Ow my Hamstrings!

Ow my Hamstrings!

Troubleshooting that strain in the hamstrings

 

You have probably experienced that nagging pain in their hamstrings before at some point of time in your life, or maybe even now! It’s a common phenomenon and it’s an uncomfortable and offsetting feeling.

Yoga practitioners may experience it after overstretching and people who lead sedentary lives may experience it from walking too long. Even among professional athletes, hamstrings are a huge cause of distress. Jurgen Klopp, the current manager of football club, Liverpool, mentioned in a viral press conference of his that its always the hamstrings that causes injury woes in the team.

Let us first take a look at how our hamstrings work. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of your thigh. These muscles originate from the sitting bones of the pelvis.

So what exactly causes a hamstring strain?

The main factors here are flexibility and strength. Imagine your hamstrings are like a rubber band. If they are inflexible, they can only be pulled apart a little before it snaps. If it is not strong enough, the rubber band will feel like it has no tension and when you try to use it, it will snap as well. If you have been stretching your hamstrings during yoga practice and feel a tender sensation coming from the sitting bones, it is likely that you have overstretched it. If you have been running or playing sports and feel like someone had hit you at the back of the leg, or it feels like the muscles going into spasm, its likely you have overworked and strained it.

So what can you do?

By strengthening your hamstrings, you can help prevent further and future strains or injuries to your hamstrings. Standing yoga poses such Warrior 1, Warrior 2 and Extended Side Angle can help as the front legs are bent and engaged. Hip extension poses like Bridge pose can help as well. In Bridge pose, the hips are lifted off the ground which is made possible due to the engagement of the hamstrings. During your self-practice, try to hold these poses help to build that quality isometric strength.

However, do take note that there are other factors such as fatigue that may also affect the likelihood of a hamstring strain. For example, if you are feeling tired, you will lose coordination of your muscles or the nerves in your muscles may not be working optimally and these lead to pulling of the muscles.

Hence it is important that on your journey to pain-free hamstrings, always remember that whenever you engage in any physical activity, do exercise caution and listen to how your body feels and not overwork them.

 

Namaste

Justin Chew

Love Yourself

Love Yourself

Yoga and Lifestyle

 

Dragging along a yoga mat along throughout the day while commuting around using public transport that is packed with people like canned food. Rushing off from work during lunch time or after work to the studio for yoga classes. Spending time on the weekends after a hard week at work, on the mat in the studio or at home. Excitedly talking about yoga with family, friends or colleagues during meals.

The above scenarios describe the surface view of the life of someone who has discovered yoga, enjoys it and looks forward to getting back on the mat. This might even be you.

If this is you, it looks like you have found something you love, something that you are passionate about. You see the physical benefits, you enjoy the sensation of loosening your muscles, de-stressing and getting away from work. You might even enjoy it for the community. You made friends, or you enjoy going to classes with friends and the post-class meals or drinks.

However, ultimately, on the mat whether you are alone at home or in class, what you are really doing is that you are spending well-deserved time on yourself. Through yoga, you’ve found a reason to spend time for yourself, on yourself. Even though in a class you might be surrounded with people, during your yoga practice you are focusing on your body, on your own mind.

Psychologists, neurologists and social scientists have long advocated the needs and benefits of spending time for yourself. Doing so helps you to reflect and think deeply. If you can spend time alone in solitude, it allows you to unwind, and rejuvenate your mind just like how sleeping helps your body recover from fatigue. The list of benefits goes on and you can find tons of reasons and resources as to why it’s so important with a simple internet search.

However, living in the modern era, in a modern city that is bustling with activity and where people seem endlessly occupied with work, where people just seem forever busy; it’s hard to really set time aside and dedicate it just for yourself. It’s easy to know what you should be doing but actually doing it is hard.

Discovering yoga helps an individual get a taste of how liberating it feels to be able to spend time on yourself. Once you get that taste, it will help you find reasons (doesn’t have to be physical asana practice) to spend those well-deserved minutes or hours on yourself throughout the day as part of your lifestyle. You understand yourself better, you have time to let your thoughts wander and let your creativity flourish. You learn you treat yourself, take care of yourself and love yourself.

