Meditation with Singing Bowls

I’m not one who can sit still or lie down in Savasana and meditate through the complete quietness without having passing thoughts through the minute, and therefore have explored different methods to quiet the mind through while focusing on holding through yoga poses, swimming, walking in the park, to even trying out sensory deprivation tank. These have worked pretty well and as much as I enjoy the moving concentration, i find that i was unable to reach a deeper state of it.

Recently during one of the practice while we close in Savasana, i was pleasantly surprised by a tone that surrounds the room. I could feel the sound vibrations sending goosebumps to my body while wondering if it was an instrument playing or was it a from speaker. While the sound kept echoing i decided to stop questioning and allow myself to just enjoy the moment and go into deeper relaxation. Our instructor then introduced us to the Crystal bowl that she was playing and there, i am intrigued.

So just yesterday after a day of cycling and practicing ashtanga sequence on the mat, I remembered Master Sree mentioned that meditation has also helped him relief the tiredness and soreness from the physical training when we were on the topic during lesson. While i didn’t have a crystal bowl with me, i did a search on youtube for a 15mins Tibetan singing bowl and got myself to savasana. Of course the sound from the speaker wasn’t as great as the real crystal bowl experienced in the studio, but it worked pretty magic! Was it full relaxation or was it meditation, i don’t know. But i managed to get myself into a deeper state and 15mins went by really easy and comfortably, and i must say it really did help relief that ache on that glutes from cycling.

So while i have found what works for me to start, I have also seen improvement with the help of constant practice of yoga. And i look forward to the day that i will be able to sit through a longer period of meditation without any assistance.

Yoga teacher training during pandemic

With our current restriction of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be wondering if now is the right time to start a 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT). I said to myself, why not? Instead of wishing for the pandemic to end, a well regulated local course would suits our current situation better!

The Setup

Starting in 2021 May, I’ve embarked on a full-time Ashtanga Vinyasa 200 YTT course with Tirisula. Following the current Covid-19 restriction, we bring our yoga equipment, keep a safe distance between each other, and wear masks during the classes.

What’s in a YYT? 

Throughout the time we spent together, the classes cover three parts – practical, theory and teaching.

  1. Practical
    The instructors will guide you through the yoga poses in Sanskrit names, alignment, and the tactics and transition for the Ashtanga Vinyasa primary series pose. And of course, a lot of practices!
  2. Theory
    It covers yoga history and philosophy such as Yama and Chakra; and human anatomy such as digestive and muscle systems.
  3. Teaching
    Step by step guides you through the teaching techniques such as how to cue, make alignment adjustments and more.

The experience 

While our class made the best of the situation, it wasn’t always perfect. Here are some pros and cons I observed from my experience:

Pro: 

  1. The small class size.
    We were able to ask questions whenever they appeared and had what felt like an above-average opportunity to practice teaching. We would frequently partner up and troubleshoot our cues, help each other with alignment adjustments.
  2. The 1-on-1 connection.
    By having such a small group, you get to know everybody in the course, adding a layer of comfort when you’re vulnerable.
  3. Learning at your own pace.
    When it came to the homework assignments, you could work on them on your own time instead of needing to attend an in-person class. If you have jam-packed days, this opens you the opportunity to make it up in the following days.

Cons:

  1. The anatomy section.
    Learning anatomy with a human-size skeleton in front of you and few pictures in the manual were not ideal. It’s hard to take notes fast enough or ask for a repeat if you missed something.
  2. Practice while wearing the mask.
    I was struggling with it at the beginning. My breathing technique improved over time, and eventually, I can give instructions while doing the Sun Salutation flow with the mask on!

Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed my experience with the 200hr YYT course during this pandemic time! It was definitely not easy to do a full-time program while working at the same time. But I’ve learnt so much!

I loved getting to know our small pod of yoga partitioners and rooting for everybody’s success. The instructors’ practical teaching approach made me take what I had learned into my everyday life, which made study less stressful and plays more fulfilling.

If you are considering embarking on a 200-hour YTT now, during this time of continued social distancing, doing one will still empower you with the necessary knowledge to launch your yoga teaching journey, with the bonus of a generally smaller (and more intimate) class size.

Yoga is LIT

“Yoga is a lifestyle. Do not refine your life for yoga, but let yoga refine your life” – Master Sree. I wish I could put into words to show how much this statement has increasingly held true in my life, over the course of consistent yoga practice for a month with Master Sree and a group of 5 other amazing women.

