Parivritta Parsvakonasana

Keep the back heel on the ground.
This simple instruction adds an incredible layer of complexity to the twist in Parivritta Parsvakonasana. The pose looks almost benign at first sight, with both legs and one arm as the supporting pillars of balance. It is more challenging than a simple spinal twist, yet definitely less intimidating and more manageable than, say, inversions. At first sight.
Getting into the posture
The initial steps of getting into the posture are simple enough. From tadasana, abduct both legs from the hips to widen feet 1.2m to 1.5m apart. Rotate right hip joint and right ankle outwards so that the right foot points 90 degrees to the right. Rotate left hip joint and left ankle inwards slightly.
Next, rotate the hips further clockwise to bring the shoulders and torso to face the right side, making sure that the hips are squared to the breadth of the mat. At exhalation, bend the right knee such that the right thigh is parallel to the floor. To maintain alignment, lift the left heel off the floor at the same time and spin on the ball of the foot until the inner left foot is parallel to the inner right foot. Firm the sartorius muscles to turn the right thigh outward, so that the center of the kneecap is in line with the center of the right ankle。
The challenge begins as one turn to the right from the lumbar region on exhalation to bring the left elbow over the right knee, and extend the arm to place the left palm by the side of the right little toe. After painstakingly bringing the left armpit in contact with the right knee, the right hip may have swung out to compensate for the lack of twist in the thoracic vertebrae, shifting the body out of alignment towards the left, taking the back leg and foot along with it.
To focus first on getting one elbow deeper on the outside edge of the other shin, one can start by practicing with the back knee on the floor to take out any balance element at this point. Once there is good contact between the knee and armpit, the arm and leg can be pressed into each other to create pressure to bring the torso deeper into the twist. This pressure also serves to manage one’s balance when the back knee is off the mat, during which, one needs to contract the gluteus muscles to square the hips, consciously tighten quadriceps, straighten the back leg and push against the left sole to maintain balance and alignment.
Next, rotate the right shoulder outward and open the chest to deepen the twist, and extend the right arm overhead. Turn the head to look at the upper thumb.  With every inhalation, lift a little more through the sternum, pushing the fingers against the floor to help. Twist a little more with every exhalation.
Now, rotate the left heel slightly inward, and press it to the ground.

The right hip immediately swings out again, and one loses balance easily. The mind loses focus as it tries to keep the right arm extended overhead, left palm on the floor, torso twisted, back leg straight, and back heel pushed against the floor all at the same time, somehow forgetting that the hips also need to remain squared. The pose has become one wobbly, uncomfortably twisted figure as a result of simply adding one extra step of grounding the back heel.
Learning is continuous

Repeated failures in performing this Parivritta Parsvakonasana correctly may build up frustration within oneself, because even though each individual aspect of the pose is manageable, combining them to form a stable, aligned posture somehow remains beyond reach for many. Not to mention staying there for five breaths.
The first mental approach is to understand that this is not one asana you could immediately get into. It takes patience and lots of practice to build up strength and flexibility in the relevant body parts.
Next, understand that students with different body conditions and thus limitations have their own reasons on why this posture is not yet achievable. To twist with more ease, one could gain some proficiency in Marichyasana C and Parivritta Trikonasana first to increase flexibility in the thoracic region. Lack of thoracic flexibility causes the hips to go out of alignment when one focuses too much on bringing the left armpit over the right knee without twisting enough of the spine.
Beginners may be unable to reach the floor with their palms. The student can first either rest the forearm on top of the bent-knee thigh, or use a block outside of the front foot to support the hand, for the student to benefit from the twist.
Thirdly, the student needs to be constantly aware of the position of the hips, and alignment of the back leg. It does not seem difficult to tighten the gluteus muscles to keep the hips squared, nor to pull through the knee caps and quadriceps upward towards the pelvis. Yet, it requires energy and focus to twist, tighten, straighten, balance and maintain all at the same time.
Finally, to practice pressing the back heel down, one could do the posture by bracing the back heel against a wall first. As one bends the front knee and then lower the torso to the side, you can imagine that you are pushing the wall away from you. Press the head of the back femur bone deep into its socket and lift the inner back groin deep into the leg.
Benefits of Parivritta Parsvakonasana
This asana greatly increases the flexibility in the hips and lower back. It also lengthens the leg and back muscles. The twisting action opens the chest, groin, hip flexors, and legs, as well as strengthens the shoulders, spine and surrounding muscles. It stimulates peristalsis in the intestines, improving digestion. It also tones and massages the pancreas and liver, and stretches the kidneys. Blood is sent to the spinal discs and other deep tissues, and the abdomen is compressed to release unwanted gas out of the body.  When done correctly, this posture articulates the spine, and aids in correcting scoliosis.
As one of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, asana requires constant practice to build up the body’s health and strength. One does not need to be demoralized by not getting the posture right in the initial stage. The solution is a holistic one, involving a healthy lifestyle, a positive mind, and practice, practice, practice. Clear the mind with the help of pranayama, and focus. Steady the mind and you steady the body.

