Sweet treat on a Sattvic Diet – Easy Vegan Chocolate Brownie Recipe

Going on a yogic/Sattvic diet can be difficult for some people especially if you have a sweet tooth like me! Sattvic diet does not only mean plant-based foods but also food that are rich in Prana (energy). Pranic foods are foods that are whole and unprocessed such as fresh fruits and vegetables and also freshly prepared. It requires avoiding canned and processed food, and foods prepared with chemical fertilizers or sprays. Foods that also prepared with more love and care will add to their Sattvic quality. It is said that a Sattvic diet helps our minds to achieve clarity and calmness and was initially created for the development of higher concentration and consciousness.

Since the start of YTT, I have been more mindful of my diet. While I have not completely gone on a yogic diet, I have largely shifted my diet to a 70% yogic diet and incorporated more fresh food in my daily meals. This is a huge change for me as I’m someone who loves a sweet treat daily – be it chocolate or doughnuts and I always look forward to having these treats! Since being more mindful of my diet, I’ve went to do some research to see how I can still have my sweet treats in a “healthier” and fresher form to make this a more sustainable diet for myself.

Here’s one of the best recipes I’ve tried so far which incorporates pranic foods:

Easy 3 Ingredient Vegan Chocolate Brownies:

Ingredients

  • 3 large overripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of raw crunchy almond butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Oil a 20cm x 20cm baking pan with coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas until smooth. 
  3. Slowly dd the almond butter and mix with the bananas until smooth. 
  4. Stir in the cocoa powder to the mixture until the mixture is smooth. 
  5. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and bake it for 20-25 minutes until it has set.
  6. Once taken out from the oven, let the brownies completely cool down before cutting it.

Hope you guys enjoy the “naughty” treat like I did! 🙂  

Understanding Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti is a condition when there is a split between the two side of the rectus abdomens muscles. This condition usually develops during pregnancy, when the uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen to make space for the growing baby.

This is a simple test for diastasis recti:

  1. Lay on your back, flex your knees, feet resting on the mat
  2. Relax head and shoulder and place two fingers above the belly button along the midline 
  3. Place the other hand under your head and lift your head gently (like a crunch position)
  4. If your fingers can feel a space, you likely have a split rectus abdominals, which is diastasis recti

If you have diastasis recti condition, you will want to avoid movements and poses that stretch and open the midline of the rectus abdominals. Generally, these are backhanding poses like Danurasana (Bow Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Much Svanasana (Upward facing dog) etc. 

Instead, you should work on poses that strengthen your transverse abdominus and obliques. Transverse abdominis is the inner most abdominal muscle. The obliques are layer of muscles that overlie the transverse abdominis and strengthening the obliques can provide a more balanced core contraction, easing off pressure on the rectus abdominis. Recommended pose and movements are vasisthasana (side plank) , single-leg lift, hip raises.

As you understand the anatomy of diastasic recti, you may also modify the poses as necessary to reduce the pressure on the rectus abdominis by using the transverse muscles and obliques. By focusing on the right muscle and performing the right exercises reguarly, you will regain your core strength and notice the gap in your rectus abdomens closing up.

Yoga & Spin/Cycling – The Yin to my Yang

Prior to YTT, I lead a pretty active lifestyle by doing spinning and lifting weights daily. I love cycling, be it indoor or outdoor. I’m a self-confessed spinning addict and I go at least 4-5 times a week. I go to spin classes on the weekdays and on the weekends, I cycle at least 40KM outdoors across Singapore. I especially love spin classes because I love just grooving to the beat and having a workout is an added bonus 😉

 

People always ask me if I love spin or yoga more and I always tell them that I can’t decide as both activities are completely different from each other. On one end, spin is completely high-energy and intense and yoga, on the other end, is slow, controlled and mindful. I guess my answer is I do them both exactly because they are the opposites of each other and it balances out – the yin to my yang.

 

The reason is simply because during spinning, your muscles are contracted and tightened and in yoga after, the muscles are expanded. This action helps the body to recover quicker after an intensive workout and this helps to strengthen the muscles.

 

I noticed that for me, personally, my hip flexors and hamstrings became really tight. This is simply because during spinning, you’re seated the entire time. This shortens your hip flexors, especially, the iliopsoas. 

