Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga
In our YTT200 we learnt that there are four main paths of yoga are Karma, the yoga of selfless service, Bhakti, the yoga of devotion, Raja, the scientific approach and Jnan yoga, the yoga of knowledge.
I found hearing about Karma yoga and the action of “purifying the heart by learning to act selflessly in service of others” both very humbling and inspiring.   This is because sometimes life can feel like it’s happening at a very fast pace, so it is easy to get caught up in focusing too much on ones self and therefore easily losing track of the bigger picture, of what you are here to be a part of and how you can help others.
Many of us carry out small kind gestures for loved ones and also polite and/or thoughtful gestures for strangers on a daily basis. This may be making a cup of tea for your partner after a hard day in the office or waiting to open a door for an elderly person but I realised it had been an embarrassingly long time since I had given back a significant amount of my time in a truly selfless way.
Of course it is unrealistic for most of us to selflessly give all the time as we are human (!) and have bills to pay, hobbies we enjoy, friends and families to tend to etc etc (the list goes on…) but every now and again it reminded me that it is important to set aside time to help serve your community.  Whether it be volunteering at an organisation, organising something charitable myself or taking some unpaid yoga classes for those who are less fortunate I really want to make this one of my priorities in the New Year.
We are part of something far greater than than just ourselves and carrying out Karma practices is a wonderful way to remind ourselves!

Yogic principles in everyday life

Yogic principles in my everyday life
YAMA PRINCIPLES
From our study of Yama -Disappearance of all suppressions – which is the first of the “The Eight Limbs of Yoga” I found there were two principles that I found very poignant and therefore want to remember to integrate into my daily life moving forward.
1. Ahimsa is in the broadest sense can be defined as “non violence” to another human or animal and acting with love of all. On first reflection I found it difficult to understand the deeper meaning of this as I was focussing on the physical and other than killing the odd mosquito or spider I couldn’t see how violence could relate to myself..
However on closer look Ahimsa is a far more sophisticated concept with far more subtle meanings to consider in everyday life. These are the meanings that I would like to be more mindful of in my life.
Non violence in respect of animals
Importance of Vegetarianism – Although I have been a vegetarian on and off since I was young it made me think more deeply of the “violence” caused by eating meat and as a consequence I feel far more committed to not eating meat moving forward.
Non violence in respect of humans.
Importance of non violent speech to others and oneself –  I found this a very subtle but important use of Ahimsa as although I try not to say harmful or violent things to others sometimes when in a challenging circumstance I find my interior monologue can easily be pretty unproductive and harmful to myself. A lot of us can regularly find ourselves being our own harshest critiques and the application of Ahimsa in this way was a good reminder to be kind to oneself.
2. Satya can be most simply defined as truthfulness but once again the meaning has a far greater reach in everyday life. Although I don’t make a habit of habitually lying by any means there are times where it can appear easier to not be 100% truthful with ourselves and others. Even though these are generally only harmless excuses or “white lies” I want to be far more aware of this moving forward as it is much better practice to be honest or alternatively not say anything at all.
The other meaning of Satya that struck me as very important is “living the truth” or living authentically. I know from my own experience that often we are afraid and therefore hold back from areas of ourselves that we are scared to reveal. This is usually due to a lack of confidence, fear of what others may think and/or because the aspect in question may contradict to social norm. The use of Satya in this context reminds us that as long as we aren’t harming ourselves or others that it is healthy, invigorating and refreshing to truly allow ourselves to be who we are and not what others expect we should be. Being authentic as a person not only puts yourself at ease but also others around you as it creates a relaxed and honest energy. It essentially gives you permission to shine unapologetically in all your unique glory (whatever that my be) as there is only one you so it is good to set yourself free 🙂
NIYAMA PRINCIPLES
The second arm of “The Eight Limbs of Yoga” is Niyama, understood as the freedom from all observations or more simply the principles a Yoga teacher should follow.  I found that all of these five principles were incredibly valuable to learn and that I actually experienced the need to implement most of them at different times over the last month to help me in the course.
Saucha – Purity of thoughts
Thinking well of yourself, others and the world, not getting caught up in negativities (no matter what form they may take) or gossip and looking for the positive and good in all situations.
Santosha / Contentment
This ability to have equanimity in life is one that is challenging as most of have preferences and are easily lead by external factors including our senses and emotions which trigger both highs and lows. I have experienced this many times along the way while doing the YTT.  One example was the day I got up into a headstand for the first time and was incredibly happy, invigorated and proud of myself and then was called to cue sun salutations (which I did terribly!) and within moments felt sad, totally demotivated and incapable.
It was a real lesson to not get too swept up in external matters or material objects (good or bad) but instead focus on carrying on walking your path whilst maintaining a calm, humble peacefulness within whatever goes on, much like a tree grounded in the earth whatever the weather conditions may be.
Tapas / Austerities transform impurities
This principle is often defined as self discipline and performing positive duties. The course has been invaluable as we have all (whether it usually comes naturally or not) had to work very hard and be even more disciplined and regimented than in our usual every day life. This has been particularly challenging for me due to having a baby because I found it even harder than usual to keep my routine and self-discipline strong when enjoying very little sleep and always having to be flexible to study around my daughters needs (which are often changeable) not just my own.
However the course has really helped me to establish far stronger self discipline and encouraged me to really rise to challenges and keep going against adversities.  I am very grateful of this as it is not until you are pushed that you realise how strong you really are. I also really appreciated the opportunity to re priorities my days as I believe I had lost focus on what things served me, my daughter and my husband best best. I have loved making asans, pranayama, meditation and study priorities in my daily routine and want to keep this practice up.
Swadhyaya – Self study
Being very honest and healthily critical of yourself so you can progress with your own evolution. Looking practically and rationally at your own bad habits and patterns; how certain things affect you, your emotions and reactions because by looking at these you will be able to understand and therefore change behaviours moving forward.
Ishwara-pranidha – Worship of the Lord within us, surrender of ego
Through meditation I suppose this is a work in progress…
The Importance of Meditation
“Dhyana” or meditation forms one of “The eight limbs of (Ashtanga/Raja) yoga” however I find in my own practice (and think this may be the same for others too) that this part of my practice is too often either given far less time or often totally overlooked. The truth is that although I know how wonderful meditation is I will far more readily make time to go to a yoga class, follow an instructor online or get my mat out and practice asanas myself for an hour rather than sit down for half or even a quarter of that time to meditate. When I think about this it appears nonsensical as meditation can be done in less time, anywhere you plonk your bum (within reason) with fewer props and at no monetary charge however I find its practice a far harder discipline to keep up.
Meditation is a discipline of the mind that requires deep mental concentration and therefore it’s benefits although just as profound as practice of asanas they are not as easily viewed by the naked eye, in the way one can clearly see well defined abs or a pert bum! In addition it is hard work to motivate yourself to sit down in a quiet place, meditation lessons are far less prevalent and taming ones mind can be VERY challenging.
A few years ago I did a silent mediation retreat which was as incredible experience but I found hard to integrate into my every day life so I have been very thankful to reconnect with this practice in our TTC. Master Sree really helped guide all of us in mediations on a daily basis and it has been one of my most treasured parts of each day as it helped keep my mind peaceful and clear. Learning mudras, beautiful mantras, the meaning and how to OM has been not only fascinating but something that from now on I want to try and remember to place equal importance on as asanas in my daily routine. You wouldn’t start your day without jumping in the shower to wash your body so it makes sense that you should also take time to clean your brain!

