YTT at Tirisula

Here comes the last day of our YTT. 20 lessons over 10 weekends seemed long at the beginning, I can recall the feeling of physical tiredness and muscles soreness after the two lessons back in July. Now all the time has passed and we have completed the course in a blink of eyes!
I have learnt so much from the YTT. Not only improvement in performing asanas and building physical strength, also the new language to me – Sanskrit, the yoga theory, breathing techniques, meditation, body anatomy and more of the nature. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Master Sree, Master Paalu and Master Satya, for all the knowledge, lessons and experience you have shared with us. Not forgetting my dear friends in the YTT, Kristle, Fiona, Yousra and Neng Du, who had encouraged each other to improve ourselves, sharing information and helping each other during the entire course. All the lessons would not be as fun without you guys 😀 

When I signed up for the course, it was for my own improvement and I have no intention of teaching. But now, I wouldn’t mind to share what I know from yoga, how to improve our practice, helping and guiding through the practice. I also hope that I will learn more as the journey goes on. 

Yoga for Ultra Beginner

Towards the end of my YTT course, people around me, especially family and friends are getting excited and looking forward to have me in their yoga session. Even my mother-in-law reminded me that I must also be able to teach the elderly. This really gives me a *finger snap* moment in my head. During our very first Ultra Beginner Lesson planning, after observing other lesson plans prepared by my colleagues, I realised that my lesson plan may not be suitable for the elderly.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  • Getting yourself comfortable. Before start the practise, we may help the students to find their comfortable positions. Be aware of any physical conditions, injuries or medical conditions. If find difficulties sitting in Padmasana or Vajrasana, sit in simple crossed-leg, or whichever sitting position which is comfortable to them. If find troublesome to be on the ground, he/she may sit on a block, on firm cushion, or even on a chair. Come to a position where he/she can feel as though spine is lifted and sit up tall. When in table top position, you may also use towel to pad your knees.
  • Gentle deep breathing: Breathing exercise allow some time to calm ourselves down and establish concentration. With shoulder relax, focus on breathing, set a foundation and carving some time to explore body and breath. Allow breath flowing in and out within the body. Learn the right breathing technique.
  • Slow and gentle movement: While planning for a lesson, the main consideration should be the students capability, so that the lesson plan is able to help them. Simple body movements can be performed to warm up the body. It is not necessary to be intensive or to perfect the asanas. Introduce asanas with stability, preferably 3 to 4 limbs on the ground. As the practice has become regular, simple balancing pose with strength can be introduced. 
  • When conducting class, observe the students, be aware and practice with care! 

Transitions in Yoga!

Transitions make flows fun and dynamic. They help to create continuous movement that smoothly connects one pose to another. They allow for the body to experience fluidity that we may not in our busy everyday lives. I personally enjoy transitions a lot in Vinyasa Flows because it gives a creative touch and differentiates one flow from another.

However, many a times, we fail to appreciate the transitions themselves, often rushing through them or taking no notice of them. Well, it is no surprise since it may not feel as rewarding as the final pose itself or as relaxing as the next pose. Going from Chaturanga to Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), we find ourselves rushing through to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog) and then carelessly pushing back to downward facing dog so we can quickly rest, paddle our legs out and take a few more resting breaths. In another example, half-lifts are often neglected – we often just look upwards instead of straightening and lengthening our spine as we should – before jumping back to Chaturanga.

It takes effort, consciousness and awareness to accept and integrate all transitions properly in our practice, such that we can ultimately derive more satisfaction from our practice. With all this being said, I would like to highlight 2 different transitions that require attention and focus in order to facilitate proper execution and prevent injury.


