Pranayama and Dealing with Tattoo Pain

     Random cool tattooed yogi [1]

First world problems, I know. What with all the world’s best doctors and scientists hard at work developing links between yoga and its effectiveness for use in treatments of REAL pathologies, it’s granted that more inspired topics are to be regulated to the backburner, and the scientific community at large can surely be forgiven for overlooking this potentially very fruitful area of research.

But such is. And we can’t all be engaged in solving life’s big problems, need some of us to engage in the little ones as well. Like ya know, dealing with tattoo pains. We all do our own part, eh?

 

Pranayama

So a quick recap on pranayama. That’s the thing you do (or try to do) during your weekly yoga classes right;

Controlled breath in. Controlled breath out. Hold for 6 counts. In… out… 

In…. out….

Stretch out your breaths, until the thoughts ease off from your mind. Your heart slows. Your muscles relax. Time unwinds, consciousness eases, softens and fades off into the background.

Going to go catch some samadhi’s. [2]

In yogic practice, breath represents (or ontologically supervenes on) prana (lifeforce). Regulation of the breath entails regulation of your lifeforce. When I stretch out my breathing, I draw out my life force. As I harmonize my breathing, I clear up my vital energies, and prepare my mind-body to transition into the next stage of heightened consciousness.

Pranayama brings about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses and an inward turn of consciousness). Pratyahara further facilitates progression towards dharana, dhyana, and the superconscious samadhi. 

Now, I’d love as much as anyone to reach this samadhic enlightenment. But a dude’s still gotta navigate all the toil and toil and tribulations of samsara, ya know? Eventual self-actualization defo stays in the books, but I’ve a scheduled needling appointment soon, and I’d really like all the help I can get for that next marathon session coming up.

 

Pranayama and Pain Management

I think anyone who has gone for one of those hardcore Yin Yoga classes can immediately relate to the pain-management benefits of controlled breathing during a long drawn out and particularly excruciating frog, lizard or king pigeon pose. Fold deeper, keep breathing. Push deeper on each exhalation, breath into those knots and tight areas. Fold deeper. A bit more. A bit more And then the insane bastard actually comes over and pushes you balls deep into the stretch, into that white abyss of pain. Gotta love those Yin classes.

Don’t let that smile fool you. This here is the true face of pain. [3]

Going to geek out a little bit here on the physio-neurological basis for the efficacy of pranayama on pain management. For those not entirely turned on by latin gobbledygook, skip straight ahead to the next pretty picture below.

For the rest of you intellectual types; regulated breathing leverages the bidirectional affect between (para-)/sympathetic state activation and directive electric signals originating from the central nervous system (“CNS”). Conscious activation of segments of the overall (para-)/sympathetic response (i.e. the slow, deep breathing part of an overall relaxed state) in turn triggers the unconscious sensory neurons transmitting parasympathetic activation back up the CNS into the brain, who then plays catch up by transmitting further motor signals down the spine out the rest of your peripheral nervous system. Upregulation of the parasympathetic (relaxed muscles, slow breathing, steady heartbeat) state opposes the rival sympathetic state activation (fight or flight; erratic heartbeats, cold sweats, jitters, pain sensitivity, tensed up muscles). By a parallel and identical process, similar activation towards the sympathetic state can be achieved through conscious exercise of rapid forceful breathing (e.g. kapalbhati), which transmits back up to the CNS, back down to the sympathetic nervous system as so.

I picked most of this from wikipedia by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

Now there’s a good bit of research attempting to close the final leg from (para-)/sympathetic state activation and pain sensitivity. The interface between subjective mental experiences (the feeling of pain) and neuro-physiological body states has always been a bit tricky to bridge. Observed behavioral responses and subjective reporting of pain would to be sure show some difference when obtained from a sympathetically activated individual or a para-sympathetically inclined one. It’s one thing to observe behavioral responses, and another to conclude that the pain was experienced mentally, internally as more painful; am I just overreacting, or am I really feeling more pain? 

