asanas is one way to improve the circulatory system. The circulatory system consists of the heart and blood vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries); the former pumps blood, and the latter transports the blood. The system is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood to the body and deoxygenated blood back, between the lungs, for air exchange, and heart, the pump.
By performing asanas, muscles around the body require blood to deliver the oxygen they need. This blood flow keeps blood circulation active, and an active circulation can help maintain the vitality and health of blood vessels.
When muscles are stretched, so are the blood vessels. The breathing involved in performing asanas also helps oxygenate the blood, and adds to the volume and nutrients carried by the blood to be delivered around the body.
Additionally, some asanas, particularly inversions, assist the circulatory system by using gravity to help push stale blood from the legs and pelvis back towards the heart (to be reoxygenated and purified). Asanas, like the shoulder stand, can help improve fresh blood supply to the eyes, ears, nose, throat and brain. All these are especially beneficial because most people are upright, standing, or sitting for hours on end at their jobs everyday, with gravity working to pull blood down away from the head. The above asanas assist the circulatory system in bringing blood back towards the heart and head.
Poor blood circulation, on the other hand, can lead to a lack of energy, shortness of breath, and risk for heart diseases.
Yoga thus facilitates the flow of blood to and from each part of the body and can have a positive impact on the heart and blood pressure. Healthy, elastic, unclogged blood vessels are important to keeping the circulatory system efficient.
200hr YTT weekend Sept 2015