Santosha – Contentment

In a blink of an eye, we are at the end of the course. I remember whining about having to wake up way before my usual routine, to make it for daily 8am classes. My course mates and I would joke about how dreadful mornings are, and seek solace in one another sharing the same struggles to this new routine.

Fast forward to the second last day of the course, thinking about how our YTT journey is coming to a close and the possibility that our paths may not cross again leaves me feeling bittersweet. Overheard in class today, “I am going to feel so lost. No need to wake up early and come here?” Funny how when YTT is ending, we are actually going to miss waking up at 630am!??

It also reminded me of Santosha, the second Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga –  contentment.

Demand is high only and especially when supply is low, vice versa. We whined when we had to wake up early, and then start missing this routine when it is coming to an end. In a nonexistent perfect world, if Santosha was in practice, we would be appreciative of every new day we have from waking up from our sleep, our able bodies, the opportunity have a class to attend and the luxury of time to be able to attend this course. We would be in the present and enjoy every moment, without complaints. But of course, this is highly unrealistic. We know this in theory, but practicing it is a different ball game. All we can do in our best ability is to be mindful. Accept and appreciate what we are, what we have and make the best out of it.

I believe showing gratitude to the luxuries of time, health, money we currently have will fill our hearts. More often than not, complacency takes over and we tend to forget that life is unpredictable. A twist of fate can happen any moment, and everyone would go “THAT’S SO SHOCKING” … as if we never knew how life works.

In light of Thanksgiving today, I am thankful to share the last 19 days with my course mates, and an impish buddy who cracks me up every day. Thank you Sree for sharing your stories and wisdom with us.

Namaste

Swadhyaya.

Swadhyaya is the practice of self-study and self-analysis.
In Yoga, swadhyaya is incorporated by doing asanas, pranayama and Meditation. In the past 3 weeks I’ve  been reflecting on myself, and gaining a deeper understanding of my body and mind through YTT.
It’s hard to accept myself when I see how I am perceived through others, but there’s no other choice . Here are the things I noticed

I’m as confident as I want to be.
I’m not accepting of my own flaws . I speak slowly and softly , and have a habit of withdrawing my words before I finish my sentence (voice getting softer towards the end ). I don’t like that about myself and am trying to change.
I’ve trouble making decisions.  I am often unkind to myself in my head
I’m easily influenced and affected by others’ opinion of me.
I get stressed out easily in my mind when there’s actually no need to be.

I’ve also drawn a few conclusions in regards to what I can do;
I can be nicer to myself, I don’t have to be so harsh all the time.
I can treat others’ opinion of me as a stepping stone , to improve or to ignore. I can take everything with a pinch of salt.
I can try to speak with more intent, and be present when I speak.
I can accept that I am not perfect and relax in that fact because nobody is perfect and perfection is unattainable.
I can be at ease when I know that there is no right or wrong or bad or good. my flaws are just there as a part of me, I don’t have to fix everything in one second, I can do it at my own speed.

I started off writing this blog with discomfort  (because it was painful to look at my flaws) and ended it with ease. It’s nice to relax and know that when we face our fears and discomforts, it goes silently away. It’s a pleasant release of emotions.
Walking into the eye of the storm is scary, but when you get to the middle, you find calmness.
Whatever we resist, persists, so walk into your pain and feel it. It is not as painful as we imagine it to be. 

 

What is your karma?

“What is your karma? What is the current action you should take in your life now?”

As Master Shree asked the class this question, I instinctively whispered to myself “my karma now is to nurture”.
As this thought left my mouth, I realized how much it resonated with me, like a wheel clicking in place.

In a moment of sharp mental clarity, I saw how my choices in life and career were weaved to the theme of nurturing. Becoming a mother 2 years ago, my choice of profession, finding myself naturally slipping into a mentoring and coaching role at work.

Even doing a YTT feels like a step towards nurturing a seed or kernel within. I’ve practiced yoga asanas for a long time, going on and off the mat, but always returning, each time staying longer. I’ve dabbled with oil painting, writing, dance, and yoga is the only practice I’ve maintained consistently.

Perhaps this is samsara* at work, pulling me back to yoga time and again. And choosing to commit to YTT is a thread of samskara**, woven into my karma to nurture.

*The literal translation of Samsara would be “a wandering through.” This refers to the means within which everybody passes through a variety of lives and states. It encompasses the idea of reincarnation and therefore the fact that what an individual does in their current life are going to be reflected, through karma, in their future lives.

**Samskaras are the mental impressions left by all thoughts, actions, and intents that an individual has ever intimate with. They can be thought of as psychological imprints. They are below the level of normal consciousness and aforesaid to be the root of all impulses, as well as our innate tendencies.

Pratyahara: Detachment

A primary teaching Master Sree is a big advocate for, evident in his daily theory classes is to

Not be attached to anything.

Not any labels, not any religion, not any beliefs, not even memories.

With every module taught, this teaching stood still.