Nevertheless, I’ll just throw out here the bits we wanted to hear; the experimental controlled trigger of pain and its association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. [4] Pranayama and its promising use in patients with pain related pathologies. [5]

Tattoo Pain Chart [6]

But anywho, some personal n=1 experience has informed me that that long, deep breathing REALLY helps during the particularly wee sensitive bits in the ink session; Nice long slow breaths in the green. Some REALLY HEAVY DEEP BREATHS as we move on to the red. Take a 5 minute breather to help clear your mind, then that existential dread again and that moment of panic right as the needle homes into your skin…!!!!!!!…!!…haaaaaa…… Oohh yer fluffin beautie.

Granted there are probably even more niche areas for controlled breath applications out there. Like getting a covid/flu jab. Like when going for a foot massage. Or going to the dentist. Don’t know anything about those, I’m trying to write for the everyman here.

Calm mind through long slow breaths. Reversal of cause and effect. A real wonder of science, that pranayama.

 

Takeaways

– Slow, controlled breathing makes me less of a fidgety beech during tattoo sessions. 

– There’s a bit of science backing the idea that pranayama can help with pain (or at least its management)

– Bit of pranayama would probably help with my spiritual side too, enlightenment and all.

 

Will end off with a bit of #inkspiration, because dayum, some of these pins look mighty fine. 

 

One day, I too will be able to be like that. [7]

 

[1]: https://thetattooedbuddha.com/2016/09/04/the-tattooed-yoga-project-building-community-through-art/ 

[2]: https://www.indiadivine.org/prana-and-pranayama/ 

[3]: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-to-do-frog-pose

[4]: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Jacob Tindle; Prasanna Tadi.[2020]

[5]: Yoga: Can It Be Integrated with Treatment of Neuropathic Pain, Telles S. · Sayal N. · Nacht C. · Chopra A. · Patel K. · Wnuk A. · Dalvi P. · Bhatia K. · Miranpuri G. · Anand A. [2017]

[6]: https://www.facebook.com/rxtattoomd/posts/tattoo-pain-chart/453490595301962/ 

[7]: https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1617350

 

Practical Application of the 3 Gunas in Food and Fishing

“Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The three Gunas describes 3 basic qualities or tendencies that groups states (harmony, activity, chaos), attitudes (positivity, self-centeredness, apathy) and dispositions (peacefulness, dynamism, ignorance) that is generally encountered together in daily life.

This system provides a useful conceptual framework to help understand, categorize and leverage in our life’s undertakings. The following details my attempt to outline a practical application of the 3 Gunas framework in the (hypothetical) feeding, capture and post-catch management of a really hot guy/(s).

It is my hope that this contribution to the yogic community will provide an aspirational yogi at least some help to attain their happiness, or at least bring the rest of us a little amusement in hearing about how the capture attempt goes.

 

Three Gunas & Food:

The following table handily summarizes the categories of food that promotes the respective attitudes. Identical tables, charts and infographics can very easily be found through a quick check with Google.

   
Figure 1: Food that promote the 3 Gunas [1]

The long and short of it is that the eating certain types of food will promote certain kind of energies. Managing the types and proportions of food you eat will assist to regulate your energies (sattva, rajas, tamas); eating chicken if you’re a tamasic kind of person who needs a bit of energy, minimizing spicy food and downing some nuts if you’re the rajasic sort who needs to prepare for a presentation, etc etc.

The standard application prescribes the active evaluation and choice of food types to facilitate the yogi’s own life practices. Numero Uno. Yours truly. The one and only.

But that’s boring. Managing [2] others based on your esoteric yogic guru super-wisdom is where it’s at.

[1] The Gunas in Yoga – Understanding the Significance, [https://yogacentral.in/2017/09/12/gunas-yoga-significance/], YogaCentral [2017]

[2] /məˌnɪpjʊˈleɪʃ(ə)n/. Verb. The action of manipulating something in a skilful manner.

 

A Very Practical Problem

You’re you. You’ve just trudged through an exhausting week of meetings, emergencies, client/customer management and snide passive aggression from your bosses/colleagues over the past five days.

