Returning to a natural state

My 2-year old toddler is a natural yogi. Seriously. She stretches in supta padagustasana when she drinks milk, flips her tiny body into ardha kapotasana when she’s done drinking & gets up, drops into malasana when she plays with her toys, rests in supta baddha konasana, sees the world upside down in adho mukha swanasana when she’s horse-playing with me and my husband. Effortless and natural movements.

Watching my toddler move, to me, embodies the spirit of yoga asana practice. To return the body to a natural state, the way we moved before our bodies manifested bad postures, habits and our samskaras.

Beyond the mat, my toddler has also taught me other yoga lessons. At dinner last night, she used a Chinese soup spoon, western spoon AND fork to eat her dinner. Switching between the different utensils every few mouthfuls, grinning from ear and ear when she succeeded in eating rice with her fork.

Food for thought. How much of what we do is conscious or unconscious? Do we accept what we are told, or do we take action ourselves? When was the last time we learnt something new? In our natural state, we are a blank piece of paper, no ego, openness to everything around us, fearless in our actions. As I continue in my yoga journey, I take inspiration from my toddler to return to basics and keep things simple.

When was the last time you used different utensils to eat your dinner? Or walked backwards simply because it’s fun? Perhaps it’s time to give it a try.

What is your karma?

“What is your karma? What is the current action you should take in your life now?”

As Master Shree asked the class this question, I instinctively whispered to myself “my karma now is to nurture”.
As this thought left my mouth, I realized how much it resonated with me, like a wheel clicking in place.

In a moment of sharp mental clarity, I saw how my choices in life and career were weaved to the theme of nurturing. Becoming a mother 2 years ago, my choice of profession, finding myself naturally slipping into a mentoring and coaching role at work.

Even doing a YTT feels like a step towards nurturing a seed or kernel within. I’ve practiced yoga asanas for a long time, going on and off the mat, but always returning, each time staying longer. I’ve dabbled with oil painting, writing, dance, and yoga is the only practice I’ve maintained consistently.

Perhaps this is samsara* at work, pulling me back to yoga time and again. And choosing to commit to YTT is a thread of samskara**, woven into my karma to nurture.

*The literal translation of Samsara would be “a wandering through.” This refers to the way in which everyone passes through a number of lives and states. It encompasses the concept of reincarnation and the fact that what an individual does in their current life will be reflected, through karma, in their future lives.

**Samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions and intents that an individual has ever experienced. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and are said to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate dispositions.

The 9 obstacles of Yoga

To be able to exercise our body, mind and spirit , is an incredible blessing that not every has, yet those of us who do, take it for granted.
According to Patanjali there are 9 obstacles in yoga and what I think we can do to overcome them ;

Vyadi Physical Illness
When we are ill and unwell our minds will tend to focus on the discomfort and pain in our body and perhaps even beat ourselves up because we are unable to do anything. Illness is the body’s way of telling us we need rest to recover. Focus your mind on positive things and visualise yourself in a healthy and strong state and take lots of rest , and then  you can slowly pick up on our practice again, as your body allows. 

Styana –Lack of Interest
Boredom is a state of weariness and restlessness . One could be in a healthy physical state but still face lack of interest or enthusiasm mentally and spiritually. There is lack of nerve power, a feeling of stagnation and no inclination to commit to anything. The mind focuses more on the opposition of interest rather than interest itself. To overcome this I think we should constantly try new ways of approaching yoga and practice sadhana with an open mind everyday. 

Samshaya –Doubt/ Indecision
How does Doubt about ourselves arise? It is when we compare ourselves with others or when we do not have confidence and faith in ourselves. To overcome this, we just have to keep an open mind,  keep trying , watching and learning from those who have succeeded before us.

Pramada –Negligence/ carelessness
We have to pay careful attention to every aspect of our practice, if we do not , we may be habitually careless in our practice, lose focus and even cause serious injury to ourselves. Even the seemingly small adjustments can help us practice yoga safer. Practice with your mind body and spirit and be fully present in your practice.

Alasya –Physical Laziness
It is a bad mental habit acquired by continued yielding to the love of comfort and ease and tendency to avoid exertion. If we may say so, languor is a purely physical defect while laziness is generally a purely psychological condition. To overcome this We have to practice tapas, and be disciplined in our practice. Constantly challenging ourselves with difficult postures will allow us to improve.

Avirati –Desire for sense object/lack of control
In the beginning when we start practicing yoga it is not easy to shut out the interests of the worldly life abruptly. If we really see the illusions which are inherent in the pursuit of worldly objects like wealth, honour, name etc. then we lose all attraction for them and naturally give up their pursuit.

