Impact of Our Warriors

Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)

Practising this asana brings a whole host of benefits: It strengthens your spine & back muscles and relieves backache, lumbago and sciatica. Tones the abdominal muscles. Relieves acidity and improves digestion. Strengthens the bladder and corrects a displaces uterus. Relieves pain and heavy flow during menstruation.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
    Front leg Back leg
Extension, slight rotation for chest to face forward, pelvis level

 

Scapular abduction and upward rotation, shoulder abduction and external rotation, slight elbow flexion, forearm supination SI joint nutation, hip flexion, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion and foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To extend spine:

Spinal extensors

To rotate chest forward:

Internal oblique (front leg side); external oblique (back leg side)

To prevent hyperextension at lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

To support weight of head as neck extends:

Rectus capitis, longus capitis and colli, verticalis, scalenes

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To abduct and upwardly rotate scapula:

Serratus anterior

To supinate forearm:

Supinator

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), middle deltoid

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction
To resist tendency to widen knee (abduct at hip):

Gracilis, adductor longus and brevis

 

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

To level and center pelvis over feet and to maintain balance side to side (the narrower the stance, the more active and long these muscles need to be):

Gluteus medius and minimus; piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend hip:

Hamstrings at hip joint, gluteus medius (posterior fibers), adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of

foot

 

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner

foot:

Peroneals

 

 

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

This pose exercise your limbs and torso vigorously, reducing stiffness in your neck and shoulders. It improves your breathing capacity by expanding the chest. Alleviates the condition of a slipped disc, reduces fats around the hips and relieves lower backache. This pose also makes your knee and hip joints more flexible.

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
  Front leg Back leg
Neutral spine, slight rotation for chest to orient to side, head rotated to face front leg, pelvis level Scapular abduction, shoulder abduction and external rotation, forearm pronation

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and abduction, knee flexion, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, hip extension and abduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion, foot supination at heel and pronation at forefoot

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Alternating concentric and eccentric contractions Concentric contraction Concentric contraction
To maintain neutral alignment of spine:

Spinal extensors and flexors

To rotate chest to side:

External oblique (front leg side); internal oblique (back leg side)

To rotate head toward front leg:

Rectus capitis posterior, obliquus capitis inferior, longus capitis and colli, splenius capitis

(front leg side); sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius (back leg side)

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction Passively lengthening
To abduct scapula:

Serratus anterior

To stabilize and abduct shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, biceps brachii (long head), deltoid

To pronate forearm:

Pronator quadratus and teres

Pectoralis major and minor (particularly

in back arm)

 

Lower limbs
Front leg Back leg
Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

Concentric contraction

 

Eccentric contraction

 

To abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus

 

To abduct hip and allow hip flexion without collapsing into gravity:

Gluteus maximus, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To allow hip and knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion without collapsing into gravity:

Hamstrings at hip joint, vastii, soleus, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot

 

To extend and abduct hip:

Gluteus medius and minimus, hamstrings at hip joint, piriformis, obturator externus, superior and inferior gemellus

To extend knee:

Articularis genu, vastii

To maintain arches of foot without inhibiting dorsiflexion of ankle:

Intrinsic muscles of foot

To support inner knee:

Gracilis

To allow outer ankle to lengthen without collapsing inner knee or inner foot:

Peroneals

 

 

 

Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3)

One of the favourite poses to improve balance and focus. Teaches body awareness and proprioception as you learn to adjustment your body. Additionally, this asana strengthens the legs, arms, back and core muscles.

 

Skeletal joint actions
Spine Upper limbs Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Neutral spine or axial extension

 

Scapular upward rotation, abduction, and elevation; shoulder abduction; elbow extension

 

SI joint nutation, hip flexion and adduction, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

SI joint counternutation, neutral hip extension and rotation, knee extension, ankle dorsiflexion

 

Muscular joint actions
Spine
Concentric contraction
To maintain alignment of spine:

Intertransversarii, interspinalis, transversospinalis, erector spinae

To prevent anterior tilt of pelvis and overextension of lumbar spine:

Psoas minor, abdominal muscles

Upper limbs
Concentric contraction
To upwardly rotate, abduct, and elevate scapula:

Upper trapezius, serratus anterior

To stabilize and flex shoulder joint:

Rotator cuff, coracobrachialis, pectoralis major and minor, middle deltoid, biceps brachii

