Yoga Lost in Translation

Like many arts and sciences that are compelling, beautiful, and deep, yoga has suffered from the spiritual starvation of the modern world. Over the years Yoga has been translated, modernised, westernised and watered down. In many countries the profound and eternal essence of yoga has been mainly misrepresented as a fitness culture or even promoting Hinduism. Unfortunately such a cloud of confusion has masked the true concept of yoga.

Yoga is a way of life, the uniting of the body, mind and spirit. Its real purpose is not just to become physically fit or mentally relaxed but also to deepen our own spiritual journey, enabling and guiding us to be more aware of ourselves, ultimately leading to self-realization. It is about making a connection with our world and having a clear mind that is free from delusion.

Patanjali, known as “the father of yoga”, said in a very simple way what he thought yoga is for him; “Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind”. To give meaning to those simple words, continuous practice and discipline are required to attain Yoga. Yoga means “union”, to unite mind, body and spirit. There are many descriptions long and short among books and websites on explaining the concept of yoga. However theorizing and describing yoga, would be just the same as trying to define love. During my first week in Tirisula’s YTTC Master Paalu asked the class “how do you know when you are in love?” and many of us were stummped in describing the full essence of love. Like Yoga the dictionary and books can define the term, but in order to truly understand we have to experience yoga by living the practice.

For me yoga provides me a safe space and an opportunity to connect with the inner silence and peace within. During asana practices it stretches and bend me in more ways than one, both physically and mentally. Yoga has taught me awareness, awareness of my body, mental state and my breath. It is about returning to my breath and realizing that I am blessed with everything that I have at this very moment. As Master Paalu said “ We are living in Heaven, what more do we want?”

Yoga for your insides

Yoga has many benefits. Most people know the wealth of physical benefits- improves flexibility, improves strength and stamina – but what about what it does to your insides?

There’s a whole new area to explore when looking at the effect of yoga on your hormones.

Each of the glands in the endocrine system has specific functions, and can cause specific symptoms if out of balance. As it’s a system, if one gland is out of balance, then it is likely to affect other glands in the system so it’s important to do a yoga practice that helps to keep the entire system balanced.

For those who believe in the energy of the chakras, the endocrine system is also very closely aligned with the chakra system with the positioning of each chakra containing one or two glands.

A regular practice has been shown to decrease cortisol and adrenaline hormone levels- the hormones that rise during periods of stress and can possibly cause tumours if the levels remain high for a long period of time. While they’re our in-built fight or flight mechanism, they’re also the hormones that can make you cranky and generally not happy.

For women during their menstruation or menopause, hormones can wreck havoc on happiness and outlook on life. Yoga can contribute a balancing effect.

Yoga can also help you sleep more soundly and peacefully as certain positions can raise levels of melatonin.

Yoga can also increase thyroid hormone which increases your metabolism rate and helps you lose weight and feel more alive.

While it’s not an exact science, many studies state that it takes around 3 to 6 months of regular practice for yoga to have these effects on your hormones.

I’ve been doing yoga one and off for a few years now and I personally have definitely noticed its effect on my mood during the periods when I’ve committed to regular practice.

Here are some good yoga poses to try to stimulate certain glands:

Pireal gland– halasana, matsyasana

Pituatory– siriana

Thyroid– halasana, viparita karani

Pancreas– any twisted pose like parvitta trikonasana or pincha mayurasana

Adrenal – any backbends such as chakrasana, ustrasana

Reproductive glands – sirsasana

Here are some power poses when it comes to stimulating the glands:

Sasangasana
This pose stimulates the thyroid and the parathyroid glands. The thyroid gland is located in the neck and secretes hormones that regulate growth and metabolic function. The parathyroid glands are also found in the neck and control how much calcium is released into the body.

Bhujangasana
Cobra Pose massages the adrenal gland which allows your body to better combat stress and release tension.

Ustrasana
This pose stimulates your internal organs, especially in the neck region where the thyroid and parathyroid glands are located.

Ahimsa off the mat

After the first week of YTT I got the invitation to attend my friend’s wedding in Phuket, Thailand. Living as an expat means to be far whenever important events are happening, I always missed it! That’s probably one of the reason I was so excited to share this moment with my friends.
Once Friday class was finished I rushed back home to prepare my luggage for my Saturday early flight. To avoid any possible traffic jam I decided to take MRT to the airport and leave home early because I wanted to work on my lessons learnt during the first week of the training.
The topic was about  “The 8 limbs of Yoga”  I was reading through “Ahimsa (non violence) ” when the train arrived at Changi Airport.