You’re dragged your miserable self down to a fancy bar on a Friday night. You meet this cute guy, struck up a discussion and immediately hit it off. You two had an engaging discussion of the Bhagavad Gita and Sankhya philosophy because you’re both kindred modern enlightened new-age spiritual liberal types like that.

You somehow worked up the courage to invite him back to your sweet (hypothetical) bachelorette pad for a nice meal together. You have just opened your fridge at your generously stocked kitchen when you snapped a little out of your martini-tipsiness;
“Oh sh~eesh. I have no idea what I should cook here.”

What is a girl/non-binary/liberal-male to do?

 

Scenario 1: Mr Tamasic
“Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Tamasic is quite a looker. Unfortunately, he’s also a tad bit apathetic, lethargy and slow on the uptake. Left on his own, this fella doesn’t seem to have the initiative to really step/stand-up, hold himself erect, and really bring things forward tonight.

In this case, you want to cook up something to really ramp up his rajasic energies (Passion, desire & attachment), and a dash of stattvic (Truth, Intelligence & consciousness) to open his eyes to what a treasure he is missing out on if he doesn’t hustle and seize the damn opportunities when they’re standing right in front of him.

Here’s a couple of nice recipes to get his blood boiling:

– Indian Chicken Curry (Murgh Kari): https://www.simplycook.com/recipes/murgh-kari-for-2
– Tamarind Fish Curry (Asam Pedas Ikan Pari): https://www.nyonyacooking.com/recipes/asam-pedas-ikan-pari~ByZH_viDfcZQ
– Lemon Daal (Nimmakaya Pappu): https://blogexplore.com/food/curries-gravies/nimmakaya-pappu-lemony-dal-recipe/

 

Scenario 2: Mr Rajasic
“When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Mr Rajasic is a total hottie. Unfortunately, he also appears just a tad bit hot-headed, impulsive, wilful, and maybe a little wild. While you’re interested to secure a little more than just the passing acquaintance with this eligible bachelor, you’re worried of the seemingly considerable risk of a one-night stand, a passing fancy, and/or a pelvic fracture/sore hips the next day.

We really want to tone down Mr Rajasic’s rajas over here. Really load up on the tamas to get him nice and satiated. A lot of red meat, some mushroom sauce, a few bottles of red wine for extra romance. Hold the coffee, garlic, and for God’s sake, do not feed the man any spicy curries.

Try one of these recipes:

– Steak with mushroom gravy: https://cafedelites.com/ribeye-steaks-with-mushroom-gravy/
– Juicy Steakhouse Burger: https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/steakhouse-burgers.html

 

Scenario 3: Mr Sattvic
“The whole secret lies in confusing the enemy, so that he cannot fathom our real intent.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Now, Mr Sattvic is an intelligent (and very attractive) chap. He says all the right words, makes all the right moves, makes you laugh with his witty jokes, fascinates you with his insightful observations. Unfortunately, he might be just a little bit too clever, able to sniff out your plans and check all your advances. Can’t have that upsetting the balance of power in your future relationship.

Where we’d usually promote the consumption of sattvic food, here we want to do the exact opposite; stuff the fella full of rajasic and tamasic food to throw him off balance;
“Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu

Here’s a couple of nice dishes to obfuscate, obscurate, and enfeeble:

– Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani): https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/butter-chicken/
– Paneer Tikka: https://www.indianhealthyrecipes.com/paneer-tikka-on-stove-top/
– Aloo Chaat: https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/aloo-chaat-recipe/
– 5 Minute Chocolate Pudding: https://laughingspatula.com/5-minute-chocolate-pudding

 

Back to Basics: Self-care

Of course, being busy with whipping up specially tailored epicurean gastronomical miscellany is no excuse to neglect the proper care and maintenance of player one. In between juggling 4 frying pans, 2 stewing pots and a smoking oven that’s just about the trigger the fire alarm, one should make sure to whip out a solid sattvic main to keep yourself primed and alert during the coming meal.

