Self improvement through yoga

Doing yoga and practising yoga with perfection and precision makes a whole world of difference. 

Throughout the past 2 weeks,  I learnt that the key word is Precision! I learnt that every pose and action that we do have to be precise. It has been eye-opening for me that there is so much more room to correct and adjust.  Personally, it has been about 4 years of going to various classes and studios to “learn” yoga, where the occasional alignments helped to tweak and correct certain postures. The adjustments that i have learnt in the past 2 weeks from Paalu, Wei ling and my classmates would probably take me more than 2 years to realise if I did not sign up for this course.

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How do you get students to like your yoga class?

After experiencing teaching this morning (and from my experiences of being a yoga student for many years), I feel that the way an instructor conducts a class is the most important factor to enhance a student’s enjoyment, such as:

  1. Personality of the instructor (calm, soothing and reassuring, confident and approachable)
  2. Tone and voice of instructor (assertive yet encouraging, loud and clear voice)
  3. Overall pace of the lesson (comfortable, steady pace – students should be able to follow and still be challenged)
  4. Clear instructions that are easy to understand and follow (regardless of class type)
  5. Knowledge of teacher (able to provide information on certain asanas performed eg. how it aids digestion)
  6. Checking on individual student and making sure they are okay (and breathing)
  7. Flowing sequence and suitable asanas (students are physically challenged but not pushing them till there is risk of an injury)
  8. Flexibility of changing the lesson plan anytime (modify the postures accordingly for different students)

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Before and After Yoga

I very easy feel dizziness and consider a weak person in physical body and inner health as well. My blood pressure as low as 90/60 mmHg, this rate is actually at border line of hypotension and blood sugar drop easily as well.

I’m not a healthy baby due to difficult birth when I was born, and my mum told me that she almost loss me that time. But lucky we both are safe finally, and I have to stay in “oxygen cage” with special care and monitor for awhile before discharge from hospital.

When i was child, I’m actually have light ashtma, very easy catch cold, block nose (breath by mouth all the time), skinny & tiny. On top of all this, I’m easily feel unwell and dizziness when I go for normal hiking especially walking up to the hill. I have to stop within 20-30min, otherwise will black out or fainted. Even I feel dizzy after 20-30min standing in crowded bus or MRT.

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Yoga and the Media

In today’s modern word, it’s hard to avoid the impact of the media, especially the ‘social’ kind. Many industries have boomed with the rise of social media attention and yoga doesn’t seem to have escaped this growing trend. But, with such an ancient practice, how has modern day media ‘shaped’ the art of yoga and is it detrimental to the fundamentals of what it means to be a yogi?

It seems inevitable in a capitalist society, that nothing is exempt from commercialisation, including yoga. Falling under the ‘fitness’ banner in many western countries, yoga has become big business and with the rise of social media platforms, such as Instagram, yoga has been steadily growing in popularity. You don’t have to search for long to find vast numbers of yogi profiles from around the globe, proudly posting photos of pincha mayurasana against a pristine-white-beach backdrop, or another demoing a dynamic flow, wearing the latest stylish gear. The thriving yoga industry has led to the rise of the ‘celebrity yogi’ – a diverse group of accomplished practitioners, with a strong Instagram following. Many of these high profile yogis will openly share their own views about how social media has led us away from what it means to practice yoga, yet the irony is that the platform from which they post these views, isn’t able to truly capture all that yoga stands for.

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The Most Underrated Asana: Savasana 

“Lie down, close your eyes and relax” – the words we all look forward to hearing at the end of the class, meaning we’ve worked through some sun salutations, practiced asanas and are ready to rest. After getting into a comfortable position, taking a cleansing breath or maybe an audible exhale, we find ourselves in savasana, also known as corpse pose.

I think savasana is perhaps the easiest asana to perform but one of the most difficult to master, a form of conscious surrender. In today’s fast-paced society, people are so used to instant gratification and efficiency, where we want effects of our actions to be nearly immediate, thus find it hard to take a moment to slow down. I know I definitely do, where I used to really struggle just lying still for a few minutes and always had the urge to fidget. Even when I did self-practice, I often left out savasana because I wanted to get back to my day instead of lying around. On the other side of the spectrum, some find themselves falling asleep, where they let go and lose focus, enjoying the pose a little too much.

However, savasana has many benefits both physiologically and psychologically. It is an opportunity for us to physically and mentally relax each part of the body, usually starting from the feet up. By taking time in savasana, we can absorb the energy from the physical asanas and dissolve any tension in our muscles, letting our body recover and rest, as well as taking a mental inventory and checking in with how our body feels. Besides that, we can allow our parasympathetic system to take over, where we can slow down our respiratory rate and heart rate, and give our bodies time for them both to return to resting rate. Although the autonomic system usually works unconsciously, in savasana we can consciously notice and register how our breath and heartbeat is slowing down, and in that way, feel more relaxed.

