Yoga and Climbing Part 3

Pushing vs Pulling
Having explored the physical and mental similarities between Yoga and Climbing, and briefly discussed on how they complement each other, we will discuss more on the complementing aspect of the two disciplines specifically in terms of pushing and pulling movements.
As a form of practice and exercise, many believe that yoga is a completely balanced one because it provides growth opportunity for strength, flexibility and even spirituality.
While there’s a truth in that, on a closer look however, we may realise that yoga focuses a great deal on pushing movements. Majority of the asanas such as Chaturanga, handstand and crow involve pushing our own body weight away from the floor.
With consistent and long term practice, practitioners will definitely develop more strength especially on the shoulder pushing muscles (scapular protraction) but if yoga is the only form of exercise they are doing, functional muscular imbalances in the shoulder will start to develop simply because of the lack in pulling movement (scapular retraction).
As with any other form of exercises, muscular imbalances will translate to higher risk of injuries.
Certain asanas do involve pulling – Utthita Hasta Padanghusthasana pulls the big toe towards the body or Dancer and Mermaid pose pull the foot close to our bodies. However, the force required to do this pulling movement is comparatively small to the pushing movements involved in the other asanas.
Here, we are comparing pushing our own body weight to pulling a toe or feet.
There are other asanas which include scapular retractions such as Purvottanasana, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Wheel and other backbending poses but again, the intensity of the force involved is different to the ones involved in pushing our own body weight.
This is the main reason climbing is a great balancing exercise for yoga. Climbing mainly involves pulling our own body weight up the wall / rock. Although some may point out that climbers work their way up by pushing their foot / legs against the foothold, there is still significant shoulder pulling movements involved.
Alternatively, yoga practitioners may also include other exercises such pull up and seated / barbell rows or even make use of resistance bands to perform simple shoulder pulling movements.
With more balanced healthy shoulder strength, we may be able to access poses or climbing problems which seemed impossible previously.

Tips: How to Memorise Body Movements

If you are taking YTT, you should know that you’ll have to attend anatomy classes, and one of the many things you have to memorise would be BODY MOVEMENTS!  It’s quite easy to remember all the basic body movements if you put humour into it.  The following are some of the lame jokes which you can apply in memorising the body movements.  Let’s go!

 

Flexion vs. Extension

Flexion decreases the angle and extension increases the angle.  If all your body parts are in neutral position, i.e. standing up straight and hands at the side of your body straight, all the angles in your body is 180 degree.  Any movement causing the angle to be lesser than 180 degree, e.g. bending forward, then it’s flexion, vice versa.

 Imagine you’re in foetal position, i.e. curling up in a ball.  All your limbs are now in flexion.

So remember, they both start with F, i.e. Foetal = Flexion.  So, the opposite will be extension.

 

Abduction vs. Adduction

 Abduction moves the limb away from the midline of the body, whilst adduction is the opposite – bring the limb towards the body or across the midline.  Still confuse?

 Imagine a small U.F.O. is flying in the air beside you and try to take your hand away.  When that happens, where would your hand go?

Answer: Your hand will be raised to the side, away from your body.  The U.F.O. is trying to ABDUCT your hand!

 

Supination vs. Pronation

These are movement of the forearm.   In supination, the radius and ulna are parallel to each other, whilst in pronation, the radius and ulna form an X-shape.

When you beg for SOUP, your palm will have to face up, and your forearm is in SUPINATION.  Lame, but effective.

 

Dorsiflexion vs. Plantar Flexion

These are movements at the ankle joint – a hinge joint.  If you’re curving up your toes upwards to stretch your calf muscles, it’s dorsiflexion.  When you’re pointing your toes like a ballerina, it’s a plantar flexion.

Just imagine when you’re pointing your toes, you’re actually PLANTING your toes to the floor.  Besides, Pointing and Planting both starts with the letter “P”.

 

You’re welcome!

Would yin yoga enable me to become flexible more quickly?