Probably a small pretty salad, a plate of fresh fruits and a nice pot of herbal tea. Just tell your wondering meal buddy that you’re on a diet. Maybe leave the washing for tomorrow.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19885314/mediterranean-chickpea-salad-recipe/
Fruit platter: https://divascancook.com/how-to-make-a-fruit-tray-beautiful-fruit-platter-idea/
Homemade Herbal Tea: https://www.acouplecooks.com/herbal-tea-recipes/

I don’t think we have had enough Art of War quotes. Here’s one more for good measure:

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

 

P.S. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Brahmachari

In Yoga philosophy we learnt the eight limbs of yoga, asht-anga, are yamas (abstentions), niyamas (lifestyle observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption into the Divine). 

The goal of yoga is self-realisation, which in some sense is freedom. All of it takes work, and with baby-steps I hope to be able to incorporate these eight limbs of yoga bit by bit to eventually free myself from the unknown. 

One of the yamas, is brahmacharya also known as energy moderation. Amongst all the yamas, I wanted to share how this has the biggest application in my life given that I am of Vata dosha – energy of movement. Vata dosha people are identified as thin and lanky (check, and check), active both physically and mentally (also very true for me as someone who is constantly engaged in a sport or seeking academic rigour), and many other attributes that I related to. 

While Brahmacharya is often interpreted as celibacy, a more appropriate interpretation of it would be based of the literal translation of the word ‘walking in the way of God’. It is rather about channeling the appropriate amount of energy and preventing the dissipation of one’s energy through the misuse of senses. Overstimulation or turbulence in the mind is a violation of brahmacharya. Yet as a vata dosha, I find myself expending excessive energy on certain projects, only to be easily exhausted and struggling to follow through with other responsibilities. I often overthink, or am clouded with thoughts racing through my mind rather than expending the right amount of energy for a required task and conserving what is left of me. 

To help my Vata turbulence, not only was it vital for me to regulate Vata ways of staying balanced, I also thought applying Brahmacharya is of utmost importance to me. I started by working Brahmacharya on a more tangible aspect: asanas. When striking a pose, I bring my awareness to it and hold it to consider: am I regulating my effort such that I’m not pushing or forcing? Am I draining myself out just in this one pose? And if so, how do I put in the right amount of effort? By bringing about breathing into the poses, I relax my mind and use the asana instead to help replenish my energy rather than drain it. All in all, the various aspects of Yoga – breathing, asanas, and spirituality unite harmoniously to elevate a being.

I want to bring this same awareness I practice in yoga, to daily aspects of my life. I wish to live more in the present without feeling constantly drained and exhausted. For me, brahmacharya has been a very applicable aspect of the Yamas in my life. 

My yoga journey and Patanjali’s teachings

One of my key recent learnings has been Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga.

The Eight Limbs are:

  1. Yama (Restraints)
  2. Niyama (Observances)
  3. Asana (Posture)
  4. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses)
  6. Dharana (Concentration)
  7. Dhyana (Meditation)
  8. Samadhi (Pure Contemplation)

Each limb provides useful guidance on its own, but collectively they provide a roadmap to living a meaningful and purposeful life.  The structure offered in these teachings has resonated strongly with me –as looking back on my own yoga journey, I’ve unknowingly sought out and struggled with them in my own ways. 

 

My journey with yoga started from injuries.

In high school I became an avid gym-goer and amped up the intensity when I joined my university’s crew team. However, being keen and excited about weightlifting didn’t mean not getting injured  –actually it happened probably too often. Chiro visits and massage therapy became a regular part of my life from the age of 20. I saw specialists but their assessments and treatments always felt superficial.

I first took up yoga to help with these injuries. I didn’t want to listen to the doctor who told me I shouldn’t necessarily have expectations to run or jump again at my young age. I wanted to focus on my spine to build up strength, stability and regain flexibility. Away from the weights, the low impact nature of yoga offered me an active approach to healing.

The universal appeal of yoga also allowed it to be one of the few activities that I could do anywhere as I’ve moved around with my career. DC, London, Hong Kong –and now here at Tirisula in Singapore, I’ve been fortunate to find active yoga communities and great teachers to learn from in each city.

