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

Practice Ahimsa in my daily life

What is Ahimsa?

Ahimsa is a word in the foundations of yoga – a Yoga Sutra that has been handed down from ancient times. It is one of the five Yamas (5 ethical and social guidelines) that are named in “The Eight Limbs Of Yoga” and means “Non-violence”.
“Violence” is not only related to the physical but also to mind and spirit.
It includes not only violence against others but also violence against oneself. Do you always work too much? Are you always negative about yourself? You shouldn’t hurt yourself.

Practice Ahimsa for 3 days

What did I do?

  • Tried being a vegetarian for 3 days
    • Ate a healthy and plant-based vegetarian diet
  • Chose eco-friendly/natural products, organic food, cage-free eggs, and so on
  • Brought my own bottles or reusable bags
    • Asked them to put my soy latte into my own bottle
    • Went grocery shopping with my own cloth bag
  •  Had a positive attitude with others no matter what (Did not send any negative emotions) 
  • Took care of myself
    • Slept when I was tired
    • Didn’t push myself too much
  • Meditated
  • Practiced yoga

Noticed these are “Muhisa (violence)”

– Being 100% (Do not have to be perfect)

– Criticising and complaining

– Actually, muhisa is everywhere in Singapore:

 - Smoking while walking on the street

 - Spitting on the street

 - Very rough driving of bus and taxi

 

Thoughts after 3 days of Ahimsa practice

– I felt like choosing eco-friendly or organic products made me feel more grateful.
– Even though I know it’s not a good thing, not using a microwave or watching Netflix/YouTube while I’m eating alone is pretty difficult.
– I felt nice and kind to others when I used my own cup at Starbucks as nobody had to clear a table afterward (Throw away a disposal cup or wash the used cup).

 

Make a better choice

– Buying eco-friendly and organic products are expensive, so I can’t always buy.
Making a good decision is important.
– I’m not used to being a vegetarian so preparing a vegetarian meal at home especially while trying to obtain protein is a bit difficult.
– But after all, I love meat and fish so I can start from Meat-free Monday.

Hip Flexors, WHAT WHERE HOW?

Hip flexors, the muscles that are talked about a lot, but not really understood?

What and Where?

The hip flexors are a group of muscles found at the (you guessed it) hip area of the body. There are 3 main flexors for the hip, the Iliopsoas, the Sartorius and the Rectus Femoris all working together to help you lift your leg up to your front in the sagittal plane.

Ilipsoas

What are the Ilipsoas?: The Ilipsoas muscle actually consists of two muscles working to help flex the hip (with slight help to spinal rotation too). These are the Iliacus and the Psoas major muscles together known as The Ilipsoas muscle.

Where are the Ilipsoas? The Psoas muscles originate at the lumbar spine (L1-L5) in the lower back and the Iliacus originates at the Iliac fossa (top of the hip bone), both muscles join together at the top of the femur as their insertion point.

Sartorius

What is the Sartorius?: The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the human body, it’s a thin superficial muscle that runs down the front of the thigh towards the knee.

Where is the Sartorius?: The Sartorius starts at the ASIS (Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (side of the hip)) as its origin and works its way over the quad muscles down to the top of the Tibia (shin bone) on inside of the knee as its insertion point.

Rectus Femoris

What is the Rectus Femoris?: The Rectus femoris one of the Quad muscles, (the four big muscles on the front of your thigh) it is the biggest of the four and is also used to extend the lower leg at the knee joint (straighten your leg).

Where is the Rectus Femoris?: The Rectus femoris starts at the AIIS (Anterior Inferior Iliac Spine(side of hip but lower than the ASIS)) as its origin and runs down the thigh to its insertion at the base of the patella (knee cap).

Now the How?

