pranayama- control of the vital energy

Life is meant to be amazing ! As a person you are meant to have the life that you want, accomplish the things that you would love to accomplish.When you wake up each day , you should be filled with excitement  because you know the day is going to be full of great things… There is energy flowing in our bodies and it can be a positive or a negative energy just like in science(electric charges) but I’m not being scientific in this instant. Give out positive energy and receive positive energy and vice versa. Energy needs to be nurtured and controlled, as a dancer I  have stage energy, when I perform I use external energy meaning that wether I’m tired or upset or sick the audience does not need to see or even know that. As  the saying says” the show must go on”. I also use inner energy to focus to be able to do the show because if I start to think that I’m sick, my husband didn’t call me last night, my body is tired, my knee is sore… the list is endless, then I will not be able to perform. What is this vital energy and how does one control it, thats where The name Pranayama comes in. I will put my external energy on stage and my internal energy to help me focus but my thoughts will be wondering about, in one scene I will have so many thoughts about that fact that my husband didn’t call me but I’m still focused ,my audience doesn’t see anything. Pranayama helps me to control my vital energy, what is “vital”? I’m going through a process of turning the mind inward.Controlling the mind is not possible without controlling the prana, as the two are connected. when a person is in deep thinking or meditating the breathing will slow and sometimes you will think that that person is sleeping. When a person is affected by negative emotions, it will be seen that the breathing becomes irregular and unsteady. Knowledge  and control of the prana is called pranayama. The nature of the mind  is to be unsteady; it is affected every waking moment by what we see hear, eat and experiences through the senses, thats is why we practice pranayama to control the mind.When a person does pranayama one has to be strong enough to withstand various mental disorientations that can occur during practice because old negativities may surface. It happens to me also but I confront them so that I get rid of them.

yoga is…

Teenage life can be a torturous experience especially if you have a low self esteem. My life as a teenager was not as pleasant  as most of the girls would say, first learned that  I have special skin , the one that is not so smooth, I had bad pimples, crooked teeth, a body shape like a boy. All my friends were the girly girls if you know what I mean! I   gave myself  a new name because i thought my biological names did not suit my personality. (JOY) was the name i gave myself, it sounded fun, loving, happy , pretty, and so I was called Joy. My mother was shocked to hear my friends calling me with that name, she actually asked whom they were talking about, and my answer to her was ” mom you wont understand”. It was true she wouldn’t understood that i felt ugly, unloved, not girl enough! Joy was really fun, I made so many friends in a short space of time but they were all male. I felt like they didn’t judge me or laugh at me, I became part of them… I felt cool, like I belong somewhere. By the time I turned 18 I totally transformed into a different person, Joy was alive and rocking. At the age of 21 I started dancing, that was also a different enviroment altogether I met people who looked like me and worse. Artists, thats what we called ourselves or were classified under. I lost myself even more because I was more freer to express to do whatever i wanted in the name of art. Sometimes something in my head would tell me that what i was doing was wrong but my mind kept on saying follow your heart. I met a friend who till today is still my friend who used to ask me what I wanted in life, I could never give an answer because I didn’t know what i wanted. My career as a dancer succeeded, I started to even earn out it and travel as well. Joy is doing well, you know passports require your biological names…Bafikile,  Johannah Sedibe  is what (Joy’s) parents named her. My friends were surprised to hear of my real names but i justified and told them that they couldn’t fit three names in a passport. I was ashamed of my own name, my identity, i was afraid to loose friends and my coolness. To cut the long story short I took so many wrong turns for 9 years, good turns were there but… I’ve always wanted to travel and i did, throughout my journey I wanted to change something about myself but I didn’t know what, how and where to start therefore I would end at the same spot. My career took me to Singapore which is where I currently live and work, this is my 9th month in the country. My name is Bafikile Rapoo because I’m married now, but i carried (Joy) on my shouders all the time. You could say i have double personality, maybe, I can say i’ve been to hell and back since I came to  Singapore. Its not as scary as you think, my hell has nothing to do with the country but myself. I had a wake call, a very intense one if I may lightly put it… it completely turned my world upside down. I bought motivation books, cut my social life but I was still 6 feet in hell. Where I live they send us these home magz so one day I was just browsing through and I saw a school that offered Pilates training within a month so I called them agreed to go there the next morning, before I hung up the phone I inquired about the fees then I said there’s no way I’m paying that amount of money. Next day I  went to the school to see how they conducted the class, but they were doing yoga at that time so I asked to sit in, and so I did. Something was speaking to me in that class and before I knew it I was part of the course. Coming back to what YOGA IS… Remove all my inhibitions, doubts, thoughts , feelings be it positive or negative.I learned to know myself fully and truly! I can see my inner self, I can hear my own breath, yoga is teaching me to Trust myself. I finally took out (Joy ) out of Bafikile and the relief ! its amazing, I am transcending and growing not physically  but mentally , spiritually soulfully. I can bravely say that I Fierce. my whole being is balanced by practicing yoga, and not just any yoga Ashatanga yoga.I don’t need anything motivation from any book, I’m my own motivation. The quote ” actions speak louder than words” is true , I’m doing instead of saying I will do. I have direction because my mind and body are united with my soul and for the first time in 9 years I’ve taken the right path and its lonely but I’m content and at peace. that for me is what Yoga Is…I have gone up to come down.

