Gratitude

We tend to take for granted people around us, services that we have so called “paid for”, everything in our life we take it as it was owed to us either because we’ve paid for it or because we believe we’ve earned it or simply because we think we deserve it.
All is just an illusion, all come to our life because the energy or God (which ever form he has) was generous enough to bring people or things into our existence for us to learn and grow.
So let’s stop a minute and be grateful for the people in our lives who contribute to our life journey: our teachers, our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends, our cats or dogs, any living being.
Let us be grateful for the bad and the good, the losses and the gains, that we experience each moment, the oohs and the aahs we shout during adjustments. Let us be content and grateful for this moment.

Our gratitude to our teachers Paalu, Weilin and Tiantian who are committed and devoted to their teaching. Gratitude for their patience and listening ear.

We are blessed so thank you God, thank you teachers and thank you parents.

Take your blinkers off

 Everywhere you look, such intricate design
We’re all surrounded by such obvious signs
The spider’s web that covers the grass
There’s beauty in a blade of grass
The sound, the stem, the butterfly
With nature there is just no lies
Where did they all come from
To fit together this wondrous song
A flower is so perfect, but what’s it meant to be
A piece of nature so beautiful, that’s free for all to see
The colours of the rainbow, reflect your every mood
So next time you’re out, notice them and don’t be rude
Respect the ants that is their home you’re sitting on for lunch
And if you meet an insect don’t let it end in crunch
Everything is beautiful and has a right to life
So take care of the little things, I promise you’ll feel nice
If you accidentally squash something, then don’t forget to say
I hope you have a happy life when born another day

Wholeness

I start to smile from the inside. Something stirs inside me and makes me happy. There are many changes I have noticed in my body and my thoughts. Sitting at the KL airport on the way home from the teacher training I began to think about how different I felt to when I sat in the same airport 3 weeks ago.
There have been many physical changes in my body, some of which are apparent to me and I am sure some of which are not. I don’t think I have lost any weight, this is not important to me.  My hair is much healthier than it has been and my skin feels softer. I have noticed the veins on my skin are more visible so my circulation must be changing. I feel refreshed with a new energy burning inside me.
 It gives me awareness to notice and appreciate the amazement of the world. Walking along I stop to see the intricate design in a spiders web and smile at the fact that there is water falling out of the sky. It brings me back to nature and the magic of the world. Paalu told everyone I was impatient and I agree that at some times I am. I do feel leaving the course I may have gained a little more patience and acceptance that people will not always be on time or do what you see as the obvious thing. I believe that it is the wholeness approach of Ashtanga yoga that helps me feel like this. I have done asana practice and 30 day challenges but none of them have the same effect as this teacher training and an intensive ashtanga retreat I have done in the past. They both incorporated the 8 limbs of yoga. Bringing Pranayama, asanas and meditation together throughout the practice and encouraging us to incorporate the 8limbs into our lifestyle. I seem to have such a change when I practice all of these elements together.
The last retreat I did I came out with the motto: no expectations, no disappointments. When you approach life with this attitude you will appreciate things for what they, not what you expect of them. I seemed to have lost that thought over the last couple of years but it now has meaning and understanding for me once again.

The sound of the universe

Through the sound OM we retune our inner rhythm and experience the vibration of all being.  The humming sound of OM is called Pranava as it is connected to our life force or Prana.
OM. Opening your mouth wide, forcing the air out past your glottis you turn breath into sound. This powerful vibration created a sudden calm over the room as the air became alive around us. The feeling of the air moving up my throat and bouncing past my lips moved my thoughts from my mind. Straight away I became conscious in that moment. All other thoughts were lost to nothingness. My mind had turned from continuous motion to paused. As if watching a TV screen and it suddenly going blank, silent and calm.
All focus was now on the creation of sound. The constant repetition of OM. Letting your lips and body relax to overcome the feeling that you are doing something new and strange. Once you get past the fear that you might sound different to other people in the room or that you might not be able to hold the breath for as long you get lost in the OM.
The feel of the room seemed to change. I could sense the energy moving, touching my skin and uplifting me. The sound was vibrating around the room and turning into movement. The more we repeated the sound the stronger the energy became. The sound was penetrating everything in the room.
As the sound stopped and we became engaged again I felt an empty feeling. Everything was still and my body was clean and pure inside. I felt very light. There were no thoughts rushing back and I was content to sit there in my own world while everyone carried on with their discussion. As I slowly came back to reality and the noise of everyone talking I felt energized and ready to practice.

