I am not flexible = I cannot practice yoga

I can assure that you have heard this phrase as many times as I have. When you tell your friends, your family, or random people that you practice yoga or that you are doing the YTT they tell you “I cannot practice because I’m not flexible enough” or  “You must be super flexible”.

My answer is laughing and asking: Should you be a great cook to go to a cooking class? Should you speak Japanese to go to a Japanese course? Should you know how to drive to go to a driving academy? NO. You go there because your goal is to acquire that skill.

The same happens with yoga, not all the yoga teachers can touch their knees with their nose in a forward bend, and not everyone that practice yoga can even reach their toes. That’s one of the reasons why we practice yoga because we want to be able to do it.

A yoga teacher once told me:

how old you are is not that important, how flexible you are is the main thing. Keep flexible and you will be young forever.

Now I understand what he meant. It’s not something you will get with one or two classes, as you will not learn a language with two or three classes, you need constant practice, you need to immerse yourself and live what you are learning, you need to have a reason why you want to do it. A dream without a goal will always remain a dream.

So find a reason and remember that to learn a new skill you just need practice and practice. 

Adriana

Should or shouldn’t I mention that I have a health issue to my yoga teacher?

During these four weeks of YTT, we have been hearing and talking about those students that have health issues but don’t mention them to the teacher. In this post, I want to talk from the perspective of one of these students.

I have an autoimmune disease that affects mobility, strength, balance, among many other things. So let’s go straight to the question, should or shouldn’t I mention that I have a health issue to my yoga teacher?

The answer is: IT DEPENDS.

 

These are some of the things you have to consider:

  • What your doctor recommends
  • The condition you have
  • How much do you know yourself and your body
  • How much do you understand your disease
  • What do you expect from the yoga practice
  • The yoga style you are practising.

 

Reasons to mention your health issues:

  • Your doctor recommended you to practice yoga to recover yourself
  • It will affect the flow of the class
  • You are not sure if the level of the class is right for you
  • The teacher is asking to do something you really cannot do

 

Reasons not to mention your health issues:

  • You feel good and are confident about your practice
  • You have tried yoga before and know it will not affect your health
  • You don’t trust the teacher
  • You just know you can do it

 

In my case sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. For the normal classes I usually don’t mention, because I don’t want the teacher to treat me in a different way, I just do what I can and don’t do what I cannot. For the YTT I just mentioned the day we were starting, because I realised there were some poses that were going to take more than a month for me to achieve.

So, after saying all this I just recommend you to be aware that many of the students you will have won’t tell you about their health issue, unless it’s something obvious or unless they want your help and guidance. Be mindful that not everyone has the same strength, flexibility or abilities and if you have a health issue, keep looking there will be a yoga style that is suitable for your condition.

Adriana

Music for Yoga

Music is not a “must” in yoga practice, but I think it is a bonus factor, especially for meditation and restorative classes. Here I would like to share some good music for yoga practice, which may help you to better prepare for classes.

  1. Bandari

I can’t wait to release number 1 on my list – Bandari

Bandari is not a singer or band’s name but a music project instead. Bandari set up in 1990 in Switherland by a team of talented young musicians.

The specialty about this project is that they don’t use synthetic music, all the sound comes from the nature.  For example, the sound of the waterfalls does not been made in the studio, but collect from the nature directly. In order to get these sound, the producers need to walk deep into the jungles, climb up mountains and even sleep in the wild.

They are familiar with every migratory bids’ different seasonal habits and flight paths. Sometimes they have to sleep in the forest or mountain for months, in order to get the natural sound they want. Because all these efforts, I think Bandari’s music is all about purity and the origin of the life.

Example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPesyPSt2bw

  1. Deva Premal

Deva was born in a German musician family and began her musical journey even in her mother’s womb. She was accepted training in piano, violin and vocal exercises in the early ages.

Deva started a special music meditation program called Satsang, where the audience just close the eyes and accept the music, no need any applauds or look at the performers.

Although born in Europe, Deva travels around the world and she like the culture and language of Asia. Many of her music has the “Gayatri Mantra” factor.

I can’t understand the language of her music, but feel very spiritual when I listening her song. My heat is full of the peace.

Example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUqe31ojZBU

 

  1. Krishna Das

Mr Krishna Das was born in America, and was attracted by the classic Indian yoga when young, so he followed the heart and started his yoga and meditation study in India in 1970. During those years, he visited lots of spiritual saints and masters to seek for the soul’s openness and purity.  He stayed in different temples to absorb the truths in the Indian’s thousand-long history.

He not only inherits but also changes the tradition into the new age Indian kirtan-style devotional music

These days, he still travels around the world giving performances and teaching.