Most importance things Yoga teaches me in life

  • Breathing

When my breathing is right, everything in my life will be right. When I stuck in difficult posture during the practice, I am really feel that inhalation and exhalation can help body go further. Breathing correctly also can help you calm and go over when life is tough.

 

  • Concentration

During my yoga practice, when I have difficulty maintaining a certain posture, what I would do is to concentrate on my breathing and balancing. It stabilises the body and bring peace and calm. That’s the power of being present. We could have thousands of thoughts in a single moment however, when you are being focus, nothing will bother you.

 

  • Know yourself

Since I started yoga, I started to understand my body as well. How flexible I can, how strong I am, how to control the muscle in my body and how to control myself. Gradually, through the body you will more understand your inner self. You are a part of nature, you are amazing.

 

  • Smile

An important enlightment I discover is, the act of smiling uplifts my spirit during the struggles especially practising challenging posture.  Therefore, do remember to keep smiling through all your circumstances in life. Keep smiling, even you hit the rock bottom, your body will know how to overcome it.

 

  • Relax

We are living in a highly urbanized society. Our mind and body are constantly feeling tensed without us knowing that. It is like an overly stretched rubber band, it bound to break someday. Hence, relaxing our body and mind is so important before you break yourself.

 

Yoga and I

Yoga is amazing and it always inspires me. Every time I hit rock bottom and confuse about my life ahead, yoga always bring me back on track.

My life had been smooth and easy until six years ago. I graduated with a poor high school score despite I had done my best. As a result, I could not successfully enter to the university and faculty that I wanted. That was my first experience of failure. I was feeling down and shut myself away in my room during that time. I was really afraid to face the reality and the messy situation.

It was then I knew yoga. I was brought to yoga class by my sister. Gradually, I started to like this sport. At that time, I only treated yoga as a sport.

 

After a while, I finally found my life direction and went to the University of Taiwan to study Chinese. In Taiwan while I was pursuing my degree, I was attending yoga classes. Slowly I began to discover that after every yoga class, my heart always feels calm and stable. Most of the time I felt very happy and satisfied.

After graduated from university, I started my job in Malaysia. Without any previous working experience, I could not perform well in my job and I was under pressure. I felt I was a failure and very depressed at that time.

Until I returned to yoga, once again, yoga brought me back to the right track. I began to think more deeply about yoga, and realized a very important truth. When my breathing is right, everything will be right.

Thanks Yoga for entering my life and I am sure our story will be continued.

