Meditate in Sirsasana (Headstand)

Yoga is meant to be a comfortable position. But boy was I not comfortable with my legs in the air during a headstand! And soon my foot will have the desire to root themselves back to the ground.

“Engage your arms, squeeze your chest tightly!” Paalu would instruct energetically to encourage us. Great, this helped to shift the focus and I could stay 5 breathes longer upside down. But still I won’t be able to achieve the 3 minutes goal that has been set upon us to achieve at the end of the 200-hour YTT. 

Then one day Paalu gave an analogy to meditation. Imagine a sea of fishes; thoughts are like the fish jumping out of the water. Meditation works towards us achieving a state of calmness, the ocean is still, there is no jumping fish… and after some time, those fishes will compartmentalize in groups deep down the ocean and just stay there. Your mind will become one with the stillness, and clarity will simply open up.

The next time when I tried headstand… I notice the jumping fish in my mind and how my hanging feet and spine wobble. Let the fish sink, inhale slowly, exhale smoothly, count your breathes steadily, gaze at the tip of the nose, engage Uddiyana Bandha. The fish fell back into the sea. My mind steadied and I hung comfortably in the air. 

This would continue on as I hold in headstand for 3 minutes. I observe how breathing calm the nerves, the drishti gives a focus and only when the mind is still, then Sirsasana becomes a comfortable posture. 

Of course it would definitely help when one is comfortable with the arms and shoulder strength to push the ground away. And for all those can invert but not hang long enough in headstand… just remember the falling fish analogy. Meditate and work on your crown chakra.

The more challenging a yoga pose, the more relaxed one has to be to get into the posture comfortably. 

Namaste,
Ying

How to Hold Your Breath

This is a good skill to have if you wish to take up freediving as a hobby. Or if you run into someone trying to strangle you. 

Yogis (and freedivers) can hold their breaths for extended periods of time. A number of techniques in yoga practice is useful for lengthening the period in which you can hold your breath. The average lung capacity is 4 litres for women and 6 litres for men. You can directly impact your lung capacity and effectiveness with knowledge of yogic pranayama (breathing techniques), asanas (physical postures) and meditation techniques. 

Awareness of Intercostal Muscles: The intercostal muscles run between and around your ribs. With awareness of how these muscles function and operate, you can expand the area covered by your ribcage on every inhale, which increases the volume of air that you can bring into your lungs. Ideally, your ribs should be able to expand sideways, giving additional room for your lungs to fill with air. Practice with a twisted yoga pose such as Marichiyasana C or D, which requires that you engage your intercostal muscles fully in order to continue taking deep breaths in the pose. 

Breathing Techniques: The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle when relaxed, and flattened when contracted. It extends across the bottom of the thoracic cavity which separates your heart and lungs from your abdomen. During inhalations, the diaphragm contracts flat to create space for your lungs to expand. Yogic pranayama techniques such as Kapalabathi and Ujjayi trains your diaphragm further by bringing your awareness to how it feels and works in your body when you practice a variety of breathing exercises. In Kapalapathi, you forcefully pump the air out of your lungs by engaging your abdomen muscles. In Ujjayi breath, you lengthen the period of exhale by slowing down the amount of air released from your lungs. 

Meditation: Calming your mind and reducing the amount of thoughts in your head reduces the body’s metabolic rate, which slows down the conversion of oxygen to carbon dioxide, allowing you to go longer on the air that you already have. When you start holding your breath, you begin with a mental battle with yourself to believe that your body can survive on the oxygen available to it. In meditation techniques, you are supposed to hold that thought and let it disappear from your mental horizon, thus in a sense ignoring your mind and body’s compulsion to breathe. When you are very relaxed in meditation, you will find that you have dramatically slowed down your pace of breath. 

Here is a simple exercise that you can do to start practising: 

  • Come to a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes. 
  • Inhale 6 seconds, hold breath for 6 seconds, and exhale for 12 seconds. 
  • Inhale 6 seconds, hold breath for 18 seconds, and exhale for 12 seconds.  
  • Inhale 6 seconds, hold breath for 24 seconds, and exhale for 12 seconds. 
  • Inhale 6 seconds, hold breath for 48 seconds, and exhale for 24 seconds. 

