Vedic traditions and the nervous system

Our body has two main nervous systems :

  • Sympathetic nervous system, controls the “fight or flight” reactions in the body
  • Para Sympathetic nervous system, controls the “rest and digest” reactions in the body

The “fight or flight mode” will withdraw blood and energy from your vital organs, to focus on mobility, sending blood to your legs in case you had to flee a tiger attack, focusing on prefrontal cortex activity to take quick decisions.

But this mode goes against learning, creating, and on the long run exhausts your body, weakens your digestion and immune system as well as your hormonal system.

On the other hand, the “rest and digest” mode is responsible for all the seamless, vital actions in your body such as cleansing, defending your body, digesting food, processing information and learning.

In the modern world, we are often stuck in fight or flight mode throughout the day, which leads us to be weakened, exhausted, drained and over sensitive. To come back to a more sustainable nervous state, there sometimes needs to be deep changes in lifestyle and in our own perception of the world.

However, some “tools” developed in the Vedic science, some simple actions, can help you get back in a few minutes to para sympathetic mode.

  • Pranayama helps get you deeply relaxed
  • Yoga nidra is a fantastic tool and deeply restorative for your nervous system, it strengthens it
  • Yin/ restorative practices with soothing music are great approaches
  • Abyanga (self oil massage) also helps relax your entire body

Whenever you feel tired, irritated, stressed or drained, remember that you need to switch to parasympathetic mode to truly recover and start again. Use those tools. Chances are your anger and un-groundedness will transform into a deep but peaceful fatigue. After resting, you will feel fresh and full of energy again.

Yoga for Scoliosis

Yoga for Scoliosis

Scoliosis refers to the sideways, or lateral, curvature of the spine.  When I was 10, I found out that I had mild lumbar scoliosis, i.e. a slight curvature in my lumbar spine.  As the curvature remained under 5 degrees, I did not have to undergo surgery or any other form of treatment.  The scoliosis does not cause any pain (for now, at least), but it has resulted in some asymmetries in my stance.  So I hope to use yoga to reduce this curvature, or at least prevent it from worsening as I grow older.   

(1) Bend towards convex side of curve

In a class with Master Paalu, I learned how I could modify certain positions to straighten up the curve in my spine.   Generally, I should try to bend towards the convex side of the curve (which is my left side) as much as possible. So in poses like Utkatasana (Chair Pose) or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), I can modify my alignment by twisting towards my left side instead of facing forward.  Similarly, Balasana (Child’s Pose) can be modified by moving my arms toward my left side, keeping the arms shoulder-width apart.

I can also incorporate more twisting asanas in my practice. These may include Ardha Matsyendrāsana (Half lord of the fishes pose),  Bharadvajasana and Marichyasana.  While I should practice these asanas on both sides, I should spend more time twisting to my left side.  It is important to lengthen the spine before twisting into these poses.

Side-bending poses like reverse warrior may also be useful for lengthening the spine.  More time should be spent bending to the convex side of the curve.

(2) Maintain proper posture and place equal weight on legs

Master Sree has constantly emphasised the importance of proper posture, whether we are sitting or standing.  To keep the spine straight and healthy, we should maintain an upright posture and avoid slouching or hunching the spine.  This is particularly important for people with scoliosis, since we have the tendency to slouch to one side.  We need to always remember to place equal weight on both feet and remain aware of any imbalances in our posture.

(3) Strengthen abdominal muscles

If the abdominal muscles are weak, the back muscles overwork and thus tighten. This may cause lordosis or worsen the scoliotic curve in the lower back.  Therefore, it is important to practice asanas that strengthen the abdominal muscles. 

(4) Strengthen musculature on convex side

A study has shown that regular practice of a modified Vasisthasana (side plank) pose with the con­vex side of the lumbar curve down can reduce the scoliotic curve. The modification was to hold the upper ribs about a half-inch higher than in the classic pose.  The researchers hypothesized that the poses may help straighten the spine by strengthening the musculature in the abdomen, spine and lower back on the convex side of the curve.

In essence, regular practice of carefully selected and modified asanas will help to reduce the scoliotic curve.   The key principle is simple: strengthen the muscles on the convex side and lengthen the muscles on the concave side.   While yoga may not bring about instant results like surgery, it is definitely the safer treatment option and is ideal for people with mild scoliosis.

