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.  



Practice Ahimsa in my daily life

What is Ahimsa?

Ahimsa is a word in the foundations of yoga – a Yoga Sutra that has been handed down from ancient times. It is one of the five Yamas (5 ethical and social guidelines) that are named in “The Eight Limbs Of Yoga” and means “Non-violence”.
“Violence” is not only related to the physical but also to mind and spirit.
It includes not only violence against others but also violence against oneself. Do you always work too much? Are you always negative about yourself? You shouldn’t hurt yourself.

Practice Ahimsa for 3 days

What did I do?

  • Tried being a vegetarian for 3 days
    • Ate a healthy and plant-based vegetarian diet
  • Chose eco-friendly/natural products, organic food, cage-free eggs, and so on
  • Brought my own bottles or reusable bags
    • Asked them to put my soy latte into my own bottle
    • Went grocery shopping with my own cloth bag
  •  Had a positive attitude with others no matter what (Did not send any negative emotions) 
  • Took care of myself
    • Slept when I was tired
    • Didn’t push myself too much
  • Meditated
  • Practiced yoga

Noticed these are “Muhisa (violence)”

– Being 100% (Do not have to be perfect)

– Criticising and complaining

– Actually, muhisa is everywhere in Singapore:

 - Smoking while walking on the street

 - Spitting on the street

 - Very rough driving of bus and taxi


Thoughts after 3 days of Ahimsa practice

– I felt like choosing eco-friendly or organic products made me feel more grateful.
– Even though I know it’s not a good thing, not using a microwave or watching Netflix/YouTube while I’m eating alone is pretty difficult.
– I felt nice and kind to others when I used my own cup at Starbucks as nobody had to clear a table afterward (Throw away a disposal cup or wash the used cup).


Make a better choice

– Buying eco-friendly and organic products are expensive, so I can’t always buy.
Making a good decision is important.
– I’m not used to being a vegetarian so preparing a vegetarian meal at home especially while trying to obtain protein is a bit difficult.
– But after all, I love meat and fish so I can start from Meat-free Monday.

The First 2 Limbs of Yoga

The First 2 limbs of Yoga


I have chosen to write my blog about the first 2 limbs of yoga because these 2 concepts and each compartment within them really interest me and they are ideas that I have been trying to apply into my life in the last couple years. Together these 2 limbs form high moral character and allow for purity of the mind, body and soul.


Patanjali compiled up 8 compartments to describe the sadhana way to samadhi, through raja/ashtanga yoga. These 8 limbs are aimed at releasing the mind and guiding a person into full consciousness. 