 

These are some of the yoga poses which targets the lengthening of hip flexors that have really helped with my post-spin recovery:

  • Uttanasana(Standing Forward fold): Stretches the inner thigh muscles and ilopsoas as well as hamstrings
  • Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide legged folded fold): Stretches the inner thigh muscles and ilopsoas as well as hamstrings
  • Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard pose): Stretches the outer hip adductor muscles

 

Another issue that I face from too much cycling is too much rounding on the upper back as you are basically hunched over the bike for long period of time. Some poses that specifically target the shoulders that have helped are:

  • Bhujangasana (Cobra pose) – External rotation and depression of shoulders enhances the opening of the chest/thoracic area.
  • Dhanurasana (Bow pose)

 

I highly recommend everyone to try this combo of activity in 1 day to really reap the benefits of both spin and yoga and see what your body feels like after!

 

 

Recovering your pelvic floor after birth

Pregnancy stresses the pelvic floor muscles as your uterus expands to carry the weight and size of your growing foetus. You will experience an anterior tilt in the pelvis as the body supports the pressure. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles will also stretch and weaken further as you undergo natural childbirth.



What is the role of pelvic floor muscles and how can we strengthen them? Basically, pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Often, we are told to contract and relax our pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises. However, I have learnt to understand that we should explore beyond the pelvic floor muscles, consider the muscles attached to the pelvis as strengthening these muscles can also help to stabilise the pelvis. For example, our adductors are connected to the pelvic floor muscles at the pubic bone, so when you contract your adductors, you are also tightening your pelvic floor.

So here are the 3 yoga poses I’ll recommend that will improve our pelvic floor strength and I’ll briefly explain why:

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This is fundamental yoga pose but has great benefits to your pelvic floor muscles if the correct muscles are engaged. In this pose, your quadriceps muscles are engaged, thighs slightly rotated inwards and pelvic should be in neutral alignment. The psoas is lengthened and it helps to stabilise the pelvis. I also recommend that you place a block in between the thighs to engage the adductors. 


2) Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
When you flex your knee joints, you will engage your rectus femurs and the iliopsoas which help to stabilise the pelvis. Keep your spine lengthened, hips and knee joints in a line. Try to lift your pelvic floor upwards as you hold the pose. 

3) Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
The gluteus Maximus, medics and minibus, together with other smaller muscles act as a base for pelvis. This pose activates your glutes and also counterbalance pelvic floor.

In addition to the above, you can further strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through Mula Bandha. This focuses on activating your deep core muscles (transverse abdominis supports the pelvis).

Pelvic floor is one of the most important area that moms should start working on after giving birth. If you do not treat this area and jump straight into other activities like running, you may encounter an exaggerated pelvic anterior tilt as your hip flexors get excessively tight. Eventually, your pelvic floor will become so weak and may lead to more serious problems such as urinary incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. So…Maintaining stable and flexible muscles around the pelvis is important for both yoga practice and daily life!

 

 

Yoga as an extreme sport

More than 300 million people are getting their asana on in yoga studios, ashrams, back yards or goat farms. Far away is the era when it was strictly reserved for the higher castes of India. We found some of the craziest yoga variations for you. Will you be brave enough to try?

On 2 wheels

Yoga doesn’t only borrow the shorts from cyclists. You haven’t heard about her yet but Viola Brand is a star in her discipline: artistic cycling. She combines some yoga and dance techniques… on a bicycle. If you think you nailed your handstand, I suggest you to watch some of her tricks in this video. She brings the peacock to the next level.

 

In India, Gugulotu Lachiram Naik created his yoga style after being inspired by some bike stunts he saw on television. He combines his love for motorbikes to his love for yoga and created a very unique and extreme routine. Would you dare?

Breakdance yoga

Yoga and breakdancing are both about flexibility, balance, and focus. It is naturally that some passionate dancers and yoga practitioners merged them.

Made popular in New-york by Anja Poter, Breakti, as it is called, combines funky street dance moves (including arm balances called “freezes”) with yoga postures. The result is a fun and playful “breakfklow” that aims to offer something beyond the experience of a traditional class. The trend has already been noticed and adopted by some famous brands. To practice it: listen to some hip-hop music, throw on our hoodies and dig into the floor. Is Master Sree ready for some b-boy moves?