So if you aren’t already spending time for yourself, now it’s the time to start loving yourself. 😊

 

Namaste

Justin Chew

How to squat: Malasana (Garland Pose)

Yoga Asana 101

How to squat: Malasana (Garland Pose)

You might have tried this pose in class and thought it was just a simple squat. However, if you had led a sedentary lifestyle that mostly involves in sitting at a desk all day, then its likely you would have realised that actually doing this pose or getting deeper into this pose is a great challenge.

Squatting is natural human body movement that even children can do it. You even might have recalled yourself squatting with ease when you were younger, so what happened along the way?

Squatting is a movement that involves a lot of muscles from your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back and your abdomen. It also requires flexibility in your ankles and mobility in your knees. Sitting in chairs all day to study or work over the years have caused us to lose strength and mobility in these muscles.

The full expression of the pose is to be able to sit upright while squatting deeply. This motion and position is also desired in weightlifters or strict power-lifters who squat with heavy weights, who quite humorously refer to it as “ass-to-grass” squats due to the depth of the squat that brings the butt close to the ground.

Here in Malasana, we are just using our bodyweight, so why is it so difficult? Let us try to diagnose the possible areas that might be an issue.

  • a. You starting position is wrong

Feet should be hip-width distance part with the feet slightly pointed outwards. This is to allow room for motion downwards and to achieve that depth.

  • b. Knees

Your knees should be pointed outwards as your lower yourself down. This creates external rotation from the hip as you go downwards which engages the pelvis and helps to keep the lower back neutral and stable.

  • c. Ankle Mobility

You may find that you cannot lower yourself without compromising something else such as having to bend forward and deviating from the desired neutral straight back or upright back. You may then have heard of the cue of going on your tip toes and magically you find that you can go a bit lower or a stay upright. So what exactly has your ankle has to do with this? It is the mobility in your ankles. In technical terms, it is the ankle dorsiflexion or how far your ankle can be flexed that allows your knees to travel forward when you squat. Poor ankle dorsiflexion causes your hips to overcompensate and hence the natural movement of having to lean forward and losing that neutral spine.

What can I do?
Getting your starting position and the motion to get into the pose down is something you can fix right now and is easy but improving your ankle mobility permanently isn’t something that can happen overnight but we can work towards that. Here are some stretches you can do to improve your ankle mobility.

  • – Flexing against the wall

  • -Lunges with weight forward on the ankles

  • – Another alternative would be to simply squat on the balls of your feet and then using a thick towel, place it underneath your heels to elevated it. Folding your mats to elevate your heels work as well. This is a temporary fix but will at least get your alignment right.

How to deepen the pose?

Whether you choose to elevate your heels with an object or not, allow your heels to make contact with the ground or towel underneath it and press down through the heels. This will allow your hips to achieve that depth and if your ankle is mobile or elevated enough, you should feel very grounded, balanced and stable. Here you can focus on your inhalations and exhalations to lengthen the spine and opening the chest to achieve that beautiful full expression of the pose.

 

Have fun squatting,
Justin Chew

Yoga’s Forgotten Ethical Practise – Yama and Niyama

Yoga’s Forgotten Ethical Practise – Yama and Niyama

Astanga refers to the eight limbs of yoga, a fact that is often overlooked in the modern practise of yoga. The idea behind the eight limbs is that when all are practised, they provide a practical guideline to living happily whilst we progress and grow internally, drawing our awareness and consciousness inwards to our internal self. The limbs enable the union between the individual self and universal consciousness and are as follows:

  1. Yama – social awareness and ethics.
  2. Niyama – personal ethics.
  3. Asana – postures, so that the body is flexible and strong and is not an obstacle in meditation.
  4. Pranayama – breathing.
  5. Pratyahara – withdrawing the mind from pursuit of thought leading to profound relaxation.
  6. Dharana – focus & concentration.
  7. Dhyana – meditation.
  8. Samadhi – complete absorption.