Ahimsa

Yoga Sutra 2.35 says”ahimsā pratishthāyām tat vaira-tyāgah”.

  • ahimsa = non-violence, non-harming, non-injury
  • pratishthāyām = having firmly established, being well grounded in
  • tat = that, of his or her
  • vaira-tyāgah = give up hostilities (vaira = hostility, enmity, aggression; tyāga = abandon, give up

When translated into English, it means – “As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility”.

Ahimsa, traditionally translated to non-violence or non-injury, is the first Yama (restraints). Non-violence, non-injury, extends to others, nature and ourselves. One may think of non-violence in a physical situation, but again, life is more than this. What about our actions, language, and even our thoughts? The mind is difficult to control. Thoughts of a violent nature, toward ourselves or others, can occur and spin out of control. An important lesson to learn here is to differentiate between truth and “chatter”. Truth tends to be penetrating, direct, and without a lot of words. Whereas chatter tends to be just the opposite – disturbing, noisy and senseless.

Ahimsa, as an emotional practice, involves one’s ability to deal with the feelings of anger and its various subtleties. Anger is an emotion that demands change. When it is left to simmer, it can lead to all kinds of resentment, sulking, tantrums, and irrational fear. Anger is the emotion that underlies any level of hostility, outrage, or violent behaviour, so it must be dealt with immediately and not be denied or ignored. If we can recognise and experience anger simply as a kind of energy, we will be able see and then choose another way of feeling and behaving. The key is to come face to face with the intentions of violence, hatred, or fear, accept them and the hostility within us can then be neutralised.

Question: What does Ahimsa in yoga practice mean?

For many of us, it means backing off and learning to let the competitive ego go. Many yoga practitioners believe that pushing their bodies beyond the limit is a mental win. But yoga is not about competition. There is no competitiveness in yoga. In fact, we need to focus on ourselves – not on other people – while practising.

In my first few years of yoga practice, I pushed myself a lot, breathed through the pain and ignored the injuries in my left hamstring. It affected me physically and mentally. I could not do simple poses like paschimottanasana and uttanasana properly. I was frustrated and angry with myself so I disregarded the pain and continued to push myself further. I feared that I would not be able to advance in my yoga practice because of the injury. My morale was hit and I did not feel good after every class. The consequence of my ignorance and egoism – my right hamstring was also injured. I deceived myself by continuing with the practice despite the injuries, thinking that miracle would happen one day and the pain in my hamstrings would disappear. Then one day, I decided to stop the “nonsense” and “listen to my body” during the practice. I realized I need to do less to get more. So I bent my knees in poses like paschimottanasana and uttanasana. I stopped pushing when I felt sharp pain (and not a stretch) in my hamstrings or any parts of my body. I began to practise awareness in yoga classes. The pain in my hamstring went away a few months later and I felt better physically and mentally in my yoga practice thereafter. I have learned that modifying postures to compensate for injuries, weakness, or a low energy level is practising ahimsa on our mats. Rather than gaining satisfaction from fancy postures and physical feats, I find that consistent practice that matches breath to movement is what that benefits us the most and makes the most changes in us.