(short head)

 

To extend elbow:

Anconeus, triceps brachii

 

Lower limbs
Standing leg Lifted leg
Concentric contraction Eccentric contraction Concentric contraction
To keep knee in neutral extension and balance on single leg:

Articularis genu, quadriceps, intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of foot and lower leg

 

To control hip flexion:

Hamstrings

To allow lateral shift of pelvis over standing foot

for balance and to keep

pelvis level:

Gluteus medius and minimus, piriformis, superior and inferior gemellus

 

To maintain neutral hip extension and rotation:

Hamstrings, adductor magnus, gluteus maximus

 

 

 

Reference:

Yoga Anatomy-2nd Edition-Human Kinetics (2011) by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews

The Path to Holistic Health by BKS Iyengar Yoga

 

 

 

 

Making An Effort to Calm Our Mind.

Yoga Philosophy – What I’ve learnt

I have always thought that Yoga was a slow and peaceful exercise to test your flexibility.
I first tried a yoga class with a friend in Oct 2019 and found myself weekly going back to the mat. I have always enjoyed the release of tensions in my body and calming the chaos inside my head after each lesson. Bringing the attention to myself and being aware of the present. This “being present” speaks about Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal). Pratyahara is the fifth limb of the Eight Limbs Of Ashtanga/Raja Yoga.

  1. YAMA- DISAPPEARANCE OF ALL SUPPRESSIONS
  2. NIYAMA- FREEDOM FROM ALL OBSERVANCES
  3. ASANA- STEADY AND COMFORTABLE POSE
  4. PRANAYAMA- EXPANSION OF VITAL ENERGY, PRANA
  5. PRATYAHARA
    WITHDRAWAL OF THE SENSES FROM OBJECT AND SUBJECTS AND MOVING CONSCIOUSNESS INWARDS
  6. DHARANA
    MIND FIT FOR CONCENTRATION
  7. DHYANA MEDITATION
  8. SAMADHI SUPER-CONSCIOUS STATE

Practicing Pratyahara means to step back and examining ourselves. Withdrawing our senses to check our habits (eg. Simple things like slouching, not sleeping enough, over eating , drinking, smoking, focusing on the negative) that may be detrimental to our (mental) health and impeding our inner growth.

Sense withdrawal does not mean we switch off our senses but being present at the moment at hand, not worrying/anxious about the future, not easily distracted by the mind. Drawing the senses inward to bring attention to the inner world (ourselves) instead of expending energy exclusively on the outer world. For example, take our self-image, how we want to present ourselves to the world. How do I look? How do people see me? How do I want to be perceived? This kind of behavior exhausts a lot of our energy throughout the day. Being aware of how much attention we give the outer image and to reduce the energy wasted in creating it. Turn the focus inward we need to minimize outer disturbances/distractions, making an effort to calm our mind.

I wouldn’t say that I am completely good at being present and not distracted by the mind (or practicing Pratyahara) but I am still a work in progress. It is not an overnight recipe, it is a conscious effort and discipline to be better than yesterday.

Keep practising and don’t give up

Meditation to relieve depression

Depression is a mental health condition that presents many symptoms such as low mood that cannot be shaken off, loneliness, sadness, sleep problem, suicidal thoughts, anxiety & irritability which are the more common ones. If you have these signs for more than two weeks, you might have a depression disorder. As a natural alternative to anti-depressants, you may want to try practise meditation. It can help to you manage these symptoms if you know how to do it. If you make it a regular practice, it can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which can cause depression.

Through meditation, you will realise that you have more control over your mind and can cut through the dark cloud of depression to a place of balance, peace and joy. When you meditate, you can override the triggers stimulated from the prefrontal cortex (area go into overdrive when you are stressed) and the amygdala (fear region that triggers fight or flee when faced with danger). This explains why your stress levels fall.

There is more than one type of meditations that can help to relieve depression. You may want to try all and find one that suit you and your can practise regularly.