  • The first limb is called Yama, which means universal moral/ethical commandments and includes the disappearance of all suppressions. Yama controls and individuals passions and emotions and keeps them in harmony with others around them. If these commandments are not obeyed then this brings violence, chaos, untruth, stealing, dissipation, and an envious need to possess something, extreme greed. These characteristics derive from the emotions of greed, attachment and desire, which according to patanjali can only bring ignorance and pain. 
    • The first principle of Yama is called ahimsa which means non-violence. According to this principle, violence arises out of fear, restlessness, ignorance or weakness and in order to stop this from occurring we need to reach freedom from fear (abhaya) and freedom from anger (akrodha), coming from a change in the perspective of life. Every creature is equal and has every right to live as they do. A yogi believes that every creation should be looked upon with love and knows that their life is connected to others, finding happiness in making other creatures happy. A wrong done by a yogi should be resolved with justice and a wrong done by another should be forgiven. Ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah means that a person who practices nonviolence will receive non violence in return and love. When a person who practices ahimsa surrenders all hostilities, other people will also surrender their hostilities when they come into contact with this person, and love arises from the dissipation of violence.
    • The second principle is called satya, which means truthfulness. This is based on the motion that if one lives and speaks in truth then they are fit to unify with the infinite and reach samadhi. According to patanjali, reality is based on love and truth and can be lived through these aspects. There are 4 sins of speech and they include falsehoods, abuse and obscenity, telling tales, and ridiculing what others have said. It is said that when an individual learns to control their tongue they have gained self-control and they will be heard with respect, they will be well remembered for their truth. Satya pratisthayam kriya phala ashrayatvam means that a person who acts and speaks from truth will live in truth, all of their actions will show truth, they need not have truth be a separate factor to who they are, it will come as part of them.
    • The third principle is called Asteya which means not stealing. Whilst a person who does not live by asteya may be driven to perform acts of theft in things that they desire, whether this is by taking the possessions of others without permission, using something for a different purpose than intended, or extending the time allowed to borrow the belonging, the yogi knows that they do not need anything more in life and reduces their physical needs to the minimum. If they gather things that they don’t really need, they see themselves as a thief. Freedom from craving allows a person to resist temptations. Asteya pratisthayam sarva ratna upasthanam means that a person living in the principle of asteya will find that treasures will appear to themselves. As they realise that possessions belonging to others are not more attractive than what they already have then this will attract treasures of a material and non-material nature to them.
    • The fourth principle is Brahmacharya which means celibacy and self-restraint. A brahmachari is one who practices brahmacharya and is able to see divinity is all. This does not mean that yoga is only for people who want to remain celibate, infact many yogis and sages of the old india were married with families. Brahmacharis do not see sex as a necessity to penetrate others. Brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labhah means that when a bramachari lives like Brahma (god), celibacy comes naturally, it is not created and practiced, as this leads to suppression. According to this principle, sex can exist in the forms of anger, violence, theft and jealousy and a brahmachari finds strength and courage.
    • The last principle of Yama is called aparigraha, which means non-possession, or to be free from hoarding. This includes non-possessiveness and absence of greed. This means that one person should not keep things that they do not need. A yogi trains his mind to not feel the loss or lack of anything, once this is achieved the things that the individual really needs will appear to them at the right time. Aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah means that possessing has no meaning, the energy that appears when one is established with aparigraha will allow them to know the past and future, knowing hidden things. When one knows that nothing can be owned, their energy moves inward, and you are immersed in the present
  • The second limb is called Niyama and means self purification by discipline including freedom from all observances. Niyama also controls a person’s passions and emotions.
    • The first principle within Niyama is Saucha, which means that the purity of blood is essential for wellbeing. There are practices of asanas which cleanse our body physically and practices like pranayama which cleans our bodies internally. It is essential for our bodies to be cleansed of the mind for disturbing emotions such as hatred, passio, lust, greed, anger, delusion and pride, which are considered impure thoughts. This cleansing can be done in the practice of bhakti, meaning adoration and svadhyaya, the study of the self. These practices help to vanish mental pain, sorrow, despair and dejection and help to nourish radiance, love and joy. When one practices saucha they see their real selves and know that their body is a temple. Sauchat sva-anga jugupsa paraih asamsargah means that a saucha includes disillusion about the body. When one is very much concerned about the appearance of their body they search for another body to feel self gratification, which can be mistaken for love but it is not love. Love is not about the body, the soul feels comfortable when not in a crowd, but the body yearns for other bodies. When one realises that mental purity has power, the control of the senses, joyfulness and concentration occur. 
    • The next principle is Santoshha, which means contentment, finding joy in every moment. A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. When differences arise, conflict occurs and the mind cannot reach a point of one (ekagra), and peace is unachievable. In everyday life we get pleasure out of external objects created internally, never appreciating what we already have. Due to this we are never content, because we are always seeking for something else, which we cannot get. The mind does not have the capacity to be content, that would mean destruction of the mind, and the mind simply cannot allow that. By achieving a point of santosha, the mind does not have its function anymore and samadhi can occur. 
    • The third principal is tapa which means a burning effort to achieve a definite goal, including self-discipline, austerity and purification. Tapas is the effort to achieve union with the divine and burning out all desired which may stand in the way of achieving this goal. This aim makes life worthy, pure and divine. It can come in 3 parts including the body, speech and mind. Ahimsa and brahmacharya are tapas from the body. Satya is a tapa of speech, speaking the truth and retaining self control is a tapa of the mind. Fasting, yoga, deep breathing, natural eating are examples of austerities which transform impurities within the body. It is not torturing the body but purifying it. These austerities will create new energies and new possibilities for an individual performing in them.
    • The fourth principle is Swadhyaya, meaning self study. When one performs in swadhyaya he is essentially studying and educating themselves about themself. Through doing this the individual will realise that all of life and creation is made for bhakti (adoration) rather than bhoga (enjoyment), that everything that is, is divine. Divinity lies within oneself and within everything else, that the energy that lies within oneself is the same energy that lies within everything that exists within the universe. Self study includes how we view ourselves, how we think others view ourselves, our view of the world, how we relate to people, how we change around others, how we react to things, whether or not we show jealousy, possessiveness. All this study makes us become self aware and alert, allowing us to notice what goes on in our lives and eventually disattach from the identity and emotions towards those actions and thoughts. All the emotions and moods that appear will be witnessed, not letting anything be missed, and when they are witnessed, they disappear.
    • The last principle of Niyama is Ishwara-pranidha, which means that the worship of the lord and seeing him within us allows us to surrender the ego. One who knows that he lies within all of creation cannot have pride or ego. Total surrender of the go is required and must be surrendered without negativity inside, only purity is able to surrender. By knowing oneself, only then can surrender happen. When the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ disappears then the soul has reached full growth

