Can I practise Yoga with a Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc)?

Herniated disc (or slipped disc) is a common injury and happens to people of varying ages. I personally know a couple of friends suffering from herniated disc, who experience physical discomfort at varying levels, and get very demoralized when it restricts them from participating in physical activities. This issue has always been close to my heart. As I embarked on my YTT journey, I was very interested when this topic floated up in anatomy class. I would like to take this chance to share a little more on how you can practise yoga with herniated disc, and hopefully address some of your concerns.

 

Questions, questions and more questions…

Many people with herniated disc, would love to return to their active lifestyle, whether it is to practise some type of sport, dance routines, or just leisure jog in the park. The first option that doctors or therapists usually recommend them to begin with is always – yoga. However, I am sure there are still many questions in your head: Is yoga really safe for people with herniated disc, or will it lead to further injury? What should I look out for? What are the poses I should avoid? What are the poses that would be good for me? We will address these questions as we go along.

 

What is a herniated disc?

A spinal disc consists of two parts – the nucleus (a gel-like center) and the annulus (a rubbery exterior). A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus is pushed out through a tear or rupture in the annulus, and can irritate the spinal nerves causing discomfort or pain.b

For the symptoms, it depends on which disc is affected. For example, if the lumbar disc is affected, one may experience pain to the lower back or down the legs, tingling sensation or numbness in the leg, and possibly difficulty standing up or walking. If the cervical disc is affected, the pain and discomfort may be felt in the neck or arms instead.

 

General guidelines to practise yoga with herniated disc

Here are some rules that you should follow, but do note that the list is not exhaustive:

  • Get your doctor’s concurrence before starting any yoga practice
  • Always warm up the body, and practise slowly
  • Inform your yoga instructor on your injury before the start of the class
  • Avoid forward bending poses (flexion of the spine)
  • Keep the back neutral for such poses, and do not round the spine.
  • Stop immediately if you experience any discomfort, pain or numbness

Yoga poses: Yay or Nay?

The “Nays”: You should avoid yoga poses that flex the spine, such as forward bending poses. In a forward bend, the vertebrae are compressed forward, which would cause the gel-like nucleus to get pushed towards the posterior of the body. This could cause the disc to herniate further, and put more pressure on the nerve leading to more severe pain and discomfort. Poses you should avoid include Uttanasana (Forward fold), Paschimottanasana (Seated forward fold), Marichyasana A/B and Sasangasana (Rabbit pose).

Modification: Some adjustments you could make if you would still like to practise a forward fold would be to: 1) bend your knees generously, 2) keep your spine straight. This would minimize the compression and protect your back. However do remember to stop whenever you feel any sharp pain, as you would know your body best.

 

The “Yays”: Poses that keep the spine neutral would be suitable for practice, as it would not put additional strain on the disc. Poses with a gentle back bend would be helpful to relieve the discomfort, as the vertebrae are slightly compressed causing the nucleus to move towards the anterior of the body, relieving the pressure away from the nerves. Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) would be a good pose to practise, or for a less intense version you could practise sphinx pose. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose) also allows for a gentle back bend and also it brings an additional benefit of producing a sense of relaxation and calmness as it is considered a gentle inversion.

Caution: A gentle backbend is good, however do note that an intense back bend could further aggravate the herniated disc and it may put too much direct pressure on the nerves. Hence, do ensure that you practise the yoga poses slowly and be aware of your limits.

 

Yoga is a great recovery practice for many different types of injury if practised properly. Always remember to treat your body with love and practise at your own comfortable pace.

Pei Qi, YTT 2021

Pranayama for Singapore’s Hot Climate

What is Pranayama?

If you are new to pranayama, you may have the misconception that I once had, that pranayama is only about breathing slowly, deeply and calmly. There is so much more to it. I learnt that there are many variations of pranayama with different techniques, counts, breathing ratio, and duration, and each with their own benefits. ‘Prana’ in Sanskrit means the life force energy, and ‘Ayama’ means expansion, together ‘Pranayama’ refers to the moving of energy to the unused or needed areas of the body to unclog, release or replenish, and is practiced through the controlling of the breath. There are some pranayama that keeps you balanced and focused, some to energise the body and mind, and some to calm you down. In particular, I wanted to share on cooling pranayama, which was new to me. I feel that these practices would be beneficial with the constant crazy Singapore heat (also applicable to anywhere else with hot summers or hot climate).

 

Cooling pranayama and its benefits

There are two types of cooling pranayama that I will introduce – Sitali and Sitkari. These pranayama calm the body through an evaporative cooling mechanism on the inhalation, and delivers a cooling energy to the deep tissues of the body. Cooling pranayama has many benefits:

  • Removes excess heat accumulated in the body
  • Calms the nervous system and reduces stress
  • Helps if you have trouble sleeping at night i.e. insomnia
  • Controls high blood pressure
  • Helps with digestion

 

Step-by-step guide to practice:

Sitali Pranayama

  1. Get into a comfortable seated position, with the spine upright and neutral.
  2. Form an ‘O’ shape with your lips. Roll your tongue and extend it out slightly.
  3. Inhale through the tunnel formed by the rolled tongue.
  4. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath. Let your ribs expand with the inhale.
  5. Withdraw the tongue and close your mouth. Exhale through the nostrils.
  6. Repeat the process for 2-3 minutes, allowing the cool breath to cool your body and mind.