  1. Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating an attitude of love and kindness towards yourself and others.
  2. Mindfulness meditation is using your breath to create an anchor to keep bringing your attention back to the present moment and help with cognitive retraining.
  3. Breath awareness meditation uses the object of your breath to focus on, to help with mind training so as much as 15 minutes a day of focusing on inhaling and exhaling can yield mood benefits, including lessened emotional reactivity.
  4. Kundalini yoga incorporate chanting and specific techniques to manage fear, banish anger, and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Transcendental meditation uses sound or a personal mantra, often one or two syllables to anchor your attention.
  6. Body scan meditation involves focusing on different parts of your body sequentially. As you shift your attention to different parts of your body, you also focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.
  7. Walking meditation takes walking to another level. Aerobic walking with Buddhist meditation not only reduced depression but also improved flexibility and balance.

Let us focus on Kundalini yoga with mantra chanting to help relieve depression. WAHE GURU is a powerful mantra that take you from darkness to light, from ignorance to true understanding. It involves Kundalini energy to purify your past karma and to give you vitality. This is the mantra of ecstasy and it will remove loneliness, doubts, fear or confusion. By chanting this sacred mantra, you embody divine healing vibrations and raise your energy field to the vibration of Love.

Wahe Guru (pronounced “Wah-hey goo-roo”) Mantra

Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Jio

Meaning

Wahe is the statement of awe and ecstasy.
Guru is the one who brings us from darkness to light.
Wahe Guru is an expression of complete ecstatic awe of the Divine.
Wahe Jio is great beyond description is the experience of God Blessing the Soul.

Steps to meditation

  1. Sit in Ardha Padmasana (half lotus pose) or Sukhasana (easy seated pose). Apply a light neck lock.
  2. Hold out your hands in a reverse prayer mudra from your chest. Keep your thumbs separated and your fingers pressed against one another, creating pressure on the back of your hands.
  3. Focus your eyes at the tip of your nose.
  4. Take a few long, deep breaths in and out of the nostrils to prepare yourself.
  5. Inhale deeply and chant Wahe Guru mantra 10 times as you breathe out. One complete cycle should take 20-25 seconds.
  6. Try this for 10 minutes and gradually build to 30 minutes.

Besides meditation, regular exercise including yoga asanas and pranayama can also help to ease symptoms of depression. It is good to choose an exercise that you enjoy and if possible, find a supportive partner or group to exercise with you.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Yoga Philosophy – Brahmacharya

The Yoga Sutras, also known as The Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Raja (King) Yoga, was the first fully developed by Patanjali around 400 CE (Common Era) and recorded system of yoga. The Eight Limbs of Yoga will introduce yogis to the basic of concepts of yoga philosophy which will greatly enhance the benefits of yogis practice and put him/her on the path to mindfulness & self-realization.

The first and second limbs, Yama and Niyama, form your foundation. Both lay the footing for awareness and realization to come. The focus of the first limb, Yamas, is on being an ethical and moral person, and on improving your relationship with the outer world. The Yamas are meant to help develop a greater awareness of one’s place in the world. When taking steps to transform our inner world, our outer world becomes a total reflection of this effort. There are 5 Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence
  2. Satya: Truth to be expressed in thought, word, and action
  3. Asteya: Non-stealing and non-covetousness
  4. Brahmacharya: Abstinence from sexual intercourse when not married, practicing monogamy and not having sexual thoughts about another person who is not your spouse
  5. Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-greediness

Let’s focus on Brahmacharya. It is believed that a life built on celibacy and spiritual studies done by free will increase energy and zest for life. If you are married or serious settling down with your soul mate, celibacy may sound like an unrealistic goal, but it may help to remember that brahmacharya is also about monogamy. When brahmacharya is fully realized in marriage, the sex lives of both partners improve because the level of trust and devotion deepens their connection. Sexual activity is an expression based on the highest level of mutual respect, love, selflessness, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the literally translation of Brahmacharya is ‘walking in the presence of the divine’.  In practical world, it means replacing superficial pleasure (e.g. smoking, fast food as comfort, drinking, etc.) with divine ones that fills us with aliveness.  In this sense, Brahmacharya requires the highest integrity and self-mastery – being honest in how you are connecting, with whom, and under what circumstance, so that your vital energies are utilized for transformation and not merely for entertainment.

Mindful living practice

How can you apply Brahmacharya to your everyday? It takes conscious self-reflection to become mindful of the ways in which you stray from the middle path. You can ask three questions below to help you become aware of situations and habits where you tend to take things to the extreme. Trying to ask the three questions below related to caffeine, alcohol, relationship, or anything that knocks you off balance and disturb your peace of mind.

  1. Where do I take things to the extreme through overindulgence?
  2. Where do I take things to the extreme through deprivation?
  3. How can I practise walking in the middle path in daily life?

