Why you need both physical and mental alignment in an asana

What does it mean to be “connect” to an asana? It’s tough to imagine what connecting to a pose feels like when you can’t even come into the pose.

For example, for most of my early days in the YTT 200 program, I struggled with lifting my hips up over my shoulders and wrists to do a reasonably acceptable handstand against the wall. The teachers always said we had to “enjoy the point of weightlessness” or “find comfort in the pose.” Feeling comfort might be easier if the pose involved reaching my toes or twisting my torso; I could simply reach or twist as far as my body would allow and then melt into the pose. But for inversions like handstand, you could end up injuring yourself if you thought of “melting” into a pose. Inversions require strength and control, two things I am not naturally endowed with. I also thought there was no way my two little palms could support my body weight. I imagined tipping over and landing on my back (hard!) or hitting the wall with my head.

What happens when there is no connection?

Easy. You suffer in the asana. And you find yourself counting down the minutes until a pose, sequence, or class is over. You end up hating the experience or loathing yourself. For some people, they fall back to old thinking, old ways of doing things and straining the body, or worse, they give up entirely on the pose and say, “it’s not for me.” For some, they react with self-violence, disrespecting the boundaries of their body, pushing it in unhealthy ways, and punishing themselves for it.

It’s critical to acknowledge that a huge part of this kind of suffering in a Yoga practice is due to misalignment. According to Ray Long in his book ‘The Key Muscles of Yoga’:

“By aligning the direction of the force of gravity along the major axis of the bones, we can access this strength in Yoga postures.”

And alignment can only be achieved with proper technique. With technique, you reap strength, balance and elongation.

Alignment reduces the struggle in a pose, which is important, as struggling in an asana can leave you mentally frustrated and conflicted. As human beings, it’s not unusual to have a scattered mind filled with conflicting thoughts. We typically have pre-conceived ideas, expectations and biases that, if not met, can contribute to feelings of uncertainty and fear, and lack of confidence.

In Long’s book, he writes: “Yoga postures approach effortlessness when we align the long axis of the bones with the direction of gravity.” A key word here is effortless. Another key word that master yogi trainers have said is weightless.

Be effortless and weightless, not mindless.

An essential goal in Yoga is to develop a simple mind. By simple, we mean uncomplicated, unperturbed, clear, integrated, and, essentially, aligned. Simply, other than knowing the physical technique and alignment, a third component of doing asanas effectively is mental alignment. To connect to a pose, you need concentration and mental fearlessness, which can come if you chip away at your preconceived notions. You can only do that through consistent, mindful practice that leads to improvement of technique.

In physical and mental alignment, there is strength, balance, flexibility and elongation; there is also mastery of the mind. Only in this state can you fully observe your progress and begin to enjoy coming into and being in a challenging pose. With both physical and mental alignment, you achieve a elevated type of homeostasis where you can fully grounded in a pose.

6 Master Yogi Quotes to Inspire Your Practice

In one of our lectures in the YTT 200, we were asked what our favorite quote was. There are hundreds of quotes by famous people to choose from, but when someone asks you point blank and out of the blue which quote you live by, the answer may not come easily. Picking a quote – the quote – that should define what you stand for prompts you to reflect at the very least, or make you feel vulnerable at the most.

But throughout our lectures in the program, our teachers have showered us with insight and wisdom – a few we can barely pronounce but all we can truly apply in our lives.

For this post, I’ve put together six (6) of the key insights from our Master Yogis that I think are worthy of being enclosed in quotation marks:

1. “Do what your body wants you to do, not what your mind wants you to do.” The decision should happen on its own. The body is instinctive and has a natural ability to achieve physical homeostasis. The body is able to discern what is good or bad for it and we have to be in tune with what the body needs and what it rejects, rather than allowing the mind to dictate what the body wants and needs. For example, our body only becomes hungry when we need added nourishment. Craving for unhealthy food is a psychological announcement that is formed in the mind.

2. “There is comfort in consistency.” Maintaining a daily Yoga practice is difficult for most people because you need time, discipline and persistence. But we can push through the discomfort until we are able to ride smoothly through the consistency of a daily routine, which stabilizes your mood and provides you a reservoir of energy to push yourself to do more in other aspects of a Yogic life. So, having at least five regular poses that you do daily can be a big help to regulate your mood, establish consistency, and strengthen your connection with each asana.

