How pranayamas are changing my life

Since I am a kid, I hear my mother telling me to deeply inhale when I am hurt. I noticed it worked at the time, but honestly, until I started yoga, I can tell I have never known how to breath.

Pranayamas are such powerful exercices, I feel days after days the benefits of doing daily breathing exercices. They bring one into another frequency, that can open up opportunities, people, and somehow, more mindfulness.

The good thing about pranayamas is that you can do them everywhere; in the MRT, before sleeping or while walking or simply in between two meetings.

For me, its releasing the tension when I am stressed, the tummy pain (I’m expecting a baby and it’s quite frequent to have tension and cramps at the end of the day), or even the pain when I am doing a difficult asana.

While I believe I am doing pretty good and I am quite regular with pranayamas, it is not a sadana just yet, so the next steps for me is to block 15minutes to do my couple of asanas but, most of all, alternate breathing.

to be continued…

Eating Sattvic

We all know the theory…. “A sattvic diet is a regimen that places emphasis on seasonal foods, fruits if one has no sugar problems, dairy products if the cow is fed and milked in the right conditions, nuts, seeds, oils, ripe vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and non-meat based proteins.” source google

Since I learned about the three gunas in food, in every meal, I try to analyse whats sattvic about my food, whats rajasic, and what’s tamasic.

I am gourmet and I always love a great cheat meal, but, by categorizing what I eat with gunas, without feeling guilty, I have just stepped into more awareness. As I progress into my mindfulness journey, I can see I am integrating more and more sattvic foods, and I will try to change the cooking style (slightly cooked or steamed) or I will make sure I add elements that are sattvic.

Explanation; I am craving for a big pasta meal –

option 1 I’ll force myself to eat some salad first before getting to the main (pastas), this will ease my hunger and ensure my meal has a little bit of sattvic.   option 2 Ill make the sauce myself using fresh tomatoes and slightly cooked spinach, minimizing the oil.

My journey is there today and this meal isn’t going to be perfect, but days after days, I know it will get closer to the goal

 

My journey to yoga

I am a person who resonates deeply with the outdoors.  I hear the ocean in our breath, feel the swell in the currents of life.  Some days I wake up dry and achy as an old tree, and need soft winds to encourage the movement in my limb.  Sometimes I feel as strong as a mountain, or as vast as a valley carved out by the brute strength of a glacier. The sound of a hummingbird’s wings make me giddy as a child.  There are moments when I look up a granite wall, seemingly impossible to ascend, but with every move, every crack, every smudge, hold, and pinch, I make my way towards the place I hope to reach.

My most honest journey to yoga began in one of these places (although I’d been to studios and classes many times before).   On the shores of Bahia de Conception, Baja California Sur. I can close my eyes and see it. Feel it. The place is not a memory to me, but almost like a singing bowl; silent in place, then awakened by a vibration, a movement, a resonance within.   It was there that I began to realize things about myself, to make an agreement with myself. My yogic journey is a piece of that, and so that is where my journey to yoga began.

I started visiting Baja to work hiking and sea kayaking expeditions in the southern part of the state.  As I drove down the single highway for three days to reach the campus from which I was based, I saw a lot of desert. Dry vast spaces, the landscape only broken up by giant cardon and cholla cactus, old fences, brittle and falling. I had not spent any significant time in the desert before. I couldn’t realize what I was seeing.

The ocean of course looked more inviting.  As I drove down the west coast the Pacific thrashed upon rocky shores, smashing rocks into pebbles, into sand, into dust.  On the east the sea was much calmer, a deep blue contrasted by the dry mountains. The tension of wind lines clear from far away, but from a distance only a ripple on the water.

But still, I was just seeing the superficial.

My journey to yoga began when I started to realize that everything  has an adaptation, a way to be, a reason to be, and an unconscious perfection in this world.  That the leaves on the trees rotate with the sun, to harvest its energy, but also to protect is physical self.  That the cholla clings to movement because it is wise, and it wants to expand its space. The mesquite root drives deep into the earth to pull its water and life source, while the cardon fans its roots to catch water as the sky releases it back to Earth.  That the bat ray jumps to impress its mate, and the whale jumps for perhaps no reason at all..

