How I incorporate yoga into my daily routine

“Remember, it doesn’t matter how deep into a posture you go. What does matter is who you are when you get there. – Max Storm”

Regardless of how bad my day is, yoga is a safe refuge for me. I am always ready (unless there is an emergency) to dedicate that 1 hour daily just for yoga. The feeling of being yourself in your mat, your space is very precious. Nothing in this world can replace that wholeness feeling.

When I told my clients or colleagues that I do yoga daily, they were literally shocked. The questions that came to their minds were “how did you have the time?”, “How did you still have the energy to do yoga?”, “don’t you go to parties?” and the list goes on. Before the circuit breaker was imposed by the Singapore Government to contain the spread of the COVID-19, I went to the evening yoga session daily (and returned to the office if I needed to). During the circuit breaker, I practice morning yoga in my abode daily.

Working in the financial industry, dealing with difficult people, and chasing tight deadlines have been a daily love-hate relationship in my career. Whilst I enjoy whatever I am doing, I will not be able to meet the balance in life if it is not because of yoga. Though most of the yoga sessions and my own practice are asana-based classes, these asanas help to calm my mind, bring awareness to what matters most in life and makes me feel ready to embrace the challenge with an open mind.

In a nutshell, yoga is a haven to me and my life.

 

Diana Pangestu

杨惠善

Getting into the flow : benefits of sequences​

When I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga, what I liked the most was to work through a definite sequence, even though I found it – and still find it – incredibly challenging.

It helped me gain a better understanding of yoga and get more of the benefits, for several reasons :

  • Better focus : Instead of listening to the teacher and hesitating, I know which pose is coming and I don’t have to be distracted by looking around and waiting for instructions. In turn, I can be more focused on my personal practice, and forget everything else. It’s me and my mat.
  • Get into the flow of your breathe : because I know what’s coming and how to do the pose, I can give a lot more attention to pacing and aligning my breathe with the sequence, which helps me get into a “flow” more, or meditation mode. I found that this focus on my breathe gives me a lot of peace and pleasure.
  • Perfect the postures : doing the same postures over and over again helped me go deeper and see my progress from session to session. I got to the stage where I could focus on breathing in my ribs, or think of my dristi – where to look.
  • More flexibility on the options : because I know the sequence and what’s coming next, I can directly take the options that I like the most in each pose
  • Pace the effort : I know what I can give and when to slow down based on my energy level.

I got invaluable benefits from practicing the ashtanga sequence. I would recommend for everyone to try working a sequence for a few sessions, and see how it evolves. Of course, It is still good to experiment new things from time to time!

Yoga is a life journey

Yoga is a life journey

“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” –The Bhagavad Gita

The above quote is how I perceive yoga. Many people practice yoga without even realizing it. Yoga can be practised by everyone regardless of age and body type. There is no need to be flexible, strong, or young to practice yoga. All we need is an open mind and an open heart to learn – the beginning of the yoga journey.

Yoga is about a lifestyle and is a way of life. As I deepen my understanding of the yoga teachings, I am amazed at yoga touches all aspects of how I live my life. Yoga is about achieving a balance and harmony between the mind, body, and spirit, both individually and in relationship with the world around us. It is also important to bring awareness to every part of your physical and spiritual being, allowing you to feel truly alive of the present moment.

To me, yoga is a lifelong journey to learn about myself and it will always be a part of me.

Diana Pangestu

杨惠善

How Yoga changed my life

How Yoga changed my life

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.” B.K.S Iyengar

The first yoga class was very challenging. I could not touch my toes, had to do crow pose (Kakasana) and experienced a face plant for the first time in my life (and many more thereafter). I enjoyed the final pose and that’s none other than savasana (Corpse Pose). I was also convinced that I will not be able to touch my toes and wondered how at least half the students in the class were very flexible.

I was also inspired by my first yoga teacher. She is an alumna from Tirisula Yoga. Subsequently, I did yoga core class for about 2 to 3 times a week. My then-boyfriend (now fiancé) inspired me to go for more yoga sessions. From twice to thrice weekly affair, my visits to the yoga studio became a daily affair. My PCOS improved and the symptoms are gone. I guess yoga helps to relieve stress.