It takes time, technique, and a lot of patience. You will find that your capacity to hold your breath improves. 

In the meantime, don’t hold your breath!

 

– Vanessa Tang – 

The Power of Meditation

Before when I heard about meditation I was pretty sceptical about the idea of it, and trying to understand how it works, or is it really works?, when you consider that even if have health insurance being sick is going to cost you money in one way or another and there’s research to suggest that meditation can help you manage the symptoms of asthma, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure and more, which I can be easily have due to lifestlye, hereditary or just a random, and I also experiencing depression for about 7 years now, then meditation starts to seem like a pretty sound investment for instance it might reduce my needs for costly prescription drugs, research has been proven that meditation can be very effective in reducing pain sometimes even more effective than morphine. That’s why I want to focused my knowledge or practicing meditation because it helps me a lot, it moves me in mysterious ways.

 

Meditation is a means of transforming the mind. Meditation develops concentration, clarity, emotional, positivity, and deep sense of self confidence. I want to train my mind to be in the present moment is the number one key to making healthier choices. Many of us turn to food to cope with stress, anxiety or sadness. We often forget to be conscious while we eat, feel the smell, flavour, eat slowly and with full attention.

 

And just today we teacher Paalu teaches us more about the meaning or definition of meditation, how it  help us in our daily lives, how to control the many thoughts in our mind, thoughts that can disturb us easily by moving forward, and how not to be falling asleep while doing meditation, he set an easy example so we can understand more easily. Then after when we do the meditation I am impressed with the outcome of the explanation of teacher Paalu because I can truly concentrate now in my meditation, I can follow whenever he tells us to focused on one thing and by not falling asleep, I am still aware of surroundings. It really helps me a lot.

 

Charisze Kaye Boesgaard,

200hrs YTTC March 2018

My yogic way of being free from anger

Do you have days when you feel there’s so much frustration and anger bubbling inside you that you lash out at anything that moves—our spouse, our kids, our BFFs, the dog—for behavior that normally wouldn’t bug us.

We are all human beings and with the constant stressful life around us, we will all have moments of letting our anger got over the top and said or do things that we regret.

First before we start on the yogic ways to control anger, let’s see how our body stores our emotions.  You may or may not feel the emotions as they may accumulate in our body feeding our energy until we are exhausted and drained. Therefore scanning your body and identify the suppressed emotions associated with it is important for us to maintain our mental wellness.

Our Body

We open our hearts in backbends, and surrender through forward folds while loosening the hamstrings, which are connected to our ability to let go (or not). The hips hold on to sadness, and the liver to anger. Stress and tension takes to shoulder and stiff neck.  Are there days when you felt these places in our body are so heavy, tight or stiff that you felt so drain and exhausted? We hold on to feelings, replaying circumstances in our minds, holding onto grudges, anger, and resentment. Even if we believe we’ve forgiven on an intellectual level, what does the body say? Have we really let go?

There are a few ways which you can identify store/building up of emotions before it builds up:

1) Meditation – Pratayaha

Pratayaha, the 5th limbs of yoga which teaches us to withdraw our senses. This withdrawal of senses is for turning our awareness inwards and start to mentally scan our body; examine the sensations that show up in our body when you are upset, when you are angry, when you are stressed. By identify our stored emotions; one can combine the practice of rest of the yoga limbs (Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Panayama and Dharana) to help us release, control or balance our mental wellness.

2) Asanas

Did you know there are specific yoga poses to release emotions like anger, sadness, and even worry? We practice pratayaha to explore and scan where specific emotion accumulates and uses Asanas practice to clear or relieve them out. Targeting specific areas can help clear stubborn blocks, identify your chakra system and support your ongoing quest for emotional freedom. 

Backbends: Griefs (Heart chakra related to love)

When we grieve, our hearts hurt. We lost something we loved. Practicing backbends postures help us open our hearts, release our emotions. When our hearts are open, we’re able to ride the flow of life.

