Beating Stress with Yoga

Stress is everywhere. Stress is part and parcel of our daily life. But what is stress?
Webster define stress as mental or physical tension or strain. Pressure, urgency causing one to feel exhausted, depressed, tense or disappointed.

Everyone knows stress in the negative aspect, however, there are 2 type of stress. The good and the bad. Eustress and Distress. Eustress is beneficial stress or “good stress”, a positive form with a positive effect on us in terms of strength, growth, motivation and emotional well-being. Distress on the other hand has a negative effect on us involving overload, weakness and vulnerability. And the commonly talked about one on a daily basis.

Stress isn’t something we can avoid. Prolonged stress can take its toll on our physical body; emotionally straining and mentally disturbed. To beat stress Awareness is 90% of the solution.

Yoga has been gaining popularity over the years. To some people, Yoga is just a physical practice. Following the latest trend to keep fit. But this is not the truth.

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines asana (yoga)poses, pranayama (controlled breathing), and meditation or relaxation. It’s not just about sweating out to lose weight or exercising to keep fit. Yoga has shown to have a calming effect. It works to relieve tension and reduce stress both physically and mentally.

Asana such as Trikonsana (extended triangle pose), Balasana (child’s pose) and Savasana (corpse pose) are some yoga poses for stress relief. These poses helps to calm the mind and eases stress. Extended triangle pose is an excellent stress relieving pose and it stretches the full body and improve digestive system. Restorative and Yin yoga are also great styles for practicing the art of letting go of your stress.

Pranayama (Breathing) deeply and more effectively are another way to relieve stress. Pranayama techniques, particularly Brahmari (humming bee breath) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril) are simple technique and instant option to de-stress. And it can be practised anywhere – at home or at work. The Brahmari resembles the typical humming sound of the bee. The humming sound vibration calms and soothes the nerves around the brain and forehead, thus having a natural calming effect. Nadi Shodhana in sankrit means channel or flow purification. This technique primarily aimed at purifying the mind and body. It calms and rejuvenate the nervous system, reduces stress, anxiety and fosters mental clarity.

Meditation is an incredible tool for relaxing and slowing down our mind. It helps to maintain the balance and connect our mind and body creating a greater sense of harmony and peace.

With proper and disciplined practice of Yoga, we can all manage our stress. By acknowledging stress and being aware of it is the first step to take before stress starts creeping into your life.

 

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

Alcohol Use Disorder & Yoga

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is not just a disorder but many consider it as a societal problem, both in terms of its behaviourally impairing effects on the drinker and the serious health problems that occur due to long term excessive use. The varied behavioural and cognitive functions that are impaired due to excessive alcohol usage can lead to immediate adverse consequences such as risky sexual and aggressive behaviour, driving under influence of alcohol and the physical after effect (Marczinski, Grant, & Grant, 2009).

In Singapore, alcohol abuse emerged as second out of the top three most common disorders affecting one in every 32 individuals (Institute Of Mental Health, 2011). Men were found to abuse alcohol more than women with a ratio of 4:1 (Institute Of Mental Health, 2011).

Yoga therapies as complementary therapies have been gaining traction and popularity in the treatment of addiction. The philosophy of yoga focuses on the ways in which yogic breathing, postures, meditation and concentration can decrease the vulnerability to addiction (Khanna & Greeson, 2013).

A pilot study conducted in Sweden (Hallgren, Romberg , Bakshi, & Andréasson , 2014) has found that yoga is a practical and well accepted add on treatment for alcohol dependence. Alcohol consumption was reduced from 6.32 to 3.36 drinks per day in the yoga group. Participants indicated that with yoga therapy, their urge to drink has reduced and some described having improvement in sleep.

Yoga therapy has been proven in many studies to be beneficial not only to alcohol use disorder but many other addictions and mental illness such as anxiety and depression. With regular yoga practice and meditation, yoga helps to improve your daily life and mental state of mind.

