Restore Balance In Your Mind & Body With Pranayama

“I took a deep breath and listened to that old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.” – Sylvia Plath

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Breathing is something that we do involuntarily, day in, day out. It comes as no surprise that we hardly ever think about it.

However, the breath is closely connected to the mind and body – so even if we don’t realise it, they can actually influence one another.

When we develop the awareness and learn to breathe consciously, we can then create balance in the mind and body. This can be especially useful since we live in a fast paced world and sometimes forget to slow down.

If you’re dealing with stress on the regular, pranayama (life force extension via the breath) can do wonders for you. For those who simply wish to improve your well-being and health, it is a great tool for you too.

After all, studies have shown that having a regular practice of simple, deep breathing can reduce anxiety and depression, boost energy levels, improve immunity and reduce feelings of stress, among other benefits.

Ready to make every breath count? Try any one (or all) of the below techniques to restore balance in your mind and body!

1. Kabalabathi

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Kabalabathi translates to skull shining, and as its name suggests, this breathing technique rejuvenates the mind and body. Also, it improves memory and concentration as well as enhances blood circulation.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position with your hands on your knees
  • Keep your spine straight and close your eyes
  • With both nostrils, take a deep breath
  • Pull the stomach inward and exhale sharply in short bursts
  • Follow each exhale with an automatic inhale
  • Repeat the process for 10 to 15 minutes

2. Anulom Vilom

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Anulom Vilom, or alternate nostril breathing, helps to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. It also boosts memory and improves lung function.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position
  • With your right hand, bring down your index and middle finger to your palm, and use your thumb to close your right nostril
  • Inhale through the left nostril for 3 counts
  • Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale from the right nostril for 6 counts
  • Inhale through the right nostril for 3 counts
  • Close the right nostril and exhale from the left nostril for 6 counts
  • Repeat this process for 5 minutes and focus on every inhalation and exhalation

3. Ujjayi

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Ujjayi is also known as ocean breath, simply because of the sound you’ll make when you exhale.

If you love being by the beach, take a moment to enjoy the ocean wave-like exhalation sounds while improving your focus, clearing sinus and staying positive, among other benefits.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position
  • Inhale gently, in a long deep breath, from both nostrils
  • As you inhale, contract your throat and avoid letting the air touch your nose
  • With relaxed and light breathing, exhale with your mouth open or closed and repeat 3 – 4 times

Yoga is LIT

“Yoga is a lifestyle. Do not refine your life for yoga, but let yoga refine your life” – Master Sree. I wish I could put into words to show how much this statement has increasingly held true in my life, over the course of consistent yoga practice for a month with Master Sree and a group of 5 other amazing women.

The statement was made by Master Sree to the class in Week 1, and over the subsequent 3 weeks, he has consistently driven in the belief that we’re each on our own path, and we do not have the right (nor should we) engage in the petty judgement of others – the perceived differences that we may not agree with, and neither should we let things of the material world define our identity. My key takeaway from this was to approach the world with greater acceptance, and stemming from that, conscious detachment, especially to the outcomes of actions, situations and life. This does not mean that we don’t practice empathy, but while we understand and feel the extent of things happening in our lives, we don’t fixate upon the experience or the outcome. We let ourselves grow from it.

 

Yoga as a chosen lifestyle

Yoga is a lifestyle option that people choose to live by, choose to participate in, choose to integrate in their lives. There are many aspects in yoga philosophy that overlap with modern day mantras of practicing self-kindness, self-care, a focus on mental health, and also religious doctrines of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and more. The beauty of it is that the underlying principle is an acceptance of all varied beliefs, experiences and viewpoints. Everything that a (rational) person embodies and believes at a given point in time, is completely valid. The person has chosen a particular course of action or belief based on what he/she thinks is best for himself/herself, and his/her appetite for acceptance of a certain mantra, doctrine, response etc. What is medicine to one is poison to another, and this holds very true for yogic belief (in my opinion, at least). Master Sree gave an example in class once about the concept of healing. He said that depending on what the person believes, he would have to tailor his healing to suit the individual. For a person who is religious, healing would touch upon more spiritual aspects, but if a person believes in science, healing would gravitate towards a scientific explanation and solution. Ultimately, it is about what works for the person, and based on the answer (spiritual, scientific, anything else) given to the person, can it help the person gain the conviction to push through and overcome the obstacles?