Twists: Anger (Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura chakra)

Anger’s connection to the liver is also found in both Chinese medicine and yoga. The liver cleans the blood and stores energy. In yoga, the liver is related to the third chakra, in the belly. This is the seat of will and power. 

 

Hip-Openers: Sadness, Stress (Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana)

The hips hold a variety of emotions, from stress to sadness to trauma.  It is related to the Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana, which is the energy center related to emotions. 

So next time when you feel trapped, sad or tired, remember to scan and meditate first. Try this, I walked away feeling lighter, relieved and free, the emotional release we feel keeps many of us coming back for more. 

 

Louine Liew

Weekend warrior (YTT200 – Sep17)

Going into Zen Mode via the 5 Senses

Hello there!

Last week, I partnered up with Sharon to conduct a restorative class for our fellow classmates as part of our practical training and I thought it might be interesting to share with you some of the tips that I have learnt. 

Like what the name suggests, a restorative class aims to induce deep relaxation for the participants, sending them to a meditative state.  I’d like to summarize our tips into how they influence the 5 senses that have. Hopefully you will find it useful and be able to incorporate this in your daily life ~

 

Sight

Ideally, the lighting should be dim and the space, clutter free. It is difficult to feel at ease with light glaring into your eyes and being in a space with a lot of things lying around you.

This is the space we prepared for our class participants.

 

Sound

It is advisable to play some relaxing background music – sound of nature (e.g. rain, waterfall, waves), meditative music. Lucky for us, as well as those in our class, it started raining a few minutes into our class, giving us extra Zen points.

After lots of research, Sharon picked this piece (link below) which has 432 Hz.

Apparently, listening to 432Hz music helps release emotional blockages and expands consciousness, allowing us to tune into the knowledge of the universe around us in a more intuitive way.

If you are keen to learn more about this magic number, feel free to click on the link below.

https://ask.audio/articles/music-theory-432-hz-tuning-separating-fact-from-fiction

 

Usually, the poses are held longer (5 minutes per pose) in a restorative class. During those times, we took turns to play the singing bowl. The sound emitted from the singing bowl works as a type of energy medicine that has been known to heal pain, depression, and stress disorders. 

Here’s a quote from the director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York, Dr. Mitchell Gaynor:

“If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.” — Dr. Mitchell Gaynor

If you are interested, this is where Sharon got her Singing Bowl:

The Singing Bowl Gallery (33 Erskine Road 01-05, 069333)

 

At the end of every pose, we used a pair of tingsha bells to signify the end of the pose and prepare the students for the next pose.

Random Fact: Krisianto fell asleep.. so something must be working 🙂

 

Smell

In our class, we lit up a slightly scented candle.

Alternatively, you can explore the wide range of scents that is available in the market to combine aromatherapy into your restorative yoga class. 

Rose: one of the most common and noticeable, rose is a wonderful scent that is used by many thousands of people to enter a state of meditation. The smell also brings about thoughts of romance and love among its many pleasures.

Frankincense: This is ancient oil that has been used for thousands of years in both healing and spiritual practices. The fact that this was one of the gifts to the baby Jesus delivered by the three wise men has put it in an honoured place in the Christian religion. However, the fact that frankincense is one of the most precious aromatherapy gifts has not gone unnoticed even in modern times.

Rosemary: Another of the essential oils used in healing, rosemary also has a marvellous scent that is perfect for entering the proper state of meditation as well as brightening up the home. You can mix a few drops of rosemary essential oil with water and spray the room to help get the full effect or use an essential oil diffuser.

Cedar & Sage: Native Americans have used these products in many of their traditions which includes smudges and burning dried herbs. There is a type of sacred vibe that comes from the use of cedar and sage as essential oils which are unmatched by virtually all others.

