How I ended up at the YTT200

I have a confession to make – I signed up for the YTT200 programme with Tirisula the just the day before it was slated to start.

I have actually been thinking about it for a few weeks. However, the lack of confidence kept pulling me back.

You see, I have various physical imperfections and limitations, which made it challenging for me to achieve many asanas.

To add on, I had not been diligently practising yoga prior to this – I bought yoga packages but never completed them. And to be honest, I first started doing yoga 5 years ago because it seemed like an ‘in’ thing for office ladies to do.

I was also fearful of inversions and balancing poses. After having fallen down during a simple forward fold and getting a few stitches at the A&E (drama, I know), I developed an even greater fear of falling,

Last but not least, I was intimidated by the uncertainties – it was a significant investment. What if I fail? What if I give up halfway? What if after 20 weeks, I still can’t invert or do an arm balance?

As you can see, I was judging myself and comparing myself to others before I had even stepped foot into the studio. How ridiculous, right? But that is how I have always been like – a perfectionist by nature.

All these negative voices kept ranging in my head, but deep in my heart, there was a tiny voice urging me to just go for it.

At that time, I had just left my job of 7 years. For most of my life, I chose the route which was the safest, the most conventional. I was never one to take risks, because of the fear of changes and losing. This is the summary of how I ended up in a job which was unsuitable for me, and even stayed for 7 years.

A few months ago, I reached this stage in my life whereby I was constantly questioning myself, who am I? I did not want to continue living my life like an empty shell. In order to do that, I need to take responsibility for my own decisions. For once, I decided that my own health takes precedence over any other area of my life. I needed to be healthy and motivated again, to be able to face the obstacles that life throws at me.

It was a very turbulent period, and I felt so lost. I felt that I really needed to shush the noise in my head, and to think calmly. The only thing is, I didn’t know how to. Over the years, I have lost the ability to listen and connect with myself.

It was during this time when I thought of doing yoga again. As Master Sree said before, many people come to yoga because they have problems in their lives. Haha, how true is that.

So why taking up the YTT instead of just going for yoga classes? Well, it is really to hold myself accountable. I truly wanted this to be different from my previous times. I wanted to commit to my practice this time round, as part of my self healing journey.

In addition, I wanted to learn more about yoga, not just the physical aspects of it. I felt that I wanted to enhance my practice, by understanding the meaning of yoga and not see it as just a workout.

I wanted to learn how to detach from my emotions, because I tend to allow them to overwhelm me. As a result, I react in ways which I often regret. I somehow felt that yoga would help me find my ‘zen’.

Lastly, I wanted to conquer my fears. I wanted to stop fearing failures and criticism. I wanted to learn to stop comparing myself with others, or even, the person I was a few years ago.

I am happy to say that after less than a month of classes, I already feel transformed mentally. I am calmer and more peaceful, and I have learnt to slow down and listen to my inner voice. 

Increasingly, I am beginning to realise that actually, I don’t have to think so much about what happened in the past and why I am here. Perhaps, let me just enjoy my breath and go with the flow of life 🙂

Why I follow a Sattvic food diet

Have you noticed the impact food has on your mind and body? If you notice carefully, what you put in your body has a tremendous effect on how your body and mind function. I am not only talking about the obvious physical effects such as bloating, gas, indigestion, acid reflux etc. but also of other subtler aspects.

Let us first familiarise ourselves with the 3 types of diets according to Ayurveda.

Tamasic food is any food that bring lethargy or inertia to the body.

A few examples of Tamasic food:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Coffee
  3. Tea
  4. Fizzy drinks

Rajasic food; Rajas is related to activity. Rajasic foods heighten the five senses and empower feelings of sexuality, greed, jealousy, anger, delusion.

A few examples of Rajasic food:

  1. Hot spices
  2. Spicy herbs
  3. Meat
  4. Onion
  5. Garlic

Sattvic food is anything that is grown under sunlight. These foods bring energy and lightness into the body and mind, they keep lethargy at bay. They are digested easily and are extremely nourishing to the body. They bring balance and harmony into the system. Sattvic foods reduce your sleep quota and make you more productive.