Yoga does not ask you to avoid pleasure or giving up all the belongings and live in a cave in the hope of achieving non-existent spiritual perfection. In fact, it is actively encouraging you not to only avoid self-indulgence but also avoid self-denial. Why not let your intuition guide you to when you are straying from the middle path (such as over-eating or over dieting, etc) and mindfully bring yourself back by practicing Brahmacharya and treating your body as scared.

Pranayama

Your breath can use to quieten your nervous system and release your cravings for excess. Three-part breath, also known as Deergha Swasam, is a calming breathing exercise that allows you to breathe fully and deeply using your diaphragm. This helps to relieve tension, increase your supply of oxygen and calm the nervous system.

When I think of having a chocolate, I try three-part breath for five to ten minutes and it suppresses my craving as it is become more manageable along the way.

Three-part Breath technique

  1. Place your hands on your collarbones to feel the movement of the breath. You can be either lying on your back or in a seated position
  2. Breathing through your nose, into your belly and feeling it rise like a balloon. When you exhale, let your navel fall back towards your spine. Take five breaths like this.
  3. As you inhale, breathe into your belly fully. As you exhale, release from the ribcage first and then the belly. Take five breaths like this.
  4. This time, as you inhale, first feel your belly expand, then your ribcage, then your ribcage, and then fill your upper chest, expanding the areas around your collarbones.
  5. Exhale in reverse, from your upper chest, then from your ribcage and then from your belly. Take 10 to 15 breaths here, focusing on breathing smoothly and seamlessly.

Meditation

Meditation practice give you the chance to see when you are off balance. It is deeply somatic; fully grounded in the body and the physical sensations that arise. Anapana meditation is a simple practice that helps to calm and concentrate the mind by focusing on the subtle sensations of the breath.

Find your comfortable seated meditation position, close your eyes and breathe naturally and mindfully. Try to be aware of sensation of the breath around the nostrils and the upper lip and focus your attention here.

Observe any sensations that is happening. Notice the ordinary physical sensations that arises as you breathe. The coolness of the breath as it enters the nostrils, the heat on your upper lip as you exhale. You will feel a subtle tickling at the edge of your nostrils, tingling on the tip of your nose.

With your effortless gentle, loving awareness, observe the sensations like watching a sunset- no judgement, no expectations, no force. Always reminder to bring your awareness back to the sensations of your breath if you catch your mind trying to escape into the pastor future.

Practise the meditation from 5 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually, you will see your body begins to stop thinking obsessively and beginning to listen your breath & body to the quiet call of your heart.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Ah, the almighty backbend

Upward Bow Pose – Urdhva Dhanurasana

I still remember the first time I was introduced to upward bow pose during my Ashtanga Yoga class last year. Lying on my back, I tried to figure out the pose by observing other students. All of a sudden, the young lady next to me swiftly pressed herself all the way up and stayed firmly in the pose. The way she powerfully rose up and held the pose like a majestic mountain left me with astonishment until today. What a beautiful pose with the perfect curve of a bow shape! If you ask me what is one pose that embodies strength and flexibility, this is the pose.

Benefits of upward bow pose

As a deep backbend and chest opening practice, upward bow pose, or commonly known as wheel pose, is helpful to improve our overall health in modern life. With long hours spent sitting at the desk for work or study, we tend to lean the body forward, drop the shoulders and hunch the back. This can lead to undesired consequences such as bad posture, muscle tension, back pain and restricted breathing. While the good practice is to keep your self-awareness in maintaining a good body posture, practising backbend to stretch the spine in opposite direction proves to be a good way to counteract the hunched or slouched body posture. Not only upward bow pose can improve spinal mobility, it also strengthens the arms, shoulders, abdomen and legs. You can also benefit from the energy boost by practising this pose. Spiritually, by opening the chest, upward bow pose can help to activate heart chakra which serves as our center of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness.

Anatomical movement and muscles involved

  • Hip extension and adduction
    – Stretch all the muscles in the front side of the body by eccentric contraction (i.e. lengthening) of rectus abdominis, iliopsoas and quadriceps
    – Strengthen all the muscles in the back side of the body by concentric contraction (i.e. shortening) of erector spinae, quadratus lumborum and hamstrings
    – Concentric contraction of magnus, one of the inner thigh muscles
  • Shoulder external rotation
    – Concentric contraction of infraspinatus and teres minor (Note: Tightness of subscapularis can limit this movement)
    – Eccentric contraction of latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major
  • Posterior pelvic tilt

How to get into the pose?