 My journey began when I started spending time (a lot of time) in the outdoors. Not days, but months on end in natural and wild places.  When I started paying better attention to the moon and the stars. When I started to cycle with the moon and be honestly more connected to nature.  As I started to pay attention to what was going on around me, my consciousness was stirred. I began reflecting on pain-body, presence, non-attachment.  Although, as I said, I had been to many yoga classes at the gym, I can now look back and realize that the beginning of my practice manifested in a more spiritual than physical way.

My life has been quite privileged in the way that I get to spend so much time in nature.  However, my life in the past two years has moved me away from the wilderness in which I once lived.   Sitting here in Singapore, I realize and reflect on the distance that I’ve put between myself and these environments which are so important to me.  By environments I mean not only nature, but the internal environment where I once cultivated self love, awareness of life, and compassion and curiosity  toward all entities and beings.

It is with most humility that I can admit I feel a loss of that in myself these days.  And so, coming full circle, my current journey in a yoga practice is to find a vehicle to move once again  to the place I was before. Physical practice is an opportunity to realize my body and mind as a path toward spirituality and awareness because my physical, natural environment cannot always exist.

Maybe what I’ve learned most of all,

Is that no amount of money, career, or prestige is worth what I feel in nature.

A holistic practice is what I journey towards now; a plan to return to the wilderness with increased philosophical and physical practice. And soon enough, I’ll reflect again.  And we’ll see where my journey goes from there.

 

Food for thought

The nutrition is directly linked to the performance of asanas and our lifestyle in general. The yogi diet is based on Ayurvedic teachings. Some products are strictly forbidden by them, others are consumed in small quantities and in a certain period of time, and third yogis eat constantly. Three types of food in yoga According to Ayurveda, even the best and cleanest foods are not always healthy. So, there is food that should be consumed only in winter or summer. Some foods should be eaten in the morning, because they excite and give energy, others in the evening, as they calm and set you up for a long sleep. Yoga  divides all food into three types:

       Sattva, which means “purity.” This includes all fresh vegetarian food. Mostly seeds and sprouted grains, fruits, wheat, butter, milk and honey.

      Rajas is a food that excites the body. It is better not to use products from this category or to reduce their amount in the diet to a minimum. This includes citrus fruits, tea and coffee, as well as spices, fish, seafood, eggs, alcohol, soda, garlic and onions.

     Tamas is a rough and heavy meal. It is difficult to absorb by the body. It does more harm than good. Relaxes, after eating it makes you want to sleep. These are root vegetables, red meat (beef and pork), all canned foods, mushrooms, food with a heavy taste (roach, etc.). This includes frozen food and one that has been stored for some time. These are also considered dishes that are reheated, alcohol and food that has been cooked in a restaurant or store.

 Doing yoga, you will feel what products you will not need. Changes in the body will occur harmoniously and in accordance with the needs of your body. The gradual process of rebuilding the habits of the body is very important.

Many (and not only in yoga) make the same mistake: they abruptly begin to change their diet (completely abandon meat, fish, eggs, switch to the most sophisticated diets, such as raw food diet, etc.). With this development of events, in a few months you will face a series of ailments, such as colds, exacerbation of all previously existing sores, and digestive upset. And then it could be worse. Naturally, there can be no question of doing yoga.

Beware of this mistake!

  • never abruptly change your lifestyle, especially in nutrition, non-compliance with this rule leads to big trouble;
  • a complete rejection of meat food does not always bring positive results. If you abandoned the meat, you need to replace it with another animal protein: milk and dairy products, eggs, fish;
  • in your diet should always be present in large quantities vegetables and fruits;
  • food should always be fresh and harmoniously selected.