As such, I have chosen to integrate some core principles of yoga into my life simply because it works for me at this given point in time. The practice of yoga makes me feel more at peace in a world where everything seems to be so unsettled, so confusing, so uncertain. It makes me feel like while everything around me could revolve to a state of utter confusion and uncertainty, the onus is upon me to remain positive, remain strong, and keep my conviction towards the pursuit of the path(s) that have seemingly opened up for me, and walk away from those that have closed too. I believe in the divine shaping of my life and as long as I approach life with a positive and strong mindset, things will work out!

 

Yoga as an individual journey

I know this is cliché, everybody says it. However, I think everyone says it because they have experienced it and it really holds true. You just gotta experience it and internalise it for yourself. The beauty of this is that you can take the principles from this state of “yoga being an individual journey” and apply it to all other aspects of your life – relationships, family, career and anything else that matters to you.

When I first started practicing yoga as a beginner, my practice was heavily centered around mastering poses. I inevitably kept comparing myself to those around me – my friends who were doing yoga, the other people in classes and thought to myself “okay I need to improve and improve and improve”.

However, throughout the course of the practice, you start to realise that yoga is so broad that there’s really no ONE measure of what is considered “better” or “worse”. It really depends on how you want to use yoga to enhance your life, and how you want to integrate it into your life.

Some practitioners prefer to focus on the more meditative aspects, while others want to focus on the physical aspects, and you can’t definitively say that one is better than the other. It’s really about what works best for you. Nonetheless, I would say that a desire to foundationally understand yoga philosophy should underpin the choice.

Furthermore, we’re all built differently. Some body structures make entering and training for certain postures more easily than others. While we tend to compare what can be seen most easily (aka comparison of the achievement of postures), there’s really so much more that goes behind the scenes and affects the outcome. Thus, I have learnt over the course of my yoga practice and YTT not to fixate on achieving postures too because ultimately, it is about the process and the mindset going into it, not the outcome.

 

Yoga as a form of reprieve from a world that tends to be competitive

In the light of the above that I shared, one thing I love about yoga is that it is fundamentally not about being the best or even better than other people – it is truly about being the best version of yourself.

In a world that teaches you to outsmart and outperform others in order to achieve “success”, for yoga, “success” is based on your own individual terms and based on your own parameters. The beauty of it is that understanding that it is purely your own journey reflects a deeper walk in the yoga journey.

This brings me so much relief, contentment and peace in this very competitive world.

 

Detachment from social situations

As someone who struggles with being too emotionally involved with many social interactions in my daily life, the fundamental concept of detachment has been a good principle to adopt in my life. Master Sree gave the example of a floating lotus – one who is in the water, experiences the water, but is unaffected by the water. I hope to be able to adopt this mindset in all aspects of my life where I feel the most of life but am able to not fixate upon certain outcomes, emotions and experiences that I go through.

 

 

Moving forward, I want to be able to fully practice this, practicing both self-care and self-kindness.

I feel that one of the most important things is to keep our intentions pure. Only by doing so will we be able to let go of the outcomes of various situations that we are put in. I use social situations as an example here because of all the things in life that we seek to control, other people (their actions, behaviours and attitudes) remain fleetingly out of our grip. This is why it is difficult to let go and change outcomes because we cannot change other people. Coming to terms with this and being able to practice detachment will help us (me) deal with the uncertainty of life when it comes to the other. I feel that this will have a profound impact on how we handle many things in life that come at us – a job opportunity outcome, our friendships, our relationships, even life/death.

Pranayama & Curing Eczema

Recently, I’ve taken an interest in how yoga and pranayama can help with eczema. Having had no history of eczema until this year (could be the weather, stress, who knows?), and hearing a little about how some pranayama such as Sitali and Sitkari can lower body heat, I decided to do some research into how pranayama can help with Eczema!

For starters, a yogi, Swami Ramdev, suggests doing kapalbhati breathing for half an hour, and then anulom vilum for an hour, then bhastrika, ujjai and bhramari pranayamas. After a consistent practice of this together with some tweaks to our diet, we’ll supposedly have glowing skin! Time-commitment seems to be a bit of an issue here though, but we can try.

