Is Yoga a complete Workout?

By Harsh Thakkar

The more I read about it the more evidence I find to support it. Well not sure if I can call it evidence yet, because neither have I seen the “evidence” from my own eyes, nor have I paid any medical labs or scientists to conduct the research on my behalf. Yes, I have spent a few hours googling about it, I will not deny it.

My first few findings were that Yoga has a lot of benefit for toning of your muscles, achieving muscular strength, flexibility, core strength, relaxation, endurance and reduce stress levels. There was also mention of it being good for cardiovascular health and increasing lung capacity. And I did come across a few articles explaining in detail how it really is proven by experiments conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the largest exercise science association in the world, that Yoga can be at par if not better than any other aerobic exercise out there in the world like running, cycling or swimming. Now I still am going to take that with a pinch of salt.

The parameters one can use to define physical fitness is cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, lung capacity(VO2 Max), Flexibility and body composition( percentage of fat, muscles, bones, organs and other non-fat tissues). Yoga has been proven in one way or another to improve all of the above within a span of 8 weeks of practice (2-3 times per week) in all age groups irrespective of previous chronic health ailments, sex, smoking habits etc.

Now I don’t know how true this is and whether ASCM was paid by the Federation of Yoga Loonies to prove that Yoga is awesome. I don’t even think such a federation exists, because I just made that up!

What I can put on the table for you to consider are facts:

  1. I lost about 9 kilos in 4 months, since I started practicing Yoga
  2. I do feel positively less stressed
  3. My chronic Rhino sinusitis has been less active
  4. My stamina of exercising and endurance have both increased many fold. And I have eye witnesses in the form of my yoga batch-mates to vouch for that. Still long way to go though…
  5. Don’t even get me started on my flexibility
  6. I still have not achieved the zen state. I must mention this as I do fight with my wife every now and then and she will read this article at some point in time I would like to believe

So whether it’s a complete workout or not – I don’t know. As a wise man said once upon a time, Yoga is not about fitness but about wellness. I will add a bit of running, swimming and a game of tennis to my exercise regime, just because I love it and I don’t like to put all my eggs in the same basket. But will I continue to do Yoga? Heck yeah!

Yoga – The Mother of All Sports

Imagine the frustration that minutes into playing a normal sport or practicing a martial art technique that you have already sprained your ankle, wrist or any particular muscle. The futile out-of-breath experience after running 200m into your 5K jog routine. It is getting common in modern urban societies where most works have been automated, saving us time and effort looking at the surface, our every body movements in daily life are becoming so easily injured with slight off-balance away from the proper postures.

These are just a few scenarios which are considered minor issues of sports injuries when compared to the more serious ethical issues in sports world such as unethical business practices of poaching customers, selling fake sport goods brand, to the widespread sexual harassment and assault allegations to the coaches of national teams in various countries triggered by the #MeToo movement.

Well, life is not easy anyway but we see multitudes of problems in just doing sports alone. This is where the practice of yoga seems to make a meaningful entrance into helping to address all these area.

In Ashtanga yoga of Patanjali or the eight-limbs of yoga, it covers 8 aspects of our practice. 

1st and 2nd limbs – Yamas (ethical guidelines) and Niyamas (observances)

The first and second limbs set forth in the ethical precepts are moral imperatives or rules for us to live a right and proper lifestyle. The laying down of the fundamental proper values and attitudes are more important even before beginning the training of the body and before obtaining any sporting skills or techniques. Imagine that a talented athlete who lacks of moral conduct will be condemned, even if he wins a medal. Hence proper moral standard has to be cultivated before the start of practice of our physical body. This is also essential for the later stage of practice that a purify mind will have less distractions and hindrances from improving further when we are operating at the advance level.

3rd and 4th limbs – Asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) 

Asanas and pranayama enable us to build strength, increase flexibility and improve stamina at the same time. There will be also less injury during our training as the body is enhanced and calibrated with all rounded strength and flexibility. With the outset of a strong physical foundation, our body will be ready to dive deeper into any field of sports in the next stage.

We can visualise the manifestation of this combinations of capabilities in a great example where an ice figure skater who is able to maintain the body balance while gliding gracefully across the ice ring, having the flexibility to perform difficult stunts in a dynamic moving condition and lastly having the stamina to complete the whole sequences till the end. 

5th and 6th limbs – Pratyahara (bringing the senses inward) and Dharana (concentration) 

Often in competitive sports, an athletes requires elevated concentration and focus to be able to achieve and deliver the best performance during a match. Being able to shut out from the external environments such as the noisy audiences and emotional distractions or pressure from the opponent as well as the player ownself will be crucial to carry through the competition. When all sides fair equally in speed, power and skills, which is especially common when competing at the professional level, by elevating our sharp attention to focus on one point will determines the winner of the day.