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

 

Reference:

Marczinski, C., Grant, E., & Grant, V. (2009). Binge Drinking in Adolescents and College Students. Hauppauge NY: Nova Science.

Institute Of Mental Health. (2011, November 18). Singapore Mental Health Survey Press Release. Latest study sheds light on the state of mental health in Singapore. Retrieved from Institute Of Mental Health Web Site: https://www.imh.com.sg/uploadedFiles/Newsroom/News_Releases/SMHS%20news%20release.pdf

Khanna, S., & Greeson, J. (2013, Jun). A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction. Complement Ther Med., 21(3):244-52. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.008

Hallgren, M., Romberg , K., Bakshi, A., & Andréasson , S. (2014, Jun). Yoga as an adjunct treatment for alcohol dependence: A pilot study. Complement Ther Med, 22(3):441-5. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2014.03.003

My yogic way of being free from anger

Do you have days when you feel there’s so much frustration and anger bubbling inside you that you lash out at anything that moves—our spouse, our kids, our BFFs, the dog—for behavior that normally wouldn’t bug us.

We are all human beings and with the constant stressful life around us, we will all have moments of letting our anger got over the top and said or do things that we regret.

First before we start on the yogic ways to control anger, let’s see how our body stores our emotions.  You may or may not feel the emotions as they may accumulate in our body feeding our energy until we are exhausted and drained. Therefore scanning your body and identify the suppressed emotions associated with it is important for us to maintain our mental wellness.

Our Body

We open our hearts in backbends, and surrender through forward folds while loosening the hamstrings, which are connected to our ability to let go (or not). The hips hold on to sadness, and the liver to anger. Stress and tension takes to shoulder and stiff neck.  Are there days when you felt these places in our body are so heavy, tight or stiff that you felt so drain and exhausted? We hold on to feelings, replaying circumstances in our minds, holding onto grudges, anger, and resentment. Even if we believe we’ve forgiven on an intellectual level, what does the body say? Have we really let go?

There are a few ways which you can identify store/building up of emotions before it builds up:

1) Meditation – Pratayaha

Pratayaha, the 5th limbs of yoga which teaches us to withdraw our senses. This withdrawal of senses is for turning our awareness inwards and start to mentally scan our body; examine the sensations that show up in our body when you are upset, when you are angry, when you are stressed. By identify our stored emotions; one can combine the practice of rest of the yoga limbs (Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Panayama and Dharana) to help us release, control or balance our mental wellness.

2) Asanas

Did you know there are specific yoga poses to release emotions like anger, sadness, and even worry? We practice pratayaha to explore and scan where specific emotion accumulates and uses Asanas practice to clear or relieve them out. Targeting specific areas can help clear stubborn blocks, identify your chakra system and support your ongoing quest for emotional freedom. 

Backbends: Griefs (Heart chakra related to love)

When we grieve, our hearts hurt. We lost something we loved. Practicing backbends postures help us open our hearts, release our emotions. When our hearts are open, we’re able to ride the flow of life.

Twists: Anger (Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura chakra)

Anger’s connection to the liver is also found in both Chinese medicine and yoga. The liver cleans the blood and stores energy. In yoga, the liver is related to the third chakra, in the belly. This is the seat of will and power. 

 

Hip-Openers: Sadness, Stress (Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana)

The hips hold a variety of emotions, from stress to sadness to trauma.  It is related to the Sacral Chakra – Svadhisthana, which is the energy center related to emotions. 

So next time when you feel trapped, sad or tired, remember to scan and meditate first. Try this, I walked away feeling lighter, relieved and free, the emotional release we feel keeps many of us coming back for more. 

 

Louine Liew

Weekend warrior (YTT200 – Sep17)

Sound Therapy

I first came across sound therapy from singing bowl, tingsha and gong with yoga when I researched around about restorative yoga for our themed class teaching. Restorative yoga includes breathing exercises, meditation, and not only from relaxing music but may also include receiving om to calm our mind.

Sound healing from singing bowl, tingsha and gong is a vibration medicine, it can help reduce stress, alleviate pain, remove negative energy, decrease inflammation, improve sleep, increase concentration, and create an overall sense of well-being.

