Yogacharya

A yogacharya (pronounced “yo-ga-char-ya”) is the respectful way to address a yoga teacher. Sure, you can call them a “yogi” as well and that is completely acceptable too!

As a part of the 200 hours YTT course, we’re all learning to become yogacharyas and for us all, there is a short poem that I dedicate:

eyes closed and palms up 
steady minds and mouths shut
that's how we connect 
our own fuse to the common plug

we are it and it is us
there's no give and take
in trying to understand this
there are some mistakes we will make

give up attachment
to almost everything
but be conscious of the experience
while doing anything

learn to live and live to learn
for karma yoga will show
every action has a consequence
either you'll regret it or it will make you grow

soak in all those experiences
and then let it go
clutch on to sand too hard
and the faster it will flow

reaching Pratyahara 
is definitely no mean feat
your sadhana will take some time
so please do take a seat

close your eyes and look inside
stay grounded, stay cool
say hi to your third eye
and goodbye to the inner fool.
- LeelaM

Happy yoga, fellow yogacharyas!! 

How to implement the yogic system in our daily lives? I

With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we tend to find it hard to calm our minds and settle comfortably within ourselves. Social norms and rules have also shaped us to be extra critical not only of others but of ourselves too. Which is why the need for a place of silence is even greater now than ever before and what better way to create such spaces than within ourselves?

Meditation (Dhyana) is a way we can do just that for ourselves. It helps us learn to block out distractions and disturbances whilst calming the mind and soul. It is the time we can take to reflect on ourselves and things that happen around us. When we direct our focus inward, we feel invigorated yet relaxed at the same time. The power of the mind is strengthened and we learn to love and appreciate ourselves and the universe that little bit more.

We tend to give ourselves excuses like not having free time during the day or not being able to sit and meditate for a long time. However, meditation does not necessarily have to be done for hours on end to be effective. Even a short 5 minutes a day before stepping out of your house would suffice to center and prepare yourself to tackle the rest of the day. It is simply choosing to make the conscious effort to dedicate an extra 15 minutes to yourself daily (though preferably in the morning).

Choose to work on you because self love, time and space are the best things you can gift yourself. Remember you are always worth the time and effort!

How to include yoga in our daily routine – Part 1

For years, I have always felt good and at peace after each yoga practice and I think that is what yoga is about. It was only until this course that I realized there is much more than asanas! Hence, I would definitely like to add more yoga into my daily routine. But I am always tied for time, so I will implement it in the most easiest and sustainable way that suits my current lifestyle.
Here’s how. First of all, I will start with my thoughts. This requires no physical effort but more on awareness and mindfulness. Practice Yama at all times! This will be a guiding principle to make my daily decisions. Be it at work, at home, teaching kids or with friends.
Next will be food choices. I will be honest, it is impossible for me to avoid Rajasic and Tamasic food totally. However, I can definitely minimize them and choose more sattvic food not just for myself but also for my family.
Thirdly, I will be more mindful in my postures. For example, whenever I need to pick things up from the floor, instead of squatting down, I can bend from the hip, keeping back straight, to get a good stretch for the entire back and hamstring.
I will also take note of my standing posture. I have hyperextended knee and this probably explains my weak knee joint. Before this, I don’t even know knee can be hyperextended!
These are the few simple adjustments that I can add in my daily routine and I am confident I can practice this for a lifetime.

Yogic Principles in Daily Life – Part 2

Years ago a yoga teacher once told me that “Yoga without the breath is just a circus act”. This really resonated with me at the time and solidified early on in my practice, how integral the breath is when practicing yoga.

During my TTC I learnt that not only is yoga without the breath a circus act, but yoga without following the yogic principles is a circus act too. It’s not just all about the asanas, to be a true yogi you must abide by certain code of conduct. There are 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga, the first of the Yamas (qualities in which a yogi should have) is Ahimsa, or non-violence.

Non-violence towards others in the most obvious way means not to physically harm or injure others, but as well as that maintaining an attitude that does not harm others also. If you can do Tittibhasana and Sirsasana perfectly but then go out into the world belittling others, you become part of the circus act.

Ahimsa means no cruelty towards animals. This aspect of the Yamas is why a large portion of yogis are vegetarians and vegans. In regards to animals, Sree taught us that ahimsa also means not keeping fish in small tanks or birds in cages. In those cases we are trapping the animal just for our viewing pleasure, and thus it is of a violent nature.

I am already a vegetarian so can fully understand this aspect of ahimsa. The biggest aspect of ahimsa that I will integrate into my daily life, is the violence towards myself. Just as I wouldn’t go out into the world and speak negatively to other people, I mustn’t do the same to myself. I definitely notice in my yoga practice if I cannot do a pose I will speak negatively towards myself, but am aiming to culture a more positive attitude and integrate ahimsa towards myself into my daily life.