let go and explore yourself

Body flexibility is considered as oneof  the requirements of doing yoga asana.  If you are not flexibile, you gotta work on it. Different asana requires flexibility of different muscles. Some people are born naturally flexible, some are not. That’s when some asana are easy to flexible people whereas they take much effort of some.
There is one interesting thing about flexibility that i’ve learnt lately. Sometimes you need to let go or relax to find out how flexible you are.  It means that straining your muscle as well as your mind at the same time may not get you anywhere better in asana.
Let me illustrate this with my experience of doing Utthita Parsvasahita.  In this asana, you hold the right leg up, hold right big toe with first two figers of the right hand, left hand on hip. Good alignment requires you to pull right leg straight, closer to your shoulder (even your head) and keep back and left leg straight as well.  To do this, you have to engage a few muscles at the same time: iliopsoas, quadriceps femoris,  biceps femoris and many others.  For me, the tough part comes from my iliopsoas which hinders my leg flexion. I contracted the iliopsoas,  pulling my leg with strong arms support, leg at the hip level is my best effort.  Certainly  my hip and harmstring are so much tense.
To my surprise, one day I could pulled up my leg to chest level…given help from my master. Two words he always told us when adjusting our asana are always :relax… breathe.. How to relax when doing this asana? I’m supposed to contract this muscle, strecth that muscle. His words ..relax…breathe again. I gotta let go once, i gotta relax my harmstring once. Then yup, the master helped to pull my leg nearly to shoulder level, with back and left leg still straight. Obviously I didn’t engage muscles much when he was adjusting. However I needed to keep working on muscle when he released my leg.
Anway, the beauty that I’ve learnt out of this is I  COULD REACH there and my body is capable of doing that. One day, my leg could reach shoulder or even head level. I will not stop at the hip level for long.
And this is much more beautiful when we are able to apply this “technique” in daily life.  We sometimes need to let go and thing will work itself.
Doing asana on the mat helps me to explore myself more and see things in another yet positive perspective. It’s not merely a body work out, it cultivates my spirit.

Do The Lotus

The lotus is a pose that has a multitude of benefits and can be done while watching TV, reading, or simply relaxing in the sunlight.  It is excellent for meditation and works well preparing for other poses.
Below is a good regiment for attempting to get into lotus position.  The steps are listed in order as follows:
Breathing:  It is important to wake up the body.  I would suggest two different breaths done in a different position.