Bharantidarshana –Living under illusion

This means taking a thing for what it is not. It is due generally to lack of intelligence and discrimination. A Sadhaka may, for example, begin to see lights and hear sounds of various kinds during his early practices.

“This incapacity to assess our supernormal experiences at their proper worth is basically due to immaturity of soul.”“These things are very spurious and do not mean much and yet there are many Sadhakas who get excited about these trivial experiences and begin to think they have made great progress.
We have to keep our mind child-like, always learning and open to new possibilities.

 

Alabdhabhumikutua –Missing the Point/Non-achievement of a stage
When we hit a roadblock or what seems to be a dead end, we should not give up . This failure to obtain a footing in the next stage can cause distraction and disturb the perfect equanimity of the mind unless the Yogi has developed inexhaustible patience and capacity for self-surrender.  If needed we should rest and try again.

 

Anavasthitatva –inability to maintain achieved progress
From personal experiences; I was able to do a headstand without the wall one night, and then the next day I tried with a timer and I could not. The mind reverts to its previous stage and a considerable amount of effort has to be put forth in order to regain the foothold. We should not give up, but keep practicing daily.

We are meant to transcend whatever obstacles we face in life. We should not avoid or run away from these obstacels as whatever we resist, persists.
Keep on keeping on, fellow yogi’s 🙂

 

APARIGRAHA: Detachment

A primary teaching Master Sree is a big advocate for, evident in his daily theory classes is to

Not be attached to anything.

Not any labels, not any religion, not any beliefs, not even memories.

With every module taught, this teaching stood still.

Aparigraha – Letting go of attachments, take only what we need, keep only what serves us, let go when the time is right.

This state of open-mindedness resonated as it is similar to us being exposed to the wide range of religions available, not excluding astrology, numerology, tarot card reading, crystal healing, fortune telling, etc. The same can be applied of the limitless diets: paleo/ keto/ raw/ vegan/ blood type or intermittent fasting advocated by everybody who achieved successes through their personal experiences.

Who is to say which is the best diet, or which is the one true god or the most accurate tarot card or fortune teller? Who is to say if eating meat is unnatural or are they meant to be eaten?

Everyone’s belief is different, everyone’s truth is different.

A sneak peek to a few thought provoking ideas mentioned in class –

Commercialized by pharma industry Popping painkillers pills for body/head ache 
Alternative idea Using natural herbs and spices to self heal
Commercialized by bottled water industry Drinking 2 litres of water daily
Alternative idea Drinking only when youre thirsty even if its 200ml
Commercialized by farmers/grocers Poultry are meant to be eaten as food
Alternative idea Animals are living things and are not meant to be consumed as food
Commercialized by all industries Love makes the world go round. We love our partners and family.
Alternative idea Only self love is the purest love. Every other love is conditional.

My takeaway from this is to keep an open mind. Don’t be attached to any of it. Take in all the information with an open heart, and make your own assessment if it will serve you and you will like to take it with you. And in time to come, when it no longer serves you, let it go.

We are our own worst enemy

Prior to signing up for Tirisula’s last weekday YTT of 2019, I spent two years flirting with the idea of a YTT. I clicked on every Instagram (IG) story or post that popped up in my feed from studios promoting their YTT and reading all about them. While I was crippled by self doubt and fear during these two years, I witnessed the growth of other braver yogis who took the leap of faith. Watching them through their YTT journey, starting a new yoga account on IG, sharing their teaching schedule of their new found expertise, slowly gaining experience and respect by taking one class at a time, one studio at a time and conducting their own workshops/retreats eventually.

I think self doubt could be one of the common dilemma faced by anyone contemplating YTT; wondering if we are good enough, if we are qualified enough because we haven’t practiced “long enough”, how can we lead a class when we cant do certain poses, how do you lead a class etc. The fear of failure and inadequacy holds us back. Our mind comes up with a long long list of reasons/excuses why we cant do it, in support of our lack of trust in ourselves.

While there are many bad connotations of yoga being wildly altered from its traditional roots by popular media, one of the great gifts of social media is the power of sharing. Through sharing, I was empowered by the journeys of fellow students who advanced into experienced teachers. Their stories gave me courage, they showed that anybody and everybody can do it. You don’t have to be the strongest or the bendiest. All you need to do is to take the first step.

One step at a time. One breathe at a time.

It is the midway mark of our journey today, 10th of our 20 days training.

Lots learnt, lots more to learn.

Focus on what you can do

“Focus on what you can do, don’t worry about what you can’t.”

