How can yoga help with menopause?

Symptoms of menopause vary significantly in duration and severity from one woman to the other. They are generally linked to declining levels of estrogen and other hormones. It takes time for the body to adjust to those changes. And during this transition, symptoms can be quite debilitating both physically and emotionally. They commonly include hot flashes and night sweats, irritability and mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, bloating, palpitations, reduced libido and vaginal dryness, joint aches and pains (joint, back, neck), problems with memory and concentration, reduced muscle mass and increased risk of osteoporosis.

Hormone replacement therapy is now widely used. But it has been linked to an increased risk for certain health conditions (cardiovascular risks, breast/lung/colon cancer, urinary incontinence…) and comes with side effects. Therefore, health practitioners and patients alike have been looking for healthier and natural alternatives to support this transition. Those include lifestyle changes, diet, exercise… and of course yoga! Research has shown that specific regular yoga practice is bringing significant relief to several menopausal symptoms.

 

How can yoga relief menopausal symptoms?

  • Yoga helps building mental resilience

Regular yoga practice helps to quiet the mind and body. It has been associated with an increased tolerance for pain over time and may help reduce the discomfort. Yoga, and specifically pranayama, have also been shown to relieve stress and quiet the mind. Hence, insomnia can be improved, overall mood is more balanced leading to less irritability and mental calm can help going through menopausal aches and pains. Finally, mental focus required for yoga practice and meditation exercises can improve memory and concentration issues.

  • Yoga supports a strong physical body and the flow of energy

Yoga has been associated with good joint health and joint pain relief. It helps strengthening joints and increasing flexibility. Yoga practice is also energizing and can help with menopausal fatigue. Finally, it will help counteract reduced muscle mass commonly observed with menopause.

  • Yoga helps regulating body functions

Blood pressure may increase after menopause and a consistent yoga practice has been linked with reduced blood pressure and better blood circulation and oxygenation. Yoga is also linked with better weight management which can assist in menopausal weight changes due to hormonal imbalance. Similarly, it can help with hot flashes.

 

Which specific yoga practices are recommended for menopause?

Regular practice of specific asanas, pranayama and dyana have been shown to be all beneficial to relief menopausal symptoms.

Specific Asanas

While asanas may not directly influence estrogen production, specific postures can help control unpleasant symptoms. Restorative postures, in particular, can help relax the nervous system and may improve the functioning of the endocrine system.

Hot Flashes

This is the most common symptom of menopause which is characterized by sudden increase in body temperature and pulse rate. And stress or any tension in the body can make it worse. Hence, recommended poses should be cooling and restorative poses. Supported reclining poses are interesting such as Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle), Supta Virasana (reclining hero) and Supta Padmasana (reclined lotus) which will soften and release any tightness in the chest and belly. Ardha Halasana (half plow) with supported legs and Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee) with the head supported, can also help to calm nerves.

We should use props, blocks, or any other support that will help to relax. Supported postures can help relief from anxiety and irritability, without heating or stressing the body. It is important to note that unsupported inversions, strenuous poses, and backbends can sometimes make hot flashes worse.

Anxiety, Irritability, and Insomnia

Hormonal imbalance imposes continual stress to the sympathetic autonomous nervous system and the adrenal glands which exhaust themselves. Forward bends, such as Uttanasana (standing forward bend) Padangusthasana / Pada Hastasana and Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged standing forward bend) are helpful to relax those by calming the mind. For insomnia specifically, inversions then followed by restorative postures can help such as Salamba Sirsasana (supported headstand), Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulderstand).

Fatigue

Also, a very common symptom, it is likely due to low levels of progesterone and/or exhausted adrenal glands. Gentle supported backbends can help to reenergize: Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle), again, is recommended. Standing poses like Virabhadrasana I and II (warrior I and II) help feeling strong and combat the fatigue.

Depression and Mood Swings

Regular yoga practice is associated with better regulation and control of your thoughts and attitude. It helps to feel strong, healthy and grounded. Backbends, especially if supported, are recommended bringing a sense of lightness into the body and opening heart and lungs such as Ustrasana (camel) and Chakrasana (wheel). Furthermore, chest opening poses energize the body by improving breathing and circulation such as also Dhanurasana (bow), Bhujangasana (cobra). The same inversions as above, can also help to improve mood. All those positively affects the mind.

