Vedic traditions and the nervous system

Our body has two main nervous systems :

  • Sympathetic nervous system, controls the “fight or flight” reactions in the body
  • Para Sympathetic nervous system, controls the “rest and digest” reactions in the body

The “fight or flight mode” will withdraw blood and energy from your vital organs, to focus on mobility, sending blood to your legs in case you had to flee a tiger attack, focusing on prefrontal cortex activity to take quick decisions.

But this mode goes against learning, creating, and on the long run exhausts your body, weakens your digestion and immune system as well as your hormonal system.

On the other hand, the “rest and digest” mode is responsible for all the seamless, vital actions in your body such as cleansing, defending your body, digesting food, processing information and learning.

In the modern world, we are often stuck in fight or flight mode throughout the day, which leads us to be weakened, exhausted, drained and over sensitive. To come back to a more sustainable nervous state, there sometimes needs to be deep changes in lifestyle and in our own perception of the world.

However, some “tools” developed in the Vedic science, some simple actions, can help you get back in a few minutes to para sympathetic mode.

  • Pranayama helps get you deeply relaxed
  • Yoga nidra is a fantastic tool and deeply restorative for your nervous system, it strengthens it
  • Yin/ restorative practices with soothing music are great approaches
  • Abyanga (self oil massage) also helps relax your entire body

Whenever you feel tired, irritated, stressed or drained, remember that you need to switch to parasympathetic mode to truly recover and start again. Use those tools. Chances are your anger and un-groundedness will transform into a deep but peaceful fatigue. After resting, you will feel fresh and full of energy again.

How pranayamas are changing my life

Since I am a kid, I hear my mother telling me to deeply inhale when I am hurt. I noticed it worked at the time, but honestly, until I started yoga, I can tell I have never known how to breath.

Pranayamas are such powerful exercices, I feel days after days the benefits of doing daily breathing exercices. They bring one into another frequency, that can open up opportunities, people, and somehow, more mindfulness.

The good thing about pranayamas is that you can do them everywhere; in the MRT, before sleeping or while walking or simply in between two meetings.

For me, its releasing the tension when I am stressed, the tummy pain (I’m expecting a baby and it’s quite frequent to have tension and cramps at the end of the day), or even the pain when I am doing a difficult asana.

While I believe I am doing pretty good and I am quite regular with pranayamas, it is not a sadana just yet, so the next steps for me is to block 15minutes to do my couple of asanas but, most of all, alternate breathing.

to be continued…

Breath

Breathing – an essential thing that our body does automatically. It is the first and last thing that we do. But so often overlooked and taken for granted.

Growing up with sinusitis, I always struggled with proper breathing / clear nasal airway. But I did not think much about it. It is only when I started practicing Yoga that I realize the importance of breath. During lessons, we went through the practice of breath control – Prāṇāyāma. It consists of synchronizing the breath with movements.

On a physical level, by using Prāṇāyāma techiques, we are able to strengthen our respiratory organs, regulate the inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath. On an emotional level, our breathing patterns are also very closely linked to our emotive states. We breathe differently when we are experiencing anger, sadness. Being more aware and conscious of our breath, we are able to use Prāṇāyāma techiques to regulate our emotive state.

Below are some examples of the different types of Prāṇāyāma that we can practice daily:

Heating
Heating pranayama techniques are highly vitalising and energizing.
Kapalabhati – The emphasis is on the exhalation through strong, fast abdominal contractions.
Bhastrika – It is similar to Kapalabhati, except that for Bhastrika, both the inhale and exhale are forceful. It is physically and energetically more intense and demanding than Kapalabhati.
One physical benefit of the above 2 pranayama techniques is that it strengthens the abdominal muscles and digestive organs while one mental benefit is that it is beneficial for preparing the mind for work that requires focus.

Note: The above two are strong pranayama and not suited for everyone (e.g. pregnant, period, high blood pressure).

Balancing
The flow of breath in each nostril is intimately connected with the left and right side of our body. The right nostril represents Pingala Nadi (Solar energy) and the left nostril represents Ida Nadi (Moon energy). Balancing pranayama techniques are used for purification of the energy channels in our body. 
Nadi Shodhana – This is also known as alternate nostril breathing. Firstly, start inhaling from the left nostril with slow, deep and rhythmic breath while keeping the right nostril closed with the thumb. At the end of inhalation close the left nostril and open the right and breathe slowly and deeply. After exhalation through the right nostril, inhale through the right and exhale through the left. This completes one round of the practice.
One physical benefit is that it enhances the vital capacity of our lungs and helps to relax the rhythms of the heart and nervous system and one mental benefit is that it calms our mind.