I became stronger and was amazed at how a regular yoga practice made me feel happier and healthier overall. As time passed by, my flexibility improved and now, I can place my hands on the floor and even hug my legs (Yay!). My emotional well-being improved and I appreciate my life much more. From an individual who got depressed and frustrated easily to someone with a positive mindset, confident and happier is a journey itself. A few friends of mine noticed the difference in my personality and perception, and my response to their comments is “Thanks to yoga, my dear friends”.

I tried several kinds of yoga classes – yoga core class, vinyasa, zen yoga, yoga stretch, and ashtanga. Fast forward to 2020, I signed up for yoga teacher training in Tirisula Yoga (due to my love in Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and the Master trainers) to get a better understanding of yoga. The master trainer in the Tirisula Yoga always told me “asana is just a small part of yoga. You are just an asana practitioner by being able to do a lot of asanas and not a yogi. Do not get too upset if you can’t do a posture. These postures will come to you at the right time and when your body is ready”

Diana Pangestu

杨惠善

 

Yoga for Scoliosis

Yoga for Scoliosis

Scoliosis refers to the sideways, or lateral, curvature of the spine.  When I was 10, I found out that I had mild lumbar scoliosis, i.e. a slight curvature in my lumbar spine.  As the curvature remained under 5 degrees, I did not have to undergo surgery or any other form of treatment.  The scoliosis does not cause any pain (for now, at least), but it has resulted in some asymmetries in my stance.  So I hope to use yoga to reduce this curvature, or at least prevent it from worsening as I grow older.   

(1) Bend towards convex side of curve

In a class with Master Paalu, I learned how I could modify certain positions to straighten up the curve in my spine.   Generally, I should try to bend towards the convex side of the curve (which is my left side) as much as possible. So in poses like Utkatasana (Chair Pose) or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), I can modify my alignment by twisting towards my left side instead of facing forward.  Similarly, Balasana (Child’s Pose) can be modified by moving my arms toward my left side, keeping the arms shoulder-width apart.

I can also incorporate more twisting asanas in my practice. These may include Ardha Matsyendrāsana (Half lord of the fishes pose),  Bharadvajasana and Marichyasana.  While I should practice these asanas on both sides, I should spend more time twisting to my left side.  It is important to lengthen the spine before twisting into these poses.

Side-bending poses like reverse warrior may also be useful for lengthening the spine.  More time should be spent bending to the convex side of the curve.

(2) Maintain proper posture and place equal weight on legs

Master Sree has constantly emphasised the importance of proper posture, whether we are sitting or standing.  To keep the spine straight and healthy, we should maintain an upright posture and avoid slouching or hunching the spine.  This is particularly important for people with scoliosis, since we have the tendency to slouch to one side.  We need to always remember to place equal weight on both feet and remain aware of any imbalances in our posture.

(3) Strengthen abdominal muscles

If the abdominal muscles are weak, the back muscles overwork and thus tighten. This may cause lordosis or worsen the scoliotic curve in the lower back.  Therefore, it is important to practice asanas that strengthen the abdominal muscles. 

(4) Strengthen musculature on convex side

A study has shown that regular practice of a modified Vasisthasana (side plank) pose with the con­vex side of the lumbar curve down can reduce the scoliotic curve. The modification was to hold the upper ribs about a half-inch higher than in the classic pose.  The researchers hypothesized that the poses may help straighten the spine by strengthening the musculature in the abdomen, spine and lower back on the convex side of the curve.

In essence, regular practice of carefully selected and modified asanas will help to reduce the scoliotic curve.   The key principle is simple: strengthen the muscles on the convex side and lengthen the muscles on the concave side.   While yoga may not bring about instant results like surgery, it is definitely the safer treatment option and is ideal for people with mild scoliosis.