Anyway, how can pranayama specifically help to ease eczema?

Detoxifies the body

Pranayama detoxifies the nadis (energy channels in our bodies), which are usually clogged with impurities. Once these energy channels are purified, the blood circulated around the body is one that brings about greater energy, and this also helps to improve complexion. In addition, pranayama activates the body’s lymphatic system, which is responsible for the removal of waste. The lymph nodes produce white blood cells to fight infections. I can imagine that this could lead to greater inflammation in the short-term, but a solution in the long-term.

Helps to relieve stress

We all know that yoga as an activity in itself, even if just focused on physical asanas, does help to relieve anxiety and stress levels. Being placed in an environment which encourages you to focus on your breathing, your flow, your postures, your mat and leaving your stressors outside the door (at least for the hour or so) does wonders for the mind. You leave a yoga session feeling rejuvenated and at least a little more calm.

To zoom in specifically on pranayama, In a Vogue article, Yoga guru Mini Shastri talks about how the slowing, modulating and equalising of our breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the master gland of the pituitary-thyroid-adrenal nexus to harmonise. This results in a balanced hormonal system. Hormone imbalance is a primary cause of many skin conditions, including eczema, which are triggered by stress. Thus, pranayama helps to tackle this by bringing greater relaxation to the body.

Also, Kapalbhati has been said to have a positive effect in clearing the mind, and thus helping with anxiety and depression, all which contribute to, and simultaneously stem from some forms of stress in life too.

Eczema can be seen from a yogic perspective to be a dysfunction of the Muladhara Chakra, Manipura Chakra and Vishudda Chakra. Thus, yoga will help these chakras spin more effectively to some extent.

Here’s How Yoga Brings Me Moments Of Peace

Disclaimer: I’m still not 100% at peace, but I’m figuring it out one day at a time. And that’s okay.

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Over the last two weeks, I’ve learned that yoga is so much more than just asana (physical postures). Instead of only realigning the body, it is just as important to also focus on realigning the mind and soul so as to create more balance in life.

Most days, my mind is constantly busy and still not as calm as I’d like it to be. However, I’ve decided to consciously commit to practicing some of Patanjali’s teachings in my day-to-day life.

I’ll be honest and tell you that it hasn’t always been easy because it’s not how I’m used to living my life.

Speaking of honesty, this brings me to the first principle I’ve been keeping in mind.

 

1. Be truthful and genuine

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Satya, or truthfulness, is one of the yamas (guidelines for how to behave in relation to the world around us) in yoga.

By being truthful in our actions and thoughts, we can then show up authentically and be true to ourselves instead of trying to fit ourselves into what society or others tell us is best.

As I used to be a people pleaser, I had the tendency to focus on others instead of myself and what I really feel.

Now that I’m aware, I make it a point to catch myself and show up truthfully – even if it means that I might not be able to please everyone all the time. This has helped me to prevent self-abandonment and set better boundaries. Thanks to this, I can now make decisions more aligned with what I genuinely want.

 

2. Practice gratitude

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Santosha, or contentment, is one of the niyamas (guidelines to conduct ourselves) in yoga.

As we live in a material world, it can be easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves and our lives with others. As a result, we believe that the grass is greener on the other side and lose sight of what we have.

Even though it might not feel like it sometimes, there’s always something to be grateful for.

Whether it’s appreciating the people in my life or simply being thankful for the lessons I learn, I make it a point to practice gratitude daily. This has helped me to build a deeper appreciation for the simple things and embrace where I am in every moment.

 

3. Act from a place of love

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Ahimsa, or non-violence in our thoughts, actions and consequences of our actions, is another yama.

In turbulent times, I tend to easily succumb to negative thoughts and would sometimes even beat myself up when I don’t get the results or outcome I want. Unfortunately, this has led to over two decades of being unkind to myself.

It was only last year, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, when I noticed that I struggled to show up for myself because I didn’t have a solid relationship with myself.

After being forced to go inward and start healing, I started working on self-compassion and acceptance. Now that self-love is a priority, my cup isn’t empty anymore so I no longer have to rely on external things to keep it full. This helps me to be better at showing up for not just myself, but also the people around me.