Chaturanga -> Upward Facing Dog -> Downward Facing Dog

  • If done correctly, upward facing dog helps to open up your chest while engaging your legs. This helps you maintain an open chest during downward facing dog and prevent the pinching of shoulder.
  • How to do: on inhale, slowly press through arms and roll over the toes / flip them back. Arms should straighten without locking and biceps should roll forward to feel expansion across the chest. Collarbones should spread and shoulders should depress and retract. Actively press tops of fit and lift kneecaps, engage quads to prevent putting too much pressure/weight on the wrists.
  • If we rush through the pose and throw ourselves from Chaturanga to upward facing dog carelessly, it can lead to injury in shoulders, elbows, neck and lower back. We will also not be able to get the most out of the movement.
  • Alternative: Ashtanga Namaskar -> Cobra (Bhujangansana) -> Downward Facing Dog

 
One legged Closed hip posture -> One legged Open hip posture (vice versa)

  • Examples: Warrior 3 -> Half Moon, Half Moon -> Standing Splits
  • Common transitions in asanas that seem natural
  • Caution: One legged transitions from neutral to external (vice versa) results in combined compression (of cartilage – in moderation it is good) and shear (gliding force) that could create too much friction on the cartilage. The cartilage of the hip joint could diminish in volume and completely wear through and expose the bone. If it is missing, it can no longer interact with synovial fluid (a slipper lubrication) and the bone to bone friction increases. In long term, this could result in Labral tear, arthritis, and other degenerative joint problems.
  • How to counter:
    – Balance down the hip by putting down both legs then transition to the next pose.
    – Alternative B: Utthita Trikonasana -> Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana). This is a natural transition because the hip is already open and the weight is initially on both legs.
    – Alternative C (not as protective): Bend the standing leg and slowly straighten when opening the hip.

Why I sign up for YTTC 200h?

Prior this, I was initially planning to sign up for Yoga 200h when I reach 25 years old; 2 years later. The reason was I feel that I lacked experience because usually I attend yoga beginner classes in the gyms. I did not expect to take a big step to further my yoga practice.

Previously, I saw the requirements to other studios and usually requires or recommended to attend some yoga classes in the studio before attending the YTTC 2h. The mindset I had was I am not ready….

These are misconceptions I learnt after attending YTTC 200h:

1. You need to be flexible.
This is totally wrong. Flexible can be trained and developed by making adjustment and learning how to stretch the right muscles correctly to prevent injury. Definitely flexible cannot be achieved overnight, but with the right mindset and perseverance you will definitely improve!

2. You need to be practice at least 6 months.
Tirisula is a good place to learn even for beginners! The yoga instructors are friendly and give advices. Have a humble attitude and open mind to learn.

3. Yoga is religious.
Definitely this is so untrue! Yoga is practice by many religious. Yoga is not a religion. It is an ancient practice which has many health benefits. The asanas practice challenges me and purify the body. Kapalabahati is a good practice every morning to increase energy to start the day with positive energy.

4. Yoga is too expensive.
Yoga nowadays are accessible. Studios offering from $10/class via online streaming.YouTube is accessible to everyone and its FREE! There is no harm doing yoga at the comfort of your home but nothing beats practicing at the yoga studio with a yoga instructor correcting your posture!

5. Yoga is too slow.
I have one colleague who shared with me that she will never do yoga because its too slow for her. There are many variations of yoga classes. If you like heart pumping, maybe power yoga or flow yoga will be more suitable.

6. Older people cannot do yoga.
I have seen people who are in their 50s who are stronger than me! They can do inversions such as bakasana (crow pose) and sirsasana (headstand) effortlessly! Imagine your parent’s age doing things that are better than you. Never say it is too late to join yoga class.

Headed towards Ahimsa

I can remember the first time I attempted Sirsasana; Headstand.

I was both engulfed in awe and fear, I thought to myself ‘Wow that’s cool’, ‘I’m seeing the world from a completely different direction’, ‘Can my hands take all my weight’, ‘What if my hands give may and all my weight is dumped on my head and neck, will my neck break?’

In the years to come I did not attempt inversions, mostly because I was too afraid of weight distribution and arm strength, this all changed when I joining the Yoga Teacher Training Programme.

Why?, well, here we go, brace yourself, we had to do a headstand for 3 minutes.

For those who fell off the chair, I’m going to give you a minute to get back up.

Right, well you heard me right, headstand, 3 minutes, part of exam.

After numerous attempts and multiple thuds on the mat, I was left with neck pain, arm pain and feet pain, yes, lots of pain, therein lies my realization and lesson on Ahimsa.