Cooling
Cooling pranayama techniques leaves a cooling effect on the body. It cools down the body, especially the brain.
Sheetali Roll the tongue into a tube-like structure, through which one inhales deeply and then at the end of inhalation one closes the mouth and exhales through the nose. 
Sheetkari – Roll the tongue up behind the teeth. Lips are opened and teeth are exposed. A long, slow and deep breath is taken through the mouth and at the end of inhalation, lips are closed and exhalation happens through the nose. When one inhales though the teeth, the breath creates a hissing sound and results in a cooling effect in the mouth region.

One physical benefit is that it enables us to cool our body down when excessive heat is generated and one mental benefit is that it helps us to relax and helps with insomnia.

The environment that I have placed myself in is always in a rush, rushing to get work done, rushing for class etc, leaving me barely any time to catch my breath. Let this be a reminder that amidst all the happenings in our life, we should set aside time to be more aware of our breath, and in turn our physical and emotive states.

Yoga and other sports

Yoga is not only a good form of exercise on its own but also a great complement to many other types of sports. One such example is surfing. 

I had a brief encounter with surfing after participating in a surf camp in 2017. During the camp, we did two surf sessions, as well as a yoga class every day. Initially, I thought that the yoga classes were just to stretch out our sore muscles. However, as I learnt more about the surfing techniques, I realised that both of them are actually deeply intertwined because many of the surfing poses are similar to yoga poses. 

Credit: https://barefootsurftravel.com/livemore-magazine/how-to-do-a-take-off

For example, while paddling out on the board, we’re on our belly and our back is slightly arched/chest lifted up. This is similar to Bhujangasana (Cobra pose). After we’ve caught the wave and ready to “push up”, we get into a pose similar to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), but with the toes tucked. Finally, we shift our back leg forward and stand up in a position like Virabhadrasana B (Warrior 2)! 

Of course, apart from the poses above, I find that yoga also helps to train up the following areas which are beneficial for other types of sports as well.

1. Core strength 

I believe many of us have heard our instructors telling us to “squeeeeeze the core!”. Indeed, most of the yoga poses work on core strength. From Navasana (Boat pose) to Kakasana (Crow pose) to Sirsasana (Headstand), all of them require us to engage our core muscles. Not just for athletes, having a strong core is important for everyone, because it helps to stabilize our body, strengthens our back muscles and holds up our body.  

2. Flexibility

A lot of the yoga poses help to stretch our muscles and increase our range of motion, which in turn improve our flexibility. Hence, I feel that yoga will be a good complement to rock climbing, because with better flexibility, we’re able to bend our bodies into awkward positions as we try to reach for that foothold and push ourselves up.  

3. Better breathing

Yoga teaches us how to breathe properly through the practice of different types of pranayama. Proper breathing techniques help to improve our respiratory system and build up our stamina. This will be beneficial for people who do aerobic exercises like running, swimming and hiking etc. 

Nowadays, with more sports facilities and gyms around, a lot of us are doing different types of sports. Whichever sport that you’re doing, I strongly encourage you to incorporate yoga into your training routine, be it as a form of stretching or as a complement to the sport. Give it a try and you might be surprised how it can improve your performance and overall well-being!

Yoga for Headaches

Yoga is known to have many benefits. To me, a lot of them are long-term benefits which come with consistent practice, for example, stronger muscles, better heart health and improved mental wellbeing. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the immediate effect that yoga has on headaches. 

I tend to get headaches easily. Over the years, I’ve realised that the 3 main causes of headaches for me are:

  1. Dehydration from too much sun exposure (or when it’s too warm outside);
  2. Staring at the computer for too long (eye strain);
  3. Sleeping in an air-conditioned room with wet hair (sign of old age?)

All of them give me tension headaches, which is this feeling of tightness or pressure across your forehead, or on the sides and back of your head. As I try not to take any medication for these headaches, I’ll just endure through the day and hope that a good night’s sleep will make them disappear. 

One day, I went for a yin yoga class despite my throbbing headache because it was too late to cancel the booking. During the class, the teacher told us to take long and deep breaths, and we held each pose for a few minutes. Even though we were on the ground most of the time and it felt like we didn’t do much, by the end of the 1-hour class, my headache had disappeared!

As it turns out, yoga is a powerful natural remedy for headaches because most headaches are tension-related, and doing yoga helps to release tension and stress in the body. The yin yoga class gave me the chance to slow down my mind and focus on my breathing. Every deep and slow inhalation and exhalation increased the amount of oxygenated blood that flowed to my brain, and that helped with the pain and stress. From then on, whenever I have a headache, I’ll go for a yin class and it has worked every time! 