As I near the end of week 2 YTT, Master Shree’s comment helped to clarify my self-doubt.

I have been attending yoga asana classes for several years, going on-and-off the mat depending on the ebb & flow of life and career. I can perform postures, but not to an advanced level as I’ve never really committed to a practice. At YTT, I met fellow students who slipped into poses effortlessly, despite starting their practice only recently. While I understood that yoga is not asanas, I observed myself weighing heavily the ability to perform poses well, and thinking that I’m not suited to teach after graduating. Thoughts raced through my mind, “What if I encounter students who can do the poses which I can’t?”, “Teachers are supposed to be better than their students!”.

The irony was that Master Shree had asked us to read what Patanjali had to say about common barriers* that keeps one from a yoga practice only earlier in the week.

*These being Disease, Dullness, Doubt, Procrastination, Laziness, Worldly-minded, Illusion, Impatience, Inability to maintain state of yoga*

The comment from Master Shree was timely. Indeed, we don’t spend enough time wisely building on our strengths. Instead, we spend more time worrying about what-ifs and what-nots.

Thus as I enter the 2nd half of YTT, I’ve made a pledge to myself to continually broaden my perspective on yoga, and surrender expectations on what I “should” be able to do. Instead, I’ll enjoy the learning journey, bring an explorer’s mindset & build on what I can do.

Yoga in life

I feel that every school needs to teach yoga.  Through the past 5 days I have learnt that yoga is so much more than just the asanas(physial practice).

It’s about life-how to live,  the human body, mind, spirituality, philosophy.
I’m so eager to learn more, and at the same time slightly nervous because I have to remember everything by the end of 20 days. Nevertheless I can feel my inner-knowing(or higher self) telling me I just have to trust the process, relax, and do my best. The mind absorbs more when it is relaxed.
I had been practising yoga asanas about 5 years with youtube videos prior to this YTT and felt like it was time to start.

Currently, I do not think our education system does enough to teach us about life, and the important aspects of life.
Growing up in a pressure-cooker society , I was like a sheep, following everyone else having basic ideas of “success”- being super smart, good-looking, financially stable , having  a nice home/ partner etc.
Few years ago around 2012-2014 I had an awakening, I asked myself a lot deep questions and was anxious and depressed.

Yoga has allowed me to relinquish my anxieties and stresses in life. Through doing asanas, and meditation, I feel better about life, and in life,  and now through these yoga teacher training lessons I understand more.  I love the philosophical part of yoga.
If I were to give an analogy about how yoga  helps me live , I would say ;

Life is a constantly meandering river that takes me to places I never expected nor knew existed , and yoga is my boat, keeping me afloat through the turbulences of the river of life. 

 

Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations)

When I first started yoga, I didn’t realize that I was always incorporating parts of a Sun Salutation sequence within the practice. Now that I have started YTT, I learnt more about the different types of Sun salutations and its increasing difficulty. Although seemingly simple, the practice to do these sun salutations with controlled breathing is truly a challenge. Especially, when it comes to Sun Salutations A and B, these require more strength and endurance. However, I find that there is such a beauty when you are able to slow down the flow, breath correctly and indulge in every pose. Having to do these sequences often for the last few weeks, I have grew to love them so much. That is for that fact that it is always still a challenge for me, especially when done in high counts. This means that I will always have room to improve and something to work towards. With this one sequence, it’s amazing how it can continue to benefit you in many aspects – discipline, endurance, strength, mindfulness and flexibility.

I have also delved deeper into how the Sun Salutations came about. The Sun Salutations were formed roughly 2,500 years ago and in the past, people believed that the Sun is all source of energy and how life even began.  For the Hindus, the sun is the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), seeing and uniting all selves in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine. No wonder people revered the sun in this way!

The traditional count of sun salutation rounds is 108, which takes a period of practice to move up perfectly to. Even though this seems hardly possible to me at this point in time, I believe that constant disciplined practiced will make a difference. Like Master Sree mentioned, habits are ideally formed when you are able to practice it for 48 days straight, which is a cycle also known a Mandala. Eventually, this yogic practice will settle into the system as a part of your life.

 

JT

Does Yoga Stay?

Here’s a thought – would you say it is true that somehow when we all reach our 20s, we look around for something that sticks with us for life? In this fast-paced, 20th Century world that we live in, it seems everyone, especially the educated, has slowly come to realisation that the individual seeks to be balanced in life in all aspects, including taking up sport. I was never one to think that I would pick up Yoga. At 16, my Dad took me to my first Yoga class, and for that 45 minutes of continuous Ardha Mukha Swanasanas (Downward dog), and Santolasanas (Plank), my shirt was drenched in sweat. I was ridiculously impatient through any of the poses I learnt that day and simply could not understand how one would slow down the breath doing these poses. These poses, seemingly easy, had me panting at the end of it. I lacked patience. I was annoyed.

