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.

Yoga = Instagrammable Poses?

When you think of Yoga, what comes to your mind?

A bearded monk meditating in India ? A flexible woman who is in an Instagrammable pose? Or a fashionable lifestyle practiced by celebrities in Hollywood ?

Yes, these are the typical stereotypes about Yoga. But these stereotypes are often misleading. Yoga is not all about poses.

Yoga in our modern society has been commercialized to a large extent and it has lost some of its originality and tradition.

The purpose of practicing Yoga in the modern context is “to attain good physical health”, however, originally it was “to attain peace of mind”. In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, the word “Yoga” means “connection”, where the mind, body and soul are in perfect harmony.

The basis of Yoga is “the ability to control your thought fluctuations” as mentioned in Yoga Sutra, a widely regarded primary text on yoga, and the best way to achieve this is through meditation. Fundamentally, meditation requires one to close out all other senses and to concentrate or apply single focus on one particular objective. Being in a meditative state is Yoga itself.

In Sanskrit, these poses are referred to as “Asana”, and the root meaning of the term Asana is to be in the sitting position. Contrary to popular belief, the numerous Asanas practiced in yoga serve as building blocks to build a strong foundation for one to meditate which often lasts for hours. 

It might seem illogical but Asana in its original form, which is the sitting position is far more difficult than the other forms and positions of Asanas which are practiced today. This is because sitting asana requires a long sustained combination of controlled and steady breathing, upright posture of the torso and most importantly, which happens to be the most difficult, a fully-focused mind.

The Yoga Sutras refers to eight limbs (Ashtanga) of yoga, each of which offers guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

  1. YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
  2. NIYAMA– Positive duties or observances
  3. ASANA – Posture
  4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
  5. PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
  6. DHARANA – Focused concentration
  7. DHYANA – Meditative absorption
  8. SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment

The first five of eight limbs including Asana which is the third limb, serve as a preparation for the last three limbs which are forms of meditation.

Modern practitioners have lost their ways by coming up with versions of yoga such as “Dog Yoga”, “Beer Yoga” and the like and have deviated from the true form and meaning of yoga.

While it is great that people are starting to take care of their health through yoga, I sincerely hope that the original meaning, practice and art of yoga will never be diminished and always be kept intact in its truest and original form.

Haruka

Yogi or Asanaer

It is a common knowledge in life that whatever is good must be moderate and not excessive. Water is good for people’s health but you cannot drink too much,you can drink to death. The human body is a system that requires a balance of nutrients in order to be healthy. As in the case of water, it is good, but its not good beyond the right point of equilibrium.

It may be easy to conclude from this that over practising yoga is too much beyond the fitness level of the body.
If you come to this conclusion, it means that the yoga in your head actually corresponds to one of the Eight Limbs. But yoga is a system, not just Asana. Yoga is not about postures, at least not just postures.

So, too much Asana may not be good, but there’s no end to the Yoga practice. For example, you practice postures like crazy, be careful, you may have been against YAMA. Being obsessed of practising advanced postures, you are not practising Aparigraha. Having injured yourself in postures means you must have missed Ahimsa.

Back to the point, the Eight limbs forms the basis of Ashtanga Yoga practices that guides yogi to Samadhi. The quote from Guruji says Yoga is 99% percent practice, 1% theory. This 99% should be an exercise in the entire Eight Limbs system.

Why I Hated My 1st Yoga Class: Common Misconceptions

I used to hate yoga. The first few times I went to class was because my mother brought my sisters and I every Sunday, and I just went along because everyone else was going. I stopped shortly after starting and did not practice yoga for a few years, especially when I went to England to study. Until earlier this year, when I discovered the Adidas Studio London, a space which has a new schedule and different teachers every week, meaning I had the awesome opportunity to be exposed to different styles of yoga and teaching. It was through going for all these different yoga classes that I realised how much I genuinely enjoy practicing physical asanasin yoga. Looking back to my first few yoga classes, these are some misconceptions and thoughts I had about yoga…

  1. “Yoga is not exercise”

As a school team tennis player who could endure physical conditioning sessions and long hours of non-stop drills or rallying, I thought yoga would be a breeze. I remember when we were holding parivrtta parsvakonasana(revolved side angle pose), the teacher came round and asked me to engage my adductor group (inner thighs), but I was already contracting it as much as I could – it was then that I realised I had so little strength compared to those around me. It was definitely frustrating, where I liked how other forms of physical exercise would leave me dripping with sweat and my heart racing, feeling like I really got a good workout. Whereas yoga was less aerobically intense, yet still tiring. I’ve now learnt that yoga requires the combination of strength, flexibility and stamina, which I would definitely consider exercise, and brings me on to my next point…

2. “You need to be flexible to do yoga”

When I went for yoga classes a couple years back, I couldn’t touch my toes – meanwhile everyone else could effortlessly go into paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). No matter how much I tried, I was just so exasperated trying to reach further that I neglected my breath – which can really help to deepen the stretch. Fast forward to now, I can comfortably touch my toes. Yes, it helps if you’re flexible, but by practicing physical asanas in yoga, you’ll naturally increase your flexibility. Bottom line is, you don’t need to be flexible to do yoga, but you can certainly gain flexibility by practicing regularly.

