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.

 

The First 2 Limbs of Yoga

The First 2 limbs of Yoga

 

I have chosen to write my blog about the first 2 limbs of yoga because these 2 concepts and each compartment within them really interest me and they are ideas that I have been trying to apply into my life in the last couple years. Together these 2 limbs form high moral character and allow for purity of the mind, body and soul.

 

Patanjali compiled up 8 compartments to describe the sadhana way to samadhi, through raja/ashtanga yoga. These 8 limbs are aimed at releasing the mind and guiding a person into full consciousness. 

 

  • The first limb is called Yama, which means universal moral/ethical commandments and includes the disappearance of all suppressions. Yama controls and individuals passions and emotions and keeps them in harmony with others around them. If these commandments are not obeyed then this brings violence, chaos, untruth, stealing, dissipation, and an envious need to possess something, extreme greed. These characteristics derive from the emotions of greed, attachment and desire, which according to patanjali can only bring ignorance and pain. 
    • The first principle of Yama is called ahimsa which means non-violence. According to this principle, violence arises out of fear, restlessness, ignorance or weakness and in order to stop this from occurring we need to reach freedom from fear (abhaya) and freedom from anger (akrodha), coming from a change in the perspective of life. Every creature is equal and has every right to live as they do. A yogi believes that every creation should be looked upon with love and knows that their life is connected to others, finding happiness in making other creatures happy. A wrong done by a yogi should be resolved with justice and a wrong done by another should be forgiven. Ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah means that a person who practices nonviolence will receive non violence in return and love. When a person who practices ahimsa surrenders all hostilities, other people will also surrender their hostilities when they come into contact with this person, and love arises from the dissipation of violence.
    • The second principle is called satya, which means truthfulness. This is based on the motion that if one lives and speaks in truth then they are fit to unify with the infinite and reach samadhi. According to patanjali, reality is based on love and truth and can be lived through these aspects. There are 4 sins of speech and they include falsehoods, abuse and obscenity, telling tales, and ridiculing what others have said. It is said that when an individual learns to control their tongue they have gained self-control and they will be heard with respect, they will be well remembered for their truth. Satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam means that a person who acts and speaks from truth will live in truth, all of their actions will show truth, they need not have truth be a separate factor to who they are, it will come as part of them.
    • The third principle is called Asteya which means not stealing. Whilst a person who does not live by asteya may be driven to perform acts of theft in things that they desire, whether this is by taking the possessions of others without permission, using something for a different purpose than intended, or extending the time allowed to borrow the belonging, the yogi knows that they do not need anything more in life and reduces their physical needs to the minimum. If they gather things that they don’t really need, they see themselves as a thief. Freedom from craving allows a person to resist temptations. Asteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam means that a person living in the principle of asteya will find that treasures will appear to themselves. As they realise that possessions belonging to others are not more attractive than what they already have then this will attract treasures of a material and non-material nature to them.
    • The fourth principle is Brahmacharya which means celibacy and self-restraint. A brahmachari is one who practices brahmacharya and is able to see divinity is all. This does not mean that yoga is only for people who want to remain celibate, infact many yogis and sages of the old india were married with families. Brahmacharis do not see sex as a necessity to penetrate others. Brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah means that when a bramachari lives like Brahma (god), celibacy comes naturally, it is not created and practiced, as this leads to suppression. According to this principle, sex can exist in the forms of anger, violence, theft and jealousy and a brahmachari finds strength and courage.
    • The last principle of Yama is called aparigraha, which means non-possession, or to be free from hoarding. This includes non-possessiveness and absence of greed. This means that one person should not keep things that they do not need. A yogi trains his mind to not feel the loss or lack of anything, once this is achieved the things that the individual really needs will appear to them at the right time. Aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah means that possessing has no meaning, the energy that appears when one is established with aparigraha will allow them to know the past and future, knowing hidden things. When one knows that nothing can be owned, their energy moves inward, and you are immersed in the present
  • The second limb is called Niyama and means self purification by discipline including freedom from all observances. Niyama also controls a person’s passions and emotions.
    • The first principle within Niyama is Saucha, which means that the purity of blood is essential for wellbeing. There are practices of asanas which cleanse our body physically and practices like pranayama which cleans our bodies internally. It is essential for our bodies to be cleansed of the mind for disturbing emotions such as hatred, passio, lust, greed, anger, delusion and pride, which are considered impure thoughts. This cleansing can be done in the practice of bhakti, meaning adoration and svadhyaya, the study of the self. These practices help to vanish mental pain, sorrow, despair and dejection and help to nourish radiance, love and joy. When one practices saucha they see their real selves and know that their body is a temple. Sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsargah means that a saucha includes disillusion about the body. When one is very much concerned about the appearance of their body they search for another body to feel self gratification, which can be mistaken for love but it is not love. Love is not about the body, the soul feels comfortable when not in a crowd, but the body yearns for other bodies. When one realises that mental purity has power, the control of the senses, joyfulness and concentration occur. 
    • The next principle is Santoshha, which means contentment, finding joy in every moment. A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. When differences arise, conflict occurs and the mind cannot reach a point of one (ekagra), and peace is unachievable. In everyday life we get pleasure out of external objects created internally, never appreciating what we already have. Due to this we are never content, because we are always seeking for something else, which we cannot get. The mind does not have the capacity to be content, that would mean destruction of the mind, and the mind simply cannot allow that. By achieving a point of santosha, the mind does not have its function anymore and samadhi can occur. 
    • The third principal is tapa which means a burning effort to achieve a definite goal, including self-discipline, austerity and purification. Tapas is the effort to achieve union with the divine and burning out all desired which may stand in the way of achieving this goal. This aim makes life worthy, pure and divine. It can come in 3 parts including the body, speech and mind. Ahimsa and brahmacharya are tapas from the body. Satya is a tapa of speech, speaking the truth and retaining self control is a tapa of the mind. Fasting, yoga, deep breathing, natural eating are examples of austerities which transform impurities within the body. It is not torturing the body but purifying it. These austerities will create new energies and new possibilities for an individual performing in them.
    • The fourth principle is Swadhyaya, meaning self study. When one performs in swadhyaya he is essentially studying and educating themselves about themself. Through doing this the individual will realise that all of life and creation is made for bhakti (adoration) rather than bhoga (enjoyment), that everything that is, is divine. Divinity lies within oneself and within everything else, that the energy that lies within oneself is the same energy that lies within everything that exists within the universe. Self study includes how we view ourselves, how we think others view ourselves, our view of the world, how we relate to people, how we change around others, how we react to things, whether or not we show jealousy, possessiveness. All this study makes us become self aware and alert, allowing us to notice what goes on in our lives and eventually disattach from the identity and emotions towards those actions and thoughts. All the emotions and moods that appear will be witnessed, not letting anything be missed, and when they are witnessed, they disappear.
    • The last principle of Niyama is Ishwara-pranidha, which means that the worship of the lord and seeing him within us allows us to surrender the ego. One who knows that he lies within all of creation cannot have pride or ego. Total surrender of the go is required and must be surrendered without negativity inside, only purity is able to surrender. By knowing oneself, only then can surrender happen. When the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ disappears then the soul has reached full growth