Grounding Into Gratitude: Practicing Santosha on and off the mat

Source: PSU Vanguard

Are we forever chasing rainbows?

Oftentimes, we think that if we get a promotion, get more money, lose weight, have better skin, get a bigger house, or get better with our asanas, we will be happier. We humans are in the constant chase for something that we don’t have, and once we do achieve what we wanted, we would aim for something else, something better. Psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill because we’re running after something only to end up in the same place- desiring more of what we don’t have. 

Santosha, the second of five niyamas, is the Sanskrit word for contentment, which, as stated in the Yoga Sūtra, “brings about unsurpassed joy.”  Niyamas are literally translated as positive duties or observances. Together with Yamas, these are recommended activities and habits to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, and spiritual enlightenment. Santosha tells us that we can only truly find happiness from within, and relying on external factors will never bring us peace. This niyama invites us to be content in the present, and know that we are complete and enough the way we are. This is not to say that we should never have desires or goals. The niyama is simply inviting us to stop wasting energy thinking about what we lack. Instead, we should enjoy the journey, live in the present, and be thankful for what we do have. Intrinsic happiness is unconditional. 

The secret to the law of attraction is to believe that we already have what we want. To manifest the best version of ourselves, we need to be grateful with ourselves and be happy where we are. Yoga is an amazing practice to work on changing our self-harming thought patterns for the better. 


How to practice santosha on the mat: 

  • Don’t compare yourself with other yogis. All of us have probably fallen prey to this: a difficult asana comes up in class which we’re not confident of doing; instead of practicing, we look around and compare ourselves with others. Or when we’re stuck in our phones, we tend to look at all these yogi Youtubers and sulk about not being as strong and flexible as them. Santosha tells us to shift the focus back to improving ourselves for the sake of personal growth instead of spending time wishing we had someone else’s physical abilities. Give yourself freedom to enjoy where you are in your practice.
  • Be compassionate to your body. We often forget how much our bodies provide for us: it gets us to walk, run, and perform our daily activities without much thinking. The fact that we can breathe, show up in our mat, and do asanas when we want to is amazing in itself. The least we can do is be thankful by not bringing physical harm to it and to stop saying hurtful words to it. 

Also understand that your body will be different each day depending on what you eat, how well you sleep, the quality of air you breathe, your mental state, etc. Some days you’re stronger, other days you’re very tight. Accept it for what it is at the present and know that your body will always evolve.  