The statement was made by Master Sree to the class in Week 1, and over the subsequent 3 weeks, he has consistently driven in the belief that we’re each on our own path, and we do not have the right (nor should we) engage in the petty judgement of others – the perceived differences that we may not agree with, and neither should we let things of the material world define our identity. My key takeaway from this was to approach the world with greater acceptance, and stemming from that, conscious detachment, especially to the outcomes of actions, situations and life. This does not mean that we don’t practice empathy, but while we understand and feel the extent of things happening in our lives, we don’t fixate upon the experience or the outcome. We let ourselves grow from it.

 

Yoga as a chosen lifestyle

Yoga is a lifestyle option that people choose to live by, choose to participate in, choose to integrate in their lives. There are many aspects in yoga philosophy that overlap with modern day mantras of practicing self-kindness, self-care, a focus on mental health, and also religious doctrines of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and more. The beauty of it is that the underlying principle is an acceptance of all varied beliefs, experiences and viewpoints. Everything that a (rational) person embodies and believes at a given point in time, is completely valid. The person has chosen a particular course of action or belief based on what he/she thinks is best for himself/herself, and his/her appetite for acceptance of a certain mantra, doctrine, response etc. What is medicine to one is poison to another, and this holds very true for yogic belief (in my opinion, at least). Master Sree gave an example in class once about the concept of healing. He said that depending on what the person believes, he would have to tailor his healing to suit the individual. For a person who is religious, healing would touch upon more spiritual aspects, but if a person believes in science, healing would gravitate towards a scientific explanation and solution. Ultimately, it is about what works for the person, and based on the answer (spiritual, scientific, anything else) given to the person, can it help the person gain the conviction to push through and overcome the obstacles?

As such, I have chosen to integrate some core principles of yoga into my life simply because it works for me at this given point in time. The practice of yoga makes me feel more at peace in a world where everything seems to be so unsettled, so confusing, so uncertain. It makes me feel like while everything around me could revolve to a state of utter confusion and uncertainty, the onus is upon me to remain positive, remain strong, and keep my conviction towards the pursuit of the path(s) that have seemingly opened up for me, and walk away from those that have closed too. I believe in the divine shaping of my life and as long as I approach life with a positive and strong mindset, things will work out!

 

Yoga as an individual journey

I know this is cliché, everybody says it. However, I think everyone says it because they have experienced it and it really holds true. You just gotta experience it and internalise it for yourself. The beauty of this is that you can take the principles from this state of “yoga being an individual journey” and apply it to all other aspects of your life – relationships, family, career and anything else that matters to you.

When I first started practicing yoga as a beginner, my practice was heavily centered around mastering poses. I inevitably kept comparing myself to those around me – my friends who were doing yoga, the other people in classes and thought to myself “okay I need to improve and improve and improve”.

However, throughout the course of the practice, you start to realise that yoga is so broad that there’s really no ONE measure of what is considered “better” or “worse”. It really depends on how you want to use yoga to enhance your life, and how you want to integrate it into your life.

Some practitioners prefer to focus on the more meditative aspects, while others want to focus on the physical aspects, and you can’t definitively say that one is better than the other. It’s really about what works best for you. Nonetheless, I would say that a desire to foundationally understand yoga philosophy should underpin the choice.

Furthermore, we’re all built differently. Some body structures make entering and training for certain postures more easily than others. While we tend to compare what can be seen most easily (aka comparison of the achievement of postures), there’s really so much more that goes behind the scenes and affects the outcome. Thus, I have learnt over the course of my yoga practice and YTT not to fixate on achieving postures too because ultimately, it is about the process and the mindset going into it, not the outcome.

 

Yoga as a form of reprieve from a world that tends to be competitive

In the light of the above that I shared, one thing I love about yoga is that it is fundamentally not about being the best or even better than other people – it is truly about being the best version of yourself.

In a world that teaches you to outsmart and outperform others in order to achieve “success”, for yoga, “success” is based on your own individual terms and based on your own parameters. The beauty of it is that understanding that it is purely your own journey reflects a deeper walk in the yoga journey.

This brings me so much relief, contentment and peace in this very competitive world.