I thought to myself – “There’s no way yoga is the sport for me, for the rest of my life. It’s slow, it’s boring.”

Then came a reintroduction to yoga when I turned 22. Between the years of being 21 and 22,  I was a extreme go-getter. Nothing slowed me down. Not even the pains I felt in my body. I was an aspiring chef/baker, motivated, driven, and every single day was me telling myself “you have to be productive.” I never let my body or my mind rest. I never knew what that meant. At 21, I found out that my lower back had severe dessications at the L4 and L5 level. And for the few months after finding out, life started to seem a little bleak. Not only would I focus my energy on scanning for every pain in my back, I just made excuses to NOT move, and stopped believing in myself a little. I developed a fear for pain of any level, letting it manifest in my head to something bigger that tells me, I simply cannot do it.

Cliché in many of the yoga stories, you seek for something to comfort you when you are met with upsetting news. I came to realize more about how I was as a person, and how I treated my own body. The self-realization was that for all these years, I did not care about my body. I cared about success, I cared about “making it big”, every other single thing except the wealth of my health. It was heartbreaking to realize all of it. I wanted to make a change and turned to yoga for comfort, to make me healthier in the physical sense.

Evidently, that was not it. I was doing yoga in hopes of getting rid of my back pain, achieving only all the physical benefits possible. And although I started going to yoga classes since then, I did not realize what would happen when I took my understanding to the next level. It was one-dimensional. Yoga = flexibility and strength = better health = less back pain. Again, I fell into a hole of self-scrutiny. I was doing yoga for the sake of doing it, for the hopes of physically feeling better, achieving more skillful postures one day. And I blamed my body when things did not happen. Yoga came in and out of my life. Up to the point where I decided I want to learn more about Yoga in detail. I needed to understand more about this practice in deeper detail, and why I was allowing these thoughts in my life.

Fast-forward to today in this YTT course. Something clicked inside me as with each day of philosophy with either Master Sree or Master Paalu. “Be kind to your body, but don’t be lazy.” – Master Paalu said. At that very moment, I felt like bursting out into tears. It just hit me so hard that I struggle with what my body can or cannot do, focusing on its limitations and it in turn manifests negatively in my head. I finally became fully aware of how i viewed myself.

Every single day since then, thoughts in my head became quiet. Insecurities disappeared slowly. I no longer had these thoughts with what my body can or cannot do. I just did what I could, in my capacity. I understood more about the human mind, its natural instinct for greed. Suddenly, I am less harsh with myself in every way. Even with my own goals in the culinary aspect. Suddenly, yoga was not just a physical practice anymore.

Back to my beginning statement, Yoga has now become the one sport that can keep me healthy in my body, healthy in my mind. I love every breath I take during practice and I can no longer imagine my life without it. This journey of life is going to be filled with ups and downs, and I am fully aware that Yoga would not be an escape – it is a way of living my life. Though I cannot say for sure if everything will work out, I will constantly remember the concept of Sadhana from Master Sree, because without it, there is no regularity. Sadhana is continuous practice, improving concentration, being disciplined. Yoga will not always feed me happiness, or decrease my days of anxiety, self-doubt. On some days, my mind will creep up on me and nothing can be helpful. On other days, yoga will empower me greatly, it will strengthen me mentally and physically. My biggest takeaway today is realizing that my practice is not my reliance, and there is mindful awareness that nothing can be an escape. Just do and be calm. Whatever you practice, to whichever extent, keep it regular. And so Yoga, that is how I know you will stay.

 

JT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How did I come into Yoga

Hi

I am Madeline and I came into contact with yoga many years ago, but there was no connect.

In October/November 2018, I started using Classpass and went to a lot of HIIT and cardio classes. It was nice to get back into fitness again. Yoga has always been the least priority because I seen it only at the surface level. I saw it as a waste of 60 minutes because I wanted a class that made me sweat and Yoga simply was not one of them.

However, I was advised by my friend to try Yin Yoga… and that was how I fell into Yoga and connected with it. As I held to the simple poses and felt how tough a simple posture held over time could affect my body, my mind was changed.

Soon after, I was exploring more Yoga studios through Classpass and started to really enjoy the various styles of Yoga. I personally enjoy flow classes a lot as it helps me to destress after a long work day.