Example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA343RcW3uM

– Kate Zhou Jiarong  200hr teacher training course (Sep Weekend)

Code your main Ashtanga Asanas

You know your poses and their variations but you are still struggling with their Sanskrit names? Whether you are taking the 200hr Teacher Training Programme or you want to know your Asanas in Sanskrit this article is for you.

While trying to memorise all the Sanskrit asanas names, I realise that drawing them was something very easy. It really helped me to write my first lesson plans by adding a small drawing of the pose next to their respective names. This method was also really helpful for my teaching my first lessons during the Yoga Teacher Training. A quick look at my notes enable me to catch the name of the pose and the pose itself.

I find that compare to a picture this method also gives a quick and clear overview of the alignement of each pose. 

Some of poses below are really obvious when you look at them but for others I wanted to add a bit more information to avoid any confusion. Please take notes of the following to better understand the code. 

  • I draw an arrow on top of the head to indicate where the eye should gaze at
  • The arrow with a spirale means that this is a revolved/twisted pose
  • For the poses with variation A, B, C, D, I decided that we would only draw the first variation and I leave it to you to add on your paper which variation you want to refer to by adding either the letter A or B or C or D on top of the pose. This requires that you already know the variations of each asana.

Do you like it? Do you think this will be helpful for you? Please let me know I would be happy to draw more Asanas should this be of help.

By Elsa Gobet

 

Morning and evening pranayama

By Jie Zhong, 200hrs YYT, September 2017
In this blog post I would like to talk about my morning and evening breathing routines. They are very simple and can be accomplished in as little as three minutes or so.
Morning pranayama
In the morning I want energize myself and make myself ready to deal with the day’s challenges. At the same time I want it to be soothing.
I start of in cat pose. On an exhale, I slowly lower my bottom to my heels, into a little child pose. On the inhale, I returne to the cat pose. This I repeat five times.
Then I do the exercise again, but I divide in two the motion that I do in exhale. I breath out, go half way down, pause, and then exhale again and move all the way to the little child pose. I don’t pause during the inhale, only during the exhale. This is important. As before, I repeat this five times.
I find the exercise profoundly relaxing. It relieves anxiety and gets me ready for the day.
Evening pranayama
I first inhale, then exhale half, pause, exhale half again, pause, before inhaling again. This I do ten times.
This exercise is called pacifying breath and I include it into my evening pranayama practice. It is a great way to relax before bed. 
But if course it can also be useful any time that I need to de-stress, unwind and relax.

Gunas: My journey towards becoming more sattvic

by Jie Zhong, 200 hours YYT, September 2017
As I have come to realize through meditation, poses and through looking inside of me and taking on the role of an observer – I have always been a person with very high rajas.
I have always had a fiery character, am very passionate, impatient and I am certainly (hyper-)active to the extent that I have a very short attention span, take on too many things at a time and end up wasting a lot of time doodling around. I have difficulties in accepting things the way they are, to be understanding, serene and to just enjoy the moment.
It would of course be an over-simplification to say that my whole life and character are dominated by rajas only. Sometimes, tamas prevails and sometimes I enjoy the state of sattva. There is an inter-play of all three gunas and each one of them is always present to some degree. Nevertheless, rajas is the one that has been dominating my life, since the day I was born.
For some time now I have taken very conscious steps to become more sattvic. I teach myself to notice my periods of high contentment and to move towards them whenever I feel imbalanced or too much influenced by rajas. I now consciously live through my sattvic moments and make a mental note of them whenever I experience them. Whenever I feel too agitated, I remember and place these states of mind into my consciousness and consciously move towards them.
An important factor in my journey towards becoming more sattvic is the food that I eat. Listening to my body tells me which types of food change my dosha in which way. I now avoid spicy and strongly flavoured food as much as possible. The same goes for salty and sweet food. Instead, I eat freshly prepared vegetables, fruits and drink juices. And I try to avoid too much garlic and onions as they are tamasic.
By listening to my body and by becoming more observant, I established that through my food intake I can quite easily limit the tamasic and rajasic parts of my dosha to strive towards sattva. And of course I reinforce my good eating habits by meditation and by yoga poses.