Memory and concentration

The same postures that counter depression, such as backbends, chest openers, and inversions, can help increasing cognitive abilities. Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) and Ardha Pincha Mayurasana (dolphin) can also improve mental alertness. And Savasana soothes the nerves and can help with better concentration after.

Pranayama

Regular practice of pranayama has also been shown to be beneficial in treating a wide range of stress disorders. It develops a steady mind and strong willpower. It slows down mental chatter and infuses positive thinking. Practice can help, in particular, with menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression and mood swings.

Some cooling pranayama such as sitali and sitkari pranayama can be very interesting in menopause. Both are activating the parasympathetic autonomous nervous system, relaxing the body whilst also cooling it down. It is important to note that in the case of hot flashes, other more regular pranayama such as Ujjayi or Kapala Bhati are not recommended as they are also heating up the body.

Dhyana

Meditation or dhyana is known to help still the mind and regulate the nervous system. It will similarly help for all stress related and mental imbalance of menopause, with no contraindication. It has been also found to be associated with increased melatonin level leading to improved sleep quality, particularly if done in the evening before sleep.

As a conclusion, we need to highlight that every woman is different and will experience different symptoms. Those will also evolve over time and may not be the same from one day to the other. So, it comes down to each of us to experience and adapt practice accordingly to smoothly ride through this life transition!

8 tips to convince your boyfriend to do yoga

He still doesn’t understand why yoga is such a thing. He doesn’t support your passion and thinks that yoga is only for ladies.

Well, here are some tips to convince your (gentle)man to get onto the (gentle)mat.

1/ Yoga makes you happy (and will make him happy too).

Yoga clears your mind and releases endorphins. Yoga gets your body tuned up, inside out. And simply because he loves you, you shouldn’t actually work so hard to convince him.

2/ With Yoga pants.

Not only you in your pants, but seriously, is there anything more comfortable than a pair of yoga pants? He should try a pair!

3/Show him the Boys of Yoga

Normal and cool guys like him who decided to start yoga. Tell him your yoga teacher is one of them. He will come to the class.

4/ To spend more time with you.

Warrior 1 – If he brings you to watch a movie to hold your hands and avoid a real conversation, tell him that he can probably get the same in a yoga studio, with some benefits.
Warrior 2 – Give him a simple private lesson. Ask your loved one to sit and breathe with you for a few minutes. There’s probably a good chance he won’t say no. Yoga feels even better together and he will experience it himself.

5/To spend more time solo.

With a studio at pretty much every street corner, he can make some new friends for sure. However, yoga is an individual practice and a moment to reflect and observe. What better place in the entire world than a child pose?

6/To get the famous beach body… faster!

They spend lots of time in the gym but complain about the low and slow results? Well, yoga accelerates weight-loss and body toning, increases flexibility and strengthens muscles. One hour of Bikram yoga can burn 500 calories. 500 calories, that’s like a chicken porridge and a char kway teow together.

7/To stress less.

It has been proven that 12 weeks of yoga significantly reduces anxiety.

8/For better sex.

According to a study published online in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (Nov. 12, 2009), regular yoga practice improves several aspects of sexual function in women, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and overall satisfaction. Should work also for him, isn’t it?

If after all these fantastic reasons he’s still reluctant to practice yoga, it is probably better he doesn’t join you. You’ll have your little secret garden at the studio, share your latest adventures with your friends, and live 10 years longer than him. Namaste!

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression | Pranayama•Mudra•Meditation•Poses

1 in 5 adults is experiencing mental health problems – such as anxiety, panic attack, insomnia, depression, you name it. I was one of them as well.

 

I was mentally dead from the soulless job, burnt out from chasing goals after goals, trying to meet the social expectations, and wanting more and more of the external validation and materialistic things.

 

When I was recovering from the great depression, I started a meditation practice, went to Bali for yoga retreats, tried Ayurveda cleansing, and experienced sound healing – and fell in love. Long story short, I booked a flight to Nepal and went for sound healing training by the third generation master from Tibet.

 

Through meditation, yoga, and sound healing, I slowly found myself again and got in touch with the spirituality within. Now as a Sound Healer, I am sharing my story, experience, and sound with others, to help them find the light within – just like I did.