Sandalwood: This is another ancient scent that is very much a part of the Christian and Hindu belief system. Used quite often for meditation, sandalwood has a very pleasing scent that offers a pathway to a calmer mindset which is why so many people opt for this particular essential oil.

https://giftsreadytogoblog.com/2014/12/26/aromatherapy-and-meditation/

 

Touch

Touch can be in the form of props or adjustments.

You can be creative with your choice of props. In our class, we made good use of the cushions and yoga blocks that were available in the studio. We also suggested our class participants to bring large towels, blankets, or bolster to enhance their experience in our class. Denise even brought her cute bunny soft toy 🙂

We did a few adjustments to help the students with their alignments and to help them relax deeper into their posture (e.g. pressing their shoulder blades down in Savasana, pressing on the lower back in Balasana). However, not all the adjustments were successful (sorry Tammy, Louine, and PQ!!!)

Note to self: Be extra gentle in the future.

 

Taste

With all the tips above being executed properly, your class participants should get a taste of an awesome restorative session. Pun intended.

 

I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to use this tips in your daily life to reduce stress and release tension.

 

Keep Calm & Relax~

 

Namaste,

Ziyu 🙂

September 2017 Weekend Class

 

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

In the modern perception of a yoga practice, under the influence of social media, it is often misinterpreted that Yoga is a pose and the goal of yoga is to achieve the pose. However to practice yoga holistically is to go much deeper than the physical.

The yoga poses also known as Asana, is only one part of the 8-limbs as laid down by Patanjali. A holistic yoga practice will need to seek union between mind, body and spirit as it explores the synergy between breath, postures and drishti. Together this allows our external practice to draw inwards and foster an awareness of ourselves as individuals seeking peace and ultimately a connection to the greater whole. Through practicing the teachings of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, the body and mind is both strengthened and softened, and prepared to go the depths into the exploration of yoga.

In brief the teachings of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

The first and second limbs:  Yamas and the Niyamas, it all starts there, with how we show up in our lives (personal observances) and in the world (universal morality). The attitude we have towards external (people and things) is Yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is Niyama. When we incorporate Yamas and Niyamas into both our daily practice and our day-to-day lives, we become more present, cultivating awareness and gratitude in all things that we do and the people around us.

I. Yamas

The yamas are Ahimsa – Non-violence, Compassion for all living things.   Satya – Truthfulness.  Asteya – Non-stealing. Brachmacarya – Sense Control. Aparigraha – Non-hoarding.

II. Niyamas

The Niyamas are Sauca – Purity and cleanliness. Santosa – Contentment. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy. Svadhyaya – Self awareness, self-study. Isvara pranidhana – Surrender to the higher power.

III. Asanas

Practice of physical postures combined with the fourth limb, Pranayama to foster a quiet awareness of breath, increase flexibility, physical and mental wellness.

IV. Pranayama

Breathing technique practiced together with the third limb, Asanas to balance the flows of vital life forces and energy within us, then directing them inward to the chakra system.

V. Pratyahara

Withdrawal of senses from external stimulation and bringing the focus inwards. With the senses no longer easily distracted, this is a preparatory stage for meditation.

VI. Dharana

Intense concentration, closely linked to the previous limb, pratyahara where with senses withdrawn and focus drawn inwards, we will find a focus and point of concentration. Through this one will be able to steady the mind and 100% focused on 1 thing or subject.

VII. Dhyana

Meditation absorption where one has become completely absorbed in the focus of the meditation.

VIII. Samadhi

The final stage and 8th limb, Samadhi means bliss and enlightenment. In the state of Samadhi, the practitioner merges with the object of their meditation and becomes one with it and their surroundings, to bring together, to merge.

 

So obviously everyone has a choice when it comes to yoga. Patanjali 8 limbs of the yoga sutras can sometimes feel like it will take time (a lifetime!) to cultivate. I’m still scratching the surface with putting some of them into full practice in my life, but having them as goals in my mind and heart is a start and while I’m far, far, far, far (read: not achievable in this lifetime) from enlightenment. I have had moments of what I like to call mini small enlightenment when I’ve practiced them. When I look at my life experiences and my asana practice through the context of their lessons, I often tell myself that perhaps moments of mini-enlightenment in one lifetime is better than nothing.