I’m still learning to be kind to myself when I notice myself slip into old patterns and I understand that it is a daily effort to lead with love. So I’m doing my best to take it a day at a time and more importantly, change the way I talk to myself.

 

And so, the journey towards peace continues

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Now that I’ve gained a deeper understanding about the different yoga philosophies, I’m aware that there’s still a lot more to explore and discover.

As I embark on the next chapter of my healing, I hope to be able to be more present and also learn to let go of what no longer serves me.

Thinking out loud

The topic of my blog post today is one which has eluded me for some time. Spirituality. We’ve heard many times during the YTTC that each of us have our own unique spiritual journey. There is not one journey that is the same as another, everyone’s experience is only truly felt by that individual, it cannot be replicated, nor truly explained, nor truly understood by another individual. It’s an intimate quest, delving deep into one’s relationship with the cosmic universe. I would say I started my spiritual journey, or however you would call it, at the lowest point of my life. It felt like the lowest point for me because I felt emptiness at a profound level. Not from a loss of a relationship, though that had been the catalyst, but a realization that I knew nothing of the world, I had no control of the world, and I didn’t know who I was. I kept asking myself over and over again, who am I? Why did I feel so empty? I faced my existence, my fleeting existence. I pondered on thoughts which I had previously never thought of. When meeting with friends, they were concerned and thought I was losing my mind. I felt disconnected from the physical world, because I was turning inward to search for answers. I still don’t have answers today – but something within me tells me that the journey of questioning, the journey of realizing, isn’t about reaching an end goal. Perhaps having no answer IS the answer. Perhaps the search and the journey towards the unknown is all there is.

The practice of yoga is similar in this sense. Yoga isn’t about getting to the perfect and best looking postures within a week. Its the consistent journey we take day by day, in discipline, in patience, everyday working towards something bigger than ourselves. As Master Sree mentioned in class, when we really get the philosophy of yoga, poses are really no biggie. Asana is the manifestation of philosophy of life/yoga in the human body through postures.

I am so privileged to experience that emptiness then – some books deem it as a period of spiritual awakening. I wouldn’t call myself awakened, though. Far from it. Looking back, during those moments that when I enhanced a deeper mental awareness, an awakening of the higher consciousness. In those moments, I started experiencing a shift in mental framework of life and the world we live in. Spirituality is mysterious because it’s hidden beyond what we are familiar with in our lives. I am still uncovering it day by day.

Real effort is required in every area of yoga practice – not just asana. Meditation takes real mental effort too. Yoga is only a holistic practice when we understand the basic principles and not close up our minds. Spirituality to me is also part of the practice. We can all climb to the heights of the great spiritual masters that have gone before us by following closely in their footsteps. Every person who practices yoga can achieve the same inner experiences of the sages or prophets. We can experience bliss, unconditional love, wisdom, and unity. We can experience liberation or enlightenment if that is what you want. All that is required is dedication to the ancient wisdom and perseverance in personal practice.

Yoga led me to find my own spirituality. Since practicing yoga and cultivating a spiritual life, I am still uncovering unresolved, unmanageable old hurts that sometimes amplify. Memories of childhood pain, whether in my school, friendships or in relationships as I got older, were excavated through the physical release of my practice, and the most hidden hurt determined how I destructively handled conflict of any kind! One day I remembered sharing about this with my fellow coursemate, Sandra. I shared how after a certain heart opening Asana, I felt as if a deep resentment and unhappiness released from me and I teared so much after my practice. I was surprised she had a similar experience herself too.

The mysterious thing is, I also uncover new growth which I never knew existed. As I uncover and clean up past messes, I found more space to be clear, connected, trusting and aware of everything I’m doing – especially when I’m engaging in behaviors that stop the flow of acceptance and ease in my daily life. This empowers and propels me to be more patient and present. Right now particularly on this spiritual journey, I am learning to love without attachment. We first unconditionally, fiercely, ardently love ourselves – before we can love others without attachment. Like a lotus leaf, it doesn’t absorb, but it can hold so much space.