  1. Begin by lying on your back. Bend your knees perpendicular to the floor. Make sure feet are parallel and hip width apart. Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor next to the ears with elbows pointing up.
  2. Press your feet into the floor and lift your hips up. Keep your thighs and feet parallel. Then, firmly press the hands into the floor and lift your shoulders up, leaving the crown of your head on the floor. Keep your arms parallel.
  3. Press your feet and hands into the floor. Lift your head up off the floor and straighten the arms. Gaze at your nose tip or in between the eyebrows. Stay in the pose for 5 breaths.
  4. To exit the pose, bend you elbows and tuck your chin into your chest. Slowly lower down your body. Follow up with a counterpose such as hugging knees to chest or seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana).

Tips 

  • Splaying knees and feet to the side will compress the lower back. To keep your knees and feet parallel and hip width apart, try squeezing a block between your thighs or pressing your feet against a block placed between them.
  • Engage your core muscles by lengthening rectus abdominis to create airbag for the protection of lumbar spine. This avoids hyperextension of the lumbar spine in backbend.
  • Aim to open your upper back more. Draw your chest towards the wall behind you. This allows the arms to carry more body weight to allow a leg to lift in one legged wheel pose.
  • Practise wheel walks to build the strength and learn to transfer the weight into one leg then the other.

Up for a challenge?

Here are a few options to advance and deepen the pose:

  • One legged wheel pose
  • Forearm wheel pose
  • Transitioning from wild thing to wheel pose
  • Transitioning from standing to wheel pose and the other way round by walking your hands down or up a wall behind you

Safety precautions

Practise upward bow pose at the end of yoga practice when you have sufficiently warmed up your body and opened your muscles.

Do not practise this pose if you have

  1. Injury with knees, wrists, shoulders, neck, or back
  2. Heart problems
  3. High or low blood pressure

My journey with upward bow pose

Although the pose may look intimidating for a complete beginner, I started to enjoy practising backbend after a few rounds of practice. Not only upward bow pose reminds me of the strength I have within myself, I can feel the beneficial effects of back bending and chest opening shortly after practising this pose. I am able to naturally come to a good body posture with open chest each time after practising this pose. This is much appreciated by someone like me who is so used to being in hunched or slouched body posture. The good effects stay beyond the physical body. Mentally, I feel happier and with the chest opened, I feel my heart is opened as well. I feel like letting everything come and go freely. Like the big sky, every cloud is free to come and go. The sky is big enough to accommodate anything that comes, but in the meantime, the sky is willing to let each of them go when they are ready.

As for my experience of practising this pose, I had trouble with keeping my knees and feet parallel before. As much as I reminded myself not to splay the knees and feet, I tended to point them out when I was lifting myself up off the floor. I only realized my problem after having looked at the photos and videos of myself doing this pose. I would suggest students to identify any possible misalignments in your pose by taking a picture or video of yourself in this pose from different angles. From the diagonal top-down view, you can clearly see if your feet and hands are parallel and in line with each other. From the side view, you can see if your shins are perpendicular to the floor and whether you need to straighten your arms more and push your chest forward more. From the diagonal bottom view, this is how you will be amazed at the almighty backbend standing tall like a mountain.

Remember, flexibility comes with consistent practice. 

 

With love,
Wei Li

Simple Yoga Poses to Make Your Cramps Feel Better

I’m sure many woman (like myself) would experience cramps or some discomfort during their time of the month. Doing exercise would probably be the last thing on our list. However, some yoga positions are so effective at relieving menstrual pain that once you attempt them, they can be integrated into your pain management routine!

According to Women’s Health Concern (2020), about 80% experience period pain at some stage in their lifetime. 5 to 10% of women suffer severe pain enough to disrupt their life. 40% of women experienced premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, tiredness, bloating, tender breasts.

There are 2 different types of period pain.

Primary dysmenorrhoea

  • Caused by the uterus contracting to shed its lining.
  • Common in teenage girls and young women.
  • Pain may be caused by the decreased supply of blood to the uterus.
  • Pain is mainly at the lower part of the abdomen but may go into the back and down the front of the thighs.
  • Some may feel nauseated as well.

