YOGASANA – the elixir* of life

Yogasana is the ultimate workout
A wonderful elixir without a doubt
With deep breathing and own body weight
To increase circulation and oxygen intake
With the breath, pranic energy** is introduced
Penetrating the cells and fatigue is reduced
This vital energy is the source
For awakening the dormant spiritual force
All joints and muscles are challenged into action
Lubricating the joints and increase their flexion
The spine is coaxed to bend in all directions
To maintain its flexibility and increase retraction
With the twisting, bending and body resistance
The internal organs are reminded of their existence
Glands are encouraged to secrete and work properly
Normalising imbalances within the body
The practitioner becomes lithe and agile
The bones bear weight and become less fragile
The skin is nourished with increased blood flow
The whites of the eyes shine and glow
Each asana is carefully designed
With spiritual and physical benefits in mind
Postures are practised with purpose and precision
With proper alignment and correct positions
At times, the body may show some resistance
But the body is pliable so practise with persistence
Practise with Tapas*** and mindful concentration
The results will bring you great satisfaction
The standing poses strengthen and revitalise
The prone poses energise
The sitting poses are calming and soothing
The twists are cleansing and rejuvenating
The supine poses are restful and relaxing
The backbends are exhilarating
The balancing poses give a feeling of lightness
The inversions bring mental brightness
Yogasana removes tension and relieves pain
Invigorates the body and refreshes the brain
Sharpens the intellect and aids concentration
Stills the mind and steadies the emotions
Yogasana strengthens the body in every way
Improves the immune system and keeps diseases at bay
Promotes healthy sleep and aids recovery from illness
Creating a vigorous being with overall wellness
To term Yogasana an exercise is a gross insult
The elixir of life will give rewarding results
Get on the mat!! I do plead
How much more convincing do you need?
An original
By Val Adams
15th Sept 2010
* Elixir=supreme remedy
**Pranic energy= vital force or ‘chi’
*** Tapas =A burning effort which involves purification, self-discipline and austerity. “Light on Yoga” B.K.S. Iyengar

VAsavasana

SAVASANA
The mother of Asanas is the relaxation pose
I am fully alert although my eyes are closed
My body is relaxed and in total melt-down
Fully supported and in touch with the ground
Tensing and relaxing each part in turn
Melting away the muscle burn
The mind is relaxed and completely at ease
Enjoying the silence and feeling the peace
Breathe steadily and deeply to ease the tension
Allowing my chest its full expansion
This asana is about letting go
In total submission I go with the flow
As worry and fatigue drain away
A gentle euphoria fills the day
A wonderful tonic is SAVASANA
Surrendering to gravity without the drama
So comforting, forgiving and sheer bliss
Why can’t all asanas be like this?
That’s Yoga…….if you must
Saving the best till the very last
An original by
Val Adams

My faithful friends

My faithful friends

Everyone of us holds treasured thoughts and mental pictures of experiences and loved ones and no one can take that away from us. For me, one of the most treasured and joyful mental pictures is of my Leo getting out of his bed and immediately doing a perfect “downward dog” to release every muscle of his body, before he trotted off about his important business. Leo, my pet dog and faithful companion of 19 years ‘taught’ me the benefits of Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Yoga Asana).
This asana is my desert island pose and will forever have a place in my heart.
It has also become my faithful friend because I can rely on it to set me right.
It is an important pose that forms part of Surya Namaskar.(Sun Salutation)
Therapeutic Benefits of Downward Dog pose

  1. Restores, gives energy and removes fatigue
  2. Eases shoulder stiffness and relieves arthritic shoulder joints
  3. Enhances blood circulation
  4. Rejuvenates the brain cells and invigorates the brain
  5. Improves the functions of the digestive organs
  6. Slows the heartbeat as the diaphragm is lifted to the chest cavity.

Physical benefits of Downward Dog pose

  1. Stretches the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons
  2. Tones the abdominal muscles
  3. Strengthens the arms and shapes the legs
  4. Strengthens the Quadriceps and anterior tibialis
  5. Increase flexibility of the ankles


Technique (Getting into the pose)

  1. Begin in Balasana (Child’s pose) with arms extended in front.
  2. Rest the palms by the side of chest, fingers straight and pointing forward. Elbows close to the ribs
  3. Press down with hands and lift forearms away from the ground
  4. Externally rotate the shoulders and straighten elbows.
  5. Inhale and draw yourself up to your hands and knees, feet hip distance apart.
  6. Exhale and press hips back and up and lift the sitting bones
  7. Draw the stomach in towards the spine.
  8. Ensure feet are parallel and let head hang
  9. Press heels to the ground
  10. Align ears with the upper arms