  1. Capalabati: Done in virasana.  Aim for three sets of 30 exhalations.  This will stretch your quadriceps muscle, and hip flexors.
  2. Bhastrika: Sit now on crossed on crossed ankles.  Aim again for three sets of 30 exhalations.  This will encourage flexibility in your ankles.

Warm up:  For this pose it is important to have open and relaxed flexors, loose and open gluteus muscles, hamstrings and tensor fascae latte.

  1. March in Place
  2. Bring quadriceps muscle up to chest.  Squeeze them as tightly together!  Attempt 5 on each side.
  3. Tiryaka Tandasana but rocking quickly side to side
  4. Side Lunge
  5. Forward lunge
  6. Arm swing forward and reverse
  7. Leg swing forward and reverse
  8. Externally rotate each hip and hold in the air for 5 seconds
  9. Stand in downwards dog and lift one leg swinging it laterally side to side for 5 seconds.  Do on both legs.

10. Standing on one leg, stretch the quadriceps muscle.  For both legs.
11. Standing touching the toes bounce up and down, aiming for each leg 20 times.
Perform Surya Namaskara A: Three times at a steady pace.  The only change is that from Uttansana go into Ashwa Sanhchalasana and hold here for 5 breaths to get a good groin and hamstring stretch.
Perform Surywa Namaskara B:  Three times at a steady pace.  The change is that instead of starting by going into Utkatasana, start with Ardha Chakrasana.  This is because we do not want to activate the quadriceps.  Additionally, one can add another stretch during the final downward dog, when holding for 5 breaths: simple stand on one leg to try and give the gastrocnemious a deeper stretch.
Standing Asanas:

  1. Prasarita Padottonasama A and & B

Do one round of Surya Namaskara A
Sitting Asanas:

  1. Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimotanasana
  2. Tri Ang Mukha Paschimottanasana
  3. From Tri Ang Paschimottanasana fall back so that your back is lying on the floor.  Now, lift up your pelvis so that there is a stretch in your iliacus and iliosoas muscles.  Do this with each leg.
  4. Move your body into a supine position and creating a triangle with your legs bring your left lateral foot onto the anterior portion of your right thigh.  Pull your right leg as close to your chest as possible.  Repeat so that the left leg also gets a stretch.
  5. Janu Sirsana B & C
  6. Marichyasana C & D
  7. Baddha Konasana
  8. Staying in Baddha Konasana fall backwards so that you are lying on your back.  You should feel a stretch in your hip flexors
  9. Setu Bandhasana

Finishing Sequence:

  1. After a Vinyasa bring your forehead to the floor from the downward dog position.
  2. Half lotus pose
  3. In a lotus position.

Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana

In a standing position bring the lateral portion of your right foot onto the anterior portion of your left thigh.  Bring your right foot as anterior as possible by rotating your rectus femoris externally  Innervate your gluteus maximus by squeezing them tight as possible to maintain squared hips and pelvis.
Now, internally rotating, retracting and depressing your right shoulder while pronating your right forearm bring your right arm around your back to grasp onto your right foot.  This should be easy.  This is working your teres major, and infraspinatus muscles.  To make this easier bring your vastus lateralis into a stretch so that the knee faces the floor.  Your hand should in effect hold your foot in place.  Flexing from your hips fold forward into the sagittal plane a much as possible.  Your iliospoas, pectineus, and tensor fascae latte should all be flexed.  Lengthen your spine by aiming your head to the floor.
Prior to performing this pose it helps if your hamstrings are warm and loose for flexibility.  Anterior deltoids, and loose shoulders are needed as well.    Strength of your hip flexors are needed along with the strength to contract your diaphragm.  The Marichysana poses are good warm ups.  Prasarita Padottonasana A & B along with Purvatattonasana are also good warm up poses.  To improve on balance one should do the tree pose.  To improve on this pose try starting by doing it in a seated position.