 

One of the reasons I wanted to join the Yoga Teacher Training was, to deepen the self-mastery by learning the philosophy of yoga.

 

I can feel… I am exactly where I am meant to be – at Tirisula Yoga, I have met amazing Yoga masters, and I am having a little taste of 3,000-year-old yoga history and deepening my physical-mental-spiritual practice every day.

I am overloaded with joy to be on this journey. I thank Universe for this divine timing and opportunity and for bringing the blessings of finding the gurus I need at this exact moment in my life and the meaningful learnings.

 

Today, I am going to share with you my learnings from the Yoga Teacher Training – focusing on the yoga techniques that help anxiety and depression. Because if you are reading this, you probably need to hear this.

 

Yoga does not mean practicing poses only. Breathing, meditation, and there are so many other aspects of yoga.

 

Often, when we are anxious and depressed, we are trapped in the mind and the body. In fact, traumas and negative emotions can be stored in your body.

That being said, mental illness is not just what you think, but it is real. It shows physical symptoms such as nausea, panic attack, pains, fatigue, and you name it.

 

Please hold in mind that mind and body are the one – there’s a strong connection in between and turning into your intelligence and physiology will help improve your mental wellness.

 

In this article, I will introduce

  • Pranayama
  • Meditation
  • Mudra
  • Asana

to help you improve mental health.

 

Pranayama – breathing regulation

Pranayama is a yogic breathing technique.

In Sanskrit, “Prana “(prāṇa (प्राण)) means life energy or life force. Prana is also known as Chi (氣, 气) in Chinese or Ki (気) in Japanese. And “Ayama” means regulated expansion and control.

Together, “Pranayama” means yogic energy regulation practice.

 

Regular pranayama practice is known to be good for both anxiety and depression. We, humans, breathe 24/7. By controlling our breathing, we can achieve the desired calm state.

 

When we are stressed, we breathe fast. When we breathe fast, more oxygen than the usual amount diffuses through and enters the blood system and decreases the carbon dioxide, which will destroy the balance of pH level – acid-alkaline balance – of the blood.  This is a condition called respiratory alkalosis, and it causes muscle twitching, nausea, irritability, lightheadedness, confusion, and anxiety.

 

By slowing and regulating our breath, biologically, balance the ph level of the blood to less alkaline.

 

There are many kinds of pranayama, and for anxiety and depression, try Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). This helps in balancing the subtle life energy of the body, calms the mind, and emotional imbalance.

Watch the video below to learn how to;

 

Meditation

Meditation in yoga is called “Dhyana” which means ‘No thought’.

To achieve the dhyana state, we can first begin practicing “Dharna” – 1 thought.

Dharna is a mind fit for concentration.

Dharna practice involves focusing your attention on one thing – be it an external object or an internal idea – your breath, a mantra, or a part of your body.

Training on focusing on 1 thing at a time, not only helps you calm your mind, but this can also empower you to consciously be in the desired state and reclaim the power of your mind back.

 

Once we achieve the Dharna state by bringing the mind to a certain object, there’s a moment you become to lose the boundary between the object the mind is meditating on and the one who is meditation. You become One and this oneness is called Dhyana.

 

Meditation is a mental practice of going inward. Meditation won’t cure the mental health condition overnight, however, it can be a big help when you look at a longer period of time.

 

Mudra

Mudra means ‘gesture’. In yoga, mudra expresses and channelizes cosmic energy within the mind and body.

The body is made up of 5 elements; Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space.

When these 5 elements are not in balance, it causes physical and mental misalignments.

Here is a couple of Hasta Mudras (hand gestures) you can try on your own.

 

Surya Mudra for anxiety

  • Bend the ring finger, touch the root of the thumb with it and press the finger with the thumb
  • Practice it daily twice for 5 to 15 minutes

 

Gyan Mudra for anxiety and depression

  • Touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, with the other three fingers stretched out
  • There is no time duration for this mudra
  • You can practice by sitting, standing, or lying on the bed whenever wherever

 

Pran Mudra for depression

  • Bend ring finger and little finger and touch the tip of the thumb with tips keeping the remaining fingers stretched
  • There is no time duration for this mudra
  • You can practice it at any time

 

Asana

Asana is the yoga postures. The physical practice of yoga falls under here.