Louine Liew
(Weekend warrior /YTT200 – Sep 17)

Meditation is like ______

We are trained to be a multi-tasker since working in corporate world. With our multi-tasking ‘skill’, we are busy switching from task A to task B, C, D, then back to A, end up doing more and more jobs everyday. This is well explained by the chinese character of busy (忙).  忙 can be seperated into two words –> 心 亡, it means heart is dead. When we are busy, we ignore what we really want in our life.

During meditation, your focus is drawn inward. You will be conscious on your own breath. Every inhalation and exhalation are deep and smooth. You are aware of all your thoughts, feeling and pain. You are neither attached to it nor judging them. Let them come and go, come and go. As you feel more stillness, you mind is clear on who you are and what you want. You are able to overcome fear and make decision that is aligned to your heart.

What I like about meditation is that everybody can do it. Find some ‘me’ time and sit down on a corner where you feel grounded, be it at home, garden or yoga studio. No excuse to be lazy since the practice takes few minutes only. Did some calculation, 10 mins out of 16 hours (hours that you probably stay awake) per day is merely 1%! Stop using busy as an excuse.

Meditation is as important as asanas. I will guide myself to meditate daily so that I feel more grounded and focused throughout the day.

•   First, sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, keep the spine straight.

•   Inhale, and as you exhale, feel your eyelids drop down slightly.

•   Inhale, deep exhale, gently close your eyes.

•   Inhale, roll your shoulders upward, exhale, roll your shoulder backward and down.

•   Inhale, feel your belly rise up, exhale, feel your belly sink down.

•   Inhale, feel the fresh air filled from your both nostrils, to your throat, chest, belly, and exhale, breathe out all the air from your belly, to your chest, throat, both nostrils. Feel your nose tip.

•   Inhale, bring awareness to the area you feel tension, exhale, release it slowly.Inhale, bring awareness to your belly, exhale, release any tightness on your belly.

•   Take a deep inhale, exhale, let it all go.

•   Inhale, exhale, release all expectations on yourself and others.

•   Inhale, exhale, accept yourself for who you are. You are great. You are grateful today. Say thanks to yourself.

I will repeat the same sentence if my body and mind need it more. Continue meditating for 5 more mins and become the observer of your thoughts.

 

For me, meditation is like a calm lake. It is so clear that I can see the reflection of my inner self. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Su Yan ^.^

YTT200 Sept Weekend 2017

Sound Therapy

I first came across sound therapy from singing bowl, tingsha and gong with yoga when I researched around about restorative yoga for our themed class teaching. Restorative yoga includes breathing exercises, meditation, and not only from relaxing music but may also include receiving om to calm our mind.

Sound healing from singing bowl, tingsha and gong is a vibration medicine, it can help reduce stress, alleviate pain, remove negative energy, decrease inflammation, improve sleep, increase concentration, and create an overall sense of well-being.

I started going around to find the instruments. There are many shops around the temple in Bugis sell tingsha and both Tibetan and crystal singing bowl. I eventually bought a pair of tingsha and a Tibetan machine made singing bowl with E note from a shop named The Singing Bowl Gallery in Tanjong Pagar.

Different sizes of bowls and tingsha give different tones, even the same sizes can also produce different tones. Personally, I find that machine made bowls may be easier for beginners who want to pick up how to play singing bowl because it has smoother surface for turning. Handmade bowls may produce noise when the vibration frequency is getting higher that create vibration gap between the bowl and the stick when you turn, which will disturb your meditation. If a handmade bowl is preferred, a wooden stick wrapped with thin layer of leather can be used to help reducing the noise coming from the gap.

