Svadhyaya and Dhyana

Svadhyaya simply means the study or observance of the self with no attachment and no judgment.

I really appreciate this term, as it allows me to reflect on  myself and others around me, observing and  analyzing  a situation with an almost scientist-like approach. I have found this brought me new insights to situations, but I have to be careful about whether it is applying judgment or discernment and whether it is expressing compassion or sympathy to myself or to others.

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End of My YTT Journey, Start to a New Beginning

In our life, we crossed path with many people. Some comes and goes. While others, stays along the way.

In this YTT journey, I have met people from all walks of life. Different nationality, race, gender and religion. But we all have the same mind and goal. We shared stories about our life, worked as a group and cherished the moments as we embarked in the 10 weeks long journey together. We are the March Weekend Warriors.

Though the time spent together are short, we had great fun learning from our masters. They have taught us with their utmost passion and sincerity. And I bet you, their dedications are unlike the others.

From this wonderful journey, I have seen the unseen. I have done the undone that I never knew I could. New knowledge gain with nothing to lose.

Over the 9 weeks training, a word has been etched in my mind even since I was introduced to it. “Dhāraṇā” from the Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. Somehow, I was drawn to it. Dhāraṇā is the sixth stage or limb of eight as explained by the Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. It’s translated as “concentration” or “single focus”. Somehow, we are always caught up in our daily life, always busy with work and working hard to make ends meet or keeping up with the wants that we start to lose sight of ourselves. We got so engrossed with keeping up with the lifestyles and standards that the world and social media portrays. Over time, we start to realise that we have lost so much time focusing on all the unimportant aspect of life that we forget who we are in the first place.

Dhāraṇā teaches us to focus our attention on the present moment and to bring attention to our SELF. By taking up YTT, I have discovered self-realization. Discovering that sometimes letting go of many of the things associated with our individual identity is needed in order to find our true Self. Take a moment to slow down the pace of your life and start taking the first step to discover yourself.

“Every journey has an end but the start of a new beginning.” Anonymous

 

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

 

Bye bye! Sinus!

I have been suffering from sinus for recent 10 years. I have been very sensitive to air conditioning , dust mite, dust, etc. Most of time, one nostril is always blocked. I had many sleepless night because both nostrils were blocked and I refused to be a “mouth breather”! When I was doing martial arts, I had to breath so hard from only 1 nostril, it was embarrassing! I have visited doctors and they told me I have to do surgery… Or go through years of dust mite allergy therapy. 

Last month I was introduced to Sutra Neti in my Yoga teacher training class, which is a nostril cleansing practice. We were given a smooth rubber band, about 30cm long, and told to put into one nostril, and slowly put it out from the mouth.  It was very easy for me to achieve it, maybe because I have suffered so much for my sinus I will do anything that helps.  Ever since that day,  I haven’t had any problem with my nose!

So now I have been doing it once every week or two weeks, when I start feeling sinus, I perform Sutra Neti for 10 seconds on each nostril, and I will have smooth breathing for next few days!

 

My husband usually runs away when I take out the rubber band, he’s very scared to see this!! 

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

In the modern perception of a yoga practice, under the influence of social media, it is often misinterpreted that Yoga is a pose and the goal of yoga is to achieve the pose. However to practice yoga holistically is to go much deeper than the physical.

The yoga poses also known as Asana, is only one part of the 8-limbs as laid down by Patanjali. A holistic yoga practice will need to seek union between mind, body and spirit as it explores the synergy between breath, postures and drishti. Together this allows our external practice to draw inwards and foster an awareness of ourselves as individuals seeking peace and ultimately a connection to the greater whole. Through practicing the teachings of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, the body and mind is both strengthened and softened, and prepared to go the depths into the exploration of yoga.