Yoga poses are not only meant for fitness but rather used for achieving holistic balance and enhancing your mind-body-spiritual practice.

Here are a few basic asanas that help reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

 

Seated forward bend – Paschimottanasana

Bond Angle Pose – Baddha Konasana

Bridge pose – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Corpse Pose – Savasana

 

 

 

 

“I am not the body, I am not even the mind”

So… who are we?

Because the mind is so genius, and often because of the defense mechanism it has, it will trick you to think in a certain way of yourselves, as well as you feel physical discomfort in your body.

 

We are just born in this body this life, and it does not define who we are. We are pure energy. In our lifetime, we are borrowing this shell to do what we are called to do but there is a life force within us which cannot be defined just as mind and body.

 

Mental illness does not define you. Remember, there’s a light within you always and I hope you return back to who you truly are as energy.

Breathe yogis…there is so much more you can breathe!

Why is breathing so important for the body? Life begins and ends with breathing. About 5 minutes without breathing and we are dead. All cells in the body need oxygen to live. Oxygen is necessary for the cell’s energy supply, to ensure its metabolism. Low levels of oxygen will have a direct impact on the functioning of the cell. Breathing is also vital to remove waste products during exhalation, such as CO2 from cellular respiration.

Breathing impacts all the major body’s systems:

  • cardiovascular system: slow, deep breaths will cause the heart rate to slow; inhalation is linked to vasoconstriction and exhalation to vasodilation; blood homeostasis (pH / pO2 and pCO2 to avoid acidosis)
  • nervous system: breathing volumes and rate will either activate or relax the body; the brain consumes a lot of oxygen (20%) and optimal breathing will support intellectual activities and concentration
  • endocrine system: the variation in blood parameters (pO2, pCO2, pH) modulated by breathing will regulate the hormonal activity aimed at restoring homeostasis. For example, a deep inhale and a full exhalation will decrease the production of noradrenaline and if this is done over a few hours, the cortisol level will also decrease.
  • muscular system: as mentioned above breathing is fundamental for metabolism and energy supply (aerobic). A well oxygenated muscle will increase its power and tone. A good exhalation will eliminate the CO2 produced by muscle activity.
  • digestive system: the mechanical movement of the diaphragm during inhalation and exhalation massages digestive organs and stimulates peristalsis so that digestion and transit are improved.
  • immune system: Shortness of breath increases, over time, the level of cortisol which kills lymphocytes (key cells of our immune system).

Breathing is an “automatic” function governed by the autonomic nervous system, but consciously, we can control our breath e.g. modify the amplitude, the frequency, choose to breathe through the nose or the mouth.

When we discussed about the respiratory system during the Yoga Teacher Training and I went on checking the various pulmonary volumes, I was quite amazed at what I discovered. Our lungs have a volume of around 5 L. But the “automatic” breathing, also called “tidal volume”, is only of 0.5 L, so only 10% of our lung capacity! By consciously inhaling fully we can add another 1.5 to 2.5 L (also called “inspiratory reserve volume”) so increasing the air coming in (and out) fourfold to 2L! And by consciously exhaling fully and then inhaling fully we can add an extra 1.2 to 1.5 L (also called “expiratory reserve volume”), so overall increasing the air coming in (and out) sevenfold to 3.5L! And now we use 70-75% of our lung capacity…so much more powerful! So much more oxygen we can provide to our cells, so much more toxins we can get rid of.

Unfortunately, many people don’t have optimal breathing, leading to both physical and psychological consequences. People are now advised to “learn to breathe” and many techniques have emerged for various indications such as stress management, depression, ENT ailments, nasal structure defects, snoring, concentration…Yoga, and Pranayama specifically, have a great role to play there.

Practicing pranayama is a great way to learn to control our breath and leverage its impressive power. Research shows that regular practice of pranayama significantly improves  numerous pulmonary parameters: it increases vital lung capacity, tidal volume, expiratory reserve volume, breath holding time, diffusion capacity, resting respiratory rate…And those indicators are important for both prevention and treatment of all respiratory dysfunctions and illnesses.

So, yogis, don’t forget to practice your pranayama and…breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out….