 

Detachment from social situations

As someone who struggles with being too emotionally involved with many social interactions in my daily life, the fundamental concept of detachment has been a good principle to adopt in my life. Master Sree gave the example of a floating lotus – one who is in the water, experiences the water, but is unaffected by the water. I hope to be able to adopt this mindset in all aspects of my life where I feel the most of life but am able to not fixate upon certain outcomes, emotions and experiences that I go through.

 

 

Moving forward, I want to be able to fully practice this, practicing both self-care and self-kindness.

I feel that one of the most important things is to keep our intentions pure. Only by doing so will we be able to let go of the outcomes of various situations that we are put in. I use social situations as an example here because of all the things in life that we seek to control, other people (their actions, behaviours and attitudes) remain fleetingly out of our grip. This is why it is difficult to let go and change outcomes because we cannot change other people. Coming to terms with this and being able to practice detachment will help us (me) deal with the uncertainty of life when it comes to the other. I feel that this will have a profound impact on how we handle many things in life that come at us – a job opportunity outcome, our friendships, our relationships, even life/death.

To breathe, to live, to be

What have I learnt in yoga so far? The experience I’ve gained is profound and hard to explain in words but in this blog post today I will attempt to share my version.

Will start in 2017, 4 years ago when I was 25. I was the typical university grad born in the 90s who’d found a decent job and thought the world was my oyster, and all I needed to do was to claim it with my guts. I had the fair share of disappointments from how I thought the world “should be”, but consoled myself that I was ok as long as I had a good-paying job and born into a decent family. I was filled with ego, from my so called achievements, my so called guts, and my so called “potential to achieve so much more”. In case you’re wondering…. no, no tragedy happened which turned me to yoga. During the period of my 25-27 years of age, my little bubble of make-believe comfort and make-believe chasing after money just seemed duller and duller as days passed. I was chasing sales targets like my self-worth depended on it. I had made money my identity, and would never exit the home without at least 1 labelled item. I didn’t know who I was without things. I had become the “product” of our world of advertising, that we are nothing without possessions. The partner I had then was also similar to me, and we only ran in circles chasing possession after possession.

My family are ‘spiritual’ people. Due to my stubborn personality growing up, I had cut out all spiritually driven “practices” they had tried to influence me with. Nevertheless, I always feel the love they have for me- their love is expressed through their acceptance of me. As what I had learnt through this YTTC, their love for me is really like a lotus leaf, as depicted with our Heart Chakra, Anahata. The lotus leaf does not absorb the substance, but has the capacity to hold space. Growing up, they had taught me (without words) the way of yoga. They live humbly, with enough to care for themselves, and contribute in ways of enriching their lives everyday with selfless service back to community. They counsel for free for families with traumatic experiences. I can say that I was unknowingly blessed by their spiritual journey growing up, even though I was then chasing another path.

As I chased higher sales targets and achievements, my stress levels were getting to an unbearable point. I relied on alcohol for an emotional crutch, I was chasing meaningless relationships, searching for a way to quench an insatiable thirst which I didn’t even know about. I signed up for gym membership in 2018, and started a few yoga classes. Little did I know, I starting growing onto yoga week after week. It was the start of something unexplainable, the only thing I looked forward to every week was my teacher guiding us on the mat. On the mat, I slowly connected back to my self, my core, and to be aware of my mind and thoughts. It was the only way I knew how to.

During the circuit breaker period last year, yoga was the only thing I looked forward to. Shortly after circuit breaker, my then long term partner and I broke up. I felt like I had completely lost it. Not only did I experience a drop in sales during that period of time, I had also lost a significant relationship. I went into what I would say it, a depressive stage of my life. I questioned who I was. I questioned the meaning of my life. I questioned why life turned out this way for me? I was lost and alone. I sought after comfort, but nothing seemed to be out there. I sought after more possessions, but I knew they wouldn’t satisfy me either.

The universe is so mysterious in its ways. That stage of life turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. Because of the constant incessant thoughts and questions, which led to a complete emotional meltdown, I found myself staring at the ceiling wishing that everything would just stop. I turned to meditation, breathing deeply and complete silence to calm my mind. I did that for survival. I just wanted all the pain to go away so I can feel “normal” again.

As the meditation continued, I went back to more regular practice of yoga, where I know I would find solace within myself. The more yoga I practiced, the more peace came into my life. I slowly learnt how to accept things for what they are. I slowly learnt that our outside world can never satisfy our inside world.