I started going around to find the instruments. There are many shops around the temple in Bugis sell tingsha and both Tibetan and crystal singing bowl. I eventually bought a pair of tingsha and a Tibetan machine made singing bowl with E note from a shop named The Singing Bowl Gallery in Tanjong Pagar.

Different sizes of bowls and tingsha give different tones, even the same sizes can also produce different tones. Personally, I find that machine made bowls may be easier for beginners who want to pick up how to play singing bowl because it has smoother surface for turning. Handmade bowls may produce noise when the vibration frequency is getting higher that create vibration gap between the bowl and the stick when you turn, which will disturb your meditation. If a handmade bowl is preferred, a wooden stick wrapped with thin layer of leather can be used to help reducing the noise coming from the gap.

Let’s relax, restore, and reconnect 🙂 xoxo

 

Shu (aka Sharon Chong)
200hrs YTT, Sept 2017 (Weekend)
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Bandhas

      Bandha means “lock”. It serve a more practical purpose. They’re concentrations , or “body locks” that can help correct your posture .

      There are three major bandha : mula bandha , uddiyana bandha,and jalandhara bandha. 

 

           Mula bandha;  refers to the triggering of the perineum muscle that is located between the genitals and the anus . Mula means “Root” therefore mula bandha translates as “Root lock”. When this bandha is engaged,you will fell a slight pull on the side of the thighs, similar to what you feel when trying to stop the follow of urine. 

Uddiyana bandha means “Flying”  To engage this bandha ,place three fingers below the belly button and pull your lower abdominal muscles slightly in and up. This will cause your pelvis to tilt forward slightly with an upward action , protecting the lower back and strengthening the lower abdominals.

 

        Jalandara bandha is a chin lock. To practice this lock, bring the chin toward the clavicle bone while keeping your spine upright and moving your shoulder blades down the back . This bandha is realy used, but can be found when engaged in Dandasana.
Zhang Yimeng 200hr Yoga TTC Sept 2017

Yoga Nidra: Instructions

Suggested background music: All 9 Solfeggio Frequencies

 

Begin by making yourself as comfortable as possible by lying on your back.

Position your body in Shavasanah.

Hips and shoulder in alignment.

Palms facing up,

Extend your legs, feet relaxed.

Feel your head centred and in line with your spine.

Feel yourself resting completely.

Stay still. Stay mindful.

Now, begin to open yourself up to this deep relaxation.

Breathing in, breathing out,

Repeat to yourself silently: “I am relaxed. I am calm”, “I am relaxed. I am calm”, “I am relaxed. I am calm”.

 

Allow yourself to become aware of the room around.

Notice the temperature in the room, any sounds you hear, any smell.

Become aware of yourself, 

Your physical presence, your body

Feel the support of the ground, feel yourself being supported by Mother Earth.

Repeat to yourself silently: “I am supported, loved and secure”, I am supported, loved and secure”, I am supported, loved and secure”.

 

Bring your awareness back to your body on the ground.

Become aware of any sensations in your body.

Bring your awareness to the soles of your feet.

Right big toe, Left big toe. All your toes.

Left – Ankle. Shin. Calf. Knee. Thigh. Hip.

Right – Ankle. Shin. Calf. Knee. Thigh. Hip.

Both Legs.

Bring your awareness to your torso. Front of your torso. Back of your torso.

Feel the sensation at your sacrum, abdomen, up your spine. 

Sense your pelvis, ribcage, chest, shoulders. 

Feel your upper arms, elbows, lower arms, palms, fingers.

Bring your awareness to your neck, throat, jaw, mouth, nose, ears, eyes, forehead, skull, your scalp.

 

Feel your entire body as a bright radiant field of sensations.

Breathe.

Feel enlivened by every inhalation and exhalation.

Feel every breathe as energy.

 

Begin to visualise a golden spherical ball of energy at your heart centre.