A few examples of Sattvic food:

  1. Most fresh fruits and vegetables (organic and seasonal)
  2. Most grains
  3. Millet
  4. Legumes
  5. Nuts
  6. Ghee (clarified butter)
  7. Buttermilk

Foods to avoid while following a Sattvic diet:

  1. Meat
  2. Garlic
  3. Onion
  4. Chilli
  5. Yogurt

Following a Sattvic diet has brought about tremendous changes in my life. I sleep less, about 5-6 hours a night versus the compulsory 8 hours I used to sleep earlier. I feel little to no lethargy, I am always full of energy and have a better command over my emotions. Overall, I have a better command over my day 🙏

How yoga can help with depression

Depression is usually caused by high levels of stress, for example, an illness, unemployment, the loss of a loved one or trauma. According to the World Health Organisation, over 300 Million people world-wide suffer from depression which affects a person’s family, studies or work.

Neurologists believe that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin due to the suppression of new brain cells. This is why the most common treatment for this illness is “serotonin reuptake inhibitors” (SSRIs), an antidepressant. Unfortunately, SSRIs can cause many side effects. Although mild, they include insomnia, rashes, headaches, body pain, nausea and diarrhoea, eventually the drug would’ve lost its effectiveness because the brain has developed a tolerance.

However, there is another way to combat depression without having to deal with any side effects and it is the continuous practice of yoga and meditation. There’s a study that proves, Hatha yoga which is a combination of physical practice, meditation and breathing exercises that has helped people suffering from depression.

Here are 4 Postures for Depression:

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

  • Balasana is one of the most comfortable postures. It helps to calm your nerves by stretching the lower back and hips allowing the body and the mind to relax.

Adho Mukha Savanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

  • Downward Dog calms the body by allowing the chest to expand for deeper breaths. It also increases blood flow all over the body which would energise you.

Halasna (Plow Pose)

  • Halasana is known for calming the nervous system. This posture reliefs strain on the back, opens the neck and shoulders.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

  • Savasana is a very relaxing pose which helps focus your attention within, giving the body the ability to notice things like, the pulse and breath for a calmer and more relaxed state.

 

 

 

Does Yoga Stay?

Here’s a thought – would you say it is true that somehow when we all reach our 20s, we look around for something that sticks with us for life? In this fast-paced, 20th Century world that we live in, it seems everyone, especially the educated, has slowly come to realisation that the individual seeks to be balanced in life in all aspects, including taking up sport. I was never one to think that I would pick up Yoga. At 16, my Dad took me to my first Yoga class, and for that 45 minutes of continuous Ardha Mukha Swanasanas (Downward dog), and Santolasanas (Plank), my shirt was drenched in sweat. I was ridiculously impatient through any of the poses I learnt that day and simply could not understand how one would slow down the breath doing these poses. These poses, seemingly easy, had me panting at the end of it. I lacked patience. I was annoyed.

I thought to myself – “There’s no way yoga is the sport for me, for the rest of my life. It’s slow, it’s boring.”

Then came a reintroduction to yoga when I turned 22. Between the years of being 21 and 22,  I was a extreme go-getter. Nothing slowed me down. Not even the pains I felt in my body. I was an aspiring chef/baker, motivated, driven, and every single day was me telling myself “you have to be productive.” I never let my body or my mind rest. I never knew what that meant. At 21, I found out that my lower back had severe dessications at the L4 and L5 level. And for the few months after finding out, life started to seem a little bleak. Not only would I focus my energy on scanning for every pain in my back, I just made excuses to NOT move, and stopped believing in myself a little. I developed a fear for pain of any level, letting it manifest in my head to something bigger that tells me, I simply cannot do it.

Cliché in many of the yoga stories, you seek for something to comfort you when you are met with upsetting news. I came to realize more about how I was as a person, and how I treated my own body. The self-realization was that for all these years, I did not care about my body. I cared about success, I cared about “making it big”, every other single thing except the wealth of my health. It was heartbreaking to realize all of it. I wanted to make a change and turned to yoga for comfort, to make me healthier in the physical sense.

Evidently, that was not it. I was doing yoga in hopes of getting rid of my back pain, achieving only all the physical benefits possible. And although I started going to yoga classes since then, I did not realize what would happen when I took my understanding to the next level. It was one-dimensional. Yoga = flexibility and strength = better health = less back pain. Again, I fell into a hole of self-scrutiny. I was doing yoga for the sake of doing it, for the hopes of physically feeling better, achieving more skillful postures one day. And I blamed my body when things did not happen. Yoga came in and out of my life. Up to the point where I decided I want to learn more about Yoga in detail. I needed to understand more about this practice in deeper detail, and why I was allowing these thoughts in my life.

