Finding the willpower to practice ashtanga

The Ashtanga full primary series seems daunting. Given our busy schedule and crazy demands on our body, it seems hard to find the willpower to step onto the mat to practice. What can we do to find this willpower or discipline to do so?
  1.  Finish what you start
Before you start, set aside the time required for your practice. If you can’t allocate the usual time needed to complete your practice, consider cutting your practice. The point here is to do something that is reasonably that you can complete.
A short practice of sun salutations, standing sequences and closing sequences are suffice. Sometimes, even doing 5 rounds of Sun Salutations A and B are good enough.
Once you determine the sequence you want to finish, roll your mat and place one foot in. Hopefully, this will spur you to kickstart your practice!
And while practising, focus on your practice and tell yourself to finish what you start. Don’t leave the mat until you finish the sequence you planned for.
  1.  Do beyond expectation
We need some small wins in life to motivate further. This is no different on our mat. Today, you can decide to hold longer in your headstand, upluthih. Or it can be as simple as holding your breath slightly longer than usual.
Doing beyond expectation creates some small wins, which will then motivate yourself – “Yes, I did it. Let me try more the next time”. But remember to look after yourself. Don’t push too hard if you are experiencing pain.
  1. Spend your energy wisely
We have experienced tiredness when we practice ashtanga. The thought of this may deter us from practising. So, learn to spend your energy wisely.
Don’t intentionally expend so much energy when moving into the poses; don’t squeeze your muscles when holding on to poses, you just need to engage enough to stretch; control your breathe, it should be consistent and easy, you shouldn’t feel out of breath.
Hope the 3 steps does help to improve your ashtanga practice or any other yoga style.

Relieving My Anxiety Through Yoga

It’s undeniable that stress and anxiety issue has become increasingly pervasive in this modern world that we live in. Again, and again, we see people being overwhelmed with pressure coming from all aspects of their lives, and thus resulting in a noticeable downwards trend in the state of people’s emotional well-being. There are times when we would spend hours worrying about something that has yet to happen, or just be too bothered by what others thought or said – because, well, that was me, drowning in that anxiety whirlpool. 

 

Anxiety disorder was not easy to deal with, though you might wonder, how hard could it be? Well, there are many times where I will be in such a heightened state of nervousness and fear, which would escalate to the point where I would start feeling shortness of breath. There’s constant excessive worrying in life, which makes daily life difficult to focus and concentrate. Sleep disturbance became a norm, and insomnia somewhat triggers more anxiety, and thus becoming a vicious cycle. Anxiety can also bring about fatigue and restlessness, with days you would not want to get out of bed nor socialize. And the symptoms go on and on. I had to deal with it. I had to live this. I had to address this anxiety. 

 

I sought professional help, and was prescribed with medication. But that’s not a long term solution. I know I cannot, and should not rely on that treatment plan. That’s when I was recommended to practise meditations and mindfulness, and in short -Yoga.

 

Though Yoga is said to be able to relieve anxiety, most people will tend to simply follow the teacher blindly and perform the poses to the best of their ‘looks’, rather than how the poses should feel. And many of them would therefore not know that, these poses, known as asanas, actually can calm your nervous system if you do them correctly with the right alignments. They help to lower tensions and promote relaxations of the muscles in the body, as physical tensions are what we actually experience in most fight or flight situations.

Many of the controlled breathing yoga exercises known as Pranayama, actually soothes our nervous system as well. It teaches us to breathe with awareness, focusing on nothing but our breaths in that present moment. As we breathe slowly and deeply, we will feel much calmer and less uneasy, and this controlled breathing will deactivate the body’s stress response. 

Also, Yoga teaches us to have flexible and healthy mindsets. Many of us were stuck in the anxiety cycle due to many rigid and inflexible mindsets. We run away from triggers instead of facing them. Through Yama and Niyama, it teaches me to be more self-accepting, and feel contentment, and also to be self-motivated and discipline. That I should also learn to face my fears and have courage, even if I don’t succeed at my very first try, I will eventually get there as long as I do not give up. 

