Running and Yoga

A few months ago I signed up for my first ever half marathon. Practicing yoga really helps me to run stronger and recover faster. It keeps me running balanced with a strong core and a nice steady cadence. So many people talk about how amazing running is when its combined with yoga, however running is not the best physical activity for my yoga practice.

After running, my quads, hamstrings and ITB all tighten up and make it difficult for me to lengthen out, especially in some of my favourite poses like Adho Mukha Svasana and Paschimottanasana. It surprised me just how much of a drastic difference it made in my asanas the day after a run compared to having not run at all.

After guidance from Sree during my TTC, I now leave my yoga practice for directly after a run. This helps lengthen my muscles out again and also loosens them off so they’re not as tight. What I’ve personally found to be very helpful is by starting with 3x rounds of Surya Namaskar, at a nice slow pace holding each asana for 5 breaths, to really get a nice deep stretch. I then follow this with 3x rounds of Surya Namaskara A and Surya Namaskara B. I follow this with all of the standing postures in the ashtanga primary series, Paschimottanasana, Purvottanasana, Janu Sirsasana and a few core exercises before I go into Sarvangasana, Halasana & Karanapidasana.

I find that all of the standing postures in the primary series are perfect for lengthening out those target muscles that all become tightened whilst running. 45 minutes – 1 hour of yoga straight after a run really makes all the difference!

Yogic Principles in Daily Life Part 1

By doing the 200hr TTC, it has taught me that I need to properly warm up the body and the mind each morning. It is important to do the following activities after rising, on an empty stomach.

In the morning the yogi can start with 3x rounds of 20x pumps of Kapalahbathi, this is to clear the sinus cavities and nasal passageway. It also purifies the nadis and energises the mind whilst removing sleepiness.

This is followed by Anuloma Villoma which helps to balance the nadis. Anuloma Villoma is done in Sukhasana, easy pose, with the left hand in Jana Mudra and the right hand in Vishnu Mudra. In the morning we start with the first inhalation on the right nostril, then after retaining the breath, hold the right nostril and open the left nostril exhaling slowly. Then inhale left nostril, hold, open right nostril and exhale slowly. Continue for 20x rounds on each nostril.

Following this we perform Uddiyana Bandha for 5 rounds. This is done to strengthen and tone the abdomen, internal organs and pelvic floor muscles. It stimulates the manipura chakra and soothes anxiety. Uddiyana Bandha has to be done on an empty stomach and avoided when menstruating.

This is then followed by a few asanas to gently warm up the physical body. Pachimottanasana, Bhujangasana and Ardha Matsyendrasana should each be held for 1 minute.

The final part of the morning routine is to meditate on what we are grateful for in our lives. Cultivating gratitude is a practice which elevates our individual consciousness.

This is a part of yogic practice which is now already integrated into my daily routine and will continue to be after the TTC has finished.

Namate, Yoga!

Meeting is a kind of fate, and fate is so amazing.

Yoga, that is, we met.

When beginning practicing yoga, it is often a pain throughout the body, and there is always a thought of giving up.

Want to be beautiful and beautiful? Stick to it!

Want to improve your temperament? Stick to it!

At this moment, there is always a voice in the heart to encourage myself. In fact, “persevere” is not just a life attitude, but this is paid back by the time.

First of all, the weight has dropped, and the pain in the shoulders has been relieved. These changes are all due to the persistence of yoga.

Secondly, yoga’s meditation, and soothing music also let me slowly relax from the anxiety, and my mind gradually calmed down. These subtle changes in mind and body also benefited me a lot.

The peace of mind and the peace of heart are all due to yoga.

Feeling yoga! Grateful to meet!

Namaste!

Yoga and Diabetes

(Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. A V Raveendran et al. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Sep; 33(3): 307–317. )

 

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that is becoming increasingly common. It is characterised by insulin resistance with relative or absolute insulin deficiency. This can result in devastating vascular complications such as kidney damage, heart attack, stroke and blindness.

 

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing in Singapore. The National Health Survey conducted in 2010 revealed that 11.3% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 year of age had T2D and 14.4% had pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance). Faced with these alarming statistics, the Ministry of Health declared a “War on Diabetes” in 2016.

 

I chanced upon an interesting article that very gracefully weaves the role of Yoga in the management of diabetes.

