Self Realization

BodyMindSpiritLeast expected, the course covers Life Philosophy liked The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga/Raja Yoga and The Four Paths of Yoga. It is always very intriguing discussion with fellow classmates and some thoughts apply to our daily life. None of my Yoga instructors classes I attened (Basic and Intermediate) shared such information within 1.5hrs session. It would be good if yoga teachers at least touch base such information with the intermediate class students not in details but for awareness before the class starts. It is good for intermediate student moving 1 step forward prepares for the mind development and not just stop at physical training without knowing the meaning of yoga.
Now that the more I learned, I realised there are more that I don’t know. There are so much more than just the physical training.
In order to keep and focus on my purpose, lots of discipline, strength and stability needed. The triangle means a lot to me.  I have to improve my Pranayana especially inhale 6 secs consistently.
Answer-seeker
 
 
 

Chaturanga Dandasana

 
In Ashtanga Vinyasa, there is nowhere to hide from Chaturanga Dandasana. This asana is one of the cornerstone’s of this practice, executed over and over again throughout the primary series. Before I began my 200-hour teacher-training course, I was warned that there was ‘no knees, chest, chin’ in Ashtanga Vinyasa and that Ashtanga was ‘yoga for men’ because of the upper body strength required in the frequent Chaturangas that were performed throughout the series. In my research, I have found there are challenges for both women AND men in performing this asana correctly. And, in my experience, when correct alignment and strength is achieved, it is a powerful and rewarding feeling to flow through a vinyasa with integrity in your Chaturanga Dandasana!
However, it relies on coordination and strength in so many muscles, and as a result some typical misalignments are often seen. Frequently these include; winging of the scapulae because of weakness in the shoulder girdle muscles or the elbows facing out; men are typically culprits of rounding and hunching the shoulders towards the floor because strength in pectorials and deltoids are overcompensating for weakness in back muscles particularly the romboids, serratus anterior and trapezius; and, one that I am most culprit to, collapsing the lumber spine towards the floor creating a ‘banana shaped’ Santolasana and Chaturanga.
All of these issues put stress on the whole shoulder joint and rotator cuff – as well as the back, especially the vulnerable lumber region. And given this is asana is so frequently performed in any ashtanga vinyasa practice, there provides a great deal of opportunity for stress and strain on these areas of our body.
So how do we ‘get it right’? I found one of the most useful ways to think about correct alignment in this pose, is to remember the alignment and engagement required in Santolasana – a completely straight ‘plank’ shaped body, from the base of the neck to the heel of the foot. Chaturanga should look exactly like this, except with elbows bent, facing backwards at a 90-degree angle, and the body hovering horizontally above the floor.
In addition, some useful tips I’ve received and found in my research include;

  • Chaturanga is not a push up; the elbows should be hugged into the body, pointing backwards not sideways
  • Extend your sternum forward – this felt much further forward than I was previously aware of. You are aiming for 90-degree angle in your elbow
  • Maintain strong engagement in your legs – particularly your quads. Make sure the heels are stacked over the toes, and press back into your toes as you are extending your body forwards. Try and imagine you feet are flat and pressing into a wall behind you
  • Use a gentle udyanna bandha, sucking navel in and flattening the lower belly, to engage the core. Keep thinking of the plank shape in which a line between the shoulders and buttocks should be horizintal to the floor

A discussion point to end on, is the usefulness of the modified version of Chaturanga Dandasana. Using this version, where knees are allowed to drop to the floor, in theory allows focus to be brought to the details of the pose, whilst taking out the strain imposed on the shoulders. However, the ‘knees, chest, chin’ version is not an ideal model for learning the correct alignment of Chaturanga as when the head and upper arms drop to the floor this takes away the opportunity to practice the engagement and strength required in the abdominal, arm and should area. A better modification is to ensure that students’ upper bodies, arms and head remain parallel to the floor throughout, the proof of which should be in the belly reaching the floor before/at the same time as the chest and chin. In doing so, they are practicing more closely the strengthening and alignment required of Chaturanga Dandasana!
 