Sitkari Pranayama

  1. Get into a comfortable seated position, with the spine upright and neutral.
  2. Clench the upper and lower teeth together, while separating the lips to form a rectangular shape. Rest the tongue behind the upper teeth.
  3. Inhale through the mouth and teeth, making a hissing sound, “tssss…”.
  4. Close your mouth. Exhale through the nostrils.
  5. Repeat the process for 2-3 minutes, allowing the cool breath to cool your body and mind.

 

Areas of caution for cooling pranayama

Sitali and Sitkari pranayama will reduce body temperature, hence they are best practiced during hot weather. Do try to avoid practicing these pranayama during cold weather, especially if you belong to the vata and kapha dosha. Try to keep the practice in a place where the temperature of the air is stable and calm. This pranayama is also not recommended for people who are suffering from low blood pressure, asthma, cold and cough.

 

The world of pranayama is vast and I hope you would continue to explore it.  The benefits of pranayama would only be felt with proper and consistent practice. Keep practicing!

Pei Qi, YTT 2021

Yoga And Combat Sports

YOGA AND COMBAT SPORTS

Combat Sports and Yoga are a lot more alike than many people will realise.

Being someone who has competed in Boxing, Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Art (MMA) I have always been looking at ways I can improve my game. Whether it’s trying to kick higher in Kickboxing or maybe trying to roll  out of a kimura lock in BJJ/MMA or even just trying to improve my balance in the Boxing ring.

Fighters and Yogis all want the same things at the end of the day/week/month and year.

They want Balance, Flexibility, Coordination, Strength, Core Strength and an effective way to stretch at the end of a work out (not to mention the need for a clear mind prior to any competition). 

It has happened to me many times when I’ve been to classes, be it Boxing, MMA or BJJ  and been involved in an in-effective warm up through to a tough training session and followed by an in-effective stretch out at the end. Admittedly I’ve never been injured due to a lack of warm up (touch wood) but have seen many people that have been, from small muscle pulls and cramps to actual muscle tears putting a fighter out of action for weeks.

This is good for absolutely no one. 

The club looks bad, the fighter is out of action and the regular members start to question the incident. 

So what to do?  

YOGA, THATS WHAT TO DO

Here are six asanas and the benefits for BALANCE and FLEXIBILITY  that will help a fighter improve and you will also be able to see that not only are these two health related skills improved you will also be targeting strength, core and coordination.

Balance: Now this is the probably the most important and most basic health related skill required for all combat athletes, if you cant stay on your feet in tricky situations you are toast in your opponent’s eyes, therefore holding these asanas for extended period of time will help keep you on your feet in combat sports:

  • Virabhadrasana 3 (Warrior 3): Strengthens the shoulders, hamstrings, core strength and will also improve posture and
  • Vrikshasana (Tree Pose): Strengthens the core, leg muscles and will improve concentration with improved overall focus.
  • Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon): Strengthens the core, ankles, thighs and glutes while stretching the groin calves and chest and will also improve

Flexibility: Probably the second most important health related skill required by combat athletes, whether your aim is to kick higher in Kickboxing or to have more shoulder mobility in your BJJ classes/competitions flexibility is improved tenfold by participating in Yoga regularly. Here are 3 asanas that will help you hit those goals:

  • Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): Strengthens biceps while stretches triceps, chest, quads and glutes while opening shoulders to increase range of motion.
  • Mandukasana (Frog Pose): Strengthens lower back, while opening hips to stretch the adductors therefore increasing abduction.
  • Dhanurasana (Bow Pose): Strengthens most posterior muscles while stretching most anterior muscles including anterior spine. Will also improve posture, aid anxiety and fatigue.

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These six asanas and their benefits  that I discussed are just a fraction of all the yoga asanas that will not only help combat sports participants but help every human no matter the age, sex and size.