In brief the teachings of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, or steps to yoga, are as follows:

The first and second limbs:  Yamas and the Niyamas, it all starts there, with how we show up in our lives (personal observances) and in the world (universal morality). The attitude we have towards external (people and things) is Yama, how we relate to ourselves inwardly is Niyama. When we incorporate Yamas and Niyamas into both our daily practice and our day-to-day lives, we become more present, cultivating awareness and gratitude in all things that we do and the people around us.

I. Yamas

The yamas are Ahimsa – Non-violence, Compassion for all living things.   Satya – Truthfulness.  Asteya – Non-stealing. Brachmacarya – Sense Control. Aparigraha – Non-hoarding.

II. Niyamas

The Niyamas are Sauca – Purity and cleanliness. Santosa – Contentment. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy. Svadhyaya – Self awareness, self-study. Isvara pranidhana – Surrender to the higher power.

III. Asanas

Practice of physical postures combined with the fourth limb, Pranayama to foster a quiet awareness of breath, increase flexibility, physical and mental wellness.

IV. Pranayama

Breathing technique practiced together with the third limb, Asanas to balance the flows of vital life forces and energy within us, then directing them inward to the chakra system.

V. Pratyahara

Withdrawal of senses from external stimulation and bringing the focus inwards. With the senses no longer easily distracted, this is a preparatory stage for meditation.

VI. Dharana

Intense concentration, closely linked to the previous limb, pratyahara where with senses withdrawn and focus drawn inwards, we will find a focus and point of concentration. Through this one will be able to steady the mind and 100% focused on 1 thing or subject.

VII. Dhyana

Meditation absorption where one has become completely absorbed in the focus of the meditation.

VIII. Samadhi

The final stage and 8th limb, Samadhi means bliss and enlightenment. In the state of Samadhi, the practitioner merges with the object of their meditation and becomes one with it and their surroundings, to bring together, to merge.

 

So obviously everyone has a choice when it comes to yoga. Patanjali 8 limbs of the yoga sutras can sometimes feel like it will take time (a lifetime!) to cultivate. I’m still scratching the surface with putting some of them into full practice in my life, but having them as goals in my mind and heart is a start and while I’m far, far, far, far (read: not achievable in this lifetime) from enlightenment. I have had moments of what I like to call mini small enlightenment when I’ve practiced them. When I look at my life experiences and my asana practice through the context of their lessons, I often tell myself that perhaps moments of mini-enlightenment in one lifetime is better than nothing.

Louine Liew
(Weekend warrior /YTT200 – Sep 17)

It’s All Right, Brahmacharya Moves in Mysterious Ways

She was a philosopher living out her dharma in this life as a princess as she continued to practice deep meditation on Atman. But a young prince so moved by the sight of her decided he wanted to marry her. As he would not be dissuaded, she agreed to entertain his request at her home in 10 days. For the 10 days until their meeting, the princess drank of a purgative of croton oil. She collected all the motions that issued from her body in 10 enamel commodes and placed them under coverlets of beautiful silk.

When the prince came to call, the princess was unrecognisable in her death-like pallor and sunken face. She assured him that she was indeed the same woman he had admired before and had, in fact distilled her essential beauty into the 10 receptacles. He wordlessly gazed into the vessels, struck by this offering. Falling at her feet, he renounced the empty show of the world, filled with intense Vairagya. He at once cast off his princely vestments to retire to the forests in search of knowledge.

– Adapted from Practice of Brahmacharya by Sri Swami Sivananada, Section III, 22:6

Like the young prince, we spend a lot of time hunting. Many of us feel an innate desire to dominate other animals great and small, including people – to consume their flesh on one level or another. We give this habit the name of instinct, these actions that make sport of an other’s flesh as a crucible at which we sacrifice the energies of another to feed our own aimlessness.

Instead, consider the animal nature within yourself. Do not let cravings and temptations hollow or detract from your mindfulness. Rising monarchs may become consumed by notions of acquisition (be it of goals or accessories) in service to the ego. More than simply wanting to possess the body of the princess, the prince desired to extend his kingdom of dominion further still. He desired immortality. Foolishly, he sought it outside his own body. In doing so, he denied his own suffering and the eventuality of his own death.