Three months after, I decided to let myself uncover more about this deal with yoga. As a person who just decides to do something and then do it, I actually just chanced upon Tirisula Yoga and decided to go with it without much research. I saw lots of blog posts which share each practitioners’ experience and thought the information to be intriguing, so my thoughts was like “generally I feel good about this so I’m gonna ride with it”. Now 3 weeks into the course, I can only say its an adventure of a lifetime. Every day I am learning – not just textbook knowledge, but invaluable experiences from my fellow course mates and especially from Master Sree. I feel physical fatigue during the course, but I don’t know why every morning I look forward to seeing them in class. Every day is a new experience. Master Sree doesn’t read from the manual when he teaches – he only uses 1 chalk, or 1 marker, and is able to explain deep concepts with his words and experiences! I am mind blown about that. With my coursemates, the camaraderie we share through the love of yoga is truly precious and invaluable. YTTC has opened up my eyes to how wide and broad our universe is, and what I am is really just a speck of this vast universe. Our universe is so so magnificent and beautiful. It has showed me that the insatiable thirst I had, its really just a longing to connect back to myself.

To breathe, to live, to be, in this moment is my gift. I thank the universe for its mysterious ways. There’s only more to come.

YOGA FOR THE ELDERLY

I have always found myself more drawn to the elderly, in which has also probably led me to specialize more on the geriatrics department and found myself working in a nursing home. With the growing aging population in Singapore, more research is also looking into non-pharmacological approach in tackling the problems that comes with ageing. One common approach on the rise is Yoga, especially interested within groups of elderly who are still ambulant/ physically active who wants to make a change in their lifestyle. Because yoga recognizes that that body is not just a physical body, it incorporates the mind and spirit and raise questions of existentialism and philosophy, it has a higher draw to these group of people who recognizes that the span of their lifetime is nearing death.

 

Problems of aging

The ‘problems’ of aging (as compared to the younger self) is that, although it does not equate to developing medical conditions, they tend to be more at risk of fraility. There is lesser joint range of motion, strength and balance, which puts them at risk of falls and other secondary problems that comes with it. Some of the common conditions seen in this age group are osteoarthrisitis, Hypertension,hyperlipidemia, diabetes,  low back syndrome(mostly kyphosis), which may deter them from doing the actual asana pose properly and modifications needs to be done.

In a recent randomized controlled trial done by Osth et al (2019), showed that a 12 week yoga programme improved the health and well being, mobility, mood and cognition in physically inactive elderly age 65-85 years old.

They used the same treatment intervention (YESS-yoga empower senior study) that was previously done by Greendale et al in 2013.

 

What is the Yoga Empowers Seniors Study (YESS): Design and Asana Series?

YESS is formed by a group of people with knowledge in physical therapy, yoga, and movement science. They developed a hatha yoga asana series (included pranayama and asanas) meant for ambulatory participants of age 65 and had medically stable condition in their criteria group for 2 days/week of 1 hour session for 32 weeks. There were 2 series-series 1 progressively increase intensity to series2.

The main key points of designing the series is based on

  • Ensuring safe yet challenging pract (exclusion criteria on those whose medical conditions are not well controlled/ acute musculoskeletal injuries/awaiting for surgery)
  • Target major muscles that assist in their functional daily activities (eg reaching overheads to carry groceries, sitting to standing). Making the exercise more meaningful to the participants.
  • Asanas that improve balance
  • Asanas that increase their joint ROM.

 

Series 1 and 2 is described in detail in this website for more reference. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639444/

For Series I : Chair, Wall Plank, Tree, Warrior II, Warrior I, Downward Facing Dog, Side Stretch, Chair Twist, Cobra, Bridge and Abdominal Cultivation.

For series 2: Chair, Wall Plank, Tree, Warrior II, Crescent, One-Legged Balance, Side Stretch, Chair Twist, Recumbent Leg Stretch, Bridge and Abdominal Cultivation

 

What kind of modifications was done for the elderly?

