How did yoga democratise itself and how it has become part of our daily life routine?

A few years back, Yoga was perceived like a weird spiritual related discipline that only hippies were into. So it got be questioning: how did Yoga become such a huge hype that today you cannot avoid traveling anywhere in the world without seeing a Yoga studio somewhere?

Yoga in sanskrit means “union” and a yogi will spend a lifetime trying to align body, mind and soul! 

Yoga originated over 5,000 years ago and at the time was a philosophical and meditative movement (amongst many others) trying to unite our physical world with the divine. 

The mental effort to unite body, mind and soul is much more difficult than only focusing on the physical postures. It is therefore thought that postures will only start appearing in Yoga in the 18th century and they could only start being practiced after long hours of meditation work first. Yoga has therefore evolved over the course of the years and History. The Yoga that we practice today has mostly been inspired by the 1920’s. 

The first guru to “promote” Yoga to the western world was Swami Vivekananda in Chicago in 1893 during the World’s Parliament of Religions. He gave a vision of Yoga to be a philosophical, spiritual, universal and tolerant discipline. 

In 1924, the guru Tirumalai Krishnamacharya developed a series of postures accessible to all, targeting the western world. This method which did not require intense meditation before starting any physical practice will democratize Yoga and become quite popular amongst westerners in search of spirituality and exotisme. 

In 1968, The Beatles go on a trip to Rishikesh, the city of their guru Maharishi Mahesh. Following their stay, Rishikesh will then become popular as a city of yoga and music and will attract a lot of people who want to visit the “Holy City of Yoga”. 

In 1973, the popular and controversial guru Bikram Choudhury started teaching Hollywood stars Yoga (Madonna, George Clooney, Demi Moore…). He will create his own hot yoga practice and will open hundreds of studios across the USA and abroad. 

In the 1980’s, as Yoga has become more and more “trendy” across the world, the attention sets back to its roots: India. Rishikesh becomes one of the official “yoga authentic” cities in the world. Many westerners who are into Yoga will make a stop over in the city. 

The various gurus who have helped Yoga become more trendy have also raised new questions amongst the practitioners: is yoga a practice of the body or the mind? 

Source: Marie Kock, « Yoga, une histoire-monde »

What the 200hrs Yoga Teacher Training brought me

I started my yoga journey 6 years ago by a friend dragging me for a 2 days yoga retreat in the middle of nowhere (with no internet connection). At that time I didn’t know what to expect from these two days and arrived to the retreat with a preconceived idea of this discipline: modern hippies only eating seeds and avocado gluten-free toasts and singing ohms to relax! I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt after an intense day of stretching, exercising, singing and meditating and from that weekend onwards never stopped my yoga asana practice. 

I started practicing more thoroughly the following year as I moved to Singapore, land of the yoga clubs! To me yoga had become my new “sport hobby” as I hated having to sweat all the water out of my body by running outside. 

Throughout my six years of weekly yoga practices, I thought my ultimate goal was to be flexible and strong enough to be able to snap an instagram shot doing peacock or fancy headstand postures. 

Few months back I went through a hard time and felt depression and anxiety slowly settling in my daily life. I stopped “exercising” and felt even worse. One night my husband pushed me to register to a 200hrs YTT saying that even though I might not change want to make a leaving out of yoga it would probably help finding a new source of personal inspiration. He was so right, I do not regret a second taking some time away from home, kids, work, daily routine to focus purely on myself. 

Of course practicing 2hrs of asanas everyday has “forced” me back into a physical activity and has helped me deepen my practice, feel stronger and healthier physically but it has also been the starting point of a new journey: asking myself questions I had always tried to ignore: how do I define myself, what is my life purpose, where do I want to be in a few years time. I am still currently answering these questions with too much of my “daily life” elements, but this training has definitely helped me to start focusing on who I am and who I want to be as well as how I want to live the rest of this life more deeply. 

This training has opened my eyes and taught me that yoga is not a practice it is a life philosophy and it might take more than just a single life to answer some of the deepest questions it forces oneself to think about 😉

Teaching “ultra” beginners

The first class we were asked to teach during our 200hrs YTT was an “ultra beginner” class, and “ultra beginner” meant no downward dogs or warrior 1. 

How could we teach people how to focus on their breathing or stretch for a full 60 minutes practice? Wouldn’t it be super boring? 

The evening before I decided to use my husband to design my ultra beginner sequence. I was quite surprised to find out that, downward facing dog to him (a true yoga newbie, constantly complaining about back pain) was like doing headstand without any other support than the crown of the head to me!