“He who, having abandoned attachment, acts reposing his works on the Brahman, is not stained by sin even as waters cling not to the lotus leaf.” Bhagvad Gita

Brahman is the all-encompassing, all-accommodating, all-harmonising, higher universal self which finds and fulfills itself in an all-loving and all-compassionate ambience of consciousness.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

Loving without attachment is possible only when we give people a space to be and recognize them as whole and independent in themselves. That’s what real love amounts to, letting a person be what he/she really is. Without a genuine freedom to be, pretensions creep into relationships. That’s not love. As we make room for such a healthy space and freedom in relationships, we fall in love with the same people so often as we discover wonderful sides to their personality, the beauty and delight of pure being in them. It is then that relationships bloom like lotus flowers unstuck to any dirt of malice, hatred, prejudice and pretensions.

Just thinking out loud in this post. In conclusion… Spirituality… is work in progress.

 

 

 

To breathe, to live, to be

What have I learnt in yoga so far? The experience I’ve gained is profound and hard to explain in words but in this blog post today I will attempt to share my version.

Will start in 2017, 4 years ago when I was 25. I was the typical university grad born in the 90s who’d found a decent job and thought the world was my oyster, and all I needed to do was to claim it with my guts. I had the fair share of disappointments from how I thought the world “should be”, but consoled myself that I was ok as long as I had a good-paying job and born into a decent family. I was filled with ego, from my so called achievements, my so called guts, and my so called “potential to achieve so much more”. In case you’re wondering…. no, no tragedy happened which turned me to yoga. During the period of my 25-27 years of age, my little bubble of make-believe comfort and make-believe chasing after money just seemed duller and duller as days passed. I was chasing sales targets like my self-worth depended on it. I had made money my identity, and would never exit the home without at least 1 labelled item. I didn’t know who I was without things. I had become the “product” of our world of advertising, that we are nothing without possessions. The partner I had then was also similar to me, and we only ran in circles chasing possession after possession.

My family are ‘spiritual’ people. Due to my stubborn personality growing up, I had cut out all spiritually driven “practices” they had tried to influence me with. Nevertheless, I always feel the love they have for me- their love is expressed through their acceptance of me. As what I had learnt through this YTTC, their love for me is really like a lotus leaf, as depicted with our Heart Chakra, Anahata. The lotus leaf does not absorb the substance, but has the capacity to hold space. Growing up, they had taught me (without words) the way of yoga. They live humbly, with enough to care for themselves, and contribute in ways of enriching their lives everyday with selfless service back to community. They counsel for free for families with traumatic experiences. I can say that I was unknowingly blessed by their spiritual journey growing up, even though I was then chasing another path.

As I chased higher sales targets and achievements, my stress levels were getting to an unbearable point. I relied on alcohol for an emotional crutch, I was chasing meaningless relationships, searching for a way to quench an insatiable thirst which I didn’t even know about. I signed up for gym membership in 2018, and started a few yoga classes. Little did I know, I starting growing onto yoga week after week. It was the start of something unexplainable, the only thing I looked forward to every week was my teacher guiding us on the mat. On the mat, I slowly connected back to my self, my core, and to be aware of my mind and thoughts. It was the only way I knew how to.

During the circuit breaker period last year, yoga was the only thing I looked forward to. Shortly after circuit breaker, my then long term partner and I broke up. I felt like I had completely lost it. Not only did I experience a drop in sales during that period of time, I had also lost a significant relationship. I went into what I would say it, a depressive stage of my life. I questioned who I was. I questioned the meaning of my life. I questioned why life turned out this way for me? I was lost and alone. I sought after comfort, but nothing seemed to be out there. I sought after more possessions, but I knew they wouldn’t satisfy me either.

The universe is so mysterious in its ways. That stage of life turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. Because of the constant incessant thoughts and questions, which led to a complete emotional meltdown, I found myself staring at the ceiling wishing that everything would just stop. I turned to meditation, breathing deeply and complete silence to calm my mind. I did that for survival. I just wanted all the pain to go away so I can feel “normal” again.

As the meditation continued, I went back to more regular practice of yoga, where I know I would find solace within myself. The more yoga I practiced, the more peace came into my life. I slowly learnt how to accept things for what they are. I slowly learnt that our outside world can never satisfy our inside world.