 
 

Lentil Lasagna – Vegetarian Recipe

 
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Serving: 4/6
Time: 30 minutes cooking and 15 – 20 minutes oven

Ingredients
250 gr green Lentils.
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Carrots peeled and chopper small
1 ½ Tomatoes chopped small
1 Red Onion chopped small
1 ½ lt Vegetable Stock
Toast Sesame Seeds
1 ¼ cup Milk
2 Tbsp Corn Flour
1 small can Nestle Cream
Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg
Lasagna Pasta
Cheedar cheese
Parmesan Cheese
 
Procedure
1 Step
(Soak the Lentils 30 minutes before start cooking in hot water).
Heat the oil in a wok, put carrots, onion and tomatoes together until tender. Drain the Lentils and add to the wok stir for 5 minutes. Then cover the lentils with the vegetable stock and keep in a medium heat until the lentils are cooked but not soft.
 
2 Step (White sauce)
Heat a pot put 1 cup of milk, nestle cream, salt pepper and nutmeg. Beside stir ¼ cup milk and corn flour. When is boiling the milk add the mix and stir until turn sticky.
Cook the pasta
 
3 Step
In a greased and floured baking glass put a pasta layer, on top half lentils, Cheddar cheese, pasta layer, lentils layer, cheddar cheese, pasta layer, cover with white sauce, sesame seeds and parmesan cheese.
Bring to the oven for 15 – 30 minutes or until the cheese turn gold.
 
Claudia, Jun 2015, 200hr YTTC/HathaAshtanga

FOUNDATION, YOGA AND DA VINCI

 
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2 years ago, one day I woke up with the idea to start running. I mentioned this to my husband and he just asked me: you never run more than 100 mts, so why would you want to run now?
I answered that, if all people in Singapore run every day, regardless of weather or time of day; they may do that because it is fun.
He smiled and gave me my first step to run, a book called “ChiRunning”. The book is about the basic techniques of proper running, instructing about the right muscles (upper and lower body), pelvic rotation, perfect alignment, breathing, gravity assisted and injury-free running. 2 years later I have run a 12K competition after more than 700 kilometers of training, sparing any injury, because I always tried to have the necessary basics in line.
One week prior to finishing my Yoga Teacher Training I am again reminded about the importance to know, be aware and preserve the fundamentals once learned, the foundation of any further progress.
Before practicing a new activity in your life (sports, painting, cooking, stitching, etc.) or beginning new personal or professional project you shall know its specific fundamentals.
 
What the best approach to properly understand the fundamentals of anything you like to learn?
One of the greatest inventor, genius of the middle ages had his own recipe. Leonardo Da Vinci applied 7 principles to properly learn :

  • Curiosity (desire to learn more),
  • Demonstration (use the experience to the fullest – he wrote:” Experience never errs”),
  • Sensation (“All our knowledge comes from our perceptions”),
  • Sfumato (“become smoke”: willingness to accept uncertainty),
  • Art/science (Study the science of art and the art of science),
  • Corporality (personal responsibility for our health and wellbeing)
  • Connection (combining and connecting elements – be a seeker of relations between body, mind and emotions)

His approach is especially interesting to learn the fundamentals of Yoga, because Yoga does not only need physical technique but also a training of mind and spirit.
Every day after yoga class, I am aware, conscious about how my body and mind, emotions and thoughts have aligned during class.
Applying Da Vinci’s principles during yoga leads my physical body into all its possible dimensions and into effective, effortless poses while my mind and soul are in harmony and unity.
I invite you to explore deeply the principles, to apply it to your practice and maintain good health and being in balance.
Love and Light,
Claudia, Jun 2015, 200hr YTTC/HathaAshtanga
 

