The Eight Limbs of Yoga: Aparigraha (Part 1)

In the Eight Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali considered the Yamas the great, mighty and universal vows. He instructs us that they should be practised on all levels (actions, words, and thoughts) and that are not confined to class, place, time or concept of duty.

The practice of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is referred to as practicing raja yoga, or the Royal Path, named to distinguish the practice from hatha yoga, which came later. Raja yoga creates stillness and contemplation as the path unfolds throughout the eight limbs which then folds back to the first couple of verses in the sutras.

Yoga was intended to be an entire lifestyle and way of living, asanas were not even a part of what the originator intended.


aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathanta sambodhah

The above sutra is interpreted as: “The permanent reign of non-covetousness (aparigraha) engenders knowledge concerning the goal of earthly life.”

Aparigraha is actually one of the central teachings in the Yogic text of the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna shares one of the teachings that could perhaps be the most important lesson of all to learn:”Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action.Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction” – Krishna. What Krishna is essentially saying here, is that we should never concern ourselves with the outcome of a situation, we should only concern ourselves with what we’re actually doing right now as we work towards that outcome.

A look at my Yoga Journey so far

I took my first yoga class less than a year ago. Fit, consistently active, and coupled with a dance and ballet background, I was expecting myself to breeze through it. Ten minutes and three Surya Namaskars in, I posed there in my Downward Dog, beads dribbling down my forehead and onto the mat below, thinking – WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?

Since then, every class is still challenging and makes me feel like death, but I still find myself going back every time. Now, one year in, my improvement has been immense, and I ask myself – WHAT NEXT?

Of course, there is always space for improvement in the Yogi world, and I have a long way to go. But I was looking to deepen my practise beyond taking cues from a teacher and the complex sanskrit terms that I can never catch, and so I did, I signed up for the Yoga Teacher Training Course.

And now, looking back at the past four weeks, it has been one of the most physically and mentally challenging month, inclusive of my external commitments and busy schedule. It is still challenging, but I pride myself in stepping out my comfort zone and in my quest for constant improvement, while loving it.

At the end of it all, I am still asking myself the same old question – WHAT’S NEXT? But I am sure whatever my answer is, I would be going on another adventure again, and loving it.

The first taste of Teaching!

Just before my Ytt course began, my husband attended his very first yoga class at the gym and when I asked him what he thought of the class, he said “the voice of the teacher is so important- she/he has the ability to either calm or stress the student.”

We were halfway into Ytt and the time had come for us to cross over to the other side…to begin our own teaching practice! It was then that I realised how accurate he was! Going out there and directing your students (many of whom may be first-timers) into a correct pose (from the starting to end) definitely looks easier than it seems! Like with any new thing you try for the first time, it was tough!

Naturally, since we were all new to yoga teaching, many of us found ourselves fumbling as we tried to demonstrate the pose whilst simultaneously trying to remember & articulate the corresponding instructions, cues, pauses and breathing.

We struggled to find our ‘teacher’ voice (the right tone, pitch and volume) and found ourselves mixing up our left and rights, mispronouncing asana Sanskrit names and often got our inhales and exhales off!

On day 3 of teaching practice, we took it a step further as we had to demonstrate our technical understanding of getting into a pose and then make corresponding adjustments – all this whilst still keeping within the timing of the pose, Cuing accurately, observing everyone and maintaining the flow of the sequence.

For some strange reason, being in front of the mat and teaching, got me thinking of stand up comedy: It takes a lot for a Comedian to just use his voice (words, tone, pitch) to hold the attention of the Audience, to transport them through a story sequence until it peaks & they ‘get’ the intended joke! Then he smoothly needs to transition them out of that Joke and go on to build on his main story/theme by introducing his next sub-story of the sequenced story telling comedy! And so he continues this cycle of start, flow, peak, finish, transition into next step. So the flow into the joke and the flow out of the joke, the pausing and holding the laugh all got me thinking about yoga teaching. The yoga instructor needs to have a story/theme made up of a few sub-storeys with starts, flows, peaks, pauses, finishes and he/she needs to seamlessly communicate these movements in the right sequence,  maintain the flow by building on it before introducing the next part of the sequence, and ultimately ending off with a peak pose. And off course to transition to the final closing, she/he again needs to use his words & cues to direct the students and achieve the desired result.