 

Dietary management of diabetes with Yoga

  • The regulation of eating patterns, the practice of mindful eating of clean and pure food, and the advocation of greater awareness are beneficial not only in improving dietary practices but also adherence to medication.
  • Meditation and heightened mindfulness may help curb binge-eating patterns.

 

Beneficial effects of Yoga practices

These have been postulated to have beneficial effects through various mechanisms.

  • Stimulates insulin production through brain signalling
  • Massages the pancreas, stimulating insulin secretion
  • Boost metabolic rate, promote weight loss, reduce sugar levels, reduce body fat
  • Improves digestion and stimulates peristalsis
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Improves cardiorespiratory endurance
  • Enhances insulin receptor expression in muscles, causing increased glucose uptake
  • Positive effects on glucose utilisation and fat redistribution
  • Soothing and calming effect on the mind, improves mental and physical health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Better sleep

 

Go ahead and read the full article for further details.

Remember to share your practice with someone you know who is battling with Diabetes!

Yogic diet and mind balance

By Harsh Thakkar

Do you control your mind when it comes to eating what you want to eat or does the mind tell you what to eat? And how does the food one eats contribute to the state of mind?

Ayurveda is described as the traditional Indian system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas) which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. Balance as we know now is also one of strongest pillars of Yoga. Literally translated it would be “Ayur” meaning Life or Age and “Veda” meaning science or knowledge. In most western countries although it is considered as a system of complementary and alternate medicine. Even though I do not have the complete knowledge of Ayurveda and all its practices, whatever I have read so far it tells me that it provides guidelines for diet, seasonal routines and homemade remedies from plants and herbs to remind us that one’s health is a delicate balance between the environment, body, mind and spirit.

According to Ayurveda, food has a prominent role in achieving balanced body-mind-soul consciousness. It is said that the nature of food a person consumes reflects their nature or temperament.

Any food you eat can be categorized as either sattvicrajasic and tamasic according to its character and effect upon the body and the mind.

Sattvic food

Sattva is that which makes us curious, thoughtful, and alert.

Sattvic food is always freshly cooked and simple, juicy, light, unctuous, nourishing, cooling and refreshing to mind and body. It increases the energy of the mind and produces cheerfulness, serenity and mental clarity. Sattvic food is highly conducive to good health.

Foods: Whole grains and legumes like Rice, Whole wheat, Millet, Corn, Lentils, Oats, Beans etc. Freshly picked and organically grown vegetables like Celery, Sweet potatoes, Sprouts, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Lettuce, Green beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Asparagus etc. Fresh fruits such as Apples, Peaches, Oranges, Bananas, Guava, Berries, Papayas, Pomegranate etc.

Rajasic Food

Rajas are invigorating and mentally stimulating and make us active, giving us the desire to work, push, and manifest.

This is food that is fresh but heavy. The rajasic diet is also cooked fresh and is nutritious. It may contain a little more oil and spices compared to sattvic food. Rajasic foods are bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot and dry. It stimulates aggression, passion, fire, imbalance of the emotion, energy, alters the consciousness, and creates depression.

Foods: Fish and meat such as Salmon, Sole, Trout, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Tuna, Eggs etc. Excess of Sharp Spices like Salt, Pepper, Black Pepper, Ginger, Onion, Radish, Garlic etc. Stimulants such as Coffee, Tea, Tobacco, Sugar, Cola Drinks, Chocolates, Alcoholic Drinks etc.

Tamasic Food

Tamas gives us the desire to stop, slow down, and rest.

Tamasic foods cause lethargy, inactivity, mental block, severe anger, darkness, ignorance, and no control of self. These foods are considered to be highly detrimental to the body and mind.

Foods: Fried food, Eggs, White flour, Fast food, excess starch and sugar, chillies, sauce, fermented or stale food, ice creams, chocolates, preserved meats/ fruits and jams, artificially flavoured drinks, alcohol, breads, cakes, Pickles.

We have all the three Gunas / qualities within us in different proportions. All 3 of these qualities (Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic) are necessary for survival and to move in a progressive direction in life. How we respond to the events and circumstances in our life very much depends on the predominant Guna / Quality within us.

Sattva qualities make a person calm and joyful. ‘Small amount’ of Rajas makes the person active and passionate, while Tamas in ‘moderation’ is considered as grounding and promotes stability.

 

 

 

 

Finding time for Yoga Practice

How do we find time to practice yoga regularly?

