Using Yoga to Ease Digestive Ailments

Eating a healthy diet and keeping the body hydrated are very important to digestive health but do not guarantee a life without digestive disturbance.  Sometimes we eat foods that our bodies are not able to breakdown and absorb, even though they are “healthy”, because our bodies lack the necessary digestive enzymes.  Lifestyle and stress can also cause the digestive system to create more acid in the stomach than is needed.  Stomach acid can also leak into other areas of the body if the cardiac sphincter, located between the esophagus and the stomach, or the pyloric sphincter, located between the stomach and the small intestine, do not close properly.  Then there are digestive disturbances caused by bacteria and other organisms that invade the body.
Luckily yoga can help maintain a healthy immune system and keep the abdominal muscles strong to help with the movement of food through out the digestive system.
Specific yoga asanas are useful for many of the ailments.
Constipation occurs when there is an obstruction in the intestines or the colonic transit is slow. Helpful yoga asanas are headstands, sirsasana and sarvangasana, which help engage the parasympathetic nervous system, aiding in digestion and blood flow to the area.  Jathara parivartanasana helps to strengthen and tone the transverse abdominals.  Pashimottasana and uttanasana  are standing forward bends helpful in toning and engaging the area.
Diarrhea occurs when there are multiple loose and liquid bowel movements within a day. Colitis is inflammation of the colon, large intestine, that causes extreme diarrhea, cramps, bloating and anemia.  These ailments respond to gentle back bending asanas that open the stomach and increase blood flow, such as shalabhasana and dhanurasana.  Restorative asanas that increase blood flow to the abdominal area are virasana and supta virasana.  Inversion asanas help to calm the nervous system and aid in digestion.
Acidity that travels to other parts of the digestive system occurs when the sphincters at the beginning and end of the stomach are not functioning properly.  Twisting and revolving asanas are helpful such as parivritta trikonasana, parivritta  parsvakonasana, ardha chandrasana and marichyasana.  Like for the other digestive ailments forward bending, back bending and inversions should be practiced.
Nadi shodana and ujjayi are useful pranayamas for all of the listed aliments.  Meditation and relaxation techniques are always beneficial but especially so when we are experiencing digestive discomfort.

Using Yoga to Strengthen the Immune System

The Immune system is comprised of the thymus gland, spleen, lymphatic system, bone marrow, white blood cells, antibodies and compliment systems.  The function of the immune system is to protect the body from foreign invaders, diseases and keep us healthy.
The thymus gland is located under the neck at the thoracic region and chest.  Functions include production and secretion of the hormone thymosins, which control t-cells and other immune functions and development of the t-cells.
The spleen is located between the 9th and 12th thoracic ribs in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen.  The spleen removes old red blood cells.  It synthesizes antibodies and removes bacteria through the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system includes the tonsils and lymph nodes, which are located in the chest, neck, pelvis, armpit and groin. Leukocytes which are white blood cells are created in the bone marrow. Lymph, and lymphatic vessels carry the lymph fluid throughout the body.  The digestive system also has lymphatic vessels lining the intestines.
Practicing yoga asanas and pranayama lowers the stress hormones produced in the body, strengthens the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulates the lymphatic system to process and expel more toxins, and increases oxygenated blood and blood circulation.
Inverted asanas such as sirsasana and sarvangasana increase blood circulation to the head, sinus, chest and lungs which strengthens these systems during colds, allowing the lungs and sinuses to drain of fluid.  Inversions are also useful for the lymphatic system drainage.
Standing forward bends increase blood to sinuses and drains the lungs; a few examples are  adho muka svansana and uttanasana.  Another forward bend, ardha baddha padmottansana also stimulates the lymph nodes in the abdominal and pelvic area in addition to its other benefits.
Asanas that open the chest and stimulate the thymus gland and respiratory system are kurmasana, and supta kurmasana. Suitable backbends are ushtrasana, matsyasana, bhujangasana and sethu bandhasana.
The lymph nodes can be massaged and stimulated as well. Asanas targeting the lymph nodes in arm pit are bakasana and twisting poses using arms, vakrasana; hip openers like frog pose, bhekasana, target the groin and lion pose, simhasa, targets the neck.
Digestive problems can cause a buildup of phlegm, mucus and toxins which hinder the immune system.  Asanas that compress, extend and twist the stomach can help release these.  Examples are navasana, pawan muktasana and forward bends engaging uddiyanda.
Nodi shodna pranayama helps to open the chest, strengthen the respiratory system and stimulate the thymus.  If you have a fever practicing the cooling pranayamas sitali and sitkari help to reduce fever.
In addition to asanas and pranayama, cleansing techniques are helpful in strengthening the immune system.  Kapalabhati cleanses the lungs and bronchial tubes and neti cleanses the nasal passages.
Following a sattvic diet full of fruits, vegetables and fatty acids builds and maintains the immune system.  Meditation is always useful in calming the body and mind.  Meditating focusing on the 4th and 5th chakras, anahata and vishuddha, can also help to open chest and throat areas of the body.

