Overcoming Inversions

Overcoming Inversions

Inversions. Depending on who you are this word might incite fear, calm your nerves or somewhere on that spectrum. For me, just by hearing the word inversion my hearts beats a little faster. 

I have always been afraid of being upside down. You might be thinking, hmm that is an oddly specific fear. So let me step back a little and give you some background on why I possess this deeply rooted fear. It all started with a basketball. 

When I was nine, I was playing basketball in the neighborhood with my brother when it landed on my head. Now thinking back, I’m sure being hit by a basketball is quite a tame experience. I doubt if any of you got hit by a basketball today would be traumatized by the ordeal. But here I am, a nine-year-old me who from that day on became deeply afraid of anything falling on my head. 

Keep in mind here, I was an active kid. I did dance, gymnastics (which yes, included many cartwheels, back handsprings and inversions of all kinds) and all sorts of other activities. Kids don’t have a preconceived notion of what is to come, so learning how to flip and hold myself upside down came as naturally to me as every other motor skill. But fast-forward a couple years, and the fear started to kick in. 

This brings me back to the past week at my yoga teacher training course. Since picking yoga a couple years ago to supplement my dance training, I have noticed a myriad of benefits. Many poses came naturally to me due to my dance training, and I gained strength in my arms and upper body — areas normally neglected by dancers. But the one thing I dreaded towards the end of every session was sirasana (yes the dreaded headstand). What was once a fairly standard warmup in my toddlers gymnastics class had grown into a demon of its own.

Every yoga instructor and dance teacher I’ve had has told me that getting into inversions was only as hard as it is to get over your fear of being upside down. Okay easier said than done. I was the one who couldn’t even get her legs up the wall in a yoga class. But I’m telling you, in just the first week of the course, I overcame my fear of inversions. The teachers at the yoga teachers training course were right. The most valuable piece of advice that helped me finally jump over that mental hurdle was to not fear falling. Satya advised us that after a few times falling, we would learn that falling isn’t so scary after all. She was right, with this new mindset, I went home and practiced my headstands on my bedroom wall and the thought of losing balance out of an inversion didn’t scare me anymore. 

So for all of you out there struggling to get up into your headstand, I hope this little story gave you an ounce of motivation to keep trying, and if not I hope you were at least mildly entertained by my ramblings. 

How did I end up in YTT? Part 2

Though my brain was acting weird by telling me not to do the YTT in the last few days leading to the first day of my course, I chose to ignore my thoughts and focus on what my heart wanted to do.

So here I am, 10 days into my course. How do I feel? I feel happy, yeah happy. So I guess my heart is right this time.

Besides getting to practise the yoga that I like to do, I get to know people from different walks of life which otherwise, in my clinical corporate world, I will never get to meet. I get to learn and hear different experiences that my teachers and classmates have. I am inspired by many of them, who have so much drive and persistence to follow their passion and earn their keep, regardless of how young they are. This is definitely something that I will share with and hopefully impart it to my children.

I always believe that in every environment, it is the people who makes the difference. In the training, we share stories, we laugh, we train, we work our bodies till our sweat drip like crazy. It is hard and it is fun. It is the people that we connect with, not the environment.

I am not one of those superstar yogis on Instagram who can do those impossibly amazing postures. There are many postures that I am good with and there are also that many postures that I struggle a lot with, for example, handstand! I still have many things to work on but I am positive, because I know that I am on the right track. The cup is half full, not half empty. Yoga humbles me because I can only do what my body and mind can do in unison. I cannot rush it, I cannot force it. I have to earn it. Yoga is a journey which doesn’t end.

If it is a journey that allows me to make my mind and body stronger and calmer, to make new friends, hear new stories, I guess it is worth it.

Cheers, JT

Breaking the Ceiling with YTT 200

For anyone who has been practicing yoga for at least two years, considering taking a teacher training program is normal. The motivation to join begins as an idea. It comes when you hear that a person who used to sit beside you in yoga class has now become a certified yoga instructor. It can also come from seeing personalities on Instagram who have “YTT 200 certified yoga instructor” on the multi-hyphenated answer they provide to the question, “What do you do for a living?” The idea can also form because one day your teacher observes your form and tells you that you have the potential to push your practice and become an instructor.

