Pranayama and Dealing with Tattoo Pain

     Random cool tattooed yogi [1]

First world problems, I know. What with all the world’s best doctors and scientists hard at work developing links between yoga and its effectiveness for use in treatments of REAL pathologies, it’s granted that more inspired topics are to be regulated to the backburner, and the scientific community at large can surely be forgiven for overlooking this potentially very fruitful area of research.

But such is. And we can’t all be engaged in solving life’s big problems, need some of us to engage in the little ones as well. Like ya know, dealing with tattoo pains. We all do our own part, eh?

 

Pranayama

So a quick recap on pranayama. That’s the thing you do (or try to do) during your weekly yoga classes right;

Controlled breath in. Controlled breath out. Hold for 6 counts. In… out… 

In…. out….

Stretch out your breaths, until the thoughts ease off from your mind. Your heart slows. Your muscles relax. Time unwinds, consciousness eases, softens and fades off into the background.

Going to go catch some samadhi’s. [2]

In yogic practice, breath represents (or ontologically supervenes on) prana (lifeforce). Regulation of the breath entails regulation of your lifeforce. When I stretch out my breathing, I draw out my life force. As I harmonize my breathing, I clear up my vital energies, and prepare my mind-body to transition into the next stage of heightened consciousness.

Pranayama brings about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses and an inward turn of consciousness). Pratyahara further facilitates progression towards dharana, dhyana, and the superconscious samadhi. 

Now, I’d love as much as anyone to reach this samadhic enlightenment. But a dude’s still gotta navigate all the toil and toil and tribulations of samsara, ya know? Eventual self-actualization defo stays in the books, but I’ve a scheduled needling appointment soon, and I’d really like all the help I can get for that next marathon session coming up.

 

Pranayama and Pain Management

I think anyone who has gone for one of those hardcore Yin Yoga classes can immediately relate to the pain-management benefits of controlled breathing during a long drawn out and particularly excruciating frog, lizard or king pigeon pose. Fold deeper, keep breathing. Push deeper on each exhalation, breath into those knots and tight areas. Fold deeper. A bit more. A bit more And then the insane bastard actually comes over and pushes you balls deep into the stretch, into that white abyss of pain. Gotta love those Yin classes.

Don’t let that smile fool you. This here is the true face of pain. [3]

Going to geek out a little bit here on the physio-neurological basis for the efficacy of pranayama on pain management. For those not entirely turned on by latin gobbledygook, skip straight ahead to the next pretty picture below.

For the rest of you intellectual types; regulated breathing leverages the bidirectional affect between (para-)/sympathetic state activation and directive electric signals originating from the central nervous system (“CNS”). Conscious activation of segments of the overall (para-)/sympathetic response (i.e. the slow, deep breathing part of an overall relaxed state) in turn triggers the unconscious sensory neurons transmitting parasympathetic activation back up the CNS into the brain, who then plays catch up by transmitting further motor signals down the spine out the rest of your peripheral nervous system. Upregulation of the parasympathetic (relaxed muscles, slow breathing, steady heartbeat) state opposes the rival sympathetic state activation (fight or flight; erratic heartbeats, cold sweats, jitters, pain sensitivity, tensed up muscles). By a parallel and identical process, similar activation towards the sympathetic state can be achieved through conscious exercise of rapid forceful breathing (e.g. kapalbhati), which transmits back up to the CNS, back down to the sympathetic nervous system as so.

I picked most of this from wikipedia by the way, so I know what I’m talking about.

Now there’s a good bit of research attempting to close the final leg from (para-)/sympathetic state activation and pain sensitivity. The interface between subjective mental experiences (the feeling of pain) and neuro-physiological body states has always been a bit tricky to bridge. Observed behavioral responses and subjective reporting of pain would to be sure show some difference when obtained from a sympathetically activated individual or a para-sympathetically inclined one. It’s one thing to observe behavioral responses, and another to conclude that the pain was experienced mentally, internally as more painful; am I just overreacting, or am I really feeling more pain? 