It must be remembered that the body will never tolerate abuse of itself both in the diet and in the mode of activity. And with the right approach to yoga, you become as independent as possible from environmental conditions, feeling great in any situation, with any set of food products.

 

Yoga or Pilates?

For many people , Yoga and Pilates look very similar – there are no power or cardio loads, exercises are performed slowly and consciously , with calm music. Pilates and yoga are wellness systems that include exercises to develop flexibility, endurance, and concentration. Regular exercises tidy up the body, allow you to find harmony with yourself. In this, both areas of fitness are similar.

But, having examined   these   practice closely, we  can find a lot of differences between them

    What is yoga?

     Yoga is the ancient Indian system of human self-development, which originated long before our era. This is a spiritual tradition, experience and wisdom of many generations that millions of people around the world have followed to this day.

Translated from Sanskrit, yoga means “union, communication, harmony.” Those. the unity of the physical and mental state of a person, the harmony of health and spiritual beauty. The purpose of classes is to achieve and maintain this unity.

It is impossible to imagine yoga without performing various asanas (static postures) that help improve the body. But physical practice is only part of the philosophy of yoga, one of the tools for working on consciousness. It also includes:

  • rules of personal and social behavior;
  • breathing exercises;
  • meditation
  • singing mantras;
  • body cleansing;
  • concentration of attention;
  • desire for complete control over the senses.

Therefore, yoga is a way of life aimed at achieving a balance of physical and psychological health, and not just a set of static exercises that develop flexibility and endurance.

What is pilates?

   Pilates is a system of healing the body, based on the dynamic performance of exercises that are performed in a specific technique and sequence. Their goal is to develop flexibility, improve the condition of joints and spine, posture and coordination of movements.

Pilates, unlike yoga, is a young trend in fitness. The German trainer Joseph Pilates developed gymnastic exercises for the rehabilitation of patients suffering from diseases of the musculature system at the beginning of the 20th century.

6 fundamental differences between Pilates and Yoga.

  • Yoga is the oldest system of self-development, philosophy, lifestyle. Pilates is a relatively young wellness system for the body, one of the types of fitness.
  • Pilates training is aimed at creating a healthy body, practicing yoga – at achieving harmony of the body, spirit and mind.
  • Many exercises and asanas are similar, but have a significant difference in technique. If in classical yoga you need to enter a pose and fix it for a long time (static load), then in Pilates the main thing is movement. All exercises are dynamic, repeated several times. Important consistent articulation of the spine and body muscles when entering and exiting the position.
  • Pilates breathing control helps to concentrate on doing the exercise and working muscles. Ancient practice provides breathing, as one of the steps to self-improvement (pranayama).
  • In Pilates, the muscles of the back and cortex are mainly worked out, in yoga – all muscle groups.
  • In classical hatha yoga additional equipment is not used. In Pilates classes  fitball, rings, rollers are actively used.

In my opinion, you should try both this practice and chose which is most suitable for you. However, if  you want to get a little more than just a beautiful and healthy body, then you may want choose yoga. After all, ancient practice is also aimed at working with the mind, includes methods of spiritual development and self-improvement. Practice will show what is right for you.

Meditation.Self Journey

For me yoga was always about physical practice. I have never done meditation at home and was skipping that “boring part of yoga” in yoga classes. But after some time, part of me has developed feeling that I maybe missing something. So when I signed up for Tirisula yoga teacher training course, one of my goal was to concentrate on  spiritual part of yoga. And that’s what I have learned so far.

Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga helps to improve and develop physically. But spiritual development is no less important for a person. The goal pursued by meditation is self-knowledge of oneself, achieving clarity of mind, the ability to relax, the desire for complete inner harmony.

In medicine there is a concept such as “chronic fatigue syndrome” – a disease of modern man.By doing meditation, you can learn to concentrate and relax, control your emotions and mind. Meditation helps to strengthen health, get rid of existing diseases, prolongs life.