The challenge in a yoga practice is not in pushing ourselves and learning not to compete with ourselves is a more difficult skill. The challenge is this – rather than push ourselves physically to gain a mental benefit, consider that we can do the same by practicing Ahimsa. It might just change the way we practise yoga and transform our practice…and us. Once we have learned to practise ahimsa and compassion with ourselves, and to let go of our messy egos and their expectations, then we have become true yoga practitioner. The mark of an advanced yoga practitioner is not that he or she can wrap his leg behind his head. It is that he/she treats his/her body as the valuable temple that houses his/her mind and spirit.

Start practising Ahimsa on the mat today! It will go a long way to making you not only learn more about yourself, but challenge you in new ways you never thought possible.

Yoga is a journey and not a process.

Namaste.

Karma

“Karma” means action. It refers to the intentional deeds we do with our body speech and mind through action, talking and thinking. Karma is the law that every deed done, given the conditions, will bear certain fruits.

How does Karma work? All deeds leave imprints or seeds on our consciousness, which ripen into our experiences when the appropriate conditions come together. For example, if we help someone with a kind heart, this action leaves a positive imprint on our mind stream. When conditions are suitable, this imprint will ripen in our receiving of help when we need it.

If an action brings pain and misery in the long term for oneself and others, it is unwholesome or negative Karma. And if it brings happiness, it is wholesome or positive Karma. Actions are not inherently good or bad. They are only so according to their motivations and the consequences they bring. Whatever happiness and fortune we experience in our lives comes from our own positive actions, while our problems result from our own negative actions.

Examples of actions which create negative Karma are killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, idle talk and craving. Hmm….so the next time my colleagues gossip about others, I should walk away and ignore them. Charity, self-restraint, service and reverence are examples of actions which create positive Karma.

Who controls Karma? There is no one that decides the “rewards and punishments” for what we do. We create the causes of our actions, and we experience their results. We are responsible for our own experience.

Have you ever experienced karma in workplace? Heard of this popular saying – “what goes around comes around”? I am trying very hard every day to practise good karma in the office. A co-worker that I work with has not been very helpful to me since I took over his work about a year ago. He withheld a lot of work-related information from me and was not willing to answer my queries directly or share his knowledge or experience with me. There were times when I wanted to hurl nasty remarks at him just to vent my frustration but I held back. I do not know what stops me from this “negative action”. But I believe in myself, in my own ability to overcome the difficulties. I regard this as a bad experience in life. Everyone has bad experiences; this is a natural part of life. Bad experiences must be addressed with solutions. Look at a crisis, cry if we must, find a solution, and learn from it. We all feel grief, but we cannot solve anything by crying about it. It is natural to cry, but we must move on. The old saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” applies to life. Look at each situation and learn from it. Otherwise, one can fall down and the world will “walk all over you.” My hard work through sheer determination has paid off – I received a promotion this year when I was only on the job for one year! I am glad I did not react to his negative actions.

 

Dalai Lama has suggested the following twenty ways to get Good Karma:

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s:
    –  Respect for self,
    –  Respect for others and
    –  Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11.  Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
    think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. If you want others to be happy, practise compassion.
  20. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.

Start practising good Karma now. 🙂

Sirsasana (Headstand)

Sirasana (sirsa = head) or Headstand is an inverted pose which reverses the action of gravity on the body. Inversions turn everything upside down, allowing us to experience a different perspective. The increased blood flow to the brain brings increased oxygen and nutrient to the mind thereby improving the clarity of thought and ease of concentration.

Benefits:

–   The increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the pituitary gland which revitalises the mind and central nervous system. The pituitary gland is considered a “master gland” which controls the function of the endocrine system including the thyroid, adrenal gland, ovaries and testes. These glands in turn regulate metabolism, growth, blood pressure, sexuality and other fundamental body functions. An imbalance of the secretion of the various hormones produced by the pituitary gland can lead to many serious disorders of the endocrine system. 