Wherever the idea originates, one thing is certain – the teacher training is not easy. It’s a commitment. The daily 2-3 hours of asana practice can be grueling. And the difficulty of memorizing Sanskrit and specific muscle and bone names gently reminds you of how old and rubbery your brain has gotten.

But throughout the lectures, you also pick up the images and ideas that help to refine your practice. For me, it was the image of the “ascending triangle,which was part of the learning methods we discussed during the second week of training. The concept of learning here is we aim for a goal or a “ceiling,” and when we fail, we don’t return to the low point where we started; we are a step higher. When we try to reach for the ceiling and fail again, we descend to a point that is even higher than the previous one – until all the points at which we begin form an ascent. Finally, we reach a summit and break the ceiling.

Imagining your training (or your entire life) as an ascent can be powerful. If you’re open, you realize that a failure or a fall is never final because you can always try again. If you give up on your first or second try, then you are leaving something open ended. Like a loose windowsill flapping in the wind, it will nag at you endlessly.

So, while the teacher training can be struggle at times, it’s important to establish a pattern of completion, to complete the training and not leave it hanging.

If you hope to become a teacher, you need to realize that your first pupil is yourself. You can be disciplined by simply showing up daily. You can be mindful of your practice by being present with the challenge, observing it, and meeting it.

If you’re thinking about enrolling for a program, then you’ve already taken a first step; indeed, the only way to complete something is to start something and go through the motions. And each day as you observe your progress, you also witness your ascent. When the struggle transforms into relief and effortlessness, that’s when you know you’ve broken out of the ceiling and it’s time to aim for a higher one.

Chiara M.

How did I end up in YTT?

I have been in the corporate world for more than 20 years. It has been a good 20 years as I have learnt many things and the most valuable thing is, some of my colleagues are now my closed friends. I have been fairly lucky at work (or I chose to see that I am lucky) and have been given many opportunities to try different things and move up the corporate ladder. I started a family in my 30s and children ‘took charge’ of my life for more than a decade. My life, my thoughts, my activities revolved around their needs. As I head towards the 50 years old milestone, with my children growing up, I start to think about me.

I started yoga some 15 years ago. Besides being a good workout, I enjoyed the session and felt happy and peaceful at the end of the class. I always feel proud of myself when I have managed to achieve the postures consistently. I stopped for a few years when my kids were little and resumed into more regular practice when they are a bit bigger.

I am no different from other working mums. I am busy with work, busy with the children’s homework and their endless logistics needs, doing marketing for groceries and when time permits, I squeeze in an hour of Korean drama. On top of that, I try to do a daily (if I can) yoga practice at home because it just saves me the time travelling to and fro the studio.

In the last couple of years, I start thinking what will I be doing in another 10 years. Where do I see myself in 10 years time? The answer to these questions has been consistent – I hope I will not be working in the corporate world full time after 10 years. However, I cannot be just leaving the corporate world when I am 50 without something to go to or do. So what should I be doing when I am 50 and what should I do to get myself ready?

I left school decades ago and skills/ interests that I used to be good at have long disappeared from me. In the last 20 years, I have not spent time to hone any skills to increase my employability.

After thinking about it and talking to others for 2 years, I have decided to do a YTT. I want to use it to deepen my practice and also to see for myself, if teaching yoga will be something that I really want to do.

I applied for a month of absence from my company. In the last week leading to the YTT, my brain started acting weird. It kept telling me not to do it. Thoughts like I may not be cut out to be a teacher, it will be a waste of time, my current job is good and I have been given many opportunities etc, were running in my head daily.