3. “Establish a pattern of completion. Whatever you do, finish it; don’t leave it hanging.” Completing something no matter how challenging and no matter your mood relates to the previous insight. However, this one is more on reaching your destination no matter the hurdles and distractions. I think this also links to our habit of complaining and sour-graping. When we complain and have bouts of sour grapes, we place ourselves in a state of constant pain jealousy. We build the hurdles ourselves. We also steal ourselves away from what we need to do (relates to asteya, meaning non-stealing). Without completion, there is no consistency. Without consistency, there can be no relief, growth and vitality.

4. “Find a connection with pose; don’t be a slave to it. Being a slave to something is a form of suffering.” Our masters keep saying that we must enjoy the pose. It can be difficult to hear this, especially when you are struggling to hit the right spot for a certain asana. For example, you might still have a wobbly headstand or you can’t bind in Marichyasana C and D. The frustration can get to you and ruin your mood. But if you can control and manage your mood in relation to a pose, or to any another subject/object, you do not suffer. You can let go anytime. Only then can you be a master of your own mind.

5. “Where there is desire, there is also fear.” The fear can come from thinking that we are unable to achieve the desire or that we are capable but are unworthy of attaining it. The fear could also come from knowing that once we achieve our desire, we would have to move on to another desire, challenge, dream, and, basically, any object that becomes the destination of our life – and changing this destination might require us to redefine who we are and what we represent, which can be confusing and taxing. But Yoga is less about achieving desires and more being recognizing our desires and our human tendency to fall prey to these desires and suffer in the process. As we get older, it also becomes apparent that as individuals, we have basic desires that evolve and mature. However, these desires are basically the same ones that have driven us all our lives. And if we don’t recognize the fear we attached with out basic, individual desire, the fear will also evolve and mature, bringing us further from achieving our desires.

6. “A weakness is a strength, but at the time you labeled it as a ‘weakness’ was actually an inappropriate application of a strength.” Someone’s weakness could be another person’s strength. We can also take this lesson to mean that our abilities and limitations have a proper application; we just need to be able to discern opportunities to apply them in different situations. In addition, we also learned from the YTT 200 that appearing weak and imperfect could be a strength in a Yoga instructor. Students, especially beginners, feel intimated by a muscular and perfectly shaped teacher who does elaborate poses. Instead of listening and trying, all they can take away is how far the gap is between where they stand and how far the teacher has gone. In this scenario, both the student and the teacher fail.

These are just six of the many powerful lessons I picked up from our Yoga teacher training. Certainly, there will be more as we approach the end of our training program, and as we go off into our individual Yogi journeys. But these six quotes are a good starting point to define our ongoing practice and bring us closer to the quote that would define and direct us.

The Importance of Meditation
“Dhyana” or meditation forms one of “The eight limbs of (Ashtanga/Raja) yoga” however I find in my own practice (and think this may be the same for others too) that this part of my practice is too often either given far less time or often totally overlooked. The truth is that although I know how wonderful meditation is I will far more readily make time to go to a yoga class, follow an instructor online or get my mat out and practice asanas myself for an hour rather than sit down for half or even a quarter of that time to meditate. When I think about this it appears nonsensical as meditation can be done in less time, anywhere you plonk your bum (within reason) with fewer props and at no monetary charge however I find its practice a far harder discipline to keep up.
Meditation is a discipline of the mind that requires deep mental concentration and therefore it’s benefits although just as profound as practice of asanas they are not as easily viewed by the naked eye, in the way one can clearly see well defined abs or a pert bum! In addition it is hard work to motivate yourself to sit down in a quiet place, meditation lessons are far less prevalent and taming ones mind can be VERY challenging.
A few years ago I did a silent mediation retreat which was as incredible experience but I found hard to integrate into my every day life so I have been very thankful to reconnect with this practice in our TTC. Master Sree really helped guide all of us in mediations on a daily basis and it has been one of my most treasured parts of each day as it helped keep my mind peaceful and clear. Learning mudras, beautiful mantras, the meaning and how to OM has been not only fascinating but something that from now on I want to try and remember to place equal importance on as asanas in my daily routine. You wouldn’t start your day without jumping in the shower to wash your body so it makes sense that you should also take time to clean your brain!