Let’s relax, restore, and reconnect 🙂 xoxo

 

Shu (aka Sharon Chong)
200hrs YTT, Sept 2017 (Weekend)
— Blog 1/4

Meditation(Dhyana)

What is meditation (dhyana)?
According to Wikipedia, meditation is defined as “a practice whether an individual operates or trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without being identified with that content, or as an end in itself ”
So that means when you meditate, you are fully awake and alert and your mind is clear, relaxed, and inwardly focused instead of on the external world or on the events taking place around you.
When to practice meditation?
We all know meditation is good but good in what terms? When is the best time to do meditation? Obviously the answer depends on what you hope to get out of it.
- First thing in the morning before you get busy with anything. Before breakfast is generally a good time to meditate, even it’s just five minutes, simply focusing on your slower and deeper breathing.
- Whenever you are stressed, a mini-meditation will help you to feel less stressed, less overwhelmed and more relaxed.
- On your lunch hour, a midday meditation is an effective way to de-stress after a long meeting or difficult conversation. It can relax tight muscles caused by sitting slumped over a computer. By breaking your normal cycle of thinking, it can also boost focus, creativity, and productivity. Plus, it can be a great awareness building tool, allowing you to be more open-minded and accepting of others. Recommend a guided meditation for yoga class during lunch hour.
- End of your workday, for some people, meditating at the end of the workday is the perfect way to create a natural boundary between work and life. What you don’t want is to allow work thoughts to run into the evening.
- Right before bedtime, avoid meditation too close to your bedtime. Reason being is we are practicing more fully awake in meditation.
What is the benefit?
Benefits of meditation are endless. Here I list out several benefits which hopefully will motivate you to medicate regularly.
– Increase your attention span
– Increase immunity and helps fight diseases
– Improves metabolism and helps you lose weight
– Reducing ageing
– Keeps your stress-free
– Helps you have a good night sleep
– Improves functioning of your brain
– Makes you and those around you happier
How to practice?
1. Sit comfortably erect, with eyes close.
2. Without losing your breath awareness and continue to follow your breath
3. Relax your mental efforts
4. Silently recite the mandra so-hum
5. Continue as long as you like.
Reference: psycologytoday
Jessica Jiang Junxia, 200hr YTC 2017 (weekend)

The Ten Ox-herding Story

I came across this concept when I was reading Ray Long’s The Key Poses of Yoga and was able to relate to it in so many levels. The Ten Ox Herding Pictures, according to Wikipedia, is a series of short poems and accompanying pictures used in the Zen tradition to illustrate the stages of a practitioner’s progression towards the purification of the mind and enlightenment, as well as his or her subsequent return into the world while acting out of wisdom.

 

Look here for the pictures and here for the video.

 

While originally the ox here is used as a metaphor for enlightenment, in this book it was used as a metaphor for “body clairvoyance”. Big words! You might be wondering what that means. According to Ray Long’s book,

“Body clairvoyance refers to the ability of the awakened body to anticipate an action and use the most efficient muscles to accomplish it. Practicing yoga creates this type of phenomenon, a feeling of “knowing” what to do. When the brain sees a combination of actions like The Psoas Awakening Series ( there are 5 poses in the series found in this book), it begins to automatically use the muscle in unrelated actions.”

 

I created this table below listing down the original story of Ten Ox Herding and then how it’s interpreted in the seek of enlightenment (ox is our mind) and, based on Ray Long’s book, the seek for body clairvoyance (in this example, ox is our psoas muscle).

 

Original story

Interpretation in the seek of enlightenment

Interpretation in the seek of body clairvoyance

1. In Search of the Bull

In the pasture of the world,

I endlessly push aside the tall

grasses in search of the Ox.

Following unnamed rivers,

lost upon the interpenetrating

paths of distant mountains,

My strength failing and my vitality exhausted, I cannot find the Ox.

Humans are different from animals in that they can think and reflect. It is our thinking and reflecting that brings us to wonder or question about ourselves and life. Some people seek a reason for life, they seek the ox. At first they seek outside of themselves, looking at philosophy, science, occult matters, etc. Perhaps wealth and personal possessions have been amassed to cover the aches and discomforts of the heart and mind, and now the person wearies of this, it no longer works.

First one learns that the psoas exists.

2. Discovery of the Footprints

Along the riverbank under the trees,

I discover footprints.