Last but not least, through constant practice of concentration, and withdrawal of senses, it provides us with an opportunity to take step back, take a look at, and observe ourselves. It also relieves us from distractions and the saturated negative and toxic thoughts inhabiting in our mind, allowing us to put attention only on what we are focusing, 

In retrospect, though stress is an evitable part of our busy, modern life, we should never neglect our mental well-being. It’s a long journey of recovery, and it isn’t an easy one. I am truly glad and gratified that I am being introduced and exposed to Yoga. Yoga is such a powerful adjunct treatment for my anxiety, and it certainly has changed my life tremendously one way or another. I truly hope it does the same for you too. 

Yoga is not only about posture

 

There are many benefits practicing spiritual yoga, you can cultivate both body and mind. Today, Social pressure is increasing, excessive stress and tension can unbalance the mind. Weakened mental health can seriously affect our health. Practicing spiritual yoga will enhance mental strength and then provide balance in our daily life.

Indeed, there are many benefits of practicing yoga asanas, but its main function is actually to help stretch the body’s meridians and stretch the body’s tendons, so as to achieve the function of opening up the body’s meridians and achieving the purpose of health. If you can cultivate the mind, you will reach the highest state of yoga.

If you want to delay aging, you must first increase your body’s flexibility, so you need to do more exercises that increase your flexibility. And yoga is the best exercise to increase the flexibility of the body.

However, there are many people who practice yoga and are not in good health. What is the reason? It’s because they don’t cultivate the mind. In fact, most if not all illnesses origin from the mind, and everything revolves around mental health. No matter how perfect the yoga pose is, the mind will still get sick if you don’t cultivate the mind.

How do we cultivate the mind, the Yoga Sutra explained

1. Yoga is the discipline of the mind, senses and the physical body. Yoga aids in the coordination and control of the subtle forces within the body.

2. With Yoga you can have complete mastery over the mind, passions, emotions, impulses, temper, tongue, and so forth. The body and mind will be ever at your beck and call.

3. Yoga advocates complete detachment from secular interests for the sake of practising uninterrupted meditation. It recommends meditation on the inner light of the heart or anything that is pleasing to you. It prescribes that one should withdraw oneself from the ordinary affairs of life for the purpose of practising constant meditation. Therefore, building a calm and healthy mind. 

4. Ignorance, egoism, infatuation, aversion, and craving are the five obstacles to life.

5. The restless mind must be rendered quiet by reducing your wants, by destroying useless earthly desires. Have one strong desire for liberation. Then you can open your mind to the higher spiritual influences.

6. Peace of mind comes from friendship, benevolence, compassion and joy and equality.

7. All things are one, because this is the evolution of the whole.

8. When the mind becomes a higher form of spirit body, it can be aware of higher consciousness.

9. Those states where all desires are completely eliminated are called samadhi.

10. Continuous evolution to the end, becoming an obvious transformation, this is absolute freedom.

Practicing spiritual yoga comes hand in hand with mental conditioning and finding balance in both mind and body!

To practice yoga is to surrender yourself to yoga

The most important thing when practicing yoga is to calm the mind. When practicing yoga, there should not be any distraction.

Focus on feeling the flow and change of breath among various asanas, try to have a “focused and calm” mind.

A focused and calm mind is a condition of being in one with nature, and at the same time it is unconsciously invisible to the surrounding. 

A calm mind is emitting positive energy.

 

“Be in a yoga state of mind”

Simple movements have their own merits,mastering these simple movements are actually instrumental in practicing yoga. When you start practicing yoga, keep movement natural, be relaxed and casual. When practicing yoga, our mind focused on creating a supportive environment and a mindset of acceptance while our body moves from one pose to another.

Every element, from the clothes you wear to the floor under your feet, should be coordinated and considered as a whole, so that the chance of distraction is minimized.