I reshuffled things a little around to focus mostly on deepening the breathing, playing around with some balancing poses, including a fair amount of stretching and including downward facing dog and warrior one as the two most advanced postures of the sequence. Here’s how it went: 

  1. Sit in a comfortable position (ideally legs crossed, can be on a block)
  2. Start focusing on some breathing exercises to become more conscious of ones own breath:
    1. Deeply inhale in 1,2,3 (tummy goes out) and 3,2,1 (tummy comes in)
    2. Start Ujayic breathing by pretending to fog a mirror but keeping mouth closed
  3. Some stretching exercises:
    1. Neck rotations (clockwise, anti clockwise)
    2. Shoulder rotations (inwards, outwards)
    3. Arms in front: wrist rotations
    4. Right arm up, left arm hand on the floor, extend right arm over left side (and other side)
    5. Still on the floor, sit on toes and rotate toes (with weight of your body on the balls of your feet)
    6. On all fours: cat and cows
    7. Standing up, breath in, stretch the arms up, stand on toes – exhale, release the whole body by bending forward
    8. Rotate the arms inwards, then backwards
  4. Exercises to teach some basic postures
    1. Forward fold with bended knees, grabbing opposite elbows, rock from side to side
    2. Low lunge with knee on floor to open hips
    3. Face a wall, place hands on the wall in L shape (to practice pressure in arms and shoulders during downward dog)
  5. Hatha yoga sun salutation 5 times
    1. Inhale – arms up
    2. Exhale – fold forward
    3. Inhale – half way lift, hold: right leg back, left leg back
    4. Exhale – Knees, chest, chin on the floor
    5. Inhale – Cobra
    6. Exhale – downward dog
    7. Inhale – Right leg forward, left leg forward 
    8. Exhale – forward fold
    9. Inhale – Arms up
    10. Exhale – Stand still, arms on side of body
  6. Relaxation exercises
    1. Sit on the mat, forward stretch
    2. Lie on the mat – happy baby pose
    3. Bend knees – hold tight to the chest
    4. Still bended knees, drop both knees on right side, gaze to the left (then other side) 
    5. Lie is savasna

Building a good yoga sequence

One of the challenges I was faced during my 200hrs YTT is when, during the last week of our training, we had to come in front of the class to teach other future teachers a real class.

This was a challenge for various reasons: I had to fight away the “shyness” in me and act as if I was a tenured teacher, I had to show confidence when this was the first real class I was teaching, I knew the others had the same level as me (if not better) and I had to teach them nice sequences, I had so many things running in my head at the same time (voice tone, energy, smooth transitions, adjustments…). 

But one of the most difficult challenges for me was finding the right sequence. The sequence that I and my students would enjoy. The sequence that would reflect my personality and style. 

I would spend hours over the weekend to watch some YouTube videos or pinning some nicely illustrated yoga sequences on Pinterest, yet I felt lost in an overflow of information. Until I found a really nice cheat-sheet on how to build a yoga sequence. You need to fill the blanks according to the class you want to deliver but it guides you through a nice smooth flow. As I know a lot of young Yoga Teachers might be reading these blog posts, I thought it’d be a nice to share:

  1. [Note to teacher only]
    1. Class Name
    2. Peak pose
    3. Theme
  2. Intro
  3. Starting pose (eg. child pose, seating, standing, laying…)
  4. Breathing exercise (eg. kapalbhati, ujjayi, aloma viloma…)
  5. Spinal warm ups (eg. cat-cow, twists, side bend…)
  6. Sun salutation x times (eg. Hatha, Ashtanga A, B…)
  7. External hip rotations with Vinyasa in between and repeat other side (eg. 
  8. Internal hip rotations with Vinyasa in between and repeat other side (eg. 
  9. Standing balance poses (eg. tree, half-moon, eagle, warrior 3…)
  10. Sequence leading to peak 
  11. Peak pose (eg. high lunge, chair, pyramid, low lunge…)
  12. Counter pose (eg. headstand -> child pose, shoulder stand -> fish pose…)
  13. Seated poses (eg. baddha konasana, lotus, paschimottanasana…)
  14. Supine poses (eg. bridge, fish, reclined butterfly, happy baby…)
  15. Savasna
  16. Optional: place some core exercises in between a sequence category

You can fill out this cheat-sheet depending on the time of day, level of your students, theme of the class, mood of the day… without forgetting the essentials!

Yoga – a friend for life.

As we age, Our mind and body mostly misalign with the our physical and mental status. No two people age similarly . For example, one always feels amaze when you come across 70 year old man with 70 year old body and mind  compared to 70 year old man with 40 year old mind and body.