Prasarita Padottanasana

This standing wide legged intense stretch, not only is a great stretching pose, but also will help headaches, fatigue, and mild depression.  The Banda will tone the deep abdominal organs and will relieve mild backaches.  It is a great basic standing pose, inverted symmetrical forward bend that almost all can do to their own ability.
Starting from Tadasana, you spread your legs apart 3 to 4 1/2 feet.  Place the hands on the hips and make sure your inner feet are parallel to each other.  Place the big tow firmly in to the floor.  engage the thigh muscles, inhale, and lift up with the chest.  Make the front torso slightly longer than the back.
Maintaining the length of the torso, lean froward from the hip joints.  Exhale and lock the core.  As your torso approached parallel to the floor, you can press your fingertips in to the floor directly below your shoulders and extend the elbows.  Move the spine evenly into the back torso.  The back should be slightly concave from the tailbone to the base of the skull.
Push your top thighs straight back to lengthen the front torso.  The inner groins should be pushed away from each other to open the pelvis.  Maintain the concavity of the back and the forward lift of the sternum and walk the fingertips between your feet.  Walk the fingertips between your feet.  If possible, lower yourself until your the crown of your head touches the ground in between your legs.  With each exhale lock the core and try to gently walk yourself a bit deeper.
This Asana will work the quadriceps and articulates genus, adductors, abductors, and the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the feet.  It will lengthen the adductors, hamstrings, spinal extensors, and gluteus maxims.
This is perhaps the safest, most accessible inversion in yoga.

Garudasana

Generally found toward the end of a standing series, Garudasana can be a fantastic strengthening, stretching, and balancing pose.  It also has several therapeutic applications, such as, relieving symptoms of asthma, lower backaches, and sciatica.

Getting in to the pose:

From Tadasana, bend your legs slightly, lift your left foot, and cross your left leg over the right and attempt to bring your left foot behind your right calf.  If this is initially too difficult, you can just cross your left leg over your right and bring the left foot around as much as possible.  Continue to keep the right leg bent and straighten your back while balancing on your right foot.

The next step is to get the arms in the proper position.  To do this, straighten your arms out parallel to the floor.  Make sure you protract your scapula.  Cross your arms in front of you so that your left arm is underneath your right arm.  push the right elbow in to the bend of the left and now raise the elbow perpendicular to the floor.  Try to press your hands together.  Stretch your fingers toward the ceiling.  After holding pose, switch sides.

The arm position is working the infrasinatus, serrutus anterior, pectorals major and minor, coracobrachialis, pronator teres and the pronator quadrates.

The leg positioning is working the glutus maximus, piriformis, quadrates femurs, obtuarator internus, posterior fibers or gluteus medias and minimus.

The scapula must both abduct and rotate laterally.  Both the standing and the lifted leg need to internally rotate and adduct in this position.  The standing leg needs to flex at the hip and knee.  The adduction with the internal rotation especially hits the piriformis.  Be careful not to overstate the knees, if the hips are too tight, the knees can be forced to overstate.

Props

I have found an interesting article in Yoga Journal, entitled “To Prop or Not to Prop”, and have found the information useful in my yoga practice and teaching.
Here is my attempt to summarize the key principles of using props (blocks, straps, towels):

  1. Be your own teacher. Use our body’s signals to devise new and effective ways of using props to enhance our practice. Props are particularly useful when we are new to a pose and have not acquired the flexibility/strength to achieve the correct form and alignment
  2. Be Creative. Even walls, tables, balls, books, socks, neckties, the helping hands of a friend qualify as props. Explore using different props to deepen our practice.  Also, use the props in different positions and orientation to help our body learn (sense) the correct form & alignment.
  3. Be non-attached. As we progress in an asana, we should slowly move away from relying on the props, to using our body as our own ‘prop’. Even attachment to the most common prop – the mat – will hamper our Yoga practice!

I am able to perform Vinyasa and Salamba Sirsasana through using blocks, and see the potential of using props to help my students to overcome fear and enable progress at their own abilities.
Remember that the best yoga prop is always an open mind!
Namaste.

We are what we eat.

