Experience of the Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana is an Asana, it’s a back bend and part of the finishing sequence in the Ashtanga Yoga. The name Urdhva Dhanurasana translates as backward bending wheel pose. It stretches the abdominus, thorax and lungs.  My experience with Urdhva Dhanurasana for the first time was when I did it at Tirisula Yoga teacher training course. I remember Master Paalu broke down the poses starting with chest to the wall pushing abdominus forwards and down,  I stretched a lot immediately, it was a very intense stretch. Next leg up the wall reverse of the first stretch, this was also very intense – it was a great at opening my back.  I never thought I would be able to do the Urdhva Dhanurasana, but I did it but with back pain. When I completed about 60% of the Asana I forgot my pain through the elation of progressing.  Then Master Paalu taught us it is not about really arching or bending your back, it is about engaging the opposite front muscles for example lengthening tight quadriceps and the abdominus muscle and at the same time pressing down the heel of the foot.  At this point you rock the pelvis backwards over your legs.  If you spend a lot of your day sitting, this can be difficult to accomplish. 

My realisation if you want to do 100% Urdhva Dhanurasana you must stretch the hip flexors and the front muscles using other poses like the bridge pose and puppy dog stretch daily.

Ocna. (200 Hr TTC May 2017)

Finding a new understanding of myself with Tirisula

I had only practiced Bikram Yoga until I joined Tirisula Yoga teacher training course. The course opened my eyes about Yoga. My first week was like opening Christmas presents, full of excitement, full of new learning. I began to feel that my body and my breathing changed to open another aspect to my life. I called it the magical zone. The feeling of my mind and body working together with nothing else perceived in the moment is energising. It was inspiring to see myself inch forward to holding longer and stronger Asanas each day. Previously my favourite activity was boxing. I never thought to myself I would love Yoga so much. Practicing my way to the next level is absolutely mind clearing. After one particularly good Yoga practice I feel like my body floated. One must learn the right way to use their hands in downward dog and other inverted poses and consider if the pose is comfortable, challenge or if it pushing too hard and flirting with injury. My two master Yoga teachers and my Yoga classmates have introduced me to new experiences for which I am truly grateful.

Ocna (200 Hr TTC May 2017) 

Bend So You Don't Break

I remembered the first time I did  deep backbending (Urdhva Dhanurasa) at a yoga studio and I thought that I was going to break my bones because I could hear all the bones cracking when I lifted my chest and hips. 

I also felt a bit worried because my heart was beating faster than usual and my view of the yoga studio seemed to be so unfamiliar because everything was upside down. I felt anxious that my heart was over my head and you know what they say about not letting your heart take control of your head. Never letting fear dawned upon me, I started to practise the wheel pose from time to time and you know what, the pose grew on me. 

I can now say that this is one of my favourite poses of all time because it is an energizing pose. It heats up your body and gives you a “lift” (pun intended) every time you do it. It’s a great pick-me-up whenever you are faced with less-than-stellar days. 

 I’ve read that this pose is also suitable for people suffering from depression as Urdhva Dhanurasana stimulates your adrenal glands. 

The wheel pose is also beneficial for us to keep our spine healthy, strong and long. It helps to maintain a good posture, which is not so common in the modern-day world. Besides lengthening the spine, this pose is great as it lengthens and stretches the chest, hip flexors and legs. Urdhva dhanurasana also increases the capacity of your lungs, thus, allowing us to breathe better. Digestion could be enhanced by practising this pose as well. 

Let me share with you some tips so that you can safely and mindfully practise Urdhva Dhanurasana while reaping all the benefits: 

  1. Always try to internally rotate the thighs, and keep your thighs facing each other so that your knees do not spread out to the sides. 
  2. As a solid base is important, do use the power of your quadriceps and calves to lift yourselves up. 
  3. Ground all corners of the feet and palms firmly on the mat. It is important to plant the heels and balls of the feet on the mat. 
  4. Roll your shoulders down and away from the ears.
  5. Protect your back by keeping your abdomen muscles engaged.
  6. Draw your elbows in, keeping them in line with the shoulders. 
  7. You may want to start by being comfortable in bridge pose first and preparing yourselves with the puppy pose and bow pose before coming up to the wheel pose. 

Lastly, just BREATHE in the pose and enjoy the journey of backbending. 

What I’ve learned from this pose is that sometimes, it is alright to let your heart be over your head and never let fear overcome you. Open your hearts and you’ll soon find the joy of being free and empowered.