The best part –  you can do it yourself, in any convenient place. In yoga centers, classes are led by experienced teachers who will help you understand and master the basics of meditation.If there is no time and opportunity to visit specialized centers, you can master meditation yourself. After a hard working day, it’s good to take 15-20 minutes. relaxation in a homely atmosphere.

As in any practice, there are certain rules in meditation. Here are a few points for conducting an independent practice:

  •     Choose a place for relaxation, where nothing will distract from immersion in yourself. Although, it should be noted that neither advanced noise nor extraneous sounds interfere with advanced practices.
  •    Take a comfortable position.
  •   Try to relax as much as possible each muscle of the body, mentally observing relaxation.
  •    Concentrate on breathing. Monitor inhalation and exhalation – the exhalation should be longer.
  •    Try to turn off your mind. Throw all thoughts out of my head. This will help focus on something specific – on breathing, on relaxation.
  •   Try to withstand a certain time. 10 minutes is enough for a start.
  •     To leave meditation smoothly, without rushing, trying to feel new sensations and maintain a state of calmness.

After trying my best and practice it regularly every day for some time , I came to understanding that : Meditation is not as difficult as it may seem. But the benefits of this practice are undeniable. And very good when it becomes a habit.

Yoga & Pregnancy

Finding out you are pregnant is a great piece of news !

But very fast a lot of questions are coming; What should I be eating? When will I start gaining weight ? Can I keep exercising ? Shall I keep practicing yoga ? Will yoga help me or harm me ?

Here are my 2-cents on the subject as I am currently in my first trimester

Food – while you have a lot of cravings during your pregnancy, you still want to eat satvik as much as possible – avoid the snacks with too much salt and eat almonds when you are hungry. Eat frequently and nauseas are fading away

Yoga is definitely helping me to go through the disadvantages of the 1st trismester.

Thanks to practicing pranayamas several times per day, my belly is not so tense or painful at the end of the day. Usually you can find a lot of discomfort that can be as painful as constipation at the end of the day. Regular yoga practice really relieves that.

A strong and intense practice makes me feel so good and makes me forgetting all nauseas and tiredness. However, the rule of thumbs is the following; don’t do anything you were not doing before being pregnant.

If you were doing inversions, keep doing them but less time

If you were doing nice back bends, do them but maybe go less deeper…

Asanas need to be practiced very carefully – your limit today might not be the same as tomorrow so listen to yourself; if today you cannot do bakasana, then no worries maybe tomorrow you will… or in 9 months !

But the most important part where yoga (not just asanas, the whole thing) is helping me is the gratitude towards your body and towards your tiny baby. I spend time to fully relax, use what I learnt in yoga (pranyamas, concentrations) to connect with my baby & send him happy vibes and kindness. A baby as small as it is need the best of you and I think yoga can bring out the best in every person.

Corona and what we can do to prevent

As of now, there are tons of articlesm, advises, recommendations, fake and real news, euphimisms, and all kind of stuff.  How do we cut through this forest of information, get to the real stuff.  What are the things we can adopt, incorporate into our daily patterns and life’s convolusions so that we dont fall prey to one of the smallest of micro-organisms.

By now, its common knowledge, it affects the respiratory system starting from the throat down all the way to alveoli.  As such, what are the actions we can take to eliminate as well as keep our respiratory system strong, capable of eliminating these viruses which lurk on surfaces as well as in the air.

  1. Kriya (daily in  the morning without any consumption of food  – Kapalabhati, skull cleansing and strengthening our intercoastal, sub-coastal muscles and diaphragm. Passive inhalation and active exhalation – 200 pumps divided into 40 pumps over 5 rounds.
  2. Pranayama – Sama Vritti – Deep inhalation (10 secs)  and exhalation (20 secs) – 20 times
  3. Asanas – Sun Salutation 8 rounds facing the direction of Planet Saturn from where you are, Child pose, Cobra pose, Downward Dog pose – repeat this 12 times,   Camel pose, Cat and Cow pose, Extended Rabbit pose – repeat 8 times  (hold each pose for 6 breaths)
  4. Shoulderstand, Plough Pose, Fish pose, repeat 8 times (Hold each pose for 6 breaths)
  5. Finish off with Kapalabhati, 200 pumps.