Nevertheless, I’ll just throw out here the bits we wanted to hear; the experimental controlled trigger of pain and its association with activation of the sympathetic nervous system. [4] Pranayama and its promising use in patients with pain related pathologies. [5]

Tattoo Pain Chart [6]

But anywho, some personal n=1 experience has informed me that that long, deep breathing REALLY helps during the particularly wee sensitive bits in the ink session; Nice long slow breaths in the green. Some REALLY HEAVY DEEP BREATHS as we move on to the red. Take a 5 minute breather to help clear your mind, then that existential dread again and that moment of panic right as the needle homes into your skin…!!!!!!!…!!…haaaaaa…… Oohh yer fluffin beautie.

Granted there are probably even more niche areas for controlled breath applications out there. Like getting a covid/flu jab. Like when going for a foot massage. Or going to the dentist. Don’t know anything about those, I’m trying to write for the everyman here.

Calm mind through long slow breaths. Reversal of cause and effect. A real wonder of science, that pranayama.

 

Takeaways

– Slow, controlled breathing makes me less of a fidgety beech during tattoo sessions. 

– There’s a bit of science backing the idea that pranayama can help with pain (or at least its management)

– Bit of pranayama would probably help with my spiritual side too, enlightenment and all.

 

Will end off with a bit of #inkspiration, because dayum, some of these pins look mighty fine. 

 

One day, I too will be able to be like that. [7]

 

[1]: https://thetattooedbuddha.com/2016/09/04/the-tattooed-yoga-project-building-community-through-art/ 

[2]: https://www.indiadivine.org/prana-and-pranayama/ 

[3]: https://www.surfertoday.com/surfing/how-to-do-frog-pose

[4]: Neuroanatomy, Parasympathetic Nervous System, Jacob Tindle; Prasanna Tadi.[2020]

[5]: Yoga: Can It Be Integrated with Treatment of Neuropathic Pain, Telles S. · Sayal N. · Nacht C. · Chopra A. · Patel K. · Wnuk A. · Dalvi P. · Bhatia K. · Miranpuri G. · Anand A. [2017]

[6]: https://www.facebook.com/rxtattoomd/posts/tattoo-pain-chart/453490595301962/ 

[7]: https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1617350

 

Brahmachari

In Yoga philosophy we learnt the eight limbs of yoga, asht-anga, are yamas (abstentions), niyamas (lifestyle observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption into the Divine). 

The goal of yoga is self-realisation, which in some sense is freedom. All of it takes work, and with baby-steps I hope to be able to incorporate these eight limbs of yoga bit by bit to eventually free myself from the unknown. 

One of the yamas, is brahmacharya also known as energy moderation. Amongst all the yamas, I wanted to share how this has the biggest application in my life given that I am of Vata dosha – energy of movement. Vata dosha people are identified as thin and lanky (check, and check), active both physically and mentally (also very true for me as someone who is constantly engaged in a sport or seeking academic rigour), and many other attributes that I related to. 

While Brahmacharya is often interpreted as celibacy, a more appropriate interpretation of it would be based of the literal translation of the word ‘walking in the way of God’. It is rather about channeling the appropriate amount of energy and preventing the dissipation of one’s energy through the misuse of senses. Overstimulation or turbulence in the mind is a violation of brahmacharya. Yet as a vata dosha, I find myself expending excessive energy on certain projects, only to be easily exhausted and struggling to follow through with other responsibilities. I often overthink, or am clouded with thoughts racing through my mind rather than expending the right amount of energy for a required task and conserving what is left of me. 

To help my Vata turbulence, not only was it vital for me to regulate Vata ways of staying balanced, I also thought applying Brahmacharya is of utmost importance to me. I started by working Brahmacharya on a more tangible aspect: asanas. When striking a pose, I bring my awareness to it and hold it to consider: am I regulating my effort such that I’m not pushing or forcing? Am I draining myself out just in this one pose? And if so, how do I put in the right amount of effort? By bringing about breathing into the poses, I relax my mind and use the asana instead to help replenish my energy rather than drain it. All in all, the various aspects of Yoga – breathing, asanas, and spirituality unite harmoniously to elevate a being.