Ever since moving to Singapore from the UK in 2012, I have been increasingly intrigued and impressed by the flexibility of the locals. Although my hips are not very flexible, I have been attending intermediate classes for a number of years.

Quite often I will find that there are a number of poses that I cannot even attempt due to me inflexiblity. This extends to binds as well. During the YTT at Tirisula yoga and looking more closely at muscles actions and movements, I’m interested to discover if I can ever come to a full lotus pose. After following the advice from Master Sree to frog pose and a half lotus for extended periods, I have been able to form some variation of a full lotus.

The fact that holding conditioning poses for extended periods has improved my flexibility leads me to think that regular yin yoga sequences would be a good idea for me and many other westerners who like to practice intermediate of even advanced yoga but have tight hips.

What are some yon yoga hip stretched that I could consider using in my practise?

Winged Dragon (five-minute hold on each side)

 

Shoelace (five-minute hold on each side)

Square Pose

What weird and wonderful yoga styles are out there?

During the final week of YTT at Tirisula Yoga, we have been learning about the business side of yoga. Master Sree has spoken about his most popular class where his students practise fun postures, like forward roles that they have not practised since childhood. This idea intrigued me because I’m a primary school teacher and children like to have fun. We tend to be less concerned about fun as adults.

I have come to understand and appreciate that Vinyasa, Hatha and Ashtanga are the main styles of yoga, but what are some of the more unusual styles that have surfaced in more recent time?

1 Yoga Rave – As Yoga Rave put it “The Yoga Rave Project will bring the spiritual element back to celebration and the way we have fun, offering a drug free alternative for our youth to gather and release their energy and tension.”

2 Goat yoga is yoga practiced in the presence of — and in tandem with – live goats.

3 Broga Yoga is a yoga class geared for men (where it’s okay if you can’t touch your toes).

4 Laughter Yoga is one of the more developed unusual styles of Yoga, counting with its own world conferences and even its own “Laughter Yoga University.”

5 Tantrum Yoga is a yoga class shaking, screaming, foot-stamping and chest-thumping.

Master Sree spoke about teaching from the mind and inspiring others rather than doing the same. I intend to spend some time trying out some different styles and planning some more creative lessons… maybe I’ll try one of these classes if I can find one online.

Yoga or Pilates?

For many people , Yoga and Pilates look very similar – there are no power or cardio loads, exercises are performed slowly and consciously , with calm music. Pilates and yoga are wellness systems that include exercises to develop flexibility, endurance, and concentration. Regular exercises tidy up the body, allow you to find harmony with yourself. In this, both areas of fitness are similar.

But, having examined   these   practice closely, we  can find a lot of differences between them

    What is yoga?

     Yoga is the ancient Indian system of human self-development, which originated long before our era. This is a spiritual tradition, experience and wisdom of many generations that millions of people around the world have followed to this day.

Translated from Sanskrit, yoga means “union, communication, harmony.” Those. the unity of the physical and mental state of a person, the harmony of health and spiritual beauty. The purpose of classes is to achieve and maintain this unity.

It is impossible to imagine yoga without performing various asanas (static postures) that help improve the body. But physical practice is only part of the philosophy of yoga, one of the tools for working on consciousness. It also includes:

  • rules of personal and social behavior;
  • breathing exercises;
  • meditation
  • singing mantras;
  • body cleansing;
  • concentration of attention;
  • desire for complete control over the senses.

Therefore, yoga is a way of life aimed at achieving a balance of physical and psychological health, and not just a set of static exercises that develop flexibility and endurance.

What is pilates?

   Pilates is a system of healing the body, based on the dynamic performance of exercises that are performed in a specific technique and sequence. Their goal is to develop flexibility, improve the condition of joints and spine, posture and coordination of movements.

Pilates, unlike yoga, is a young trend in fitness. The German trainer Joseph Pilates developed gymnastic exercises for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from diseases of the musculature system at the beginning of the 20th century.

6 fundamental differences between Pilates and Yoga.