 

 

-Clothing-

Choose simple, comfortable and clothes that do not restrain your movements so that you can move freely and breathe deeply. Clothing for yoga practice should match the climate and environment. When the weather is hot, wear less clothes. If the weather is cold, wear more layers.

-Barefoot-

Do not wear shoes, going barefoot increases your sensitivity to the elements as well as improving balance and provides a firm grip on the floor. Going barefoot allows you to connect with the surroundings e.g. touching the earth and reacting to the earth’s energy. 

-Food and drink-

Yoga is considered a form of exercise, so don’t start practicing yoga right after eating. Rest for two to three hours after a full meal before practicing yoga. Look for a well balanced meal.

-Injuries and diseases-

If you are injured or sick, the best advice is to be alert and understand your body. Make sure you know your physical condition well, if possible, consult your yoga instructor for advice and treatment techniques, and ask your doctor if there is anything that requires special attention. 

-Pain and comfort-

It is to be expected that some moderate pain and discomfort will occur in the body when you first practice yoga. The body that has been inactive for a long time will definitely complain loudly, even if you actively want to get vitality and health from constant practice. The key to overcoming this initial difficulty is to maintain perseverance.

 

Start slowly, using patience, awareness, and positive mindset when training new poses to avoid injury. Know your “personal limit” for each posture so you can embrace your discomfort without fear of overextending. Do not take shortcuts, force or rush into a new pose. Adjust your breathing, posture and center of gravity to relax yourself. Remember Yoga is not a competition, but a lifestyle of having a clear mind, free of stress and a positive mindset. 

Train in postures that suits your current experience and level. Remember, this should be fun!

– Its okay to be a beginner –

In the first few weeks, you may be a little anxious, hoping to catch up with everyone’s progress. But in fact, you don’t need to be rush, accept being a beginner. Slowly explore which yoga postures are suitable for yourself and which are not, then slowly work your way forward. Keep an optimistic mindset and keep practicing to accumulate more experience and train your body to be stronger. Remember to treat yoga as a fun lifestyle, don’t put yourself in too much pressure!

Listen to the sound of the body and practice yoga without injury. I often follow the four key points of practicing asanas:

1. Keep breathing

No matter what asana you are performing, or which step in the asana, keep breathing at all times. If you find that your body needs more strength and energy, breathing can give your body qi, energy, and power, helping you to perform each individual position easily and comfortably.

2. When your body sends out a signal, listen carefully

You can adjust the intensity of the exercise according to your physical condition. Each person’s physical condition is different. We must always take care of and pay attention to our physical and mental state, so we can make the practice of asanas smooth.

3. Maintained Pose

When performing asanas, it is very important to stay as far as possible for five to twenty seconds, or as long as the body can withstand. Please take note of your own physical condition, past experience, and teacher’s recommendations and do not “force” it if your body is not ready. When the body is maintained in a certain posture for a long time the body part has enough time to stretch and strengthen. Maintaining static pose also burns excess fat and makes you feel light and burden-free.

4. Stay happy

The fourth point is very important. When practicing yoga asanas, it is important to let go of daily stresses accumulated in daily life, and maintain an empty mind. If you can do this, you will feel the real benefits of practicing yoga. Smiling is the common language of the world and if you are able to smile when performing asanas comfortably and happily, which means you have fulfilled the spirit of asanas. Feelings of comfort, pleasure, and happiness can establish an indestructible connection between “I” and “Self” (personal consciousness and cosmic consciousness).

The four key points mentioned above are to keep the body and mind healthy.

When practicing, grasp the principle of asanas, always stick your hands and feet firmly into the ground, evenly distribute body weight, lengthen the spine, create more space for the body, breathing and know one’s body limits. Always be patient, know the limits of your body, maintain gentle breathing and let your body and mind stay in the moment, savor every deep breath and every pose.From here on, let us understand ourselves in yoga.