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Practicing yoga asanas with an injury and how to modify

We’re taught in the YTT200 how to ensure correct alignment in postures to avoid injury, which is such a fundamental part of a safe and sustainable practice, but what about if you come to yoga with a pre-existing injury?

I tore my piriformis around 18 months ago – I was not fully warmed up, I was practicing in a cold room on a cold tile floor and I dropped down into hanumanasana on my right side, extended over my right leg into a forward fold and that’s when I heard it… RIP! The piriformis is a small muscle located deep in the buttock, underneath the Gluteus Maximus – it originates at the sacrum and inserts at the top of the femur. My glute was incredibly sore for several weeks and didn’t seem to be improving, I continued regular practice, determined not to let the injury stop me from progressing, despite the pain. Eventually, the isolated pain began to radiate down my leg towards the back of my knee and so I sought the advice of a physiotherapist.  The sciatic nerve passes directly behind, or in some people, through the piriforis and any trauma to the piriformis can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in radiating pain or spasms. My original muscle injury had now led to compression of my sciatic nerve, making most standing asanas incredibly painful, in fact, it even hurt to sit down for any length of time.

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Yoga and Buddhism

Before Yoga, I was introduced to Buddhism and got inspired by the books written by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, who is a renowned Bhutansed lama,film maker and writer. He says that its not the clothes you wear, the ceremonies you perform, or the meditation you do. Its not what you eat ,how much you drink, or who you have sex with. Its whether you agree with the four fundamental discoveries(also known as the four seals)the Buddha made under the Bodhi tree, and if you do, you can call yourself a Buddhist.

So what are these four truths?

All compunded things are impermanent.
All emotions are pain.
All things have no inherent existence
Nirvana is beyond concepts.

By thinking of it, we see that there is nothing moralistic or ritualistic about them. There is no mention of good or bad behavior. They are simply the truths based on wisdom which is the primary concern of a Buddhist. Unfortunately, people seem to view Buddihsm in a religious way.

A few years ago, I got into yoga pratice for fitness reason. With regular pratising, I surely enjoyed all those physical benefits, at the same time, I found Yoga also invovled with a lot mental work. Then this karmic wind continued blowing towards me and here I am in the 200hrs YRS training course.

Its not surprising that yoga and buddhism is connected in the ways of concept and pratice. Some points of connections could be:

Karma.
Meditation position and mudras.
Aim to reach enlightment as to Samadhi or Nirvana.
Yamas in Yoga very similar to Noble Eightfold Path.

Well, I just start the discussion here and this topic is really broad. Yoga, Buddhism and all spiritual paths are a map showing the journey back to the heart of the universe. Its time for us to give some thought to spriritual matters.

What was the biggest change that occurred during my first week of TTC?

I have just completed the first week of my TTC training.

I have learned so much in this past week, but one of the biggest lessons of them all was the importance of raising awareness to my own body, by giving myself ample time to study my body on a daily basis. I was able to notice slight quirks and conditions of my body by performing Asana.

When most people think of yoga, “flexibility” probably first comes to mind (I was also one of those people before I started TTC) but in actuality proper body alignment, stability and increasing are just as important as flexibility, if not more. Very basic Asana is performed over and over in the first week of TTC, to allow you to build the foundation of the aforementioned aspects.

With that being said, I noticed that there are similarities to poses that are difficult to perform, and poses that help realign your body.

For example:

・The unnecessary protruding of my butt during the chair pose was corrected

・I was told that there is pressure on my back when performing the downward facing dog

・My back hurt every time I performed a back-rounding pose, such as the Pawan Muktasana

・I couldn’t properly twist for twisting poses

etc.

The reason?

The cause of these problems was lordosis. Lordosis is an excessive inward curvature of the lower back.

During the class, Master Paalu said, “Stand with your back on the wall. If your fist fits in the curvature of your back, you have Lordosis.” I tried it and sure enough, my fist fit between my back and the wall. I noticed at that moment that all my problems with my back were being caused by the excessive curvature of my back.

The excessive curvature of my waist was causing imbalances in my shoulder blades, shoulders, and upper back. I always had chronic pain in the region between my shoulder blades and the spine below the shoulder blades. I would feel a huge knot just by breathing in deeply. I had always felt better after receiving a massage or going to a physical therapist, only for the pain to return after some time.

Master Paalu advised that I should focus on twisting my body, and I continued this for a while. I also researched and tried solutions for lordosis, and voila, the back pain that had long haunted me got much better! If you have pain in your shoulder and back like I used to, you just might have lordosis as well. You may be able to cure with just a little bit of training, as I was able to.

We, including myself, are part of a generation that is constantly busy and spend the majority of our days sitting in front of a computer or fiddling with our smartphones, and as a result have our wellbeing and time to focus on our bodies very low on our priority list.