Cardiac coherence and Ujjayi breath: when old meets new

The impact of breathing on the nervous system has long been established. Increasing the inhalation volume and the respiratory rate will act on the sympathetic autonomous nervous system, which will activate the body: increased heart rate, vasoconstriction, sweating… Conversely, increasing the exhalation volume and reducing the respiratory rate will act on the parasympathetic autonomous nervous system, which will relax the body: slowed down heart rate, cell regeneration, digestion… And when the two systems are in balance, one is serene, both alert and relaxed.

Cardiac coherence is gaining traction and is now regularly used in the cardiology field. Research has shown that regular practice was regulating blood pressure and was significantly decreasing overall cardiovascular risks, the #1 killer in the world today. But what is cardiac coherence? It is a method based on respiratory techniques bringing the cardiac and respiratory systems into resonance and thus balancing our autonomous nervous system. The principles were developed in the 1990s in the United States from medical research in neuroscience and neurocardiology. The technique is simple: it consists of, 3 times a day, breathing calmly at the rate of 6 breaths per minute (inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling over 5 seconds; rate can vary slightly for each person) for 5 minutes (“365 method”). Inhalation is abdominal through the nose and exhalation is through the mouth with pinched lips. To all yogis, does it ring a bell?

When I learned about the Ujjayi breath, it felt familiar! Cardiac coherence is in fact a simplified or less “throat activation” Ujjayi breath. Indeed, in both techniques, one breathes calmly and continuously (without retention), equalizing inhale and exhale, using abdominal inhalation and some restriction on the exhalation. Ujjayi breath, though, is constricting exhalation at the throat level with mouth closed, whilst cardiac coherence is constricting exhalation at the mouth level, with lips pinched. Hence there is more throat activation in the Ujjayi breath and consequently also more building of heat.

What can we learn on Ujjayi breath from recent research on cardiac coherence? Of course, as the two methods have slight differences, one cannot strictly extrapolate research on one to the other. Nevertheless, given the level of similarly, results on one are very likely to constitute a solid proxy for the other. Firstly, both techniques target the physiological balance of the autonomous nervous system through equalization of inhalation and exhalation. The heart rate is constantly changing, with the heart modulating its activity according to internal and external stimuli. By controlling your breathing, you allow an increase in the heart variability amplitude (an important health indicator). Additionally, there is a direct heart-brain link as the heart informs the brain. And by improving your cardiac pattern, you send positive messages to the brain (less stress, a feeling of well-being). Finally, recent research on cardiac coherence has demonstrated numerous benefits on physical, mental and emotional health with short, mid- and long-term effects. Short term immediate benefits include improvement of cardiac patterns and relaxation. Medium-term benefits, after about 4 hours, include hormonal regulation (the main effect being the decrease in cortisol -stress; also increased DHEA -youth and atrial natriuretic factor- antihypertensive), regulation of neurotransmitters (dopamine – pleasure and serotonin – well-being), increased cognitive abilities (increased alpha brain waves for concentration and memory). Long-term benefits, after ten days, include significant regulation of cardiovascular risk (significant regulation of blood pressure and improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels), improved stress management and emotional balance, improved cognitive abilities, increased immunity (in particular via lower cortisol levels), improved conditions for inflammatory diseases and asthma.

Now taking a step back…yoga is a fascinating holistic practice. It encompasses thousands of years of experience and wisdom. It is almost funny to think that a modern successful technique such as cardiac coherence was just “hiding” there, in the millennial knowledge of pranayama. The potential to derive impactful techniques from yoga for the health and wellness space is endless!

Finding the right essential oils

If you are a Naruto fan, you must have heard of “Chakra” powers! Chakra means “wheel” or “centers” of energy that are perpetually in motion along our spine. There are 7 main Chakras that possesses a colour and vibrational frequency. I love to imagine these wheels circling within the centre of my body. It is important to keep the chakras “open” as they are linked to our nerves, and major organs that are in proximity to each chakra. Aside from yoga and exercises, do you know that different essential oils can also help to “unblock” Chakras?

Essential oils are 100% organic as they are extracted from plant components. It is known to enhance the mental and emotional wellness of oneself. You can also use these oils to improve your skin, relieve sore muscles, and improve spiritual wellness.