When every inhalation and exhalation, 

feel this golden spherical ball becoming brighter and brighter, 

expanding outwards to encompass you.

 

Count: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…

 

Now visualise a clear blue sky above you.

 

Bringing both feet together, raise your arms over your head.

Give yourself a long stretch.

Bending your knees to the right, keeping your eyes closed.

Breathe.

And when you are ready push yourself up into sitting. 

 

Still in sitting, eyes closed,

We will seal this practice by chanting – OM.

Namaste.

 

 

Yu Ting Ong (YTT 200hr, August 2017)

Yoga for De-Stress:

Breathing(Pranayama):

In the practice of yoga, you will begin to better understand your breath and how it impacts your body, mind and spirit. We’ve all heard the phrase “cleansing breath,” but what does that mean? A cleansing breath is a deep breath that moves into the belly.

As we move our breath into the diaphragm and belly, we begin to experience all of the physical benefits of deep breath, as well as the emotional calming that occurs when we breathe deeply. If we are thinking about each inhale and exhale as we move through our practice, our mind quiets and we aren’t thinking about the things that are stressful.

Most Useful Breathing techniques:

  • Nadi Shodhana
  • Ujjai Breathing
  • Kapalbhaati

Stretching Yogasana :

Stretching is another immense benefit of yoga. As we move through the yoga postures, we stimulate our glands, organs, and brain. This will help bring the body back into balance in a natural way. When we stretch in yoga, we also listen to our bodies. If you feel tight or find yourself uncomfortable in a certain posture, it might be the place where you carry stress.

Some of the stretches that we incorporate in our practice may trigger a “fight or flight” response. Keeping the awareness on our breath allows us to work through those feelings and find the benefits of the stretch.

Yogasanas:

  • Ardha Chakrasana
  • Veerbhadrasana 1,2
  • Trikonasana
  • Prasarita Padottanasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Janu Shirshasana
  • Upvishtha Konasana

Balancing Yogasana :

Many yoga poses focus on balance. If we achieve balance in our practice, we might be able to take that balance into other parts of our lives. Balance is something that can’t be forced. Patience, breath, and practice are the biggest allies when practicing balancing poses.

Yogasanas:

  • Tree Pose
  • Tadasana
  • Natarajasana
  • Veerbhadrasana 3
  • Ardha Badha Padmottanasana
  • Uthita Hasta Padangushthasana

Sunita,

200Hr YTTC August 2017

Between Rock and a Deep Mudra

Who wore it better? Ekajata or Eckhart Tolle? Bhutadamara Vajrapani or Beyonce? In our world, mudras have jumped the shark from religious statuary to making the list of conspiracy theorists’ favourite evidence that [insert celebrity] is BFFs with the forces of evil.

Eastern and western beliefs collide right in the middle over \m/ – or do they? The sign of the horns appears similar to Karana Mudra, a common mudra in Buddhist and Hindu meditation, yoga and devotional practice. It also draws some formal similarity to the signs of the Corna (Italy) and the Zafu (Dominican Republic), both of which are intended to ward off evil.

Frankly, it’s quite refreshing to think that the superstitious grandmotherly impulse behind expelling bad juju is in many a heavy metal moment. ‘The Gesture Warding off/Ban of Evil’ protects the one performing the gesture from negativity and demons. Not its critics though, sadly. It’s strange how the literal meaning of Karana, which is simply ‘doing’ is said to soothe thoughts and feelings of anxiety and depression.

How to do Karana Mudra:
1. Stretch out the hand with the palm turned forward.
2. Press the thumb down over the middle and the ring fingers
3. Extend the index and the little fingers away from the palm.
4. Verify similarity to yak horns. Headbang without neighbours seeing. JK!*

On a more serious note, you may ask: what gives mudras their power? Many are based on subtle body principles that can be accessed by anyone during acupuncture/reflexology or even involuntarily. Case in point: we place our hands and bodies in certain ways every day that affect how we feel physically and psychically long after we have stopped holding that pose.