As one ages, the physical changes is inevitable and sometimes it makes most obvious and daily routine task more challenging. This may end up shaking one’s self confidence with lower flexibility , lower sense of balance , bones and joints movement limited.Some of the other common problems could be issues with digestive system, lack of proper lung functioning hence affecting breathing patterns. All this ultimately create obstacles in the proper functioning of the heart which could be recognised by disruption in daily living functions like missing of adequate sleep, mild depression, mood swings, and a decline in overall well-being.

The practice of yoga amongst elderly can bring about positive change in their  quality of life . The program created for this age group should combine simple stretches and modified yoga poses suiting to their need and support their spine . It should also be remembered that the practise for the elderly should include in massaging int he internal organs especially the digestive system and at least 15 min of pranayama should be added in a 60 min practice for helping to enhance the lung capacity and align the chakras.Conscious effort should be made to keep in mind the average age and fitness of the students with modifications to customise the sequence as per the bodily requirement of the aged group.

Don’t give up

 

I read somewhere ‘there is no magic needed to do Beautiful asanas ‘. My head stand has taken a lot of discipline  and working and I can safely say it still a Work in Progress. The lesson I have learnt is that practice is necessary. It also needs that Minor and major adjustments and knowing what works best for me.

How many times in a day do I tell myself to give up and take the easy way out ? At least two on an average!These could be a explained with a classic Motherly explanation. Since we are all human beings , temptations may come in at every stage of parenting to give in to unreasonable demands and not bothering to choose the path of discussion. That is when you have to study what needs to be done in your family life and decide how much of yourself you are willing to give to get it. Having the discipline to maintain a high level of active parenting reaps rewards not just in the area of behavior, but in health and happiness as well.

It’s very important to never give up without giving it a try especially with decisions and actions which you know would be in the right direction.So what are you waiting for ?

 

The Chakras Connection

As per Yoga , our body and mind and ultimately our well being gets regulated by 7 chakras located in different parts of our body.They are dependent on each other and for a step closer to samadhi , they need to be in alignment with each other.

Unfortunately, the chakras in most of the modern physical body gets victimised by external forces most of the time. Sometimes these forces are initiated by others and sometimes it’s our own creation. Though we cannot control the external reasons, what we can control is out reaction towards those forces.

Since the modern world moves very, very fast , it’s not long before we feel all kinds of pressure (personal, parental, social) to keep up with everyone around them. For example ,as parents we want our children to act and behave with mindfulness and with compassion, to be brave, to know love and happiness, and to find inner peace but we take it as a performance pressure and burden ourselves.

Being a regular Yoga Practitioner and doing it like a Sadhana helps create a routine in one’s life. It also helps in taking that one more step toward Chakras spinning at the right speed Yoga functions as a balancing act to connect with self and create an example for the follow .

Finding Balance – Three Gunas

The Three Gunas, defined as the three fundamental qualities or attitudes of the manifest energy. In yoga and Ayurveda, a guna is a tattva or element of reality that can affect our psychological, emotional and energetic states.

  1. Sattvic: Life, purity, strength, health joy, cheerfulness
  2. Rajasic: Over-stimulated, passion, boisterous, restlessness
  3. Tamasic: Dull, inertia, lazy

So what does this mean for us? This is my understanding –  to make progress along the yogic path, we must practice self-observation and discernment to witness and not react to the activities of the gunas.  We must increase our inner-strength and willpower to mindfully shift our thoughts and actions away from tamas and rajas towards sattvic balance and purpose. With yoga, we often try to reach the state of balance and equilibrium and the three Gunas allow us to understand ourselves and our state a little better to achieve that equilibrium. In the case that perhaps one is feeling sluggish and tired during the day, a rajastic asana practice could help bring one out of the tamasic state. Yoga practices could include power yoga, flow yoga or even kapalabhati pranayama to stimulate the rajas and ignite the passion in us.

To reduce tamas, avoid tamasic foods such as meats, chemically treated, processed or refined, oversleeping, overeating, inactivity, passivity and fearful situations. To reduce rajas, avoid rajastic food such as spicy, fried food and stimulants, over exercising and over working. To increase sattva, decrease rajas and tamas, increase sattvic food in take such as whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and immerse oneself in positive thoughts and activities that bring joy.

“When one rises above the three gunas that originate in the body; one is freed from birth, old age, disease, and death; and attains enlightenment” – Bhagavad Gita

I N V E R S I O N S

Inversions – the kind of asanas that takes you out of your comfort zone, a test of balance and courage and that satisfaction when you’ve found the sweet sweet spot to stay, hold, and breathe with ease in the pose.

Having done gymnastics for a while in primary school, going upside down was a rather familiar feeling. However, when I begun doing inversions in yoga again, I suppose the challenge was for my arms to hold up more weight than I had as a primary school kid. Inversions seems to take up more energy than it did as a child, and perhaps the fear of falling increased in leaps and bounds as an adult.