Meditative Processes to Increase Well-Being

Meditation is an ancient technique that has been around for thousands of years. It includes the focus of your attention into your senses, such as hearing, vision, physical feelings, taste, and smells to calm the mind of jumbled thoughts. This practice is meant to eliminate stress and enhance emotional well being by immersing yourself in the present moment. Meditation teaches us to ‘notice’ sensational information around us including any information given by the senses, plus noticing thoughts. by just noticing thoughts, we stop any emotions attachment to them. By considering them appearances in consciousness, rather than our true emotions. Meditation can also teach us to feel our emotions physically rather than mentally, this also helps us to detach from any mental emotional feeling related to the thought. The benefits of meditation are amazing! Physically what happens in your brain when you’ve been meditating for a while is that the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that is responsible for fear and emotional processing actually shrinks in volume, whereas the parts of the brain that are responsible for happiness, increase in volume. These effects can occur with just 8 weeks of daily meditation. Meditation also allows us to see stressful daily situations in a new perspective so as to be able to deal with them better and more efficiently. With the negative emotional feelings out of the way, this leaves space for more imagination, patience, creativity, tolerance and love. There has been some new research found in meditation that suggests that the body actually create antibodies whilst meditating. The impacts that these antibodies may have has not yet fully been discovered, however this could suggest that meditation may be useful in curing diseases and illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep disorders, headaches, chronic pain, asmtha and depression. During meditation, the focus of your mind to one specific body part actually makes the body send more blood to that area, therefore allowing it to heal faster. 