Serratus Anterior: An Underrated Muscle

Structure and Function:

The serratus anterior is a broad, fan-shaped muscle that originates from the first to eighth upper ribs or from the first to ninth upper ribs, at the lateral wall of the chest. Serratus means “saw-tooth edge” which gives the muscle its unique shape, while anterior is defined as “positioned at or towards the front”. It is divided into three different sections in accordance with the points of insertion:

  • Serratus anterior superior (with insertion near the superior angle)
  • Serratus anterior intermediate (with insertion along the medial border)
  • Serratus anterior inferior (with insertion near the inferior angle)
(image source: https://corebalancetherapy.com/2012/08/30/the-serratus-anterior-the-forgotten-muscle-in-shoulder-and-neck-pain/)

Contraction of the serratus anterior muscle will cause the muscle to pull the scapula forward towards the thorax, thereby creating protraction of the scapula where the shoulder blades are moved away from the spine. Protraction of the scapula typically occurs when we are reaching forward (e.g. in Paschimottanasana) or pushing objects away from the body (e.g. in Phalakasana where we actively push our fingers into the mat to extend our elbows and lengthen our arms). The serratus anterior muscle is also known as the “boxer’s muscle” since it is mainly responsible for protraction of the scapula, which occurs when throwing a punch.

Another main function of the serratus anterior muscle is upward rotation of the scapulothoracic joint through anterolateral (i.e., towards the front and to the side) motion of the scapula along the ribs. This in turn allows us to elevate our arms upwards, and overhead, during shoulder abduction and flexion (e.g. during Virabhadrasana 1 or Utkatasana where our arms are flexed above our head). When the shoulder girdle is in a fixed position, the serratus anterior muscle works to lift the ribs for inhalation, hence assisting in respiration.

Additionally, when both the serratus anterior superior and serratus anterior inferior contract simultaneously, they help to stabilize the scapula against the ribcage by working with the rhomboid muscles to pull the scapula tightly against the back of the ribcage.

Importance of Serratus Anterior:

Weakness or injury in the serratus anterior muscle can lead to medial winging of the scapula, whereby the medial border of the scapula protrudes out from the back like wings. As a result of the scapular winging, patients are likely to experience weakness in the shoulders, limited range of flexion and abduction in the upper extremity, as well as pain. All these symptoms can significantly affect one’s ability to lift, pull and push objects, as well as to perform daily living activities such as carrying bags and moving objects from one point to another.

When practicing yoga asanas, the serratus anterior muscle also plays a key role in stabilizing the scapula and holding the scapula in upward rotation, especially in poses that require arm balance or inversion. By engaging the serratus anterior to help stabilize the scapula and elevate the arms, this will prevent us from putting too much weight onto our rotator cuff and shoulder muscles while in the pose, which can in turn cause rotator cuff injuries and shoulder pain in the long run. However, we often tend to overlook this muscle as we primarily focus on building strength in the larger groups of muscles such as the shoulders, abdomen, back, and legs in order to obtain a stable posture. One other reason is also due to the location of the serratus anterior muscle, which makes it hard for us to see, feel or activate the muscle. Hence, it is not uncommon for many of us to have a weak serratus anterior.

Without a strong serratus anterior muscle to stabilize the scapula, we may find ourselves easily wobbling or having trouble getting/staying up in inversion poses such as Sirsasana and Pincha Mayurasa, as we lack the upper body strength required to lift and hold our body vertically up against gravity’s pull. Although the serratus anterior muscle is less evident than the upper body muscles such as shoulder and abdominal muscles, it can help to support a great load of body weight, along with the shoulder and abdominal muscles, thanks to its broad size.

With all that being said, it is still not late for us to start noticing and appreciating the efforts of our serratus anterior muscle, and to start strengthening this muscle to find stability in our yoga asanas!

Exercises to Strengthen the Serratus Anterior:

1. Wall Angels

  • Stand with the back against a wall, and press the entire back flat against the wall. Ensure that there are no gaps in between the back and the wall.
  • Abduct the arms to the sides and flex the elbows in a 90° angle, such that the arms are in cactus position against the wall, fingers facing up. Keep the elbows in line with the shoulders, and keep the elbows and forearms against the wall.
  • Draw the shoulders away from the ears.
  • Slide the arms upwards to extend the elbows and try to reach the arms as high up as possible, without elevating or tensing up the shoulders. Keep the elbows, forearms and entire back in constant contact with the wall at all times.
  • Flex the elbows and lower the arms back to the starting cactus position.
  • Repeat the movement for 20 times.

2. High Planks

When doing planks, we often focus on activating the core muscles to maintain a neutral spine alignment and steady posture. In addition to engaging the core muscles, it is also important to engage the serratus anterior muscles at the same time, so that our body weight can be distributed evenly from the shoulders to the core and to the legs for greater stability. To engage the serratus anterior muscle, we would need to actively push our palms onto the mat and create protraction of the shoulders.

  • Start in a tabletop position on the mat, with hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. Make sure that the wrists and elbows are aligned with the shoulders.
  • Step both legs back such that the knees are extended, and ground all ten toes onto the mat. Keep both legs straight and firm.
  • Activate the core muscles to stabilize the hips.
  • Press both palms and all of the fingers actively and evenly into the mat, and feel the arms elongating. This will create a slight protraction of the scapula and rounding of the upper back. Draw the shoulders away from the ears to keep the neck and shoulders relaxed.
  • Hold in the high plank position for 8-10 breaths.