I want to bring this same awareness I practice in yoga, to daily aspects of my life. I wish to live more in the present without feeling constantly drained and exhausted. For me, brahmacharya has been a very applicable aspect of the Yamas in my life. 

Control

It is the lack of control that frightens me.

In yoga terminology, I believed I had a rajasic mind – an overstimulated body, unable to keep still, and an anxious mind. I have never thought of myself as a perfectionist. But over time, I realize my need to establish structure and stability has heightened over the course of adulthood. Maybe for a long time, I have decided I have been cruising through life too much – lost in life at 19; the I-woke-up-one-day-and-decided-to-fly-to-Australia-for-two-years-with-a-student-loan decision because I thought leaving was the best solution to a happier life; the trip to the grocery store one day, with a budget of 20 dollars, felt like crap and walked in to get a job at a café. Those days, I drank too much coffee, to keep my body physically capable to do everything I thought I had to do.

There were also days I felt moody and lethargic, having a tamasic behaviour, causing me to make impulsive decisions, like waking up one day and telling my partner I’m taking a solo trip because I needed to be alone. Those days were the worst, because they were the days I lack purpose, demotivated to chase a shining future. I ate badly and lived on ready-to-eat food. I smoked and drank too much, thinking that the 5 minutes that cigarette will last is the 5 minutes my mind could be at peace.

Shifting from the two extremes was exhausting, not only for me, but also for the people around me, particularly family who couldn’t cope with the stubbornness, my then-partner, who had to live with my impulsive decisions and irrational moods. After a while, with all the hasty decisions and carelessness, I made a commitment to settle for something, for anything.

I made a conscious decision to settle on a career and to stay in Singapore. Being in one place allowed me the space to try new things for a longer duration of time. In my quest to find myself, I found yoga. For a long time finally, I felt I had composure.

I began my quest to eat more sattvic food, partly to lose weight so I can work on my asanas, but as I went along, I also began feeling healthier, more energetic and focused. I slowly transitioned towards cooking more. As much as I can, I avoided processed food, even bread and crackers, even if they were wholegrains, but I ate small portions of brown rice. I couldn’t avoid meat altogether but I switched to white meat and fish. I snacked with nuts, not on chocolates (though I snacked on 90% dark chocolate).

Suddenly, with the choice to progress and grow, I realised that the control I was searching for was within myself.

I cannot alter my external surrounding, I cannot will people for approval, my partner’s loyalty – in short, I cannot demand certain outcomes. That is the challenging part, isn’t it – accepting that some things are beyond dominance.

And with that, I leaned back on my office chair and drank my chamomile tea in big gulps. I then left the office much earlier than usual. I met a friend and had some good laughs, and made one conscious decision;

This time, I will breathe and let go.

 

Yoga Philosophy – lessons from the quest of finding oneself

I lost someone special to me when I was 19.

In my journey to recognising my true nature, I have come from being lost to reflecting deeply about every circumstances in my life. When yoga became part of my being, I find myself relating my life lessons to its philosophy. 

  1. Asanas, uniting my head with my body – Since the event, I started to question why I felt so lost for majority of my life.

I realised that I was restless and easily distracted. I have many likes, but I never stick to one. I have many plans, but I never follow through. However, I realised if I put my mind to it, I can truly accomplish the things I aim to do. Of course, my yoga journey was my starting point to finding , it came (still comes) with a sprained neck and aching wrists – at one point, a bleeding mouth. The improvements are immense though; I can feel that my yoga positions are sharper and my balance is better. I realise, that only through the acceptance of my multiple failures do I start to understand the techniques to get to the asana allows consistently each time. Which part of my muscles should I engage? Where did I engaged the last time I did the asana? How did it made me feel?

The difference between one who never gets to his destination to one who does is separated by a thin line – and to me, that is mindfulness, which is part of niyama, by always being conscious of our actions and their consequences, and that our choices are always ours. I, then, realised, that in the same way, I hold the key to my own grief.