Pranayama is a practice of breath work. It translates to life energy control and includes inhaling and exhaling and holding your breath in specific ways. There are countless techniques within pranayama including controlling the timing, duration and the frequency of each breath. The goal of pranayama is to supply the body with oxygen and remove any negative toxins out from the body. Its benefits include the deduction of stress as it calms down the nervous system and increases oxygen flow to the vital organs including the brain and nerves. One interesting thing we learned in class was that the left nadi is responsible for melatonin, which calms and cooled the body down. The right nadi is responsible for serotonin which energies the body. Pranayama can both calm the body down as well as prepare the body for the day, energise and refresh. Through its stress relieving properties it also improves sleep quality through reaching a state of mindfulness and slowing the heart rate. It has also been found to reduce high blood pressure and hypertension by calming the nervous system. As pranayama includes many techniques that expand and strengthen the lungs, this can aid in lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and helps recovery from pneumonia and tuberculosis. Pranayama has also been found to improve executive function, which are cognitive process that includes everyday skills such as memory, flexible thinking and self control. With these functions working properly in the brain it allows for a more focused mind that is able to handle emotions and daily activities more efficiently.

Mudras are gestures done using the hands which balance the energy within the body. They are usually used in the time of meditation and different kinds of mudras have different effects. They can change the mood, and perception of a person performing them. One type of Mudra is the Gyan mudra which is performed by touring the thumb and index finger of the left hand together. This mudra helps to relax the body and stimulate the brain. The thumb represent the fire element, whereas the index finger represents the air element. together they evoke wisdom, improve concentration and relieve stress. The varun mudra is performed by connecting the pink finger and thumb. The pinky finger represents the water element and through this connection, this mudra helps to promote beauty and health. It can help with dehydration, as it includes the water element, balancing the water within the body. It helps alleviate cramps in the muscles, dryness of skin, mouth, throat and eyes.

Grounding Into Gratitude: Practicing Santosha on and off the mat

Source: PSU Vanguard

Are we forever chasing rainbows?

Oftentimes, we think that if we get a promotion, get more money, lose weight, have better skin, get a bigger house, or get better with our asanas, we will be happier. We humans are in the constant chase for something that we don’t have, and once we do achieve what we wanted, we would aim for something else, something better. Psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill because we’re running after something only to end up in the same place- desiring more of what we don’t have. 

Santosha, the second of five niyamas, is the Sanskrit word for contentment, which, as stated in the Yoga Sūtra, “brings about unsurpassed joy.”  Niyamas are literally translated as positive duties or observances. Together with Yamas, these are recommended activities and habits to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, and spiritual enlightenment. Santosha tells us that we can only truly find happiness from within, and relying on external factors will never bring us peace. This niyama invites us to be content in the present, and know that we are complete and enough the way we are. This is not to say that we should never have desires or goals. The niyama is simply inviting us to stop wasting energy thinking about what we lack. Instead, we should enjoy the journey, live in the present, and be thankful for what we do have. Intrinsic happiness is unconditional. 

The secret to the law of attraction is to believe that we already have what we want. To manifest the best version of ourselves, we need to be grateful with ourselves and be happy where we are. Yoga is an amazing practice to work on changing our self-harming thought patterns for the better. 

 

How to practice santosha on the mat: 

  • Don’t compare yourself with other yogis. All of us have probably fallen prey to this: a difficult asana comes up in class which we’re not confident of doing; instead of practicing, we look around and compare ourselves with others. Or when we’re stuck in our phones, we tend to look at all these yogi Youtubers and sulk about not being as strong and flexible as them. Santosha tells us to shift the focus back to improving ourselves for the sake of personal growth instead of spending time wishing we had someone else’s physical abilities. Give yourself freedom to enjoy where you are in your practice.
  • Be compassionate to your body. We often forget how much our bodies provide for us: it gets us to walk, run, and perform our daily activities without much thinking. The fact that we can breathe, show up in our mat, and do asanas when we want to is amazing in itself. The least we can do is be thankful by not bringing physical harm to it and to stop saying hurtful words to it. 

Also understand that your body will be different each day depending on what you eat, how well you sleep, the quality of air you breathe, your mental state, etc. Some days you’re stronger, other days you’re very tight. Accept it for what it is at the present and know that your body will always evolve.  