3. Transition between High Plank and Downward Dog

  • Starting in a high plank position, lift the hips towards the ceiling and shift the shoulders back to form an inverted V shape for the downward dog. Depress the shoulders and draw the scapula towards the midline of the spine.
  • From the downward dog, lower the hips and shift the shoulders forward back into the high plank, such that the hips and shoulders form a parallel line to the mat.
  • Transit between the high plank and downward dog for 20 repetitions.

Application – Sirsasana:

After building strength in our serratus anterior muscle, the next step is to know how to activate this muscle in our asanas. Take sirsasana (headstand) as an example. When we are in the sirsasana pose, we want to actively draw the shoulders away from the neck, and draw the scapula down the back and towards the midline of the spine. By doing so, this will engage our serratus anterior muscle to help stabilize the shoulder girdle and upper body in the inversion and at the same time, lighten the weight on our head to prevent unwanted compression of the neck.

All in all, the serratus anterior muscle plays a crucial role in providing greater stability and reducing the risk of unwanted injuries in our yoga asanas, and definitely deserves more attention in knowing how to strengthen and correctly activate it in order to enjoy the benefits it provides.

How Yoga can help in the time of Covid-19

How Yoga can help in the time of Covid 19

In the midst of a global pandemic, we’re all navigating through uncharted territory. COVID-19 has caused levels of stress and anxiety to skyrocket and it’s (understandably) taking a toll on people’s mental health. Yoga can be one of the great remedies and it is suitable for everyone.

Yoga is a holistic and mindful practice that includes physical movements (asana), breathing (pranayama), meditation(dhyana) and relaxation (savasana).

As we are still swimming through getting back to normality which can takes a while, it is important to constantly recognize how we feel, assess our stress level and in-corporate some form of yoga practice in our daily routine to raise our baseline of well-being.

 

Yoga can be practice anywhere, anytime

The best part is that a mat space is only required. This can be done in your own room, anywhere in your house or in a park, beach or in nature. Ideally, we like to encourage beginners to practice in studio under the teacher’s supervision so as to build a strong foundation of alignment and technique (for movement), also understanding the options available. This is to ensure personal overall safety.

 

So what are the ways ?

  • Yoga Breathing, Prayanama

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama (In Sanskrit, “prana” means vital life force) is the foundation of yoga practice. It is the regulation of inhalation and exhalation and a link between body-emotions-mind-spirit.

It can begin with deepening our breathing with the 3-part breath, then moves into more advanced breathing exercises such as Kapalabhati and the Alternate Nostril Breath, nadi shodhana pranayama. I also personally like Ujiya breathing.

 

The 3-part breath involves the “three parts” :the abdomen, diaphragm, and chest. During Three-Part Breath, you first completely fill your lungs with air, as though you are breathing into your belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then you exhale completely, reversing the flow. You can try this in a quiet place lying down or sitting upright cross-legged. Put one palm on your chest, one palm on your belly. Try this routine for 10mins everyday and you will feel the difference.

Ujiya breathing is another great technique that allows you to calm your mind by focusing on your breath. This helps you override thoughts that could possibly distract you from your meditative or focused state. Ujiya breathing also work hand-in-hand during asana practice.

I personally practice ujiya breathing technique when I am in moments of stress and making work decisions and hectic planning. Ujiya breathing calms my breathing and allows clarity to my mind and make right decisions.

How to do ujjayi breathing

  1. Keep your mouth closed.
  2. Constrict your throat to the point that your breathing makes a rushing noise, almost like snoring
  3. Control your breath with your diaphragm.
  4. Keep your inhalations and exhalations equal in duration.
  • Meditation, Dhyana

Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.

There are many types of meditation from mindfulness to breathe awareness meditation. It is always good to set yourself 1 type of meditation so you can focus during the meditation. I personally love this technique which our teacher trainer has shared and that is to close your eyes, empty your thoughts and focus on the tip of your nose in the darkness of your clear mind together with calm breathing. Another way is to draw a 50cent circle with a dot in the middle, having to stare at it which will lead to a focused meditative state.

 It definitely helps me to clear out unwanted thoughts entering my mind.

  • Physical Movement, Asanas

A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that “movement-based yoga,” defined as any form of yoga where participants are physically active at least 50% of the time (ie, flowing through poses), can positively impact how you feel.

The research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression or improved mental health for people living with a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and major depression.

So what are the poses which helps? There are no right or wrong poses as all poses in Yoga has its own benefits. A good way to start with is to identify which part of the body holds stress so you can counter release the stress and tension. In times of Covid-19, it is important to boost our immune system and reduce stress.

Here are a few poses which are recommended:

  • Relaxation (savasana)

Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. 

In Savasana—also known as corpse pose— you lie down on your back and relax your body and mind so you may fully assimilate the benefits of your asana practice

During this pose, you close your eyes, breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana can have powerful benefits.

Savasana can also helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality. 