2. Pratyahara, letting go of external disturbances disrupting one’s mind – Letting go is always the hardest. I find myself turning to physical “pleasures” like random shopping, spending days eating out with friends, overworking to keep the mind busy with no purpose.

The art of surrendering is perhaps a lifelong learning, but if I want to start really making progress in life, I have to cut back on doing things that no longer serve me. Clichéd as it may be, I began to believe there’s a reason for every circumstances. Later, we’ll understand why, sometimes, never, but circumstances always mould us in certain ways, and in what way is a conscious choice. Acceptance of past hurts allows me to detach from all the meaningless habits, and instead reflecting on what to be thankful about each day, allowing me to cultivate an inner bliss that is more permanent.

Perhaps, the greatest lesson I have been trying to learn and finally understood is that one can keep fighting for things, but certain circumstances do not change because one fights. Sure, it shows effort and sincerity, but it also is a sign of desperation. Sometimes, letting loose will allow things to work out on its own – maybe the consequences are not to our favour at times, in my case, I had no chance in fighting against the nature of life, but there is always lessons to be learnt and we end up better people.

My journey towards enlightenment is far from over, and perhaps I will never achieve it in this lifetime. But in my quest, I am learning to give myself up for a higher purpose, to quieten your mind and focus on moving forward.  

 

 

Yoga Philosophy – Brahmacharya

The Yoga Sutras, also known as The Eight Limbs (Ashtanga) of Raja (King) Yoga, was the first fully developed by Patanjali around 400 CE (Common Era) and recorded system of yoga. The Eight Limbs of Yoga will introduce yogis to the basic of concepts of yoga philosophy which will greatly enhance the benefits of yogis practice and put him/her on the path to mindfulness & self-realization.

The first and second limbs, Yama and Niyama, form your foundation. Both lay the footing for awareness and realization to come. The focus of the first limb, Yamas, is on being an ethical and moral person, and on improving your relationship with the outer world. The Yamas are meant to help develop a greater awareness of one’s place in the world. When taking steps to transform our inner world, our outer world becomes a total reflection of this effort. There are 5 Yamas:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence
  2. Satya: Truth to be expressed in thought, word, and action
  3. Asteya: Non-stealing and non-covetousness
  4. Brahmacharya: Abstinence from sexual intercourse when not married, practicing monogamy and not having sexual thoughts about another person who is not your spouse
  5. Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-greediness

Let’s focus on Brahmacharya. It is believed that a life built on celibacy and spiritual studies done by free will increase energy and zest for life. If you are married or serious settling down with your soul mate, celibacy may sound like an unrealistic goal, but it may help to remember that brahmacharya is also about monogamy. When brahmacharya is fully realized in marriage, the sex lives of both partners improve because the level of trust and devotion deepens their connection. Sexual activity is an expression based on the highest level of mutual respect, love, selflessness, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the literally translation of Brahmacharya is ‘walking in the presence of the divine’.  In practical world, it means replacing superficial pleasure (e.g. smoking, fast food as comfort, drinking, etc.) with divine ones that fills us with aliveness.  In this sense, Brahmacharya requires the highest integrity and self-mastery – being honest in how you are connecting, with whom, and under what circumstance, so that your vital energies are utilized for transformation and not merely for entertainment.

Mindful living practice

How can you apply Brahmacharya to your everyday? It takes conscious self-reflection to become mindful of the ways in which you stray from the middle path. You can ask three questions below to help you become aware of situations and habits where you tend to take things to the extreme. Trying to ask the three questions below related to caffeine, alcohol, relationship, or anything that knocks you off balance and disturb your peace of mind.

  1. Where do I take things to the extreme through overindulgence?
  2. Where do I take things to the extreme through deprivation?
  3. How can I practise walking in the middle path in daily life?

Yoga does not ask you to avoid pleasure or giving up all the belongings and live in a cave in the hope of achieving non-existent spiritual perfection. In fact, it is actively encouraging you not to only avoid self-indulgence but also avoid self-denial. Why not let your intuition guide you to when you are straying from the middle path (such as over-eating or over dieting, etc) and mindfully bring yourself back by practicing Brahmacharya and treating your body as scared.