  • Be present in your practice. What makes physical yoga distinct from other workouts is its mind-body-breath connection. It’s normal to get distracted with thoughts of the future or past when you’re practicing. When that happens, acknowledge the thought and try your best to bring yourself back to your movement through focusing on the breath. Being present makes your poses and breathwork more precise too. 
  • Always start and end your practice with namaste. Deciding to show up for yourself on the mat is an excellent practice of self-care. Acknowledge that you are alive, breathing, and your body can perform these asanas for you. That’s already a lot of things to be grateful for. 


How to practice santosha off the mat: 


  • Start and end your day with gratitude. In the morning, list three constant things in your life that you are grateful for. It could be the presence of your friends, family, a steady source of income, a roof on top of your head, a place to sleep, food to eat, a body that works hard for you, the fact that you’re still alive. When you start your day focusing on these things instead of what you don’t have, you will attract more things to be thankful for. At the end of the day, think about what happened in the day that you’re grateful for.


  • Let go of what you can’t control. Oftentimes, the source of discontentment is from things we can’t change or influence such as those that happened in the past or others’ opinions of us. Don’t sacrifice your bliss and headspace for these moments. Instead, focus on what you can directly control which ultimately is yourself- your breath, your attitude, your reaction to things. You can choose to be disappointed or accepting of events. 


  • Let go of expectations and perfection. Practice remaining calm in success or failure. Find ease in whatever you’re doing and completely enjoy the process. If you focus on the progress instead of the result, you are directed back to the present and appreciate how far you’ve come. Expectations often leave you frustrated with how far you need to go. Completely surrender to the moment and let life surprise you. 


  • Go outside and appreciate the world around you. If you’ve been taking the blue sky, tall trees, or building murals for granted, marvel at them today. Look at all their details and relish the fact that you get to live with all these beauty. Allow yourself to be moved by the wonder of nature. You can keep the state of Santosha by disconnecting from technology so you can really stay in the present.
  • Take yourself in on a date.  To find santosha, you must spend some time alone to truly rid yourself of external validation. You must be content and accept yourself for who you truly are. Yes, your relationships are important and without others, you probably won’t survive but you must be careful on making others the source of your happiness. Sustainable contentment only come from within.

Beyond Truthfulness: practicing Satya on and off the mat

Image Source:


`Yamas` (moral discipline) are observances recommended by yogic philosophy and teaching as part of the eight-limbed path of yoga, developed by Patanjali. Unlike a commandment that has to be strictly followed, the five yamas are established for enthusiasts to develop a mindful and healthy lifestyle.

The second yama is called Satya. The Sanskrit word literally translates to fact, reality, or true nature in English. In its simplest form, satya means upholding the truth. Although the yama certainly encompasses honesty, it also includes integrity to ourselves, our lives, and our inner divine. The practice invites us to be our truest, most authentic selves. More than simply telling your truth, you have to also practice and live it. 

For instance, you can’t keep saying that you want a break but also accept overtime work from your office; or know deep down that you want to commit into a serious relationship but go on casual, meaningless dates.  These small contradictions keep us from manifesting what it is we really want. Satya encourages us to align our thoughts, words, and actions with our desires, while keeping them pure and harmless. 

Reflection piece: In what situations do you notice that your actions are in conflict with what you feel? Why? Who or what are you protecting?

Note: truth shouldn’t cause harm

This yama doesn’t invite us to be frank and forward in telling negative observations, no matter how truthful they are. Our ethical code doesn’t live in a bubble. There’s a reason why ahimsa (non-violence) is the first yama. It tells us that whatever we do should not cause harm to others. Hence, if telling your version of the truth will hurt others, you have to think twice whether your opinion matters. Practicing satya isn’t simply about blindly telling the truth regardless of the consequence. It’s making sure that you speak and act with thought and intention instead of just saying whatever is on your mind. 