I walked out from the train and about to tap out from the station but I realised I couldn’t get out. My debit card which I use as MRT card was missing, I could not find it in my wallet anymore. I started to panic, how could I travel without my credit card?

I kept searching in my bag, took out my stuffs one by one but I couldn’t find anything. I can still remember my heartbeat starting to beat faster and faster. Then started my thoughts; How am I going to handle this situation? Do I have time to go back home? Do I have enough money to pay for the hotel, taxi etc.?
And finally I started blaming myself, For not being careful enough, for lacking of carefulness. The situation seemed more and more impossible to solve and I was getting angrier by the time.

But then came a moment I manage to clear my mind.
I took a deep inhalation and I told myself that I couldn’t go back and fixed things which had already happened but what I can do now is try my best to solve the problem and move on.

After all what happened I got to the plane and recalled what Master Paalu mentioned during the class about
Ahimsa (non violence , being non-injurious which transforms to love of all).
I realised that I was actually hurting myself the whole time, I couldn’t accept the events as they were, I was angry and put on negative energy. These are violences I have inflicted to myself.

I think sometimes everyone hold grudges inside themselves but I believe we can overcome this negative situation by practicing Ahimsa.

The point of this story is by hurting myself, by blaming myself, overreacting and stressing, I forgot about the only truth of the moment: I was happy and exited to join my friend’s wedding!

Everyone can learn something from the sutras of Pantanjali

If you really want to get a sense of how old Yoga is look at the sutras of Pantanjali.

The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali which are the foundational text of classical yoga philosophy are around 2000 years old.

They fell into relative obscurity for nearly 700 years from the 12th to 19th century and then made a comeback in late 19th century.

During the 20th century, modern practitioners of yoga elevated the sutras to common use translating it into various languages so it could be understood around the world.

Sutra in sanskrit means a rope or thread that holds things together.

The themes of the sutras are universal to the human consciousness and a way of mindful living and are still very relevant today, despite their age. As Patanjali writes, all that matters is that we begin here and now and commit to living and practicing with greater self-awareness and presence.

The sutras show you the lineage of yoga to help you get a better understanding of the history behind certain poses and sequences. From that you earn a certain respect and understanding of the asanas. They remind you of the true purpose of your practice and the sutras talk about the philosophy and helps you to understand the barriers to living a happy and fulfilled life and essentially on how to begin to live your yoga.

I want to end with a verse I found translated. I think it’s amazing how philosophy like this can withstand the test of time and still be as relevant today as it was around 2000 years ago.

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? (136-137)”
– Sri S. Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

Teacher training course- only the beginning

I have been practicing yoga on and off for many years. I move around a lot so whenever I move to a new country or city, it takes a while before I’m able to find a yoga studio I like and a teacher I want to follow.

In my dabbling of yoga, I’ve slowly progressed through the asanas (my inflexibility, slowly and painfully improving) but I always knew yoga was much more than its asanas which is why I enrolled for the teacher training course.

During one fo the theory classes we learned about the 8 limbs of yoga- which refer to a way of life that is very much in line with the ideal kind of life I would like to lead.

These 8 limbs are the Yama (attitudes toward our environment), Niyama (attitudes toward ourselves), Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (restraint or expansion of the breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (complete integration).

It stuns me to think that all this time I’ve been doing yoga, I’ve only scratched the surface. I was only exploring the Asana. Through the course I’ve explored Pranayama and Dhyana, both of which I think will be great building blocks as I progress in life.

It’s also made me realise how much I’ve got to learn. We’re always told that 200 hours was not enough and I completely agree. More than a teacher training course, it’s only the beginning of what will be a life long journey of learning and I’m looking forward to further improving myself in the asanas and learning much more about the 8 other limbs of yoga.

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4 The Theory

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4  The Theory

Love the theory part, not so much that I like to read now, but so relax and easy that someone there talk and I listen, the science, the philosophy, the art, and the stories.

I had already much forgotten to recall exactly how many years from the day I enjoy listening to the teacher’s classroom teaching.

It’s back to my old golden days.

After all, after reading for so many years, my eye sights getting bad. Just packed up all my books into 26 cartons of boxes while preparing to move them to another location.

After this course, I think, likely will start collecting and pick up again, books on the Yoga’s title.