Props and hands on tactile cues were given for exteroceptive feedback to achieve better alignment in poses. Some of the examples were:

Series 1 Series 2(more advanced compared to series 1)
·         Chair pose done with yoga block inbwetween knees and back against wall for support

·         Chair pose

 

·         Planking against the wall instead of the floor to reduce upper extremity loading

 

·         Chaturanga with feet placed further and hands more caudally     

·         Tree pose done with hand on wall for support and 1 leg just slightly lifted

·         Tree without wall and on lifted leg on other side of medial foot
·         Warrior 1 and 2 done with rear foot against wall-floor and hand on chair for support

Warrior 1 and 2 without wall and chair support

·         Downward dog done on wall to reduce demand on hamstring flexibility

·         Uthita hasta pandangusthasana modified to 1 legged balance with back against wall and blocks under feet

·         Side stretch same with wall ·         Side stretch with use of chair instead of wall. Increase trunk forwards and hip flexion.

·         Bharadvjasana twist seated on chair to reduce hip and knees flexion demand and using the chair as a lever to twist from the trunk

·         Same as series 1

Most of the other sitting and supine poses uses towels/blankets to cushion the parts of the body which has more pressure (eg hip, pelvis, knees), and modifications of lesser ranging were done.

 

EVALUATION

Overall in the scientific research arena, there is still no exact yoga exercise prescription (frequency, intensity, time, type) for the elderly whether healthy or even those with medical conditions. The supposed gold standard of exercise prescription is ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). In which the guidelines recommend elderly to participate in minimum 30 mins/ day of moderate intensity aerobic  , at least 3-5 days/week to total of 150mins/week and supplementing resistance, flexibility and balance exercise training.

Therefore, this YESS intervention study is useful in providing a starting framework for development of a yoga class for the elderly. However it is important to note that the 2 studies -Greendale et al (2013) and Osth et al (2019) were done on generally healthy elderly population with controlled medical conditions. It is best to get medical clearance from doctors and screening of each individual elderly is a must. Assessing their balance,joint range, strength, flexibility and physical function can give the instructor an idea of their impairments which will determine certain asanas to be more difficult to manage/needs modifications.

As yoga is not just as exercise intervention, explaining to the elderly the theory and philosophy aspect is equally important. Explanations like how the chakras can be stimulate for each pose, importance of pranayama and breath with movement can help them better understand the purpose and apply even on their daily function (eg, being more mindful and balanced with walking/standing/bending to pick things). This can translate to benefit them in the long term and may even help in preventions of falls and fraility, also reducing the reliance on pharmacological treatments.

 

 

References:

-Effects of yoga on well-being and healthy ageing: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial (FitForAge). Osth et al (2019)

-Yoga Empowers Seniors Study (YESS): Design and Asana Series. Greendale et al (2013)

 

What is the Solar Plexus Chakra and how is it kept balanced?

What are chakras?

Chakras are the energy centers of the body.
It means “wheel” or “disk” in Sanskrit, and our energy is spining like a wheel based on these chakras.

When all of our chakras are open and aligned, energy can run through them freely, and harmony exists between the physical body, the mind, and the spirit. On the other hand, blockage of chakras can lead to physical, psychological and emotional disorders.

There are 7 main chakras.

What is the Solar Plexus (Manipura) Chakra?
The Manipura Chakra is very important chaktra to help you feel in control of your life. It’s characterized by energy, vitality, and emotions like ego, anger, and aggression.

– Located at the navel
– Colour: Yellow
– Element: Fire
– Association: Energy, Vitality, Desire, and Power
– Mantra: Ram

What happens when Solar Plexus (Manipura) chakra is blocked or unbalanced?
Physically: digestive problems, liver problems, diabetes, allergies, fatigue
Emotional: depression, lack of self-esteem, anger, perfectionism

Low energy
When your energy is low, it makes you become passive, starting with doubt and mistrust towards the people.
You also believe that you can’t control your life and feel like a victim, blaming your life on others. You always feel anxiety that you’re alone.

Too much energy
When the Solar Plexus Chakra is overactive, you keep a stubborn attitude, get angry and aggressive, and feel the need to control others.

What happens when the Solar Plexus (Manipura) Chakra is opened and aligned?
When Manipura chakra is balanced, it enables you to build self-discipline, high self-esteem, and confidence.
It gives you the power to know what you desire, take actions, and achieve your goals in life. It’s all your responsibility, and you don’t blame others.

How to open the Solar Plexus (Manipura) chakra?
1) Asanas
Boat pose (Navasana)

Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

Half Fish Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

2) Meditation
Take slow calming breaths and imagine a yellow-coloured glowing ball three inches below the rib cage that is radiating energy outwards into the whole body.