Through these various life moves, a large part of why I’ve stayed with yoga is the confidence it has helped me develop as I grow capable of doing new asanas, coupled with the sense of calm and feeling refreshed that I always have at the end of each class.

A deepening desire to expand what I was finding within the classroom into my everyday life has promoted an evolution of my practice.  In particular, this has been with an increased focus on incorporating meditation in my personal life, and on asserting myself genuinely and confidently in my professional life. 

 

Learning the Eight Limbs…

When I look at the Eight Limbs, they prioritize many of the same values I have been trying to develop in myself to be a happy and productive adult.

Yamas and niyamas are restrictions and disciplines that I see as beneficial in shaping how I approach myself and others. Asanas and pranayama are key to keeping a healthy body. The higher limbs outline an approach to developing clarity of mind. 

As I forge ahead on my quest for self development, learning the Eight Limbs has been encouraging and welcomed, as they provide structure to an approach I was trying form for myself.

4 ways to get your family into yoga

Yoga has had a such a positive impact on my health and mental well-being that I’m an enthusiastic advocate of the practice.  Give me a willing listener, and I’ll gladly share my story of how yoga has helped me.  While I’ve converted by husband into a fellow yogi, it has been difficult to convince other adult family members to give it a try.

There are many pre-conceived notions of yoga.  Ask a non-practitioner what they think of when it comes to yoga and they may describe a yogi, deep in a meditative state floating across mountain tops.  Others may instead immediately associate the practice with the bendy photos of yogis striking poses on social media.  Both images can be equally intimidating and off-putting for someone who feels their life is worlds removed from what they see as the practice of yoga.  

While some yogis can be intensely focused on mediation and spirituality or flexibility and athleticism –the practice of yoga needn’t be, and can be very accommodating to individuals of varying abilities and at different stages in life.

As I’m keen to share a part of my life that has benefited me greatly with those I care about, I’ve been eager to understand new ways of opening their minds to the practice.

4 Ways to Get Your Family into Yoga

Here’s some suggested approaches that are worth a try –

  1. Show rather than tell

Going straight into all the benefits and evangelizing about yoga will often overwhelm people. Instead, you can start slow. When my family has asked how I am, I try to drop subtle hints about why I feel like I do – whether it’s feeling refreshed, more active, or more calm, it’s been easy to link this back to yoga.

The goal here is to incite curiosity. Showing them the benefits of yoga, rather than telling them to do it.

  1. Baby steps

It can be daunting to attend a yoga class as a newbie. All the cues in a yoga class can be overwhelming when you don’t know the movements.  I’ve had friends –not used to taking direct instruction –feel pressured in class and cry.  

You can help them gain comfort and confidence by practicing some initial poses together. When my husband first started yoga we kept this really simple – working through well-known poses such as downward dog. Having this basic knowledge in a safe space made him more comfortable when joining an actual class.

  1. Breathing exercises

Classes and postures may still be a bit too much at the start. Instead, you can start with breathing exercises – who can say no to breathing? 

Helping them to gain control of their breath is already a benefit. For these, they can start with a simple easy exercise –sitting in any comfortable position, closing their eyes, and breathing to counts of 5 breaths in, 5 breaths out.

  1. Address their concerns

If subtle hints aren’t drawing curiosity and your family won’t engage, there’s often a reason for this and some probing questions might be necessary. Some common concerns are around fitness – that they’re not flexible or fit enough. This often goes back to the preconceived notions of yogis from social media.

Once you get a sense of where the hesitancy may be, try to speak to their concerns and relate yoga benefits back to their situation and how it can specifically help them –whether it be physical like fixing a stiff back or mental like destressing the mind.

Although it can be a challenge to convince your family to first try yoga, the rewards that they’ll get are well worth it!

 

 

Yoga and CrossFit for me

My relationship with yoga was almost never constant. Me for the past few years, and even now, will not say yoga is my main form of exercise. I do CrossFit. A lot. Almost 5 times a week. I enjoy the fast-paced, strength work, heavy lifting, explosive movements in CrossFit. But the issue was, whenever I reach my peak fitness, I get injuries that will stop me from exercising for a few months.