The wise brahmacharini purged not only her physical impurities but her own ego. Her gift to a wandering soul was the reminder that body is no more than pus, lymph, blood and ooze. She was a keeper, but she would not be kept! She became the living embodiment of “mrityor ma amritam gamaya” (read: lead me from death to immortality) with her body entire.

Gratitude can be an appropriate, ego-destroying response to difficult, painful realisations. They humble us and destroy the unsustainable unreality or maya we are given to. Can our essential selves draw others to the bliss of dispassion the way our brahmacharini did? To be a yogi means to live in the ways that conduct us and others on the path of devotion, wisdom and universal love. May we not be subdued by our baser instincts, and instead channel our energies to a greater, more sublime goal.

– Jennifer Lew

Yogi Lifestyle of Aparigraha & Minimalism in times of endless consumerism

For anyone living in the major cities, we are all living under the system of Capitalism, an era of endless consumerism. People chasing over things after things thinking and believing that it will lead them to happiness. Using time and life to exchange for money in-order to exchange for things and material. A time whereby human are being consumed by the very material that they are consuming.

In one of the Yamas in the eight limbs of yoga, there is Aparigraha which had been translated into non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. In my personal opinion, it somehow resonates with the minimalist lifestyle of living. Living with the awareness that what we really need is not many, but the few that really matters.

Mahatma Gandhi has this quote that leaves a deep impact in my heart, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”. Especially in the world of consumerism, human’s greed knows no end, people think they will be happy if they have something, after getting it they think they need another, and on and on. Only till they realised what they really need to jump out of the Rat race of chasing after the “wants”. Many Minimalist understand this very well. Only when we free out ourselves from the wants, we beings to have time and space to do what they truly want. By Identifying what we truly needs & which are our wants and having the discipline to live by the “needs” instead of being the slave of the “wants”. Some of the famous people that had inspired me on this lifestyle are Steve Job, Mark Zuckerberg, taiwan’s comic legand Cai Zhi Zhong and many of the Mystics and Spiritual master who had lived the way.

Once a person start to lives in this way, they will begin to have more time and money to focus on what truly matters to their life.

-Danny Lee

The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.

Many of us started doing yoga as a form of exercise. My friends and I would go for classes that made us perspire the most.

Hatha? Not so

Yin? Never

Vinyasa flow? YES

Ashtanga? YES

We never liked classes that focused on alignments because we merely needed a channel to vent our frustrations during lunch time or after work, not add on to our frustrations. Most of us work in a corporate setting, and particularly for myself, shouting across desks and screaming over the phones were the default means of communications. There would be traders throwing their keyboards around, sometimes smashing into another person’s monitor. It is a common sight – people slamming their phones and headsets (Guilty as charged, I once broke two headsets in a week). Inefficiency is not tolerated. Everything has to be fast, because time is money. One slight delay could mean hundreds of thousands of losses. There is no time to breathe. Such is the energy across the entire floor. Negative, yet somewhat exhilarating.

However, it’s an entirely different world on the yoga mat. There will be someone to remind you to breathe, to inhale and exhale. It has become such a luxury to be able to breathe freely and this is the reason why we keep returning to the mats. Being focused on the asanas has allowed us to take our minds away from all distractions and all negativity. I started to attend classes that moved at a slower pace and surprisingly found inner peace despite struggling to hold certain poses for an extended time. I started to appreciate alignments and understand the benefits of each poses.

Unknowingly, I became calmer and less irritable at work, as pointed out by my colleagues and husband. When asked what happened, my answer is always “yoga”, even though I did not know why at that time. When and how did this peaceful sensation come along? How did the mind decide to calm itself down?

 

 “The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.”