In Search of A Good Massage

We decided to move back to Australia after my daughter was born.  Since then, I have been looking forward to starting a new life in a foreign country.
As we settle down here, it eventually sits in me that this is not like Singapore where we can get almost anything and everything that we want easily and readily.  Shops close at 5pm here.  Eating out is expensive.  Services are expensive. So I had to learn to do everything by myself/ourselves, from housework to cooking to lawn mowing. It can be quite daunting especially for someone who has lived in a country (Singapore) where help is readily available and highly affordable.  I had to adapt.
It has been nice to be able to wake up to thin crisp fresh air every morning. I look forward to the season change. I look forward to the fresh produce.  I am happy here though at the back of my head, I wish I could get a good manicure/pedicure and most importantly, a good acupressure massage!  I missed those good massages that I used to indulge in to ease the body aches.
My back and neck aches from the housework and also the toll of carrying my 2-year-old daughter around.  After checking around for a good masseuse for sometime, I decided that it was not going to be an easy task.  I was disappointed in the nail treatments here, they are not as thorough as the manicurists in Singapore when it comes to cleaning the cuticles and they are certainly expensive.  After a couple times at the nail shops, I decided that DIY at home for me works well than paying to get it done.
I was thinking about my massage and I decided to Google for workout places when I had that spare time.  I chanced upon Pilates classes and there was this particular school, which had a Pilates Beginners class that was just about to start.  The timing of the class suits my schedule and I immediately signed up for the class.  Pilates has been something that I wanted to give it a go when I was in Singapore but hardly had the time to do it.
I was surprised to find that Pilates exercises are not as confronting as Yoga, which is good for someone like me, someone who hasn’t really exercise since I left school 2 decades ago.  The five weeks of beginners breezed through and I was happy with myself for doing it.
Pilates taught me the importance of breathing and core stabilization.  Something that can be easily overlooked.  It also shed light on the importance of having a strong core so that one can execute our exercises or day-to-day life’s tasks effectively without inflicting injuries on us.  It also taught me to be focus and discipline in what I do.
I started attending twice weekly classes and very soon, I found that I no longer suffered from neck and back aches.  Even the pain at the tailbone (which I started having after childbirth) was gone!  I am very impressed by what it does to my body.  When I am too busy to squeeze in an exercise session for the day, I will do quick warm ups with the hundreds, roll up and down, spine articulation exercises for 10 minutes before I start my day.  It works wonder.
It has been two and half years since I started my journey with Pilates.  Now whenever my friends asked if I want to go for massage whenever I am in Singapore, I will tell them I have a good masseuse already and he is Mr. Pilates!
 