  • Be present in your practice. What makes physical yoga distinct from other workouts is its mind-body-breath connection. It’s normal to get distracted with thoughts of the future or past when you’re practicing. When that happens, acknowledge the thought and try your best to bring yourself back to your movement through focusing on the breath. Being present makes your poses and breathwork more precise too. 
  • Always start and end your practice with namaste. Deciding to show up for yourself on the mat is an excellent practice of self-care. Acknowledge that you are alive, breathing, and your body can perform these asanas for you. That’s already a lot of things to be grateful for. 

 

How to practice santosha off the mat: 

 

  • Start and end your day with gratitude. In the morning, list three constant things in your life that you are grateful for. It could be the presence of your friends, family, a steady source of income, a roof on top of your head, a place to sleep, food to eat, a body that works hard for you, the fact that you’re still alive. When you start your day focusing on these things instead of what you don’t have, you will attract more things to be thankful for. At the end of the day, think about what happened in the day that you’re grateful for.

 

  • Let go of what you can’t control. Oftentimes, the source of discontentment is from things we can’t change or influence such as those that happened in the past or others’ opinions of us. Don’t sacrifice your bliss and headspace for these moments. Instead, focus on what you can directly control which ultimately is yourself- your breath, your attitude, your reaction to things. You can choose to be disappointed or accepting of events. 

 

  • Let go of expectations and perfection. Practice remaining calm in success or failure. Find ease in whatever you’re doing and completely enjoy the process. If you focus on the progress instead of the result, you are directed back to the present and appreciate how far you’ve come. Expectations often leave you frustrated with how far you need to go. Completely surrender to the moment and let life surprise you. 

 

  • Go outside and appreciate the world around you. If you’ve been taking the blue sky, tall trees, or building murals for granted, marvel at them today. Look at all their details and relish the fact that you get to live with all these beauty. Allow yourself to be moved by the wonder of nature. You can keep the state of Santosha by disconnecting from technology so you can really stay in the present.
  • Take yourself in on a date.  To find santosha, you must spend some time alone to truly rid yourself of external validation. You must be content and accept yourself for who you truly are. Yes, your relationships are important and without others, you probably won’t survive but you must be careful on making others the source of your happiness. Sustainable contentment only come from within.

Beyond Truthfulness: practicing Satya on and off the mat

Image Source: www.bindiyoga.ca

 

`Yamas` (moral discipline) are observances recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the eight-limbed path of yoga, developed by Patanjali. Unlike a commandment that has to be strictly followed, the five yamas are established for enthusiasts to develop a mindful and healthy lifestyle.

The second yama is called Satya. The Sanskrit word literally translates to fact, reality, or true nature in English. In its simplest form, satya means upholding the truth. Although the yama certainly encompasses honesty, it also includes integrity to ourselves, our lives, and our inner divine. The practice invites us to be our truest, most authentic selves. More than simply telling your truth, you have to also practice and live it. 

For instance, you can’t keep saying that you want a break but also accept overtime work from your office; or know deep down that you want to commit into a serious relationship but go on casual, meaningless dates.  These small contradictions keep us from manifesting what it is we really want. Satya encourages us to align our thoughts, words, and actions with our desires, while keeping them pure and harmless. 

Reflection piece: In what situations do you notice that your actions are in conflict with what you feel? Why? Who or what are you protecting?

Note: truth shouldn’t cause harm

This yama doesn’t invite us to be frank and forward in telling negative observations, no matter how truthful they are. Our ethical code doesn’t live in a bubble. There’s a reason why ahimsa (non-violence) is the first yama. It tells us that whatever we do should not cause harm to others. Hence, if telling your version of the truth will hurt others, you have to think twice whether your opinion matters. Practicing satya isn’t simply about blindly telling the truth regardless of the consequence. It’s making sure that you speak and act with thought and intention instead of just saying whatever is on your mind. 

 

How to practice satya on the mat

  • Set an intention in your practice. Your intention is the truth as to why you are on the mat today. It will direct your reality. Is your intention to get stronger? To get better sleep? To feel less stressed? Whenever you feel like you don’t want to practice, remind yourself of your intention to get on the mat. 
  • Listen to your physical body. Pain, discomfort, and injury are different languages that your body uses to communicate its truth. Don’t ignore that. If you’re feeling tired, or healing from an injury, don’t force yourself into doing another Chaturanga Dandanasana. It’s a violation of both satya and ahimsa
  • Rather than believing that you are not strong, flexible, or good enough, honor the reality of your body: it just needs practice. Everybody can improve through practice, and no one is an exception. 