–   The inverted pose ensures good venous return where the blood will return under gravity without the need for muscular activity. Below the level of the heart, pumps are used to bring blood back up to its level. These skeletal muscle pumps are found in the veins. Contraction of skeletal muscle squeezes blood through them and because they are one-way valves, blood only moves in one direction, towards the heart. Therefore it is necessary to have muscle activity whenever we are upright in order to ensure good venous return. By performing the headstand, the venous return increases and the additional blood stretches the walls of the ventricles. When that happens, the stretched muscle fibers in the ventricles automatically pump more strongly, thus increasing the cardiac output. It resembles the cardio-vascular activity achieved while exercising.

–   The pose helps to relieve anxiety and other psychological disorders.

–   The final position requires muscles in the neck, shoulders, arms, back and abdomen to be active, which strengthens and revitalises the entire body. It strengthens the core muscles and uppper body.

–   The inversion changes the effect of gravity on the body, which has an important effect on blood circulation to the legs and head.

–   The pose increases pressure on the diaphragm which aids deep exhalation to expel waste gases and bacteria from the lungs and can relieve the daily effects of gravity on the spine.

–   The inversion encourages an upward flow of energy, from the Muladhara Chakra (root chakra) to the Sahasrara Chakra (crown chakra). It helps to awaken the Sahasrara chakra (Crown chakra) which is deemed as the most important Chakra intimately connected to, and influencing, all other chakras and controlling consciousness.

Getting into the pose:

1.         Kneel down on the mat. Rest your weight on the forearms and wrap the hands around the elbows. Release the hands, place them in front of you, and form a triangle by interlacing the fingers. Form a cup with the palms. (Note: These steps set the foundation for a stable headstand.)

2.         Rest the crown of the head on the mat, so that the back of the head touches the palms.

3.         Raise the knees, tuck the toes under, straigthen the knees and raise your hips (visualise a downward dog). Without bending the knees, walk the feet towards the head, gradually bringing the weight of the body onto the head. Pull your hips back so that your neck is not bent backward or forward, but is in a straight line with the spine.

4.         When the feet are as close to the head as possible, lift them off the floor (one by one or both with control), bend the kness and slowly bring the thighs close to the chest.

5.         Once stability is achieved in Step 4, slowly raise both knees using your abdominal muscles and point the knees toward the ceiling until the hips are facing forward, the thighs are vertical and the knees are aligned with the buttocks.

6.         If comfortable, slowly straighten the legs so that the head, trunk, back of the thighs and the heels are in a straight line perpendicular to the floor. This is the final position. Relax the legs and feet. Keep the back active to support the spine and hold it straight. Relax the mind and breathe normally.

Contraindications: High and low blood pressure; Glaucoma; Detached retina; Haemorrhaging or other brain disorders; Chronic or acute neck pain.

Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Stick Pose)

Chaturanga (chatur=four; anga=limb; danda=staff, stick) is an excellent pose to build awareness of the muscles that support and stabilize our shoulder blades. It is also an excellent core exercise to prepare us for more challenging arm balances. Benefits are as follows:

–   Strengthen the legs, buttocks, back, abs, shoulders, arms, and wrists;

–   Improves circulation and digestion

–   Relieves minor tendonitis and fatigue

–   Energizes the body

–   Improves concentration and develops focus.

 

1.         Contraindications :

–   Carpal tunnel syndrome

–   Pregnancy

 

2.         Anatomical Focus:

–   Core

–   Shoulders

–   Back

–   Buttocks

 

3.         Getting into the pose:

 

a.         Preparation

Starting from plank pose, or high push up, our wrists are stacked under our shoulders and our body is parallel to the floor with our toes on the mat. In this position, the pectoralis muscles of the chest are keeping us in a push-up position. To avoid sagging into the wrist joints, we need to recruit the larger muscles of our shoulders for support. Imagine moving our heart closer to the floor without bending the elbows, the shoulder blades will tend to glide closer to each other. This actively engages our rhomboid muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine, and the middle portion of our diamond shaped trapezius muscle.