What is Ahimsa and how is this connected to a headstand, will Ahimsa help me get a headstand right?

It may, but believe me, getting a headstand right is not the goal here, understanding and practicing Ahimsa towards ourselves and towards others is the Goal.

I know what you are thinking, hey dude, what is Ahimsa man?, you keep saying it, now explain it.

Ahimsa is the practice of not inflicting violence or injury and extending love to everyone and ourselves.

When I was attempting a headstand, I looked around me and saw that all my classmates were getting it right, I was the only one who was not getting it, so I pushed myself, i tried my best ti brave through the fear and then I tried to muster all the arm strength I had, I told myself that I absolutely have to get it done. In the end I only manged to get up for a few seconds, and then back down again with a thud.

I felt dizzy, my neck was hurting and my arms were shaking, it was too much for me, but I pushed myself anyway. I didn’t want to attempt that it was too much for me.

So tell me, what was I doing when I continued to push myself beyond my limits, yes, I was treating myself in an injurious and violent manner, and what is the opposite of that, yes that’s right, it is Ahimsa!

So now, what should I have done?

Here are some steps on how to introduce Ahimsa to your practice:

  1. I should have tried my best within limits, we should push ourselves to progress but be aware of our limits. How do you know you are going beyond your limits, one clear indication is PAIN, when it hurts and your arms are about to give way, pull back and rest, remember yoga is not a destination, rather a journey.
  2. Props!, use them, the Yoga Blocks and Straps are there for a reason. There are many Ashtanga Yoga Poses where using a block will reduce the strain on your thighs
  3. Support, lets take the headstand as an example here, start off my raising one leg up and then kicking the other leg up towards the wall, so yes, use the wall as support
  4. Modifications & Options, Yoga Teachers always give us some modifications to the poses they are teaching, if you need them, take them, sometimes its too early and our hamstrings have yet to warm up, so consider the options and modifications for each pose.

As we consciously include Ahimsa in our practice, be sure to include it off the Mat too, let us treat ourselves and others with love.

Namaste

720000 seconds

and that’s 200 hours..

I can’t believe that it’s nearing to the end of YTT! Where did all the time go?

Doing YTT on top of my regular job has proven to be quite a task because it absorbs a lot of my attention and energy.

But I love it! Even though it comes with many sacrifices, but life is always a balancing act right?

Now that this training is ending, I’m starting to reflect on my journey. Even though we only spend 20 days (ok, 18 so far because there are still 2 more days) in the studio, a lot of learning actually takes place outside of that for me. When I’m revising the content, reading up articles and books for my project research – there’s always constant learning and reflection.

Some takeaways or small things which i’ve learnt and managed to apply to my daily life:

1.Living in the present.

People always say you only live once, so you gotta live in the present. But how do you actually live in the present without worrying about the future or get hung up on the past? It’s easier said than done.

A few days ago, something happened at work which really made me feel very upset and kept me up. After awhile, I started to think to myself – why am I getting so angry? It’s bad for my health and I know that. Then I started to shift my perspective. I thought about the things I can do in the present, instead of worrying about what the outcome will be and if it will still be unfavorable to me. I choose to focus on what I have in the present moment and embrace what comes. Then, I found happiness again. Not too bad, right?

2. Withholding judgements

Well, I will admit, I have a tendency to judge. Who hasn’t been met with the occasional comment  – What’s with that shirt? Well I’ve had quite a few of these similar comments when I was younger and that snowballed into my sense of judgement forming. Of others, and myself.

But after going through this training course, I feel humbled. There are so many things that I do not know and have yet to master though I’ve spent months and hours in this topic. It led me to appreciate the people who are good at what they do, because they made the effort and discipline to learn and hone their craft.

It made me look at my hair dresser in a different way. As I watch her skillfully cut my hair, I wondered about the amount of time and effort she must have put in to be able to give her clients good haircuts. Instead of first judging her clothes, her hair, etc. I learnt to see her as a person.

When I let go of my judgements of others, I let go of my judgements of myself as well. I’m slightly more expressive than I was reserved. Because I realised, we’re all human afterall.