Fast-forward to today in this YTT course. Something clicked inside me as with each day of philosophy with either Master Sree or Master Paalu. “Be kind to your body, but don’t be lazy.” – Master Paalu said. At that very moment, I felt like bursting out into tears. It just hit me so hard that I struggle with what my body can or cannot do, focusing on its limitations and it in turn manifests negatively in my head. I finally became fully aware of how i viewed myself.

Every single day since then, thoughts in my head became quiet. Insecurities disappeared slowly. I no longer had these thoughts with what my body can or cannot do. I just did what I could, in my capacity. I understood more about the human mind, its natural instinct for greed. Suddenly, I am less harsh with myself in every way. Even with my own goals in the culinary aspect. Suddenly, yoga was not just a physical practice anymore.

Back to my beginning statement, Yoga has now become the one sport that can keep me healthy in my body, healthy in my mind. I love every breath I take during practice and I can no longer imagine my life without it. This journey of life is going to be filled with ups and downs, and I am fully aware that Yoga would not be an escape – it is a way of living my life. Though I cannot say for sure if everything will work out, I will constantly remember the concept of Sadhana from Master Sree, because without it, there is no regularity. Sadhana is continuous practice, improving concentration, being disciplined. Yoga will not always feed me happiness, or decrease my days of anxiety, self-doubt. On some days, my mind will creep up on me and nothing can be helpful. On other days, yoga will empower me greatly, it will strengthen me mentally and physically. My biggest takeaway today is realizing that my practice is not my reliance, and there is mindful awareness that nothing can be an escape. Just do and be calm. Whatever you practice, to whichever extent, keep it regular. And so Yoga, that is how I know you will stay.

 

JT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Yoga Asanas in Sankrit

“You must be kidding me!” That was what I responded to Master Sree and Master Paulu upon hearing to qualify for a yoga teacher, being able to say the yoga asanas in sanskrit is part of the deal! I frowned upon hearing it. It’s a foreign language. Why can’t I say or teach in English? It’s easier to understand and definitely effortlessly to pronounce. For example downward facing dog in sanskrit is Adho Mukha Svanasana. What a long sentence to remember. Forward fold is Uttanasana and chair pose is Utkatasana. I’m like gosh they sound and spell almost the same to me. How am I going to remember them without confusing myself? Master Paulu proceeded to explain that the original Yoga texts were written in Sanskrit. This age old language is believed to be more effective and powerful because of its spiritual sound quality.

 

I was sharing this with a Yogini friend of mine. She said that Sanskrit helps to connect us with the origins of practice. By saying the name and doing the pose together creates the unity of the body and sound. I told her that despite going for classes regularly, I still have difficulty remembering the names. She shared that it’s actually pretty easy. Like every pose has the word asana in it as it means pose. It is important to understand the roots and the common words first. For instance

Urdhva means upward hence upward facing dog is Urdhva mukha Svanasana

Adho means downward hence downward facing dog is Adho mukha Svanasana

 

So long I can remember the meaning, it’s easier to relate to the poses and remembering them in sanskrit. Now it’s making more sense to me.  It’s still tough for me to remember all of them though. But I’m getting there…

Healing through yoga

I was first introduced to Yoga around 15 years ago. It was at one of the local community centres. During that time, I wanted to follow my peers and be active hence I joined them. After 16 sessions, I’ve completed the term and stopped going to yoga.

About 7 years later, I wanted to be active again but hated cardio exercises hence decided to give yoga a try and turn out that I pretty like it and went on to sign up for a year member with Pure Yoga. Shortly, I was pregnant with my 2nd child and have to cut down on my choice of classes. After my second child was born, I hardly have time for myself so I stopped going yoga. It was hard juggling with work and a new born. Then came my 3rd child hence my focus was family.

Early this year, I decided to give Zumba a try after persuasion from my neighbours. I didn’t quite like it. So my neighbours suggested Yoga. I was on the fence as I was tired and aching everywhere. What if I don’t like it or half-hearted again. I rather be off sleeping or accompanying my family.

One fine morning, I just have this feeling that I should give it another shot thus I agreed with my neighbours to start off once a week for 8 lessons and hired Rachel from Tirisula Yoga to teach us. I felt so good after the first lesson that I fall back in love right away. I found myself googling to find out more about yoga and the classes being offered locally so that I can go for more classes weekly. I’ve also learnt that it will help to alleviate my constant right heel ache and right lower backache (sometimes it gets so bad that I can’t walk).