Three months after, I decided to let myself uncover more about this deal with yoga. As a person who just decides to do something and then do it, I actually just chanced upon Tirisula Yoga and decided to go with it without much research. I saw lots of blog posts which share each practitioners’ experience and thought the information to be intriguing, so my thoughts was like “generally I feel good about this so I’m gonna ride with it”. Now 3 weeks into the course, I can only say its an adventure of a lifetime. Every day I am learning – not just textbook knowledge, but invaluable experiences from my fellow course mates and especially from Master Sree. I feel physical fatigue during the course, but I don’t know why every morning I look forward to seeing them in class. Every day is a new experience. Master Sree doesn’t read from the manual when he teaches – he only uses 1 chalk, or 1 marker, and is able to explain deep concepts with his words and experiences! I am mind blown about that. With my coursemates, the camaraderie we share through the love of yoga is truly precious and invaluable. YTTC has opened up my eyes to how wide and broad our universe is, and what I am is really just a speck of this vast universe. Our universe is so so magnificent and beautiful. It has showed me that the insatiable thirst I had, its really just a longing to connect back to myself.

To breathe, to live, to be, in this moment is my gift. I thank the universe for its mysterious ways. There’s only more to come.

Non-slip Yoga Towel Mat For The Sweatiest of Palms

Whoever said you can’t drip sweat while practicing yoga? Whether you have sweaty palms or are a hot yoga junkie, a yoga mat that does not slip under your hands and feet from the sweat of your practice is essential. I especially have sweaty palms on and off the mat.

When I went to my very first yoga class without my own non-slip mat, I had a hard time staying in a downward facing dog. My heels couldn’t touch the mat, my shoulders were tight and my palms were sliding forward due to the sweat. To say I was struggling doesn’t even scratch the surface. Looking around me, I saw how all the graceful yogis had a mat of their own laid over the studio’s mat. I became a woman on a mission to look for my own non-slip mat.

I didn’t want to lug around a full sized yoga mat each time I attended a yoga class because if I had plans after class, I won’t have to carry a bulky mat around. So I did my research and found non-slip yoga towel mats. Here are the mats I’ve tried over the years!

Yoga Movement Grippy Mat $75

In my first few yoga classes, I saw these vibrant eye-catching yoga towels next to mine and I couldn’t help but to ask where I can grab one for myself. I bought it the very next day. The towels are long enough to cover the whole length of the average yoga studio in-house mat. I especially love the variety of colourful designs on the mat.

Not only is it grippy, but its pretty too. This towel’s premium microfiber material quickly absorbs moisture and also dries fast. They’re also lightweight, extremely absorbent, and of course, stop my hands and feet from slipping in difficult poses.

Aloyoga Grounded No-Slip Towel $92

These mats feels velvety soft under my palms and feet. Its slightly thicker than the YM grippy mat. The mat comes in 6 solid colours with  a grip pattern backing that sticks to the mat for a slip-free practice. The measurements are 74″x26″ which is much longer than most mats in the yoga studios. It’s perfect for taller yogis who hates it when their head or feet hang off the end of the yoga mat.

As I sweat, the velvety towel absorbs all my sweat and actually gets stickier, leaving no risk of slipping as my body heats up. Even in a Hot Yoga class where I’m dripping in sweat, the mat never failed me. However, although it’s compact, because it is thicker and longer than most mats, its slightly heavier to carry around. Although, I must say, it is really expensive. I love it, but my wallet cries.

Decathlon Non-slip Yoga Towel $27

By far, my favourite. The best thing of all is that it is inexpensive. It’s affordable, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheaply made. The textured weave strikes the perfect balance between softness and grip. Its durable and washes well – the colour doesn’t bleed during a wash.

Over all, non-slip yoga towels are my go-to for practicing in-studios as I can toss it in the washing machine right away when I get home. Its hassle free and convenient!  Also, having the peace of mind when I lay my forehead or cheek on the mat without thinking about who’s sweat has dripped on the mat before I came is definitely a plus!

Slip & Slide no more! Here’s to a more enjoyable yoga session!

 

I tried a pure Sattvic diet for 4 days and this is what happened

What is the Sattvic diet? 