Remembering the Good (Ways to Get Out of a Funk)

“Everyday in everyway I am getting closer”
“I am the captain of my ship, the master of my destiny”
It is on my own accord that I have decided to take up an all-intensive yoga teacher program.
I have decided to take a 7 AM Saturday – Thursday class.  I, who believes that nothing should start before 9:30 AM.
I have purposefully paid for a class that encourages no intake of food 4 hours prior to exercise.  Yes, my favorite foods are breakfast and brunch related.  I crave cereal at all hours of the day and believe that French toast should be an afternoon snack.
I, who have absolutely little flexibility have made the choice to push my body to extreme limits to make me as flexible as possible.  I, who strains to touch my shins when bending forward decided to do a course where people not only bring their hands to the floor, but contort in various forms extending limbs beyond belief.
I, with the roving eyes and wandering mind, have signed on to take a course where success depends on a steady, quiet mind.
I, with a doctorate have decided to push that aside and take up something foreign, and unknown.  Haven’t I studied long and hard enough?!
The above points all show that I am steering my ship, my destiny against my very make up both physically speaking and personality-wise.  The above points are correct, but these are simply facts.  There is no wrong or right here.  As taught in the class in karma: there is no right, wrong, good or bad.  There just is.
I believe that as a species, human beings can and should aspire to attain anything that they choose.  As a rule, it is only smart to see the facts for what they are and determine a plan to succeed.   Yes, there are days that will be hard.  There will be days when doubt and fear creep closer to the center of your being.  I have suffered from these days and nights.
Again, taking from Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie, I have learned how to fight these demons.  This is how to do it: simply reiterate your graces or positives.  At anytime you are feeling down and need a pick-me-up simply attempt this technique and you are bound to instantly feel better and forge on your day a bit more strongly.  Simply fill in the blanks to the 13 areas in your life:

  1. I am grateful for another day because: I am given the chance to get closer and closer to living my dreams
  2. I am grateful physically because: I am healthy and have a willing and able body
  3. I am grateful emotionally because: I am able to identify my emotions
  4. I am grateful spiritually because: I can recognize the existence of something greater and wonderful exists in everyday items
  5. I am grateful financially because: I am able to take time off of work and live in the lifestyle that I am accustomed to while doing the things needed to get closer to living my dreams
  6. I am grateful professionally because: I can do what makes me happy and call it a job
  7. I am grateful mentally because: I have the ability to grasp knowledge
  8. I am grateful education-wise because: I know the importance of learning and growing and have succeeded in learning new things daily.  Next month I will take up a dance.
  9. I am grateful of my hobbies because: of travelling I am able to experience all this world has to offer
  10. I am grateful of my family because: I know that regardless of anything I will always have their love and support
  11. I am grateful of my friendship relationships because: regardless of where I am in the world I never feel alone
  12. I am grateful of my romantic relationship because: the greatest gift is to love and be lived in return