3.“I have no idea what I’m doing”

Being new to yoga, I didn’t know what adho mukha svanasana (downward dog) was, meaning I was mostly looking around and desperately trying to copy people around me before everyone moved onto the next asana. Everyone else in class seemed to know what they were doing, but I was just clueless. Over time, I’ve come to realise that not many people reallyknow what they’re doing, and it’s through going to more classes, watching yoga videos and having a teacher adjust us that we learn how to properly execute asanas with correct alignment and depth. Beyond that, yoga doesn’t have to look a certain way – each individual’s anatomical structure is different, and it’s more about moving with yourown body and breath, so it will most likely be different from the person next to you. As long as you do what feels right to your body, it will all come together eventually.

4. “What is this weird chanting and breathing and foreign words”

The first few classes I went for always started off with an opening mantra and focussed a lot on breath work. The teacher also used the Sanskrit names for the asanas, leaving me more confused than I already was. I’ve now come to understand that yoga is a form of meditation combined with movement – which requires focus on breath, especially so during the challenging asanas. By keeping our breath steady during the difficult parts of yoga, we can translate this to real life stress and challenges we may face and become more mindful. In yoga, we usually inhale and exhale through the nose, and try to focus on grounding our breath at a steady pace. It’s also so important to go into downward dog or child’s pose if we lose our breath. When I was still new to practice, I was always reluctant to do so because I thought others would consider me “weak”, but I’ve realised I know my body best and can feel when I need to reconnect with my breath, so we shouldn’t hesitate to take a rest when needed and take a moment to listen to our bodies. As for the Sanskrit, teachers often say the common name of the pose together with the Sanskrit name, and with time, you’ll come to recognise most of the basic names.

5. “Yoga is for 太太s (n., housewives who do not need to work; usually rich)

When I heard the word “yoga”, I would think of rich housewives going for yoga in their expensive leggings before heading to brunch or high tea after… which is so inaccurate. I was self-conscious of what I wore to my first few classes, but after a while I stopped caring and felt comfortable because I realised hey, no one really cares what you’re wearing. People are there for yoga, to practice physical asanas, focus on their breath and find calm in the middle of their busy lives. Besides that, although majority of those who come to yoga are female, there are indeed males who practice yoga. I think it’s amazing how they can be so comfortable and confident in a room full of girls, where I know of quite a few guys who are reluctant to go for yoga because they think “it’s just for girls”, “I’m not flexible enough”, “it isn’t challenging enough”… the list goes on.

As I’m about to graduate YTT, it’s interesting to see how far I’ve come, from someone who dreaded going to class to growing to love yoga and hopefully teaching classes soon. Through these experiences, my little nugget of wisdom would be to go to stick it out at first and keep going to classes – because not only are there so many different types of yoga, but each teacher has a different style of teaching. So even if you hate your first class, give it another go and hopefully you find a style of yoga you enjoy. I do believe that yoga is for everybody and everybody – no matter the size or shape, regardless of flexibility or fitness level, yoga is welcoming and meant for everyone, you just have to give it a shot.

Kyla x

#Instayoga

Scroll through Instagram or Facebook and you’ll probably come across someone contorted into a yoga pose, dreamy sunset location optional. With the popularity of social media soaring in recent years, it has become ubiquitous for yoga teachers and yogis alike to post pictures of them in a yoga pose, and I’m no exception.

When on Mount Rinjani…

Modern day yoga has the greatest focus on the 3rd limb of yoga, asana, or physical practice, where “The yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit” (Iyengar, 1966 p. 41). Often times neglecting the other 7 limbs as defined in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, especially so on social media. Yamasand niyamas (moral guidelines or self-discipline), pranayama (translating to expansion of life force; usually refers to breath work), pratyrahara (withdrawal from the 5 senses), dharana (focussing on one thought at a time), dhyana(meditation; observing your thoughts but not reacting to them) and samadhi (detached, non-judgmental; Buddha-like enlightenment) are rarely mentioned on social media, mostly due to the fact that the target audience is largely just interested in the physical postures.

The paper Yoga on Instagram: Disseminating or Destroying Traditional Yogic Principals has drawn light on the flaws of posting yoga-related content on social media. Many people, especially yoga teachers, use it as a form of marketing – I personally am not against this because it’s free and if they have a large following, effective in getting their followers to come to their class. However, the paper finds fault in those who use it to seek validation or an ego booster, where it depicts a misleading perspective which goes against the yogic philosophy. In addition, the paper brought up the dangers of negative body image, where most of these pictures of young, toned bodies in tight leggings and a sports bra spurs comparison of one’s own body to that ideal, especially when tagged #fitspo (fitness inspiration).

But then again, yoga is derived from yuj, which means union in Sanskrit, and social media is a great platform for yogis all over the world to connect and draw inspiration from one another. Besides that, it isn’t purely about the asana – captions can often share a lot of knowledge about the asana or yogic philosophy and videos can give you tips to help correct your alignment. Many of these posts focus on achieving both physical and mental wellbeing, which goes in line with the traditional practice. As B.K.S. Iyengar wrote, “to the yogi, his body is the prime instrument of attainment. If this vehicle breaks down, the traveler cannot go far. If the body is broken by ill-health, the aspirant can achieve little”.

It definitely is a double-edged sword, where its benefits lie in the way people choose to use and respond to it. When used well, one can share knowledge about the philosophy, tradition and history of yoga and spread their love of yoga to their friends. Beyond that,  it’s called social media, so let’s make it more social – its an awesome opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and perhaps more importantly maintain those friendships, even if we’re oceans away.

Kyla x