 

 

Conclusion :

The above are few ways to help condition our mind and body with Yoga to be stronger especially during this time of pandemic. Everyone has their preferred ways so hope that what I have shared will help anyone in any ways.

I like to also include music in my practice and meditation as it sets the tone and ambience. One of my favourite playlist on spotify is  ‘deep focus’ as the genre of music set is purposeful for studying and concentration.

 

Kriya Yoga and its relation to Kapalabhati

Kriya yoga is an ancient type of meditation technique often referred to as the “Yoga of Action or Awareness”, that when practiced smart, accelerates one’s spiritual progress. The book titled “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda is known as one of the modern founders of Kriya yoga which was later introduced as a practice in the West in the 1920s. The practice of Kriya yoga is taught only through a guru-disciple relationship and after an initiation ceremony, most practitioners of meditation spend time in self-study and practice until they are ready to be further initiated into the advanced practices of Kriya yoga. Beginning meditators are advised to use a mantra or word in order to focus their attention and progress into deeper meditation sessions.

Kapalabhati also known as “the skull shining breath” is a pranayama or breathing technique that purifies the front region of the brain and cleanses the respiratory system and nasal passage. It is an intermediate-to-advanced pranayama that consists of short, powerful exhales and passive inhales. This exercise is a traditional internal purification practice, or kriya, that tones and cleanses the respiratory system by encouraging the release of toxins and waste matter. It acts as a tonic for the system, refreshing and rejuvenating the body and mind.

Kapalabhati is invigorating and warming and it helps to cleanse the lungs, sinuses, and respiratory system, which can help to prevent illness and allergies so regular practice strengthens the diaphragm and abdominal muscles and increases your body’s oxygen supply, which stimulates and energizes the brain while preparing it for meditation and work that requires high focus.

However, it is important to avoid Kapalabhati if you are currently having high blood pressure, heart disease, or hernia. Women who are pregnant should also avoid practicing this exercise, as well. But as with all breathing exercises, it is important to always approach the practice with caution, especially if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma or emphysema so never attempt any pranayama for the first time without the guidance of a qualified and knowledgeable teacher and always work within your own range of limits and abilities.

When practiced correctly, Kapalabhati Pranayama will cleanse, energize, and invigorate your mind, body, and spirit. This pranayama requires knowledge of and experience with basic breathing exercises. So if you are new to pranayama, allow yourself time to get acquainted with and proficient at Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama) and Ocean Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama) before introducing Kapalabhati into your practice.

Analysis & Yoga poses that engage: internal, external oblique muscles, and pelvic girdle

Location of internal and external oblique muscles

The internal abdominal oblique is a broad thin muscular sheet located on the lateral side of the abdomen while the external abdominal oblique is a paired muscle located on the lateral sides of the abdominal wall. As both names suggest, the direction of its fibres are obliquely oriented, making up the anterolateral abdominal wall. Together with the other abdominal muscles, the internal oblique affects the movements of the trunk, maintaining abdominal tension and increasing intra-abdominal pressure. The internal oblique muscle is also found deep in the external oblique with both working together to produce movements of the spine as well as to compress the abdominal viscera. As the external oblique muscle originates from the external surfaces of ribs 5-12, with the muscle fibres fanning out towards the midline and inferior margins of the abdomen, it is considered as the largest and most superficial of the lateral abdominal muscles.

Functions of internal and external oblique muscles

The internal abdominal oblique muscle has several functions that are dependent upon on the parts where the muscle contracts. Upon contraction, the internal abdominal oblique flexes the trunk, simultaneously causing compression of the intra-abdominal viscera, thereby increasing the intra-abdominal pressure which is utilised for functions including breathing, singing, defecation, and more. While the external oblique muscle has a variety of functions dependent on its contraction – either unilaterally or bilaterally. When contracted unilaterally and in synergy with the internal abdominal oblique, it rotates the trunk to the opposite side. However, when contracting bilaterally, the muscle works together the internal oblique to flex the trunk anteriority. This activity also increases the tone of the abdominal wall and positive intra-abdominal pressure, which is a part of various physiological process that includes exhalation, and labour. Along with other muscles of the abdominal wall, both internal and external oblique are highly important for maintaining normal abdominal wall tension and therefore, the contraction of these muscles play both a protecting and supporting role to reduce the risk of abdominal hernias.