Michelle, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga

My Mother-In-Law

Every married women will very likely cringe whenever the term “mother-in-law” is brought up in any conversation.  I am one of those lucky ones to have a lovely mother-in-law who is very independent despite being sickly. She is 78 years old this year and was a nurse who did her nursing scholarship in UK.
After we moved back to Australia, it dawned on me that it is inevitable that we will have more frequent contacts/visits with my mother-in-law.  With every initial conversation pleasantries, my mother-in-law will usually continue to tell us about the pain that she is having on the back, neck, legs, cramps etc.  Everyday there will be some form of pain being brought up as we speak.  Some days, I avoided asking her how is she as I already anticipated what she would say.  I tried asking if she had been to physiotherapy, acupuncture, Pilates, etc. She will always have an answer ready for me.  It is like “she has been through and done that and that I am a step slower than her”.
Having said that, with her past experience as a nurse, she knows the importance of being diligent in physiotherapy and it is something that she does not missed.  Sadly physiotherapy alone could not help her much.  She tried acupuncture but the needles were too painful. She tried Pilates but the exercises were too tough for her and she couldn’t do them. She had consulted chiropractor on a few occasions but it did nothing to elevate her back and neck ache. She had an answer for almost anything that I suggested that she try.  She had surgeries done in her back and shoulder before and hence I can understand the intensity of the pain that she is feeling whenever it hits her.  Somehow none of the things that she tried or took to have done much to help her in her situation.  Though I can get “annoyed” with her whenever we are at this topic of her pain, deep down inside, I secretly wished I can have or help her find the right “antidote”.
Meanwhile, I started going for Pilates classes as part of my fitness regime. It had been something that I heard about but didn’t get the time to do when I was in Singapore.  My husband was surprised that I continued with my Pilates classes after I completed the beginner’s lessons.  He was even more surprised that I increased the number of classes that I go to every week and the fact that I was looking forward to going, surprises myself too.  I felt really good after each Pilates workout and the exercises are actually not difficult exercises. In fact, the exercises can be modified to suit each individual’s condition.  People noticed that I look different.  Even my mother-in-law!  She had her opinion on Pilates since it didn’t work for her.  I tried convincing her to give it another go as I have seen many elderly women attending the same Pilates class as me.  If they can do those exercises, I don’t see why my mother-in-law couldn’t.  She wasn’t keen, as she has tried Pilates before, so she said.
Lately, she started seeing a chiropractor again. She has been telling us how good this chiropractor is. She felt good these days after each chiro session with her.  I thought about what she said and asked her how different is this chiropractor from the previous one that she had seen. Her answer was the chiropractor’s hands were good and her suggested exercises were easy for my mother-in-law to do.  My mother-in-law even suggested that I go with her for her next appointment so that I can see for myself.
The day came and I accompanied her.  The chiropractor went about her ways to examine my mother-in-law. It was all routine until she asked my mother-in-law if she has been doing the few exercises that she had drawn up for her. My mother-in-law said she had not been doing them, as she has forgotten some of the exercises.  The chiropractor demonstrated the exercises again and told my mother-in-law that she needs to strengthen her core. Being kyphotic lordorsis, my mother-in-law encounters frequent neckaches.  Her protruding stomach is putting a strain on her back and she needs to build up her core muscles at the abdominal. Emphasis of the exercise regime for her is to focus on intercoastal breathing and using breathing to work on the respective muscles.  There and then, I felt enlightened and it struck me that the recommended exercises are all Pilates-related and how useful they are! After leaving the clinic, my mother-in-law was surprised when I told her that these are basic Pilates exercises.
Ever since that trip with my mother-in-law to the chiropractor, I have been thinking about how Pilates can improve one’s overall wellbeing not only for the immediate day to day but also for the future.  It is definitely a good hedge to have when we grow older.  That’s when I started my research on Pilates instructor course so as to learn more about Pilates.
Pilates is something I never regret picking up and is also definitely something that I will grow old with other, than with my beloved family….
 