  • Yoga is the oldest system of self-development, philosophy, lifestyle. Pilates is a relatively young wellness system for the body, one of the types of fitness.
  • Pilates training is aimed at creating a healthy body, practicing yoga – at achieving harmony of the body, spirit and mind.
  • Many exercises and asanas are similar, but have a significant difference in technique. If in classical yoga you need to enter a pose and fix it for a long time (static load), then in Pilates the main thing is movement. All exercises are dynamic, repeated several times. Important consistent articulation of the spine and body muscles when entering and exiting the position.
  • Pilates breathing control helps to concentrate on doing the exercise and working muscles. Ancient practice provides breathing, as one of the steps to self-improvement (pranayama).
  • In Pilates, the muscles of the back and cortex are mainly worked out, in yoga – all muscle groups.
  • In classical hatha yoga additional equipment is not used. In Pilates classes  fitball, rings, rollers are actively used.

In my opinion, you should try both this practice and chose which is most suitable for you. However, if  you want to get a little more than just a beautiful and healthy body, then you may want choose yoga. After all, ancient practice is also aimed at working with the mind, includes methods of spiritual development and self-improvement. Practice will show what is right for you.

Engage your core

The wonders of a physical yoga practice is that there are always variations that fits all fitness levels, and progression is limitless. It brings you out of your comfort zone when trying a new pose i.e. inversion. Have a good laugh while falling all over safely and enjoy the process. Stretches can be deepened and strength to be built and that’s why yoga journey never ends.

Have you ever attended a yoga class that never mentioned “engage your core” or “suck in your belly”? I have never. Arm balances and inversions require a strong core to hold the poses. A strong core comes in all shapes and sizes other than beautifully defined abs. Half the time when I cant get into or hold certain poses, its due to the lack of core strength.

The benefits of a strong core is beyond achieving advanced poses. It is the fundamental strength we need for a healthy well being. It has the potential to strengthen your entire body with greater balance and stability. Our core is responsible for our bending, twisting and lifting, making it easier to reach for the top shelf or pick something up from the floor. Building core strength is an important part of maintaining your body at any age. As we age, and our bodies start to wear down, we will be thankful for a strong core that will delay or keep pain away.

Sharing an easy 5 min work out to add onto your work out routine:

The 5-Minute Core-Strengthening Workout
  • 1 minute upright plank
  • 1 minute side plank (30 seconds each side)
  • 1 minute static boat pose
  • 1 minute crunches (or crunch hold)
  • 1 minute dead bug

Having the intention is the very first step. Practicing it, is next.

And remember, don’t give up if you fail to keep up the routine. Try again another day.

 

 

 

 

Taking YTT 200 with an injury

Eight years ago, I injured my left knee. I can’t recall what exactly I was doing but I’m certain it was nothing important or strenuous. I felt a sharp pain every time I landed my foot on the floor of whenever I bent my left knee. It felt like someone was driving a thin metal-cold knife right under the knee bone. But a few months passed and my knee was back to normal.

Two years ago, the same thing happened. On a random day, I bent down from a standing position into a squat to pick up some things on the floor, and the same sharp pain came back. I couldn’t bend my knee without feeling the invisible thin knife slicing through the joint. And this time, my entire knee began to swell. Climbing a flight of stairs was a struggle. Lifting heavy luggage was a struggle.

By this second bout of injury, I was already active in my Yoga practice. But the injury made it excruciating to do simple poses like chair pose. And after every practice, my knee would swell and I had to take a few days rest so it could partially (no fully) recover.

Unlike the first time, the pain had no plans of leaving me. Three, four months had passed and the trauma on my left knee remained. My movements had severely been limited.

When I attended Yoga classes, I couldn’t perform any asana that involved kneeling or the lotus position. Doing cat and cow and then moving into a low lunge was a NIGHTMARE.

My knee was stiff but its insides felt so tender. Whenever I pushed my knee beyond its limit, at the end of the class I always got the feeling that my lower leg was about to fall off – like when you lift the drumstick off a whole roasted chicken, and the cartilage and skin begin to tear. All you need is to pull it towards you and the chicken leg comes right off.