It’s pleasant reading on the Yoga Sutra, though initially having difficulties and hard time stirring my tongues over the Sanskrit words and trying to figure out what’s the meaning by reading the long explanation inside the manual, which eventually made me more confused.

Lucky enough, I managed to find and organized from the internet.
Well, IF, I meant “IF”, If I have the time, likely will add on to it’s German and Chinese or even other languages translation at my leisure if I can find it.

Here share if you need.

Here go we happy Journey to Yoga Lifestyle.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Translation Sanskrit to English

 

汇编 Complied by Angie Chua 20190909.

Yoga and Life

This was the year I knew I was going to do things I’ve been thinking about but never did, to feel the sense of loving life again like when I was a kid. Two things I always wanted to do were tour Europe and do a yoga teacher course, and this year I took the opportunity thanks to good timing with my uni break and a family wedding in London.

I did a Topdeck tour after the family wedding, travelling on my own for the first time, from Barcelona to Rome for 11 days, through 6 cities. Turns out most of the 40 people on the tour were also living in Australia, and I wasn’t the only one travelling on my own! Between each city was an 8 hour driving day spent on the coach, with rest stops every 2 hours. I knew they would play an arrival song every time we stopped, and I wondered what ours would be. I was fast asleep on the first driving day, and woke up to the sound of whistling coming through the speakers. It was the start of the arrival song, “Love Life” (by John Mamman in French/English). The song instantly became a favourite, as it was the reason I booked the tour, and I needed those lyrics this year more than ever. (Coincidence, or a sign from the universe? haha) I knew I was in the right place at the right time. Each time I heard the song, I felt more at ease, and felt that I was actually starting to love life again, because I was just enjoying living in the moment.

I am now completing the 200hr Yoga TTC in my hometown where I was first introduced to yoga at the age of 11 by my mum. During the course, we learnt about taking care of ourselves through our daily routines, actions, thoughts, even the food we eat. I feel happy learning so much more about yoga, which has been one of the few consistent things in my life. Yoga has kept me sane and grounded throughout my time at school, and now uni, soon to be throughout my career too. “Always find time for the things that make you feel happy to be alive” – the quote on my phone’s lock screen. It is absolutely true – the Topdeck tour and Yoga TTC are the best things I’ve done in Season 24 of my life. So, if you’re reading this and thinking about doing something but have been putting it off, just go for it!

– Ari (200hr YTTC, 2018) 

Asana is not a competition – It is rather a tool to face your inner self

For many of those who practice Yoga, it is not an exaggeration to say that their only goal is to be able to do those poses well.

In our modern competitive society, we are being compared with one another in many facets of our lives, ranked, categorized, and always being concerned with evaluation and critique by others. For that reason, many of us compare ourselves with others and become discouraged when we can’t pose as well as others. I believe there are many people who gave up on Yoga for this very reason.

I heard from an instructor who has practiced Yoga for many years say, “I have seen a lot of people who are strongly motivated by self-manifestation, become arrogant, and become more competitive only because they can do advanced poses.” The instructor continued, “There were many people who were pure when practicing yoga, but became egotistical once they became yoga instructors.”

However, originally, Asana is not intended as a competition for the beauty of the shape of the pose. The purpose of Asana to see one’s own inner self, and to be done in sync with one’s breathing. Asana aims to allow people to notice their own essence by abandoning their own obsession, purifying themselves and turning their consciousness inwards. In essence, a person being able to do highly advanced poses does not necessarily mean that that person is deepening his or her yoga experience.

Among the teachings of yoga is Aparigraha (often translates to ‘non-greed’, ‘non-possessiveness). This means to not become greedy, conquer one’s possessiveness, not become overly attached to things, and to first notice the things we have at hand, before we begin to desire other things. It is a philosophy that teaches us that “as long as we desire things from outside, we will never be able to realize our inner happiness”.

In yoga, it is believed that inside our exterior lies our true inner self, and our inner self is completely and perfectly content and happy with its current state. People become so caught up in obtaining happiness from without that we don’t notice our happiness from within, and suffer as a result. The true mission of yoga is to be able to find our already content inner self.

What should we do?

I believe that it is important to first realize that we are comparing ourselves, correct ourselves when we notice this, and to gradually shift our focus from comparing ourselves with others (focusing on things outside of us) to noticing our own state and feeling changes occurring within. Another philosophy of yoga is that if we somehow go down a wrong path, we are allowed to correct our course as many times as it takes. If we must compare, it is important for us to compare ourselves today to ourselves from the past, rather than comparing with others.