Even under the fragrant grass,

I see his prints.

Deep in remote mountains they are found.

These traces can no more be hidden

than one’s nose, looking heavenward.

Eventually the sincere seeker discovers that what must be investigated is the mind itself. Perhaps the seeker has fortunate karma ripening, coming into contact with the Buddha Dharma. It is when we stop looking to external things to save or liberate us.

One gains “head knowledge” of the muscle function.

3. Perceiving the Bull

I hear the song of the nightingale.

The sun is warm, the wind is mild,

willows are green along the shore –

Here no Ox can hide!

What artist can draw that massive head,

those majestic horns?

Here the person sees the tail of the ox. There is the realization that one has found the true path for salvation and liberation. What a relief it is! The world can seem a much sweeter place. However, the ox has not yet been grasped.

One experiences the “body knowledge” of the muscle. This is the first “twitch” of activation.

4. Catching the Bull

I seize him with a terrific struggle.

His great will and power

are inexhaustible.

He charges to the high plateau

far above the cloud-mists,

Or in an impenetrable ravine he stands.

At this stage the person has engaged in their Buddhist practice. Here the mind is apparent most of the time. No longer is the person lost in delusion, being not even aware of how they really are. For the first time the undisciplined activities of the mind are addressed. At first it seems so difficult with old, habitual patterns of thought rising up and overwhelming us. Sometimes our mind runs wild. Sometimes it is stuck, not moving with circumstances.

Using conscious control, it is now possible to regulate in rough fashion, the force of contraction.

5. Taming the Bull

The whip and rope are necessary,

Else he might stray off down

some dusty road.

Being well-trained, he becomes

naturally gentle.

Then, unfettered, he obeys his master.

Here Buddhist practice continues diligently. Many means of help are used. These can be meditation, mantras, temple services, chanting, sila (precepts), etc. They can also be the kinship of fellow Buddhist practitioners, guides and teachers.

As the negativities of the mind are quieted it is possible to practise self-cultivation in one’s ordinary life. Here one is not fully overwhelmed by the habitual, negative aspects of the mind. It has become clear what Buddhist practice is.

Functional regulation of contraction and relaxation becomes refined.

6. Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the Ox, slowly

I return homeward.

The voice of my flute intones

through the evening.

Measuring with hand-beats

the pulsating harmony,

I direct the endless rhythm.

Whoever hears this melody

will join me.

Here the oxherder is playing a flute while riding the ox. The ox still has its nose-ring and rope. But now the oxherder no longer has to hold the rope and pull the ox back to the way. Buddhist practice and self-cultivation have become a natural activity. The sense organs are purified, meaning that the person is aware of the environment but does not generate feelings of greed, anger or lust from the contact with outer things.

One can now activate the muscles at will. This is the beginning of “body clairvoyance”.

7. The Bull Transcended

Astride the Ox, I reach home.

I am serene. The Ox too can rest.

The dawn has come. In blissful repose,

Within my thatched dwelling

I have abandoned the whip and ropes.

In the beginning stages it is like swimming upstream. Hard, diligent practice is needed to make headway against the current of the mind. Here there is no need for the swimmer. The swimmer and the water have become one. Practice is no longer done for a goal, to get somewhere. Life itself is practice.

The muscle now automatically activates whenever needed and exactly as needed – no more, no less. This is body clairvoyance.

8. Both Bull and Self Transcended

Whip, rope, person, and Ox –

all merge in No Thing.

This heaven is so vast,

no message can stain it.

How may a snowflake exist

in a raging fire.

Here are the footprints of

the Ancestors.

In the eighth picture there is no ox and no person. Is a fish aware of the water it swims in? When there is a subject, looking out, then there is an object. When there is an object then there is a subject to know it. If there is one then there must be two. One is only in comparison to something.

This is the stage beyond all dualities, of no inside, no outside; no subject and object; no person and environment. It is said there is no words to describe this stage. How can you grasp yourself, is it by pointing at your face and saying this is me, or by describing ourselves? When we are truly ourselves we would be able to separate from ourselves. When one has become one with self-nature there is no longer self-nature.