Meditation.Self Journey

For me yoga was always about physical practice. I have never done meditation at home and was skipping that “boring part of yoga” in yoga classes. But after some time, part of me has developed feeling that I maybe missing something. So when I signed up for Tirisula yoga teacher training course, one of my goal was to concentrate on  spiritual part of yoga. And that’s what I have learned so far.

Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga helps to improve and develop physically. But spiritual development is no less important for a person. The goal pursued by meditation is self-knowledge of oneself, achieving clarity of mind, the ability to relax, the desire for complete inner harmony.

In medicine there is a concept such as “chronic fatigue syndrome” – a disease of modern man.By doing meditation, you can learn to concentrate and relax, control your emotions and mind. Meditation helps to strengthen health, get rid of existing diseases, prolongs life.

The best part –  you can do it yourself, in any convenient place. In yoga centers, classes are led by experienced teachers who will help you understand and master the basics of meditation.If there is no time and opportunity to visit specialized centers, you can master meditation yourself. After a hard working day, it’s good to take 15-20 minutes. relaxation in a homely atmosphere.

As in any practice, there are certain rules in meditation. Here are a few points for conducting an independent practice:

  •     Choose a place for relaxation, where nothing will distract from immersion in yourself. Although, it should be noted that neither advanced noise nor extraneous sounds interfere with advanced practices.
  •    Take a comfortable position.
  •   Try to relax as much as possible each muscle of the body, mentally observing relaxation.
  •    Concentrate on breathing. Monitor inhalation and exhalation – the exhalation should be longer.
  •    Try to turn off your mind. Throw all thoughts out of my head. This will help focus on something specific – on breathing, on relaxation.
  •   Try to withstand a certain time. 10 minutes is enough for a start.
  •     To leave meditation smoothly, without rushing, trying to feel new sensations and maintain a state of calmness.

After trying my best and practice it regularly every day for some time , I came to understanding that : Meditation is not as difficult as it may seem. But the benefits of this practice are undeniable. And very good when it becomes a habit.

Yoga and menstruation: should I or shouldn’t?

Is it possible to do yoga with menstruation?What to do if you decide to actively start learning yoga? Does every month have to lose a week of precious time? Not at all. Moreover, yoga during menstruation is not only not harmful, but also beneficial. Of course, subject to some precautions and the right choice of asanas.

There are top poses, which should be avoided while you on your ‘’special days’’

Sarvangasana. Should be  excluded from yoga during menstruation. All inverted poses are equally harmful during this period. They delay bleeding. As a result, excess fluid is not excreted from the body, and can cause the formation of fibromas, cysts, and even malignant tumors. Also prohibited: halasana, shirshasana, adho mukha vrishkasana;

Navasana. During menstruation, you should not  do any asanas engage your core muscle . And this is almost all power poses. So, first of all, exclude exercises on the abdominal muscles and balances on the hands. During such asanas, bleeding and pain may intensify. Also prohibited: bakasana, lolasana, mayurasana;

Kapotasana. Yoga during menstruation should not include strong deflections of the   back. This creates excessive tension in the abdomen. Also prohibited: ardha chakrasana, ushtrasana;

Yoga Nidrasana. During such yoga classes, you should exclude extreme twisting and squeezing the abdomen. Also prohibited: eka pada shirshasana, jathara parivritanasana;

Mula Bandha. Do not do yoga, which will include unnatural bandha and pranayama. For example, excessively intense breathing of a bhastrika or uddiyana bandha can disrupt the natural course of processes in the pelvic organs. Also forbidden: kapalabhati, maha mudra.

Top asanas that are safe during  menstruation

Baddha Konasan .This asana relieves the pain and stress that accompany the days of menstruation. Even if you do not dare to do yoga these days, you can simply practice this pose separately. You can also practice: padmasana, sukhasana;

Ardha Chandrasana. This pose helps control the discharge if it is excessive. Pain in the back is also reduced. It is also possible to practice: utthita hasta padangustahasana, vriksasana;

Dundasana. Yoga offers simple forward stretches to relax the brain and calm the discomfort in the lower abdomen. You can also practice: jana shirshasana, marichiasana;

Shoshankasana. Relaxing postures help with excessive irritability and in the event that heaviness in the chest bothers you. You can also practice: shavanasa, adho mukha sukhasana;

The breath of ujaya. Calm pranayama in a simple pose or shavasana will help to relax the body. Full yogic breathing is safe during your period too.