3. Yoga is much much more than just Asanas.

It’s not just about posing for nice pictures in challenging asanas on instagram. It’s a practice that encourages you to discover your inner self (not the self your ego defines you as) to eventually attain peace and happiness through various practices. Asanas are just one of them. There’s also pranayama, pratyhara and so on..

Atha yoga anushasanam. 

I know, this journey has only just begun.

Namaste.

Actions and Karma (4.7 – 4.8)

Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.

In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)

  • karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
  • ashukla = not white
  • akrisnam = nor black
  • yoginah = of a yogi
  • trividham = threefold
  • itaresam = of the others

The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.

In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.

(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)

  • tatah = from that, thence
  • tad = that, their
  • vipaka = fruition
  • anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
  • eva = only
  • abhivyaktih = manifest
  • vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints

Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.

When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.

What about Karma yoga?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.

It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.

Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.

To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!

Yoga Misconceptions

When people learn that you are practicing Yoga, regardless what level you are, probably you will run into variety of comments/questions. In my case, these are 5 common curious statements I always come across. As a Yoga enthusiast, every time I would try to respond at my best:

  1. “You must be so flexible to be able to practice Yoga! I can’t practice Yoga because I’m not that flexible.”

My Answer: My body is not that flexible neither. My hamstrings and hip flexors are tight and I still can’t go deep in my backbend. (I can go on and on… with the lists of my body inflexibility, but remember I should bring out only positivity, so I stopped it there…) If our bodies are not flexible, that gives us even more reasons to practice Yoga. It will improve mobility, posture, muscle coordination, reduce the risk of injuries and muscle soreness.

      2. “I’m too old to practice Yoga, it is only for young people!”

My Answer: I have met my Yoga classmates in their 50’s or 60’s who started practicing late in their age, but continue practicing regularly. Several times, they will leave everyone who’s in 20’s, 30’s in awe, as they can do headstand skilfully or touch their chest on the mat in Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose) with such flexibility. It’s never too late to start making improvement in your flexibility or strength. There are different type and level of classes for you to explore as the beginner. Just start, regardless of your age, soon you will see benefits and progress!

      3. “Yoga is so way too slow exercise, it’s not challenging for me.”

My Answer: There are several yoga classes and types for you to choose based on your preference, not all yoga classes are slow. If you prefer more dynamic, you can try Power Yoga which is a vigorous, fitness-based approach to Vinyasa-style Yoga. It emphasizes on strength and flexibility. Or Ashtanga class that you can practicing advance postures in a fast-paced, this requires coordination and flexibility. It will surely raise your heart rate as cardiovascular exercises.

      4. “Yoga is only for slim people!”

My Answer:  ..Rolling my eyes before answering…I have seen many sizeable people, but able to bend, roll, twist, inversions (anything you can name of in yoga) much greater, deeper and stronger than slim persons. If you are bigger, doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or can’t be flexible. Yoga, just like some other sports and exercises, can’t be characteristics limited to a single body type.

      5. “Yoga is expensive!”

My Answer:  You need only 3 things in Yoga: 1. A mat (which you can find the basic one for less than $10) 2. Your body and 3. Your open heart & positive mind 🙂 You can do Yoga from anywhere. All you need is some free space, whether in your living room or park and you don’t even need expensive gear.

 

What have you heard and how did you respond? 🙂

Almost vegetarian…

Who would have thought it…it’s just like Master Sree said it would be, the body doesn’t want meat anymore…

 

My diet has changed from being a meat lover, especially the craving for bacon for breakfast as a treat on Sundays. I don’t know how it happened but I am not interested anymore.

 

Now my day starts with a smoothie of blueberries, banana, spinach and almond milk or a bowl of oatmeal with banana and blueberries.

 

For lunch I crave a green salad with falafel or a sandwich with cheese and tomatoes. Sometimes I order delivery of a Masala Dosa, which is my favourite dish at the moment.