 

b.         Upper Body

To lower our body from plank position, the action of inward and outward rotation at the shoulder joint must be balanced. The outward rotation of teres major and infraspinatus muscles of the rotator cuff counteract the inward pull of the pectoralis muscles, and lattisimus dorsi on the back. By nature of the fact that our palms are on the mat, the pronator muscles of the forearm are activating an inward rotation at the wrist. To maintain neutral rotation at our shoulder joint, our elbows must hug to our sides to engage the triceps, whose natural action is pure flexion and extension at the elbows. It is important to maintain the engagement of the scapular support muscles that we started with in plank pose. This means that we keep an open heart moving forward, broad across the collarbones, and our shoulder tips never drop below our elbows. The subscapularis muscle of the rotator cuff (on the underside of the shoulder blade) is working over time to prevent the arm bone from moving forward out of the shoulder joint.

c.         Core
To avoid sagging into the low back or popping up with our hips, our core muscles must be engaged. Use a gentle contraction of uddiyana bandha, sucking the belly button up and in, flattening the lower belly. This action corresponds to engaging the transversus abdominus, which provides stability to the lower spine. A slight tuck under of the tailbone can aid this action. The contraction of the transversus abdominus is maintained throughout chaturanga to keep our body parallel to the floor and avoid any lower back discomfort. Press back firmly through the heels to distribute the weight to our core and upper body and send weight into the legs.

d.         Lower Body

The action of pressing back into the heels activate the muscles that dorsi flex our ankles, namely tibialis anterior on the front of the shin. Our hamstrings lengthened by the action of the extended knee initiated by our quadriceps muscles in the front of the thighs. To keep our alignment, our thighs are pressing towards each other but not touching, like we are holding a block with the adductor muscles of the groin.

Asanas for the 7 Chakras

Chakras refer to the energy centers in the human body which is vertically aligned in the center of the body close to the spine. There are seven chakras, or energy centers, in our body. Each of these chakras is associated with a different part of the body along the spine from the coccyx to the crown of our head. As centers of force, chakras can be thought of as sites where we receive, absorb, and distribute life energies. A proper balance in the seven Chakras is essential for us to have good health. Through external situations and internal habits, such as long-held physical tension and limiting self-concepts, a chakra can become either deficient or excessive—and therefore imbalanced. An imbalance in the chakras can result in diseases and ill health. Yoga postures can help in aligning the chakras and making them healthy and active.

By practising yoga we can learn to focus the concentration and energy to and from the various chakras in our body.  By balancing the energy among all seven of the chakras a balance can be achieved.

Asanas for the different chakras

1.         Muladhara Chakra (mula=root, cause, source; adhara=support or vital part). This chakra is located at the base of spine (coccyx) and is associated with adrenals, kidneys, muscles and blood. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like constipation, back pain, diarrhea, piles, colitis, high blood pressure, obesity, kidney stones and impotence. Some good yoga postures for this chakra are Setu Bandhasana (Bridge), Salabhasana (Locust), Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-knee) and Upavista Konasana (Wide angle forward bend).


2.         Svadhisthana Chakra (sva=vital force, soul; adhisthana=seat or abode). This chakra is located below navel at the lower abdomen and is associated with reproductive organs and stomach. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like uterine fibroids, pre-menstrual syndrome, irregular periods, ovarian cysts, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, testicular disease, low back pain and prostate disease. Some good yoga postures to practise for this chakra are Bhujangasana (Cobra), Garudasana (Eagle), Kapotasana (Pigeon) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half spinal twist).


3.         Manipura Chakra (manipura=navel). This chakra is located at the navel (solar plexus) and is associated with the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, spleen, digestive system and nervous system. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like diabetes, digestive problems, liver disease and gall stones. Some good yoga postures to practise for this chakra are Bhujangasana (Cobra), Dhanurasana (Bow) and Chakrasana (Wheel).