However, we should keep in mind that there are no two identical women.  Someone waits the onset of new cycle with horror, and someone has almost no symptoms and can continue with the usual daily routine. So as the conclusion, remember to  be sensitive, listen to your body, and it will answer all your questions.

Yoga for Headaches

Yoga is known to have many benefits. To me, a lot of them are long-term benefits which come with consistent practice, for example, stronger muscles, better heart health and improved mental wellbeing. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the immediate effect that yoga has on headaches. 

I tend to get headaches easily. Over the years, I’ve realised that the 3 main causes of headaches for me are:

  1. Dehydration from too much sun exposure (or when it’s too warm outside);
  2. Staring at the computer for too long (eye strain);
  3. Sleeping in an air-conditioned room with wet hair (sign of old age?)

All of them give me tension headaches, which is this feeling of tightness or pressure across your forehead, or on the sides and back of your head. As I try not to take any medication for these headaches, I’ll just endure through the day and hope that a good night’s sleep will make them disappear. 

One day, I went for a yin yoga class despite my throbbing headache because it was too late to cancel the booking. During the class, the teacher told us to take long and deep breaths, and we held each pose for a few minutes. Even though we were on the ground most of the time and it felt like we didn’t do much, by the end of the 1-hour class, my headache had disappeared!

As it turns out, yoga is a powerful natural remedy for headaches because most headaches are tension-related, and doing yoga helps to release tension and stress in the body. The yin yoga class gave me the chance to slow down my mind and focus on my breathing. Every deep and slow inhalation and exhalation increased the amount of oxygenated blood that flowed to my brain, and that helped with the pain and stress. From then on, whenever I have a headache, I’ll go for a yin class and it has worked every time! 

Here are 5 poses which are good for relieving headaches:

  1. Cat pose (Marjaryasana): Relieves tension in the spine, shoulders and neck, and helps to boost circulation in the upper body.
  2. Child’s pose (Balasana): Calms the nervous system and reduces pain.
  3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Increases blood circulation to the brain.
  4. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana): Calms the brain and relieves stress.
  5. Corpse Pose (Savasana): Completely relaxes the body and brings it into a deep state of meditative rest. 

A Clean Stomach Is The Key to Enlightenment

Detoxify! Detoxify! Detoxify!

My Guru, Paramahamsa Nithyananda, says that keeping our stomach clean is the key to establish ourselves in the ultimate understanding again and again.

 

With the divine blessings of My Guru, in December 2018, I have made a decision to change from a regular meat eating diet into a sattvic vegeterian diet and started my journey to build a yogic body through daily yoga, right sattvic diet and occasional detoxification through Nirahara Samyama.

 

The sattvic vegeterian diet has its own challenges. It wasn’t that I miss meat at all….it was more of a problem looking for pure sattvic food while we are eating outside. Little india area in Singapore is probably the only location in Singapore, where Sattvic Vegeterian food is readily available.

 

My new yogic lifestyle of starting my day with cleansing Kriyas, followed by physical Yoga in Brahma  Muhurta hours, together with Haritaki and Sattvic Diet has unlocked tremendous energy sources for me. On average, I sleep around 3 to 5 hours a day. I used to need 8 hours sleep and still felt sleepy, tired and drained out.

 

Dorisq Tan

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Dorisq Tan
Building Yogic Bodies, Vedic Minds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking YTT 200 with an injury

Eight years ago, I injured my left knee. I can’t recall what exactly I was doing but I’m certain it was nothing important or strenuous. I felt a sharp pain every time I landed my foot on the floor of whenever I bent my left knee. It felt like someone was driving a thin metal-cold knife right under the knee bone. But a few months passed and my knee was back to normal.

Two years ago, the same thing happened. On a random day, I bent down from a standing position into a squat to pick up some things on the floor, and the same sharp pain came back. I couldn’t bend my knee without feeling the invisible thin knife slicing through the joint. And this time, my entire knee began to swell. Climbing a flight of stairs was a struggle. Lifting heavy luggage was a struggle.

By this second bout of injury, I was already active in my Yoga practice. But the injury made it excruciating to do simple poses like chair pose. And after every practice, my knee would swell and I had to take a few days rest so it could partially (no fully) recover.

Unlike the first time, the pain had no plans of leaving me. Three, four months had passed and the trauma on my left knee remained. My movements had severely been limited.