This is quite challenging, as so much is going on in a short space of time-you need to be think quickly, be spontaneous yet technically precise, you need to look right, sound right, move around right….whew, talk about a juggling act! 

Lesson planning requires well thought out sequencing & strategy and teaching (expressing/delivering your knowledge) seems to be more an art! That’s why they say “the art of teaching is not in the amount of knowledge Teachers have to disperse, but rather in the skills and abilities they have to reach and engage each student”.

And that’s where our brilliant Teachers come in, imparting their experience & wisdom to us. During the technical alignment session, we were taught what to specifically look for in a pose wrt positioning, muscle engagement, twisting, aligning e.g the twisting of the arm to lock it for Marichyasana C.

We were reminded that teacher adjustments is there as opportunity to not only correct students, but also for the teacher to connect (touching within a safe personal space)with her student. But we should always take care to adjust safely! 

Practice practice practice , we were encouraged to go on practicing our teaching and not stop!

More importantly, from the feedback received, a common thread was presence and authenticity of the teacher!  When you come to teach, you need to bring your your true self to the mat, it is from there where your depth of self, meditation & asana practice shines through.

We were encouraged to dig deeper and truly ask ourselves “why do we want to teach Yoga”. Master Paalu encouraged us find the reason from a selfish context to sustain our motivation to teach.

Digging deeper into my reason I know that I want to first teach myself and improve/deepen my practice consistently to rise above my current limitations. Thus, I should use each practice teaching session as an opportunity for my growth, as by teaching others, I will get to teach myself too (which is what I ultimately want).

There are many resources available as to how to teach successfully, these are a just a few steps we can follow:








So to my fellow classmates in Ytt,  May we always remember that this is a learning journey and it’s a Long way to go – Life never stops teaching us, on and off the mat. Let us not stop being a student, regardless of how experienced we may become!

By practicing teaching these last few days, I now have an increased respect for yoga Teachers that not just deliver smooth yoga classes, but also touch and help transform lives positively! 

I can also now appreciate why we say the guru prayer at the end in gratitude to the yogis of this sacred yogic lineage ‘ I bow down to all those who have come before me and studied the art of yoga’.


Taking the Leap: Life After Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga is about flexibility and strength in postures right? I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t think that yoga was all about postures. I think many of us hear things here and there about chakras, energy and breathing but in most commercial classes, the emphasis is placed only on posture practice. Not that I’m blaming the teachers, students ask for a workout and teachers have been delivering. But if you, like me, only seek a workout or good stretch when practicing yoga, you are totally missing out. 

Yoga is more than postures. Asana is just one limb out of eight limbs. In the past couple of weeks, my mind has been expanded. Through this yoga teacher training course, I have been exposed to yogic theories surrounding human psychology, emotional issues and learning methodologies just to name a few. 

In this day an age, a lot of us can learn something from yoga. The practice of yoga has existed for thousands of years but the values and lessons taken from yoga still ring true today. Yogic values encapsulate the idea of tolerance. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not a religion nor a cult. Yoga is simply a lifestyle, a thought-process and a guideline for humans to live their best life. Yoga doesn’t discriminate across race, culture or even gender. To embody yoga, is to embrace everyone as who they are; simply human. 

I hope that as this course wraps up, I can permanently implement some of the values and life lessons I learnt into my daily life. Some topics that really resonated with me were the topics on life-improvement and human physiology and psychology. Finding a mantra doesn’t only mean memorizing traditional Sanskrit mantras. It can be as simple as having a set of quotes to live by. When facing embarrassing or trivial issues, I have often repeated to myself “if it won’t matter in five years, it won’t matter now”. Little did I know as I was repeating this chant to myself, that all these years I have been harnessing the power of mantras! I hope to ingrain a few more quotes into my life to keep me grounded in my values. 