 

The worst I had was persistent lower back pain. I knew it was serious when I suddenly wasn’t able to get out of bed. Went to the specialist and through a MRI scan, found out that I had a tear in my lower disc. I then took a break from heavy weightlifting for 3 months. After consultation with my physiotherapist, we found out that the reason for the lower back injury was because my hamstring, quad, and upper back was so tight and compressed that the tightness concentrated to an area, which was how my lower back compensated, to “allow” me to continue with all the heavy lifting at the gym.

 

I’ve never stretched after my workouts. I never did any form of stretching.  After 3 months of break from CrossFit and a lot of rehab work, I was given the clearance from my physiotherapist to resume my usual workout. I decided to start yoga again. It was the best decision that I’ve made in a long time! My body recovered quickly, I was energised, with no pain, and good strength and mobility.

 

Then, I got lazy again. See this relationship I have with yoga? When I reflected on this, I realised I first encountered yoga 7 years back and no matter what other forms of exercise I took up, I’ll somehow always ended up having yoga in my life again. This definitely means something! That was when I decided to take up yoga teacher course at Tirisula Yoga. All the Ashtanga practices with Master Ram and YY gave me another perspective on yoga. It is not only about stretching/flexibility. It is fast-paced, it is strength training, lots of heavy lifting (I mean me, I’m the heavy one), and I’m humbled by all of it. There are many poses that are still a challenge for me but I believe it will soon come to me!

 

All the yoga practices also improved my strength for CrossFit. My shoulders are so much stronger now that I was shocked when I went back to CrossFit class and did some of the movements that I previously struggled with. Yoga complements my current regime perfectly!

 

To any of you thinking you can’t do yoga because your whole body is tight/stiff from bodybuilding/spin/martial art/CrossFit, I am one great example that you should have yoga in your life! It complements and you will see definitely see physical improvements in yourself!

Control

It is the lack of control that frightens me.

In yoga terminology, I believed I had a rajasic mind – an overstimulated body, unable to keep still, and an anxious mind. I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist. But over time, I realize my need to establish structure and stability has heightened over the course of adulthood. Maybe for a long time, I have decided I have been cruising through life too much – lost in life at 19; the I-woke-up-one-day-and-decided-to-fly-to-Australia-for-two-years-with-a-student-loan decision because I thought leaving was the best solution to a happier life; the trip to the grocery store one day, with a budget of 20 dollars, felt like crap and walked in to get a job at a café. Those days, I drank too much coffee, to keep my body physically capable to do everything I thought I had to do.

There were also days I felt moody and lethargic, having a tamasic behaviour, causing me to make impulsive decisions, like waking up one day and telling my partner I’m taking a solo trip because I needed to be alone. Those days were the worst, because they were the days I lack purpose, demotivated to chase a shining future. I ate badly and lived on ready-to-eat food. I smoked and drank too much, thinking that the 5 minutes that cigarette will last is the 5 minutes my mind could be at peace.

Shifting from the two extremes was exhausting, not only for me, but also for the people around me, particularly family who couldn’t cope with the stubbornness, my then-partner, who had to live with my impulsive decisions and irrational moods. After a while, with all the hasty decisions and carelessness, I made a commitment to settle for something, for anything.

I made a conscious decision to settle on a career and to stay in Singapore. Being in one place allowed me the space to try new things for a longer duration of time. In my quest to find myself, I found yoga. For a long time finally, I felt I had composure.

I began my quest to eat more sattvic food, partly to lose weight so I can work on my asanas, but as I went along, I also began feeling healthier, more energetic and focused. I slowly transitioned towards cooking more. As much as I can, I avoided processed food, even bread and crackers, even if they were wholegrains, but I ate small portions of brown rice. I couldn’t avoid meat altogether but I switched to white meat and fish. I snacked with nuts, not on chocolates (though I snacked on 90% dark chocolate).

Suddenly, with the choice to progress and grow, I realised that the control I was searching for was within myself.