Pratyahara – Letting go of attachments, take only what we need, keep only what serves us, let go when the time is right.

This state of open-mindedness resonated as it is similar to us being exposed to the wide range of religions available, not excluding astrology, numerology, tarot card reading, crystal healing, fortune telling, etc. The same can be applied of the limitless diets: paleo/ keto/ raw/ vegan/ blood type or intermittent fasting advocated by everybody who achieved successes through their personal experiences.

Who is to say which is the best diet, or which is the one true god or the most accurate tarot card or fortune teller? Who is to say if eating meat is unnatural or are they meant to be eaten?

Everyone’s belief is different, everyone’s truth is different.

A sneak peek to a few thought provoking ideas mentioned in class –

Commercialized by pharma industry Popping painkillers pills for body/head ache 
Alternative idea Using natural herbs and spices to self heal
Commercialized by bottled water industry Drinking 2 litres of water daily
Alternative idea Drinking only when youre thirsty even if its 200ml
Commercialized by farmers/grocers Poultry are meant to be eaten as food
Alternative idea Animals are living things and are not meant to be consumed as food
Commercialized by all industries Love makes the world go round. We love our partners and family.
Alternative idea Only self love is the purest love. Every other love is conditional.

My takeaway from this is to keep an open mind. Don’t be attached to any of it. Take in all the information with an open heart, and make your own assessment if it will serve you and you will like to take it with you. And in time to come, when it no longer serves you, let it go.

Stupendous Sangha!

When we embark upon something new where unknown people are involved, whether that be a new job, a new hobby or moving to a new country perhaps, for some it can seem daunting and for others it is all about excitement of what is to come. Some people can walk into a room and talk to anybody seemingly without any fear. I have a friend who when she goes anywhere she collects friends. Her personality is such that no matter what situation she is put into she finds lots of interesting people to interact with and sometimes these people become lifelong friends. These are people she may never have met unless she had taken that first step into the unknown. For others they may need to seek safety when they enter a filled room as they do not feel the confidence to mingle and network with lots of people. They may pick one person that they connect with and spend most of their time just getting to know that one person – that person too however could become a lifelong friend. So neither person is right or wrong in their behaviour – both of these scenarios have benefits. However, when you put yourself into a situation where you are with the same people every day for four weeks going through the same aches and pains, the same emotional ups and downs, and the same anxieties and triumphs, you are forced to learn not only about yourself but about each other. There is a common bond that links you. You are all there for the same reason. You may have different end games but the current aim is the same. You are all in the same boat together and in order to get across the river you must learn to row the boat together in a way that will get you to the other side safely. Sometimes someone may be stronger at rowing, and another may be better at navigating and there may be the need to have someone entertain you to keep your spirits up on the journey. What there is between you is a shared purpose so naturally you start working together and supporting each other to achieve the end result. Two of the definitions of Sangha are ‘community‘ and ‘a group of like-minded people, usually walking the same spiritual path’. I feel blessed to have been a member of my YTT Sangha. The love and support that I have felt from you all has been incredible. It always amazes me how you can put a group of people into a room and they can all seem so different to start with but as we get to know each other we see that we are essentially all the same. We are all human, we all have our strengths and our flaws, and we all have our worries and our hopes. What I have learnt about my Sangha particularly is that we are all caring and supportive individuals and I feel so grateful to have shared this time with you all. We have had an experience together that I will remember for ever. Thank you to my Sangha – you are stupendous!

Where is the East?

So I ask myself.. is part of our yoga journey learning what physically we can and cannot do or are we supposed to believe that if we continue with our yoga practice that we will one day be able to accomplish those asanas that we think we are incapable of? There are certainly limitations to my body in its current form. After years of sitting at a desk my shoulders and upper back muscles are incredibly tight and my lower back and core are weaker than I would like. This probably started when I was young closing myself off from others by rounding my shoulders. I also think it can have something to do with growing up in cold climate where to keep warm we are constantly hugging our arms close together. In the last 3 weeks there has been a physical change in my body. Slowly my collarbone is more pronounced, my shoulders are moving backward and I am standing taller than before. I’m a long way off but I hope with regular practice and heart opening poses I will turn around this constant pain that I suffer each day. What I am learning is that though there are potentially limitations to what I will be able to achieve physically in the long run because of my physical form, this does not mean I will not be a great yoga practitioner. By understanding the limitations of my body, it helps me to understand others. I understand that it may not be so easy for everyone to sit cross legged on a mat with their back straight. This actually was something that it took me years to achieve and I still have to work hard at it now. How taking 5 long breaths in downward dog is actually not for a beginner if it is practiced properly… and guess what… touching the floor in a forward bend is not actually a measure of being good at yoga! So often when I have been to a yoga class in the past I have looked at the ‘bendy’ people and wished that was me. Hoping that one day I will be able to do a headstand or a handstand effortlessly. Teachers told me it was just fear that was stopping me but actually my physical form had something to do with it too! If we just think that those that can do all the asanas are good at yoga, where does that leave the rest of us? Where does that leave the beginner? Or the person that doesn’t have the time to practice regularly because they have a busy work schedule or a family to tend to. Does it leave them looking enviously at Instagram at the so called beautiful people in bikinis posing on cliff top in a luxury destination? All that this can bring is self doubt and lack of confidence and wishing away the wonderful lives that we have been given. This in itself is against yoga philosophy. We are told we must practice ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness) and this means to ourselves as well as others. We do not know how long we will have in this life and to practice yoga is to practice gratitude for all that we have been given in good times and in bad. It is about the journey we are on in this life and how we choose to live it. We were asked the question in our YTT – where does the sun rise? The east we answered. No, we were told, the sun does not rise in the east, where the sun rises IS the east. When I told my husband this he said to me… that is because the east is not a place, the east is a direction. I know yoga is showing me my direction and it seems I am heading on my way without a map but I am starting to trust that my internal compass will lead me where I am supposed to go.