4.         Anahata Chakra (anahata=heart). This is the heart chakra and is associated with the heart, thymus gland, lungs and circulatory system. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like heart diseases, allergies, breast cancer and problems related to the immune system. Some good yoga postures for a healthy heart chakra are Bhujangasana (Cobra), Matsyasana (Fish) and Ustrasana (Camel).

5.         Visuddha Chakra (visuddha=pure). This chakra is located at the throat and is associated with the thyroid gland, lungs and respiratory system. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like thyroid, anorexia, asthma, bronchitis, hearing problems, mouth ulcers, sore throats and tonsillitis. Some good yoga postures for this chakra are Matsyasana (Fish), Halasana (Plough) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).


6.         Ajna Chakra (ajna=command). This chakra is located at the forehead in between the eyes and is associated with the pituitary gland, eyes, nose, ears and skeletal system. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like migraine, glaucoma, cataracts and sinus problems. Some good asanas for this chakra are Matsyasana (Fish), Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Sirsasana (Headstand)

7.         Sahasrara Chakra (sahasrara=thousand-petalled lotus). This chakra is located at the crown of the head and is associated with the pineal gland, brain and central nervous system. An imbalance in this chakra can cause diseases and conditions like depression, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. The yoga asanas to practise for this chakra are the same as that for Ajna chakra.

Yoga off the Mat

How yoga has changed me is an interesting question. It is a question that I really have to think about….

I ask myself another intriguing question – what is yoga “off the mat”? We practise patience, determination, concentration, calmness, etc “on the mat” in a yoga class. How then do we apply them when we are “off the mat”? Ponder….

Yoga has taught me to be less fearful of my own limitations. Fear hinders our pursuit of goals in life but it can be overcome. Fear is all in the mind (mind over body). In my opinion, the main obstacle in mastering inverted poses e.g. headstand is the fear of uncertainty and fear of falling. I had fallen many times (safely of course) from practising inversions. I still remember the bruises on my shoulders while falling from Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance). But every fall makes be better and stronger. I hope to find my balance in handstand soon…. :-D.

Press on….

Off the mat, I hope to conquer my phobia in public speaking.

Yoga has helped me to learn how to take time for myself, and to relax and breathe. Breathe through the difficult times as well as when you are just kicking back. It has given me a way of “going” inside myself to find my “higher” self. I can visualize things much better than before I started my yoga classes, and by doing this I can let go of the events that add stress to my life. Having less stress is something we all strive for and yoga has definitely helped me to learn how to de-stress.

I traveled to Bali (Ubud) alone two years ago for a short yoga retreat. That was the first time I traveled alone. I always think I am a “strong” person, having to deal with many teething and difficult issues at home alone most of the times. So I thought traveling alone should be a breeze for me. I cried a lot during the trip. 😛

I arrived at Bali an hour after midnight. A male driver picked me up at the airport. The journey to the guesthouse was the longest one I ever had. The roads were badly lit and I was alone with this guy who didn’t look like a decent man to me. I didn’t know where he was driving me to. I heaved a sign of relief when we finally arrived at the guesthouse around 2am. But my nightmare didn’t end there. Nobody was at the guesthouse to receive me! I thought “not another round of s**t?!”…fortunately the driver managed to contact the guesthouse owner. The driver didn’t leave me in the lurch. It was wrong of me to judge him (I have learnt not to judge and underestimate people from my years of yoga practice). I thought I could have a good rest finally (I was having a sore throat). I was disappointed when the owner brought me to my room. It didn’t have the basic items we normally find in hotel room e.g. drinking water. I didn’t feel safe in the room and couldn’t sleep the entire night. I felt lost and lonely the next day and wanted to go home. I sought assistance from the owner of the yoga studio (Megan) but was told there was no early flight back to Singapore. I started to cry uncontrollably when Megan sat down and talked to me. She gave me a warm hug and I felt safe despite not knowing her. Megan got a Singapore-based kundalini yoga teacher (Rebecca) to help me and I was transferred to the guesthouse where she was staying almost immediately at no extra cost. I attended yoga classes with strangers the next few days and walked around Ubud alone. Yoga gave me the determination and strength I needed to get through the difficult time in Ubud. It was a self-realization trip for me. Unforgettable….