If you look more closely (either inwardly or to observe your own behaviour), you may realise that mudras run through our day-to-day gestures: where we glance involuntarily when we remember, anticipate or imagine something, or the unique cultural-inflections we transmit as we gesticulate while talking. Yes, mudras are all around us (and you do feel them in your fingers and your toes).

Just remember: no one will ever be more qualified to observe your body than you are, if you are so inclined. Personally? If anyone asks me, I’m all for it.

– Jennifer Lew

*Please excuse writer’s complete lack of respect for yaks and their contribution to our societies.

Beat the bloat

 

My Dad underwent a surgery last year to remove part of his large intestine and from time to time now he still experiences pain and bloat. To help relief some of his abdominal pain and stress, I compiled a list of simple yoga poses for him to practice daily. He’s in his 60s, somewhat physically fit with the exception of occasional knee pain, hence I’ve provided mostly simpler variations so as not to add to his stress level!

Most of these poses help to stimulate and massage the abdominal organs, release gas and reduce bloating and constipation. Here are some of the poses that are accessible to anyone of any age.

Apanasana (wind-releasing pose)

Benefits: Relieves bloating and gas pains

How to: Lie down, relax and inhale, placing your hands on your knees. Exhale, and hug your knees to your chest. Rock gently from side to side to maximize the stretch. Stay for 10 breaths, and release your knees. Repeat this 4 times.

Modification: To vary the stretch, you can do one side at a time. Leaving your left leg extended forward, bring up your right knee and hold it for five or more breaths. Then, switch to the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Supta Jaṭhara Parivartanasana

 

supta = supine

jaṭhara = stomach

parivartana = revolving

asana = posture

Benefits: Stretches the back
muscles and spine. Stimulates the kidneys, abdominal organs, urinary bladders and intestines. Releases stress.

How to: Lie down on your back with arms stretched out to the sides. Inhale and bend both knees. Exhale, drop both knees to the right. Keep shoulders squared and rooted to the ground. Use a block to support the knees if required. Stay for 10 breaths. Inhale, bring both knees back to centre and repeat the other side. For a deeper twist, you can also do this pose with eagle legs.

Modification: You can also do this twist one leg at a time. Leaving the left leg extended forward on the ground, bend the right knee and hug close to chest. Exhale, drop right knee to the left and use left hand to gently apply pressure on right knee. Keeping both shoulders squared and rooted to the floor, stretch right arm out to the right and turn your head to the right. Stay for 10 breaths. Inhale, return hands and knees to center. Repeat on the other side.

 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported)

I have selected this supported variation (medium height using the block) that would be most comfortable for my Dad.

Benefits: Increases blood circulation. Stimulates the lungs, thyroid glands, and abdominal organs. Improves digestion

How to do it: Lie on the floor and bend both knees. Keep your arms beside your body and your feet flat on the floor. Lift hips up and place a block under your sacrum for the supported version.

Modification: Use different sides of the block to vary the height, or completely remove the block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One-legged seated spinal twist

Benefits: Stimulates digestive organs

How to do it: Sit with your legs extended forward. Bend your right knee and place your heel close to your body. Reach your right arm behind you and place your palm on the floor. Inhale, raise your left arm up. Exhale twist to the right, placing your left triceps outside of your right thigh. Stay for 10 breaths, lengthening the spine each time you inhale and deepening the twist each time you exhale. Release the twist and repeat on the other side.

Modification: Sit on a block and repeat above steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balasana

Benefits: Helps alleviate stress and anxiety. Releases tensions in the back, shoulders and chest. Flexes the body’s internal organs and keeps them supple. Normalises circulation throughout the body.

How to do it: From a kneeling position, sit on your heels with your knees mat-width apart. Lean forward, stretching your arms in front of you. Then, keeping your back straight, place your forehead on the floor.

Modification: To make it easier to hold the pose, rest your head on a block or a pillow. For those who have difficulty sitting down on your heels, you can also roll a thick towel and place it at the back of your knees for support.

 

 

 

 

 

With peace and love,

Stephanie