Asanas: The Bane of My Existence

I had always prided myself on being a good athlete.  I had good balance and coordination.  I have a lean, strong body.  I have built endurance and stamina through the years of various sport activities.  Being both a sprinter and a marathon runner I’ve both my fast twitch muscles and slow twitch muscles primed and ready.  I am one tough cookie.  I’ve allowed myself to be in situations where people not only hit me, but I get kicked as well practicing both Muay Thai and Boxing.  Most importantly, as any successful athlete will tell you, it’s attitude that counts.  Personally, I believe that I’m a positive, determined, diligent individual who understands the importance that practice makes perfect.
Yes, I know that I’m not a flexible person.
True, I’ve always avoided stretching before and after my workouts in the past.
No, I cannot touch my toes.
Still, this should not be a problem.  Yoga is to be stress-free, simply a succession of poses only to provide a stretch to the muscles, that anyone can do.  I don’t even think that I’ll break out a sweat.  Once again, I was wrong.
To perform an asana properly they must be steady and comfortable and physically in proper positioning.  In order to do this one must have all the attributes of a highly trained athlete: mental and physical strength, coordination, mind focus, and endurance.  Unlucky for me, flexibility is a big one.  Unfortunately for me, I’ve many structural deviations making the asanas or poses even more difficult.
Day 1:
Toes not touched
Downward dog atrocious not able to tilt sacrum up OR bring feet flat to the floor
I fall forward when attempting to do a squat with my knees and calves together
Wrists feel as if to break off during Parsvottanasana
None of the binds or twisting moves (Parivritta moves or Marichysana) completed
My neck curves wrongly in all of the inverted positions
Day 2:
Top of toes touched
Downward dog glimmers of hope
Squat still not happening
Palms come closer during Parsvottanasana
Almost there with the binds and twisting moves
My neck is officially in need of help with positioning
Day 3:
Hating life with the pushups and plank work
I can touch my toes
More downward dog glimmers
Damn this squat
Wrists feel like breaking
Hey, I can get into a head and shoulderstand
Day 4:
Snooze alarm
Snooze alarm for the second time
Snooze alarm for the third time
Turn off alarm, and reset alarm for 11:30 AM
This morning’s asana session is not going to happen
Day 5:
Hmm.. it appears that the universe is playing a joke on me.  Not only did I think a day off would be helpful but I didn’t think backbends would be so hard!  Someone up in the heavens truly must be laughing at me
Day 6:
Finally!  Success!
Hips are opening up more
Tendons are slowly releasing
Arches and bends are getting higher
Shoulders and twists are going deeper
Am I actually recognizing the poses in Sanskrit? A dream
Days 7 – 14: China Bound
Based on the experience above I found myself enjoying and becoming better at each session.  Diligence, hard work and focus are needed.  Still, the process works.  I truly believe that if I do asanas daily for the next 6 months I will see drastic improvements.  If anything, doing the asanas have taught me the importance of practicing daily.  So for me, if I had to explain asanas, my definition is: A steady, comfortable pose performed over a lengthy physical and mental process!

Chakra Chart


Yoga and Breathing

Up until the early age of five, doctors had told my parents not to exercise or excite my younger brother as he has a very delicate respiratory system which made him prone to losing his breath and in search of an inhaler or other device to aid his breathing.  Riding bikes, cold air or high winds, allergy season, serious laughing – these were all restricted for my brother.  Our lives were all affected by my brother’s disorder: vacations were limited as ski trips and amusement parks were avoided, the house was impeccably clean having been thoroughly cleaned daily, and expensive machines were placed throughout all three levels ensuring quick access should anything happen.  Everything advised by the medical professionals were practiced and enforced to the level of perfect.  Of course it came to a surprise to both my parents when their five year old son stopped breathing in his sleep.  Luckily my mom had decided to check on us kids in the middle of the night – just to make sure windows were closed, sheets had stayed on the bed, and all lights were off.  Coming into my brother’s room she found that the machine that was to indicate my brother’s loss of breathing had its emergency light flashing.  While that was working properly, the audible alarm had managed to be out of order, alerting no one.
Questions were asked.  No real answer came.  My parents were told that this was just something we as a family all had to live with.  My dad, swore that he would make sure he’d be extra diligent and vowed to double up on the air ventilators in the house. My mom promised read more books and do as much research on the condition.  It wasn’t until my grandmother called them all stupid that things started to change.  According to my grandma, “In my day kids ran and played.  Kids got dirty and were active.  This is the reason they were healthier back in my day”.
Taking in my grandma’s words they went to seen an old Indian healer.  After a lengthy inspection of my brother, he told them that they had a healthy, underworked and spoiled rotten child!  All that was needed for him was exactly as my grandmother had said, and exactly the opposite of all the medical specialist!  From that moment, my parents realized that he was right: nothing was getting better since he was a baby!  Now, was the time to make a change.  My brother was given stretches similar to yoga poses to open up his chest.  He was given breathing exercises opening up his lungs.  Later he was given the ‘ok’ to start easy exercises, to go out into cold air and fly kites, and join his friends on the playground.  From the moment he did his stretches and breathing exercises, he got better.  Today, at twenty-seven years of age my brother has cannot say that he has not done his fair share of living.
It turns out that yoga is a great way to help increase and improve breathing ability.  Through asanas and pranayamas the lungs can be rejuvenated and improved upon.  While they may not have known it, my brother was implementing a special yoga routine of his own.
Yoga regulates the body and mind with something called pranayama. Techniques involving retention of breath help stretch the intercostal muscles even more, and aide in the cleansing and strengthening of the respiratory system.  Quickly the points are:

  1. When inhaling the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles contract.  By taking deeper inhalations the elastic intercostal muscles are able to stretch.  During suspension the pressure builds up therefore more oxygen is taken from the lungs leading to more expulsion of carbon dioxide.

One example is Bhastrika Pranayama which also activates the sympathetic nervous system, hyperventilating the lungs which bring more oxygen to the blood leading to a better performance during physical activity.  How to do Bhastrika Pranayama:

  1. Sitting in a comfortable position relax your abdominal muscles
  2. Breath through your nose with an amplified force during exhalation and inhalation
  3. In short breath normally through your nose only at a more forceful rate
  4. Helpful tips include a clear nasal passage, and later move towards deeper inhalations and exhalations

Ashtanga Yoga – What is?

3. Philosophy: What is Yoga especially Ashtanga Yoga?
Asking any not practicing person or a beginner this question the most are connecting their mind with the physical practice of Yoga postures, the Asana, some more including the meditation or the breathing.
A physical practicing student understands Ashtanga Yoga mostly as Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, a system of postures connected by the breath. It combines sequential, flowing movements with focused internal awareness.
From a historical point of view Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of yoga popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois. Pattabhi Jois began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12 with Sri T. Krisnamacharya, with whom he studied from 1927 to 1945, by 1948 he established an institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”) Yoga. It is also named Raja Yoga and describes a path of systematic concentration, analysis and control of the mind, thus is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind to further one’s acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.
The practice to reach liberation can be divided into 8 limbs:
Yamas = Restraints, Niyama = Observances, Asana = Steady Pose; Pranayama = Control of the vital energy; Pratyahara = Withdrawal of the senses from objects; Dharana = Concentration; Dhyana = Meditation: Samadhi = Super-conscious state.
Translating this into the study path of a student Yoga can be described as the following studying way:
Through self practice after some month teacher-led class studies a student goes into the next step the self-observation and cultivates more and more a non-judgmental attitude. This peaceful quality is manifested by focusing on the flowing nature of the breath and a calmed mind that allows a steady posture in asanas as well as in daily life. The breath is the vehicle by which the body and mind are observed, purified and transcendent.
Meditation and Cleansing is supporting this path by liberating the body and the mind from any pollution and bringing it into a pure status.
To practice and train to control the brain (Raja) Yoga includes several techniques:
Raja Yoga: that is used to control the mind. The concept of it is described in the Sutras of Pantanjali Maharishi and dealing directly with the mind. By controlling the mind it also gains the control of the prana and the body.
Kundalini Yoga is targeting to purify the nadis (pranic channels) and chakras (energy centers) and to awake the Kundalini. It deals with the psychic system and includes techniques for gaining mastery of prana in order to control the mind.
Hatha Yoga supports to get control over the mind by means of controlling the prana. Hatha yoga focus on the kriyas, asnas, pranayama, mudras and bandas and is perfect for beginner students to discriminate the several practices and get aware of yoga.
Mantra Yoga is focusing on the use of found to control the mind
Yantra Yoga uses geometrical forms for meditation to get more-layered perspectives in mind and view
Nadja Yoga using music and mantras helps to liberate the mind
Laya Yoga concentrates on the inner (anahata) sound and light
In all above mentioned forms of yoga all 8 limbs are trained, the difference is only the emphasis.
By Martina Klenk