How to practice satya on the mat

  • Set an intention in your practice. Your intention is the truth as to why you are on the mat today. It will direct your reality. Is your intention to get stronger? To get better sleep? To feel less stressed? Whenever you feel like you don’t want to practice, remind yourself of your intention to get on the mat. 
  • Listen to your physical body. Pain, discomfort, and injury are different languages that your body uses to communicate its truth. Don’t ignore that. If you’re feeling tired, or healing from an injury, don’t force yourself into doing another Chaturanga Dandanasana. It’s a violation of both satya and ahimsa
  • Rather than believing that you are not strong, flexible, or good enough, honor the reality of your body: it just needs practice. Everybody can improve through practice, and no one is an exception. 


How to practice satya off the mat

  • Do you feel that you are striving for things that you don’t actually want, but are conditioned by society, family, friends, or loved ones as things you should aspire to have? Ask the hard questions and be completely honest with yourself on whether you are living the life that aligns with your truth.  
  • Make sure that you speak to yourself and others with kindness and intention. Before speaking, ask yourself: is what I’m saying good, true, and beneficial? 
  • Speak up for yourself when your voice needs to be heard.
  • Shift from judgment to observation. For instance, instead of saying “I am fat”, say “My body doesn’t meet yet my standards but it can always improve.” In the first sentence, you are imposing your standards on the world by labeling yourself fat and calling it your reality; in the second, you are simply and clearly expressing your need (to be less fat) in the moment.

Dip your toes into yoga philosophy

Yoga philosophy, specifically Patanjali’s yoga, consists of a set of guidelines for one to live a morally disciplined and purposeful life, in order to advance along a spiritual path towards enlightenment. Yoga poses, or asanas, are simply a part of these guidelines. The other parts include Yamas and Niyamas, roughly translating to moral codes/ right thinking and right living/ behavior respectively.
The underlying rule is that everything is interconnected. Strictly speaking, Yamas and Niyamas form the foundation of a yoga practice as opposed to asanas which serve more as a physical extension. One cannot truly improve on asanas without achieving an understanding and practice on the philosophical aspects.
I approach this topic today from a point of personal observation and takeaway. Today, many of us approach yoga seeking clarity and peace of mind. However, we are often less receptive to the philosophies and some even shun the guidelines as idealistic rules to achieve so-called enlightenment. This is understandable since we have lived decades by our own moral/ behavioral rules, set by schools, religion and family. Moreover, enlightenment is often thought of as fiction depicted in movies as a seated man with rays of light shining out of his bald head, or lady with 1000 hands holding a vase, depending on which movie you watched.
Yet can we question the legitimacy of seeking peace and clarity through physical activity alone? There are hundreds of other sports to do. Is it just because yoga is slower moving..?
Of course, I am only human who has also lived decades by the pre-dictated moral/ behavioral rules. Reading the Yamas and Niyamas, one guideline stood out to me and resonated with something deep within – Asteya.
Asteya means “non-stealing”. On the surface level, it literally means not stealing other people’s physical possession. On the next level, it also means not stealing resources, such as taking other people’s ideas and credit, or things that could be better used on others. Finally, It also refers to non-stealing of time.
Are you stealing other people’s time by being late for your appointments? Are you a no-show at your booked workout session? Are you stealing time from yourself by misappropriating your hours scrolling on social media? I am definitely guilty of these. When I am supposed to be working, I am procrastinating. When I am out with my friends, I think of the work left undone. These are time stolen from both myself and my friends, leaving me anxious and distracted all the time. How good do you think your asanas are when you are anxious and distracted? Remember, everything is interconnected.
For now, I set my intentions –
I will honor and respect my time, and that of others. By being present on the mat, at work, and in life. To start and complete what I set out to do.
At present, even though I have only just begun practicing this mindfully, I do observe some improvements. Every time I want to laze, I ask myself why I am disrespecting my time for the sake of some cat videos online! The results are more consistent asana practices, better work productivity, and less mentally distracted. I also practice ahimsa – kindness on myself when I do fall off the train sometimes (it happens!).
So if you are one of the aforementioned seeking peace/ clarity, do read through the Yamas and Niyamas and see what resonates to you. Then apply it on the mat and in your life. You can use my intentions as your own too, I will not consider it stealing😉 While cherry-picking is frowned upon in philosophical studies, I invite you to do so. This is because there could be many entry points in a single journey but the destination still remains the same. Remember, everything is interconnected. Even though we may never achieve enlightenment, I hope at the very least, we will lead a life in which we are present in every moment.