 

How to practice satya off the mat

  • Do you feel that you are striving for things that you don’t actually want, but are conditioned by society, family, friends, or loved ones as things you should aspire to have? Ask the hard questions and be completely honest with yourself on whether you are living the life that aligns with your truth.  
  • Make sure that you speak to yourself and others with kindness and intention. Before speaking, ask yourself: is what I’m saying good, true, and beneficial? 
  • Speak up for yourself when your voice needs to be heard.
  • Shift from judgment to observation. For instance, instead of saying “I am fat”, say “My body doesn’t meet yet my standards but it can always improve.” In the first sentence, you are imposing your standards on the world by labeling yourself fat and calling it your reality; in the second, you are simply and clearly expressing your need (to be less fat) in the moment.

True statement: Yoga made my house chores less of a chore.

Have you ever wondered how we can turn those dreadful chores at home to become something enjoyable which you would not mind doing it daily? We often find convert your daily chores less of a chore through yoga!

4 Ways you can transform boring or dreadful chore moments into yogic bits of health

#1 Yoga while you vacuum,

  • Wide stance with your feet while holding your vacuum cleaner.
  • Bend your front knees, keeping the back leg straight which resemble warrior 2
  • Deeping by doing warrior 3 and reaching out to those areas that are further away.

Which you are still able to strengthens your shoulders, arms, legs, ankles and back. Opens yours hips, chest, and lungs. Improves focus, balance, and stability. Encourages good circulation and respiration. Stretches your arms, legs, shoulders, neck, belly, groins, and ankles. Energizes the entire body.

#2 Yoga while you scrub the bottom glass windows, do a Malasana pose

  • Bend both legs, one at a time, until the knees are pointing to the ceiling and the calves come close to the back of the thighs.
  • while your hands are scrubbing your glass windows you are still able to open the hips, strengthens core, stretches the hamstrings and ankles and help to tone the glutes.

#3 Yoga while you do laundry, Chair pose

  • Engage your core as you come back up to stand.
  • Chair pose will work the hips, buttocks, backs of the thighs, and the core

Which still strengthen the supporting muscles of the major joints, such as the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Develop core strength. Strengthen the quads and gluteals.

#4 Yoga while you are cooking

As your stir your tomatoes pasta sauce, stand tall and engage your core muscles. Do some butt lifts here.

  • Lift one leg up behind you and point through the toes.
  • Lift and lower the leg a few inches up and down for 20 pulses.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Doing two to three reps on each leg is great for the back of the thighs, hips, hamstrings, and core muscles.

Housework done easy as you are working out the same time, the brain become less dreariness.

Happy Yoga, Happy Life!

Implementing yoga in our daily life (Household Chores)

In today’s world moves at a fast-forward pace is not something surprising. We are constantly pressing for time, rushing through the day, honking through the evening traffic until finally we can breathe a sigh of relief at the first glimpse of home. Ironically, that sigh of relief triggers off the opposite reaction in the members at home. Growling tummy need to be fed, dirty clothes need to be washed, clothes to be ironed and endless list goes on. No matter how hard we try, we are never fully prepared for the barrage of daily tasks that seem to pile on and on, leaving no time for ourselves much less about exercising.

Yoga says, “Every action has got a mental and physical approach to it.” However, when things become mechanical over a period, it gets boring and happiness levels drop in particularly, household chores. You must sweep the same floor, with the same broom and in the same way. Similarly, washing clothes and ironing. Suppose you want to do some ironing of clothes, you take the iron and its board, on the switch, waiting for it to get heated and start moving it up and down. Considering the mental aspect, if I ask you to recall how did you iron or how long did you waited for it to be heated up, you will not be able to say. It is registered in our brain systems and we would not have thought of ways to improvise it.

The trick is to apply the positive logic to one’s everyday tasks whereby “When you truly enjoy doing something, it is never a chore”. And this is where yoga comes in – just add a panache of yoga and relaxation techniques to your daily household chores which can change your perspective and lift your happiness level.

For example, wiping the desk can be given a yogic element simply by paying attention to posture, standing rigidly upright and allowing the mind to focus only on the steady rhythm of the movement. Similarly, reaching for the top part of the glass panel for cleaning can be transformed into a relaxing extension by paying attention to our pectoralis major, deltoid, latissimus dorsi, subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and major and coracobrachialis which these are a group of muscle working on the moving arms.

All one must do is find a task that takes half an hour or so and cultivate total awareness of the body while performing these activities.