After some research, I’ve decided to go back to pure yoga as the centres are near my work place and I could go for yoga during lunch time and not on the expense of my family time. I was contemplating to sign up for membership as I don’t know if I will be discipline enough but I was glad I made the choice. Weeks after I start my classes, (going to yoga 3-5x a week), gone are my heel ache and lower back ache. I shared with my buddy, Silvy (who is a yogi for years) that I’m very impressed with the power of Yoga.

Then one Saturday, I was at the Hougang library with my children. They were exploring the kids section and to the corner of my eye, some yoga books were on the table display. It was the theme for the week. I felt like it was calling for me to reach out to the books and one particular book caught my eye, Yoga for a happy back by Rachel Krentzman. Hence I proceeded to borrow it. Shortly after I started to read it, I was full of intrigue and eager to learn more. I told Rachel about it and to my surprise, she shared that there is a TTC buddy programme going on in Tirisula.

I shared with Silvy on the programme and she was very interested as well. So here we are, on the journey to learning more about the science and the power of Yoga. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I have stopped going for therapy and acupuncture. And I am thankful that I didn’t give in to my doubts and proceeded for my calling.

Nerissa Kok

My Yoga Journey 🧘‍♀️ New Experiences

🌞🌙

As my yoga journey continues, I realized that there are too many things I do not know and I need to be open to step into it.

Firstly, all along I only knew yoga as only one type which is the floor yoga. Only thru Nithyananda Yoga, I was introduced to 3 types of yoga – floor yoga (Prathama Vinyasa Krama <PVK>), rope yoga (Kundalini Raju Yoga), and pole yoga (Shivasthamba Yoga).

After doing floor PVK daily for about 10 months, it was time to proceed to another type of yoga – rope yoga.

We invited a rope yoga master from India to Singapore to teach us rope yoga for 4 days in Jan 2019.

First thing to do was to be in oneness with the rope. It may sound easy but with a logical mind, being oneness instantly requires time. I learnt that one is part of everything. And everything is part of me. Everything that happened to me is what I attracted. No right or wrong, just my beliefs. Simply just rules are set me.

Next was to learn how to use my toes to grip onto the rope and climb up. Fear thoughts started to appeared – pain, instability and no strength etc.

My toes were sore as I was not used to using that part of my body. We have 108 mama points of Ayurveda. By doing rope yoga, one can strengthen mama points which are beneficial to good health. And there is a mama point between the toes where I use to climb up the rope.

To be honest, overcoming the toe pain was my 1st obstacle. It took time and for my first few sessions, I was not really enjoying the session.

My guru asked me to do and there must be a reason. I asked myself why am I doing this?

I started to see my fear of pain. Reflecting the incidents that created this fear pattern. Incidents that I had long forgotten started to appear. The more I do Kundalini Rope Yoga, my fear reduced as the mama point strengthen.

Initially, I could only climb 3 baby steps up on the rope. With weekly practice for 3 months, I could climb up and do a Padmasana on the rope. And 6 months, I could do a simple jump easily.

As I started to search within myself more when doing yoga and my interest in yoga grew. As a result, I planned to attend a weekend yoga teacher course as I was worried about the time I have for work and study at the same time. Time was tight. I was encouraged to attend Tirisula Yoga Teacher Training full time course with Sean & Dorisq as they could assist me when I needed help. So here I am, taking a full time course with them. By far, even though it was stressful juggling work with study, I did enjoyed and did not regret taking a full time course at Tirisula. Everything happens for a reason and I learnt that my samskara has brought me to Tirisula.

I am grateful & thankful to my course mates and my teacher Sree for my journey at Tirisula🙏

 

Nithyanandam🙏

 

Leona

 

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Facing the 9 antarayas

Patanjali refers to the nine antarayas – disturbances or obstacles which commonly hinder us on our path towards progressing in yoga / our inner work. They are:

  1. Vyadhi: physical illness (either actual, in the form of frequent injury, or perceived, in the form of hypochondria).
  2. Styana: lack of interest or motivation, boredom (Master Shree says that this is simply nature reminding us that we are fundamentally alone).
  3. Samshaya: doubt or indecision (which can often show up as a lack of belief in ones own power, potential, or path).
  4. Pramada: carelessness, distraction, or unclear thinking (due to intoxication of some kind, exhaustion, or laziness usually).
  5. Alasya: fatigue and laziness (the kind of physical and mental lethargy that can often accompany depression).
  6. Avirati: indulgence in / desire for sense objects (desire for things that are beyond bodily needs, leaning into cravings / aversions).
  7. Bhrantidarshana: living in delusion / wrong understanding (the oft-dangerous stories that we tell ourselves about how things / people are which may misinform our thoughts or actions).
  8. Alabdhabhumikatva: not recognising progress that has been made, focusing on all that is still ahead (this is common when you have not fulfilled your expectations of yourself, and cannot focus on all that you have achieved because you’re in a ‘lack-focused’ mindset).
  9. Anavasthitatva: inability to maintain / grow your achieved progress (this may be due to a lack of Bhakti – devotion – or partly influenced by one of the other antarayas, but meditation can help in terms of keeping the self focused on achieving a specific goal).

I was thinking that this could be a very useful framework to understand challenges in our lives in general, not simply in Yoga. If we were able to apply this framework in diagnosing ourselves, I think we could discover a whole host of interesting insights in terms our patterns of self-sabotage that lead to us not achieving our goals.

This, along with the reminder of Johari’s Window (the mis/alignment of a) how you define yourself vs. b) how others define you vs. c) how you want others to define you vs. d) what you think about the world) could be very applicable tools to many different fields – empowering people to think more carefully and critically about the patterns of thought / action that make up who they are, and how they might want to change these patterns moving forward.

Pain and Perfectionism

I have recently been dealing with a back problem that was dormant at the start of Teacher Training, but seems to have become more and more severe and prominent in recent days.

Besides making me unable to do certain forward-bending and twisting poses, this pain has also made me keenly aware of the need for continuous perfectionism in Yoga. As Master Shree says, each yoga asana can be adjusted for any student (no matter their level). This is due to the spirit of continuous perfectionism.

Take adho mukha suwasana, for example, the well-loved downward facing dog. For a beginner, we may simply ask the student to get into the pose, lifting their hips up and trying to straighten their legs while bringing their feet to the ground. We might ask them to breathe 5 rounds in the pose, and then relax in child’s pose.

An intermediate student would be asked to consider more details of the posture – suck in the belly, breathe with the throat, hips back, arms flat on the floor, shoulder blades rolled back and scapulae relaxed on the back.

For an advanced student, it would go even deeper into detail – touching upon the direction of muscle rotations, the exact angle of the gaze, the even-distribution of weight throughout the front and back of the posture…

It is this rigour, and commitment to continuous perfectionism that draws me to yoga. There is always more to learn, to perfect, to strengthen, to stretch. By doing the practice, we are both improving and also identifying always ways to do things more perfectly.

Stones and Flowers

Today in class, Master Shree shared a small story of a resilient seed whose stem – despite a journey through rocky and stiff dirt – somehow managed to push through to the surface of the earth in order to find sunlight and grow into a beautiful flower. “If I go and touch the flower now,” Master Shree said, “it will wilt and break immediately.”

He used this as an illustration for the charge to ‘be like a stone for yourself, and a flower for others.’ This is something that resonated deeply for me as I realise that, for many years, I have been oscillating between ‘stone’ and ‘flower’ for both myself and others.

When it comes to ‘inner work’, it’s hard to know how to keep yourself accountable. This is where stone-like discipline comes in. When one can stand firm in their resolve that yoga is a source of strength, calm, presence, wholeness, and health in their life, one will continue to practice.

But the truth is, this will come with sacrifices. Most people do not spend most of their time thinking about their breath, or listening to their body. Most people do not meditate for hours a day on the nature of their self, or how the principle of ahimsa applies to their lives. As such, if one is trying to live a strict life of yoga, one may find themselves alienated, excluded, misunderstood. In the midst of this, it is easy to lose strength; to slow or stop the practice; to postpone what you know you need to do… indefinitely.

As such, it is important that we be a stone for ourselves, ever steady, solid, inching towards the sunlight no matter the number of stones and roots and hardened clay-like pieces of soil in our way.

But (and crucially), the second part of the idiom is still unexplored. ‘Be like a stone for yourself, and a flower for others’, moreover, a flower that is delicate enough to wilt at the gentlest intervention…

Rather than applying the same high standards, the same unwavering resolve, the same harsh honesty, the same disciplined structure… to others, what if we were to maintain our sense of compassion? What if we were to be vulnerable, fragile, delicate?

This might put others at ease, make them feel unconditionally accepted and loved, while also inspiring them to inquire into why – this now wilting flower at the slightest touch – continues to sprout blossom after blossom, from a seed deep deep under the rough, rocky soil.