 

As I am the one cooking in the family on the weekdays it will be my choice for dinner and most days its veggie soups, salads with falafel and hummus. Or something other meat free. My daughter is vegetarian so she is happy with the dinner choices where my husband and son would comment and say where is the rest of the food?

 

And I am browsing for vegetarian recipes when I am trying to get new inspirations. The last thing I tried to cook was dahl, I even got the right toor dahl from a colleague at work but I was disappointed in the lack of flavour compared to the dahl I would get in restaurants. I will continue to try…

 

My favourite food is definitely Indian food as the flavours are incredible and we are lucky to have so many restaurants on our doorstep. 

 

I know I am not completely sattvic yet and still have rajasic food but the tamasic food have definitely decreased from my diet.

 

Nathalie

A Chakra Sequence

How can we balance the Chakras…

 

As I believe I need to balance my chakras as I guess there’s no harm in doing so.

What would be the easiest way to do so?  There is of course meditation but as I am a very restless soul I find it very hard to sit still and try to focus.

Another option could be to do a yoga sequence based on poses that can help to open up the different chakras while focusing on their location and colour.

 

Muladhara Chakra – Tree Pose – Vrksasana 

Visualize your Root Chakra as a bright red light shining out from the end of your tailbone

This chakra gives us a feeling of being grounded and it is responsible for your sense of security and survival. If this is blocked we may suffer from anxiety disorders, fears and nightmares.

Location: Base of the spine

Colour: Red

Element: Earth

Sound: Lam

Yoga poses for balancing: Grounding poses such as Tree Pose, Warrior I and II

 

Swadhisthana Chakra – Goddess Pose – Deviasana 

Visualise your Sacral Chakra as an orange glowing light and be aware of your reproductive organs

This chakra is responsible for our sexual and creative energies. Honour your body and express yourself creatively to keep this wheel turning. If it’s blocked you will feel uninspired or feel emotionally unstable.

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below the navel

Colour: Orange

Element: Water

Sound: Vam

Yoga poses: Pigeon Pose, Warrior II, Goddess Pose

 

Manipura Chakra – Boat Pose – Navasana 

Visualize your Solar Plexus Chakra as a shining yellow light and focus on engaging your core 

When you feel butterflies in your stomach, that is the Manipura chakra working. If it’s blocked you might doubt yourself.

Location: Upper abdomen in the stomach area

Colour: Yellow

Element: Fire

Sound: Ram

Yoga poses: Boat Pose, Warrior III, Twisting poses like Revolved Triangle Pose

 

Anahata  Chakra – Camel Pose – Ustrasana 

Visualize your Heart Chakra radiating green light filled with love, compassion, and kindness

The heart chakra influences your ability to give and receive love from others and ourselves.

Location: Center of chest, just above the heart

Colour: Green

Element: Air

Sound: Yam

Yoga Poses: Back-bends, Reverse plank, Upside Dog, Camel Pose

 

Vishuddha Chakra – Supported Shoulderstand – Salamba Sarvangasana

Visualize your Throat Chakra in a shining blue light near your throat as it removes any doubt you may have regarding your truth

Relates to communication and your ability to understand and speak your inner truth “purely”, when out of balance you find difficulty in expressing yourself and your needs, desires and opinions.

Location: Throat

Colour: Light blue / Turquoise

Element: Sound

Sound: Ham

Yoga Poses: Fish Pose, Plough Pose, Supported Shoulderstand

 

Ajna Chakra – Easy Pose – Sukasana 

Visualize your Third Eye Chakra in a shining Indigo light 

When this chakra is functioning we can feel our intuitions and sometimes have hits of visions.

Location: Forehead between the eyes

Colour: Indigo

Element: Light

Sound: Om

Yoga Poses: Child Pose, Dolphin Pose, Eagle Pose, Easy Pose

 

Sahasrara – Corpse Pose – Savasana

Visualize your Crown Chakra in a shining white light rising out from the top of you head and showering you with golden white light around you

If this chakra is open we are fully connected to our spirituality and consciousness.

Location: The very top of the head

Colour: Violet / White

Element: Divine Consciousness

Sound: Om

Yoga Poses: Headstand, Treepose, Savasana

 

Nathalie