Integration. Rest. Connection. Savasana.

9. Reaching the Source

Too many steps have been taken

returning to the root and the source.

Better to have been blind and deaf

from the beginning!

Dwelling in one’s true abode,

unconcerned with and without –

The river flows tranquilly on

and the flowers are red.

There is a famous Ch’an/Zen saying that in the beginning mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. Then, at a particular point in practise, represented by the eighth picture, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers. After this mountains truly are mountains and rivers truly are rivers.

This stage is to know the world in its true nature. Rivers flow and a flower is red. There is no more self-consciousness reactions to distort the world.

The knowledge is now consolidated and the circuitry unlocked.

10. Return to Society

Barefooted and naked of breast,

I mingle with the people of the world.

My clothes are ragged and dust-laden,

and I am ever blissful.

I use no magic to extend my life;

Now, before me, the dead trees

become alive.

Here is an enlightened person. Bare of self adornments and pretensions. There is only the wholesome outflowing of an enlightened mind.

The dead trees become alive refers to two things

1. There is a Ch’an/Zen saying ‘The flower blossoms on the withered branch’. It means that when our negativities have completely withered then our Buddha-nature blossoms, and

2. It is the activity of the enlightened person to awaken the unenlightened.

The cycle begins again, each time more exquisite, each more arduous. But we know the process and the way.

 

While the original of this concept is found in Zen Buddhism, but as seen in the book, it can be interpreted in a non-religious manner. When I first came across this concept, I thought of one Indonesian proverb:

“Berakit-rakit ke hulu, berenang-renang ke tepian

Bersakit-sakit dahulu, bersenang-senang kemudian”

which pretty much means “no pain, no gain”.

 

In order to attain enlightenment, one must be able to know first, then learn how to conquer the mind through many practices such as meditation. At the beginning, it’s hard but through consistent practice and discipline, one can master to control the mind and attain enlightenment. At later stage, what’s received must be given, so we should help those to achieve enlightenment.

 

In yoga practice or in any of your attempts to master anything, it’s the same concept. First you need to be aware of the existence, then you shall pursue for more knowledge which then brought you to more practice. At the beginning, there is the pain, the struggle, etc. However with discipline (waking up at least 45 mins before sunrise everyday to practice yoga and meditation, according to our beloved guru!), our body and mind can be trained and reach the full potential. And our teaching to our students in later day, will be our way to close off the cycle.

 

This is my 4th blog in this yoga teacher training course. And again, there’s no conclusion in this blog. 🙂 I can’t tell you how you should use this concept or even whether or not you should use this concept to begin with. That’s up to you. I’m in my 7th weekend, I have 3 more weekends to go to the end of this course. I have to say the discipline that was introduced and expected out of me and my classmates since day 1 has been eye-opening, life-changing and I can feel the difference in my body. These days, I’m automatically awakened around 6 AM. If I don’t do kapalabhati and nadi shodana each morning, I feel weird. If I don’t do some asanas in the morning, I feel guilty. I now even feel something that I couldn’t imagine I would feel before I started this yoga course, I’m actually looking forward to a meditation session.

 

I think I’m at the stage of catching the Ox. My discipline is not 100% yet, sometimes I’m still battling with myself whether I should sleep 5 more minutes or kick myself out of the bed and start doing kapalabhati. And if you’re my classmates reading this, you know my struggle with adho mukha svanasana because of my tight hamstrings. I need to tame my hamstrings, my hip flexors and many others too that I need to be aware of first. A lot of realization to do, a lot of taming to do, a lot of practice and discipline to do as well. But I’m looking forward to it.

 

I believe life flourish when there is learning and yoga allows me to always learning.

 

Thank you to my two teachers, Master Paalu and Master Wei Ling, for your patience and generosity sharing your knowledge with us. Thank you to my group mates and my classmates, for the experience and sharing.

 

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.

 

Krisianto Gondohutomo – YTT200 – Sep 2017