Pranayama

Your breath can use to quieten your nervous system and release your cravings for excess. Three-part breath, also known as Deergha Swasam, is a calming breathing exercise that allows you to breathe fully and deeply using your diaphragm. This helps to relieve tension, increase your supply of oxygen and calm the nervous system.

When I think of having a chocolate, I try three-part breath for five to ten minutes and it suppresses my craving as it is become more manageable along the way.

Three-part Breath technique

  1. Place your hands on your collarbones to feel the movement of the breath. You can be either lying on your back or in a seated position
  2. Breathing through your nose, into your belly and feeling it rise like a balloon. When you exhale, let your navel fall back towards your spine. Take five breaths like this.
  3. As you inhale, breathe into your belly fully. As you exhale, release from the ribcage first and then the belly. Take five breaths like this.
  4. This time, as you inhale, first feel your belly expand, then your ribcage, then your ribcage, and then fill your upper chest, expanding the areas around your collarbones.
  5. Exhale in reverse, from your upper chest, then from your ribcage and then from your belly. Take 10 to 15 breaths here, focusing on breathing smoothly and seamlessly.

Meditation

Meditation practice give you the chance to see when you are off balance. It is deeply somatic; fully grounded in the body and the physical sensations that arise. Anapana meditation is a simple practice that helps to calm and concentrate the mind by focusing on the subtle sensations of the breath.

Find your comfortable seated meditation position, close your eyes and breathe naturally and mindfully. Try to be aware of sensation of the breath around the nostrils and the upper lip and focus your attention here.

Observe any sensations that is happening. Notice the ordinary physical sensations that arises as you breathe. The coolness of the breath as it enters the nostrils, the heat on your upper lip as you exhale. You will feel a subtle tickling at the edge of your nostrils, tingling on the tip of your nose.

With your effortless gentle, loving awareness, observe the sensations like watching a sunset- no judgement, no expectations, no force. Always reminder to bring your awareness back to the sensations of your breath if you catch your mind trying to escape into the pastor future.

Practise the meditation from 5 to 20 minutes a day. Gradually, you will see your body begins to stop thinking obsessively and beginning to listen your breath & body to the quiet call of your heart.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

When Santosha (being contented) hit me hard!

People always want to have something they don’t have and never feel enough for things they already have. We keep seeking happiness from outside. Me too!

When I studied yoga philosophy, this Santosha which is the second of Niyama of the 8 limbs of yoga has hit me hard.

Niyama is freedom from all observances, consist of:

  1. Saucha: purity of thoughts
  2. Santosha: contentment, acceptance
  3. Tapas: discipline, persistence
  4. Swadhyaya: self-study
  5. Ishwara-pranidha: devotion

I felt that Santosha is telling me something. From young, I always wanted to be successful especially in my career and whenever I got what I wanted e.g. promotions, salary increments, I still wanted to have more and took more actions to get more. I thought that when I get what I want, I will be happy. Yes, I was happy for a moment and started to want to have more again – sounds so greedy, but I am sure I am not alone. The result was I rarely enjoyed and appreciated what I had, I aimed for more and more. My next goals were bigger and more challenging.   

In Santosha, being contented (not happy or sad), enjoy every moment, supreme joy is achieved. Wow, it sounds easy than I thought and from my own experience, it’s so true. Yoga teach me to stay present. When I practice yoga, I am mindful with my body for movement and alignment, I forget about my past and my future. I enjoy the moment. That’s why I fall in love with yoga.

Off the mat:

To adopt Santosha into my life, I practice to be more mindful in my daily life activities. I practice to be grateful and appreciate with what I have including my work, my health, my relationship, my possession, and even my food. Yoga, pranayama, and meditation help me a lot to be more mindful and I added all these into my daily life. I meditate every morning and practice yoga and pranayama at least 3 times a week.