Namaste,

Celine (April – May 2017 TTC)

 

 

Yoga is NOT a workout

When people think of yoga, images of people sitting in cross-legged positions, chanting and floating come to mind. 

Well, yoga is not a physical workout. Yoga is more than that. 

Yoga increases strength, stamina and flexibility. 

Yoga increases strength

  • Unlike heavy weightlifting, yoga builds functional strength which could be useful in our daily lives. In a traditional Ashtanga Yoga practice, yogis typically hold a posture (Sanskrit term: asana) for at least 5 breaths, whereas in Hatha and Iyengar Yoga, yogis could stay in an asana for 2-5 minutes. Staying long in a posture requires isometric contraction, which works the deep muscles of the body. Sometimes, I think that staying in a pose for so long is more difficult than performing high repetitions of weight lifting because you need to stay focused and maintain balance while staying in the pose steadily and comfortably, with all the dripping sweat on your face. It’s tough! 

Yoga increases flexibility 

  • While weightlifting applies the 2 major types of muscular contractions, concentric and eccentric contractions, yoga implements isometric contraction. Concentric contraction shortens the muscle while working it whereas an isometric contraction occurs when a muscle is generating a force without any change in its overall length. Too much of weight lifting / concentric and eccentric contraction will reduce your range of motion, if there is no flexibility programs incorporated into your workout. Hence, flexibility is reduced. 
  • Yoga is a great way to reduce the risks of injury. This is because in yoga, there is dynamic and static stretching. Sometimes, depending on individuals, facilitated stretching is incorporated too. When yoga practitioners are in an asana, the muscles and surrounding tissues are lengthened which help in providing more room for blood flow. Oxygen in the blood will then help muscles to heal and grow faster than you think. I think this is also the reason why we could practise our asanas in the Yoga Teacher Training 200hrs, 5 days in a row without any injuries. Try that with weightlifting. 🙂 

Yoga builds stamina

  • As the yogi’s body is capable of generating a faster flow of blood / oxygen to the muscles which are working, stamina is increased. In Ashtanga yoga, a.k.a Raja Yoga or 8 limbs of yoga, posture (Sanskirt term: asana) is only one element of the 8 limbs. There are also meditation (Sanskrit term: dhyana), concentration (Sanskrit term: dharana) and breathe (Sanskrit term: prana). By implementing concentration, meditation and deep breathing, yogis can improve their technique of breathing and perform any strenuous activities effortlessly with deep breathing.
  • I am pleased to know that yoga has helped me in increasing my stamina in different levels such as physical, physiological and mental and that is why yoga is beyond a physical workout. I can now run and swim longer without heavy panting. Also, Master Paalu had mentioned that he has not been sick for many years because of yoga! Now, that is great news for people with low immunity like myself. 

 

You may be wondering what the 8 limbs of yoga are. Back in the olden days, Sage Patanjali’s came up with Yoga Sutra, a structural framework for yoga practice which consisted of 8 holistic paths for spiritual aspirants (Sanskirt term: sadhaka). With the 8 limbs of yoga, particularly Yama & Niyama, I am constantly reminded that yoga is a way of life which promotes peace, self-love, oneness, contentment, purity of thoughts, self-discovery, selflessness and acknowledging of the great Divine.

 

Yoga is not just a physical workout. In fact, yoga is a union between the body, mind and spirit. In the words of the late B.K.S Iyengar, “Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life”. 

 

Namaste,

Celine (200hr April – May 2017)

 

Just breathe :>

I have always been vaguely self-conscious about my breathing in relation to its effects on my somewhat irregular heartbeat. It was therefore nice to find out that breathing patterns do have a real effect on heart rate and I wasn’t just imagining things. In fact, two of the breathing techniques we have learnt in class are known to stimulate the parasympathetic pathway, which reduces heart rate.

The first is the slow breathing and extended exhalation that feature as part of Nadi Shodhana. This is the one where we are supposed to gently exhale for about twice as long as the next inhale. Theoretically, the parasympathetic pathway is activated as part of exhalation while the sympathetic pathway is activated as part of inhalation. Regular practice of Nadi Shodhana should therefore have a calming effect on heart rate.

The second is Ujjayi breathing that we should be practicing while performing our asanas. Ujjayi breathing is interesting because the inhalation and exhalation is at the same rate, but the air travels differently due to the partial closure of the glottis. The resulting air turbulence is thought to stimulate branches of the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic pathway.