 

The reason I decided to write this article is because I myself have actually experienced this recently. I did yoga with classmates who are much better at posing than me during TTC (Teacher Training Course), and became disappointed when comparing myself with them. Every time I became discouraged I tried over and over again not to compare myself with people but to turn my consciousness towards my own growth. And three weeks later, I feel like I am gradually becoming able to accept that I need to progress at my own pace, and to be able to praise myself for growing ever so slightly every day.

Even in the aspects of my daily life other than yoga, I will try to stop comparing with people and turn my eyes to the inner side of myself, and be able to constantly maintain “Shanti”.

Haruka

Every Body, A Yoga Body.

What is a ‘Yoga Body’? What kind of image comes to your mind when you associate yoga body? If you are thinking of a ‘lean, toned and sexy’ body, you may be stereotyping.

Well, I believe in reality, there is no such thing as a perfect ‘Yoga Body’. Every body is a yoga body. Social media may very well be the culprit planting these ‘perfect’ images in our heads to form these stereotypes. Every time someone hashtag #yogabody, other hashtags such as #fitness #hot #perfectbody pop up collectively. These associations and impressions may have caused some misconceptions that people are having such as ‘I only can do yoga if I’m flexible and skinny’. Many people think generally, yoga is all about flexibility and twisting or contorting your body to make beautiful poses, and the ‘harder’ the pose, the more instagram likes it will have. However, the word “yoga” in Hindi actually means “to yoke”, and it emphasizes on union and connection. Little do people know that apart from physical poses called asanas, yoga actually includes 7 other aspects of breathing, meditation, and other nonphysical practices.

Recently, I was browsing at the National Library and I came across an interesting yoga book by Lauren Lipton – Yoga Bodies: Real People, Real Stories & the Power of Transformation. It caught my attention mainly because it did not have the usual ‘hot and lean’ model on the cover. Instead, the front cover was a photo collage of people of different ages, ethnicities, shapes and sizes doing asanas. In this book, Lipton profiles more than 80 people who have discovered the transformational power of yoga –  each page beautifully captured them performing an asana each with much confidence. Don’t be mistaken. By beautiful, I don’t mean performing an asana with perfect alignment. Some of them might have done the pose with wrong alignment, or is not flexible enough to touch the toes and some even handicapped, but it truly shows what yoga is all about – yoga is for everyone and it is an individual learning journey. It also writes about how each of them found yoga and how it helps them to cope with their daily lives.

I believe yoga is many things and offers something for everyone — whether you’re a fitness junkie who wants to use yoga to improve your flexibility for other sports, a stay-at-home parent looking for a respite from the demands of domestic life, an office dweller who has no time to work out or someone who just wants to try for fun, yoga invites each of us to define it as we wish. I like how in her book, she did not only emphasize on the physical changes yoga brought to them, but also on a deeper level, how yoga helped them cope with insecurity, anxiety, depression, addiction, disability, gender identity, racism, aging, and more.

There shouldn’t be feelings like self-consciousness and envy when you’re on your yoga mat. There should be no competitions between you and your mat neighbours. You should not feel demoralized when everyone around you in the studio can perform a headstand and you cannot. You should not start questioning yourself after this whether it was because you were not flexible enough to walk your legs in a little more during the prep pose, or that you simply just did not have the upper body strength to lift your legs up away from the mat. Instead, we all should focus on our individual journey and not let others determine what we are and by what we see.

Yoga is for everybody. You don’t have to be thin and you don’t have to be fat. You don’t have to be of a specific colour, race or religion, nor a vegetarian to do yoga. Let’s start by bursting the yoga bubble and let yoga be accessible to everyone.

Tell yourself and your friends that they already have THE yoga body.

 

Angela

Energetic Anatomy: Chakras and Meridians

As I learn more about Chakras in this YTT course, I come to realise Chakras and Meridian points in TCM are quite similar and are often talked about together.