Here are 5 poses which are good for relieving headaches:

  1. Cat pose (Marjaryasana): Relieves tension in the spine, shoulders and neck, and helps to boost circulation in the upper body.
  2. Child’s pose (Balasana): Calms the nervous system and reduces pain.
  3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Increases blood circulation to the brain.
  4. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana): Calms the brain and relieves stress.
  5. Corpse Pose (Savasana): Completely relaxes the body and brings it into a deep state of meditative rest. 

How to be successful

In my earlier post, I mentioned about Prāṇāyāma; how it is is the practice of breath control in yoga and how important it is in our lives. But today, this”Prāṇāyāma”  shifted up the priority list (in my own ranking of 101-important-things-to-do).  As simple as it may sound, you must be thinking, how much benefits can breathing bring? Why are we talking about this again? It is just breathing, come on.. Believe me, I felt the same way. I started out learning a couple of different Pranayamas in class and was always dubious about the benefits that was tied along with each different breathing exercise. One of it, Kapalabhati, involves a series of forceful exhalations followed with passive inhalations and this is said to cleanse and detoxify your mind and body. As this breathing exercise belongs to the energizer series; it is advisable to perform early in the morning, the first thing you do when you wake. Once practiced, it is said to be an invigorating wake-up call, and you should feel instantly fired up after performing it. What is believing without seeing? I decided to try it myself each morning on days (without woman’s problems 😂) and I can testify that it is true, you feel the heat in your belly, you feel more awake and at times I start to sweat a little (on my bed at 6am yes).

Apart from the fiery breathing styles we learnt, we were also exposed to the calming pranayamas which I was equally as interested to find out. Of course, I had to test it out yet again. So I practiced some of it at night before I sleep, and I particular love this one. I admit I have yet to instill good discipline to perform it like a nightly ritual, but on nights where I do practice, I vaguely remember drifting off to wonderland quite instantly after this breathing exercise. This belly breathing can be done lying down; reasons why I love it the most, all you need to do is take deep breaths from your belly, allowing your belly to rise and as you exhale, your belly should fall. This breathing exercise focuses on inhaling more oxygen rather than short breaths from the upper chest, hence your chest level should remain relatively still.  The deeper the breath is, the more relaxed you will feel.

There is just so many different pranayamas but finally I will come to this last one for this post and I was introduced to this as THE prayanama to do if you want to be successful in life. Ahh, have I gotten your attention? Known as the Kumbhaka Pranayama – Full breath retention, you basically inhale, hold your breath for however long you can (the longer the better), followed by a longer exhalation in a ratio where it is twice that of your inhalation. Teacher said that when you hold your breath in, you will slowly start to activate your brain and push it to a greater depth of thinking (i.e he used vineyards as an example, about how deep their roots can grow and penetrate down into the soil), likewise so can our brain as we dig a little more and more and open our minds to a greater depth of thinking and creativity. Definitely caught my attention if not yours, but it does sound pretty abstract to me. Won’t be able to share with you my thoughts/experience on this (just yet), but do give me some time to verify this hypothesis. After all, holding of breath versus a successful life, how hard can the former be? 

 

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 🙂

 

A Clean Stomach Is The Key to Enlightenment

Detoxify! Detoxify! Detoxify!

My Guru, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, says that keeping our stomach clean is the key to establish ourselves in the ultimate understanding again and again.

 

With the divine blessings of My Guru, in December 2018, I have made a decision to change from a regular meat eating diet into a sattvic vegeterian diet and started my journey to build a yogic body through daily yoga, right sattvic diet and occasional detoxification through Nirahara Samyama.

 

The sattvic vegeterian diet has its own challenges. It wasn’t that I miss meat at all….it was more of a problem looking for pure sattvic food while we are eating outside. Little india area in Singapore is probably the only location in Singapore, where Sattvic Vegeterian food is readily available.

 

My new yogic lifestyle of starting my day with cleansing Kriyas, followed by physical Yoga in Brahma  Muhurta hours, together with Haritaki and Sattvic Diet has unlocked tremendous energy sources for me. On average, I sleep around 3 to 5 hours a day. I used to need 8 hours sleep and still felt sleepy, tired and drained out.

 

Dorisq Tan

www.FB.com/YogicBodies

YogicBodies@gmail.com

+65 9889 5654

Dorisq Tan
Building Yogic Bodies, Vedic Minds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxygen from 1 Teaspoon Haritaki = 2 Hours Pranayama?

In Ayurvedic Medicine Haritaki is called “The King of Medicines”

 

Haritaki has many names like a lot of herbs out of India, so here are some of the other names it is known as: Abhaya, Kadukkai, Chebulic Myrobalan, Black Myrobalan, Hardh, Ink Tree, Hardad, Harar, Karakkaya, and Marathi.