Yogic diet builds on the principles of purity, bringing inner peace to the body and mind. Food is being classified into 3 categories – Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic (refer to illustration below). The aim of my 4 days experiment was to explore if diet can really affect my energy and mood. 

What did I eat? 

Admittedly I’m not very creative with my food choices so my diet largely consisted of the similar few ingredients. (also did my grocery shopping in bulk) 

 

Changes – and my attempt at some scientific explanations 

During this week, I just ate as much Sattvic food as I liked without counting my calories. However, based on the food that I’m eating, it’s highly likely that I’m in a caloric deficit, which brings me to my first change observed. 

(Note: all other physical activities remained largely similar as per previous weeks) 

 

Weight loss 
  • This wasn’t part of the aim that I set out for this experiment but it was obvious enough to talk about. I did receive some comments on the noticeable change in my appearance by my siblings. That said, as with other conventional diets, typically the first few days of weight loss would be the loss of water mass. Unfortunately I did not measure my body fat % hence unable to drill into the details of whether the weight loss was from fats or water or muscles. In terms of hunger level, I did not let myself starve at any point of these 4 days as I would just snack on some fruits or nuts if I were feeling a bit hungry. For people who are set out to lose weight, this diet would help as you can remain full throughout the diet. However, one downside would be the food choices and flavor options. My meals were very lightly seasoned and my sweet palate was satisfied but not my savory palate. (Random note: I realized there are a lot of naturally sweet fruits/vegetables but not naturally savory ones, potato was the closest that I could find to being savory – please do let me know if you have recommendations.)
Energy level 
  • On a typical day with my normal diet, my battery would be drained towards mid-day, especially after lunch. However, I did observe my energy remaining relatively constant throughout the day. This is likely due to the nature of Sattvic food being natural which doesn’t spike our blood sugar level after meals as compared to highly processed food. [1] https://www.levelshealth.com/blog/can-controlling-my-glucose-levels-give-me-more-energy
Mood 
  • It’s not my first trying out different diets, but given my experience with highly restrictive diets, my mood was not very good. After all the old saying goes: “A hungry man is an angry man.” Hence I was very skeptical stepping into this diet given that Sattvic food was supposed to keep the mind pure and calm. I did feel pretty calm throughout these 4 days and my mind wasn’t always filled with what to eat next (since it’s pretty much the same few things). I struggle to find a scientific explanation for this so you can try it out on your own and share with me your thoughts. 
Fitness performance
  • This also wasn’t part of the aim I set out for but on the last day of the diet I tried to do some pull-ups and I could do 5 consecutively. Was a shock as the last I tried was only 2 (but it was quite some time ago). So after resuming my normal diet (at point of writing this), I went again to try doing some pull-ups and I can now do about 3-4. I’m attributing this to the diet, but also note that the performance could fluctuate based on a lot of other factors. Again, it’s for you to try and find out. 

Conclusion 

Before I started this diet, I entered with a “I’ll do this for 4 days and never again” mindset. I also shared this plan with my family and comments I got were: “it’s not sustainable”, “it’s too restrictive”, etc. However, after completing the 4 days, I actually would want to continue with this diet given the changes that I’ve seen above, but I would not go 100% Sattvic as it’s really too restrictive and not very socially friendly. In addition, my sister is also now convinced to try out the diet (which speaks volume from my 4 days experiment). Branching from this, I would also like to experience more into diets fit for my dosha and feel the difference.

For all of you who has read this article, I urge you to try this diet and if possible, share with me your experience! 🙂 

Practicing Aparigraha

 

 

The explanation of this Sutra means that, a yogi/yogini see things clearly as they do not accumulate unnecessary material possessions. There is less clutter in their thoughts thus leading them to have a good clarity.

Aparigraha is one of the five ethical principles under ‘Yama’ written in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It simply means leading a life of simplicity, consuming only daily basic necessities instead of being extravagant. Desires are addictive and endless. If we take time to reflect on what we intend to buy, we will know if it is really necessary or not.

When I grew up, my family belonged to a middle class family with inherited landed property with all the income on a monthly basis was enough for food and our education. There was no luxury of buying any things at all. But ironically we were very content and joyful. We did gardening. There were many yielding trees and plants at my home like coconut, guava, lemon, gooseberry, mango, pumpkin, bottle guard, tomatoes, green chillies, moringa, spinach etc. There is a sense of satisfaction with very little things around because they are so valuable. The more choices we have, their value becomes unclear.