Most importance things Yoga teaches me in life

  • Breathing

When my breathing is right, everything in my life will be right. When I stuck in difficult posture during the practice, I am really feel that inhalation and exhalation can help body go further. Breathing correctly also can help you calm and go over when life is tough.

 

  • Concentration

During my yoga practice, when I have difficulty maintaining a certain posture, what I would do is to concentrate on my breathing and balancing. It stabilises the body and bring peace and calm. That’s the power of being present. We could have thousands of thoughts in a single moment however, when you are being focus, nothing will bother you.

 

  • Know yourself

Since I started yoga, I started to understand my body as well. How flexible I can, how strong I am, how to control the muscle in my body and how to control myself. Gradually, through the body you will more understand your inner self. You are a part of nature, you are amazing.

 

  • Smile

An important enlightment I discover is, the act of smiling uplifts my spirit during the struggles especially practising challenging posture.  Therefore, do remember to keep smiling through all your circumstances in life. Keep smiling, even you hit the rock bottom, your body will know how to overcome it.

 

  • Relax

We are living in a highly urbanized society. Our mind and body are constantly feeling tensed without us knowing that. It is like an overly stretched rubber band, it bound to break someday. Hence, relaxing our body and mind is so important before you break yourself.

 

How Yogis System Implement in my daily life

After taking 200 YTT course in Tirisula, I think of the yogis system main goals is:

  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Spiritual Health
  • Self-Realisation or realisation of the Divine within us

Above all of these goals are attained by:

  • Love and help for all living beings
  • Respect for life
  • A peaceful state of mind
  • Full vegetarian diet
  • Pure thoughts and positive lifestyle
  • Physical, mental and spiritual practices

Regards to the above objectives, I have yoga experience in the past and think that physical health is the most important thing. Therefore, I have strictly set the schedule for yoga asana practices in my daily activities schedule. For me, there is nothing can affect my schedule. Practices on a certain schedule can give us a physical health, then only we can talk about mental and spiritual health. Before the teacher training course, reading is a way of giving me mental and spiritual nutrients, but after this course, I think I will begin to implement meditation as the foundation for the beginning of the day to maintain spiritual purity and peaceful. Finally, I have to admit that it is more difficult to implement full vegan diet in my life now, but slowly reducing the intake of meat is the way I can do from now and strive to be a vegan. Lastly, I hope that I can fully implement yogis system in my life.

 

 

 

Yoga and I

Yoga is amazing and it always inspires me. Every time I hit rock bottom and confuse about my life ahead, yoga always bring me back on track.

My life had been smooth and easy until six years ago. I graduated with a poor high school score despite I had done my best. As a result, I could not successfully enter to the university and faculty that I wanted. That was my first experience of failure. I was feeling down and shut myself away in my room during that time. I was really afraid to face the reality and the messy situation.

It was then I knew yoga. I was brought to yoga class by my sister. Gradually, I started to like this sport. At that time, I only treated yoga as a sport.

 

After a while, I finally found my life direction and went to the University of Taiwan to study Chinese. In Taiwan while I was pursuing my degree, I was attending yoga classes. Slowly I began to discover that after every yoga class, my heart always feels calm and stable. Most of the time I felt very happy and satisfied.

After graduated from university, I started my job in Malaysia. Without any previous working experience, I could not perform well in my job and I was under pressure. I felt I was a failure and very depressed at that time.

Until I returned to yoga, once again, yoga brought me back to the right track. I began to think more deeply about yoga, and realized a very important truth. When my breathing is right, everything will be right.

Thanks Yoga for entering my life and I am sure our story will be continued.

3 ways for beginner to start implementing yoga in daily routine

Firstly, I really understand the struggle of the beginners getting yoga into their life. It is challenging to schedule yoga practice in our daily routine while having a full time job. How to maintain daily yoga practice is always the question my friends put to me. I figure out the 3 methods I use to make daily yoga sustainable:

  • Sign up with a yoga studio which is next to YOU

When I started yoga, I knew that there were many yoga studio to choose from, but because i am packed of my work, so that I chose the yoga studio which is the closest from my company. After working, short distance from work place, changed to yoga clothes. You can directly go to the studio and start yours yoga practice. Believe me, it is really saves a lot of time and effort.

 

  • Fix your yoga schedule

After fixing the time, it must be strictly enforced. I barely changed the time that I fixed on my practice. Your practice continuously, it can bring you the effect that you wanted. Yoga is definitely worth your insistence in yours life!