Khanda Manda Yoga

Khanda Manda Yoga is said to be one of most terrifying and difficult sadhana. It is said that the practitioner of Khanda Manda Yoga cuts off his own arms and legs with a sharp cleaver, and throws them into a roaring fire. After twelve hours these limbs reemerge from the fire and rejoin his body thus giving him a re-birth. Shirdi Sai Baba was famous to know all Yogic Practices. He was also well-versed in the six processes including Dhauti (Stomach-cleaning), and separating his limbs and joining them again.

This is not a recommended practice on our planet but maybe you’re reading this article from another yoga planet.

Why all these animals? 

They are strong, fast, flexible, intuitive and know how to release their energy and emotions. They are aware of their bodies and how to use them. Animals do better yoga than you and have inspired the founders of yoga. Let’s dive into how animals and yoga are intrinsicly connected.

Learning from nature 

Ancient yogis were fine observers of the nature surrounding them. Imitating animals was for them an enlightening experience for both the body and the mind. Take a moment to think about how touching a tree and gazing at a mountain makes you feel.

By keeping an open mind, our gurus can be everywhere. The masters understood that from the beginning.

Cats are experts in relaxation. On awakening from sleep, they instinctively stretch and arch their spine in both directions before softening and moving onward.

You mean like this, human?
You mean like this, human?

Creating movement

Animals know how to adjust, how to release adrenalin to hunt or endorphins to love. Some scholars say that the asanas would be a means to recover our natural way to move in nature, hunter gatherer. Listening to our bodies.

Maybe you’re not quite ready yet to practice yoga with your head in a hay bail and a goat on your back. Just plain old yoga will definitely reconnect you to your environment. Being aware of your body helps you to be aware of your surroundings.

All these animals and the poses they’ve inspired are a good way to motivate your kids to practice yoga.

8 tips to convince your boyfriend to do yoga

He still doesn’t understand why yoga is such a thing. He doesn’t support your passion and thinks that yoga is only for ladies.

Well, here are some tips to convince your (gentle)man to get onto the (gentle)mat.

1/ Yoga makes you happy (and will make him happy too).

Yoga clears your mind and releases endorphins. Yoga gets your body tuned up, inside out. And simply because he loves you, you shouldn’t actually work so hard to convince him.

2/ With Yoga pants.

Not only you in your pants, but seriously, is there anything more comfortable than a pair of yoga pants? He should try a pair!

3/Show him the Boys of Yoga

Normal and cool guys like him who decided to start yoga. Tell him your yoga teacher is one of them. He will come to the class.

4/ To spend more time with you.

Warrior 1 – If he brings you to watch a movie to hold your hands and avoid a real conversation, tell him that he can probably get the same in a yoga studio, with some benefits.
Warrior 2 – Give him a simple private lesson. Ask your loved one to sit and breathe with you for a few minutes. There’s probably a good chance he won’t say no. Yoga feels even better together and he will experience it himself.

5/To spend more time solo.

With a studio at pretty much every street corner, he can make some new friends for sure. However, yoga is an individual practice and a moment to reflect and observe. What better place in the entire world than a child pose?

6/To get the famous beach body… faster!

They spend lots of time in the gym but complain about the low and slow results? Well, yoga accelerates weight-loss and body toning, increases flexibility and strengthens muscles. One hour of Bikram yoga can burn 500 calories. 500 calories, that’s like a chicken porridge and a char kway teow together.

7/To stress less.

It has been proven that 12 weeks of yoga significantly reduces anxiety.

8/For better sex.

According to a study published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (Nov. 12, 2009), regular yoga practice improves several aspects of sexual function in women, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction. Should work also for him, isn’t it?

If after all these fantastic reasons he’s still reluctant to practice yoga, it is probably better he doesn’t join you. You’ll have your little secret garden at the studio, share your latest adventures with your friends, and live 10 years longer than him. Namaste!

Yogi’s Morning Routine – 30 Min Simple Habit To Start Your Day Right!

Since the global pandemic started earlier this year, I know a lot of people have struggled in the beginning. This massive shift in our lifestyle left us confused and some might have been gone through mental health issues as well.

 

With too much time in a day since we don’t have to get ready and commute to work, are you the type of person who is sleeping in till 5 min before your work hour…? I hope not! haha

 

I personally overwhelmed with too much time in my hands at the beginning of lockdown. In the first one or a couple of months, yes I did try those quarantine exercises, new recipes, zoom parties, etc.

 

But it got extremely bored and I became so uninspired.