Have you ever heard of Yoga Butt?

 

Yoga butt is a type of exercise injury. The technical term is called proximal hamstring tendinopathy, it is an irritation or inflammation of the hamstring tendons at their attachment site on the ischial tuberosity. (the sitting bone)

In the context of the yoga practice, one of the main contributing factors is repeatedly doing poses that require end range of motion hip flexion. This includes:

  • Deep Forward Fold

  • Compass Pose

  • Splits

  • any pose where the foot is put behind the head

Since tendons, ligaments have a limited amount of elasticity, these kinds of poses can cause the tendons and ligaments to become overstretched and inflamed.

In this sense, hamstring tendinopathy does not occur only if its overuse, but also from overloading e.g. the tissues haven’t been subjected enough practice and have therefore not have the ability to tolerate the stress of certain movements or joint positions, resulting in pain and irritation.

Common symptoms include a deep ache or pain in the glute. The ischial tuberosity (sit bone) where the hamstring inserts. It can feel tight or a mild strain. 

The deep knot-like feeling in the piriformis muscle can even manifest as sciatic symptoms and tingling or numbness down the leg. This is because the piriformis goes directly over the sciatic nerve in some individuals.

Avoid any positions or movements that trigger these symptoms, or modifying certain poses in yoga to prevent aggravation. In order to reduce the likelihood of yoga butt in the long term, once the inflammation subsides, you’ll want to start training the tissues regularly. This will help them get stronger and develop better overall function and capacity to tolerate stress. When you feel that the training is manageable, you can progress to more challenging movements like eccentrics, plyometrics and increase the load. Just remember that yoga is a lifestyle and not a competition. Progression might be slow, so it pays to manage your own expectations and be patient as you undertake more difficult poses.

A lot of yoga poses can help to improve and strengthen hamstring and glutes muscle, such as:

  • Warrior Pose III (Virabhadrasana III)

  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

  • Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

  • Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

  • Thread the Needle (Parsva Balasana)

  • 1-Legged Dog (Eka Pada Ahdo Mukha Svanasana)

  • Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

  • Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana 3)

  • Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)

 

Take a break

If you are experiencing yoga butt, research says to take a break from stretching the hamstring or moving towards your full range of motion.

Tips to prevent yoga injury

Additional tips include:

  • Keep your knees bent.

  • Use blocks under your hands to keep from “hanging out” on your joints.

  • Focus on engaging your quads in Forward Folds or other hamstring-openers to avoid overstretching.

Am I ready for YTT?​

What is YTT? YTT stands for Yoga Teacher Training. We commonly see 200HR YTT, 500HR YTT, 300HR YTT. What are all these? 

200 HR YTT

This is a foundation of yoga teaching course, in this course you will learn the fundamentals of:

  • yoga postures

  • understanding Asanas, Pranayamas, and other meditation techniques

  • yoga Philosophy, anatomy and physiology

  • how yoga classes are structured and conducted

  • asana adjustments and alignment

  • ethics and business of yoga

  • history of yoga

During the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training, it will enrich your personal practice, which is paramount in passing wisdom to others. YTT creates a platform for transformation as well as the people you hope to teach.

Any 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training, and especially an immersion-type, will help you delve deeper into what yoga means for you and your potential students.

300 HRS YTT

This is an advanced course, mainly focused on a holistic yogic lifestyle development, so you can truly live what you teach. These are for all yoga teachers who have completed 200hr yoga teacher training or equivalent and are seeking for more advanced study in the areas of yoga philosophy, yoga anatomy, adaptive yoga, sequencing and yoga teaching methodologies.

Other than the YTT shown above, there are a lot of other YTT courses such as Yin Yoga, Aerial Yoga, Yoga Wheel, Prenatal Yoga and etc. But the question is, am I ready to attend all these courses? Short answer is of course, however, you will need to at least attend some yoga lessons, understand yourself and your physical body condition and lastly, enjoy what you are doing. 