I have been searching for answers to this question ever since i started working … Work really does take up a lot of time. Like many others, I hesitated before I commit myself to a yoga studio and then I hesitated again when i wanted to take up the Yoga Teacher Training… It was then, i decided to take a leap and signed up for the Yoga Teacher Training with the mindset that “I will make time for this.”

I am grateful for the decision i made and the chance to meet all the amazing batchmates alongside, practicing yoga during the weekends. It is never about how busy we all are, it is about how much time we are willing to make, to commit to the things we want to do.

I explored for ways and learnt to find time for the things I always wanted to do. So i mapped out my thoughts… The main question i asked myself was “Why will i not have time to do something that i want to do?”. My answers seemed more like excuses because I could find resolutions to all my own answers after some time. Let me quickly share my thoughts: Finding Time to Commit (Ange)

I am prepared for times where I find myself struggling to fulfil certain commitments (i.e. weekly/focused practice). I assure myself that it is perfectly fine because I am not giving up on practice. Sometimes, I just had to make time for something else. 

There is a difference between (a) not committing to practice because… and; (b) committing to practice however …

Most importantly, never give up practicing if it is what we want to do regularly. Keep finding ways to make it work.

Finding time is possible.

Reasons not to practise yoga

What’s the difference between a reason, and an excuse?

A reason is “a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event”. In other words, a reason should explain why something is the way that it is. However, a lot of the time, what we think are ‘reasons’ are probably ‘excuses’. An excuse is an “attempt to lessen the blame” and often means that we don’t take the right responsibility or any accountability for the situation. Here are some reasons I’ve heard (or given myself) to not practice yoga. Are they really reasons, or excuses?

 “I’m too tired!” = Excuse

Yoga asana, like any exercise, can put demands on your body and mind that may be tiring. But asana can also help to restore energy, and allow for more effective rest. Tiredness is not a reason – it’s an excuse! You can still practise yoga!

“I have an acute injury or illness.” = Reason

Our bodies do need time to heal and repair after illness or injury. Although it varies from person to person and injury/illness, certain asana may not be appropriate or even prevent healing from that specific injury or illness. Always check with a doctor that you are medically OK to do any form of exercise, yoga included. While this is a good reason to temporarily stop or to modify asana, it’s not a reason to stop yoga altogether. You can still practise yoga!

“Yoga is for women!” (some men) = Excuse

Some cultures socialise men and women into expected patterns of behavior, to the extent that this excuse, perhaps is more of a way of masking insecurity, when at the root, the excuse is “I’m afraid I will be emasculated if I am not the best/strongest person in a room full of women”. Get over yourself! Yoga is for everyone, and everyone can learn something, get stronger, and get better. Modern yoga is derived from teachings handed down by men. You only compete with yourself and your ego.

“I’m menstruating.” (women) = Reason

Different people have different ideas on this topic. I have had some teachers who say that when you have your period, you should do restorative asana only; others might say continue with all asana as usual but ‘take it easy’; some say avoid practice on the first day; still others say to avoid yoga altogether. This can be quite personal and there are many articles and opinions available if you search online. It is important to know what is happening to the body and make adjustments accordingly.

I think this article summarises it quite well and explains both pranic and physical rationales: avoid inversions, asana that put stress on abdominal/pelvic region, and bandhas (extract below).

“In a yoga practice there are certain asanas that should be avoided during menstruation. The main type of asanas are inversions… The reasoning for this is that when we practice inversions one type of prana, known as apana, which normally flows in the downward direction from the manipur chakra (naval centre) to mooladhar chakra (cervix), is reversed…Another reason is that during inversions the uterus is pulled towards the head and causes the broad ligaments to be over stretched which cause partial collapse of the veins, leaving open arteries to continue pumping blood. This can lead to vascular congestion and increased menstrual bleeding…

Secondly, any very strong asanas particularly strong backbends, twists, arm balances and standing positions that put a lot of stress on the abdominal and pelvic region should be avoided, especially if the woman is going through a lot of pain at the time… If the pelvic region is causing spasm and pain why cause more contraction and pressure to the area. Also these positions need more physical strength and exertion which can be lacking during this time and can be depleted further by the practice…

Thirdly, bandhas should be avoided for similar reasons. On a pranic level they move the apana upwards instead of down and physically they add more contraction to an already tight region and in the case of uddiyan bandha increasing the heat which can lead to heavier bleeding.”