Whilst the limbs are not necessarily linear and can be worked simultaneously, to progress our body, mind and spirit, we must master the preceding limb to fully advance into the next limb. Commonly we see many modern yoga practitioners focussing only on the 3rd and 4th limbs, being the physical asanas and the pranayama, with little or no attention given to Yoga’s ethical practise which are the aspects of Yama and Niyama.

Yama is our awareness towards society and those with whom we must try to coexist in a peaceful manner; social ethics towards other people and peoples. It is the practise of developing healthy and harmonious relationships with others. Non-violence (ahimsa) is the first and foremost of the ethics. The other ethics are truthfulness (satya), honesty/non-stealing (asteya), moderation of the senses and self-restraint; proper use of our energy (brahmaccarya) and non-possessiveness (aparigraha). All are key aspects to be understood and mastered by the yoga practitioner.

Niyamas are our personal ethics, self-observation and self-discipline (tapas) which we need to live a balanced life. In developing positive habits and personal ethics we can properly take care of ourselves in terms of body (sauca), mind (svadhyaya) and the external environment. In so doing we achieve a sense of calm and inner contentment (santosa) as the associated physical, mental and spiritual (isvarapranidhana) stimulation all contribute to our personal growth.

Without giving sufficient attention and awareness to these essential foundations of Yama and Niyama, we cannot fully grow and progress through the other limbs of yoga as we are still too distracted by the external world and the distractions of satisfying our five senses.

Lisa Harte – Tirisula 200 TT Blog 3 – 24th May 2017

A Woman's Cycle and Yoga's Place In It

I am one of those people who pays close attention to their cycle as the changes that occur to my mood, appetite, skin, motivations and energy levels throughout the month can be quite dramatic. To help manage this, I keep a journal to track the ebbs and flows, and often plan important meetings around my cycle to ensure they coincide with high points in my confidence levels and sociability. It sounds like a lot of work, but I have found that this works really well for me. Given that yoga is beginning to play a bigger part in my life as well, I was keen to delve deep into this topic to identify the sequences and poses that work best at different junctures of my cycle. For those keen to read more on the topic, The Woman’s Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for all Phases of the Menstrual Cycle by Iyengar teacher, Bobby Clennell, proved to be an amazing resource.

Let’s start from day one of the cycle when menstruation starts and we would rather be lying down at home in a foetal position…

 

Day 1 – 5: Menstruation

Estrogen and progesterone have hit rock bottom, and the lack of the latter causes your uterus to work overtime as it sheds the uterine lining. The contractions from the uterus can cause discomfort, sometimes in the form of painful cramps. In short, hitting the mat is often the last thing on your mind.

While it is advised to avoid intense twisting poses (as these can interfere with the abdominal organs), inversions (as these disturb the natural flow of menstruation) and forceful breathing techniques (as these tighten and overwork the abdomen area), there are restorative poses that you can do at home to give your body the rest it needs and ease the discomfort.

 

Mandukasana (Frog pose)

This pose opens up the hips, the groin and inner thighs, helping with blood circulation to the area. To keep this as relaxing as can be, use a bolster or a pillow to support your torso.

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclined Butterfly Pose) against the wall

This pose opens up the groin and stimulates blood circulation in the region. Keep it relaxed by placing your bum as close as possible to the wall and resting the legs against the wall.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

This restorative pose releases tension in the glutes, lengthens the spine and provides the inner space for the mind to relax. Rest the forehead to the ground and just breathe – taking those long deep breaths will help with overall circulation and relax the body completely.

 

Day 1 – 13: The Follicular Stage

Once menstruation begins, the body is simultaneously commencing its preparations for the rest of the cycle. The pituitary gland releases the follicle stimulating hormone that triggers the maturing of an egg in the follicles within the ovaries. By week two, estrogen increases dramatically, peaking towards the end of the follicular stage. As estrogen increases during the second week of the cycle, energy levels increase and mood improves. The slight spike in testosterone also causes sensual desires and competitiveness to increase.

With all-round feel good vibes, this is a great time to embark on your practice as per normal, although it remains important to pay close attention to your body and its warning signals as we may try to push ourselves beyond our physical limits at the peak of this stage. Interestingly, the Iyengar tradition pays some attention to the post-menstrual stage as well, encouraging women to transition slowly and take some time to build up energy instead of jumping straight into their usual practice. These are some of the poses that you can try to focus on during the first few days post-menstruation.