The 7 chakras will start from the base of the spine to the crown of the head as illustrated below.

Source from: healthline.com

The 7 Chakras explained, represented by its colour.

1) Root chakra Muladhara” 

Location: Bottom of Spine.

It is the foundation of chakra system that manages our most basic needs: safety, security, trust, fear, pooping, survival, etc. When in balance, we will feel safe in life and have a sense of trust on what, who and when toproceed with caution. When it is “blocked”, it may exhibit as fear, insecurities, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, health issues like constipation, or fatigue.

To open this Chakra – Practise poses like wide-legged forward fold, malasana squats, mountain pose, tree pose or any balancing poses.

Recommended Essential Oils: Vetiver, Ginger, Patchouli

2) Sacral chakra Svadhisthana” 

Location: Below Navel

Associated to our reproductive area and responsible for our sensuality, creative energy, and expressing emotions. Issues with this chakra can create health problems like urinary tract infections, lower back pain, and impotency. Emotionally, this chakra is connected to our feelings of self-worth around pleasure, sexuality, and creativity.

To open this Chakra, would recommend doing strengthening of Pelvic floor exercises, bridge pose or hip openers poses like pigeon/Lizard Pose

Recommended EssentialOils: Ylang Yang, Orange, Neroli

3) Solar plexus chakra Manipura

Location: Upper Abdomen, Stomach area.

It’s responsible for self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as helping you feel in control of your life. It is linked to central nervous system, pancreas, liver, digestive tract, skin. If blocked, digestive issues like ulcers, heartburn, eating disorders, and indigestion will occur.

Opening of this Chakra – Do Core strengthening exercises, boat pose, twists, warrior III.

Recommended Essential Oils: Neroli, Rosemary.

4) Heart chakra “Anahata” 

Location: Heart, Center of Chest

Heart chakra is all about our ability to love, show compassion, forgiveness and accepting others. A balanced heart chakra would display confidence, warmth, self-discipline, reliability, and a positive sense of self. A closed heart chakra can let in grief, anger, jealousy, fear of betrayal, and hatred toward yourself and others.

Opening of this Chakra – Do chest opening by doing back bends poses such as Camel, wheel, upward facing dog, reverse plank.

Recommended Essential Oils: Sandlewood, Ylang Ylang

5) Throat chakra Vishuddha

Location: Throat

This chakra rules all communication. It is the ability to speak with truth and clarity. If it is well balanced, you are able to fully listen and express yourself. When it’s blocked, you will find difficulty staying focused, speaking your mind and fear judgment from others. Physically, you will experience sore throat, thyroid issues, stiffness in neck and shoulder areas, and headaches.

Opening of this Chakra – Try fish pose, plow pose, shoulder stand. This will help in opening the back and front sides of your neck.

Recommended Essential Oils: Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus

6) Third eye chakra “Ajna

Location: Between your eyes, on forehead.

This chakra enables us to follow our intuition and to open up to new ideas. It is associated with the pituitary gland, left brain, left eye, nose, ears, conscious mind, neurological system. A balanced third eye chakra will have strong intuition, good memory, ability to visualise and imagine.

Opening of this chakra Forward fold, Child’s pose, Dolphin or Eagle pose.

Recommended Essential Oils: Bergamot, Frankincense, Jasmine

7) Crown chakra “Sahasrara

Location: Top of your head.

It represents your spiritual connection to yourself, others, and the universe. It also plays a role in your life’s purpose, self-realisation and enlightenment. When the it is misaligned, you may experience a spiritual distrust, a sense of negativity about life, and a disconnectedness from your body. Whereas a balanced Crown Chakra will be perfect as it brings peace, joy, serenity, and positivity to your life!

Opening of this chakra Headstand, Tree pose, Corpse pose

Recommended Essential Oils: Palo Santo, Lavender

In conclusion, the type of chakra that is imbalanced may affect both emotionally and physically to the parts of your body in close proximity to that chakra. Poor personal habits such as poor physical alignment or posture, eating unhealthy food, or self-destructive behavior may also cause a chakra to be imbalanced.

How To Apply Essential Oils?

There are many ways to use essential oils in yoga classes or at your home, car or workplace. You can apply them on skin, spray around, release from a diffuser, or even use them for cleaning purposes.