– Sakyong Mipham

 

This is a direct quote from “Running with the Mind of Meditation” by Sakyong Mipham, a Tibetan lama and head of the Shambhala lineage.

This quote really resonates with me. In yoga, our body benefits from the various asanas, and our mind benefits from stillness (quote Patanjali’s “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah” which means “yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind”). In stillness, we start working inwards. We listen to our body and observe our breaths. So, continue practicing yoga on and off the mat, and observe the changes taking place, internally and externally.

Imagine if everyone in the company practices yoga, we would have huge savings in terms of hardware replacement costs! But most importantly, everyone will be happier beings with more positive energies that have a ripple effect.

 

With peace and love,

Stephanie

Asteya

Asteya

The eight limbs of yoga are described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Within the first branch “Yama” is found ‘Asteya’ (a = not, steya = stealing) – one of the five primary rules of social behaviour – not to steal. It is mentioned in many other Indian texts; in the Bhagavad Gita (in the Mahabarata), in the Vedas and in the Upanishads.

I would think the concept of not stealing to be fundamental to all cultures, religions and belief systems and a pretty standard rule throughout households worldwide.

As we raise our children, they are all taught not to steal. They should be honest – to not take anything that does not belong to them. This is the initial understanding – where we all start – we all know stealing to be wrong.

Exploring the concept more deeply: Why would we want to steal? Because we are needing something; whether that need is real, or imagined. At the root of this – we have something lacking; something missing. We think we need to fill this gap extrinsically – from the outside – with ‘things’ or sensations. In our fast-paced modern world we are watching these desires and cravings become increasingly urgent and immediate.

When actually, we need to fill this ‘gap’ ourselves, be fulfilled from within. To find solutions intrinsically, rather than using the temporary ‘fix’. We need to shift our mindsets from scarcity to abundance. This we are trying to overcome with our practice of yoga in all its forms with its 8-limbed approach.

Assuming that we are already not physically stealing goods from one another, we can see that the concept of Asteya is also highly intertwined with some of the other yamas:

Ahimsa (non-violence) – understand that stealing is a violent act.

Satya (truth/honesty) – if you live an honest life, the fear of scarcity falls away.

Aparigraha (non-hoarding) – not mindlessly consuming and coveting possessions.

Do not steal from our beautiful planet – use only what you really need.

I feel that easy practices to incorporate Asteya into our daily activities also involve time. Be punctual – do not steal another’s time. Be quiet – I quote Mahatma Ghandi: “Speak only if it improves on the silence”….

Namaste

Alex

The Escape Room

Most of us are familiar with the Escape Room where we have to solve a series of puzzles to free ourselves from the confined spaces. If you can’t manage to solve some of the puzzles, you are unable to progress to the next challenge. Most of the time, we leave the confined spaces with one or two puzzles left unsolved. Likewise, in our day-to-day life, there are times when we try to avoid or run away from our problems, the issue will stubbornly make its way back to us again.

In chapter 2 of Patanjali’s sutra on “minimising gross coloring that veils the self”, the coloring (Klesha) that struck a chord with me is Dvesha (Avoidance). For me, it all started with “The Three Little Pigs” when I was seven years old. Then, my uncle prepared Christmas presents for my cousins and I, but in return, we had to recite our favourite story at a family Christmas gathering. I chose three little pigs as that was my most favourite fable. Although I recited a number of times and I could story tell even without looking at the book, I still felt butterflies in my stomach as Christmas drew nearer and nearer. The day before Christmas, I was in a nervous wreck, I cried uncontrollably and refused to turn up the next day. I never got my Christmas present and I regretted not turning up when I saw my brother with his lego set.