Definitions:  

Chakras: Disk, vortex, or wheel in sanskrit. These are non-physical energy fields that map onto our physical body from the base of the spine to the top of the head. There are 7 major chakras in our body:

  1. Root Chakra – Centre of Stability and Support
  2. Sacral Chakra – Centre of Sexuality and Imagination
  3. Solar Plexus Chakra – Centre of Self-Esteem
  4. Heart Chakra – Centre of Love and Self-Acceptance
  5. Throat Chakras – Expression and Communication
  6. Third Eye Chakra – Wisdom and Intuition
  7. Crown Chakra – Knowing and Enlightenment

Meridians: A network of energy pathways that carry energy like how arteries carry blood. These pathways create flow of information and link the connective tissues of the body with different organs and parts of the body. There are 12 Principal Meridians and they are divided into Yin and Yang groups.

  • Yin – feminine, dark, associated with slow, soft, cold and wet (represented by water, earth, moon and nighttime)
  • Yang – masculine and light, associated with action, speed and aggressiveness (represented by sun, sky and daytime)

The Yin meridians of the arm are the lung, heart and pericardium. The Yang meridians of the arm are large intestine, small intestine and triple burner. The Yin Meridians of the leg are the spleen, kidney and liver. The Yang meridians of the leg are the stomach, bladder and gall bladder.

 

Similarities

  1. Both energies need to be well balanced for a person to be physically, emotionally, mentally and spirituality healthy.

The degree of Chakra and Meridian activity in a person’s body is dependent on the person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of health.

In chakras, if there are deficiencies/excesses or ‘blocked’ or ‘open’ chakras, it might lead to certain physical and psychological problems. Eg. if root chakra is blocked or deficient, one may experience insecurity or fear.

In meridians, if the body has too much yin or too little yang, the body will be cold and slow, showing signs of low thyroid or metabolism. Similarly, if there is too much yang and too little yin, the body becomes hot and stimulated, showing signs of high thyroid state.

       2. Both have ‘tell-tale’ signs or symptoms that can be treated

In chakras, if someone feels that it is difficult to get emotionally close with people, his heart chakra might be blocked. If he or she is confused in his/her thoughts, it may be because of their 7th chakra (cognition may be overactive) etc. Yoga exercises (asanas or prayanamas) can help to solve these problems if one can be more aware of their emotions and problems.

In meridians, acupuncture points can be stimulated with needles or physical pressure to release or redistribute energy along the meridian pathway. If you feel tiredness or soreness in your body, acupuncture can be used to treat these points to improve body condition.

        3. Different yoga asanas can help to stimulate chakras and meridians 

In chakras, to overcome inertia and lack of motivation, one can do yoga exercises such as ‘Breath of Fire’, backbends and twisting poses) to help stimulate the third chakra and heat up the body and fill it with energy.

In meridians, if you want to bring forth the dark, slow, evening feminine energy of yin, you can do poses such as low lunge and forward bends whereas sun salutations and twisting poses help to create hot, bright, morning and masculine energy of yang.

        4. Interconnectedness with other parts of the body 

In chakras, a sensitive practitioner’s hand held over a chakra may resonate with pain in a related organ, congestion in a lymph node or even areas of emotional turmoil.

In meridians, if you press specific points along the skin where the meridians surface, they may be interconnected and you can feel the aches and tingles along the same meridian points.

 

Differences:

  1. Origin

Chakras were described as centers of consciousness in ancient Indian texts like the Yoga Upanishads and in the Yoga Sutras or Pantanjali.

The meridian theory was originally expressed by the Chinese on the basis of observations of illnesses and holistic treatment.

     2. Functions of the energy

The chakras are like pools or swirling disks of energy that bathe and fuel the organs in their proximity. They govern the endocrine system and carry information about the person’s history. They also encode and process physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experiences.

In meridians, they deliver their energy to the organs. As the body’s energy bloodstream, the meridian system brings vitality and balance, removes blockages, adjusts metabolism, and even determines the speed and form of cellular change. The flow of the meridian energy pathways is as critical as the flow of blood. No energy = no life. Meridians affect every organ and every physiological system, including the immune, nervous, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, skeletal, muscular, and lymphatic systems.

     3. Exercises to improve Chakra and Meridian 

One can perform yoga exercises such as meditation, prayanama or practice asanas to improve specific chakras.

The fluid movements of Sundao, Tai Chi and QiGong and techniques of acupuncture and acupressure apply the knowledge of the meridians to eliminate the blockages of energy and treat the disease.

 

Conclusion

Be it chakra or meridian, they work well together. Chakras bring energy into your body, while meridians sends the energy around your body. When they are in harmony, they are very powerful in enhancing your energy supply.

 

Angela