7th and 8th limbs – Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (integrating one’s conciousness with the universe)

By understanding that we are oneness with all living beings through meditation and by being at the present moment, we are able transcend our judgemental ego, dislikes, worry and fear. Winning the matches are secondary to being just having the honour to express our potential to the fullest and enjoying the process of interaction of skills with another individual (match opponent) or individuals (audience). To a higher level, sports should have the capacity to unite people together to celebrate human excellence while eliminating political, national and cultural boundaries.   

In India, yoga education is introduced to all government schools. This is a good start for children to begin their lifelong journey in purifying their mind at the same time building a strong physical body. It would be encouraging to see more people, either for sports or just leisure purpose, around the world to start to practice yoga in the coming future.

Yoga for beginners

by Harsh Thakkar

When we grow up, as humans we start taking things for granted. Small miracles which power our everyday life are still happening with the same frequency and un-mindfulness at which they used to happen when one is born. For instance, you still are involuntarily breathing – without really thinking about it or giving it a second thought. You still eat food, and in a few hours, it provides you with ample energy to engage in activities you love and strengthens your overall body, or simply put “it becomes your body”. Yes, there is a scientific explanation to all this, but nobody thinks about it while doing it. Nobody has the time.

Actions and milestones which used to be groundbreaking when you were 1 year old – the first eye contact, the first step, the first solid meal, the first word that comes out of your mouth, all these happen daily now in your adult life, but they have stopped being miraculous. When I convinced myself to sign up for a yoga teaching course, I didn’t know why I did it. The teacher asked everyone in one of the first few classes – do you want to become a teacher? My answer was maybe, at certain point in my life if I get good at it (still far from it).

I am now in that phase of my yoga journey when I’ve become physically capable of doing most asanas (I must add not perfect yet) but still wondering “What is Yoga really? ”

Recently I started teaching basic yoga to some of my friends and family – they were the only ones who were brave enough to take the risk. And during these sessions I found myself explaining to them – “Yoga is not an exercise regime, it’s about wellness. A way of life.” Essentially the word means “Union”, the union of mind, body and soul – some would say. Or the “Union of oneself with the nature”. Easier said than done, one of my friends chimed. I couldn’t find myself to deny that and just smiled in response.

I read somewhere on the Internet of all things that Yoga is “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.” Well that sounds amazing, apart from the fact that the religion of Hinduism has nothing to do with it! Yes, it was written about and established by saints at the time when Hindu religion was going strong in India. But that would be the equivalent of saying that Pilates is a “Nazi system of exercises using special apparatus, designed to improve physical strength, flexibility, and posture, and enhance mental awareness.” Although Pilates was developed during the first world war, Nazism was not even coined at the time even though Hitler was serving in the German army, he had not yet taken control of Germany. Pilates has nothing to do with Nazism, just like Yoga has no religious link – plain and simple.

Living in the moment has become hip these days, but how many people are doing it? If you actively start doing it, that would mean just enjoying the present and not thinking about the future. You earn 3000$ a month, you spend it all, have a great time and live from month to month. Not sure if that’s a good idea. But does it have to be financial all the time?

Living in the moment could also mean, enjoying small mercies in life, that great cup of coffee; the sweet taste of fresh fruit in your mouth; spending time with your loved ones. And then the more basic stuff – you’re still alive and kicking; still able to breath and enjoy the sunrise and sunset, able to walk and get around.

If I were to quote Sadhguru, founder of Isha foundation his definition of Yoga is “that which brings you to reality. Literally, it means “union.” Union means it brings you to the ultimate reality, where individual manifestations of life are surface bubbles in the process of creation. Right now, a coconut tree and a mango tree have popped up from the same earth. From the same earth, the human body and so many creatures have popped up. It is all the same earth.”

When one is practicing Yoga, your mind is focusing on getting that asana right, getting the breathing right, that pain in your thighs during Utkatasana, the rhythm of movement during Suryanamaskara. You’re at that time living in the moment 🙂 So one could say that Yoga teaches you and trains your mind to live in the moment.

Yoga – Self-discipline

2016, I start to looked for Yoga Class as I want to lose weight. At first, I registered for CC weekday classes, Once a week, but I only able to attend 2 classes, and 1 of the class, I have to bring my children together as my husband work late. 2 children felt bored during the class and i had to bring them outside the classes room and wait for my husband rush to look after them. after that day, i did not able to attend the class again.

around end of 2016, met a new friend, she is very interested on Yoga class and we register for a weekend class, every Sunday evening. we continue to learn about the basic of Yoga for about 3-4 months. Teacher discontinued the class.

2017, I met lulu, and she organised the weekend Yoga class, and I can start to practice Yoga again.