Yoga poses that engage external oblique muscles

  1. Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolving Lunge)Considered as one of the most common twisting poses due to its versatility, the revolving lunge can be performed by almost anyone – from beginner to an advanced yoga enthusiast with varying degrees of difficulty. As this position is performed, the opposite elbow is brought to the outside of the forward leg, with the body twisted towards the ceiling. This pose also stimulates the opening of the internal organs, allowing a deeper twist towards the ceiling which can be performed with the hands clasped together. To do this pose, simply stand with your feet three to four feet apart, point your right feet towards the right with your thigh at 90 degrees, extending your left leg straight with the heel lifted off the mat. Ensure that the weight is brought towards the right thigh and hinge your hip forward, twisting to the right and placing your left palm beside your right pinky toe, with your right arm extended towards the ceiling and gaze through your right thumb.2. Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose)As we find ourselves slouching and our shoulders and hips carrying more stress, this is where Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) comes in handy to add in our yoga practice to realign and strengthen our body. This is where our upper arm, external oblique muscles, and back leg form one beautiful continuous diagonal line, working and stretching the various muscle groups. For those experiencing back pain, this pose also relieves back pain by lengthening the spine, strengthens the knees, tones the legs and increases stamina. To do this pose, simply stand with your feet three to four feet apart, point your left foot forward and ensure your right foot is 90 degrees to the side. Bend your right knee 90 degrees, raise your left arm over your head towards the right while you’re learning towards the right and gaze towards your right thumb. Open your chest and remain in five breaths before repeating on the left side.

Yoga poses that engage internal oblique muscles

  1. Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

If you’re a bicycle rider, try practicing the revolve triangle pose for increasing performance. Although at first glance it might appear as your regular triangle pose, the body is twisted around so the opposite palm is placed just beside your right pinky toe. The revolve triangle pose helps open the chest and activates the spine with the help of the internal and external obliques, lengthening and releasing any muscle tension in the glutes and hamstrings which is great for improving balance and coordination. To get into this pose, simply stand with your feet about three to four feet apart, with your right feet pointed to the front and turn your left feet 45 degrees to the left. Square your hips and hinge from your hip toward the front, twisting your body to raise your right arm to the ceiling and open your shoulders. Stay here for five breaths before repeating on the left side.

2. Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)

The side plank pose is a very integrative, body aligning posture that has been found to an important part of a yoga routine to reduce scoliosis and increases engagement of the internal oblique to support the position.  It is valued not only for its strength-building capacity but also for its many variations, making it suitable for multiple class levels so whether you’re a beginner looking to modify the posture or an experienced yogi exploring advanced variations, expect to build upper body and core strength while honing your capacity to balance. Simply get into a downward facing dog pose, and come up to a plank position while placing your left palm on the mat. Pivot towards the edge of your left feet, and raise your right arm towards the ceiling aligning to the left shoulder. Engage the oblique muscles to lift the hips with the spine, reducing the weight on the left wrist and open your chest to gaze to your right thumb. Remain in five breaths before repeating on the left side.

Especially for desk-bound workers who experience tightness in their neck and shoulders due to prolonging of sitting infront of the computer, having firm oblique not only appears good but also supports the back and overall posture which helps to prevent injuries and pain associated with the lower back and shoulders including lumbar spine, thoracic and lumbar flexion.

Location and functions of the pelvic girdle

A ring-like bony structure, the pelvic girdle is located in the lower part of the trunk and connects the axial skeleton to the lower limbs and the bony pelvis consists of the two hip bones (also known as pelvic bones), the sacrum and coccyx. With this, the ligaments attached to the lateral border of the sacrum on the bony pelvis adds to the stability of a person. The strong and rigid pelvis is adapted to serve a number of roles in the human body, with the main functions including the transfer of weight from the upper axial skeleton to the lower appendicular components of the skeleton, especially during movement, provides attachment for a number of muscles and ligaments used in locomotion, and contains and protects the abdominopelvic and pelvic viscera.

Yoga pose that engage pelvic girdle

  1. Marjaryasana Bitilasana (Cat Cow Pose)

Awake the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles with this posture as it prompts you to hug the outer hips, which helps you feel the direct link between the outer hip/thigh muscles and pelvic floor. Simply get into downward facing dog pose, and soften the upper and inner thighs to roll them toward the wall behind you. From there, inhale as you drop your belly into cow pose then exhale as you push your hands into the mat and round your back into cat pose. Repeat for 5 breaths.

In the case of pelvic girdle instability, the ligaments that hold the pelvis together would have become loose. The main causes are usually physical stress, hormonal changes during pregnancy, a sports injury, births, and more. Pelvic girdle instability is characterised amongst other symptoms through low back pain, restricted mobility, and overstretch ligaments. To rapid reduce pain as well as strengthening and relieving the ligaments, massages of the pelvis usually help to alleviate the pain with heat treatments being able to effectively support therapy.

Internal cleansing secrets to a healthier and longer live

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the global wellness economy is currently valued at $4.5 trillion with wellness expenditure totalling up to more than half as large as total global health expenditure at $7.8 trillion.

From circadian lighting to circadian diets to apps that utilise timed light doses to crush jet lag, the focus has shifted from sleep to true circadian health. With an avalanche of sleep solutions and a newly sleep-obsessed culture, why do we continue to remain in a sleepless epidemic with around 1 in 3 of us sleeping badly and 1 in 10 having regular insomnia?