Michelle, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga

The 5 must-have’s to be a good Pilates instructor

shutterstock_119600044So you want to be a Pilates instructor? I do. That is why I am doing the 80hr program now. I am just half way through. For the little time that I have been trained as an instructor, there are a few things specific to Pilates that come to light.
1) You must love Grey’s Anatomy. Oops, I mean Gray’s Anatomy by Henry Gray (even though I do follow every episode of Grey’s Anatomy diligently). To be a good Pilates instructor, you have to know your anatomy like the back of your hands. Why? Pilates is all about precision and control. In order that you can be in total control, you really need to know your tool, which is body anatomy. So all those who didn’t pay much attention in Biology classes at school will need to brush up fast. All the bones and muscles and nerves can be a bit nerve wrecking initially. But it is the only way to really know how the puzzle comes together. To be honest, it can be quite fascinating. It came to a point that I was obsessed with it even though I hate to learn to spell in Latin.
2) You must be totally in touch with yourself. Contrology – the essence of Joseph Pilates’s method to Pilates training. It requires intense concentration and control of every part of your body. To do that, you need to be very well tuned in with your own body – full awareness and ability to engage certain muscles for particular exercises. Otherwise it would be very difficult for you to teach or help others when you don’t even know how it works for you.
3) You must be very ‘naggy’ in a positive way. There are 5 fundamental principles of Pilates training – breathing, pelvic, rib cage, scapula and cervical stabilization. They are usually deployed simultaneously in most of the exercises. Unless you are a master in multi-tasking, it is really not easy to apply. You will have to be like a kindergarten teacher who is constantly reminding the 3-yr-olds! eat your veggies, wash your hands, stay quiet, do your homework… In order to help the students, you will literally hear me repeating the same things over and over again throughout the practice. But it works and it is necessary. With that, it just brings me to the next point.
4) You must be a creative thinker with good imagination. In order not to sound like a broken record, you need to be creative with words. E.g. to remind the students to engage the transversus abdominis muscles (which is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles), you can say — Suck your belly in, bring your navel to your spine, engage your powerhouse, activate your core… you got the idea. You may also want to think of some interesting choice of words like shine your chest to the front or melt your back to the mat. How about peel your shoulders off the mat or float your feet off the floor? I will spare you the details about what comes into my mind when I visualize these actions. But they certainly make the class a lot more interesting.
5) Last but not the least, you must be able to count!! The first and the basic Pilate exercise starts with the famous 100 – a hundred repetitions of the same move. Yes, 100 times! For someone like me — who can’t count and talk at the same time, it is quite a challenge. As for the rest of the regime, it is also about repetitions. While
you are busy observing your students and correcting them, you need to be able to count at the same time. It is definitely a good way to train your cognitive mind.
If the above doesn’t speak to you now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t be a good instructor. These behaviors can be developed over time. The key element above all, as with any profession or interest, is the passion. If you are passionate about Pilates, all will follow in due course.
Grace, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga

Yoga or Pilates? To be or not to be? That is the question

I have been practicing Yoga for a long time and have been certified as a yoga instructor for 5 years. I am now getting my certification in Pilates training. So have I finally converted?
I am not going into the technical difference between these two disciplines. I am sure there has been a lot of research paper done on this topic already. Let me tell you what I think from a Pilates newbie’s point of view.
Pilates is often viewed as the cousin of Yoga. It deploys some similar moves as Yoga. That should not be too surprising since the founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates, was a yoga devotee. But exactly how closely are these two cousins related?
Yoga has a spiritual element that is not present in Pilates. Pilates is more a physical training methodology. For example, when we look at the difference in breathing practice, Yoga use the breath to relax and focus the mind whereas Pilates uses the breath to fuel the muscles that you are working on. That being said, the requirement of totally awareness and concentration in Pilates (Contrology) can equally bring your mind into a meditative state which is one of the key Yoga principles to connect the body and the mind.
While the awareness of body movements in Pilates require practitioners to be more technical, proper alignment of the body is strongly emphasized in both disciplines for the practitioners to benefit fully from each of the poses (yoga) or exercises (Pilates) and to avoid potential injuries.
Yoga works on all parts of the body. Yoga poses are more all rounded varying from lying flat, sitting down to standing and total inversion. Regular practice will not only improve body strength but also flexibility. Pilates, however, primarily focuses on the ‘powerhouse’ (or the core) and most of the practice are done lying down or seated. Having said that, once your core is strengthened, the rest of the body benefits and becomes stronger and more flexible.
Yoga emphasizes ‘staying in the present’. Yoga practitioners usually feel more relaxed after their practice and carry this sense of ease with them because the mind is less clustered and can stay more focused. Pilates requires precision of each movement and total control of the body. As such, the coordination and the flow of the movements deem regular practitioners an air of grace in their daily life movements, just like ballerinas do.
All in all, it is not important how closely these two cousins are related. Even though the principles of the two schools are not exactly the same, both reap similar benefits and they do complement each other nicely.
So coming back to the fundamental question! have I converted? Well, if you put a gun to my head and make me choose, I would stay true to my yoga. Sorry but no disrespect here to my Pilates instructor. (Luckily, she is also a yoga master so I am sure she won’t be offended. However I do wonder what she would have to say?!)
Yoga has such a long history that makes Pilates looks like a newborn (Pilates was only formally established in the early twentieth century). The whole history of yoga development is naturally a lot more colorful and offers more cultural flavors. To be or not to be? It is a matter of personal preference (and/or how much more you like your yoga instructor over your Pilates instructor!!) My recommendation would be trying out both cousins and reap all the benefits that they have to offer.
Grace, Mar 2015 Pilates Matwork Instructor Course, Tirisula Yoga

A pose to strengthen the whole back of the body – Adhomukha Shvanasana

Adhomukha Shvanasana is downward facing dog, which fits in many types of yoga practices and it is repeated many times as a part of transition pose in primary series. It is important to do it properly with enough self-study of our own body and feeling.