Another goal of mine is to keep seeking knowledge about yogic chakras and human psychology. The interdisciplinary nature of this course, interweaving traditional yogic ideas with modern scientific theories has been fascinating. I especially enjoyed learning about chakras and how they connect to modern-day life. What makes people tick? Surprisingly, many ideas in yoga can be applied towards human psychology. I want to challenge myself to further explore the relationship between psychology and physiology in the human body. 

Finally, although I started out this post stating that yoga is not all about postures, I hope that as the days trickle by after completing this course, I will continue to be disciplined about my daily practice. All in all, the past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind of new ideas and a big kick in the butt for me to improve my asana practice.



We have all heard of someone who is famous for doing yoga. Our current technology of social media has launched thousands of yoga gurus or experts. Although I have no aspiration to become a yogic scholar or expert, I have begun my path into the practice and philosophies of yoga. I committed whole-heartedly into a yoga teacher training course for January of 2019. I thought what better way to welcome a new year through a new level of commitment to discovery and self-knowledge. Little did I know this was the very root of ancient yogic philosophies and I would join a tribe of historians, practitioners, gurus and students.

So who else IS on this very high-trafficked pathway to enlightenment and self-knowledge? Is it the many talented people who are inverted and contorted on Instagram? Or is it the famous authors of so many yogic books? Surprisingly, the most revered person(s) and scholar of yoga is nearly unknown to the outside world, Patañjali.

Who is Patañjali? His life is dated to mid-second century BCE by both Western and Indian scholars. He is so revered in the Hindu traditions that he is widely known as Maha-bhasya or “Great commentary”. He is also said to have been an evolved soul who returned in human form in order to help lift others out of their sorrows.

Patañjali’s very famous composition was entitled Pātañjalayogaśāstra (“The Treatise on Yoga according to Patañjali”) His oeuvre comprises of the Sanskrit sutras (a rule or aphorism in Sanskrit literature) about Yoga (Yogasūtra) and integral to the sutras, a work called the Bhāṣya or “commentary”.

In Hinduism, sutras are a type of literary composition in the form of an aphoristic statement. Each sutra is any short rule that offers teachings of ritual, philosophy, grammar, or any field of knowledge.

Patañjali’s insight comes in 196 aphorisms, which to yogis is known as maxims of truth. The aphorisms provide a step-by-step path toward enlightenment for the spiritually un-evolved. While these statements are compact and efficient in their use of words, when combined or used together they offer endless debates and discussions.

Patañjali is the author of ashtanga yoga, which is also widely referred to as the eight limbs of yoga. This writing explains a natural progression of techniques to train the body, mind, and senses for spiritual evolution. Through intellectual stimulation, analysis, and physical rigour, it offers a system for attaining self-realization.

So thorough and complete with reasoning and vast amounts of text, Patañjali is considered the authority of classical Sanskrit for that past 2000 years. His ideas and philosophies have been influential to ancient eastern religions such as Buddhism and Jainism.

The second limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga is called the Niyamas. They are ways we can behave to elevate ourselves  and become more evolved highly conscious humans. They offer a process and order to develop a personal code of discipline and spiritual aspiration on an arduous yogic path. They are to help reduce mental and emotional challenges so the yogic individual has the tools and techniques for the necessary commitment to a yogic life. The yogi is encouraged to engage in self-reflection by analysing the impact they have on others.

The five niyamas (codes of conduct/regulations) of Patañjali’s Eight Fold Path are:

  1. Saucha (purity or cleanliness)
  2. Santosha (contentment)
  3. Tapas (austerity)
  4. Swadhyaya (self-study)
  5. Pranidhana (devotion to God).

The second of the Niyamas is Swadhyaya, self study. Sva is interpreted as ‘self’ and adhyaya means ‘investigation or inquiry’. Swadhyaya encourages one to self-inquire daily through practices such asana, pranayama and meditation. This is based on the belief that we need to constantly work at improving ourselves and self-study is a mandatory process to achieve enlightenment.