 

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)

Stretches and strengthens at the same time, providing your body the opportunity to both relax and reenergise after the period of lull. Hold the pose for several minutes to enjoy its full benefits.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)

Helps to concentrate blood flow to the upper torso and head, fighting any latent fatigue that you may feel and awakening the mind.

Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand)

In addition to circulating blood flow back to the upper torso and head, this powerful pose also stimulates the pituitary gland which releases the follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, providing natural support to your menstrual cycle.

 

Day 14 – 28: The Ovulatory and Luteal Stages

Somewhere in the middle of the menstrual cycle, the pituitary gland releases the luteinizing hormone which aids in the release of the matured egg from its follicle. This coincides with the peak in estrogen and testosterone levels. Once ovulation has occurred, however, estrogen levels dip noticeably and a new hormone is introduced: a temporary endocrine structure in the ovaries, called corpus luteum, releases progesterone to help prepare the uterus for the implantation of a fertilised egg. Progesterone has a sedative effect and its introduction during the third week of the cycle is usually the time when brain fog and lethargy occurs. Combined with the dip in estrogen, you may also feel blue and irritable, even though it isn’t quite time for PMS yet. Towards the 23rd day of the cycle, estrogen enjoys a spike corresponding with the peak in progesterone – nature’s way of encouraging pregnancy to occur. Levels of both estrogen and progesterone then fall steadily throughout the fourth week, eventually marking the start of the next cycle with the onset of menstruation.

Suffice to say, the second half of the cycle can be a rollercoaster of emotions, moods and energy levels given the hormonal changes that take place. Every woman experiences different symptoms, and these can range from psychological symptoms, such as irritability and lack of focus, to physical symptoms, such as soreness in the breasts and migraines. I, for one, feel quite down and fatigued when progesterone levels start to increase, and experience dramatic mood swings and irritability as I get close to the end of the cycle. The poses listed below can help in easing some of these, but it is important to note that symptoms can change from month-to-month as external factors also play a big part, so the poses that you adopt during your pre-PMS and PMS stages need to be tweaked according to how you’re feeling in that moment.

 

Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)

This restorative pose has a soothing effect on the nervous system and can help to stabilise emotions. The chin lock also encourages blood flow to the chest and neck regions, making this a useful pose to work towards in your practice if you are experiencing breast tenderness.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Fold)

Due to the compression of the abdominal organs in this forward fold, coming out of the pose results in a rush of blood to the general region. If you are experiencing bloating, introduce this pose and a few other forward folds into your sequence for the day.

Svasana (Corpse Pose)

We all have those dark and stormy days where our mood takes a plung
e. On days like these, take some time to treat your body and your mind to a moment of complete relaxation and quiet. This is a difficult pose to get into on your own, but there are plenty of guided yoga nidras on YouTube that you can use to set the tone for the first five to ten minutes. 

 

With metta,

Ailin (200h YTT April – June 2017)

The Terminology of Movement

Having a solid understanding of muscles, their movements and function in relation to yoga poses is essential to better understanding the movement of the body and the relationship between the muscles, the tendons and the skeletal structure. This knowledge is invaluable in helping to prevent injury to oneself or students during practise.

There is a common language of terms used in the sport and medical fields which describe the movement and the resulting action of the muscles. Below are the more common terms in use with a brief description of the movement.

Abduction: this describes the moving of a body part away from the mid-line of the body or from another part of the body.

Adduction: this describes the moving of a body part towards the mid-line of the body or towards another part of the body.

Extension: this describes the action of straightening a body part.

Extensor: this refers to any muscle that extends (straightens) a body part away from the body.

Flexion: this describes the action of bending of a joint.

Flexor: this refers to a muscle that reduces the angle between two bones for example bending the arm at the elbow or raising the thigh towards the stomach.

Retraction: the describes the movement of a body part in the posterior (backwards) direction. For example when the shoulder blades (scapular bones) are pulled back.