Feel good, smell good and may you find the balance in your body.

 OM

Understanding our Body’s energy

Chakras are circular (or flower petal or triangular shaped) vortexes of energy lying across seven different points on our spinal column (referred to as sushumna). The seven chakras are connected to different glands and organs in the body and are responsible for the uniform distribution of “Chi” (also called “Qi” or Praana or life energy).

When there is a disruption in this life energy or a blockage in any one or more chakras, the individual may suffer from health or mental issues. Thus, the chakras form the energy ecosystem of every individual. A deficiency in this ecosystem (e.g. feeling less vital, energetic, or in a funk) can wreak havoc in different areas of life.

Learning about the 7 chakra points fascinated me because not only does this ‘practice’ date back to ancient Hindu times, other cultures started adopting parts of these teachings to their practice as well. Even TV shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender (A short clip was shown to us by Master Paulo) briefly touched on the 7 Chakra points. After learning about this, everywhere I look, there are many influences on ‘chakras teachings’.

I remembered once I had stomach problems and went to a Chinese TCM, the doctor at the clinic simply helped by forcefully rubbing my stomach in a clockwise direction. Now that I think back, wasn’t she rubbing my Solar Plexus Chakra? What’s more, problems associated with an imbalanced Solar Plexus Chakra are digestive issues (which is pretty common for me)! Knowing what I know now, there are small steps that I can take to try to balance my Solar Plexus Chakra and some of these steps don’t require a lot of effort. For example, drinking room temperature beverage, taking slow, long breaths.

For those that are not aware of our body’s 7 chakra points, I would definitely encourage anyone who is keen to read up more about it and find out about the different chakras and how it affects different areas of our lives. Sometimes, we might feel like we’re in a funk and have no control over our lives be it problems happening, family drama, illnesses but I do believe it’s because we’re doing things that we aren’t supposed to unknowingly which causes this imbalance.

A few years ago, I read a book on mindfulness and there was a chapter on ‘Signs from the Universe’ stating that the universe is always sending us signals and if the same issue keeps occurring it means we haven’t gotten the lesson that it’s trying to teach us. I digressed, but ultimately, the main point was the first step to balance is being aware of what’s causing the imbalance and taking steps to change/improve. Who knows, the smallest steps could be the start of a big change.

Each chakra is also associated with specific chakra colors and represents different things. Below is an excerpt taken from https://chopra.com/articles/learn-about-your-seven-chakras-and-how-to-keep-them-in-balance

First Chakra—Muladhara (Root)

Balance in the first chakra allows you to feel grounded and confident.

Second Chakra—Svadhisthana (Sacral or Creativity)

Balance in the second chakra allows you to feel comfortable in your own skin and accepting of your emotions. It also allows for a creative expression of self.

Third Chakra—Manipura (Solar Plexus)

Balance in the third chakra is indicated by high self-esteem, strong charisma, and confident decision making.

Fourth Chakra—Ahahata (Heart)

When energy flows freely, you will experience compassion, love, and acceptance.

Fifth Chakra—Vishuddha (Throat)

When the throat chakra is in balance, you feel authentic and are a confident conversationalist and good listener.

Sixth Chakra—Ajna (Third Eye)

Ajna means “beyond wisdom,” and in balance, you experience expanded imagination, clairvoyance, synchronicity, and intuition.

Seventh Chakra—Sahaswara (Crown)

In balance, this chakra maintains your self-awareness, wisdom, and connection to the inner compass that guides you to your highest self.

Here are some links you can check out to learn more:

https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-clear-your-chakras-and-free-your-energy

https://www.color-meanings.com/chakra-colors-the-7-chakras-and-their-meanings/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRdcrrO35bU&ab_channel=EarthMamaMedicine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StrbppmsZJw&t=406s&ab_channel=BijayJeswani

A Brief Introduction to Ayurvedic Doshas

I came to know about these 3 Dosha body types when we were studying yoga philosophy. Master Paolo and Master Sree were giving each of us their evaluation of what our body types were. As someone who jumps at the opportunity to take any kind of personality quiz, it intrigued me to want to research deeper.