To be continued in Part 2… JT

Sirsana / Headstand – The King of Asanas

SIRSANA (HEADSTAND)

Sirsasana or the head stand will forever more hold a very special place in my heart because during the course, through hard work, trust and determination I finally managed to get up into this inversion pose having not been able to for many years and I was over the moon! However it was only after achieving this that I learnt of all the physical mental and spiritual benefits and was really impressed. I have listed these below because these explain why many refer to as the King of Asanas.
Physical Benefits
  • Strengthens the upper body (arms, shoulders and back) and the core
  • Helps to improve deep core muscles and muscular endurance as the posture should ideally be held for an extended period between 2 and 10 minutes.
  • Improves digestion as gastric fire is increased and due to the reversed gravity on your digestive organs,it will help to move stuck material, release trapped gases, as well as improve blood flow to all important digestive organs — increasing nutrient absorption and delivery to your cells.
  • Cleanses your organs; intestines, kidneys, stomach, liver and reproductive systems.
  • It aids all bodily systems including; digestive, endocrine, respiratory, skeletal and cardiovascular by reversing gravities pressure while in the position
  • Headstands stimulate and provide fresh blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. These glands are vital to our welling, and are considered the master glands that regulate all the other glands in the body (thyroid, pineal, thalamus, testicles, ovaries etc…)
  • Going upside down will squeeze your little adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of stress hormones. The cleaner your adrenal glands are, the better they will function allowing you to adapt to stress better.
  • Decreases fluid build-up in the legs, ankles and feet (edema). Once again the reverse power of gravity will help flush fluids from the body. This will also help reduce the onset of varicose veins.
  • The pose stimulates the lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is very important as it removes waste products from your blood and therefor the posture helps to  de-toxify your body.
  • It is a great position if you want to increase the flow of blood and nutrients and oxygen to your face, brain and scalp. This may also aid hair growth (and some say stop grey hairs!) and rejuvenate skin as more blood reaches the skin cells and hair follicles.
  • Improved circulation occurs as the heart has to pump blood upwards to the brain but as you are upside down the position gives the heart a rest that reduces unnecessary strain. In addition, while in headstand de-oxygenated blood is able to flow more easily from the extremities to the heart.
  • It helps properly align the spine therefore helping to improve posture
Mental Benefits
  • Helps to relieve stress as it is a “cooling posture”. It is particularly helpful if you are having anxiety, stress, fear of otherwise worrisome thoughts. Combine headstand with long, slow breathing and you have a recipe for stress relief as it produces a entering, calming and soothing effect.
  • The posture helps to stop depression as the adrenal glands are flushed and detoxified with the inverted position.
  • It increases mental focus. When getting in to the posture you need to focus on your strength and balance which helps to generate mental clarity.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, increasing memory, mental alertness and clarity.
Spiritual benefits
  • Sirsasana is called the “king of all asanas” for a reason as it allows us to overcome the force of gravity in the material world that can age and deplete our body and mind.
  • Stimulate the sahasrara energy  centre at the crown of your head to enhance clarity of vision and intuition.
  • Help a person
  • It it thought to enhance self confidence, roundedness, balance and empathy while diminishing fear.
  • Sexual energy is thought be converted to spiritual energy and stored in the brain when in this posture

If you’re not up yet keep practicing, you’ll get there and if you are ENJOY! 🙂

Most importance things Yoga teaches me in life

  • Breathing

When my breathing is right, everything in my life will be right. When I stuck in difficult posture during the practice, I am really feel that inhalation and exhalation can help body go further. Breathing correctly also can help you calm and go over when life is tough.

 

  • Concentration

During my yoga practice, when I have difficulty maintaining a certain posture, what I would do is to concentrate on my breathing and balancing. It stabilises the body and bring peace and calm. That’s the power of being present. We could have thousands of thoughts in a single moment however, when you are being focus, nothing will bother you.

 

  • Know yourself

Since I started yoga, I started to understand my body as well. How flexible I can, how strong I am, how to control the muscle in my body and how to control myself. Gradually, through the body you will more understand your inner self. You are a part of nature, you are amazing.

 

  • Smile

An important enlightment I discover is, the act of smiling uplifts my spirit during the struggles especially practising challenging posture.  Therefore, do remember to keep smiling through all your circumstances in life. Keep smiling, even you hit the rock bottom, your body will know how to overcome it.