Off the mat, I hope to be a stronger person, not physically, but mentally.

I am not sure I can put into words exactly how yoga has changed me, because it is a feeling. Peace, tranquility, tolerance of others, able to forgive and forget (who doesn’t make mistakes?), these are just some of the feelings I have and they have grown stronger since I began Yoga.

Yoga is a way of training for our mind and body to help us on this journey called “life”. I feel that is the real answer for me – Yoga is helping me on my journey, off and on the mat. 🙂

Sirsasana A (Headstand pose) “a panacea, a cure-all for all diseases”

Technique (Getting into the pose):
1. Sit in Vajrasana (kneeling position), by contracting the hamstrings and plantar flex the feet by contracting the gastrocnemius and soleus muscle; close your eyes and relax the whole body. After a few minutes, bend forward, by contracting the quadriceps femoris and the gluteus maximus and place the forearms on a folded blanket with the fingers interlocked and the elbows in front of the knees, by contracting the deltoid muscle to flex the arms, and contracting the biceps brachii muscle to flex the forearms. You should have an equilateral triangle from the distance between each elbow and the distance between the elbows to the interlocked fingers.
Place the crown of the head on the blanket between the interlocked fingers. Wrap the hands around the head to make a firm support so that it cannot roll back when pressure is applied. Contract the levator scapulea to bend the head forward and protract the scapula by contracting the pectoralis major, rhomboideous and the latissimus dorsi.
Lift the knees and buttocks off the floor, straighten the legs and start walking the feet forward on the tip of your toes. Contract the quadriceps femoris, the gluteus maximus, engage the core muscles, uddiyana bandha (draw the abdomen in and up) and mula bandha (engage the pelvic floor). Your chest is folded down against your thighs with the knees straight in a posterior stretch. Your hips are flexed. (You can bend the knees if you don’t have enough hip and hamstrings flexibility). Your back should be slightly rounded at this point and almost to the point of tipping over (protaction of the scapula by engaging the serratus anterior or boxer’s muscle). Then bend the knees slightly, press the thighs against the abdomen and lower chest, by contracting the hamstrings.
2. Once you feel most body weight is on the shoulders and the legs become weightless, gradually raise the lower legs in a controlled movement by contracting the hamstrings. At the same time, you should be retracting and depressing the scapulas by contacting the pectoralis minor, and transverse abdominis, external obliques and uddiyana and mula bandha. Adjust the trunk slightly to counter-balance the weight of the legs by contracting the core muscles. This is a difficult stage to remain in for a long time, because the weight of your legs has to be supported by your deep back muscles. Poor hip flexibility and short hamstring muscles is the main obstacle at this point, it will keep tension on the pelvis and the back rounded, and this prevents you from distributing the majority of your body weight above your head. The less flexible the hips, the more weight you will have to support on the forearms as you lift the feet.
3. Extend the hips, so that the thighs move up and away from the torso, by contracting the gluteus maximus, the hamstrings and keeping the core muscles engaged. Raise the knees until they point directly upward and the thighs are in line with the trunk. Balance the body. This position is very stable; you can stay in it as easily as in the headstand itself. Because your knees are flexed and your feet drop to the rear, it will require a more prominent lumbar lordosis to keep your balance.
4. Finally, slowly extend and straighten your knees by contracting the quadriceps femoris to raise the lower legs. As you do this, the lumbar region will flatten to compensate for the fact that the feet and legs are now in line with the torso and thighs. You will gradually shift your weight off the forearms and balance on your head. The whole body should be in one straight line with the feet relaxed, the core muscles stay engaged. Do not crush the neck; depress the scapulas to keep them stable by engaging the rhomboideus muscle. Gaze at your nose tip and breath slowly to relax in this position as long as it is comfortable (10 to 30 seconds for beginners and gradually adding more seconds, 3 to 5 minutes is sufficient for general health). You should put your awareness, when first practicing, on maintaining the balance; for adepts, on the brain, on the centre of the head or on the respiration. Or on the spiritual side, you should put your awareness on Sahasrara Chakra.
Technique (Getting out the pose):
Slowly bend the knees and lower the body with control, in the reverse order, until the toes touch the floor, by contracting your abdominals muscles. You can rest in Balasana (child’s pose) for a while then slowly return to the upright position the counterpose (Tadasana).
Contra-indictions:
Sirsasana should not be practiced by people with neck problems, headache or migraine, high blood pressure, heart diseases, thrombosis, arteriosclerosis, chronic catarrh, chronic constipation, kidney problems, impure blood, severe near sightedness, week blood vessels in the eyes, conjunctivitis, chronic glaucoma, inflammation of the ears or any form of blood haemorrhage in the head. It should not be practiced during pregnancy or menstruation.
Benefits:
This asana is very powerful for awakening Sahasrara Chakra (situated at the crown of the head, corresponding to the pineal gland of the physical body) and therefore it is considered the greatest of all asanas.
Sirsasana revitalizes the entire body and mind. It relieves anxiety and other disturbances which form the root cause of many disorders such as asthma, hay fever, diabetes and menopausal imbalance.
It also helps to rectify many forms of nervous and glandular disorder, especially related to the reproductive system.
This asana reverses the effect of gravity in the body. Strain on the back is thus alleviated and the reversed flow of blood in the legs and visceral regions aids tissue regeneration. The weight of the abdominal organs on the diaphragm encourages deep exhalation so that larger amount of carbon dioxide are removed from the lungs.
The headstand lifts your spirits wonderfully. If something is drawing you dawn, turn upside down, and voila! The downward flow is upended into your head. The headstand is also a great morning wake-up. It increases digestive fire, counters depression, and fills you with enthusiasm for meeting your day. But doing this posture to excess is like increasing the voltage in an electrical circuit. Be careful.