And I have to admit that having a few injuries along the way has really helped me to practice ahimsa towards myself!

Yogic Principles in Daily Life Part 1

By doing the 200hr TTC, it has taught me that I need to properly warm up the body and the mind each morning. It is important to do the following activities after rising, on an empty stomach.

In the morning the yogi can start with 3x rounds of 20x pumps of Kapalahbathi, this is to clear the sinus cavities and nasal passageway. It also purifies the nadis and energises the mind whilst removing sleepiness.

This is followed by Anuloma Villoma which helps to balance the nadis. Anuloma Villoma is done in Sukhasana, easy pose, with the left hand in Jana Mudra and the right hand in Vishnu Mudra. In the morning we start with the first inhalation on the right nostril, then after retaining the breath, hold the right nostril and open the left nostril exhaling slowly. Then inhale left nostril, hold, open right nostril and exhale slowly. Continue for 20x rounds on each nostril.

Following this we perform Uddiyana Bandha for 5 rounds. This is done to strengthen and tone the abdomen, internal organs and pelvic floor muscles. It stimulates the manipura chakra and soothes anxiety. Uddiyana Bandha has to be done on an empty stomach and avoided when menstruating.

This is then followed by a few asanas to gently warm up the physical body. Pachimottanasana, Bhujangasana and Ardha Matsyendrasana should each be held for 1 minute.

The final part of the morning routine is to meditate on what we are grateful for in our lives. Cultivating gratitude is a practice which elevates our individual consciousness.

This is a part of yogic practice which is now already integrated into my daily routine and will continue to be after the TTC has finished.

What is Yoga to me?

My first yoga experience was around the end of 2006 and my main intention was to lose weight. At that time Yoga exercise was a phenomenon in Korea as it got known as the celebrities’ favorite exercise.

 

The first 3 months were very tough. Nevertheless the reason I kept practicing yoga was the Savasana which was given for about 1 min after challenging poses. The moment all the stresses is gone away!

As far as I remember, I would practice yoga about 3 times a week for 3 months because I felt like my body and also mind are much lighter after yoga practice.

 

But after a while I quitted it.

Soon I signed up for another yoga studio and quitted again after some time. This happened over and over for around 3 years.

I think I must have practiced yoga at least 8 months in total.

 

And I started practicing yoga regularly in earnest in January 2018, since I moved to Singapore.

While I stayed in Norway (before I moved to Singapore) I experienced depression and anxiety over an year. I even became a person who is dispirited and has a low confidence. But since I practiced yoga and meditate regularly in the yoga classes I finally got to feel like I found an inner peace inside me and it makes me becoming more positive person. I started getting deeply into yoga and believing the power of yoga.

 

And finally in November 2018 I signed up for yoga TTC at Tirisula yoga to learn more about the philosophy of yoga and expand my yoga experience.

3 hours of physical yoga practice at school and 2 hours of extra practice at home made me indeed stronger physically and mentally. Of course it expanded a lot of my yoga knowledge like how yoga people should act and how they see the world.

 

What would be the reason that I who don’t even like Sports or any kind of exercise, like yoga and have kept practicing yoga?

 

First, the breathing of yoga gets me calm.

The deeper we practice yoga, the deeper our breathing is.

This breathing is deep and soft unlike other kinds of sports. There is a power to recover and purify our body. The practice with good breathing makes our head clean and our body lighter and refreshed.

 

Second, it increases our physical ability as these days sitting in front of the desk staring at computer or smart phone is a way of life.

Stiff shoulders, backache, numbness of legs are gone while practicing yoga because it increases flexibility and strength at the same time. Since yoga is a whole body exercise it improves not only immune system in our body but also corrects our postures in a daily life by waking up and developing all the muscle throughout our body.

 

Third,  Achievement.

If I keep trying, someday I could manage to do certain poses that looked impossible at the first time.

This achievement becomes a big motivation to keep practicing yoga. Those who practice yoga must have the same experience to yell out a cheer saying “I did it” on the mat when they made a challenging pose that struggled to make days or months.

To me Urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow pose) it was.

It seemed that I could never make this pose when I saw it first time. My shoulders were stiff and backbend was very challenging.

Of course still I can’t make the pose perfectly but I can make an arch.

 

Forth, yoga shows the honesty of our body. It reminds me of Korean saying that Your efforts will never betray you!

You can improve your yoga skills as much as you practice. I mean there must be a difference of improvement speed depending on people and there must be poses that you are physically not able to do because of your body shape limit but for average people they could do most of the poses if they invest some time to their practice. Seeing my body changing as much as I practice, I get courage that there’s nothing I can’t do for other things if I do in this attitude.

 

For these reasons I will practice yoga for the rest of my life.

It would be even nicer if I have an opportunity to teach someone this good exercise and way of life.

I will constantly practice and learn and try to spread out this good yoga!

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.