Before we attend RYT course, Yoga is an regular exercise to me,I can wake up early and bring Yoga mat from Yishun to woodlands to attend the class. It takes the almost 4 hours in the weekend morning.

As Master Paalu said, Self-discipline is more important, so we will have our daily practising schedule.

Even If I am struggle to wake up early in the morning to practice, I believe our body will improve after day and day.

 

Yoga for your insides

Yoga has many benefits. Most people know the wealth of physical benefits- improves flexibility, improves strength and stamina – but what about what it does to your insides?

There’s a whole new area to explore when looking at the effect of yoga on your hormones.

Each of the glands in the endocrine system has specific functions, and can cause specific symptoms if out of balance. As it’s a system, if one gland is out of balance, then it is likely to affect other glands in the system so it’s important to do a yoga practice that helps to keep the entire system balanced.

For those who believe in the energy of the chakras, the endocrine system is also very closely aligned with the chakra system with the positioning of each chakra containing one or two glands.

A regular practice has been shown to decrease cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels- the hormones that rise during periods of stress and can possibly cause tumours if the levels remain high for a long period of time. While they’re our in-built fight or flight mechanism, they’re also the hormones that can make you cranky and generally not happy.

For women during their menstruation or menopause, hormones can wreck havoc on happiness and outlook on life. Yoga can contribute a balancing effect.

Yoga can also help you sleep more soundly and peacefully as certain positions can raise levels of melatonin.

Yoga can also increase thyroid hormone which increases your metabolism rate and helps you lose weight and feel more alive.

While it’s not an exact science, many studies state that it takes around 3 to 6 months of regular practice for yoga to have these effects on your hormones.

I’ve been doing yoga one and off for a few years now and I personally have definitely noticed its effect on my mood during the periods when I’ve committed to regular practice.

Here are some good yoga poses to try to stimulate certain glands:

Pireal gland– halasana, matsyasana

Pituatory– siriana

Thyroid– halasana, viparita karani

Pancreas– any twisted pose like parvitta trikonasana or pincha mayurasana

Adrenal – any backbends such as chakrasana, ustrasana

Reproductive glands – sirsasana

Here are some power poses when it comes to stimulating the glands:

Sasangasana
This pose stimulates the thyroid and the parathyroid glands. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and secretes hormones that regulate growth and metabolic function. The parathyroid glands are also found in the neck and control how much calcium is released into the body.

Bhujangasana
Cobra Pose massages the adrenal gland which allows your body to better combat stress and release tension.

Ustrasana
This pose stimulates your internal organs, especially in the neck region where the thyroid and parathyroid glands are located.

We are all truly one

Today it seems that almost everyone is aware of how human activity is harming our planet. We are probably already consciously trying to reduce our impact by recycling, driving less, and making an effort to choose the “green” products at the supermarket. To take a step further, we can begin a practice of cultivating gratitude and appreciation for the Earth. When our actions are ignited by a heart-centered consciousness, we can affect the larger world in limitless positive ways.

In many circumstances the habits of our daily lives cut us off from the natural world, where we are constantly cooped up within the four walls of an office, with our eyes perpetually fixated to screens of a mobile, desktop or television. Yet the reality is that we are intimately joined to nature. Similar to our planet Earth, our bodies are made up of seventy five percent water.

Focusing our attention on the everyday gifts that nature provides, will encourage us to cultivate a sense of admiration and gratitude.In my own life, just placing my feet on the floor to connect with the earth first thing in the morning fills me with gratitude. Splashing water on my face connects me to the water that flows all over and through the planet. Breathing oxygenated air into my lungs as I feel the rays of the sun envelope me brings a sense of joy, because fire, air, and prana have united in me. In those first moments of waking, I feel a deep connection to the Earth. When we take time to appreciate and be aware of these connections, we can experience a sense of grounding, abundant well-being, and a sense of belonging.

We are all truly one.

Everyone can learn something from the sutras of Pantanjali

If you really want to get a sense of how old Yoga is look at the sutras of Pantanjali.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali which are the foundational text of classical yoga philosophy are around 2000 years old.

They fell into relative obscurity for nearly 700 years from the 12th to 19th century and then made a comeback in late 19th century.

During the 20th century, modern practitioners of yoga elevated the sutras to common use translating it into various languages so it could be understood around the world.

Sutra in sanskrit means a rope or thread that holds things together.

The themes of the sutras are universal to the human consciousness and a way of mindful living and are still very relevant today, despite their age. As Patanjali writes, all that matters is that we begin here and now and commit to living and practicing with greater self-awareness and presence.

The sutras show you the lineage of yoga to help you get a better understanding of the history behind certain poses and sequences. From that you earn a certain respect and understanding of the asanas. They remind you of the true purpose of your practice and the sutras talk about the philosophy and helps you to understand the barriers to living a happy and fulfilled life and essentially on how to begin to live your yoga.