As I grew older, I thought this issue of public speaking would get better and I would grow to be more confident. It got worse. I was very afraid of presentations, public speaking and turning up for events or meetings late (for the fear of people looking at me). There was a couple of times when my name was called in class to present or explain concepts and I would freeze. I wish I could jump into a trench immediately. My stomach will twist, my heart will skip many many beats, my hands will shake, and my mind would go blank. It’s like taking a roller coaster, when the carriage descends, I open my mouth but always end up with a silent scream in my heart. I end up giving one word responses and my teachers will be shaking their head in dismay. This affected my confidence and it got very unhealthy where I started to get conscious of people looking at me and I would unconsciously protract my shoulders when I walk. In certain instances, when I was reprimanded by the teacher for something which I did not do, I was too afraid to even explain or articulate my thoughts. I always felt trapped and upset for being misunderstood.

Entering Uni helped me to overcome some of these issues. There were more presentations than before and I had to force myself to keep practising in front of the mirror to build my confidence. I would take deep breaths to calm my mind and try to focus on articulating just one thought. I continue to practice this today even at the workplace. I still feel jitters when I have to summarise discussions and present sometimes. This is something I need to work on to overcome. As Master Paalu said, “it’s all in the mind.”. I have chosen to believe what I have created. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy where I was certain that I could not present or do public speaking well. This problem which I have created and ignored has brewed into a disease that clouded my mind.

As I thought and dug deeper into my problem, I realised I was probably afraid of making mistakes in front of people, afraid of criticisms, afraid of how people look at me and most important of all, afraid of feeling these emotions that results from these problems – fear, embarrassment, humiliation and foolishness. Instead of acknowledging these issues, I preferred to take flight and isolate myself. Now that I have come to terms with my problems, I shall be like the third little pig in the fable, with patience and perseverance, build my courage and self-esteem day by day against the strong huff and puff of the big bad wolf (challenges in the future). I shall keep trying, start doing meditation to calm my senses and slowly and gradually, I am sure I will unlock the traps from within and escape from that room in my heart.

Junni (Apr to Jun TTC 200 hrs)

How to be Happy

How to be Happy

Lessons from the Yoga Sutras

 

Happiness (hapɪnəs)

  • noun
  • Definition: The state of being happy.

Happy (hapi)

  • adjective
  • Definition: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

 

What does it mean to be happy? Before you read on, Take some time to think and ask yourself:

“What would make you happy right now?”

That was a trick question. You should be happy as you are right now and any other answer will reveal that there is something in your life that is affecting your emotional state of being “happy”.

Most people will answer that they desire something or desire more. They wish they had a better house, a better car, a better life, nicer clothes or more money. However, once you fulfil those desires, chances are you will have another set of desires or desires of a higher standard as the circumstances and environment would have changed. For example, there will be a new fashion trend and you will desire the new clothes of the season. You may move into a nicer house and neighbourhood but notice everyone is driving beautiful sports cars and you will want a better car to fit in. It will just never be enough.

The thing is, life is complex and the world is ever-changing. If you let your material desires or worldly events affect your happiness, you will never maintain a sustainable state of happiness.

As per the definition, being happy is about is about contentment. The Yoga Sutras (2.42) talks about the concept of “Santosha” which can be literally translated to “complete contentment”. There are different interpretations about this.

Some people see contentment as the lack of Trsna (craving). Some describe it as attaining a state of inner peace.

For me, I like to view contentment as accepting one’s circumstances. There will always be ups and downs in life but regardless of what happens, as long we can find contentment inside ourselves, we can adopt a state of balance or equilibrium with ourselves. That way, we will always be content or happy no matter what happens.

That being said, to be completely content or happy is difficult and achieving that state of equilibrium within ourselves is something that only the we can figure out for ourselves.

The practice of Asanas and Pranayama can help us through learning to control our body and allow us to focus on the mind. Along with meditation, eventually we will be able to understand ourselves and learn to manage our thoughts and inner senses towards contentment and happiness.

This is a journey we all are working towards and along the way, regardless of what happens, just think of the classic Bobby McFerrin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”!

 

Stay happy,

Justin Chew