Maha Moksha Mantra

MaXXha- Mrityunjaya (Maha Moksha) Mantra- For thousands of years, Sages recited the Maha Moksha mantra as one of the revered mantras for Lord Siva. This mantra provides a protective sheath against any danger, wards off death, heals the mind and body and leads us towards enlightenment. This mantra carries the energies of countless realized beings having chanted this mantra for all the years to invoke the presence of Lord Siva, the Destroyer of Death and Ignorance. The Maha Moksha mantra is Nandhi’s most treasured mantra as due to his experience with the mantra.

The story: Shortly after having received the mantra from his guru Bhairava Sekar Swamy, Nandhi and four others were trapped in a cave in Karnataka, South India, where killer bees descended on them. Thousands of them! Two of his friends managed to escape but were still stung atleast over 10 times. Nandhi, who was in shock, went into reciting this mantra and felt a cool blue energy cover him. He felt himself covered with bees and felt the bees go into his nostril, his ears, under his shirt- but not one stung him. His other friend was rolling in agony with bees repeatedly sting him. They were later rescued by the villagers.

Not one bee had stung Nandhi. Nandhi owes the protective energy of Lord Siva to the Maha Moksha mantra.

Beware

Hi All
Last Thursday, i came in contact with a person who has been doing Yoga for 10 years.  She was under the guidance of a “so called” yoga teacher cum engineer.  He conducts classes for about 60 to 100 people at any one time, free of charge.
She has been suffering from back ache for the last 5 years.  Each time she practices yoga and the day after, she feels pain.  I noticed that her lips have also started turning dark (not from smoking or drinking).  If you have been practicing for such a length of time, you should not feel any pain at all.
Closely examining her postures, i realised that her alignments of postures have not been corrected and the teacher have not noticed this.  Sadly, without corrections and proper alignments, her back ache has been aggravated.  Now, her nerves are also giving her problems and leading to excruciating pain.
Please take note of instances of such and correct your students’ postures as soon as you come in contact with them.