 

  • Relax

We are living in a highly urbanized society. Our mind and body are constantly feeling tensed without us knowing that. It is like an overly stretched rubber band, it bound to break someday. Hence, relaxing our body and mind is so important before you break yourself.

 

Yoga and I

Yoga is amazing and it always inspires me. Every time I hit rock bottom and confuse about my life ahead, yoga always bring me back on track.

My life had been smooth and easy until six years ago. I graduated with a poor high school score despite I had done my best. As a result, I could not successfully enter to the university and faculty that I wanted. That was my first experience of failure. I was feeling down and shut myself away in my room during that time. I was really afraid to face the reality and the messy situation.

It was then I knew yoga. I was brought to yoga class by my sister. Gradually, I started to like this sport. At that time, I only treated yoga as a sport.

 

After a while, I finally found my life direction and went to the University of Taiwan to study Chinese. In Taiwan while I was pursuing my degree, I was attending yoga classes. Slowly I began to discover that after every yoga class, my heart always feels calm and stable. Most of the time I felt very happy and satisfied.

After graduated from university, I started my job in Malaysia. Without any previous working experience, I could not perform well in my job and I was under pressure. I felt I was a failure and very depressed at that time.

Until I returned to yoga, once again, yoga brought me back to the right track. I began to think more deeply about yoga, and realized a very important truth. When my breathing is right, everything will be right.

Thanks Yoga for entering my life and I am sure our story will be continued.

Yoga is sublet of physiotherapy

Before engaged YTT 200 hours yoga training course, I have encountered this back pain while performing tuladandasana posture (warrior 3). This back pain had been troubling me for 2 months and I did not know what was the reason that causing my back pain.

On the first day of the YTT 200 hours yoga training course, both of the yoga masters noticed that I have slightly scoliosis while performing forward bending posture. The masters taught me a new therapy posture by squatting down and try to bend my upper body forward to the left side and move toward the right side. After trying out the therapy posture on the spot, I felt relief on my back pain. The masters ask me to do the therapy and twisting postures daily to recover and improve my scoliosis pain.

After following the master’s instruction for 2 weeks, I sensed great relief on my back pain and my scoliosis pain has recovered. Sincerely thankful and appreciate !!!

Stimulate detoxification

Through yoga, I found myself showered in smelly sweat while comparing with other exercises.

Finally, I have found the answer during YTT 200 hours yoga training. Each of every yoga posture provide a perfect way to give our body an extra squeeze! It feels like giving our internal organ a deep solid massage.

I will use twisting posture as one of the illustrations for this article. When we twisted our body to the back, this will give our internal organs (e.g. liver, intestines etc), abdominal muscle and activate endocrine system (e.g. adrenal glands) an indirect compression massage. This indirect compression massage will help our internal organs and system to detox more effective and efficiently by squeezing out the toxin diffusion into blood as waste material and removal from our body through sweat.

Meanwhile, this twisting posture will also increase the blood flow circulation to our digestive organ to optimise function of stomach and intestine.

How yogi system apply to my life style ?

In yoga philosophy, there are three Gunas/qualities, sattvic, rajasic and tamasic.

Tamasic is the state of darkness such as think negatively, inactive and consume tamasic food (e.g meat, processes food etc).

Rajasic is the state of energy action, excessive thinking and consume those food which over stimulate the body and mind (e.g bitter, sour, spicy and sweet).

Sattvic is the state of purity, health and consumer sattvic food such as grains, nuts and so on.

Sattvic is the guna that yogi looking forward to archived. If the food taken in pure, the life style will slowly turn into purity, health and positive pattern. Besides that, diet is one of the essential to bring inner peace to the body and mind and encourage spiritual progress.

After few days of the course, I have started toward sattvic life style. In order to increase sattvic I have reduced both rajasic and tamasic. Slowly change my diet into sattvic food and slow down my hectic day by sighting and listening to the surrounding and environment around us.

While goes into sattvic on daily basis it will transform life eventually. Slowly, our life style turning to unattached to both good and bad of quality life.