Ever since I attempted a headstand in one of my hatha classes, I fell back in love with inversions. I wasn’t great at it at the start – with every headstand, my neck and shoulders would hurt, blood rushing to my head was such a foreign feeling and I was discouraged at how weak my upper body strength was. But, I loved the challenge, and over time, I loved how the pose places me out of my comfort zone to see the world from a different perspective (literally!) and how aware I became of the area of muscles I should be activating to stay in the pose or even come into it.

With time, practise, falling, getting back up again, falling again and coming back to it, I got better. I managed to stay in my headstand and found peace in that pose – like as if the world has slowly faded and I am there, chilling, upside down. Pincha was always a challenge, but I was encouraged to continue trying at it when I saw how I was improving, little by little, week by week.

If you have yet had the opportunity to attempt an inversion, I encourage you to take the leap of faith and try to get into one (of course with some supervision and help at the start), and begin to be okay with the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. Who knows… maybe one day, you’ll begin to love it.

The greatest take away I got from inversions has been a life lesson. Similar to when you’re in an inversion, “life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”

Yoga Numerology: a Brief Explanation

For this blog, let’s explore a less popular affiliate of the yoga practice.  That is numerology, or the knowledge and occult significance of numbers. Numerology has various interpretations throughout different cultures, and the depth and allegiance to the interpretations. 

In my practice I can appreciate numerology in a way that I also appreciate tarot, or other practices that offer us perspective, feedback, and self reflection (or anticipation).  For me, these interpretations are not defining, but thought provoking in my self reflection. Yoga numerology explores the 10 yogic bodies (11th is mastery) and 7 chakras. If we think of those bodies like a musical instrument, we realise that they can fall out of tune, or balance, even without being touched.  Like an instrument, our environments and atmospheres affect our balance. Reflecting on this helps us start to learn how to keep ourselves in tune. 

Read on to learn  about your numerology!

 

Calculating your numbers: 

Your numerology code consists of 5 unique numbers. 

We’ll add digits of your birth dates to come up with the unique numbers, but will never condense the numbers 10 or 11 by adding them together. 11 will stay as an 11 and a 10 will be a 1+. Numbers higher than 11 are added together to give you a single digit to work with; for instance, 12 becomes 3 (1+2=3).

Let’s take may birthdate for example: 03/08/1989 (mm/dd/yyyy)

Karma Position (The month you were born… eg. 03) = 3

Soul Position (Day of birth… eg. 08) = 8

Gift (Last two digits of the year you were born… eg. 8 +9 = 17 >>>> 1 + 7 = 8) = 8

Destiny (The year of your birth… eg. 1 + 9 + 8 + 9 = 27 >>>> 2 + 7= 9) = 9

Path (The sum of adding all of the digits of your birth date… eg.  3 + 0 + 8 + 1 + 9 + 8 + 9 = 38 >>>> 3 + 8 = 11) = 11

As you read on, remember that each number can manifest a positive and negative quality.  These things are also fluid; how the qualities show up and at what times may depend on how you are managing, balancing, and cleansing  your 10 bodies and chakras. This is feedback for your own reflection. Yoga, meditation, pranayama all help to keep in balance and work through this.   Also keep in mind that what may come across confusing or negative is really just constructive feedback for yourself. 

Karma Number: How you relate to the external world and to relationships with others.  Opportunity to create harmony between your internal and external worlds

Soul Number: How you relate to yourself; your soul, your consciousness, the spiritual and creative essence in you.  If you are able to consciously connect with your soul self, you are more self loving and have less separation and alienation.

Gift Number: Reveals a positive quality you have been given in this lifetime. The body and chakra associated with this number indicate natural talents which can support you through challenges presented by your Soul and Karma numbers, as well as get you through times of stress and pressure.

Use it or lose it.  It’s important to strengthen your gifts as much as possible.

Destiny Number:  This number resonates with your deep personal history, uses your skills and many lifetimes of talents to support you through the challenges and weak areas in your chart. Similar to the use-it-or-lose-it philosophy mentioned before, if we are not using the talents we have mastered over lifetimes, they can show up as negative attributes of the body and chakra associated with the number in this position.   Use your relationship with this number to develop your inner mastery and use it as a platform for balance and personal strength.

Path Number: This number represents what to build in this lifetime in order to feel complete.  It behaves as a compass so you can serve and teach others how to do the same. When you have mastered this number you are thriving and doing what you are supposed to be doing!  Mastery of the body and chakra of this number means you are inspiring others and fulfilling your own path.