Then you will come to a point where you have to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of taking this course

  • Why not take a normal yoga lesson instead?

  • Are you able to commit the time?

If your aim is for a career switch, the fact is you don’t need a YTT certificate to teach yoga in Singapore. To gain more yoga related knowledge, learning how to teach and structure your lesson and provide better help to your students should be your primary concern. If you are just curious about yoga and yogic lifestyle, this course is just a beginning of the journey.

 

 

After taking the YTT 200HR course, I find yoga is not just about learning new yoga poses that I used to think of. This course has reshaped my perception, a new way of thinking about life. Yoga is not just an exercise, it is a lifestyle. After the course, I have found a better interpretation of yoga and myself. Hope you will find your way too.

Yoga and Life

During the first week of YTT, Master Sree asked what is yoga? I was pretty blown away. I never really thought about what Yoga mean. My answer was perhaps, is a type of exercise which can work on each part of your body and brings you inner peace in both mind and heart.

So, let me ask you, what came to your mind with word “Yoga”? Is it just another form of exercise? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely? I cannot give you a certain answer to it. As there is no absolute right or wrong answer to these questions.

Basically, ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’
Therefore, Yoga literally means “union”. And the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind, body, and nature.

After going through YTT, I now can truly understand the meaning of “Yoga is an art, a science, and a philosophy. It touches the life of man at every level: physical, mental, spiritual. It is a practical method for making one’s life purposeful, useful and noble.” – B.K.S Lyengar

Yoga is like building blocks. Step by step, one by one build yourself up, experience your very own yoga journey.  If you ask me, is yoga suitable for everyone. The answer is an absolute yes! Very much like life, you go through your own life journey which only you can answer for it and nobody else can. You create your own kind of life that you want, and no one should judge it or even compare with it. Just like yoga, we can never compare who is better as there is no ground for comparison to begin with. As our body are all different when we are first born. It does not matter what happened in the past about you, all is matter is the future. And what you do in the present brings the kind of future you want.

We are all unique individual who going through our own karma and kriya. We will get better at whatever we are practising if we do not give up and keep doing. I believe the end of YTT is the true start of my yoga journey. Thankful for such eye-opening experience within me, life changing.

How is Ajna Chakra intimately linked to the pituitary gland?

Human body is always in a constant state of change. Heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature all change in response to what we do and our surroundings. Our body has systems that constantly monitor these and other vital functions. Not only must these systems monitor changes but also respond to the changes and help the body to restore balance.

One of the systems is pituitary gland which is the know as master gland because it controls the function of most other endocrine glands. They release hormones into the blood stream which have a wide range of effects on growth and development, sexuality and reproductive function, metabolism, the response to stress and overall quality of life. Therefore, the pituitary gland is at the anatomical and functional crossroads of the brain, mind and body which is what yoga does as well.

We have 7 chakras and their positions coincide with important glands, nerve centres and blood vessels known to modern anatomy. However, do note that chakras are not identical to these organs but rather intimately linked to them. Here we are only going to talk about the Ajna Chakra which has a connection to the pituitary gland. Both have the same ability whereby they are the “master” of  group as they controls others. Ajna chakra governs all other chakras, so when it is out of balance, all other chakras cannot come into perfect alignment.

When Ajna is imbalanced we may experience poor memory, eye problems, headaches, or nightmares. We may also have an excess of energy that we are unable to channel towards any one goal or productive outcome. When this chakra is in balance, we can tune in to our inner knowing, trusting our intuition, and tapping into our creative imagination. A balanced Ajna chakra allows us to integrate logical thinking with intuition so that we may move through the world better able to make balanced decisions. Very much like pituitary gland, balance hormones in our body allows us function normally and make good decisions.