Food for thought

The nutrition is directly linked to the performance of asanas and our lifestyle in general. The yogi diet is based on Ayurvedic teachings. Some products are strictly forbidden by them, others are consumed in small quantities and in a certain period of time, and third yogis eat constantly. Three types of food in yoga According to Ayurveda, even the best and cleanest foods are not always healthy. So, there is food that should be consumed only in winter or summer. Some foods should be eaten in the morning, because they excite and give energy, others in the evening, as they calm and set you up for a long sleep. Yoga  divides all food into three types:

       Sattva, which means “purity.” This includes all fresh vegetarian food. Mostly seeds and sprouted grains, fruits, wheat, butter, milk and honey.

      Rajas is a food that excites the body. It is better not to use products from this category or to reduce their amount in the diet to a minimum. This includes citrus fruits, tea and coffee, as well as spices, fish, seafood, eggs, alcohol, soda, garlic and onions.

     Tamas is a rough and heavy meal. It is difficult to absorb by the body. It does more harm than good. Relaxes, after eating it makes you want to sleep. These are root vegetables, red meat (beef and pork), all canned foods, mushrooms, food with a heavy taste (roach, etc.). This includes frozen food and one that has been stored for some time. These are also considered dishes that are reheated, alcohol and food that has been cooked in a restaurant or store.

 Doing yoga, you will feel what products you will not need. Changes in the body will occur harmoniously and in accordance with the needs of your body. The gradual process of rebuilding the habits of the body is very important.

Many (and not only in yoga) make the same mistake: they abruptly begin to change their diet (completely abandon meat, fish, eggs, switch to the most sophisticated diets, such as raw food diet, etc.). With this development of events, in a few months you will face a series of ailments, such as colds, exacerbation of all previously existing sores, and digestive upset. And then it could be worse. Naturally, there can be no question of doing yoga.

Beware of this mistake!

  • never abruptly change your lifestyle, especially in nutrition, non-compliance with this rule leads to big trouble;
  • a complete rejection of meat food does not always bring positive results. If you abandoned the meat, you need to replace it with another animal protein: milk and dairy products, eggs, fish;
  • in your diet should always be present in large quantities vegetables and fruits;
  • food should always be fresh and harmoniously selected.

It must be remembered that the body will never tolerate abuse of itself both in the diet and in the mode of activity. And with the right approach to yoga, you become as independent as possible from environmental conditions, feeling great in any situation, with any set of food products.

 

Meditation.Self Journey

For me yoga was always about physical practice. I have never done meditation at home and was skipping that “boring part of yoga” in yoga classes. But after some time, part of me has developed feeling that I maybe missing something. So when I signed up for Tirisula yoga teacher training course, one of my goal was to concentrate on  spiritual part of yoga. And that’s what I have learned so far.

Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga helps to improve and develop physically. But spiritual development is no less important for a person. The goal pursued by meditation is self-knowledge of oneself, achieving clarity of mind, the ability to relax, the desire for complete inner harmony.

In medicine there is a concept such as “chronic fatigue syndrome” – a disease of modern man.By doing meditation, you can learn to concentrate and relax, control your emotions and mind. Meditation helps to strengthen health, get rid of existing diseases, prolongs life.

The best part –  you can do it yourself, in any convenient place. In yoga centers, classes are led by experienced teachers who will help you understand and master the basics of meditation.If there is no time and opportunity to visit specialized centers, you can master meditation yourself. After a hard working day, it’s good to take 15-20 minutes. relaxation in a homely atmosphere.

As in any practice, there are certain rules in meditation. Here are a few points for conducting an independent practice:

  •     Choose a place for relaxation, where nothing will distract from immersion in yourself. Although, it should be noted that neither advanced noise nor extraneous sounds interfere with advanced practices.
  •    Take a comfortable position.
  •   Try to relax as much as possible each muscle of the body, mentally observing relaxation.
  •    Concentrate on breathing. Monitor inhalation and exhalation – the exhalation should be longer.
  •    Try to turn off your mind. Throw all thoughts out of my head. This will help focus on something specific – on breathing, on relaxation.
  •   Try to withstand a certain time. 10 minutes is enough for a start.
  •     To leave meditation smoothly, without rushing, trying to feel new sensations and maintain a state of calmness.