Breathing deeply and diaphragmatically is a good place to start. For example, while ironing, you may become aware that you are squeezing your neck and compressing your spine while bending toward your iron. You can extend your feet and place them firmly on the ground and it is better to bend from the hips rather than the back. Soon, you will get into the flow of ironing, breathing deeply, hips bending a little as you flex and extended the time of ironing will pass without you even realizing it.

Once you learn to cultivate total awareness of the body, it is easy to apply it to other areas of action in life, such as climbing the stairs or even walking. As you start applying the principles of yoga to everyday aspects of your life, you will stop thinking of your daily tasks as chores. More importantly, you will have greater positive energy that will help your mind and physical to face everyday life challenges.

Yoga Anywhere: morning MRT commute

With the average commute time for Singaporeans at more than 50 minutes a day, that is almost 5% of our waking hours, assuming 8 hours of sleep. As a time strapped office worker who might not be able to spare the time to attend a yoga class, what can we do on our daily mrt ride to enjoy some benefits of yoga?

If you can’t find a seat

1) Standing fish pose

Stand with your back against the train wall. Reach your arms behind you and lift your head and chest slightly like you’re looking for fish above you. This relieves tension in your neck and shoulders.

2) Swinging palm tree

Stand beneath a handlebar, reach your right arm up and over your head to grasp an overhead bar or handle. Let your left arm rest by your side. As you reach for the bar, let the back of your right shoulder drop toward your waist. Keep your right arm straight but not locked. Inhale and grow taller in your spine. Gaze up at your upper arm and don’t let your chest collapse. This works your core amd stretches out side of body.

If you get a seat

3) Eagle arms

Sit up straight, bend your elbows and lift them straight in front of you, to shoulder height. Take your right arm underneath your left arm and wrap it around your left arm. Join your palms or the back of your hands together in prayer position. Move your elbows forward slightly and let the tops of your shoulders drop away from ears. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders, upper arms and back.

4) Seated spinal twist

Seat with your feet planted firmly on the floor, hip distance apart. Place your left hand onto your right knee and your right hand behind the pelvis. Take a big breath in, lengthening your spine and chest, using the arms as leverage. This is a restorative yoga pose that promotes good digestion and encourages spinal mobility

Now that’s a time efficient way of doing yoga!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga to relieve ailments of an office worker

As someone who has spent most of her working life in an office, sitting hunched over a keyboard, staring at multiple screens and tottering around in high heels for important meetings, I am keenly aware of the various ailments that plague an office worker. Backaches, neckaches, tight shoulders and wrist pains (or worse, carpal tunnel syndrome) are common afflictions. Aside from physical tension, the mental stress and anxiety caused by a stressful job can cause headaches and even depression.

Yoga is often touted as extremely helpful to relax the mind and restore the body. In this post, I will lay out the various poses that can help to address some of the common ailments.

Sitting is the new smoking – the Wired Magazine

Sitting over a keyboard for hours can contribute to tightness in the hips and legs, in addition to neck, shoulder and back pain and discomfort as one hunches down and one’s neck protrudes forward. To undo some of the spinal compression, a few rounds of Hatha or Asthanga sun salutations can help to stretch out the spine. Upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) and downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) postures, stretch the back and improve posture while strengthening the spine, arms and wrists. Standing forward fold (Uttanasana) warms up your entire spine, lower back, hamstrings, and calves, relieving the stress in your back and neck while improving the flexibility of your spine.

For hip tightness and release, Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) works as a hip opener and forward bend, stretching your thighs, groin, back, piriformis, and psoas muscles. Garland Pose (Malasana) aka the Yoga Squat opens your hips and groin while stretching your ankles, lower hamstrings, back and neck. Those with tight shoulders from hunching over, can watch your pains swim away when you do Fish Pose (Matsyasana), which releases tension in the neck, throat, and head, helps stretch the chest muscles and opens up the lungs. 

Typing is an insidious threat. – Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University

Each tap of the keyboard seems small, but cumulatively, small amounts of force add up to big amounts of force on the body. Hand to foot pose (Pada Hastasana), Prayer hands (Anjali Mudra) and simple wrist actions such as fist to fan and rotations can all help to strengthen and stretch out the wrist muscles. 

American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress

The psychological toll that work can take on our mental health cannot be underestimated. Practicing different pranayama breathing techniques can have amazing effects on our stress levels and help us develop more resilience. Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodana) helps to slow the heart rate and increase feelings of calm and relaxation. Cooling breathing (sheetali) cools the mental, physical and emotional systems and reduces internal heat – this in turn reduces stress and creates a sense of tranquility and peace.