Fast-forward to present, even today I lead a very simple life in terms of materialistic possessions. Initially, when I earned my own money, I did purchase a few little things. There has been a desire in childhood days that if I had my own money, I can buy things I wanted. But then soon after the purchase, I regretted because I really did not need them. All the sufferings come with the attachment that we hold whether it is with material possessions or with a person. For now, when I turn around the house, there are only art materials here and there. They are necessary for my profession. If we were to evacuate the place we live in, we should be able to leave without any second thought. The less we own materials, the more free we feel.

 

 

That is my living room and also my art studio. There are no cushions and extra furniture, thus easy to clean up the space. Aparigraha not only means getting rid of unwanted possessions, it also means having simple diet and having non-attachment with the people we meet and the outcome of our profession. We feel free when we let go of the end results we would get out of our work. My meal has been very simple throughout my life. Every morning, I either eat idli or ghee dosa for all the 365 days in a year and every afternoon, I have curd rice with some vegetables or pickle. For the dinner it is anything simple like upma, vegetable pulao or tomato rice etc. Weekly one meal, I buy outside from subway to take a break from the kitchen.

 

I have influenced many of my friends to keep their home simple and buy only necessities. We can preach to others only when we ourselves follow those. Just by consuming less we feel lighter and free of chaos. In my professional field, I used to get attached to my students. Recently, I feel that I have grown in that part too by letting go and going with the flow. All that we know are not permanent in nature. Even the academic knowledge keeps changing time to time.

Currently, there are many aspects that I am aspiring to achieve and pushing myself too hard. I need to differentiate aspirations and greediness to achieve certain goals. I need to relax and let go. Ask myself if they are really what I need to do. Everything falls into its place when we take things easily.

 

“Can I do yoga when I am getting old?”

 

By the time when I walk along the road or travel by MRT, I noticed that there are a lot of seniors have a stooped posture known as kyphosis. The most common cause of kyphosis is due to the weakness in the spinal bones that causes them to compress or crack and it may lead to breathing problems, limitation of physical functions, digestive problems and osteoporosis. Aging is the main cause of osteopenia, and it does increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. This bone disease causes fractures, stooped posture, and can lead to severe pain and loss of height. The seniors are also more likely to have the other health concerns such as heart diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, falls, arthritis, stroke, depression.

Everyone knows exercise is the best way to stay young and health. How can the seniors begin to exercise if they don’t have the regular exercise habit? I will recommend yoga which is less likely to get injured than running and weight exercise.

Yoga is a joint friendly exercise if you’re doing the proper technique and it combines the strength, balance and flexibility which can bring a lot of benefits to your physical, mental and spiritual. Practicing yoga can increase the muscles tones, the balancing and the flexibility to protect us against falling down. It will also prevent or slow down the process of bone loss by increasing the bone density. Practicing the asanas with pranayama increases the lungs capacity and improves the respiratory system. The back pain can be prevented and treated by strengthen our core muscles. It does help us to strengthen the brain function to keep the mind sharp, and decrease the risk of many diseases e.g. heart diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, headaches.

Yoga means “union” and it is a way to integrate the mind and body together. Yoga move the body stronger, flexible and balance and the seniors will feel capable and stronger when they can maintain a pose in association with the breathing. Hence, the seniors can gain the confidence and independence and makes them happier. Joining a yoga studio let them have more time to meet with friends and new people. In addition, yoga can help to alleviate sleep disturbances and improve the sleeping quality and duration.

Beginning a yoga practice, it’s better to seek a well-trained teacher to guide you a correct technique of the postures. The poor postures may cause a serious injury that you may be unexpected. It’s very important to consult with the doctor or the instructor if you have any diseases, e.g. glaucoma, spinal disc problems, high or low blood pressure, heart diseases. You may start a yoga practice with some beginner asanas such as child pose (balasana), downward facing dog pose (adhomukha shvanasana), plank pose (santolasana), cobra pose (bhujangasana), mountain pose (tadasana).

 

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

 

Stay healthy and happy 🙂