I cannot alter my external surrounding, I cannot will people for approval, my partner’s loyalty – in short, I cannot demand certain outcomes. That is the challenging part, isn’t it – accepting that some things are beyond dominance.

And with that, I leaned back on my office chair and drank my chamomile tea in big gulps. I then left the office much earlier than usual. I met a friend and had some good laughs, and made one conscious decision;

This time, I will breathe and let go.

 

Something Fun, Be creative

We are having fun and crazy ideas of what we can do next!!! Not just for earning, but also help to contribute back to the community.

My friends came asking me, what I can contribute.?? That is where my idea came about to conduct some classes.

Opening a café cum yoga studio that sells take away coffee and some pastries was one of the ideas, with few benches for students who wants to mingle after the practice. It will only be operating from 8am – 4pm where we can still have work life balance. Portion of it will be yoga studio, where I can practice, perhaps teaching, renting the space out or even giving out free yoga lesson once or twice a month. And decide to take one of the days earnings and donate to the orphanage.😃

When I spoke to friends about yoga, to them they thought yoga is a female sport where they wear sport wear and do simple poses. Seems so easy, and after explaining to them some of the Mudras, Chakras, Pranayama. To my surprise they are very interested to know more about it and change the perspective how they look at yoga.

As most of them are working in the office for long hours. How this can improve their health and posture? After we practice on the mat, they realized the need to engage the core muscles of the body to corporate and coordinate the flow of the breath with the poses, to do a “simple looking pose”. And, the breathing technique that is something new to them. Never did they think that breathing can be something that you are born with, can have so many techniques and benefit to our health. So, this inspire me wants to learn more so that I can share the knowledge.

 

 

 

How yoga improves my self-awareness

In yoga, we learn to pay our attention to the body when performing a variety of yoga poses, whether our back is lengthened or rounded, our chest is opened or collapsed, our core is actively engaged or relaxed, our hips are squared or slanted, our pelvis is tilted anterior or posterior, our feet are in a dorsiflexion or plantar flexion position, our fingers are relaxing or actively stretching, and where our eyes are resting. Practising yoga not only increases my body awareness for improved body posture, it also increases my awareness in managing my facial expression and eating habits. In this post, I would like to share with you how practising yoga has promoted my awareness in these three aspects which are so important in our daily life.

Maintaining a good body posture

One of my favourite yoga poses is wheel pose or alternatively known as upward bow pose. This deep backbend and chest opening pose allows the spine to be stretched backward, counteracting the usual hunched body posture. Most other sitting or standing yoga poses also require us to open the chest and lengthen the spine. After practising yoga for some time, I have become more aware of my body posture when I am walking or sitting in front of the desk. To keep a good body posture, it takes awareness to contract my back muscles for straightening the back and roll my shoulders back for opening the chest. Having a good posture not only makes me look taller, but also improves my confidence. Mentally, with the chest opened, I feel my heart is opened as well. I have learnt to open up myself more to accept others and focus on bringing kindness to them.

Managing the facial expression

How often do we pay attention to our facial expression when interacting with others? There was one time in a yoga practice, when being asked to relax the space between our eyebrows during the relaxation stage, I realized I had been frowning unknowingly for no reason. I also tend to blink my eyes excessively during public speaking probably because I am too nervous. Realizing facial expression which is a part of the body language can determine how people interpret us, I started to put more attention on managing my facial expression. Starting from relaxing the space between my eyebrows, I go on to relax my face, smile more and focus my eyes in one direction. I believe the facial expression also reflects our mental state. By managing our facial expression, not only this can make people become more comfortable to interact with us, but also regulate our emotions.