In conclusion, pranayamas and asanas can be immensely helpful towards alleviating both the physical ailments and mental strains that we encounter at the office!

The Core Muscle That Truly Matters

For the longest time, I have associated core muscles only with rectus abdominis, otherwise known as ~abs~. We live in a society that glorifies the possession of the so-called ~6-pack~, making it the ultimate goal for any workout, a social trophy that could mean you have strength, endurance, and overall attractiveness. On our 2nd week of YTT, I have learned that it is in fact, only one of the three muscles that make up our core. The other two are transverse abdominis and oblique muscles.

Of the three, the most overlooked is the Transverse Abdominis (TVA). This muscle runs between the ribs and the pelvis, horizontally from front to back, acting as a corset. It’s extremely important as it’s the deepest core muscle, and acts as a support for the entire lower back, stabilizing the trunk while maintaining internal abdominal pressure. Additionally, it increases pressure on the thoracic spine (where the lungs are) to aid in breathing and heart stimulation.

TVA is also responsible in getting yogis to gracefully jump and float into inversion asanas.

TLDR version: the stronger the TVA, the less likely one will experience lower back pain.

Are you someone who, despite doing several crunches and push-ups or other rectus abdominis-defining exercises, still have the abdominal wall bulging forward?
In other words, does your belly pooch seem to not disappear despite doing 1 minute of chaturanga and 100 curl-ups each day? That is a sign of a weak TVA.

When you feel tension in your lower back and hip flexors when you cycle, perform leg lifts, or bridge, it also means you have weak TVA.

Luckily, our ignored and forgotten yet very precious TVA works very efficiently which means you don’t have to put that much physical effort to activate it. In other words, no crunches and push-ups needed.

So, how exactly can you work this muscle?

First things first. Locate your TVA by following these steps:

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, internally rotate your shoulders. Relax your belly completely.
  • Place your fingertips on the boney part of your hips, then move them an inch inwards towards your navel.
  • Feign a cough. Feel that muscle pressing on your fingers? That’s your TVA.

Now, here are a few simple ways to strengthen it. While doing these drills, make sure to consciously feel your TVA being engaged.

 

  • Uddiyana Bandha (Upward binding; navel lock)

Uddiyana bandha is the abdominal lock. It is the second of the three interior body locks used in asana and pranayama practice to control the flow of energy (prana) in the body.

Uddiyana Bandha is best practiced first thing in the morning when the stomach is completely empty.

Inhale deeply through your nose, then exhale quickly through your nose.

Push as much air as possible out of your lungs by contracting your TVA and two other abdominal muscles.

Perform what’s called a “mock inhalation” by expanding your rib cage as if you were inhaling, but without actually doing so. The expansion of the rib cage creates a hollowing sensation and appearance in the belly.

Read more about its benefits and proper ways of doing it here.

  • Abdominal Bracing (Breathing technique).

Take a deep breath in.

Expand your rib cage.

Pull your rib cage down.

Think about tightening your midsection as if you were just about to be punched in the gut.

 

  • Setu Bandha Sarvāṅgāsana (Bridge Pose)

Lie with your back flat on the floor.

Bend your knees and set your feet parallel on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.

Pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your TVA upward toward the ceiling, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Thighs and feet must be parallel.

Clasp the hands below your pelvis.

 

  • Single Leg Extensions.

Lie down on your back. Keep your spine straight.

Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle and slowly bring one leg down.

Repeat on the other side. Repeat for as many times as you can.

 

  •  Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

Lie on your mat.

Draw your right knee into the chest.

Slowly straighten and extend the right leg up.

Make sure that your arms are straight and shoulders are pressing down.

Repeat on the other side.

 

  • Bitilasana Marjaryasana (Cat and Cow Pose)

Cow- round your back, lift your lower back up, open your chest, look towards the ceiling

Cat- curve your spine, drop your head, push the floor away, contract your TVA, look towards your navel

 

  • Kumbhakasana (Plank)

Position your wrists and elbows directly under your shoulders.

Maintain a straight body line from head to heels.

Contract your TVA.

Lightly squeeze your butt and the fronts of your thighs.

 

Practice doing these asanas everyday and you’ll surely enjoy a more stabilized lower back, and feel better when performing inversion asanas!