Protraction: this describes the movement of a body part in the anterior (forwards) direction. This is the opposite of retraction.

Rotator: a group of muscles that enable the rotation of a joint. For example, the hip and the shoulder.

Vertical plane: the imaginary vertical line that runs from head to toe when standing upright.

Lateral: this describes an area on the side of the body or a sideways movement. For example, to describe something located on the sides or extending towards the sides, away from the body.

Medial: this describes an area located on the middle of the body or extending towards the middle of the body.

Profile: to view a part of the body from the side.

Neutral position of the spine: this refers to a position of the spine that resembles an S-shape when viewed from the side (in profile).

Isotonic: these are contractions that cause the muscle to change in length as it contracts to cause movement in the body part. The two types of contraction are Concentric and Eccentric.

Concentric: this type of contraction causes the muscle to shorten as it contracts and is the most common type of contraction. For example, bending the elbow from straight to fully flexed causes a concentric contraction of the Biceps Brachii muscle.

Eccentric: these contractions are the opposite of concentric contractions and occur when the muscle lengthens as it contracts. For example, when kicking a ball, the Quadriceps contracts concentrically to straighten the knee whilst the Hamstrings contract eccentrically to slow the motion of the lower leg.

Isometric: these are contractions that occur when there is no change in the length of the contracting muscle. For example, holding still in Utthita chaturanga dandasana pose (extended/high Plank). The muscles of the core, back, legs and arms are all engaged to hold the position but without causing any movement of the limbs or joint. This strengthens and stabilizes the muscles being used.

Lisa Harte – Tirisula 200 TT Blog 2 – 19th May 2017

The deceptively simple Janu Sirsasana

To make up for my lack of knowledge on all things yoga, I’ve been borrowing related books from the National Library and just reading through them before I go to bed. One book that I’ve found extremely useful is “Ashtanga Yoga – Practice & Philosophy” by Gregor Maehle. It has detailed explanations of each and every asana in the primary series and really helps the reader to appreciate the logic behind the design and sequencing of the poses. I found it a very good complement for our classes and would highly encourage you to borrow it if you have a chance (there are several copies available at the libraries).

One of the more accessible poses in the Ashtanga primary series is Janu Sirsasana. I am almost certain that you will find a variation of this pose done in non-yoga fitness classes and even by the casual athlete. As an athlete but not-quite-yogi myself, I’ve always found it curious as to why we have so many versions of what seems to be a simple pose. Well, it appears that the mechanics behind Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C are actually a little different *gasp*

Let’s start with Janu Sirsasana A. This is essentially a combination of Paschimottasana on one leg and Baddha Konasana on the other leg. This means that the sole of the foot of the bent leg needs to be facing upwards, so that the knee is protected as we fold forward into the pose. We also want to try to place the heel as close to the groin of the same leg, so that the entire unit (thigh+knee+calf+foot) can move easily as a single unit, again protecting the knee. As positioned, the femur of the bent leg is laterally rotated. As we fold forward, this femur would start to rotate medially. If we had not positioned our foot correctly before folding (i.e. most beginners), this process could strain the knee.

Janu Sirsasana B is slightly different. Instead of a plantar flexed foot as in A, the foot is of the bent leg is dorsiflexed. This is actually the more natural (i.e. wrong) positioning of the foot used by beginners (i.e. myself) attempting Janu Sirsasana A. For B though, we are going to scoot our butt forward so we’re sitting on the sole (not the heel only; I apologize to those in this morning’s class). Due to the angle of the sole, it’s actually easier to fold forward (for me, at least) and you would notice that unlike before, the femur starts to rotate laterally as you do so. It feels almost like a weird form of Vajrasana on the bent leg as we fold forward.

In Janu Sirsasana C, both the foot and the toes of the bent leg are flexed. It is easier to get the foot in position first, and then scoot forward so that the heel is pressing into the groin of the straight leg. The femur will start to rotate medially as this happens and actually, you will notice that the angle between the thighs in Janu Sirsasana C is naturally smaller than in Janu Sirsasana A. This is anatomically correct. Again, we will proceed to fold forward but unlike in Janu Sirsasana B, we will continue to medially rotate the femur of the bent leg as we deepen the pose.