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We have learnt that one of the 8 limbs of Yoga is Asanas. Most importantly, asanas should be steady, effortless, and at ease. In our first few lessons, Master Sree was always reminding us to do practise with a smile, and not a scrunched up face in pain. (I think I still do at times make a pained face unknowingly :p)

Well, one of the sutras that we are learnt too is Sthira Sukham Asanam.

Sthira means Steady, Firm, Strength and Sukham means At Ease, Joyful, Comfortable, Flexibility.

Applying Sthira and Sukha on our mats during yoga practice also means relaxation physically and mentally. When practicing asanas, it should be free of tension and strain, and engaging muscles evenly.  One should also ensure calm, rhythmic and conscious prana to maintain effortless-ness while breathing. These helps to balance flexibility and strength, achieving “Sthiram Sukham Asanam”.

One may wonder how to achieve both strength and ease at the same time. It is definitely not easy, but it is achievable with conscious intention and self-awareness of your body. Recognising the reactions of the body while in the asana, the areas where your muscles are feeling the tension, and observing your breath.

The breath is an indication for sthira and sukha. If you are panting, or holding your breath, it may be a sign that you are struggling in the pose or trying to push over your limits. Inhale, and Exhale to find stability in your poses and ease. Allow your breath to guide your practice.

Besides breathing and intended pauses to enjoy the stretch, to achieve a balanced asana practice, it is also important to include counterposes in your yoga sequence.

Have you ever wondered why counterposes are incorporated in your practice? I did.

Counterposes allow one to “catch your breath”, and feel the stretch in the other direction. Counterposes help in resetting of your spine, pelvis or muscles, making sure that no remaining tensions or strains are felt in your body after your practice, preventing injuries. It also allows the mind to reset, back to a state of equilibrium, before moving on.

What is a Counterpose?

Counterpose or Pratikriya is a posture that helps to neutralize the body after performing a particular asana. Its purpose is to restore balance in the body, ensuring safe and effective practice. It helps to integrate the action of the preceding posture, through neutralizing or sometimes opposing actions.

This means whenever one stretches in one direction, one should also balance the posture out with a stretch in the opposite direction.

Noting that your muscles are also aligned differently in different directions, you can also include twisting poses in your sequence as counterposes e.g. Seated Half spinal twist post(Vakrasana), Revolved side angle (Parvritta Parsvokonasana)

What kind of counterposes for which asanas?

Well, there are no set rules for types of counterposes for which asanas. It is more important to be aware of your own body, and feel where the tension is when performing the asana. Whenever you perform a strong asana, do a simple, gentle pose/asana to relieve the tension. Choose a pose that you a breathe in. If you move back and forth too quickly between two extremes, it may even cause injuries.

Here are some suggested counterposes for certain asanas:

  • Chest-openers (Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana), Camel (Ustrasana), Bow Pose(Dhanurasana))
    If the chest-opener is too deep, you may do a Knees-to-chest (Pawan Muktasana), which helps to stretch and neutralize spine, or a supine one leg to chest pose.You may also want to do a Supine twist to stretch out your lower and mid-back muscles. Gentle forward bends like Baddha Konasanaalso works.
  • Forward fold (Paschimottanasana)

In forward fold, you are stretching your back of the body e.g. spine, hamstrings, and your quadriceps and hip flexors will shorten.

A gentle backbend counterpose would be Upward plank (Purvottanasana), or gentle bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana) to help lengthen your quads and hip flexors, as well as open front side of body and stretch shoulders and chest.