The old adage “you are what you eat” has become very trendy these days. More or so for ecological reasons, or religious reasons or health reasons. If the saying is true then am I a beast if I eat meat? Well a lot of studies have showed that meat eaters are prone to a more aggressive behaviors, related to the adrenaline contained in the meat which is secreted when the animal is killed. I have personally witnessed the slaughtering of pigs, chicken and cows. The ritual is very impressive and left me shocked to the bones. The fear and panic that I have witness in those moments lead me to reflect: when I eat a piece a chicken or a juicy steak am I actually absorbing those animals last feelings of terror? There are many theories on the subject and many beliefs, for my part I strongly believe that indeed we do absorb some sense of terror or whatever else you might want to call it .
Overall I would categorize myself as a former average meat eater, I could go a week with out feeling the need to eat meat. But as I started the 200hr yoga teacher training, I heard that cutting on meat would help me be more flexible. I started progressively removing meat products from my diet, I kept the open mind that if ever I were to be invited to the famous US prime rib restaurant Lawry’s I would indulge in the best cut ever. I did not pressure myself into changing my eating habits I simply made the choice to first reduce then remove meat from my diet. Just as I did the same with coffee. I admit that this one was much harder and I really was gentle on myself. It took me approximately 5 month to remove my coffee intakes. I still love the smell of freshly brewed coffee and I will rush to take a big sniff but bizarrely as I tried last time to take a sip, the taste would not be the same and I did not enjoy it so much as before. So nowadays I simply indulge in taking big sniff of the warm scent of brewed coffee.
Just as caffein screws your mind by getting hyper, so does eating meat. Many researches have shown how being a vegetarian is better for the mental, the physical, psychological, moral or environment. Celebrities and notorious people are vegetarians and all commonly agrees that being a vegetarian made them feel good within themselves. Personally, it’s been almost 9 month, and I can say that I am feeling the benefits of it. I don’t miss meat for now. I am not saying that all should be vegetarian or stop drinking coffee. No these are personal choices that should be taken with no pressure from nobody or system, otherwise it will be just waisted time. Just like everything else in life we should follow our own flow and be patient with ourself, be attentive to our own body because he tells us a lot.
Becoming a vegetarian to save the environment is noble but not everybody is sensitive to these causes. Instead becoming a vegetarian for more selfish reasons that concern only oneself then maybe in small steps we will move forward to a better world. Why worry about the outside mess when within ourselves we still need cleansing and clearing. But not to worry, though the old adage does have some truth, after eating so much lettuce or veggies, one does not become a lettuce and one’s mind does not become a giant cabbage… Albert Einstein can illustrate that one does not become stupid by being a vegetarian.
Charity starts with ourselves, peace starts within ourselves, love starts within ourselves. It all starts with one.
“Vegetarian food leaves a deep impression on our nature. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind.”
-Albert Einstein

Pic-a-Pose

During the teacher training, I have found the notes of the Ashtanga Yoga asanas in pictorial form that was provided for us very useful in my practice. It has not only helped me to remember the sequence of poses, but has also enable me to picture how each asana looks like (pic-a-pose).
As I prepare to practice my teaching, I struggled with remembering the names of each asana, and resort to drawing stick figures to represent the poses in my lesson plan. While I may be able to remember the name of each asana now, I have realised that the pictorial form of asanas would be useful for my students if they were laid out in sequence and given to them to perform self-practice.
While drawing stick figures may work pretty well, I have attempted to create a pictorial representation that is consistent and easy to draw &  understand. After some exploration, I have found the following method which only uses 3 shapes: circle (head), trapezoid (body), small triangles (hands), big triangles (legs)

  • shoulder represented by the longer side of trapezoid
  • each leg /hand represented by 2 triangles
  • joints of legs/hands are represented by the tips of triangles
  • right leg/hand are shaded
  • directional sign indicated dristi point (direction of the head as well)
  • inhale and exhale may be represented by shaded circle and unshaded circle respectively (for sequence)
  • body (trapezoid) may be angled if necessary (e.g. backbends)

I have attempted to illustrate how the asanas are represented here in pictorial form for the following category of asanas:
(1) Stand, (2) Balance, (3) Sit, (4) Inverted/Back-bend, (5) Recline
A drawing template, pictured here, can be created for ease of drawing. It is cut out from a hard transparent card:





Feel free to explore using it, and do provide me with suggestions on how I may improve on it
Namaste!