When I attended Yoga classes, I couldn’t perform any asana that involved kneeling or the lotus position. Doing cat and cow and then moving into a low lunge was a NIGHTMARE.

My knee was stiff but its insides felt so tender. Whenever I pushed my knee beyond its limit, at the end of the class I always got the feeling that my lower leg was about to fall off – like when you lift the drumstick off a whole roasted chicken, and the cartilage and skin begin to tear. All you need is to pull it towards you and the chicken leg comes right off.

And my Yoga teachers gave different pieces of advice like strengthen my thigh and avoid placing weight on my left leg. They also suggested Pilates to help strengthen my leg.

But, rather than strengthening my left leg, I developed uneven legs. I could barely stand on my left leg without support or without the pain searing through. So, I would place most of my weight on my right leg to compensate — my right leg basically became more macho than my left leg.

When I visited the rheumatologist, he said I had early onset osteoarthritis. Because of two prior injuries, my knee has decided to have an accelerated “wear and tear.” He also told me there was nothing I could do about it other than to ensure I didn’t add to the progression. I wasn’t supposed to do any running, jumping and mountain climbing.

I was only 29 then and I had an old person knee problem. I was horrified. And one of my biggest fears in that moment was that my knee condition would require me to take a step back from doing Yoga.

But instead of slowing down, I decided this was a push towards the right direction. I took the diagnosis as a sign that I needed to find a place and time where someone would teach me, specifically and properly, how I could continue with my Yoga practice without my knee holding me back. I wanted to find a way to excel in my practice despite having a chronically injured body part.

That was when I decided to take the Yoga Teacher Training 200 course.

I had apprehensions; I was afraid my knee would act up and I would have to give up the course half way. Giving up the course was not a practical option for me since I was flying all the way from Philippines.

But lo and behold, our batch is in our last week of training and I am still in one piece. My left leg has gained strength over three weeks, which was possible because of three key aspects in the training:

  • Daily asanas that were heavy on technique (which were really challenging on certain days but beneficial every step of the way)
  • Knowledge of the muscular and joint system (I understood which thigh muscles to pull so that I could relieve the left knee of stress, pain and overextension)
  • Awareness of the fact that Yoga can really be used for therapy.

An injury will come in different shapes and forms. It might be inevitable, especially as our physical bodies get older. But it should not stop you. Instead, it should inspire you to want to get better. An injury does not mean you have to stop Yoga; rather, it means you need to take a new approach to your practice. It might also mean the current way you treat your body is not proper or optimal, and that you need to seriously make a change; and giving more attention and taking on an educated approach to your Yoga practice is a great way to start.

4/4

Yoga and Diabetes

(Therapeutic Role of Yoga in Type 2 Diabetes. A V Raveendran et al. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018 Sep; 33(3): 307–317. )

 

Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that is becoming increasingly common. It is characterised by insulin resistance with relative or absolute insulin deficiency. This can result in devastating vascular complications such as kidney damage, heart attack, stroke and blindness.

 

The prevalence of diabetes is increasing in Singapore. The National Health Survey conducted in 2010 revealed that 11.3% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 year of age had T2D and 14.4% had pre-diabetes (impaired glucose tolerance). Faced with these alarming statistics, the Ministry of Health declared a “War on Diabetes” in 2016.

 

I chanced upon an interesting article that very gracefully weaves the role of Yoga in the management of diabetes.

 

Dietary management of diabetes with Yoga

  • The regulation of eating patterns, the practice of mindful eating of clean and pure food, and the advocation of greater awareness are beneficial not only in improving dietary practices but also adherence to medication.
  • Meditation and heightened mindfulness may help curb binge-eating patterns.

 

Beneficial effects of Yoga practices

These have been postulated to have beneficial effects through various mechanisms.

  • Stimulates insulin production through brain signalling
  • Massages the pancreas, stimulating insulin secretion
  • Boost metabolic rate, promote weight loss, reduce sugar levels, reduce body fat
  • Improves digestion and stimulates peristalsis
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Improves cardiorespiratory endurance
  • Enhances insulin receptor expression in muscles, causing increased glucose uptake
  • Positive effects on glucose utilisation and fat redistribution
  • Soothing and calming effect on the mind, improves mental and physical health
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Better sleep

 

Go ahead and read the full article for further details.

Remember to share your practice with someone you know who is battling with Diabetes!

My postpartum yoga

Early this year, the best thing which can ever occur to anyone happened to me, I became mother of a wonderful child. I loved him since the moment I knew he was here in my tummy and all the more as the time goes.