On the mat:

I also adopt Santosha to my practice in a way that there are some poses that I can’t do well, for example, all hips flexion poses like Paschimottanasana, Prasarita Padottanasana. I need to keep practicing to make my hips more flexible. Sometimes I am unhappy that I can’t do the poses like my other classmates. With Santosha, it makes me understand that I should enjoy that I still can do the pose, it is not perfect, but it may be better than last year and it’s enough. Everyone is different and I should be contented with the way I am, the way my body is. With continued practicing, one day when my body is ready, I will be able to do the pose 🙂 

Yoga Philosophy

Yoga is not only the asana practice. It’s much more and beyond that. It accepts three reality – purusha( consciousness), prakriti (matter) and ishvara (god). It primarily emphasises on the practices and disciplines to control the modification of body, breath, senses and especially control of your mind.

Yoga word is derived from root word ‘yuj” which means to yoke or concentrate or to unite. It authored or compiled by Sage Patanjali.

It compiled around 200 BC. It’s called patanjali yoga sutra, containing 196 sutras. Yoga chitta vritti nirodha main focus is 1. mind, 2. obstacles to yoga, 3. Systematic yoga practice, 4. Attainment tot the highest goal.

Sage Patanjali’s system of meditation is called Ashtanga. It means 8 parts of limbs. It emphasised on how to live a meaningful and purposeful of life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

The eight limbs of yoga are 1. yamas (abstinences / five restrains / prohibition), 2. niyama (five observances), 3. asana (postures), 4. pranayama (control of breathing), 5. pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), 6. dharana (concentration), 7. dhyana (meditation) and 8. samadhi (total of absorption). The eight limbs form a sequence from the outer to the inner. The first 5 is external practice in nature or they are called bahiranga sadhana or technically call it hatha yoga. The last 3 limbs which is internal practice (dhyana yoga)

There are 5 niyamas that cultivate of dharmic virtues. Santosha mandates contentment and forbearance.

Santosha

The Sanskrit word santosha is divided into two parts: sam, meaning completely or entirely, and tosha, meaning acceptance, satisfaction, and contentment.

How can I apply that in my life: particularly during my yoga practice

I often doubt myself or have some negative thoughts about myself that I cannot do certain poses. For example, While I am working my way into a posture (downward facing dog/ chtturanga plank and etc) and i just couldn’t help but take a peek around the room to see whether I am doing ‘ok’ compare to someone else in the class. And I concluded that I did the worst in the class.

Well, I have to believe in myself and accept my flaws and work on it, I have to accept myself for what I am and appreciate what i have and what I am already, and moving forwards from there.

How others can apply in their lives:

Having said all, this doesn’t mean we are sitting back and relinquish the need to do anything. It simply means be contented and be focused. The most important message to take away from this? is in our nature to want more, to not let ourselves rest until we’ve satisfied some temporary happiness or urge, for example, losing weight, getting an ideal job or being able to get ourselves into that yoga posture we’ve been working towards instead, be Contented even when your situation is very far from ideal.

Because once we’ve conquered what we wanted, but how long does it really last? Once we’ve reached that place of temporary peace, we ultimately become very attached to this feeling, and fight to keep hold of it, eventually leading to sadness again until we find that next goal to make us ‘happy’. We remind ourselves. This is enough. This is perfect. All is wonderful. Feeling satisfied with your possessions, your status and your situation.

My Yoga Journey and Philosophy

Why did I start yoga? Growing up, I was always the weak kid, full of excuses to skip any physical extra-curricular activities in school, even as an adult, I dreaded going to any fitness classes or would reject any invitations from friends for any sports related outings. I was not fit, strong, coordinated, flexible nor fast. Hell, I would even trip and fall when walking down the streets. My mantra was, ‘Sweating is not my thing’. Experiencing severe menstrual cramps, blocked sinus and migraines was also part and parcel of my life.

My aversion to exercise changed in 2019. I quit the big 4 and had gotten a job that afforded me with a more work life balance. I wanted to be healthier and less prone to falling sick. I joined all sorts of fitness classes. At one point of time, I was attending fitness classes 4 to 5 times per week, mainly because it gave me the feel-good hormones after a frustrating day at work. But yoga was the only exercise I kept going back for more. The saying, ‘Yoga frees our minds from the negative feelings from the stressful, fast-paced nature of our daily lives.’ was something I experienced myself. I would walk out of class with a lighter mind and mood. I was addicted. That was how it all started for me.