For those new to the immense and rich history of the yogic tradition and scholarly works, the mind and spirit will become one with the physical. At first, you may approach yoga to build fitness, strength and flexibility, or for any number of reasons, such as a sense of community or self discovery. Through asanas, pranayama (breathing technique), meditation, scholarly study, self-reflection…all of this culminates to the very definition of what Patañjali defines as his second Niyama: Swadhyaya.

I have spent four weeks sweating through grueling asanas, finding my breath through Ujjaya, studying yoga nidra, making new friends, building curiosity through caring teachers, and so much more I can’t list it all here. Through this exploration within this essay I see now how everything we have done is a part of Swadhyaya.

I bow with gratitude to the work of Patañjali.

Inhale Versus Exhale

Most of us have been mispronouncing these two words: breathe and breath.

Breathe is a verb we use for the process of inhaling and exhaling.

Breath is a noun that refers to a full cycle of breathing. It can also refer to the air that is inhaled or exhaled.

Inhale. Exhale. Breathe! Take a breath!

So ubiquitous is the phrase, “take a breath”, we take for granted what an incredibly complex system our body undertakes by the involuntary action of the cardiac muscle and the external/internal respiratory system. But we have been told innumerable times in all forms of media to simply take a breath. If only it was that easy. For each inhale (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) we carry oxygen into the body through the lungs where an intensive amount of work is done, most importantly this is where ‘diffusion’ happens. Diffusion is a gas exchange within the alveoli whereby oxygen diffuses through the walls of the alveoli and enters the bloodstream, carried by red blood cells. When we are not purposely controlling our breathing, we can thank our medulla oblongata, a.k.a. the brainstem which automatically regulates the rate and depth of breathing. Then the carbon dioxide levels increase within the blood, reacts with the water in the blood which produces carbonic acid. Once the blood becomes acidic, we breathe out.

The true trigger to “take a breath” is not our need for oxygen. That’s a close second place. We are carbon-based creatures and we gather carbon molecules in food. These molecules are broken down and we extract the energy that holds the molecules together and it becomes our metabolic energy source. Within this process of breathing our body makes the carbon dioxide that is expelled in the breath from our mouth as a waste product. Our bodies must rid ourselves of the increasing carbon dioxide levels within the bloodstream and that is the primary trigger to keep us “taking a breath”.

Consider this physiological instinct the next time you have an underwater swimming race or who can hold their breath the longest contest. It usually begins with the contestant hyperventilating in order to empty the lungs/body of fresh oxygen and through this belief of priming the lung capacity. Then, the would-be contestant sucks in their largest breath and expands their lungs with oxygen. We have seen news reports and cases of athletic and youthful people dying at the bottom of pools while trying these innocent fun games. Possibly, through hyperventilation, these young people ridded their bodies of carbon dioxide and thereby stunted the essential trigger needed for breathing. Without the need to expel carbon dioxide, the instinct for taking a breath is no longer there and they pass out beneath the water.

The world will remind us all to breathe deeply and inhale, it’s equally, if not more important to purposefully exhale.

What they didn’t tell you about the YTT 200 hour class

Sure, with a yoga teacher training course, I expected intense asana practice. Sure, I expected to learn a little about the anatomy and muscular system. Sure, I expected to learn practical tips and tricks to teach yoga.

What I wasn’t expecting though is to learn a new language (well, just a little bit of Sanskrit), travel back time to hear the rich history and philosophy of yoga, and understand the natural workings of the body and the way the world works.

My favourite topic in the course would be everything to do with Pranayama. I didn’t expect to learn a trick about living longer (and live longer, healthily). “Prana” means “vital life force” and “ayama” means “extension”. Therefore Pranayama is the regulation of breath that would extend your life.

“Bahya abhyantara stambha vrittih desa kala sankhyabhih paridrishtah dirgha sukshmah” – Yoga Sutra 2.51

Roughly translated as “Inhale, exhale, holding, moving, action, duration, regulate, long and deep”, this yoga sutra clearly explains pranayama. Elongated and prolonged, deep and controlled always regulates the breath and has wonderful benefits for the body, mind and spirit.