And my Yoga teachers gave different pieces of advice like strengthen my thigh and avoid placing weight on my left leg. They also suggested Pilates to help strengthen my leg.

But, rather than strengthening my left leg, I developed uneven legs. I could barely stand on my left leg without support or without the pain searing through. So, I would place most of my weight on my right leg to compensate — my right leg basically became more macho than my left leg.

When I visited the rheumatologist, he said I had early onset osteoarthritis. Because of two prior injuries, my knee has decided to have an accelerated “wear and tear.” He also told me there was nothing I could do about it other than to ensure I didn’t add to the progression. I wasn’t supposed to do any running, jumping and mountain climbing.

I was only 29 then and I had an old person knee problem. I was horrified. And one of my biggest fears in that moment was that my knee condition would require me to take a step back from doing Yoga.

But instead of slowing down, I decided this was a push towards the right direction. I took the diagnosis as a sign that I needed to find a place and time where someone would teach me, specifically and properly, how I could continue with my Yoga practice without my knee holding me back. I wanted to find a way to excel in my practice despite having a chronically injured body part.

That was when I decided to take the Yoga Teacher Training 200 course.

I had apprehensions; I was afraid my knee would act up and I would have to give up the course half way. Giving up the course was not a practical option for me since I was flying all the way from Philippines.

But lo and behold, our batch is in our last week of training and I am still in one piece. My left leg has gained strength over three weeks, which was possible because of three key aspects in the training:

  • Daily asanas that were heavy on technique (which were really challenging on certain days but beneficial every step of the way)
  • Knowledge of the muscular and joint system (I understood which thigh muscles to pull so that I could relieve the left knee of stress, pain and overextension)
  • Awareness of the fact that Yoga can really be used for therapy.

An injury will come in different shapes and forms. It might be inevitable, especially as our physical bodies get older. But it should not stop you. Instead, it should inspire you to want to get better. An injury does not mean you have to stop Yoga; rather, it means you need to take a new approach to your practice. It might also mean the current way you treat your body is not proper or optimal, and that you need to seriously make a change; and giving more attention and taking on an educated approach to your Yoga practice is a great way to start.

4/4

Why you need both physical and mental alignment in an asana

What does it mean to be “connect” to an asana? It’s tough to imagine what connecting to a pose feels like when you can’t even come into the pose.

For example, for most of my early days in the YTT 200 program, I struggled with lifting my hips up over my shoulders and wrists to do a reasonably acceptable handstand against the wall. The teachers always said we had to “enjoy the point of weightlessness” or “find comfort in the pose.” Feeling comfort might be easier if the pose involved reaching my toes or twisting my torso; I could simply reach or twist as far as my body would allow and then melt into the pose. But for inversions like handstand, you could end up injuring yourself if you thought of “melting” into a pose. Inversions require strength and control, two things I am not naturally endowed with. I also thought there was no way my two little palms could support my body weight. I imagined tipping over and landing on my back (hard!) or hitting the wall with my head.

What happens when there is no connection?

Easy. You suffer in the asana. And you find yourself counting down the minutes until a pose, sequence, or class is over. You end up hating the experience or loathing yourself. For some people, they fall back to old thinking, old ways of doing things and straining the body, or worse, they give up entirely on the pose and say, “it’s not for me.” For some, they react with self-violence, disrespecting the boundaries of their body, pushing it in unhealthy ways, and punishing themselves for it.

It’s critical to acknowledge that a huge part of this kind of suffering in a Yoga practice is due to misalignment. According to Ray Long in his book ‘The Key Muscles of Yoga’:

“By aligning the direction of the force of gravity along the major axis of the bones, we can access this strength in Yoga postures.”

And alignment can only be achieved with proper technique. With technique, you reap strength, balance and elongation.