What Comes Next

I feel like I spend lots of time balancing between excitement about what comes next and appreciation of what’s going on right now.  As my parents tell it, I’ve always been a great one for plans: I’m going to do this, then this will happen, then I’ll do this….  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that having plans is all well and good, as long as I don’t get hung up on whether or not they’ll actually happen.  I enjoy thinking about the all the places I’ll go, to misquote Dr. Seuss, but it’s important to remember that imagining the future does not guarantee it.  It’s sometimes difficult to find that balance, the line that separates optimism and hope from trying to rigidly control the future.  I think yoga helps me do this.  As long as I can remember to breathe, to let go of my expectations and preconceptions, I can move through each moment without drama, without attachment to my wonderful ideas.  As long as I can inhabit my body, I can switch my focus from where it needs to go to where it is right now.  This doesn’t mean that I no longer think about what comes next–I think that might always be a part of me… I like to imagine the possibilities.  Instead, I’ll imagine the future and be open to whatever shape it takes when it comes.  When I’m doing yoga regularly, I’m grounded in my body, in my breath, in my relationship with myself.  As long as I can center myself here, I don’t feel like I get caught by or overly invested in my daydreams.  So for now, I have fun thinking about the possibilities (and they really do feel endless), but am not convinced that any one of them is more likely than another.

Eat your share of red veggies with this recipe….

Diana Henry’s Beetroot goat’s cheese and Hazelnut tart
This recipe contains nuts. Walnuts can be used instead of hazelnuts.
Right now the weather in Singapore is really nice to have a warm tart, well it’s not cold but it’s cooler and it’s a great comfort food after a day of Asanas. Beetroots a an excellent blood cleanser so indulge!!!!
Ingredients
500g puff pastry (buy an already made frozen or fresh. I personally like the round fresh from Carrefour at Plaza Singapura available next to the sausages in the referred section)
3 large red onions, very finely sliced (2 are plenty enough)
4tbsp olive oil
Leaves from 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper
350g cooked beetroot, cut into quarters ( buy them fresh, peel and boil them until tender if your’ lazy and not a fresh freak then get it canned and drain well)
250g goat’s cheese, broken into chunks
2tbsp hazelnuts, very roughly chopped
A little extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Some rocket leaves to sprinkle over before u eat
Cooking Directions
Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
Roll out the pastry, either into a square or round (or an irregular free-form shape is fine). It shouldn’t be any thicker than a 10 pence piece.
Put the pastry onto a floured baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork (Important part). Then put into the oven for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and, if the centre has risen, gently flatten it. Turn the heat up to 200ºC.
Meanwhile make the topping. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Make sure they get coated with all the fat, add 2tbsp water, season and cover the pan. Turn the heat down very low and let the onions sweat for about 20 mins. You need to check every so often to make sure they’re not catching and burning at the bottom. You may need to add a splash more water. The onions should be completely soft.
Stir in the rosemary. If the mixture is very moist or almost wet, turn the heat up to drive off the excess. You don’t want too wet a mix to go on top of the tart.
Top the pastry with the onions, leaving a rim of about 4cm round the edge, then add the beetroot wedges, then the crumbled cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Put this back into the oven and cook for 10-15 mins, scattering the hazelnuts over the top 3 mins before the end of cooking time (they just need to get toasted). The cheese should be golden in patches and the pastry should be cooked but not too dark in colour.
Serve immediately. Top up with the rocket leaves it really complements the tart nicely.

Effort to Effortless (or atleast less effort)

It is amazing. One month out from the teacher training and I am starting to feel the results of all the effort I have put in. It is true what Paalu kept telling us. The more effort that you put in now, the less effort that is required later.
My body has decided that it feels much better every day that I practice. As a result of this my body wakes me up religiously every morning at 4:46am to get up and practice. I decided that I would not set my alarm and if I woke up and my body felt like doing yoga then I would. There is now no effort in waking up every morning feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Every so often my mind will try to join in and give me excuses as to why I should not practice but that is already becoming less effort and it only ever happens after I have effortlessly woken up.
During my practice I notice a difference aswell. I have definitely not reached effortless yet but some asanas that I struggle with are becoming less effort and more enjoyable. I feel much stronger in the postures and lighter in my body. I will find myself doing extra sit ups and pushups in each transition and can see huge changes in my body.
The rest of my life is also following along and everything is becoming less effort. I seem to have more energy and time so I am not rushing to fit things in or avoiding doing the extra things. Work has become more enjoyable and I am getting to teach yoga and see how other people respond aswell as practicing myself.
Dealing with difficult people and situations is less effort. I find I have already put the effort in earlier so I know what is going on in the situation and I feel much calmer and more willing to do all I can to help.
An good example of effort creating effortlessness is when you arrive home from work, if you put in a little effort and put everything you carried in away and as you get changed put your clothes away. Then later on there will be no effort required to tidy the house as it is already done.
My whole outlook on life has changed and everything is moving from effort in the direction of effortless.

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.