Here are some Pranayama techniques:

  1. Bastrika
  2. Anuloma Nilouma
  3. Nadi Shodhana
  4. Sheetali
  5. Sheetkari

Note that during Pranayama, the exhalation is always longer than the inhalation, and if there is retention of breath it should also be longer than the inhalation. In ratio terms, it would be 1:2:2 or 1:4:2 (inhale:holding:exhalation). In terms of number of breath counts, it should be at least 6 counts (e.g. inhale for 6 counts, hold for 12 counts, exhale for 12 counts in 1:2:2 ratio).

Pranayama ensures more oxygen to the lungs and is good for the cardiac system. Pranayama tones up kidney and control the functions of nervous system. Kumbhaka or retention of breath facilitates better work of lungs and triggers the brain to work more efficiently.  Pranayama affects autonomic nervous system which controls heart rate, glandular secretions, respiration, digestion and blood pressure.

It is said that the longer and slower your breath, the longer you will live. Take the example of a dog: their breath is short and quick and their life is (very sadly) much shorter than a human being.

Pranayama benefits are far and wide, living true to its name as the ‘vital life force’. Next time, when you feel stuck, stressed and simply need to calm your mind and body – breathe!

Yoga Therapy

Boring. That’s what I used to think whenever I see a yoga therapy class in the schedule as I book my next class. “That’s a slow class and if I’m paying for a class, I want to make my money’s worth” – I’d say to myself. And time and again, I’ll opt for a faster flow class or a challenging backbend or inversion class.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love and benefit tremendously from a flow, backbend or inversion class. However, as I go through the YTT 200h course, my eyes are slowly peeling open to a whole new world: the science of yoga and its healing power.

Not just therapeutic

Yoga therapy is not just “therapeutic” in the sense that it offers you the nice sensation of feeling good after a class. It is a preventive medicine and it cures. How did something with such a rich history of over 5,000 years (or some say 10,000 years) become sidelined and forgotten?

Along with TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Eastern healing methods have been labelled ‘alternative’ medicine – simply suggesting the Western-centric view of the world with Western Medicine as the default.

How often have we heard of people turning to alternative medicine after Western medicine fails them? Dozens of my friends have spent loads of money trying all sorts of methods in their quest to conceive a child, and finally turning to TCM as the last resort.

It’s probably stress.

Stress. That’s probably why more and more people are finding it hard to conceive. In fact, stress is now blamed for almost every health condition today – from diabetes, heart diseases and cancer to even the common cold.

The word “stress” in the way it is currently and commonly used today is a relatively new term. Time Magazine in 1983 called stress “The Epidemic of the Eighties” and there is no doubt that the situation has worsened. Before we get stressed about stress, what if we finally acknowledge that we need to take a holistic approach to our health?

Our bodily conditions are hugely influenced by our mind and spirit. Yoga therapy is an inherently holistic approach, simultaneously working on the body, mind, and spirit. Holistic approaches to health emphasizes the body’s own ability to heal itself, as well promoting lifestyle changes and naturally occurring remedies, such as meditation and herbal medicines.

Yoga as medicine

Regular Yoga practice can improve the function of the digestive system, foster better psychological health, and improve oxygen delivery to tissues. Yoga can also help the body more efficiently remove waste products, carcinogens, and cellular toxins.

Over the last 18 days, given the YTT course, it has been #yogaeveryday for me. And I thought I would test if pranayama works. Every night before going to bed, I would do anuloma viloma starting from the left nostril and I am certain it has helped my body recuperate and cool down from the intense asana practice. Since this works, I have stopped taking BCAA supplements to help my body recover from muscle aches.

As I enter my late 30s, my next test would be to see if regular asana practice would make me age beautifully (of course I’m superficial). And *touch wood* – if it allows me to be free from illness and health conditions often associated with age.

We’ll see!

Yoga & Digestive Health


In Yogic tradition, the state of our digestive system can create health and vitality, or be the root cause of disease. The metabolic energy of digestion is called Agni. When this fire is burning strong, it breaks down dense physical matter into nutrients and vitamins that the body and mind require to function. When it’s weak, it creates toxic build up, leading to disease. Yoga can support Agni, creating balance in the body and longevity.