Menstruation is a reason to modify or postpone yoga, but not to stop altogether!

“I’m not flexible!” = Excuse

This is like saying, I can’t have a bath because I’m not clean! Think about it: we take baths to become cleaner. We practise yoga to improve flexibility. We all have different flexibility levels in different parts of the body. Some can bend forwards effortlessly (not me); others can bend backwards (also not me); others have flexible hips or shoulders or can twist their spines. Asana practice will help to build flexibility and mobility in joints and muscles. If anything, this is a reason to do yoga, not avoid it!

“I’ve just eaten a huge meal.” = Reason

Although there are many asana that help massage and improve the digestive organs, like many other forms of exercise, it can be uncomfortable or even impossible to practise asana when your belly is full. You need some time to give the body a chance to process the food, so that you can put your energy towards practice rather than to digestion (and this article explains a bit more about the physiology). I personally prefer practising yoga in the morning, before breakfast, or at least 2 hours after eating.

But as you can see – this reason, along with the others listed, are not reasons to never do yoga, or to stop yoga entirely. They are reasons to wait, modify, or stop temporarily the practice. There is no reason not to do yoga!

Beating jet lag

You have a great voice to put people to sleep.
Not exactly my idea of a compliment, but given the context, I’ll take it!

My friend was commenting after I guided him through yoga nidra, it helped him to relax – so much so that he wanted a recording to play at bedtime.

Yoga nidra, also known as dynamic sleep, is where the body relaxes deeply while the mind remains alert. Step by step, one relaxes physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Guided instructions prompt us to physically prepare the body, then the breath, and the mind, followed by physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation exercises, before being re-awakened.

These guided exercises focus on different parts of the body and specific breathing, which helps to balance the nervous system. As our brains shift from an awakened state to a more relaxed state, serotonin is released, which calms us down even further. Our bodies get the chance to restore themselves, and the stress hormone cortisol is removed.

Given the effect on our bodies and minds, it’s no surprise that yoga nidra has been found in prior studies to help stabilise blood sugar levels, alleviate depression and anxiety, and combat PTSD. Since learning more about it, I’ve been more consciously using some of the techniques recently – to manage jet lag.

I travel frequently for my “day job”, across time zones, including long haul flights… in economy class. I applied some of the relaxation techniques while flying- allowing my body to fully relax first, then my mind, and the next thing I knew I was sound asleep during the flight. Despite a 7 hour time difference, I arrived rested enough to go straight to practise yoga with friends!

When I woke up in the middle of the night in the new time zone, I again used yoga nidra techniques to relax my body. For the first time since learning about yoga nidra in YTT, I became aware and could identify that my mind was alert, while my body was deeply relaxed.

They say that one 30-minute practice of yoga nidra equals approximately two hours of deep sleep. I can attest that despite the changes in time zone and missed hours of sleep on the way, I had one of the most energised, yet restful business trips yet!

Soothing Blend for Sore Muscles and Aches

Soothing Blend for Sore Muscles and Aches

10ml Roller Bottle (dark glass bottle)

9ml Coconut Oil (carrier oil)

2 drops of Ylang Ylang

2 drops of Wintergreen

2 drops of Peppermint

2 drops of Helichrysum

 

Therapeutic benefits of Ylang Ylang

  • Natural energizer
  • Reduce muscle tension

Therapeutic benefits of Wintergreen

  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce swelling and irritation

 Therapeutic benefits of Peppermint

  • Reduce pain, swelling and tension
  • Anti-inflammatory properties

Therapeutic benefits of Helichrysum

  • Relieves muscle spasm
  • Reduce pain
  • Anti-inflammatory properties

This soothing blend is perfect for a massage after an intense yoga practice to ease muscle and joint pain. Each of the following oils treat pain, swelling and tension in the muscles. The scent is energizing and useful for fighting fatigue. Roll on before or after your yoga practice to loosen tension in the muscles and massage on the desired areas to penetrate deep below the skin.

Dilute your essential oils with carrier oils to reduce the risk of irritability. Try out different combinations of the oils to see which work best for you.

 

*24 hour patch test for sensitivity before use

* Excessive use lead to sensitivity.

*Essential oil mixture is best stored in dark glass containers and should be kept out of direct sunlight and stored in a cool dry place. The way you store the essential oils affect their therapeutic properties.