  • Headstand (Srirasana)
    After completing headstand, or handstand, do a gentle child’s pose (Balansana) for a few moments after inversion to relieve pressure on head and arms.
  • Shoulder stand/Plough (Sarvangasana/Halansana)
    A common counterpose for shoulder stand or plough pose would be to do a gentle bridge pose or Fish pose (Matsyasana) as it helps to counter stretch the neck. You may also want to do Reclined hero pose (Supta Vajrasana), or Camel pose (Ushtrasana).
  • Universal Counter pose– Child’s pose (Balansana)
    Balansana is the universal counterpose as it allows for rest between poses, and allows breath to regain a steady rhythm.

With the right awareness of our breath and what our bodies need, let us work towards the same goal of achieving Sthira Sukham Asanam in our yoga practice, and practice with a smile 🙂


Actions and Karma (4.7 – 4.8)

Ever since “Karma” was taught to us in philosophy classes, I’ve been intrigued and I tried to research on this concept. Eventually google turned out a million results with no definite answers.. So I turned to the Yoga Sutras.

In 4.7, the Yoga Sutra states: The actions of yogis are neither white nor black, while they are threefold for others.
(karma ashukla akrisnam yoginah trividham itaresam)

  • karma = actions stemming from the deep impressions of samskaras
  • ashukla = not white
  • akrisnam = nor black
  • yoginah = of a yogi
  • trividham = threefold
  • itaresam = of the others

The threefold actions of others refer to 3 colored actions or kinds: white = good, black = bad, grey = mixed. These actions leave deep impressions in the depth of our minds, and will arise later to cause actions that further align with these impressions. For yogis who have mastered all the modifications of the mind (stated in 1.2), they will not identify with thought patterns and are in the true nature of their Self, so the colored actions does not apply.

In 4.8: Those threefold actions result in latent impressions (vasanas) that will later arise to fruition only corresponding to those impressions.

(tatah tad vipaka anugunanam eva abhivyaktih vasananam)

  • tatah = from that, thence
  • tad = that, their
  • vipaka = fruition
  • anugunanam = following, corresponding to, accordingly
  • eva = only
  • abhivyaktih = manifest
  • vasananam = latent potencies, potentials, subliminal imprints

Whether your actions are black, white or grey, they leave the corresponding colored impression. These impressions then later surface in the corresponding colored actions, thoughts and speech.

When I read and interpreted these 2 sutras, it became obvious to me how “karma” and actions are actually a perpetuating cycle.

What about Karma yoga?

In the Bhagavad Gita, it is also said that performing karma yoga helps to end the cause and effect cycle of karma.

It’s one also of the 4 types of primary yoga: Raja Yoga (royal/ashtanga), Karma Yoga, Bhakti (devotion) yoga, Jnana (knowledge/self-study) yoga.

Karma yoga is acting selflessly, without intentions of any results or outcomes whether positive/negative (no asanas, haha). In Karma yoga, there is no attachment to any outcomes when we perform actions. There’s no sense that you are the doer of the action. Not having expectations on how things “should/shouldn’t be” and only accepting it as they are.

To perform this, we can start small like doing something kind for a someone without anticipating anything in return, like holding the lift doors open for a stranger!

Reflections on Yoga Sutras 1.1-1.2

I always knew yoga was more than what I’ve been doing in physical classes, but the philosophy side of it was a whole new world and it wasn’t necessarily shining or shimmering to me at first. I didn’t know what all the Sanskrit names meant and there were so many of them in the teachings.

Physical practice was still more interesting. In it, I break a sweat, do interesting poses, focus on my breath. It takes my mind off stress, worries and makes me be more present in the moment by instilling mindfulness. But after being assigned my project topic and doing more research on it, learning more about chakras, 8 limbs of ashtanga in classes, I found all the teachings revolving around yoga to very interesting and intriguing.

In one of the first few YTT classes, Patanjali, the Father of Yoga was quoted. To be frank, I didn’t know who’s Patanjali at that point in time (I just pretended to nod and know, haha).

Who is Patanjali?

From my brief google search though, there’s not much known to modern people about him. There are legends about his birth and how his teachings has spread[1]. But people most famously know him as the author of the Yoga Sutras which is the guide book of classical yoga.

But first, what are Sutras?