In terms of purpose and benefits, we can now see that each Janu Sirsasana variant opens the hips slightly differently as the poses are deepened. Also for Janu Sirsasana B, the heel presses into the you-know-what of guys and is therefore therapeutic for the male reproductive system. Correspondingly, Janu Sirsasana C, where the heel presses into the uterus, is especially therapeutic for the female reproductive system.

Isn’t it amazing how the Ashtanga primary series was developed! It’s a pity how commercial yoga classes are getting shorter and shorter so teachers have less and less time to go into such precious details. Let us all hope that this depth of knowledge isn’t lost as time passes.

Namaste.

Allyson

Paschimottanasana

Seated forward bend

Intense stretch to the west side of the body (the back of the body)
Paschim = west; uttana = stretched out; asana = pose

B.K.S Iyengar also refers to the pose as:
Brahmacharyasana: brahmacharya = religious study, self restraint and celibacy.
Ugrasana: ugra = formidable, powerful and noble.

How to do the pose

Sit up with a straight spine, straight legs and feet flexed (dorsal flexion). Inhale, raise the arms (shoulder flexion) and stretch spine upward.

Exhale, fold forward (hip flexion) and stretch the arms forward. Lift the sternum and aim the chin towards the toes (not head to knee). Hold the toes (or shins if the toes cannot be reached).

Inhale, lift the head and sternum, further elongate the spine – leaning forward from the hip joints (not the waist). Exhale, pull with the hands (dorsiflexing the ankles) and lower head down.

Repeat 2-3 times, holding for 5 breaths each time.
Inhale and lift torso (hip extension) to finish.

Further alignments/deepening the pose

Activate mula bandha after exhaling and pull navel to spine
Lengthen tailbone away from back of pelvis
As the pose becomes easier: hold the big toes, then the soles of the feet, then clasp the hands, then try to hold the wrist with the opposite hand.
Actively statically stretch the hamstrings by contracting the quadriceps, iliopsoas and biceps.
Stretch the gastrocnemius by contracting the quadriceps to extend the knees.
Use the breath to help surrender into the pose – try to relax and release the muscles.

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Teach yoga to the academics!

 The 8 limbs of yoga are the lighthouse of a yogi’s life. They aim to guide the yogis to self-realization through connection with the Divine.

  • Yama = Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-greediness), Brachmacharya (sexual urge control), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
  • Niyama = Saucha (purity), sattva (gratitude), tapas (discipline), Swadhyaya (connect with oneself and with the divine), and Ishwara-pranidha (surrender to the Lord)
  • Asana = Comfortable pose
  • Pranayama = Mindful breathing
  • Pratyahara = Withdrawal of senses
  • Dharana = Focus
  • Dhyana = Meditation
  • Samadhi = Nirvana

Self-realization is difficult to reach and requires very dedicated practice, often difficult with the rapid modern daily rhythms. However, by practicing the limbs of yoga one can become a better person, grow his inner light and spread it to the people around him

 Curious by nature, I grew up to become a scientist; I like asking questions that are difficult to answer and digging into their possible answers. I have always been encountering academics in my post-graduate path. When I was a kid, I admired them. I thought that they are wise people, mentors to their students, leading by example. I was expecting that academics would be pioneers in spread their light of knowledge to their students.

It was shocking enough for me to realize that a big number of them are not leaders but bad managers. From the comfort of their chair, they only want MORE and BETTER from their students, offering no or very little help and guidance. Specifically, PhD students are cheap working hands and they are also dependent on their Professor to obtain the much-wanted PhD. These are tortured the most with unrealistic deadlines, lies, shouting, lack of interest and inhumane working hours. The result? An ill-driven study, un-reproducible results, disgust for science and probably a psychological trauma to the student. These academics usually collaborate with other teams only to get as much as they can for them. They rarely offer help and are very possessive with their research. Given the chance they even steal other researchers or their students’ intellectual property.  Can’t academia be better than that?