Secondary dysmenorrhoea

  • Occurs mid-twenties or later.
  • It is unlikely to cease after childbirth.
  • Pain is not restricted to “time of the month” bleeding and can occur throughout the cycle.
  • Periods may become heavier and more prolonged, and intercourse may be painful.
  • Can be a sign of other conditions, including pelvic infections, which may need urgent attention (seek professional help).

 

Yoga Poses

Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Level: Beginner

Physical Benefits

  • Stretches the lower back muscles
  • Relieves tension in the spine
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue

Technique

  1. Sit on your knees, knees hip-width apart, toes together.
  2. Exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Rest on your forehead.
  3. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground.
    Stay here for 5 breathe or rest in the pose for as long as needed.

Yoga Poses

Supine Spinal Twist Pose (Supta Matsyendrasana)
Level: Beginner

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulate the blood circulation
  • Release tension in the muscles of the abdomen
  • Relieves menstrual discomfort
  • Improves spinal mobility

Technique

  1. Lie on your back
  2. Exhale, Hug your right knee in toward the right side of your ribcage
  3. Release your right knee to the left and if possible place in on the ground. Stretching your right arm straight out to the right. Your right hip should be stacked on top of your left hip.
  4. Inhale, Open your right arm to the right, to make a T shape with the arms. Palms facing the ceiling.
  5. Turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze over your shoulder to your right fingertips. You can skip this step if it does not feel comfortable on your neck.
  6. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
    Draw your right knee into your chest. Place both legs to the floor to neutralize your spine for several breaths.
    Repeat on the other side

Safety and Precautions

Avoid doing this pose if you have a recent or ongoing injury of your knees, hips, or back. There should be no pain when doing this pose.

Let’s feel better with the simple yoga poses!

 

Breathe your way to healthier looking skin & stress relieving life

What is Pranayama?
Pranayama is an ancient practice of controlling your breath.

Controling the duration, timing, and frequency of every breath and hold.

In Sanskrit, Prana = life energy, Yama = control

What is Anulom Vilom?

Anulom Vilom is a specific type of Pranayama/controlled breathing in yoga practice.
Inhale with one nostril closed, change side by closing the first nostril and exhale from the other nostril.
This process is reversed and repeated.

Anulom Vilom physical and mental health benefits

  • Mood lifting
  • Helps to focus
  • Relieve stress & anxiety
  • Maintain heart health, lowers heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves sinus
  • Removes blockages present in your nostrils thus minimises snoring
  • Improves immune system, keeping the cough and cold at bay
  • Removes toxins from your body
  • Good for skin
  • Helps with muscles aches

Most people can practice Anulom Vilom safely as there is no known side effects,
however do stop should you feel lightheaded or uncomfortable.

 

Why Anulom Vilom and not other pranayama?

I choose Anulom Vilom and integrate in my practice because it is easy, no need of holding of breath and retention.
You can do it anywhere as long as you can sit in a comfortable sitting position.
Personally, I have some sinus issues and I have seen some improvement after doing 5 mins for about a week. I find myself calmer and less stress and anxious at work.
I also noticed that my skin also look less dull!

How to practice Anulom Vilom?

  1. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, eyes closed, left hand resting on your knee.
  2. Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
  3. Close your right nostril with your thumb, inhale slowly and steadily with your left nostrils till your lungs are full.
  4. Release your thumb, close your left nostrils with your ring finger, exhale slowly with your right nostril.
  5. Reverse and repeat process, this time inhaling through the right nostril and exhaling through the left.

Try for about a minute for a start and slowly increase to 5-10minutes.
Best done on an empty stomach!

Plan a Yoga lesson with theme- Chakras

In the past 10 years, I attended many different yoga classes. Every yoga teacher has different styles of conducting lessons. At time, they will inform the class what will be the focus of the day such inversion or upper body poses, etc. However, they are some who prefer to monitor the energy in the class and plan on the spot.

Since I started my 200hrs Yoga Teacher Training (200YTT) course in June -2021, I am pondering if I can create a theme for every lesson that I conducting in the future. My first theme will be Chakras.