Now, I run fairly regularly and naturally breathe in a 3:3 pattern i.e. 3 footstrikes per inhale and 3 footstrikes per exhale. According to influential work by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik (see http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/running-on-air-breathing-technique), this type of “even-count” breathing pattern causes problems. Because you are always exhaling on the same foot, this results in a greater impact and thus injury to the same side of the body.

Coates and Kowalchik recommend an “odd-count” pattern (e.g. 3:2 or 2:1) such that you alternate the exhaling foot and even out the stress. I have tried using the 3:2 pattern several times before and was always borderline stressed, even when going at a slower-than-usual pace. I am now wondering if this is partly due to the suppression of the parasympathetic system with the shortened exhalation.

An alternative could be to use a 2:3 pattern instead. But Coates and Kowalchik recommend a longer inhalation than exhalation because the body is more stable during inhalation. I quote: “Your diaphragm and other breathing muscles contract during inhalation, which brings stability to your core”. I suspect (though I haven’t read the book) that this is related to the increase in intra-abdominal pressure as the diaphragm contracts during inhalation, acting as a passive stabilizer of the core. This is the same theory behind the Valsalva maneuver used in power lifting, which is NOT recommended for beginners because it momentarily increases blood pressure. This is why we are generally told to exhale (not hold our breath) during exertion in most gym workouts. Better to work on strengthening those core muscles than risk cardiac arrest.

Now the last option would be to go back to an even-count pattern but alternating the exhaling foot every so often. Better yet, how about we throw in Ujjayi breathing? I haven’t tried this but it seems (from Google) that some runners have found this to be beneficial. With the Star Wars Run coming up this weekend, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I just need to find myself a Darth Vader costume ;>

~ allyson (200hr Apr weekend)

Yoga & Me

I’m a lazy person in sports, I didn’t do much of exercise in my daily lifestyle. However, I do attend yoga classes occasionally. After having my two kids, I have stop exercise completely. My times are all occupied by my kids and family matters.

I start doing yoga again a year back, when I’m pregnant with my 3rd child. I had very bad back pain, which I don’t feel it during the previous 2 pregnancies. After gone through some research on back pain remedy, I have decided and attended Pre-natal yoga classes. After attended a few classes, I know I had made a right choice, because the pre-natal yoga practise not only cured my back pain but also has changed my perception on yoga as compare to what I know about yoga few years back.

Since then, I continue to practise whenever I have free time because I really see a benefit and started to see a change in my body (although now I still have my post preggy tummy, I’ll work hard for that). I understand that yoga is not just an exercise routine, it has more. This is the reason I sign up for the 200YTT to learn more about yoga.

 

Sam

How it all started

Well, how I first discovered yoga was pretty straightforward – About 2 years ago, my girlfriend bought a Groupon voucher and decided to ask me along. 

When I first heard of it, I was like: Let’s do it! Singapore is so boring; It’s always the same old activities that we do together so why not try something new and at the same time, we get to exercise.

I went for my first class and I had a couple of thoughts afterwards:  

  • WOAH. I’m the only guy in the room? 
  • The shower has no queue! 
  • Whoever said that yoga is just stretching must have not done yoga before

If I was single at that moment, I would probably love to go back for more yoga sessions – the ratio of girls to guys is like 15:1 (but of course, that’s an inappropriate thought to harbour). Haha okay, I’m just kidding. What gradually “hooked” me onto yoga was the fact that it actually made me discover muscles that I never knew existed and I felt really chill after practising it each time. It wasn’t before long that we signed up for a yoga package at the studio after we have exhausted the Groupon vouchers.

In my first year, I wasn’t really practising it much and hence, my progress was really slow. I treated it more like a weekly exercise to keep myself healthy. And guess what, the studio unexpectedly closed down and poof! There goes my package and my weekly practices. There was quite a long hiatus before my girlfriend chanced upon another Groupon voucher at another studio (I guess I really have to thank her for giving me a second chance to discover yoga). Despite having some skepticism at first due to our prior experience, we eventually signed up for a package at this new studio. 

This was one of the best decisions in my life. Nope, I’m not exaggerating.

Before I know it, I really enjoyed yoga and rather than seeing it as just a workout, I wanted to find out more about the asanas, the philosophy behind yoga and the proper alignments of every poses. I have always lived by a motto in my life (well, kinda): If you never try, you never know.

So here I am, taking my YTT and I must say that I’m enjoying every single day of it.