How do Hip Flexors get tight? Hip flexors are very prone to getting tight in a lot of people due to the work they do. Many people sit at desks for up to 10 hours a day with their hip joints continuously flexed then head home for a few hours of television after a long day straight back into the seated position. So from this we can see that sitting for too long is actually the main culprit for tight hip flexors (especially the Ilipsoas). To make this worse I see a lot of people then taking up cycling to “get fit” which is great for your cardio but will also tighten those Hip flexors due to more continuous flexion and still no extension.

Tight hip flexors can also cause a lot of discomfort throughout the body and affect your posture too, from glute pain and low back pain to Anterior Pelvic tilt it is so important to stay flexible in the hips.

How do I stretch the Hip flexors? If you think about where your hip flexors are and how they are getting tight you simply just need to do the opposite. Flexion of the hip is the cause, Extension of the hip is the solution. There are many good Yoga poses that help with tight hip flexors, these poses can be seated, standing, prone and supine.

  • Seated: Ardha Kapotasana (Half Pigeon Pose)
  • Standing: Anjaneyasana (Low lunge)
  • Prone: Danurasana (Bow pose)
  • Supine: Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Pranayama for Singapore’s Hot Climate

What is Pranayama?

If you are new to pranayama, you may have the misconception that I once had, that pranayama is only about breathing slowly, deeply and calmly. There is so much more to it. I learnt that there are many variations of pranayama with different techniques, counts, breathing ratio, and duration, and each with their own benefits. ‘Prana’ in Sanskrit means the life force energy, and ‘Ayama’ means expansion, together ‘Pranayama’ refers to the moving of energy to the unused or needed areas of the body to unclog, release or replenish, and is practiced through the controlling of the breath. There are some pranayama that keeps you balanced and focused, some to energise the body and mind, and some to calm you down. In particular, I wanted to share on cooling pranayama, which was new to me. I feel that these practices would be beneficial with the constant crazy Singapore heat (also applicable to anywhere else with hot summers or hot climate).

 

Cooling pranayama and its benefits

There are two types of cooling pranayama that I will introduce – Sitali and Sitkari. These pranayama calm the body through an evaporative cooling mechanism on the inhalation, and delivers a cooling energy to the deep tissues of the body. Cooling pranayama has many benefits:

  • Removes excess heat accumulated in the body
  • Calms the nervous system and reduces stress
  • Helps if you have trouble sleeping at night i.e. insomnia
  • Controls high blood pressure
  • Helps with digestion

 

Step-by-step guide to practice:

Sitali Pranayama

  1. Get into a comfortable seated position, with the spine upright and neutral.
  2. Form an ‘O’ shape with your lips. Roll your tongue and extend it out slightly.
  3. Inhale through the tunnel formed by the rolled tongue.
  4. Focus your attention on the cooling sensation of the breath. Let your ribs expand with the inhale.
  5. Withdraw the tongue and close your mouth. Exhale through the nostrils.
  6. Repeat the process for 2-3 minutes, allowing the cool breath to cool your body and mind.

Sitkari Pranayama

  1. Get into a comfortable seated position, with the spine upright and neutral.
  2. Clench the upper and lower teeth together, while separating the lips to form a rectangular shape. Rest the tongue behind the upper teeth.
  3. Inhale through the mouth and teeth, making a hissing sound, “tssss…”.
  4. Close your mouth. Exhale through the nostrils.
  5. Repeat the process for 2-3 minutes, allowing the cool breath to cool your body and mind.

 

Areas of caution for cooling pranayama

Sitali and Sitkari pranayama will reduce body temperature, hence they are best practiced during hot weather. Do try to avoid practicing these pranayama during cold weather, especially if you belong to the vata and kapha dosha. Try to keep the practice in a place where the temperature of the air is stable and calm. This pranayama is also not recommended for people who are suffering from low blood pressure, asthma, cold and cough.

 

The world of pranayama is vast and I hope you would continue to explore it.  The benefits of pranayama would only be felt with proper and consistent practice. Keep practicing!

Pei Qi, YTT 2021