Write a little story about Chakras and why it speaks to you

There are 7 chakras (Sahasrara, Ajna, Vissudha, Anahata, Manipura, Svadhisthana & Muladhara). You can go through all the 7 chakras in an hour lesson by touching on each of them briefly. You may also want to select 1 or 2 chakras in a lesson so that you can go into details for the poses and breathing. It is important to explain the identity, elements and location of chakras,

To me, chakras is a chamber in the temple of the body that receives assimilates and transmits life force energy. It creates an inner roadmap for awareness in the body. When all chakras are aligned and tuned, energy flows freely. The chakras are a helpful way to think about modern-day spiritual ailments, metaphorical though that may be.

Chants, quotes, mantras or poems that connect

Quote

“Strength, love, courage, love, kindness, love, that is really what matters. There has always been evil, and there will always be evil. But there has always been good, and there is good now.”- Dr Maya Angelou

Bija mantra

  1. Sahasrara = Silence
  2. Ajna = Om or Ksham
  3. Vissudha = Ham
  4. Anahata = Yam
  5. Manipura = Ram
  6. Svadhisthana = Vam
  7. Muladhara = Lam

Phases or sentences to employ during the lesson

Opening

Chakras literally means a wheel or disc, that enables energy to flow through or around it at various speeds, different directions, with a center that is anchored to a fixed point. There are 7 chakras in our bodies. In our practice today, we’ll mediate on each one, connecting a pose to each chakra space and moving with the intention to allow energy to flow freely.

During movements

Think of the energy flowing from your root to your head. Breathe deeply, allowing it to flow freely in every part of your body. Nothing to be forced.

During pauses

While resting, we gain energy again. Rest, and tune in to the flow of your personal energy when your body is still.

**Remind the students about the chakras mantra.

Ending

Awareness of your chakras can start you on a path of self-discovery. Allow this knowledge to ignite your interest in self-study. The chakras are one more path to deeper self-knowledge.

Poses that work with chakra

Besides going into the poses below, you may want to warm up the students with 3 rounds of sun salutation A or sun salutation B.

(in sequence for each chakra)

  1. Muladhara (Coccyx) = Apanasana, Supta Padangusthasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Supta Virasana ending with Siddhasana
  2. Svadhisthana (Sacral area) = Baddha Konasana, Upavistha Konasana, Agnistambhasana (fire log pose), Eka pada kapotasana ending with Supta Baddha Konasana
  3. Manipura (Solar Plexus) = Standing side stretch, Virabhadrasana I, II & III, Viparita Virabhadrasana, Trikonasana ending with Ardha Chandrasana
  4. Anahata (heart) = Gomukhasana, Anahatasana, Parighasana 2, Ustrasana ending with Matsyasana
  5. Vissudha (Throat) = Sasangasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana ending with Karnapidasana
  6. Ajna (Brow) = Yoga eye exercise, Makarasana II, Pincha Mayurasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana ending with Bakasana
  7. Sahasrara (Cerebal cortex) = Paripurna Navasana, Purvottanasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana ending with Savasana

You can perform all the poses in one lesson or break them up into a couple of lessons. The above poses for each chakra are just some of the common ones. Some of the poses impact more than one chakras.

After the Savasana, don’t forget to give your ending phase to complete the lesson!

Tips when planning yoga lesson with theme

  • Write down how you want your students to feel end of your class. This will be the destined goal for the class.
  • Next write out your road map to reach the destinated goal. It should include a list of sequences, poses, music playlist, and quotes, etc. You may also use online template for theming yoga lesson.
  • Examine the road map and identify potential road bumps (such as pregnant student walk in to attend your lesson focusing on backbends, technical issue with music app, etc). Not forgetting to find alternative for those road bumps.
  • Lastly, smile and find contentment in the lesson even if events do not go according to your plan.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)

What is Urdhva Hastasana? 

It is literally translated to “Raise Hands Pose” aka “Upward Salute”. At time, it can be called Talasana (Palm Tree Pose) or Utthita Hasta in Tadasana (Mountain Pose with Arms).

To me, it is Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with both arms raise to the ceiling and palms together. It may sound like a simple pose but have you thought of the muscles you are engaging and how it benefits your well-being.