3) Aroma
Juniper Berry
Grapefruits
immortelle
Lemon
Lemongrass

4) Yellow
Wear gold or yellow.

5) Food
Eat spicy foods
Drink room-temperature beverages

6) Affirmation
I accept myself unconditionally.
I can do everything that I desire
I am worthy of love, kindness, and respect
I stand in my power
I feel ready to face challenges.
The only thing I need to control is how I respond to situations.

SPIN THOSE CHAKRAS

Spin Those Chakras

I came into this 200hr yoga course for two reasons, one was to improve my flexibility and range of motion and the other was to add a new layer to my coaching for the current classes that I teach at the gym I work in. I certainly was not thinking about the spiritual and philosophical side of the experience.

Admittedly I was a bit sceptical about a lot of the philosophy side of it all when I began this journey  but after hitting the theory classes with Master Ram and YY they have successfully changed my view in a lot of it.

The philosophy was always going to be my Achilles Heel during this 200 hour experience  but one of the main things that has stuck is the Chakras. The day we discussed this I started (and I repeated started as there is so much to learn) to really take it in and believe there  is something there, I also started to realise that after 5000 years of yoga being practised there must be truth in it all.

The 7 Chakras

What is a Chakra? Chakra literally means wheel and Chakra refers to the seven spinning energy points in our body that start at the base of the spine and work up through our body to the top of the head. These seven spinning disks of energy are aligned with nerves, organs and glands and each Chakra radiates a different colour.

Each Chakra is linked to certain physical, emotional and psychological aspects of our life so a blockage of one Chakra can lead to personal issues.

  • Muladhara Chakra (The Root Chakra) Located at the base of the spine and radiates Red and is responsible for your sense of security and stability.
  • Svadhishthana Chakra ( The Sacral Chakra) Located at the lower abdomen and radiates Orange and is responsible for your sexual and creative energy.
  • Manipura Chakra (The Solar Plexus Chakra) Located at the Solar Plexus and radiates Yellow and is responsible for confidence and self esteem.
  • Anahata Chakra (The Heart Chakra) Located at the Heart and radiates Green and assists our love and compassion.
  • Vishuddha Chakra (The Throat Chakra) Located at the base of the Throat and radiates Blue and assists our ability to communicate verbally.
  • Ajna Chakra (The Third Eye Chakra) Located between the Eyebrows and radiates Indigo and is responsible for intuition and imagination.
  • Sahastrara Chakra (The Crown Chakra) Located at the crown of the head and radiates Violet and represents your spiritual connection to yourself, others and the universe.

To write a blog on every Chakra could possibly take a me a life time with my one finger typing skills so I will pick the Chakra that jumped out to me the most and this was the ANAHATA CHAKRA (The heart).

ANAHATA CHAKRA

Anahata, The forth Chakra, The Heart Chakra.

As you may have probably guessed its located in the heart region of the body, its colour is green (representing growth and renewed healthy relationships) and its element is air (representing freedom/expansion) with the Thymus as its gland. This Chakra is responsible for love, compassion, passion and trust.

When this Chakra is in balance you will be more friendly, more caring and understanding to others but when out of balance it can cause moodiness, loneliness, anxiety, jealousy and anger.

I think this Chakra jumped out to me as I feel that I can be balanced and imbalanced intermittently leaning more towards it being balanced side as I get older. I believe that my Heart Chakra is close to being balanced and will be trying the following to help complete the process.

  • Asanas: All Back bending poses (e.g Matsyasana/Fish Pose, Ardha Setubandhasana/Half Bridge) will assist in balancing my Heart Chakra.
  • Diet: Eating more Greens (Anahata Colour) can help to balance my Heart Chakra (e.g Brocolli, Apples, Spinich, Matcha and Kale). I definitely don’t eat enough.
  • Pranayama: Anulom Vilom with an inhale 4/hold 8/exhale 8 ratio.
  • Meditation: This will help with anxiety and will assist in restoring balance.