In early 2020, the world entered lockdown and we were all made to stay at home. Mentally, it was very draining to be stuck in front of the laptop without any change in atmosphere, day after day. I felt moody and even went through a period of binge eating and drinking. Physically, I could feel my body weakening and becoming less energetic. Luckily, my yoga studio offered livestream classes throughout the lockdown period. Again, the endorphins and serotonin from practising yoga helped to rebalance my mind and body from being stuck at home.

I did not understand why I had this feeling until after starting the YTT with Tirisula, learning that this sense of calm comes from the practice of yoga asanas and pranayamas. Unlike other forms of exercise (I have dabbled with HIIT and spin classes) which strain muscles and bones while increasing heart rate to high levels within a few short seconds, yoga gently rejuvenates the body with poses and breathing exercises at a moderate pace.

The ultimate aim of health is to stay away from illnesses, maintain a functioning bodily system and good mental wellbeing. This can be all achieved when we regularly practise yoga. Asanas balance the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, hormonal, digestive, and reproductive systems. The equilibrium in the body then brings mental peace and enhance intellectual clarity.

I would highly recommend this non-competitive yet nonetheless, challenging sport to all my friends. Yoga is an evergreen exercise which allows us to practise it throughout our lives, no matter the age. Yoga asanas, or poses, can cure physical ailments aka ‘vyadhi’, and redress angamejayatva or unsteadiness in the body. ‘Shvasa-prashvasa’ aka uneven breathing – an indication of stress – is alleviated by the practice of yoga. Additionally, asanas tone the whole body. They strengthen our muscles and bones, corrects our posture, improves our breathing, and increase our energy. This physical well-being has a strengthening and calming impact on the mind.

Yoga is the best! 😊

Me & Yamas

Yama is the first of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. There are 5 Yamas: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha. In this blog post, I will share my understanding of each of the Yama along with how it relates to my experiences. 

  1. Ahimsa
    Non-violence. a: no, himsa: violence

    Violence comes in different forms. To practice ahimsa, we have to be mindful of our words, thoughts, and actions to prevent hurting ourselves and others. Understanding our boundaries and respecting our body is a form of self-love that can be applied in both yoga and life.
    When Master Sree shared some examples of “Himsa” things we do to our body, I instantly recognized them and realized that I have been treating myself poorly. It’s unhealthy to keep increasing the expectations of what my body “should” do when I’m always neglecting its need for rest and recovery. However, I find it difficult to come to terms with the sense of guilt whenever I choose to rest because I feel like I’m under-performing/being lazy. One way I try to cope with it is to tell myself that resting will allow me to come back stronger the next day!
  2. Satya
    Truthfulness. sat: true essence/nature

    To be honest with ourselves and others in our words, thoughts and actions, regardless of the situation. We should always seek to maintain honesty even in disagreements, but if saying the truth will do more harm than good, we are advised to act compassionately instead of pushing to be “right”. Recognizing the situation we are in at the moment can help us to decide between benefitting the other party or proving our ego, which is important as words are powerful. What we perceive as a “casual statement” may carry a different meaning for another person and hurt their feelings.
    Referencing this to our practice on the mat, we have to be honest with ourselves when it comes to our bodies’ abilities. Perhaps we weren’t able to do a certain asana today in class, but it is okay because we know that it will come with practice. The ability to see the truth and accept it with grace allows us to put our ego aside and focus on what really matters— the practice.
  3. Asteya
    Non-stealing. a: no, steya: stealing

    Did you know that you can steal things from yourself?
    Practising yoga is a journey of self-discovery and growth; it should never be treated like a competition. When comparison starts to happen, we begin to envy and unhealthy desires arise. Asteya reminds us that we should appreciate our experiences, regardless of how “good” or “bad”. We do not want to steal these precious moments away from ourselves just because we were busy trying to be someone else and denying our feelings.
    Learning about Asteya has made me more conscious of how I want to develop myself as a dancer. Back then in school, I was constantly trying to be like someone else; I never stopped to take look at who I really am or how much progress I’ve made. This Yama has taught me that I am enough as a person, and that desire to improve should not come from a place of insecurity but an open heart and mind.
  4. Brahmacharya
    Celibacy, appropriate use of our energies