Having a child has an incredible impact on your mind, on your soul, you see things differently, you feel things with new eyes.. You simply mature suddenly and enjoy the world thru this little thing that you call “my son”. But sadly, your body may disagree, this is a very exhausting moment where you whole limbs are under great stressed. During pregnancy, your activities are slowly reducing, then your womb starts to make place by pushing your abs away and finally when the moment has arrived it becomes an even greater deal.

The impacts on the body are obvious, and I would say the most difficult part is to accept it; my body is not the same as before, I can’t do what I used to do, those amazing pose that people do which I used to do. But the good news is: nothing is preventing you from getting it back! 2 key words: Patience and dedication.

 slowly started doing yoga again after giving birth, practicing at my own pace to reconnect little by little with my body. With time passing on, I dedicated myself on learning, not only asana but as well the philosophy going together.

My body slowly regained its former self, without ever pushing too hard I was feeling better and better. Yoga helped me to listen to my body and it gave it to me back.

For mama who got a green pass from your doctor I would like to recommend you some yoga poses you can practice at home while your little one is napping (even 20 min you can do it!)

NAVASANA (modified)

It’s important to take it slow. Most women have large separation between the abdominals after birth — I had a width of two fingers between my abs.

Sit with your knees bent, toes on the mat just beyond your butt. With a flat, straight back, pull in the abs to support the lower back. Take your fingers to your knee and balance on your Sit bones, taking most of the weight out of your toes.After a few weeks like this, play with releasing your hands from behind your knees and reach them out straight in front of you.You can also try to have fun with your baby by placing the baby between your legs hold his hand and raise your legs slowly up and down

Ustrasana ( Camel pose)

Be sure you’re ready for this and take it slowly before you drop back into Full Camel, just to make sure your abdominals and spine are ready for it. Perhaps first work into Camel with your hands resting and supporting your lower back.  Simply arch the back and open your heart to the sky.As your strength and flexibility increases, begin to play with reaching for your ankles. Again, take it slow as you don’t want to overstretch.

Rabbit pose

One of my all time favorite poses, and the inverse of Camel, Rabbit Pose stimulates and articulates the vertebrae. It stretches through the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine, and stimulates the internal organs and thyroid gland thanks to the tight chin tuck.Hold for five beautiful, nourishing breaths.

Bridge pose

Anxiety is very common after birth. Your mind can run a million miles a minute calculating every possible thing that could ‘go wrong’ or happen to your little one. (A bit of anxiety is normal, but if ever starts to get in the way of your daily life, talk with your doctor.Bridge is a fantastic antidote to anxiety.It calms the mind, helps with headaches, and alleviates stress and mild depression.

 

 

The king of asanas

The Headstand often called the ‘king of asanas’. What has earned it that title is because to master it requires focus to your balance and alignment that heightens your sensitivity and stability and the strength and the willingness to literally turn yourself upside down. It’s a pose that requires courage and it’s only once you muster that courage, can you reap in the numerous benefits.

Here are some of them:

It’s the elixir of youth
Going Into a headstand and letting your skin hang in the opposite direction can provide an instant ‘facelift’. The inversion also flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, creating a glowing effect on the skin.

It resets and improve blood flow
When you’re doing an inversion, oxygenated blood flows the other way. It can flow straight to the brain improving focus and mental clarity or to the eyes, improving eyesight. It also increases blood flow to the scalp, which in turn improves nutrient delivery to your hair.

It relieves stress
Combined with slow, long breaths, it’s great for when you’re having anxiety, stress or fear. It also works on your adrenal glands which are responsible for the release cortisol or adrenaline- stress hormones.

It’s great for hormone balance
Aside from relieving stress, the headstand stimulates and provides oxygenated blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands which are considered the master glands that regulate all other glands in the body (thyroid, pineal, and adrenals).

It’s great for strengthening shoulders, arms and abs
The headstand uses a lot of muscles to firstly get you up then keep you up. Strengthening these muscles are also great for improving upper body strength and muscular endurance.

It improves digestion
When the effects of gravity are reversed, it helps relieve trapped gases, improve bloodflow and remove waste from the digestive system.

 

“The best way to overcome fear is to face with equanimity the situation of which one is afraid,”

B.K.S. Iyengar says in his section on Sirsasana in Light on Yoga