 

Then, I had this realization. What I need is not all of this destruction to kill time. Killing time killed my passion. All I needed was a simple routine that sets me in the right mind and spirit and keeps my mental and physical health sane.

 

 

Since ever I joined Tirisula Yoga Teacher Training, I learned a lot about Yoga from Master Ram. He is one of the well-respected Yoga masters in the world and has trained students for decades of time. I did not only learn yoga, but I also learned about life.

And, one of the things he empathized with at the beginning of the course was the morning routine.

 

I will share with you guys my learning from my master incorporate with some of the things worked well for me during my morning practice.

 

1. Simple stretch upon waking in the bed

Apanasana (Knee to Chest pose) and simple twists in the bed when you wake up.

Sit up in the bed and do paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) before getting up from the bed.

2. Dharana – Concentration

One of the 8 limbs of yoga is Dharana. Dharana means 1 thought and it takes a mind fit for concentration. When you practice dhyana, you focus your mind on a particular external object or an internal idea and excludes all other thoughts.

Eventually, your mind will become one with the object.

As a starter, staring at one point on the wall for 3-5 min.

3. Dhyana – Meditation

Once you quiet your mind with Dharana practice, meditate.

Even you only have 5 min in the morning, it counts.

4. Pranayama

Pranayama is a Yogic breathing exercise. There are so many types of pranayama, and Master Ram recommends practicing kapalbhati every morning.

Kapalabhati clears the toxins from the body and let go of attachments.

Try 100 pumps.

5. Asana – Sun Salutation

Finally asana practice. I personally like to start the day with Sun Salutation to energize myself.

Try 3 – 5 rounds.

If you are a beginner and if this is too intense for you, pick 3 poses such as forward bend, cobra pose. and twist will be great to start off your morning right.

 

 

I hope you will find peace and happiness in simple daily life… Just like  I did 🙂

 

It only takes 30 min!

 

It takes a good amount of “tapas” (discipline) to follow through with what you decide to do. We do it not because it will make us successful or it will make us money… we do it because a tiny bit of tapas every day makes us feel great. We feel great because finally, we stop betraying ourselves by not doing the things you decided to do and we start to keep small promises to ourselves.

 

 

Running with Mindfulness

A short reflection on running and mindfulness today.

 

My first love is and always has been running – I’ve run consistently since I was a teenager and it’s been a kind of up-and-down relationship. Running when I’m angry, running on good days and holidays. I found my way to the yoga mat in a period when I “broke up” with running for a bit, frustrated with a hairline foot fracture. I feel like this is the beginning of a story we’ve heard many times: person has an injury, yoga saves their life. That is difference from my experience; I keep looking for ways to create balance between yoga and running. These nine-plus weeks in yoga teacher training (YTT) has given me a lot of time to reflect on my relationship with running and how my practice can complement it. In the last weeks, we’ve moved through many asana and the phrase that I keep coming back to, is “sthira sukham asanam” – that asana should be steady, stable and motionless, bringing comfort to the mind without swings or pain, pleasure or suffering. Is it possible to apply this to the act of running? To simply, naturally, be in the motion with no discomfort?

 

On the last few runs, I tried to bring my focusing to my breath and being present (and also not crashing into cyclists or lamposts!). It’s quite different from switching off from being numb or bored after long distances. It’s almost liberating, to find seconds and minutes of centred-ness in motion. Like mindfulness practice, I count the inhalations and exhalations while running, working to get my strides aligned with my breath. Cycles of 20. I’m currently working my way through a book “Still Running” by Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, a mindfulness practitioner and ultra-runner. Her book is helpful and enriching in many ways, but this section was particularly memorable. In “Abdominal Breathing” she writes: 

 

“Begin by establishing a running pace that you can maintain for the duration of your run… Using the hara as ground or ‘seat’ of your awareness, focus all your attention on your breath as you run. Notice how your abdomen naturally expands as your inhale, then contracts as you exhale. Breathe easily and evenly, placing slightly more attention on the exhale as you let your body inhale by itself…. Anchor your mind in it. Let every cell in your body, every thought in your mind, be nothing but breath.When you become distracted, see the thought, set it aside and come back. Keep running until you feel you are well grounded in the breath.”

 

Here I’m thinking – that’s it! Mindfulness as applied to running. Metre to kilometre, seeing the thought and setting it aside. Focus on the breath. I’m going to do this with my runs and see where this takes me, internally.