Alignment reduces the struggle in a pose, which is important, as struggling in an asana can leave you mentally frustrated and conflicted. As human beings, it’s not unusual to have a scattered mind filled with conflicting thoughts. We typically have pre-conceived ideas, expectations and biases that, if not met, can contribute to feelings of uncertainty and fear, and lack of confidence.

In Long’s book, he writes: “Yoga postures approach effortlessness when we align the long axis of the bones with the direction of gravity.” A key word here is effortless. Another key word that master yogi trainers have said is weightless.

Be effortless and weightless, not mindless.

An essential goal in Yoga is to develop a simple mind. By simple, we mean uncomplicated, unperturbed, clear, integrated, and, essentially, aligned. Simply, other than knowing the physical technique and alignment, a third component of doing asanas effectively is mental alignment. To connect to a pose, you need concentration and mental fearlessness, which can come if you chip away at your preconceived notions. You can only do that through consistent, mindful practice that leads to improvement of technique.

In physical and mental alignment, there is strength, balance, flexibility and elongation; there is also mastery of the mind. Only in this state can you fully observe your progress and begin to enjoy coming into and being in a challenging pose. With both physical and mental alignment, you achieve a elevated type of homeostasis where you can fully grounded in a pose.

Beyond an injury

Even before the start of my YTT journey, I had many doubts whether I could handle the poses with the injury I had. The fear of worsening the injury further and just the thought of having to apply pressure on it gave me little confidence that I would be able to do anything.

However, through the course of my YTT, I have learnt that a limit like an injury is not always a bad thing. What was more important was how I faced it head-on and pushed myself whenever possible. Working within limits did not mean that I was weak. It meant that I needed to know when my body needed to rest and learning how to better listen to what my body was trying to tell me. It also meant that I needed to be more aware of the right alignment and exercises to facilitate recuperation.

It was all a matter of finding balance. Strength versus flexibility, both physically and mentally. How working on strengthening my weak areas around the injury, brought relief to the injury itself. How changing my mentality and allowing myself more time to improve, gave me space to recover. How it pushed me to find the balance between giving up with the excuse of an injury and stopping just at the right moment to prevent worsening the injury. Despite the fact that the injury still causes inconveniences and I still hold back on poses from time to time, I am grateful to have improved the condition of and my outlook towards the injury throughout the duration of the course.

It was truly a timely reminder that limitations are not there to stop your growth but for you to learn ways to overcome it and come out even stronger than before. Believe that you can too!

Yoga and Diabetes

(Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. A V Raveendran et al. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Sep; 33(3): 307–317. )

 

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that is becoming increasingly common. It is characterised by insulin resistance with relative or absolute insulin deficiency. This can result in devastating vascular complications such as kidney damage, heart attack, stroke and blindness.

 

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing in Singapore. The National Health Survey conducted in 2010 revealed that 11.3% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 year of age had T2D and 14.4% had pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance). Faced with these alarming statistics, the Ministry of Health declared a “War on Diabetes” in 2016.

 

I chanced upon an interesting article that very gracefully weaves the role of Yoga in the management of diabetes.

 

Dietary management of diabetes with Yoga

  • The regulation of eating patterns, the practice of mindful eating of clean and pure food, and the advocation of greater awareness are beneficial not only in improving dietary practices but also adherence to medication.
  • Meditation and heightened mindfulness may help curb binge-eating patterns.

 

Beneficial effects of Yoga practices

These have been postulated to have beneficial effects through various mechanisms.

  • Stimulates insulin production through brain signalling
  • Massages the pancreas, stimulating insulin secretion
  • Boost metabolic rate, promote weight loss, reduce sugar levels, reduce body fat
  • Improves digestion and stimulates peristalsis
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Improves cardiorespiratory endurance
  • Enhances insulin receptor expression in muscles, causing increased glucose uptake
  • Positive effects on glucose utilisation and fat redistribution
  • Soothing and calming effect on the mind, improves mental and physical health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Better sleep

 

Go ahead and read the full article for further details.

Remember to share your practice with someone you know who is battling with Diabetes!