Losing weight with Ashtanga Yoga

by Jie Zhong, 200 hrs YYT, September 2017
Everyone knows that high-intensity sports such as running or excercising in the gym aid weight loss because such activities burn a lot of calories. Yoga, on the other hand, is not commonly thought of as being an effective component of a weight loss program. But how wrong this perception is!
As I have learned during the last few weeks, Ashtanga Yoga is not only a very efficient practice to build up muscle strength, to make one’s body more flexible and supple and to become more aware of ourselves and our bodies. It is also a physically very demanding activity! As such, Ashtanga Yoga is a fat-burning activity. During Yoga sessions, fat is burnt and muscle is built. An hour of Ashtanga Yoga can burn a few hundred calories because the poses demand stamina, strength and cardiac endurance.
I also feel that since I do Yoga I am much more conscious about the food that I am taking in. I eat less and more healthy. I feel that my body is telling me what I should eat and what I should not.
I myself have lost three kilograms of weight after practicing Ashtanga Yoga for just twenty days, with three hours of practice every day. This is a very amazing result! I think that it is the combination of, as described above, burning of more calories and of healthier and more conscious eating.
Besides the many health benefits that it brings with it, Ashtanga Yoga is therefore an effective and thoroughly enjoyable way of keeping (or getting) a slim and toned body.

Importance Of OM & Namaste in Yoga is Spiritual Not Religious:

 Trying to focus & clear the thinking that Yoga is not a religion. It proposes no gods or saviors; it moves forward on the grounds of experiential confirmation rather than religious faith. Yoga is based from India but Its completely Physical, Mental & Spiritual journey of person.

OM:

The physiological benefit of saying “OM” together is it helps to calm the body, can lower the heart rate and the blood pressure, and prepare the body for Asana with healing energy .

The three elements of OM (A-U-M) symbolize the waves of creation: iccha (desire), jnana (preparation), kriya (inspired action). Waves are the nature of the universe.Om symbolizes the vibration and pulsation of the Universe.

Chanting Om together in a group class reminds us of our unity, as well as our diversity. Many voices come together as one. OM enhances our AJNA chakra point,which is situated in our seat of mind also known as 3rd Eye,which is useful for Spiritual well being.

NAMASTE:

In Sanskrit, Namaste can be understood as “the light within me bows to (or honours) the light within you.”

It’s a greeting or sign-off that recognizes that each of us has an individual soul, and we are grateful and respectful towards each other’s unique soul.

 In the meantime, when we say Om and Namaste during class, this is the general energy behind them, from a place of honour and respect towards the lineage of yoga, and to each other for showing up to try to feel better.

Sunita,

200Hr YTTC,August 2017

Vrikshasana: How to balance on one leg

While Vrikshasana, or Tree Pose, seems like a very basic pose, it is often difficult to find our balance on one leg. After all, standing straight on one leg is not something we do every day (at least I know that’s true for me)!

Being able to stand on one leg, however, is a very important indicator of our health – with studies showing that the inability to do so can indicate abnormalities in the brain…and even stroke.

To improve our balance, there are a couple of practices we can do:

Firstly, we can keep building our leg strength with standing asanas like Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), and Virabdrasana 1 and 2 (Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 Pose).

Secondly, is also important to learn to stay grounded on our feet, and strong, upright poses like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) can help us engage our core and improve our sense of stability. While standing in this pose, we should be aware of how our feet are placed – they should be firm on the ground, toes should not be curled, and arches should not be collapsed. Also, a common mistake is to lock the knees for balance, when we should instead be engaging the muscles in our thighs – this really helps improve stability!

Lastly, we can improve on our sense of balance with our sense of sight, or lack thereof. While balancing, we can focus our gaze on a single focal point to help us focus and feel stable. To really push ourselves to improve on our balance, we can try closing our eyes – this is super challenging!

With consistent practice – in a safe environment, of course – we can find ourselves balancing comfortably on one leg in no time.

Nicole V (200hr TTC, July 2017)

Yoga and the Beginner's Mind (初心)

In making connections with some of the ideas mentioned in yoga practice, I’ve found similarities in the Japanese / Samurai culture.

Each of us enter the world of yoga with varied life experiences, beliefs and perceptions. We often start a new experience with a half-cup mentality. Because of this, our body and mind sometimes resist the input of new knowledge and experiences. It is hence, important to first ’empty our teacup’; our mind, our ego, etc. before taking in new knowledge. This is Shoshin (初心) or the Beginner’s Mind, found in Zen and Japanese martial arts.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen teacher in his book, ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’.

By emptying our teacup, it allows us to remain open to receive new knowledge. This is an extremely difficult start as we sometimes resist in a very unconscious manner. As we heighten our mental and physical awareness, we get closer to achieving this.

I’ve found that personal ego and false humility as two major setback to personal learning for many. It prevents one from maintaining an open mindset to acknowledge our own weaknesses and truly learn from others.

I try to remind myself daily to:

– question with an inquisitive mind

– challenge no one but myself

– remain grounded and humble in my learning journey

– review my basics to bring new awareness at different stages of my training; advanced techniques are simply basics applied properly

So have you emptied your cup yet?

Aylwin Tan (200hr YTT, July 2017)