Practising mindful eating habits

Healthy diet and exercise go hand-in-hand to nurture and shape our body. Additionally, the yogic diet encourages sattvic foods which are foods that are eaten fresh and natural or lightly cooked for a clear and calm mind. I was so used to eating excessively hot and heavily spiced foods which can overstimulate the body and mind. I frequently experienced stomach discomfort and breakout on my face on top of the restless state of my mind. After learning about the yogic diet, I always remind myself not to eat so much spicy food and avoid stimulants of all kinds. For example, I will opt for an egg prata instead of my usual egg and onion combination for this delicious local dish. Most importantly, I consciously remind myself not to overeat. Due to the constant stress in my study and work, I had been overeating for a long time as I wrongly took eating as a form of self-love by feeding myself all the foods that I was tempted to eat and as a reward for my hard work. During the yoga training, I could literally feel the heaviness in my body when trying to lift myself up in certain poses. I have since made some changes to my eating habits to avoid overeating.

  • Slow down the pace when eating: This is because our brain needs at least 20 minutes to catch up with the status of our stomach. In the past, I always finished my meal in 10 minutes and looked for more small bites to fill my stomach. After I have consciously slowed down my pace when eating, I can easily get full after just one meal without additional foods.
  • Be aware of the way you check in with yourself after eating: After each meal, instead of asking ‘Do you still have room for desserts or small bites?’, I find it better to ask ‘Are you feeling full now?’. Surprisingly, the answer is always yes to me.
  • Think carefully before ordering food: It is always tempting to buy a set meal that comes with a main course and a dessert or some side dishes to get the best deal from the menu. After knowing that I may overeat from this action, now I will choose to buy only the main course first. I will buy the dessert later when I truly feel hungry after having finished my main course.
  • Know the body conditions associated with your appetite: I get most hungry when the temperature is cold, especially when I am doing paperwork in an air-conditioned room. I also tend to eat more if I don’t get enough sleep the night before. It seems like my body is trying to fill the energy gap from my lack of sleep by eating more foods to keep me awake. Therefore, to prevent myself from overeating, I will ensure myself getting enough sleep by going to bed early and avoid working long hours in an air-conditioned room. I also realized I don’t feel hungry easily when I am doing certain exercises such as yoga and Pilates. This is probably because my senses and attention are focused on coordinating the body movements but not the hungry signal from my body. Therefore, exercise is a good way to burn my calories and suppress my appetite to prevent overeating at the same time.

Having said that, it is also important to satisfy our cravings from time to time. The key is to not develop a habit of overeating as this can lead to undesired consequences on our health such as obesity and diabetes. Our demand for food also changes with our age and body condition. Therefore, it is good to consciously check in with ourselves every time how much food is truly needed by our body.

 

With love,
Wei Li

Yoga: My journey to a happier life

I came to practice yoga in 2019 when I wanted to have a better health. At that time, my health screening result was quite bad and it took me to a point that I should do something to improve my physical health, then yoga came to my mind. I signed up for a yoga package later.  

I had been practicing yoga on and off from then until late 2020, I started to practice regularly and I saw some positive changes in myself – physically and mentally.

  1. I am healthier – this has proved by my job as an assistant to mural artist. When I have to draw at site, I tend to stand for long hours. Previously, I had painful back and legs every time after I finished my work, but now, I have no pain at all and I am not easily get tired like I used to be. I am more productive – it’s just wonderful!
  2. I love my body even more – with yoga, I can see improvement in my body. I become more flexible and stronger. With the regular practice, I am able to do some poses that I was not able to do before and I don’t have to compete myself with anyone, it’s just myself. It’s a kind of development that I can see in my body. Also, after yoga classes, I feel good to eat healthy food and I opt to eat vegetarian more often. I feel that my body is much lighter when I eat Sattvic food.
  3. My mind is clearer – I easily get stressed and yoga helps me to relieve stress and anxiety. Being mindful with the practice, it helps me to stay present and enjoy the moment. It’s a kind of meditation to me. Especially, when I came to practice Yoga Teacher Training, I learned more about alignment and when I practice with correct understanding of the alignment, I have more body awareness and the practice become even more mindful and joyful.    
  4. Lastly, I am happier and just feel I can achieve what I want in life easier. From yoga philosophy I have learned, maybe it’s just because I am contented and grateful for what I already have.

I believe yoga will continue to give more benefits to me, so what I can do is…KEEP PRACTICING.