Even just 10 to 15 minutes a day is enough, so I plan on performing Asana every day to be able to be able to understand where I may have issues in my body, and to be able to fix these issues on a daily basis.

Haruka

My yoga journey

 

On a random weekday afternoon about 8 years ago when I first started working, I received a call from a Yoga Centre telling me that a friend had referred me for a week of free trial classes at their centre. At that time, I thought ‘Yoga? Isn’t that for older people? Who referred me? How did you get my number? Is this truly free? What should I bring or wear?’ I was skeptical as it all sounded too good to be true and slightly “scammy”. However, in a moment of spontaneity, I decided to give it a shot. After the phone call, I roped in my cousin to come along with me to my first ever yoga class.

 

To be honest, my first experience with yoga was not great. We sauntered into the studio fashionably late (didn’t know punctuality and discipline were that important – we nearly weren’t allowed in!), struggled through the entire hour-long sequence (the poses sounded funnily foreign) and within 10 minutes, were panting like dogs and sweating buckets. The practice lasted for an eternity. I was sore for days after that, aching in places i never knew existed. But – it sure felt good! Yoga, to me, feels like a completely different workout from the usual swims or runs, because it also trains your mind to stay focused. Focus, or you forget which side you’re doing during sun salutations. Focus, or you fall when performing a balancing pose. Focus, or you forget to breathe into the pose. It all begins in the mind, and our mind controls the body.

 

I started to feel little changes in my daily life after practising yoga. I concentrated better at work, slept well at night, felt more confident about my own body …  the list goes on. More importantly, I find myself enjoying it! Yoga reminded me of my ballet days in primary school which had brought me so much joy and enjoyment. I had to stop ballet eventually after several years due to my flat feet, but the great thing about practising yoga is that it may even help you cope with certain medical conditions!

 

As I went for more classes. I began to feel more comfortable as I slowly understood the different names of the asanas without having to look to my left and right mat neighbours for guidance. I could see progress monthly, weekly and even on a daily basis. Gradually, my hands could touch my feet during forward bends. Gradually, I felt my feet getting lighter when I practised the crow pose. Gradually, I began to hold a headstand for longer each time. Each little milestone gleefully and enjoyably noted. Everyday, I learnt something new – from breathing techniques to correcting alignments in asanas. With practice, I learnt that you can get to every pose, slowly but surely. I have also learnt not to chase poses and let them come to you naturally, taking as much time as your body needs. It has been an amazing journey to discovering what my body is able to do – I even recently found out I’ve got hyperextended elbows! It also teaches you life skills – patience, perseverence, self-control and self-love. There is definitely more to yoga than the physical act of practising yoga poses.

 

Like the title of my post, yoga is a journey. “Practice, and all is coming.” – I will remind myself to enjoy the process and the benefits will come. Funnily enough, till this day, after practising yoga for so long, I still do not know who referred me all those years ago! I really want to thank whoever that person was – I would not have begun my lifelong journey with yoga if not for him/her.

Angela

 

Yoga for a Happier Digestive System

Since six years old (or maybe even further back), I’ve suffered from constipation. It’s been common for me to empty my bowels once to twice every week. My family and friends who know about my constipation, used to say it may be because I don’t drink enough water or eat enough fibre, but that’s wrong. I drink at least 2 litres of water per day and eat a well balanced meal with enough fibre.

To ease my constipation I’ve tried incorporating yoghurt in my diet (which helped a bit) but stopped due to frequent skin break outs and a stomach bloat. As well as taking probiotic supplements, which didn’t seem to make a difference.

As time passed, I’ve ignored my digestive problems, telling myself that maybe my body takes a longer time to move the waste out of my bowels. But then as I commenced the 4 week yoga teacher training course, I’ve been going to the toilet to empty my bowels every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! AND SOMETIMES EVEN TWICE A DAY! It’s been an amazing feeling, where my stomach feels empty and at ease.

I haven’t changed my life style, diet, sleeping patterns, etc. The only new thing that was incorporated into my lifestyle this past week has been yoga practice (asanas and pranayama).  Five days of yoga in a row, practicing the asanas along with pranayama for minimum two (2) hours in the morning before lunch.

One might suggest it’s because I’ve been “exercising”, but the answer is no. I’m a freelance spinning instructor, teaching minimum of five 45 minutes classes a week. I “exercise” enough, thank you very much. Sure you can get an “exercise” out of yoga, but I’d say I’ve been moving my body a lot more in different angles and planes, twisting my body along with proper conscious breathing which probably massaged my colon internally, thus stimulating elimination.

Yoga really does purify your body, especially your colons. I look forward to continuing this regular practice (partly) for a happier digestive system. You know what they say, happy tummy equals happy me.

 

— Miso