Benefit of Urdhva Hastasana

  • Reduces fatigue, anxiety and stress
  • Relieves back pain and sciatica
  • Realigns of posture when standing
  • Improves digestion and better bowel movement by compressing your digestive tract during stretching
  • Lubricates your joints better & healthier from the full body stretch (side of the body, spine, shoulders, armpits and abdomen)
  • Improve chest congestion by creating space in the lungs & chest during the stretch

How to move into Urdhva Hastasana

  1. Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides. Press your weight evenly across the balls and arches of your feet.
  2. As you inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and then up toward the sky. Both palms and fingers face each other, coming into prayer over your head. Straighten your arms completely, but do not lock the elbow joints.
  3. With an exhale, release your shoulders away from your ears to open the chest. Draw your front ribs in, toward your spine, and lengthen your tailbone toward the ground.
  4. Tilt your head back gently and gaze up at your thumbs.
  5. Hold the pose for up to one minute or 5 – 10 breathes. Breathe smoothly and it should be moving across the entire body. Lift up through the sides of your waist as you inhale. Soften your shoulders as you exhale.
  6. To release, exhale and sweep the arms back down to the sides of the body.

*Tips for beginner- You can practise the pose backed up against a wall. There will be a slight curve in your lower back but make sure your heels, buttocks, and shoulders touch the wall. Keep your head away from the wall, with your ears in line with your shoulders.

What muscles are you engaging?

Trunk

  • Erector spinae together with the muscles at the back helps to lift the spine and hold you upright.
  • Abdominal muscles together with the back muscle helps to support and balance the torso which draws the rib cage downward.

Shoulders and Arms

  • Lower trapezius depresses the shoulder downward.
  • Middle trapezius and rhomboids draw the shoulder blades towards the spine which helps to open up the chest.
  • Upper trapezius (back) and anterior deltoids (front shoulder) lifts the arm up to the ceiling.
  • Triceps straighten the elbows.

Pelvis and Legs

  • Psoas (front of the pelvis) flexes the thigh and glutei (buttock muscles) makes the thigh lengthen. The two muscles balance each other.
  • Muscle of the pelvic diaphragm are active to create Mula Bandha and tone the organs of the pelvis.
  • Quadriceps are shortened to straighten the knees.
  • Gastrocnemius balances the ankles on the feet.
  • Muscles on the top and bottom of the feet balance each other to ground the pose firmly.

My thoughts & experience of Urdhva Hastasana…

Urdhva Hastasna is a beginner standing pose involving shoulders, spine, knees and obliques muscle. When I practise and hold this pose after long desk-sitting time, I feel the stretch of my legs and elongate of my vertebra. This helps to relieve my stress, anxiety & back ache of long sitting. Not forgetting, it also improves digestion & bowel movements.

I feel the healing spiritually as it secures a connection with mother earth & allows free flow of energy. With that connection, it prepares me to move into other standing poses or deeper stretches/twists such as Uttanasana (Intense Forward Bending Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Utkatasana (Chair Pose), Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) etc with confidence and steadiness.

Try it and feel the power of this standing pose.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Yoga: My journey to a happier life

I came to practice yoga in 2019 when I wanted to have a better health. At that time, my health screening result was quite bad and it took me to a point that I should do something to improve my physical health, then yoga came to my mind. I signed up for a yoga package later.  

I had been practicing yoga on and off from then until late 2020, I started to practice regularly and I saw some positive changes in myself – physically and mentally.

  1. I am healthier – this has proved by my job as an assistant to mural artist. When I have to draw at site, I tend to stand for long hours. Previously, I had painful back and legs every time after I finished my work, but now, I have no pain at all and I am not easily get tired like I used to be. I am more productive – it’s just wonderful!
  2. I love my body even more – with yoga, I can see improvement in my body. I become more flexible and stronger. With the regular practice, I am able to do some poses that I was not able to do before and I don’t have to compete myself with anyone, it’s just myself. It’s a kind of development that I can see in my body. Also, after yoga classes, I feel good to eat healthy food and I opt to eat vegetarian more often. I feel that my body is much lighter when I eat Sattvic food.
  3. My mind is clearer – I easily get stressed and yoga helps me to relieve stress and anxiety. Being mindful with the practice, it helps me to stay present and enjoy the moment. It’s a kind of meditation to me. Especially, when I came to practice Yoga Teacher Training, I learned more about alignment and when I practice with correct understanding of the alignment, I have more body awareness and the practice become even more mindful and joyful.    
  4. Lastly, I am happier and just feel I can achieve what I want in life easier. From yoga philosophy I have learned, maybe it’s just because I am contented and grateful for what I already have.

I believe yoga will continue to give more benefits to me, so what I can do is…KEEP PRACTICING.