Yoga and Climbing Part 3

Pushing vs Pulling
Having explored the physical and mental similarities between Yoga and Climbing, and briefly discussed on how they complement each other, we will discuss more on the complementing aspect of the two disciplines specifically in terms of pushing and pulling movements.
As a form of practice and exercise, many believe that yoga is a completely balanced one because it provides growth opportunity for strength, flexibility and even spirituality.
While there’s a truth in that, on a closer look however, we may realise that yoga focuses a great deal on pushing movements. Majority of the asanas such as Chaturanga, handstand and crow involve pushing our own body weight away from the floor.
With consistent and long term practice, practitioners will definitely develop more strength especially on the shoulder pushing muscles (scapular protraction) but if yoga is the only form of exercise they are doing, functional muscular imbalances in the shoulder will start to develop simply because of the lack in pulling movement (scapular retraction).
As with any other form of exercises, muscular imbalances will translate to higher risk of injuries.
Certain asanas do involve pulling – Utthita Hasta Padanghusthasana pulls the big toe towards the body or Dancer and Mermaid pose pull the foot close to our bodies. However, the force required to do this pulling movement is comparatively small to the pushing movements involved in the other asanas.
Here, we are comparing pushing our own body weight to pulling a toe or feet.
There are other asanas which include scapular retractions such as Purvottanasana, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Wheel and other backbending poses but again, the intensity of the force involved is different to the ones involved in pushing our own body weight.
This is the main reason climbing is a great balancing exercise for yoga. Climbing mainly involves pulling our own body weight up the wall / rock. Although some may point out that climbers work their way up by pushing their foot / legs against the foothold, there is still significant shoulder pulling movements involved.
Alternatively, yoga practitioners may also include other exercises such pull up and seated / barbell rows or even make use of resistance bands to perform simple shoulder pulling movements.
With more balanced healthy shoulder strength, we may be able to access poses or climbing problems which seemed impossible previously.

Yoga and Climbing Part 2

Mental/ Spiritual Similarities between Yoga and Climbing
More importantly, both yoga and climbing share similarities that transcend beyond the physical body.
Focus and Calm
Through the practice of pranayama, yoga practitioners are invited to focus on breathing in order to calm the mind and be in the present. And we need to keep coming back to this breathing techniques throughout our asana practice for good reasons.
Imagine doing balancing poses such as Warrior III (Virabhadrasana C) or Ardha Badha Padmottanasana while thinking about lunch? Or forgetting to breathe while holding Navasana?
During climbing, the same focused and calm mindset is imperative to continue progressing upwards, one step at a time while trying not to fall and getting injured.
Thinking about lunch while up on the wall/rock few meters above the ground will definitely be worse than losing balance from Warrior III!
Therefore, yoga and climbing share Dharana (or concentration) both as a mean to an end and an end itself.
Courage and Confidence
I still remember the fear and doubt I had before my first inversion – Fear of falling down, breaking my neck and back.
And the fear during bouldering, when there is not any safety rope and I need to jump down after reaching the last hold. Or when I reach halfway during wall climbing and accidentally look down at how far the ground is.
But it doesn’t just stop there – once we conquer inversions or solve that V6.
In Ashtanga, once we complete the Primary series, there will be 5 other series of complex poses. Climbers would often feel stuck making the progress to the higher problem. For me now, V8 seems very daunting and just simply beyond my reach.
Both disciplines bring us out of our comfort zone, constantly require us to have courage to confront and grapple with our fears. Over time, the practice becomes mind over matter. We develop confidence and trust on our body and capability – and above all, on ourselves.
Looking back at some videos of me attempting inversion or V3 made me realise how far I have come.
There would be no progress without courage and confidence.
Humility and Perseverance
 
Falling down in climbing and failing to execute the asanas are common, shared by all practitioners.
Yet we keep trying again. And again.
We may not have developed enough grip strength or our hips are not open enough.
Whatever the reasons are, as long as we can identify them, both yoga and climbing teach us humility and perseverance – to keep trying and learning while honouring our bodies and other limitations.
Acknowledging that everyone is work in progress. There are people who are better than us and there are others who can learn from us.
Humble enough to receive adjustments for certain poses or to listen to beta (tips) from the crowd watching below.
As well as humble enough not to judge anyone but to encourage fellow practitioners.
Meditation
With those aspects above, both yoga and climbing have become forms of moving meditation for me.
While they may not be as profound as Dhyana described in Yoga Sutra, but these exercises have provided me with glimpses of peace and calm, interrupting my otherwise hectic days with endless fluctuations of external stimulus.
These exercises invite me to look inward and know who I actually am.
These mental (some would even tag this as spiritual) aspects of these disciplines may not be as easily observable as the physical ones, but over time, practitioners would slowly notice their applicability and integration into the daily life.