 

 

Haritaki fruit has been used for thousands of years with great success in India. This wonderful fruit grows in Asia and is common in Ayurvedic Medicine. Haritaki is a great for cleansing our GI tract and building good probiotics and thus improving our immune system.

 

It is also important as a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal agent, and anti-inflammatory agent. Haritaki also helps to protect and cleanse the liver as well as to improve digestive issues such as constipation and indigestion. In Ayurveda, haritaki is said to support the “Vata” dosha.

 

In addition, Haritaki has a bunch of active compounds including healthy acids and metabolites: tannic acid, gallic acid, chebulinic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, terchebin, chebulin, behenic acid, oleic acid, sennoside, anthraquinone, mucilage, arachidic acid, and linoleic acid.

 

Uses of Haritaki
In Ayurveda, Haritaki powder is used to treat blood and digestive disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, and has been proven to be a wonderful all-natural alternative remedy for the following health conditions:

Conjunctivitis
Gout
Anemia
Dysuria
Urinary Stones
Gastrointestinal Disorders
May help lower blood sugar (Caution is advised in patients with blood disorders or hypoglycemia)
May reduce cholesterol

 

Haritaki Benefits:
Antiviral – extracts of the fruit inhibit HIV
It has laxative, purgative, astringent and restorative properties
Boosts energy
Promotes longevity
Improves memory
Improves metabolism and aids digestion
Anti-inflammatory
Enhances the five senses
Protects from oxidative stress
Aphrodisiac
Antioxidant
Mouthwash preparation using this herb’s extracts can help prevent cavities

 

Dorisq Tan

www.FB.com/YogicBodies

YogicBodies@gmail.com

+65 9889 5654

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you need both physical and mental alignment in an asana

What does it mean to be “connect” to an asana? It’s tough to imagine what connecting to a pose feels like when you can’t even come into the pose.

For example, for most of my early days in the YTT 200 program, I struggled with lifting my hips up over my shoulders and wrists to do a reasonably acceptable handstand against the wall. The teachers always said we had to “enjoy the point of weightlessness” or “find comfort in the pose.” Feeling comfort might be easier if the pose involved reaching my toes or twisting my torso; I could simply reach or twist as far as my body would allow and then melt into the pose. But for inversions like handstand, you could end up injuring yourself if you thought of “melting” into a pose. Inversions require strength and control, two things I am not naturally endowed with. I also thought there was no way my two little palms could support my body weight. I imagined tipping over and landing on my back (hard!) or hitting the wall with my head.

What happens when there is no connection?

Easy. You suffer in the asana. And you find yourself counting down the minutes until a pose, sequence, or class is over. You end up hating the experience or loathing yourself. For some people, they fall back to old thinking, old ways of doing things and straining the body, or worse, they give up entirely on the pose and say, “it’s not for me.” For some, they react with self-violence, disrespecting the boundaries of their body, pushing it in unhealthy ways, and punishing themselves for it.

It’s critical to acknowledge that a huge part of this kind of suffering in a Yoga practice is due to misalignment. According to Ray Long in his book ‘The Key Muscles of Yoga’:

“By aligning the direction of the force of gravity along the major axis of the bones, we can access this strength in Yoga postures.”

And alignment can only be achieved with proper technique. With technique, you reap strength, balance and elongation.

Alignment reduces the struggle in a pose, which is important, as struggling in an asana can leave you mentally frustrated and conflicted. As human beings, it’s not unusual to have a scattered mind filled with conflicting thoughts. We typically have pre-conceived ideas, expectations and biases that, if not met, can contribute to feelings of uncertainty and fear, and lack of confidence.

In Long’s book, he writes: “Yoga postures approach effortlessness when we align the long axis of the bones with the direction of gravity.” A key word here is effortless. Another key word that master yogi trainers have said is weightless.

Be effortless and weightless, not mindless.

An essential goal in Yoga is to develop a simple mind. By simple, we mean uncomplicated, unperturbed, clear, integrated, and, essentially, aligned. Simply, other than knowing the physical technique and alignment, a third component of doing asanas effectively is mental alignment. To connect to a pose, you need concentration and mental fearlessness, which can come if you chip away at your preconceived notions. You can only do that through consistent, mindful practice that leads to improvement of technique.

In physical and mental alignment, there is strength, balance, flexibility and elongation; there is also mastery of the mind. Only in this state can you fully observe your progress and begin to enjoy coming into and being in a challenging pose. With both physical and mental alignment, you achieve a elevated type of homeostasis where you can fully grounded in a pose.