The Ultimate Authentic Yoga

My Yogic Journey started all because of Haritakki Powder.

 

I was so frustrated with “not feeling anything” from most of the metaphysical courses that I have attended in the past 14 years.

 

Then a friend suggested that perhaps I should unblock my third eye. So, I started looking for ways to activate my third eye. I came across a video of a lady talking about the “King of Herbs – Haritakki Powder”.

 

According to her, she says her Guru says that Haritakki Powder increases the supply of oxygen to the brain by 300%.  I was curious.  I searched for the name of her Guru, “Nithyananada” and came across this video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezLivJ6rdv0 . I was deeply caught by the information presented in the video. I never knew Yoga from such perspectives….the Twelve Components of Yoga…..that was when i got interested and started to learn yoga last year….

 

 

Dorisq Tan

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YogicBodies@gmail.com

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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.

How to implement the yogic system in our daily lives? II

Ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? It is a concept that is easy to understand but not everyone is conscious of the foods they put into their bellies. Whether you live to eat or eat to live, there should be no compromise on the quality of our foods. That does not mean that the more expensive a food is the higher the quality of it, we should be looking at how it affects the body and yoga gives us some guidelines as to what food are more suitable for a stronger, healthier and cleaner body.

In yoga, we divide food into saatvic, rajasic and tamasic. Saatvic food are mainly food that increase vitality, energy, vigour, health and joy, and are categorized as food that are fresh and organically produced, eaten in as natural a state as possible. Rajasic food are food that overstimulate the body and bring a restless state of mind, such as heavily spiced food. Lastly, tamasic food are said to be food that make a person lazy and dull like meat, fish and all intoxicants.

It is clear to see that yoga encourages that shift towards a vegetarian diet. But as mentioned earlier, these are purely guidelines to help you understand why these food are better suited for the body since they help bring more clarity to the mind and introduce less toxins to the body. It is not a preach to convert all humans to become vegetarians but for everyone to strive towards showing more love towards their body and thus choosing the right kinds of food to nourish it appropriately.

So the next time you are choosing between reaching for those 3 servings of meats to eat with your rice, why not try 1 or maybe even 2 servings of vegetables instead? Start small. There is no need to entirely cut other types of food. But the idea here is to reduce your intake of rajasic and tamasic food to replace with more saatvic ones as much as possible. Give it a month or two, see the change it brings to your body and mind, and hopefully you would feel the lightness it brings and come to love the food that nature has provided for us all this time in the purest and most natural ways.

Yogic Principles in Daily Life – Part 2

Years ago a yoga teacher once told me that “Yoga without the breath is just a circus act”. This really resonated with me at the time and solidified early on in my practice, how integral the breath is when practicing yoga.

During my TTC I learnt that not only is yoga without the breath a circus act, but yoga without following the yogic principles is a circus act too. It’s not just all about the asanas, to be a true yogi you must abide by certain code of conduct. There are 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga, the first of the Yamas (qualities in which a yogi should have) is Ahimsa, or non-violence.

Non-violence towards others in the most obvious way means not to physically harm or injure others, but as well as that maintaining an attitude that does not harm others also. If you can do Tittibhasana and Sirsasana perfectly but then go out into the world belittling others, you become part of the circus act.

Ahimsa means no cruelty towards animals. This aspect of the Yamas is why a large portion of yogis are vegetarians and vegans. In regards to animals, Sree taught us that ahimsa also means not keeping fish in small tanks or birds in cages. In those cases we are trapping the animal just for our viewing pleasure, and thus it is of a violent nature.

I am already a vegetarian so can fully understand this aspect of ahimsa. The biggest aspect of ahimsa that I will integrate into my daily life, is the violence towards myself. Just as I wouldn’t go out into the world and speak negatively to other people, I mustn’t do the same to myself. I definitely notice in my yoga practice if I cannot do a pose I will speak negatively towards myself, but am aiming to culture a more positive attitude and integrate ahimsa towards myself into my daily life.

And I have to admit that having a few injuries along the way has really helped me to practice ahimsa towards myself!