To give a rough overview, Ayurveda is an Indian system of traditional medicine. Translated literally it means “the science of life” – Ayur means “life” and Veda means “science”. This system of traditional medicine has been around for about 5000 years, and it claims to have a set guide to determining ones’ balance and health. (Similar to how the Chinese have their own ‘system’ of TCM!)

In Ayurveda, there are three types of doshas, each made up of a different combination of the five elements; air, space, fire, earth, and water. The Vata dosha is a combination of air and space, the Pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water, and the Kapha dosha is a combination of water and earth. These combinations of the different elements represent a unique blend of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics (or qualities), essentially, describing who we are.

Everyone has a different balance of the three doshas, usually with one or two doshas predominating and rarely, with a balance of all three. It should be said that there is no such thing as an ideal body model. The key is to understand your dosha type to give you further insight into what your own personal state of balance should be.

By getting to know our Doshas and their qualities, we can make the effort to stay balanced – healthy. This is important because if we were to push ourselves off balance by adopting habits that are not suited to us, we will experience negative symptoms that signal that our mind-body is ‘off’ – such as bloating, rashes, gassiness, bad temper, tiredness, and many more – if left unchecked, it could even lead to diseases. Fret not, there are solutions (or “medicine”) for us to bring ourselves back into balance by drawing on food and drink. herbs and spices, colors, textures, aromas, environments, and lifestyle choices. The key is to choose solutions that have the opposite qualities or characteristics to the symptoms we’re experiencing, to create equilibrium. For example, for pitta doshas, one already has lots of warmth in their bodies thus cooler weather is preferred or cooler foods like salads help, if one continues to eat too much spicy food or is under the sun for prolonged periods of time with no protection, they’ll be prone to overheating, sweating and skin redness.

To conclude, there’s just so much information available for each of the Dosha types – the dos, don’ts, appetite/diet, what to avoid, learning styles, sleep cycles, mental qualities, preferred nature elements/seasons, best yoga styles, general physical appearances/body shape, etc. I hope that by reading this you guys will be as excited as I am to want to find out more about Ayurvedic doshas and your dosha types!

Inhale & Exhale.

Sometimes when I get angry and start ranting to my best friend, she’ll tell me “Just breathe”. Sometimes, I feel like her saying this makes me feel angrier. But lately I discovered that, there’s some truth to what she’s saying. Afterall, there is 1 limb dedicated to Pranayama in the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga..

What is Pranayama?

Prana means ‘life force’ and yama means ‘expansion’. It’s a series of deep breathing exercises that helps to regulate our breath.  Simply put, if there’s no breath, there’s no life. Breathing can happen involuntarily and voluntarily. When we practice pranayama, we’re consciously controlling and regulating our breath, our life force to take in more oxygen and removing toxins from our body. When we breathe consciously, we also bridge our mind and our body.  

Some benefits of Pranayama:

  1. Relaxation

When we’re angry, happy, sad, or stressed our breathing patterns are different. It is very much connected to our emotional states. Like in my case above, if I was upset, my breath would probably be shallow and fast. To combat this, sit in hero’s pose, and do a simple balancing pranayama like annuloma viloma.

 

  1. Helps improve concentration, relieves mood imbalances and stress

Ujjayi breath or victorious breathing is useful in this case. Whenever I’m practicing ashtanga yoga, I make use of ujjayi breathing to help myself be more focused. Because this breath has an ‘ocean’ sound to it, I find that it also helps take my mind off things by making my focus be on my breath.

 

  1. Reduces high blood pressure

Stress is a major risk factor for high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension, is also a pre-cursor to many other heart conditions. Our respiratory system is also closely related to our cardiovarscular system. Changes in breath rates can also contribute to changes in heart rate. When practicing breathing techniques, it also helps to lower our heart rate and thus stress, which may in turn help in alleviating hypertension. However, not all pranayama techniques are suitable for this particular syndrome. Hence before practicing different pranayama techniques, it is good to look out for contraindications and use appropriate modifications for your unique conditions.

One good pranayama to practice for people with high blood pressure is simply, Sukha Pranayama. When inhaling, belly should move out. When exhaling, belly should move inwards. This can be practiced for ratios 1:1 to 16:16. Note that as you begin increasing the ratio, you should also regulating your inhalation or exhalation such that you use the full 16 seconds to inhale or exhale.