 

  • Find a Yoga teacher you like in your studio

Your favourite teacher can be your positive motivation. No matter what reason you like the teacher, I believe that the energy generated by your favourite teacher can influence you more. You will become willing and more proactive. Just like my favourite teacher.

How to include yoga in our daily routine – Part 2

In my previous post, I have talked about 3 ways that requires minimal physical effort or time to implement yoga in my daily life. Now, let’s talk about the physical part, which requires a little more time.
If possible, wake up half an hour to an hour earlier. On days that I only manage to wake up half an hour earlier, can do some simple breathing exercise and stretches to clear the mind and wake up the digestive system.
1. 20x 3 sets of Kapalahbathi breathing
2. Anuloma Villoma (10 times)
3. Uddiyana Bandha (5 times)
4. Paschimottanasana (1 min)
5. Bhujangasana (1 min)
6. Ardha Matsyendrasana (1 min)
7. Show gratitude
If time permits, can add in 6 rounds of sun salutations and a headstand. Finally, end off with relaxation and a simple prayer.
If all else fails, at least do a 3 min headstand daily. This does not take a lot of time and would be more sustainable.

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.

Chakra

Chakra colors are usually divided into seven, following the order of the rainbow colors, from red to purple to white.

The colors of the seven main chakras are:

1. Red – first chakra

2. Orange – second chakra

3. Yellow – third chakra

4. Green – Fourth Chakra

5. Blue (sapphire blue or turquoise) – fifth chakra

6. Purple (deep blue) – sixth chakra

7. White (sometimes purple) – seventh chakra

each color reflects a vibration or frequency radiation through the chakra.

The meaning of the red chakra: red is the color of the bottom wheel (first chakra), which symbolizes safety, survival, foundation, and nourishment by the energy of the earth.

If this chakra develops a good friend, he will live and work in peace and contentment and have a sense of security.

If a friend who lives in the first chakra, in addition to the above talents, will only live for survival, only consider survival problems every day, no ambitious goals, no ideals, no understanding of enjoyment.

The meaning of the orange chakra: orange is the color of the reproductive wheel (second chakra); it contains emotion, creativity, sex-related meaning, and is related to water and flow.

A good friend of this chakra development will be particularly friendly and gentle, very human, with good heterosexuality, good interpersonal relationship, enjoy life and live in the present.

But if you are only a friend who lives in the second chakra, in addition to the above talents, you will only focus on emotional life, chasing love, greedy pleasure, and not enterprising.

The meaning of the yellow chakra: Yellow is the color of the navel (third chakra), which symbolizes mental activity, intelligence, personal strength and will.

A good friend of this chakra development will be especially sunny, full of strength, joy, self-confidence, tenacity, and know how to choose.

But if only the friends who live in the third chakra, in addition to the above talents, they will also pay attention to power, like control, conceit or pride, personal willpower is too strong, and they have high demands on others.

The meaning of the green chakra: Green is the color of the heart wheel (fourth chakra), which is related to care, connection, integration, compassion and so on.

This chakra developed a good friend will be particularly compassionate, full of love, gentle, soft, healing ability, able to accept and accommodate each other unconditionally.

But in addition to the above talents, only the friends who live in the fourth chakra will only consider dedication, self-denial, easy compromise, easy thinking, easy to forget.

The meaning of the purple (or deep blue) chakra: purple (or deep blue) is the color of the eyebrow (the sixth chakra); it evokes human intuition, super-perception and inner wisdom.

This chakra develops a good friend, the wisdom will be very high, the object is objectively neutral, the insight is strong, the intuition is strong, and the imagination is rich.

But if only the friends who live in the sixth chakra, in addition to the above talents, they will be too calm, no emotions, no emotional expression, no love for sports, and poor mobility.

The meaning of the white (or purple) chakra: white is the color of the top wheel (seven chakra), which is associated with the universe, spirituality, and consciousness.

This chakra develops a good friend, has a particularly high degree of understanding, is particularly interested in the universe, likes to explore mystery and unknown, has a deep interest in the origin of human beings, has high spirituality, and has a big love heart and cosmic consciousness.

However, if only friends who live in the seventh chakra, in addition to the above talents, they will easily live in spirituality, out of reality, cynical, only pursuing spirituality, not knowing life, derailing from society, and even escaping from reality.