Yoga and Climbing

Physical Similarities between Yoga and Climbing

These two disciplines can be seemingly very different but based on years of personal practices, I realised that not only there are many similarities, they actually complement each other as well.
 
  • Strength and Endurance 
Vinyasa and Ashtanga classes with sun salutations and multiple jumps back and through are particularly effective in building arms and legs strength, necessary for climbing.
Done at a slightly faster pace than usual, this set of poses will get the sweats flowing in no time akin to HIIT, improving the overall cardiorespiratory endurance.
For climbing, we always need to keep our hips close to the wall in order to shift the body weight to the core instead of arms. This principle sounds familiar because it is applicable to many yoga poses such as Downward Facing Dog, Crow and Crane.
Up on the wall, we also need to support our own weight via strange movements and numerous muscle contractions, which inadvertently help increase the blood flow to areas we may not use often in our daily life.
This means local endurance surrounding those areas will improve and in yoga, this translates to ability to hold longer in certain poses.
  • Flexibility
This may sound obvious but yoga practice does improve flexibility over time. Consistent practice will enable climbers to move the feet higher, wider and farther easily with less risk of injuries.
  • Body Intelligence and Awareness
Both yoga and climbing are exercises that only make use of our own body weight. As a result, through the practice, we have the opportunity to gain a deeper better understanding and awareness of our body, from how to shift the body weight, engage and isolate muscles as well as how to balance and recognise sensations including pain.
With this heightened awareness, practitioners could then start breaking bad postural habits and being more mindful of alignment when standing, sitting and even lying down.

Runners and Yoga. Yoga as a form of Active Recovery

Yoga and running, to most people are two mutually exclusive past times. For me, however, practicing yoga, has helped me, not only in my running pursuits, but also in my general well being.

I am a runner who has completed numerous marathons and endurance races over the past twenty years. I have found that with regular yoga practice, my range of movements are not limited, I recover faster from my runs and I run better.

Following from my previous post, Runners and Yoga, in this instalment, I will detail why and how yoga asanas benefit runners in recovery process and what asanas runners should perform for their active recovery.

As runners we want to recover from our runs as quickly as possible so that we can carry on with our other activities, become stronger and enjoy our next run session quicker. How then do we that?

Stretching the muscles as you do in yoga poses restore muscle elasticity and remove pooled blood that has accumulated in the muscles back into the blood circulatory system. As we stretch, blood vessels are subjected to peristaltic waves thus flooding the muscles with fresh blood and removing the pooled ones and lactic acid along with it. Fresh blood brings essential nutrients for to muscles recover.

There are two ways in which yoga can help in the active recovery process. Firstly in immediate recovery. This is performed immediate post run, with mobility poses and stretches. The focus in immediate recovery is to restore the body to pre run state, returning the body to full mobility, usually this takes 10-15 minutes. Secondly, the recovery session. The recovery session is usually performed as a separate session with deeper longer stretches. The objective of this deeper stretch session is to relieve tightness in the muscles, especially the hamstrings and to restore muscle elasticity and joint flexibility.

I find that the following primary poses are beneficial in the immediate recovery, performed at the end of a run. The mountain pose, the standing forward fold, the triangle pose, the wide legged standing forward fold, the downward dog, the tree and savasana. These primary poses targets the muscle groups that are used while running. The hamstrings and quadriceps being the largest muscle groups. Performing these poses immediately post run will restore your muscles to its pre run state, giving you full mobility, removes lactic acid out of your muscles and setting you up perfectly for full recovery. A recovery meal should follow.

The recovery session should be performed on a day that you are not running. Hatha yoga sequences are especially beneficial in this respect. Poses are held longer, between 12-15 breaths, so that the muscles are deeply stretched. Heart rate does not go much higher than resting. Breathing is deliberate and through the belly. All of which encourages the muscles to relax, be stretched, improving muscle elasticity and loosening the tightness.

I find a sequence comprising these poses; uttanasana, prasarita padottanasana, padanggustasana, trikonasana, parivrtta pashvakonasana, janursirsasana, eka pada rajakapotasana, baddha konasana, is sufficient to give me a good stretch. And if your ITB is giving you a problem, eka pada rajakapotanasana will relieve it.

As always, attend a class so a teacher can guide you.

Yin yoga stretches are also good but, I would reserve this for after long runs or a race. A passive practice, Yin Yoga involves variations of seated and supine poses typically held for 3 to 5 minutes, accessing deeper layers of fascia. This practice is best done with a teacher or coach to ensure you stretch correctly and achieve deep stretches when the coach adjusts you. Also an aspect of yin yoga is the ambience, which is designed to enhance relaxation, so going to yin yoga studio is what I would recommend.