When the dynamic energy of the third eye chakra is activated and balanced, the rest of the brain functions optimally, making this chakra particularly interesting in breathing exercises and meditation. The properties associated with the third eye chakra are transparency in the internal as well as the external vision, higher intuitive perception, wisdom, spirituality, and creative intelligence.

From anatomical point of view, it makes good sense that we should be able to access the pituitary gland by closing our eyes and “looking inward”, because the two large nerve fibres of the eyes cross each other exactly in the area where the pituitary gland is located. By focusing awareness and energy on the third eye chakra you can manipulate the pituitary gland and its activities.

3 Ways Meditation Retrains our Brains

What would you do if I told you sitting in silence and active meditation can be hugely beneficial for your brain? In recent studies, there appears to be immeasurable benefits in our most important organ with the practice of meditation: from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions.

1. Your Brain “Ages Slower” with Meditation 

Findings from a recent UCLA study indicated that participants who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years preserved more grey matter volume throughout the brain than their non-meditating counterparts, despite older meditators having some volume loss compared to younger meditators, it wasn’t as pronounced as the non-meditators.

2. Puts A Leash On Our Wandering Minds

When our minds wander, it is often associated with being less happy, or worrying about the past and future. In a study conducted by Yale University, it was found that mindfulness meditation helps to reduce activity in the Default Mode Network (DMN), which is responsible for mind-wandering and self-referential thoughts. When our minds wander from thought to thought, the DMN is ‘active’ and we are not thinking about specific things – when the mind wanders, meditators are better at snapping back out of it.

3. Meditation – A Dear Neighbor to Antidepressants

Researcher Madhav Goyal and his team found that the effect size of meditation was moderate in the treatment of depression – 0.3, this comes on the same level as the effect size for antidepressants (also 0.3) which is astounding. Though meditation isnt’ a magic bullet for the treatment of depression, keep in mind that no treatment is. Meditation is, after all, an active form of brain training, the training of the mind to increase awareness. 

We just explored the full practice of Meditation and Yoga Nidra at my YTT course today which makes this the perfect time for me to learn about the benefits of meditation. I can’t wait to continue with the practice!

The First Lady of Yoga, Indra Dewi

DID YOU KNOW that Yoga was a purely male-centric practice until 1937?

Let me introduce you to Indra Devi (or Mataji), also known as The First Lady of Yoga. Formerly known as Eugene Peterson, Eugene was born in 1899 in Russia. Her journey with Yoga began when she moved to Germany in 1917 in the wake of the revolution in Russia. It was in Germany that she trained as an actor and dancer and became a part of a theatrical troupe that toured all over Europe.

During the course of her travels, she met the renowned philosopher and yogi J. Krishnamurti, and grew fascinated with India. Initially, though obsessed with visiting India, Eugene didn’t possess the means to do so. A stroke of luck led to a wealthy banker to propose to her, and her saying yes only on the condition that he paid for her trip to India before the wedding. He agreed, and soon she was on her way to India. 3 months upon her return, and her first meeting with her fiancee, she returned her ring. 

In 1928, she sold all of her possessions and booked a one-way ticket to India. Soon, she became a Bollywood movie star, taking on the name ‘Indra Devi’, and found great success. But she always felt that something was missing, and prayed for direction.

In 1937, what presented itself as an unfortunate turn of events where she suffered from a cardiac illness and was directed to take treatment from the renowned yogi Krishnamacharya, was truly an answer to her prayers. However, it didn’t come easy – he’d refused when she first visited him for treatment. But upon observing her dedication, Krishnamacharya eventually offered to hone her into a Yoga Teacher, and Indra Devi ended up staying with him for a year, being possibly the first westerner taught by Krishnamacharya to be a Yoga Teacher. She was taught the gentle style of Yoga – given that she was recovering from a heart condition. 

From then on, Indra Devi played a tireless role in spreading the art of Yoga all over the world. Today, the female to male ratio of Yoga Practitioners 72% to 28%. Given her contribution to Yoga, she is referred to in modern day as The First Lady of Yoga.