When the organs of the digestive system are compressed in poses, waste and toxins in those areas are encouraged out of the tissues and the body is better able to eliminate them. This then enables nutrients to circulate into the cells. Twisting postures can help to enhance your digestion and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins.

  • Massages vital organs of digestive tract
  • Stimulates muscles and increases peristaltic movements
  • Pranayama (breath control) techniques send oxygen deep into the cells of the body (which can help with bloating) and help it to absorb nutrients and excrete waste products thoroughly
  • Reduces stress response of the body
  • Dynamic poses improve blood and lymph circulation


Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms manifesting as a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder in which patients experience abdominal pain, discomfort, and bloating that is often relieved with defecation. For people with IBS, the nerves of the digestive system become oversensitive. The digestive tract overreacts to food, stress, and other demands on your body and mind.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower oesophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle between the oesophagus and stomach. In GERD, the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, causing the stomach’s acid to flow back up into the oesophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your oesophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.


Gastritis is a general term for a group of conditions with one thing in common: an inflammation, irritation, or erosion of the lining of the stomach. It can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually (chronic).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a chronic illness characterised by gross inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  The latter is limited to the colon or large intestine. The former, on the other hand, can involve any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to anus. The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease remains unknown. Possible causes are an immune system malfunction and heredity.


1.Pawan Muktasana (wind relieving pose) 


  • Flatulence – speeds up movement of trapped wind in digestive tract to help expel intestinal gas
  • Constipation – stimulates bowel movement and encourages defecation
  • Digestion – compresses and massages your ascending and descending colon, and encourages blood flow to digestive organs
  • Provides relief for a sluggish liver or flabby abdomen 

2. Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow) 


  • Pain and bloating – by alternately compressing and lengthening the spine, your intestines will fold and unfold, this movement massages and stimulates organs, particularly the stomach and intestines, bringing a boost of fresh blood and oxygen to cells responsible for healthy gut function

 3. Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)


  • Traditional yogic texts say that Paschimottanasana increases appetite, reduces obesity, and can cures diseases
  • The gentle but deep intra-abdominal compression massages and strengthens the digestive organs – esp liver, spleen, pancreas, intestines
  • Enhances the peristalsis, relieves indigestion (dyspepsia), belching and gastritis

4. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)


  • It has been used for thousands of years as a constipation-relieving pose.
  • The rocking bow pose gives the internal organs a powerful massage – particularly the liver and pancreas – the massage aids with better absorption of nutrients, facilitates digestion and elimination of waste and toxins from the body
  • Effective in weight loss – by balancing the entire weight of your body on your abdomen, it provides maximum stretch and toning for the abdominal and oblique muscles, thus reducing fat-buildup around the stomach

What has YTT done to me?

I didn’t want to wait till the end of my course to write this post. Tomorrow marks the last week of my YTT training. Yes, time does fly.

In the previous week, I started to reflect increasingly on myself and the training. Did I gain anything from the course? If yes, what did I gain? Did I improve?

I shared with some of my classmates that I feel that our class has a very strong energy, that not only binds us together, but also motivates us to work together to improve. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. With this energy, together with the focus of the training, the relentless ‘sweet revenge’ teachings by the teachers, I saw myself improving the most with the 3 weeks, compared to my years of yoga practice. I learn something new everyday, which is good for my aging brain!

In the last 3 weeks, I am even busier compared to when I was working. After the daily class, I have to run the family errands and then come back home to do the daily homework and reading. But it was fulfilling. My body may be tired but my mind is not.

In this coming week, we will focus on completing our assessments to attain the certification and we will then go on our separate paths. Some of us will return to our previous routines, some of us will start nervously on our first teaching classes and some of us will continue to explore and think of what we should do next.

It is a great way to start the new year. I will miss dearly the energy that the class has brought to me. Thank you to my teachers and classmates in the full time Jan 2019 YTT Tirisula batch !