Sleep and its impacts on daily peak performance

Research has shown how people are chronobiologically hardwired with genes that make us either night owls or early birds so early risers’ daily peak performance occurs early during the day while the night owls tend to occur later. In an always-on culture, adopting regimes where you would disconnect from devices or TV and dim lights before bed – banishing iPads or phones from the room are simple measures to take to trick your mind that it is bed time. In addition to that, a simple switch in home lighting – from using bright light with short wavelength, blue-light bulb to a dimmer, warmer, longer wavelength bulb with red, yellow, and orange colour spectrums boost melatonin. In fact, technology-enabled equipment such as an app-based home lighting creates flexibility that allows one to set different light schedules for different rooms, switching rooms to a natural setting based on astronomical time and location.

As a recent article in the Atlantic explains, temperature plays a critical role in supporting sleep: we need to be able to lose heat to sleep so being too hot or too cold interferes with this process. Studies have shown that people with sleep disorders sleep longer—and are more alert in the morning—in 16 celsius rather than 24 celsius rooms, and people who sleep in hot environments have elevated stress hormones in the morning. As such, medical experts agree we should sleep in environments somewhere between 10 and 15 celsius rooms.

Diet and its effectiveness on weight loss

For decades, diets have been all about the type of cuisine we consume (from Mediterranean, to Keto diet, etc) but science has revealed that when we eat has profound metabolic and weight loss consequences – this new evidence has been reflected in the rise of intermittent fasting (IF) which typically restricts eating and drinking to an 8-10-hour window a day. Studies have revealed that this form of fasting is very effective for weight loss. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. As the entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat. This metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy also increases stress resistance, longevity and a decreased incidence of diseases including cancer and obesity. A new Salk Institute study shows the implications for the diabetes and obesity epidemic: people with metabolic syndrome who limited food and beverage consumption to a 10-hour window for three months saw big improvements in body composition and cholesterol levels.

How then does matching the timing of eating with our circadian rhythms (with light and dark) impact health? More studies suggest that we should be embracing and adopting the terminology of a circadian diet. While intermittent fasting can have people take their first bite (an important cue that impacts other clocks in our organs) way after the light of morning, a body of evidence shows that calories are metabolised better in the morning than evening so synchronising meal times with our circadian rhythms lead to significantly more weight loss and reduce insulin resistance than if you ate the same food without a schedule, concluding that a larger breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and small dinner drive optimal results.

Home & Environment

In this newly enlightened age, neuroscientists, doctors, and architects are all working hard on nailing the science of circadian rhythm-supporting light – what intensity and colour, at what time, for how long, and for whom because circadian systems differ from person to person – by age, where you live, etc. So for instance, when kids hit puberty, they have their circadian and sleep cycles pushed about two hours later than a typical adult, and while human evolution began near the equator, where daylight hours are consistent, most of us live with ever-shortening and lengthening days, becoming more extreme as we head up or down the poles.

As our home is supposed to be a refuge from the world, where one can relax and recharge, decluttering can help one to feel lighter and more positive. For example, if a stack of unopened mail is a constant reminder of things that one needs to do, starting to tackle that pile is one way to keep the area clutter-free in the future so taking small steps and making changes one at a time is a good way to start a new habit. Research also shows that even short contact with nature is beneficial to our well-being so as little as 3-5 minutes of contact with nature has been linked to reduced stress, reduced anger and a boost in positive feelings. Some of the same effects are seen if we have views to nature or can bring nature into the living space through plants or fresh flowers, aquariums and even fireplaces.

Yoga and its effects of stress on the body

Studies have shown that practicing yoga postures reduce pain for people with conditions such as cancer, auto-immune diseases, hypertension, arthritis, and chronic pain. It improves body alignment resulting in better posture, relieving back, neck, joint, and muscle problems. Additionally, taking slower, deeper breaths improve lung function, triggering our body’s relaxation response and increase the amount of oxygen available to our body – allowing us to increase vitality and strength from head to toe as we enhance our mobility. As with anything, continuous and consistent practicing of yoga allows us to begin to use the correct muscles, and over time, our ligaments, tendons, and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, make more poses possible. As our flexibility in the body lends to greater openness in the mind, we gradually become less rigid, less opinionated and more adaptable to ‘go with the flow’. Afterall, improving our posture and stamina allow us to focus better and with a deep sense of inner calm and clarity, that only brings us closer to our inner peace.

 

Yoga philosophy and now-ness

Whether your life is punctuated with bouts of joy or sadness, depression or contentment, or longer, deeper experiences of trauma and turmoil, you are not alone. In the Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined to mean, “the yogic experience.” Yoga is often translated as “union” of mind, body and spirit. Classically, yoga is understood as the science of the mind so the yogic experience is that which is gained by controlling the modifications of the mind. Sri Patanjali, considered the “father of yoga,” is credited with compiling the Yoga Sutras (the threads of yoga), which date anywhere from 5,000 B.C. to 300 A.D. In the West, yoga is primarily thought of as asanas (postures), breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana) because many experience relaxation and ease with the practice of yoga, yoga is considered a mind-body exercise. The underlying premise of mind-body exercises is that the physiological state of the body may shape emotions, thoughts and attitudes.