    “In order to be the best version of ourselves and to use our energy in the right way, we need first of all to listen to what our bodies need.” 1
    Diverting our energy from external desires to inner peace and happiness is one way of using our energy in the right way. Chasing external desires can bring joy and pleasure at the moment, but these moments are ultimately fleeting and can leave you feeling empty once it is over. Our happiness is within us, we can find it using the same energy that we put in to search for it externally.
    Listening to what our bodies need is a common message that appears throughout the 5 Yamas. If our body is feeling tired and not ready for an Ashtanga Vinyasa class today, forcing our way through would not be the best use of our energies. We want to make sure what we do is helpful and will bring us to become the best version of ourselves.
    Applying this to our daily life, we are often overwhelmed with so many things in a day that they can drain us physically and mentally. To make full use of our energy, take breaks in between and notice if there are tasks or people that leave you feeling empty. If we can amicably resolve these issues, we can put our energy and attention on other things that serve us better. 
  5. Aparigraha
    Non-attachment. a: no, pari: on all sides, graha: take/grab/seize

    Aparigraha teaches us a few things:
    – To b
    e detached from the outcomes of our efforts, in the workplace and during yoga practice
    – To be independent of material things and seek happiness internally
    – To embrace the ups and downs of life and let go of the things we cannot control

    I find Aparigraha the hardest Yama to practise. When the pandemic broke out, I had to let go of all the plans I had and live day by day without knowing what was going to happen next. The uncertainty was scary, but I also discovered a lot of things about myself when living my life unplanned. For example, I am now more comfortable with adapting to changes than I was before. Although forced into the situation, I felt like that period was necessary to help me learn about the uncontrollable things in life and how to see the good in everything.

    This main takeaway is that we should focus on our journey instead of the destination so that we do not attach ourselves to “what may be”, but do the best in our current situation and see where it takes us!

Researching more on the Yamas has helped me to see things clearer in my life and I hope that this post can inspire you to start your journey on practising these Yamas in your life! ☺

Sources: Chopra, EkhartYoga, The Yogamad

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021

How Do We Apply Yamas in Our Modern Life?

Yama is the first limb of yoga according to Raja the eight limbs of yoga, that focuses on our behaviour and perspective of life. I personally find the 5 yamas concept very useful even in a modern material world.
The Five Yamas
Ahimsa: Non-violence
Satya: No-lying
Asteya: Non-stealing
Brahmacharya: Celibacy, preserve the vital energy
Aparigraha: Non-possesive
How Do we apply Yamas in our Modern Life
Ahimsa
Ahimsa means non-violence and is not just about physical harm but also mental harm. We need to be more mindful how our thoughts and words might hurt other people’s feeling.
Satya
Satya means truthfulness and not telling lies. However, white lies are often excusable since our initial intention is good. Also, the truth should be reflected in your spoken and unspoken words.
Asetya
Asetya means non-stealing, which is applicable more than material things. There are lots of things one can steal. One can steal someone’s time if not being punctual. One can steal someone’s intellectual work by plagiarism and taking other people’s credit in the workplace. Do respect other people’s time and work.
Brahmacharya
Brahmacharya is often identified with celibacy. Preservation of vital energy through moderation in sexual activity is part of brahmacharya. This is a old-fashioned view of the practice. The main idea is to preserve our vital energy and stay focused. We need to develop awareness of which sense experiences are harmful or excessive.
Aparigraha
Aparigraha means not possessive. Do not have emotional attachment with material stuff or a certain person so we do not form the habit of hoarding stuff. Stay alert with the lures from advertisement, since the sellers try to implant unconscious influence inside of us to feel happy about owning a certain products. A simple philosophy of applying aparigraha is to be happy with what you have without emotional attachment and do not be sad with what you do not have.