Practicing Satya

When I was a kid, I was always told by my parents and teachers to not tell lies and to be truthful, otherwise there would be some consequences (whether it is standing in the naughty corner, scolding, or perhaps additional chores). We were taught that truthfulness is to not lie.  However, as I grow up we realized that truthfulness means more than just ‘no lies’ and this is probably the start of my understanding of Satya. Being truthful seemed to consist of preserving the truth but also careful handling of how it manifests in our speech and actions, such as to give a constructive feedback than a blunt criticism. There is also the part about being truthful in my thoughts and to myself, which I was not used to. I have always set high expectations for and been harsh on myself whether it is to be a role model to my younger sibling, to excel in my work and studies, to be strong and take care of my family, to watch out for my friends. It is still a work-in-progress for me, however as I start to understand and apply satya, life has been a lot more meaningful, peaceful and fulfilling.

 

What is Satya?

The eight limbs of yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The first limb, Yama, means abstinences, which can also be understood as self-regulation. There are a total of five Yamas – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (self-control) and Aparigraha (non-possession).

2.36 Satya prastisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam

Today, we will focus on what is Satya and how to actively practice it in our lives. As mentioned, Satya is the second yama and means truthfulness, in our words, actions and thoughts.  ‘Sat’ in Sanskrit means “the true essence” and “which is unchangeable”. Our thoughts, words and actions are easily changeable and form the experiences we have in our lives. If we start to understand this, perhaps we may realise that the stresses and challenges we face are due to our attention being focused on the constant changes, rather than the constant unchanging truth itself.

 

How to practice Satya in life?

  • Being true in your words – the practice of satya is not about blindly speaking the truth without considering how it may impact someone else, or lead to other consequences. We should be truthful with our words, but also consider what is the intent? If there is no intended purpose, or worse still has a negative purpose, perhaps it may be better to not say speak at all. At the same time, we need to find that balance to dare to share the truth with others, and not to hold it back for the fear of hurting their feelings.
  • Finding purpose – it is important to be true to yourself. We can practice satya, but asking ourselves what is our purpose in life? What are we searching for? There are two things you should avoid:
    1. Doing things you are not ready for. For example, pushing yourself to run 10km when you haven’t even ran in months or doing something due to peer pressure.
    2. Not pursuing something you want to pursue for fear of failing. For example, not pursuing teaching yoga because there are too many admin procedures to settle, or getting stuck in a job that you are unhappy with. This will result in you doing things you do not want to do, and that is not being truthful to yourself.

How to practice Satya on the mat?

  • Set an intention – I like to always begin with setting an intention every time I step on the mat. You could ask yourself why you practice? Why are you on the mat today? Is there something you would like to focus on? At the same time, it a good chance to reflect and understand what kept you from arriving here, and how can you overcome that? It is important to be mindful and truthful to yourself before and after the asanas.
  • Know your limits – when you feel discomfort or pain, it is okay to do a simpler version of the asana or skip it entirely. You are practicing satya by taking into account the signals your body is sending you and giving attention to how you can position your body to feel better.
  • Use props – using props, such as a yoga block or a towel, is not something to be embarrassed about, neither does it make you a less adequate yogi. In fact, it shows that you are practicing with integrity and demonstrating satya, focusing on the asana and your current ability. So leave aside that competitive nature at the door, and use props the next time you are practicing yoga to help with the alignment of asanas.

 

Personal reflection

Sometimes, these goals may seem too big and difficult to keep track of. Something I try to do is to take baby steps, focus on 3 things I want to achieve that week – in my daily life, I try to learn to say ‘no’ because I know it is my weakness, I try to not avoid something I want to achieve just because I am scared, and I try to be mindful of my words. Hopefully, in time to come, I can understand and practice satya at a deeper level. Keep practicing Satya, and it will soon be a cornerstone of your life.

Hyperextended Elbows and Yoga

When I first started yoga, a common correction or verbal cue given to me was “do not lock your arms” and to “micro-bend”. At that time, I was confused and did not understand what that meant. Looking around the room, I thought I was doing the same pose as everyone else – I had my arms in the right place, shoulder-width apart, straightened to my maximum, why did I have to bend them when others don’t? Then one day, as I was pressing my weight onto a table, one of my friends was surprised at the angle of my elbow – that was when I realised I had hyperextended elbows. I also came to realise that it ran in the family, as my mom also had elbows that looked like mine.