I will do a video to show all these movements. Watch out for it.

 

 

“Yogi” Insights

When I first started practicing yoga, it was almost 10years ago. The reason I signed up for the studio was really simple- I was gifted a membership card. I was then addicted to Ashtanga practice for its intensive training and rigid sequence. However, my motivation of keeping doing yoga over the 10 years have changed few times. I picked up yoga after a long break because of breakup, trying to distract that loneliness, frustration and get over the sadness. And I am sure I am not alone for this particular reason to come to the mat. Now I am so into yoga is because I want to form a lifestyle that represents me.

A lot of researches out there asking people about why they practice yoga. Answers vary from physical practice to release stress or tension, looking good, feel happier, become more popular…

I strongly feel as a yoga instructor, being able to understand each practitioner’s insight is extremely important.

The chart below is from a study done by Ipsos In America 2016, comparing the 2 bars we can tell people continue to practice yoga if they find their real motivations. I read this as a very positive finding that yoga does do its job to help people to continue practicing and deliver what people initially look for.

If a practitioner comes to the mat seeking for strength, Yin yoga might not be the best choice. And if we dig deeper and link Chakra (which I talked about in another blog) and Asana together, we might be able to help people to solve specific problems by practicing tailor made asanas. Apart from advertisement, people posting all the eye catching poses in social media does reflect certain level of insecurity and lack of attention. In this case, maybe chest opening or heart opening asanas will benefit.

Everyone comes to the mat for a reason, let’s find that insight together.

(Ipsos Public Affairs, 2016. Yoga In America Study. https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Yoga and other sports

Yoga is not only a good form of exercise on its own but also a great complement to many other types of sports. One such example is surfing. 

I had a brief encounter with surfing after participating in a surf camp in 2017. During the camp, we did two surf sessions, as well as a yoga class every day. Initially, I thought that the yoga classes were just to stretch out our sore muscles. However, as I learnt more about the surfing techniques, I realised that both of them are actually deeply intertwined because many of the surfing poses are similar to yoga poses. 

Credit: https://barefootsurftravel.com/livemore-magazine/how-to-do-a-take-off

For example, while paddling out on the board, we’re on our belly and our back is slightly arched/chest lifted up. This is similar to Bhujangasana (Cobra pose). After we’ve caught the wave and ready to “push up”, we get into a pose similar to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), but with the toes tucked. Finally, we shift our back leg forward and stand up in a position like Virabhadrasana B (Warrior 2)! 

Of course, apart from the poses above, I find that yoga also helps to train up the following areas which are beneficial for other types of sports as well.

1. Core strength 

I believe many of us have heard our instructors telling us to “squeeeeeze the core!”. Indeed, most of the yoga poses work on core strength. From Navasana (Boat pose) to Kakasana (Crow pose) to Sirsasana (Headstand), all of them require us to engage our core muscles. Not just for athletes, having a strong core is important for everyone, because it helps to stabilize our body, strengthens our back muscles and holds up our body.  

2. Flexibility

A lot of the yoga poses help to stretch our muscles and increase our range of motion, which in turn improve our flexibility. Hence, I feel that yoga will be a good complement to rock climbing, because with better flexibility, we’re able to bend our bodies into awkward positions as we try to reach for that foothold and push ourselves up.  

3. Better breathing

Yoga teaches us how to breathe properly through the practice of different types of pranayama. Proper breathing techniques help to improve our respiratory system and build up our stamina. This will be beneficial for people who do aerobic exercises like running, swimming and hiking etc. 

Nowadays, with more sports facilities and gyms around, a lot of us are doing different types of sports. Whichever sport that you’re doing, I strongly encourage you to incorporate yoga into your training routine, be it as a form of stretching or as a complement to the sport. Give it a try and you might be surprised how it can improve your performance and overall well-being!