3 ways for beginner to start implementing yoga in daily routine

Firstly, I really understand the struggle of the beginners getting yoga into their life. It is challenging to schedule yoga practice in our daily routine while having a full time job. How to maintain daily yoga practice is always the question my friends put to me. I figure out the 3 methods I use to make daily yoga sustainable:

  • Sign up with a yoga studio which is next to YOU

When I started yoga, I knew that there were many yoga studio to choose from, but because i am packed of my work, so that I chose the yoga studio which is the closest from my company. After working, short distance from work place, changed to yoga clothes. You can directly go to the studio and start yours yoga practice. Believe me, it is really saves a lot of time and effort.

 

  • Fix your yoga schedule

After fixing the time, it must be strictly enforced. I barely changed the time that I fixed on my practice. Your practice continuously, it can bring you the effect that you wanted. Yoga is definitely worth your insistence in yours life!

 

  • Find a Yoga teacher you like in your studio

Your favourite teacher can be your positive motivation. No matter what reason you like the teacher, I believe that the energy generated by your favourite teacher can influence you more. You will become willing and more proactive. Just like my favourite teacher.

How to include yoga in our daily routine – Part 2

In my previous post, I have talked about 3 ways that requires minimal physical effort or time to implement yoga in my daily life. Now, let’s talk about the physical part, which requires a little more time.
If possible, wake up half an hour to an hour earlier. On days that I only manage to wake up half an hour earlier, can do some simple breathing exercise and stretches to clear the mind and wake up the digestive system.
1. 20x 3 sets of Kapalahbathi breathing
2. Anuloma Villoma (10 times)
3. Uddiyana Bandha (5 times)
4. Paschimottanasana (1 min)
5. Bhujangasana (1 min)
6. Ardha Matsyendrasana (1 min)
7. Show gratitude
If time permits, can add in 6 rounds of sun salutations and a headstand. Finally, end off with relaxation and a simple prayer.
If all else fails, at least do a 3 min headstand daily. This does not take a lot of time and would be more sustainable.

How to include yoga in our daily routine – Part 1

For years, I have always felt good and at peace after each yoga practice and I think that is what yoga is about. It was only until this course that I realized there is much more than asanas! Hence, I would definitely like to add more yoga into my daily routine. But I am always tied for time, so I will implement it in the most easiest and sustainable way that suits my current lifestyle.
Here’s how. First of all, I will start with my thoughts. This requires no physical effort but more on awareness and mindfulness. Practice Yama at all times! This will be a guiding principle to make my daily decisions. Be it at work, at home, teaching kids or with friends.
Next will be food choices. I will be honest, it is impossible for me to avoid Rajasic and Tamasic food totally. However, I can definitely minimize them and choose more sattvic food not just for myself but also for my family.
Thirdly, I will be more mindful in my postures. For example, whenever I need to pick things up from the floor, instead of squatting down, I can bend from the hip, keeping back straight, to get a good stretch for the entire back and hamstring.
I will also take note of my standing posture. I have hyperextended knee and this probably explains my weak knee joint. Before this, I don’t even know knee can be hyperextended!
These are the few simple adjustments that I can add in my daily routine and I am confident I can practice this for a lifetime.

Gratitude

I have always wanted to attend a YTT course and am very grateful to be able to make it for this intensive course. There will always not be a right time and I am glad that I finally decided to take the plunge and just do it! Very grateful for those around me that made this happen.
Grateful for my supportive spouse. The constant support that he gives, be it taking care of the kids while allowing me to sleep late/ study on weekends, bringing dinner for me while I study at home, taking videos or photos, chipping in for household chores, etc.
Grateful for my in laws who helped to look after my kids since it’s school holiday, preparing dinner for us daily and even helping me to bind my course notes.
Grateful for my boss for allowing me to take a one month no pay leave to fully focus on this course. For my colleagues, who needed to do extra work, covering my work load while I’m away. For the company, which is so understanding and supporting my decision to take this course.
Grateful for my teachers, for sharing their knowledge, experience, wisdom. For their dedication and commitment to ensure we learn and absorb as much as possible.
Grateful for having a group of caring and supportive course mates. It is such a privilege and joy to be learning with this group of people.
Grateful for my healthy mind and physical body. To be able to go through the vigorous daily strength training, ability to immerse in the numerous topics that we discussed and talked about and basically just enjoy the entire process.
I am truly blessed and contented.

Headstand – King of Asanas!

It’s a love hate relationship when it comes to headstand! Before this, I always thought that headstand is just another fancy BEGINNER’s pose. To my horror, I was so wrong. To be honest, it is not that unachiveable but at the same time it is not as easy as it seems to be.
The benefits of headstand turns out not to be just an instagrammable photo but has a lot more awesome benefits to it. As it activates our pituitary gland, it further regulate other glands like thyroid, adrenal,etc. Through the journey of learning headstand, the numerous falls is nothing to shout about, compared to the patience, strength, concentration and perseverance that I gained.
We emerged to be stronger both mentally and physically and most importantly experienced the generosity of my course mates sharing tips, guidance and spending time to guide those that are still struggling with the pose.
At the time of writing, I still have not perfected my headstand but I know I’m getting close! Fighting 💪🏻