Reading up a little, I learnt that hyperextended elbows is a form of hypermobility which is common and occurs in about 10% to 25% of the population, most of which live life as per normal with only a small minority who suffer from the pain and discomfort of hypermobility spectrum disorder or joint hypermobility syndrome. Luckily for me, my hyperextension in my elbow joints has not affected any part of my day-to-day routine. It did help me to finally realise why I had to micro-bend my elbows, and I would like that with you.

 

What is a hyperextended elbow?

First, let me give you a quick introduction of the elbow joint – it is a hinge synovial joint which connects the humerus in the upper arm to the ulna and radius in the forearm, and strengthened by ligaments and tendons. A usual extension of the elbow joint, or in other words when you straighten your arm, it should form a 180 degrees angle. A hyperextended elbow is one that forms an angle of more than 180 degrees.

 

What are the risks of hyperextension of the elbow joint?

Although there may not be effects felt day-to-day, the repeated overextension of the elbow joints (for example during yoga asanas) may lead to increased pressure on the joint, which may cause damage to the ligaments. In more serious cases, it could also lead to the dislocation of the elbow. Symptoms include pain, numbness in the arm, loss of arm strength or spasm of muscles.

 

How to avoid hyperextending the elbow in yoga practice?

  • Avoid locking the arms – locking the arms, especially in a weight bearing pose, puts weight into the joints and bones without engaging the muscles.
  • Micro-bend the elbows – this means to keep a slight bent in the elbows, which would naturally correct the extension angle to be at or within 180 degrees.
  • Think about alignment – for example poses that require your palm to be stacked under the shoulder (such as plank, tabletop), think about keeping your elbows stacked in that same line.
  • Stop when you feel any discomfort – if you feel any pain in any of the poses, please stop immediately as you may be putting your elbow in a compromising position which puts it at risk of being injured.
  • Strengthen muscles around the joints – always remember to come into any yoga pose with intention, and engage all the surrounding muscles to complete the pose.

 

Examples of hyperextended elbows in yoga practice

Here are two examples of how a hyperextended elbow may look like in yoga poses, together with the correct alignment. As a yogi, it is important to be able to identify the mistakes in your yoga asanas to be able to correct yourself and improve. Similarly, for yoga teachers it is important to know not just the theory, but how it looks like so that you can look out for students who attend your class and make the necessary corrections.

 

Tabletop Pose (Bharmanasana)

Hyperextended elbow in Tabletop Pose

In the left image, the arms are locked, and elbows hyperextended – this will potentially injure the elbows as the bodyweight presses down into the palms at a weird angle. Instead, you should try to micro-bend the arms and keep them stacked in a straight line 180 degrees, from the shoulders to the elbows to the palms, like the right image.

 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Hyperextended elbow in Cobra Pose

In the left image, the elbows are extended beyond 180 degrees and locked in place, potentially wearing out as it appears to be bearing the body weight. Instead, you should keep the elbows bent, pull the shoulders away from the ears, and shine the chest forward.

 

With all that is shared, if you are like me with hyperextended elbows, we do have to be very conscious and intentional when practicing yoga asanas. Over time, your body will remember the correct poses and it would be more effortless. In the meantime, please take care and be kind to your joints!

Acro Yoga

What is Acro Yoga?

Originating in San Francisco, this form of yoga establishes yin and yang through the fusion of  gentle movements found in traditional yoga, acrobatics, and Thai massage. 
Acro Yoga is meant to be enjoyed in pairs, but there must be three people in a practice session. It is also referred to as the “yoga of connection” from it strengthening you and your partner by enabling you to form a connection with others, help each other, and support each other, in both mind and body.
  • Base(the person on the bottom)
  • Flyer(the person elevated by the base)
  • Spotter(support for the base and flyer)

The benefits of Acro Yoga

Its basic benefits of strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility are accompanied by connection and love felt through physical contact with each other. 

Solar and Lunar

It is comprised of the elements of yang and yin, with its acrobatic “Solar” practices and therapeutic “Lunar” practices.
In Lunar practice sessions, you can experience the maximum effects of healing, such as loosening up your body through massages that utilize the whole body, relieving muscle tension, and releasing energy, while making physical contact.
In Solar practice sessions, you increase your energy, strengthen muscles, and improve your flexibility. You can also firmly feel your center of balance from being in unstable positions, correct imbalances, and understand how to properly utilize your body.

Acro Yoga Poses

  • Front Bird Pose

  • High Flying Whale Pose

  • Folded Leaf Pose

  • Jedi Box Move