Technique (Getting out of the pose)
Inhaling and lower the body down to the floor. Relax the arms by the side of the body back into Child pose
Tips:

  1. Keep the weight evenly on both arms and legs
  2. Hands must be firmly grounded
  3. From the diaphragm stretch the abdomen up and chest down
  4. Focus on the power of the thighs to hold this asana steady

Contraindications:
Sciatica, lower back problems, carpel tunnel syndrome
Persons suffering from high blood pressure can do this pose.
Val Adams

VAaspirant

My Doubting Self
My Yoga path has been a long one and I take heart in the Confucius saying “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop”. Lately, as the bonds and ties of work and earning a living fade into the far distance, the ‘calling’ seems louder and clearer.
Very mindful of my ignorance (avidya) at this stage as I document my thoughts and feelings, the path ahead seems quite long and arduous! However, there must be a reason for the ‘calling’!
The principal aim of Yoga is to seek the truth (self-realisation) and the path is ultimately to transcend the mind and intellect to reach the highest level called ‘Samadhi”. Samadhi is when the mind, senses and intellect cease to function and an individual is at one with Atman, the Absolute.’
For a budding sadhaka (spiritual aspirant), this concept is mind-blowing……. what?
No mind ,senses and intellect?
A torrent of questions came a-flooding, a mini tsunami was awakened in my head.
Does the loss of mind, senses and intellect mean that I can no longer enjoy

  • good food ?
  • the sea and the ozone-charged breezes?
  • the scent of my jasmine flowers?
  • the bliss experienced after my deep sleep?
  • travelling and savoring new experiences?
  • watching my plants grow?
  • the textures and colours of my quilts?
  • the love of man’s best friend?
  • The love and company of friends and family?

What if the Absolute (which cannot be defined) is not what the aspirant wants when he finally arrives? After all only the very few are privileged to attain this level i.e. the gunpowder students. How can the student know if this path is right for him?’
Life in this “unreal” universe doesn’t seem that bad at the moment from a personal perspective even though we are in the Kali Age. Vedanta philosophy states that Samadhi is the end of knowledge. But knowledge (at least in this universe) is king and gaining knowledge is exactly what I am doing. It is daunting to imagine that there could be a time when knowledge is no more and complete silence prevails. This peace has been described as unutterable joy and words fail to describe this blissful state.
A little voice tells me “Don’t go there! and perish the doubts and spiraling thoughts!! .The aspirant will have to trust his Sattvic teacher and draw upon his experiences and find the way himself. Confucius also said “What a superior man seeks is in himself, what the small man seeks is in others”.
I have been warned that aspirants will experience doubts and encounter obstacles and that these will hinder my path if not checked. For the moment, I shall heed this advice and discard and ignore these wondering doubts and continue on my sadhana marga (spiritual path) . I am hopefully, a ‘dry wood’ Sattvic student just waiting to be kindled!
Val Adams

My bus journey

My bus journey
I find bus journeys on the whole relaxing as the control of the speed of travelling and the time are in the hands of the driver. As opposed to driving yourself, one can enjoy the passing scenery, read a book or indeed meditate or contemplate the day’s events. Sometimes it can be educational to witness human behaviours and even gauge the current fashion scene.
On one such journey on the No 12 bus, except for the droning of the bus engine, I was ‘miles away’ reflecting on the lecture just before I got on; Patanjali’s 8 limbs.
Suddenly a high pitched desperate voice behind me pierced through the silence in the bus. Despite my repeated attempts to ‘shut’ it out, it got more frantic and louder. Unfortunately, the bits that penetrated me went like this…….
“Why TV on???” LOUD
“Have you finished your homework?” LOUD
“Why are you not doing your homework?” LOUDER
“Listen, if you don’t pass your exam I will kill you!!” LOUDEST
“You must study hard so later on you will get a good job” DESPERATE
“When I reach home and your homework not finished, I won’t
give you pocket money” DESPERATE
Obviously it was a mother ‘talking’ to a child. After I alighted with a sign of relief, it dawned on me that this experience although unpleasant provided good examples of Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas NOT IN ACTION.
This lady’s outburst resulted in the following:

  1. ‘Robbed’ her fellow passengers’ enjoyment of the bus journey. (Asteya)
  2. Wasted/stole her child’s time by keeping him/her on the phone for so long. (Asteya)
  3. Threatened her child with violence (Ahimsa)
  4. Used bribery with pocket money (Aparigraha)
  5. Parenting on the bus is hardly appropriate behaviour (Tapas)
  6. Told her child that a good job is the result of studying hard (??) (Satya)
  7. Apparent concern for her child has resulted in this outburst, no restraint(Brahmacharya)