I want to end with a verse I found translated. I think it’s amazing how philosophy like this can withstand the test of time and still be as relevant today as it was around 2000 years ago.

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”
– Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4 The Theory

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4  The Theory

Love the theory part, not so much that I like to read now, but so relax and easy that someone there talk and I listen, the science, the philosophy, the art, and the stories.

I had already much forgotten to recall exactly how many years from the day I enjoy listening to the teacher’s classroom teaching.

It’s back to my old golden days.

After all, after reading for so many years, my eye sights getting bad. Just packed up all my books into 26 cartons of boxes while preparing to move them to another location.

After this course, I think, likely will start collecting and pick up again, books on the Yoga’s title.

It’s pleasant reading on the Yoga Sutra, though initially having difficulties and hard time stirring my tongues over the Sanskrit words and trying to figure out what’s the meaning by reading the long explanation inside the manual, which eventually made me more confused.

Lucky enough, I managed to find and organized from the internet.
Well, IF, I meant “IF”, If I have the time, likely will add on to it’s German and Chinese or even other languages translation at my leisure if I can find it.

Here share if you need.

Here go we happy Journey to Yoga Lifestyle.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Translation Sanskrit to English

 

汇编 Complied by Angie Chua 20190909.

Is yoga an oxymoron?

Yoga seems like an oxymoron sometimes. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “oxymoron” is defined as a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness); broadly: something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements. In Yoga, we learn to find comfort and steadiness through balancing resistance and opposing forces in our bodies during Asana practice. We learn the importance of honing our concentration in Dharana in order to free the mind to meditate in Dhyana. We look inwards and study ourselves to inch towards the goal of Samadhi, a state of supreme higher consciousness and ultimate understanding that we are all one. Indeed, the Yogic path seems contradictory if we viewed those seemingly incongruous states existing as distinct and opposite points of a linear road. But… what if, instead, they were just two sides of the same coin? One key message that I’ve come to deeply appreciate about Yoga is this power of perspective. Yoga teaches us that our happiness depends on how we perceive things. On the yoga mat, we contort our bodies into shapes of all kinds, including backbends, arm twisters and inversions, so we may experience and see the world from all angles. Through our practice, Yoga challenges us to shift our perspective and be more receptive, so that we may always find and appreciate the good in every situation, for there is never just good or bad, there is no pure duality.

A simple explanation of “What is YOGA? “

Some will think of all the sweat and pain of the stretch when we mention the word yoga. Some will think of the pose that they can do or have seen their friends post on Instagram.

YOGA is everywhere. Most of us will relate to being introduced to YOGA through the performing of ASANA at some fitness class programs. 1 hour of sweat and ego booster. The feel-good factor after a good yoga class. You feel like you have expired lots of cardio sweat and you feel lighter, more relax and also feels like you have a clearer mind. Why is this happening? Why are so many people attracted to this thing call yoga?

YOGA actually comprises of more than what we have been exposed to by commercial fitness centres. YOGA comes from the word YUJ which means the union of the physical mind with the spiritual mind. We as curious beings have this need to find out why we feel so good after the yoga class or why it makes us fall into such deep sleep at the end of the day. Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita, 8 limbs of yoga, 4 paths of yoga, chakras, Swami, Master, guru, pranayama, kriya, bandha and the list goes on. Everything is yoga or has things that are related to the things we learn through YOGA as a big subject.

The million-dollar question that we still have to answer – why do we feel what we feel after a good yoga class? Let’s talk about the ASANA part of yoga in this write up. Asana is what we have all done as postures and poses. All of the poses that are being done in the “yoga class” will activate and stimulate some chakras in our body. There is a total of 7 charkas in all of us. At first, the word chakras and the idea behind this word seem the same as believing that unicorns exist. The triangle force that is spinning inside our body can affect the way we behave and feel? As science becomes more advanced, it’s starting to prove that the theory of chakras is becoming a fact that can be supported by modern science. For those that do not believe yet in the chakras, the postures that we are doing in class twist us into poses that we do not believe our bodies could achieve. By doing these poses, we are actually massaging and twisting our internal organs and intestines. Which other forms of exercise will enable us to do this? What happens when you go for a body massage? It gets the system and blood moving in the way it’s supposed to, and you feel good after a good massage. Same for your organs and intestines. It starts to function better and the system that keeps our body working properly starts to work again. We release tensions and knots stuck in our muscles and organs through these postures. The muscles in our body get worked gently and our body responses to these movements and postures.

For those that have not caught up with the Asana “yoga” yet. It’s time to look around you and observe friends and family around you that have been doing these postures. Look at their transformation and let it be a testimony to you.