To be honest, I want to eventually become a yoga teacher but before I get there, there is plenty that I have to work on and I’m definitely willing to put in the time and effort towards that end-goal. Part-time/full-time? It doesn’t really matter right now as I just need to focus on passing my YTT. LOL. 

To end on a serious note, yoga is not something that many guys will venture into (at least in Singapore) but I’m certainly not going to let that deter me. Wish me luck. 

Step out and make your own path, instead of travelling along the structured path (i.e. deemed socially acceptable) – Master Paalu

-JP

Master Paalu and Master Wei Ling (Satya) had unknowingly dropped so many quotes in the past weeks and I happen to have recorded some of them down 🙂

 

Oh my goddess pose!

This is the pose to do for everyone who wants to leave negative feelings behind, be opened and overcome a broken heart. Goddess pose reminds you that you are in charge of your happiness!

The sanskirt name states how strong this pose is working for you – Utkata Konasana, where utkata means powerful or fierce (kona means angle). Fierce is represented in the angle of the legs but also in the strength and determination built through mastering this pose. In addition to lighten your emotions, drawing energy form the universe and empowering yourself for challenges to come, this pose also gives a nice workout on your quadriceps, hip groins, chest and inner thighs.

To get into the pose start in Tadasana, place your hands on your hips and then bring your feet about three to four feet apart. Turn your heels in and toes out to pointing in the corner of your mat. Bend your knees deeply so that they are aligned directly over your toes and lower your hips into a squat. Work your thighs to be parallel to the floor. Keep your hands on your hips, place them at heart centre or extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height with your palms facing down, before turning your thumbs up toward the ceiling, so that your palms face forward. Bend your elbows and point your fingertips toward the sky; your upper arms and forearms should be at a 90-degree angle. Tailbone is drawn in slightly and hips are pressed forward, while drawing your thighs back. Roll your shoulders down your back and fix your gaze.

Utkata Konasana heats your body and allows a good circulation. This is a pose which develops outer and inner power at the same time and balances the body inside and out. The main chakra tackled in this pose is the svadisthana chakra (second chakra) that sits in the lower abdomen and pelvic area. This chakra is linked to self-esteem, fertility, loving yourself and consciousness of the own body. Practice this pose at seaside to really feel the drawing of energy from the universe when staying in Utkata Konasana.

 So next time you want to say oh my G…. just inhale and exhale deeply and get into goddess pose to balance yourself inside and out!

BG

The Ustrasana in me

Ustrasana aka Camel pose for me is such a great pose, it is practiced in nearly every branch of yoga. It’s the deepest backbend  which requires less strength and more spinal flexibility.  

Spending the whole day at a desk in front of the computer  this becomes a great stretch for my back. Since it helps open the shoulders, hips, back, and neck extension, it helps counteract my sometimes bad posture at my job. I love this asana as i feel so relaxed, stretched, a great chest opener, improves my respiration, releases my neck and shoulder pain . I always try to go bend back as much as possible to get a good stretch and then after it i get the most sound sleep. I recommend this pose for all those suffering with bad posture, desk jobs and for the phone lovers who can’t stay without their phone this is a good stretch 🙂 But it does require spinal flexibility so you may want to take it slow bending back as much as you can go and slowly but surely you will be able to touch your palms to your ankles and heck maybe even touch your head to your toes 😉 But like all asanas it comes with some contradictions so don’t try it if you have high or low blood pressure, serious neck and back pain(Always do it under supervision for serious problems) To my Sitting woes this asana is for you. Just remember to Breathe and all will be good 🙂

Sharon Fernandez

Take off your mind and feel it

I danced since I was four years old. So later in life any gym class I participated in I was just waiting for the stretching part at the end of class to show how flexible I am and enjoyed this moment of being good at something and fishing for compliments.

When my mother asked me whether I want to accompany her to a yoga class at her office I said “yes”. In my head it was Yoga=Flexibility= you will look GREAT!

My first Yoga class was a beginners class, we practiced breathing we did sun salutations, we stayed in poses and the teacher explained how each pose is working for your body. She talked about parts and organs of my body I never even thought about. By the end of the lesson I experienced my body differently and I felt truly centered and connected to myself. I not once thought about what I look like while practicing a pose or waited for the teacher to comment on my flexibility. I was completely relaxed and happy the way it was.

For me this just proofed that it doesn’t matter if you ever practiced yoga before or whether you know your body well or not – if you open yourself up and let your body and mind experience yoga the effect will come by itself. Even if you are a teenager, completely focused on looks and coolness  😎 

BG