Yoga poses are beneficial for runners’ recovery. An immediate post run sequence of poses which lasts for 10-15 minutes with shorter hold will restore you to pre run state. While a longer, more relaxed yin yoga class on a non running day will ease out the tight muscles.

Read about how yoga helps to build muscle strength and endurance for runners in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would yin yoga enable me to become flexible more quickly?

Ever since moving to Singapore from the UK in 2012, I have been increasingly intrigued and impressed by the flexibility of the locals. Although my hips are not very flexible, I have been attending intermediate classes for a number of years.

Quite often I will find that there are a number of poses that I cannot even attempt due to me inflexiblity. This extends to binds as well. During the YTT at Tirisula yoga and looking more closely at muscles actions and movements, I’m interested to discover if I can ever come to a full lotus pose. After following the advice from Master Sree to frog pose and a half lotus for extended periods, I have been able to form some variation of a full lotus.

The fact that holding conditioning poses for extended periods has improved my flexibility leads me to think that regular yin yoga sequences would be a good idea for me and many other westerners who like to practice intermediate of even advanced yoga but have tight hips.

What are some yon yoga hip stretched that I could consider using in my practise?

Winged Dragon (five-minute hold on each side)

 

Shoelace (five-minute hold on each side)

Square Pose

What weird and wonderful yoga styles are out there?

During the final week of YTT at Tirisula Yoga, we have been learning about the business side of yoga. Master Sree has spoken about his most popular class where his students practise fun postures, like forward roles that they have not practised since childhood. This idea intrigued me because I’m a primary school teacher and children like to have fun. We tend to be less concerned about fun as adults.

I have come to understand and appreciate that Vinyasa, Hatha and Ashtanga are the main styles of yoga, but what are some of the more unusual styles that have surfaced in more recent time?

1 Yoga Rave – As Yoga Rave put it “The Yoga Rave Project will bring the spiritual element back to celebration and the way we have fun, offering a drug free alternative for our youth to gather and release their energy and tension.”

2 Goat yoga is yoga practiced in the presence of — and in tandem with – live goats.

3 Broga Yoga is a yoga class geared for men (where it’s okay if you can’t touch your toes).

4 Laughter Yoga is one of the more developed unusual styles of Yoga, counting with its own world conferences and even its own “Laughter Yoga University.”

5 Tantrum Yoga is a yoga class shaking, screaming, foot-stamping and chest-thumping.

Master Sree spoke about teaching from the mind and inspiring others rather than doing the same. I intend to spend some time trying out some different styles and planning some more creative lessons… maybe I’ll try one of these classes if I can find one online.

A Protein Rich Breakfast Recipe for YTT

If you’re in the midst of Yoga Teacher Training or have already completed it, you’ll probably know that eating a protein rich breakfast will provide the stamina for hours of san salutations, vinyasas and inversions. Throughout YTT with Tirisula Yoga, I have experimented with a range of breakfasts. Master Sree advised that we should eat no sooner than 2 hours before morning practise.

During the first week, I would make a fruit smoothie with berries, peanut butter, seeds and coconut milk. During the second week, I attempted boiled eggs and bacon. I found that the smoothie was easy to consume early in the morning, however, it did not sustain my muscle strength during the 3-hour morning practise. During side planks, my arms would start to give way. The eggs and bacon contained more protein but I experienced nausea during during poses that engaged the core.

During week three, my partner suggested making a protein-rich Caramel Cookie Dough Slice. WHAT A GAME CHANGER! I was able to hold arm balancing for longer periods and managed a headstand without a wall (with assistance).

While this might not be the most traditional of breakfasts, it is filled with protein and healthy fats. I can eat a small square of it and feel ready tackle advanced poses without. I’ve not experienced any nausea during physical practise.

COOKIE DOUGH BASE:
1 ½ Cups Almond Meal
3 Tbsp Coconut Flour
2 scoops Vanilla Noway Protein Powder
2 Tbsp Peanut Butter
1 Tbsp monkfruit/stevia
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Dash of almond milk until a dough consistency is reached
Sugar-free choc chips

CARAMEL FILLING:
1 ½ Cups dates soaked and blended with date water
3 Tbsp peanut butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut oil

CHOC TOP:
Dark chocolate of choice
To make your cookie dough base, mix together all the dry ingredients (except the choc chips) in a bowl.
In a separate bowl or mug melt together the coconut oil, peanut butter, vanilla essence and sweetener. Stir until well combined.
Add mixture to your dry ingredients and slowly add in the almond milk until you have a dough-like consistency.
Make sure the mixture has cooled down and add in ½ of your choc chips – if it’s too warm they will melt.
Press mixture into a silicon tray and place in the freezer to set while you make the caramel.
For the caramel – melt together the peanut butter, maple syrup and coconut oil and stir well till a caramel consistency is reached. Mix in the blended dates.
Pour the caramel over the cookie dough base and place back in the freezer to set.
Once hardened melt your chocolate and pour over the top.
Let the chocolate set before slicing up.
Enjoy!