 Getting to learn about the 8 limbs of yoga in my 200hr teacher training, I thought: If only these academics embraced at least a few of these pillars! For example, if they practiced more ahimsa, they would be less outrageous and mentally violent to their students. Practicing satya and asteya, they would focus on good quality research and not on competitive politics and on using all possible means to their one and only aim: a high-impact journal publication. A serious publication would be the result of a true and dedicated work, of collaboration and not competition within and between academic teams. I mentioned that they often change their mind and plan, driving the people working for them crazy! This is because of many external distractions; social media, news, emails, letting them know about a fancy new method. They then think: “Why them and not me? How can I be first? Let’s try this…and that…and the next…”, only to come to change it again after a few days. Practicing pratyahara and dharana would help to avoid this confusion.

In conclusion, I think that the academic field can deeply benefit from practicing the 8 limbs of yoga. Many academics are usually quite repelling to anything that has to do with spirit and the divine; they only believe in numbers and logic…ironically ending up acting so irrationally! Organizing yoga seminars once per week in the academic institution or university, would transfer this knowledge to scientists and would possibly change some of their behaviors to the better.

 

EC (200hr Yoga Teacher Training, April-May 2017)

Yoga to kick-start your day

I came to the 200hr yoga teacher training by Tirisula yoga because I was interested in deepening my asanas and learning how the yoga lifestyle can improve everyday life. I have not completed my training yet and I have already noticed positive changes in my life after introducing some yogic rituals in my daily routine. In the training, we have been taught to wake up a bit before sunrise and cleanse the nostrums using the ‘jala neti’ technique. Then proceed with active Kapalabhati breathing to cleanse the skull from the night’s dreams. Continue with Nauli – the intestine cleansing technique and finish with a series of asanas. This sounded like a lot for me, who I never woke up before 8. In the yoga teacher training that I so much wanted to follow, I learned that my life will be drastically improved if I do something that seemed a bit awkward and – I admit – useless to me. Why not just perform some asanas after I come back from work and be done with my daily practice? Despite my second thoughts, I did not let my logic be the judge again. I trusted my teachers and I decided to push myself wake up between 6 and 7 (not too early still) and start my day with the above ritual.

I have been practicing this ritual for 4 weeks and I am astonished by its positive effects on the rest of my day! Cleaning my nose in the morning in this natural way leads to balanced breathing and opens my mind. After I complete the whole practice, I am very awake, in a positive mood and I feel that I have increased energy for the day, compared to the past. I start my day thinking of yoga. Connecting with my feelings and with my body. So far, apart from the high mood that I experience, I have seen two more improvements:

  • At my office, during work, I am happy, because I had a great beginning of the day. My ideas flow, my energy stays high and I am much more productive than I used to be. In the event of a difficult task, I am far less stressed than I used to be. If I cannot finalize the task one day, however hard I try, I don’t fall desperate (as I used to). I just accept that I am just not there yet – like for a yoga pose: we need to make space to allow this pose to happen. In the past, I was getting very frustrated when I could not get into a pose. This has changed over the past month… I work in research, so there are rarely strict deadlines. Effective work is based on self-motivation. In moments of no inspiration, I just take a break and let the problem brew inside me. One of the coming days I easily see the solution right in front of my eyes! I honestly attribute this ability to my morning openness and awakening of all my senses.
  • I have always had a problem with expressing myself. Things often get very complicated in my mind and I cannot find the correct words to say what I think. I feel very ashamed about this. My relationships with friends and colleagues are affected. I have noticed a small improvement during the last month. Since I take time in the morning to listen to myself, I feel that I successfully take the first step towards expressing myself verbally. I usually feel embarrassed or ashamed of my emotions, or hide them completely. During and after the morning yogic ritual, I have a good perception of how I feel and what I think. I cultivate ‘mindfulness’. This comes by listening into my mind and into my body. It is amazing what I have learned from paying attention to the parts of my body that are tensed, and which I ignored before.

 

I am very grateful for the positive changes I experience in my life through yoga. I see that I become more true to myself and true to others, and I cherish this. I am looking forward to all the rest goodies that this start in my day will bring to me as I continue doing it!

 

Eleni C. (200hr Yoga Teacher Training, April-May 2017)