So diving into the world of yoga philosophy will help you in discovering that suffering (known as dukha in Sanskrit) is a part of the process of life. Any sort of suffering can be seen as what is known as a klesha – an obstacle on the path to freedom and enlightenment. Overcoming these obstacles is what a yoga practice is all about, and if we’re going to overcome suffering, all the physical, mental, emotional and energetic tools need to be brought forth.

Calming the ‘Citta’- Chatter

The second sutra of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali reads;

Yogas citta vrtti nirodha

Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind

These fluctuations of the mind are what cause us to experience momentary joy or sorrow and can cause us to wallow in sadness for months or years, or scatter the mind in all directions so we feel anxious without knowing why. When the mind is in a state of chattering away, fluctuating from attachment to hatred, happiness to sadness, and self-doubt to delusion, all of our mental energy is scattered and figuratively ‘leaks out’ of us. When the mind’s energy is leaky and scattered, this has an instant impact upon how we act physically; the breath will usually become shallow and short, and the muscles held more tense than necessary so all these things send messages back to the mind that it should be wary, scared and stressed, and without interrupting this fluctuating cycle, we find ourselves locked in a state of dukha or suffering.

It is these ‘diverse streams’ or fluctuation and energy – as Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani puts it – that are concentrated and unified into one place through the practice of yoga; “The central theme of Yoga is the golden mean, finding the middle path, a constant search for moderation and an harmonious homoeostatic balance. Yoga is the “unitive impulse” of life, which always seeks to unite diverse streams into a single powerful force.  Proper practice produces an inner balance of mind that remains stable and serene even in the midst of chaos.

If yoga had a ‘goal’, it would be to attain freedom and liberation from all suffering; the practices involved in the yogic process have the by-product of helping us live as healthily and harmoniously as possible, in contentment and peace.  Dr. Bhavanani explains how this harmony is brought about “….right-use-ness of the body, emotions and mind with awareness and consciousness. It must be understood [however] to be as healthy a dynamic state that may be attained in spite of the individual’s sabija karma that manifests as their genetic predispositions and the environment into which they are born”.

Whilst yoga philosophy may focus on uniting the scattered mind, calming fluctuation thoughts, and balancing the amount the mind takes in and processes, nowhere does it actually say that we’re supposed to be happy all the time. This ‘end goal’ of yoga doesn’t translate as happy or joyful, rather Samadhi would refer to the ability to witness and understand reality as it is. Rather than following the scattered thoughts of the mind, believing everything we think is true, holding onto the past or fretting about the future, or getting caught up in the narcissism of ‘I, me, and my’, Samadhi is about being here right now, experiencing the feeling of now-ness, not grasping for a fleeting feeling of joy.

Healthy Food Intake Challenges

The human body requires a continuous supply of energy to perform its many function. The food we eat play a vital role in how we can perform while exercise. Eating a healthy diet that is varied, balanced and moderate can provide you with all the body needs without getting too much or too little of any one nutrient. Thurs, I’ve planned on a seven days healthy diet plan and want to know how will it affected me and how would I feel. From day to day, I felt a little difference by a little on my daily yoga practice. I felt a little bit lighter; breathing was smoother, more concentrated during practices and able to stay continue focused for longer period.

There’s many studies show that healthy food intake as most important part of fitness programs, e.g.:

  • -eating well-balanced diet can help you get calories and nutrient you need to fuel your activities
  • -some super-foods contain compounds that increase our metabolism for more efficient fat burning
  • -good nutrition can help your body perform better and recover faster after each workout
  • -improved cardiovascular health, including better blood flow and delivery of oxygen
  • -stronger bones and muscles

Here’s the tips for healthier options:

  • -CARBOHYDRATES: choose complex carbs found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans, instead of rely on simple carbs that found in sweets and processed food. Complex carbs help you to feel full for longer and fuel your body throughout the day, also helps stabilize blood sugar level.
  • -VITAMIN AND MINERALS: aims to fill half of your plate with fruits and greens at every meal. ‘Eat the rainbow’ by choose different color fruits and veggies, it helps you enjoy full range of vitamins and minerals.
  • -PROTEINS: choose lean proteins that are low in saturated and trans fats, limit the amount of red meat and processed meats.
  • -FATS: choose healthy fats, unsaturated fats help to provide essentials fatty acids and calories that need for daily activities.
  • -WATER: don’t forgot to drink enough of water too, body needs water to function.

When it comes to eating and exercise, everyone is different. You shall identify your body reaction during your workout, let your experience tell you how you feel and identify the best that work for you. Do consider to take few experiments on your own, and design the best diet that is just tailored for you.