What if everything happens for a reason?

I could say that I had fallen into yoga accidentally when more than one year ago I was offered a trial class. And now, for almost 3 weeks I have been practicing yoga regularly in my daily life.

For me, yoga is not a physical performance, it is rather a journey towards personal well-being. I will say that I allow myself to tame my body until I will be able to control it better. Once my mind is ready then I can challenge myself but not to the point of making it an obsession.

I know I am improving, making progress every day without aiming for performance as I deeply know it will discourage me. And frankly, I have really noticed some real improvements. I can measure my own progress and self-growth through those weeks of yoga practice.

I used to struggle against myself on the mat, but now I have learned to better release the tensions in my body thanks to my breathing. And even if flexibility is not an end in itself today I’m happy to say that I am quite proud of myself.

Breathing also helped deal better with stress and anxious feelings. Yoga has become more than a physical practice, it is a real state of mind for me .

Now when I look back at my first yoga class, I truly believe that everything happens for a (good) reason and it happens when it is supposed to.

The Challenges of Pronouncing and Recalling Asana Names in Sanskrit​

At the very beginning of YTT, learning Sankrit asana names seemed a huge obstacle to me. Sanskrit names are integral to my progress and languages are not my strong point. I tried hard to hear the sounds when Master Sree spoke in Sanskrit and vigorously searched the manual during theory lessons. However, I knew that I needed to self-study and find methods that suited my learning style.

Which methods have I tried?

1. I made a 1-page resource for each sun salutation (large images and names) so that I could practise poses while speaking. I felt a positive shift in confidence. This was the initial breakthrough.

2. I downloaded the “Yoga 108” app recommended by Master Sree. This was useful because I was able to study the Sanskrit and English names for poses at my own pace and play the audio, which helped me to learn pronunciation.

3. I recorded myself saying the Sanskrit names for the sun salutations and played it back to myself while completing the poses. It helped me to be less embarrassed about my pronunciation during studio practise.

4. I asked my partner to follow my instructions in English and then in Sanskrit. He seemed impressed, which gave me some confidence. We practised for an hour at night and 30 minutes in the morning before class. I noticed an improvement in my memory.

4. Finally, a friend offered to make me some flashcards with English/Sanskrit names for ashtanga Series 1 poses. She also broke down some of the words for me, such as Ardha means half, Baddha means bound, Padma means lotus and so on. I’m still working on remembering so many names but knowing some common words is really useful.

Although I have a long way to go, I can now see that it is possible to learn to Sanskrit names and most of all overcome self-doubt by practising regularly.

Healthy bananas

There are so many types of fruit in the world and since we moved to Singapore we have discovered some fruits we had never seen or eaten before. My son is a little fussy with fruits , funny enough banana is one of his favorite fruits. He eats banana everyday especially at breakfast.

I often buy bananas in bulk because I know they will anyway, either be eaten as a fruit or used in a recipe we like. And if we ever have too many bananas we just peel and freeze them in zip-loc bags. Then we take one or two out as needed.

As my son loves banana as much as he loves ice-cream there is this healthy recipe we do quite a lot especially on hot days which is Banana cinnamon Ice Cream.

I am always happy to treat my son with one of his favorite ice cream, above all this recipe can be made at home both quickly and easily. My son is always keen to participate.

Ingredients for 2 people, max 3
• 2 or 3 peeled frozen bananas
• 200 ml of almond milk
• 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon ground

Preparation of this healthy recipe :
1. Chop two or 3 frozen bananas into thirds and add to a blender with the other ingredients.

2. Starting on low speed, blend the mixture until it is smooth and creamy. Taste to determine if you want/need to add more of any add ins and blend again for few seconds.

3. Eat right away if you cannot wait (like my son) or put it in the freezer for later.

A delicious and easy to make recipe, very refreshing, a nice way to beat the heat. You will feel hydrated and nourished.

You can also experiment this ice cream with adding in other ingredients like a tablespoon of honey, some blueberries/raspberries or my French version of it …with Nutella.

This Banana ice-cream is much healthier than commercial ice-creams, no additives, no artificial flavors. Bananas are fat-free and cholesterol-free, they are one of the best foods that help with digestion because the carbohydrates they contain are easily broken down. This yummy treat is perfect for your mood and for the entire family.

Nutrition Facts
Bananas are generally considered healthy for most of people. They are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and various antioxidants.

Eating bananas have numerous benefits so don’t forget to grab one and put it in your bag for your post-yoga snack.