  1. Start from the previous position (ie. upward facing dog) or from hands-keen down position
  2. Firm palms on the ground and roll the shoulder away from ears by lateral rotating the triceps. Medially rotate the forearms, press palms in pronation and protract the shoulder to push the body backward  and transport the strength/weights of body from end of palm to shoulders. Feel the strength in the shoulder.
  3. Lift up the hips and lengthen the spine first by tighten the belly and push the hip back forward further. Neutralize the spine and feel the strength from shoulder to the end of spine which is tail bone. Ensure the alignment among the neck, spine, tail bone and middle of the hip. Feel the squeezing between the belly and thigh and up-side down the pelvis area as much as possible without arching the lower back.
  4. Once the spine is felt lengthened and straightened, lift the knee caps and straighten the legs by lifting up the sits bone as higher as possible.
  5. Push palms forward harder to transfer more strength back and press the heels down without compromising the spine.

Key things of this pose: strength in the shoulder and neutral spine, the balance between palm, shoulder, sit one and heels. No hyperextension of legs and arms. For beginners, lift up a little bit heel and focusing on spine and leg. Keep breathing if feel the pain of the hamstring and gluteus muscles.
As an inversion pose, it is also good for circulation while we strengthen the spine, shoulder, arms and legs. It worths to practise more whennever we need it. To me, Yoga is beautiful not because of how pose looks like but because of the micro difference when I adjust my pose to the correct one to achieve the health by proper practice.
 
Ms Wan YH ( 200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training (Ashtanga, Hatha) May 2015)
 

A simple back bend that sets you forward

All the strains in our daily life will manifest into aches in certain parts of our physical body. The Cobra pose, also known as Bhujangasana in Sanskrit is one of the well-known basic yoga postures which helps to alleviates the accumulated physical and mental pressures.
By bending your back in Cobra, it helps blood to flow back to the heart, stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen, firms the buttocks, strengthens the abdominal and back muscles.
This posture is both energizing and therapeutic to relieve stress and fatigue.
To reap the full benefits of Cobra, it is important to note that you should create an even arch throughout your spine by feeling a same degree of sensation in lower, middle and upper back.
Doing the Cobra Pose – Instructions

  • Lie with the belly, feet together, forehead on the floor.
  • Spread the hands on the floor under your shoulders, elbows close to your body.
  • INHALE – Slide the head and chest forward and up, using the midback muscles. Press the lower body (tops of feet, thighs) firmly onto the floor. Tip: To check if your midback muscles is engaged, lift your hands off the floor.
  • Extend the elbows and push the lower abdomen up, using the arms to help to stretch the spine further. Roll the shoulder blades back to open up the ribs.
  • HOLD the pose from 15 to 30 seconds, breathe easily and gaze in between the eyes.
  • EXHALE – Slowly lower down the body from lower abdomen, ribs, chest, chin, nose then forehead. Bring the arms by the side of the body.

Common postural errors during this asana include overarching the neck and lower back. One recommendation is to keep the gaze forward and think of lengthening the spine instead of compressing the back.
This is a good pose to practise every morning to warm up your spine, or any time of the day for a quick stretch. From my personal experience, this posture is particularly helpful for business travellers and office workers who work long hours in seated pose.
Remember to breathe and be mindful of the sensations within your body and enjoy the posture!
– Sinyi on asana pose (200hr YTTC/HathaAshtanga/Weekday/02Jun)