Now, in my heart, I thank this lady for her timely illustration of what I had just learnt. An unpleasant experience has been turned around (“Dissolved”)
Val Adams

Bhujangasana: Almost Perfect

More commonly known as “cobra”, bhujangasana could come as close to a perfect pose as can be.
Lying on your stomach, keeping your feet together, you connect yourself with your body and bring your awareness to the flowing movement of the pose. Bringing your hands to each side, just below your shoulders, elbows upward, inhale and slide forward, elongating your arms, rolling your shoulders outward and lifting your chest upward, using your back muscles to get farther and further into the stretch, resting on your pelvis with your buttocks engaged. As you move into the pose, your awareness is focused on the smooth flow on the many parts of the body used to achieve the benefits.
Once into the pose, you have the ability to engage the energy of four chakras. Your anahata (heart) chakra is wide open, communicating a receptiveness to the world and its beauty. Bhujangasana also opens the basal swadhisthana (groin) chakra, bringing relief and bloodflow to the area while also opening up the manipura (navel) chakra, stimulating appetite and helping to allieve constipation. As you stretch your neck back and upward, your vishuddhi (throat) chakra is activated, enabling you to tap into the energy to discriminate between right and wrong, bringing a clear head to its practitioner.
Lower back pain is alleviated in this pose, as well as sciatica and constipation. Women feel the benefits in their uterus being stretched while the circulation is opened up. The spinal stretch helps to keep the spinal cord more flexible, and massages the liver and kidneys. What a great way to flush out toxins.
In addition to the physical and mental benefits, bhujangasana forces the practitioner to regulate their own breathing. Following the inhale is the exhale; the practitioner literally breathes life inward and exhales life while following the ballet of physical release.
Bhujangasana could quite possibly be the perfect asana.
Stay bendy, everyone!

When Garbha Pindasana Cannot Be Said or Done Without a Slur (or Hiccup)

It was a reunion of sorts. A Saturday girls’ night out in Club Street with my girlfriends after I’d spent a week away working in Hong Kong. After my self-proclaimed, “booze celibacy” (AKA the 200 hour training course), we were also celebrating the first night I could go out on a proper pisser since late June.
I was flattered that they had taken such a curious interest in my progression in the course. Week after week I’d entertain them with reports of what I’d learned that week, what poses I could accomplish, and a tally of how long I’d gone without booze. 
After a great dinner (which consisted of meat; I’d also taken a reprieve from flesh eating during the course), we headed to the neighborhood rooftop bar and continued our binge. Although earlier in the night they’d insisted I demonstrate the poses I’d learned, I’d sloughed it off.  Little did I know that they would not only remember this request, but would require proof that I was indeed in training for the past month and not just blowing off their invitations to meet them for drinks.
Not very yogic, I know.
With a confidence only gained at my fourth Glenlivet, I ceded their request.
“GarrrrbHaa Pindasssssshaannnaah”.
“What?”
“GarrrrbbHaa Pindasssssshaannnaah. You know, it’s like an embryo in the womb. It’s meant to CALMMM the MINNNND and bring EMOOOOSHUNNAL stability” (I was shouting at this point because I became unaware that my own volume might not have been louder than that produced by the speakers above our heads).
“In GarrrrbbHaa Pindasssssshaannnaaah, you also massage your abs and benefits digestion…”  I even went so far to begin explaining as I began demonstrating, removing my 3 inch red heels.
Step one: Sit in Lotus.
Step two: Slide your arms, one by one,  between the gaps found in your thigh and calf.
Step three: Fold up your elbows and bring your hands up, resting your chin in your palms.
At this point, I was getting applause from the table, though I knew I was not properly in the asana. After all, Garbha Pindasana is performed in the second half of the primary Ashtanga series, and I hadn’t warmed up properly for this.
“Bhutt WHHHHait, I’m not finnnnnishhedd.”
I began to attempt the nine rolls back and forth, however my arms, legs and everything flew akimbo as I was desperately flailing for balance. I’m thankful there were no cameras to capture this mess.
I’ve learned my lesson. Having respect for the practice is necessary for achieving the benefits. I clearly did not respect Garbha Pindasana, and I was not met with the rewards that this pose intends to provide.
Stay bendy, everyone.

Memoirs of Yoga Teacher Training

Congratulations to those who have made it through the 200 Hr Yoga Teacher Training, Weekend batch from Jan to March 2010. Through your hardwork, sweat, tears (blood? I hope not) I hope this lovely bunch of girls have learnt something valuable for life. Yoga philosophy cannot be learnt just be reading, application to one’s life is more important than remembering the verses. Hope you will not stop learning Yoga as this is only the start.
Here are some photos for memories….