After trying my best and practice it regularly every day for some time , I came to understanding that : Meditation is not as difficult as it may seem. But the benefits of this practice are undeniable. And very good when it becomes a habit.

Yoga during the Time of the Month

During the Time of the Month, most of us would choose to take a panadol and rest in bed. However, it isn’t recommended to constantly rely on medication. If your body allows it, yoga can help alleviate back pain and cramps. It also helps in balancing emotions, reducing mood swings, irritability,and anger.

Some poses you can do to help relieve menstrual cramp:
Baddha Konasana
Supta Baddha Konasana
Janu Sirsasana
Paschimottanasana
Supine Twist

These poses stimulate blood flow and circulation, helping to relieve symptoms of bloating, heavy bleeding, PMS and lower back pain.

Word of caution: Do not force your body into anything if you’re not feeling it. Alternatively, if you are too uncomfortable for a full practice, you can practice deep breathing such as Ujjayi Breath and Anuloma-Viloma

Doing these yoga poses/pranayamas at home helps to manage period pains. While it is tempting to turn to snacks, panadol and Netflix as a form of relief, we all know that it is a short term fix. Practicing yoga for even a few minutes a day will be beneficial in the long run 🙂

Training – Through Teaching

As we are completing our teacher training program, I asked Teacher Sree on his experience teaching – was there a time he was nervous or anxious before a class. And how did he overcome that.

He said, come with the wonders of a kid, stay a kid and do not be a master

In my own words to translate the Sree Sutra above:

Come with a humble heart, an open mind and a positive vibe.

A willingness to share, to teach and to spend time with the students.

An acceptance that there will be students more experienced that you and that’s really cool.

An understanding that we are not good or bad, the others are not good or bad.

A pure soul.

Granted, it will help to remember the sequences and not go in blank.

As part of this training program, we also got a chance to train in teaching by conducting a class in the studio. I took my chance last week. I knew all of them – all of different gender, racial and background profiles. Yet, for once in our friendship history, I could consciously generate to be present for everybody. To be aware of each person’s strength, weakness and to work with each one’s experience, unaffected by the others.

I realise that I do love all the students the same. Finally got what he said weeks ago – a divine connection of an unconditional detached attachment.

There was no condition. I detach myself from each soul. I treated all soul the same. And thereby I was able to be attached to each one of the soul at the same time. Practicing this helped them to be able to have a full experience regardless of the gap in experiences.

We attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and then we detach, and then we attach, and we detach again and the cycle repeats unconditionally.

It was a rather beautiful afternoon.

Engage your core

The wonders of a physical yoga practice is that there are always variations that fits all fitness levels, and progression is limitless. It brings you out of your comfort zone when trying a new pose i.e. inversion. Have a good laugh while falling all over safely and enjoy the process. Stretches can be deepened and strength to be built and that’s why yoga journey never ends.

Have you ever attended a yoga class that never mentioned “engage your core” or “suck in your belly”? I have never. Arm balances and inversions require a strong core to hold the poses. A strong core comes in all shapes and sizes other than beautifully defined abs. Half the time when I cant get into or hold certain poses, its due to the lack of core strength.

The benefits of a strong core is beyond achieving advanced poses. It is the fundamental strength we need for a healthy well being. It has the potential to strengthen your entire body with greater balance and stability. Our core is responsible for our bending, twisting and lifting, making it easier to reach for the top shelf or pick something up from the floor. Building core strength is an important part of maintaining your body at any age. As we age, and our bodies start to wear down, we will be thankful for a strong core that will delay or keep pain away.

Sharing an easy 5 min work out to add onto your work out routine:

The 5-Minute Core-Strengthening Workout
  • 1 minute upright plank
  • 1 minute side plank (30 seconds each side)
  • 1 minute static boat pose
  • 1 minute crunches (or crunch hold)
  • 1 minute dead bug

Having the intention is the very first step. Practicing it, is next.

And remember, don’t give up if you fail to keep up the routine. Try again another day.