The word, Sūtra, means “string, thread” and it comes from the root word, siv – that which sews and holds things together. Thus Sūtra can be defined as any short rule, or a string of words woven together to form an aphorism (an observation which contains a general truth).

The very first sutra of Patanjali’s yoga sutras reads: atha yoga anushasanam.

Interpreted as: Now, after having done prior preparation through life and other practices, the study and practice of Yoga begins.

The interpretation of each word as follows (Because sutras are a string of words, it’s important to know what each word means):

atha = now, at this auspicious moment; implying the transition to this practice and pursuit, after prior preparation; implying a blessing at this moment of transition

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join or to integrate; same as the absorption in samadhi

anu = within, or following tradition; implies being subsequent to something else, in this case, the prior preparation,

shasanam = instruction, discipline, training, teaching, exposition, explanation; Shas implies the imparting of teaching that happens along with discipline

My interpretation of this sutra, is that it is a warm blessed welcome and beginning to this practice. Once you have picked up the Yoga sutra book, or started to read it even, the practice has begun. “Atha” interpreted as “now”, where we are encouraged to be in the present. And in this present moment, we are going to unite all our prior experiences that has brought us to this point in our lives, with the methodical teachings of Yoga. 

The next sutra that follows is Yogash citta vrtti nirodha.

This sutra can be interpreted as: Yoga is the control (nirodhah, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting, setting aside) of the modifications (gross and subtle thought patterns) of the mind field.

Simply put, Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind. 

yoga = of yoga, union; literally, to yoke, from the root yuj, which means to join; same as the absorption in samadhi

chitta = of the consciousness of the mind-field

vritti = operations, activities, fluctuations, modifications, changes, or various forms of the mind field

nirodhah = control, regulation, channeling, mastery, integration, coordination, understanding, stilling, quieting, setting aside of

The sutra briefly explains what Yoga is all about.

To me, it also very nicely sums up the reason why I practice yoga at all. Like I mentioned on top, practicing yoga helps me to be present in the moment, and not be distracted by all the thoughts in my head. I focus on my breath, how my body is moving and how it feels like, instead of living in my head and what I perceive. However, something I can further work on here is to to actively make my mind be still, work on being conscious and present, rather than let it happen passively in physical practice.

I think it’s quite amazing how these texts were written maybe thousands of years ago. Now we are here, learning and practicing these teachings to continually discover and improve ourselves. It makes me feel grateful to be able practice and learn the art of yoga that was passed down from many years before. 


Realising own ignorance in Satya

Satya is defined as truthfulness without any hidden agendas or motives. As part of the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga, it forms the social practices in managing the senses of oneself. Aligned with Satya, I have always pride myself in being an honest person. I used to think of that as a quality of being “real” as opposed to being “fake” in today’s society. However, I realised that I haven’t adhered to Satya.

This is because I have only seen things from the lenses of my life. Be it in the social construct of Singapore, my personality or the experiences that I have gone through. Satya is only fulfilled when we remove the illusion of what we see from our perspective and see something as it simply is. However, I used to have fixed assumptions about people I am close as I was unable to shift it out of my experiences. I now realised that my perceived certainty has been misleading to what is actually truth; because I can never know everything about another person’s experiences, thoughts, intentions and actions. I have came to understand that this certainty has been the basis of conflict between opposing people sticking to their version of “truth”.

Satya also requires truthfulness that is in harmony with the other Yamas as well. For instance, this can refer to Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) where one should show compassion and kindness while speaking the truth. Although I always speak about my truth, I am usually too blunt and don’t think about how my choice of words can cause hurt to someone else. It usually also comes with the intention of asserting my opinions onto others. In the past, I usually justify hurting someone’s feelings with the impression that I am right and they should the one that should change themselves. I realised that I should be more aware to express empathy to others even though I am speaking my truth.

Through this topic, I have realised my personal shortcomings in certain areas of my personality and will continue to reflect and work on them in terms of Satya and the other Yamas. I hope that this ignorance of mine would turn to knowledge for me to be a better version of myself starting today.