My Interpretation – Yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ

Prior to joining YTTC,   I knew yoga meant union and I took it to mean union of the mind and body. I saw yogis on social media always preaching love and compassion but I did not know the origins of those teachings. I thought it was just part of yoga marketing. Just like how eroticism is linked to the sport of  pole dancing.   The rest of the world probably sees it the way I saw it.  People who practice yoga and expound on its teachings are hippies and hedonists.  We judge before even knowing what something is all about.

After taking up the YTTC , I discovered that what I once thought of as sacrilegious or “satanic” for lack of a better word, actually has no sign of religion tied to it.  At the heart of it, the yoga teachings, also known as the 8 limbs or steps (Ashtanga) come from the yoga sutras, which are basically a set of 196 aphorisms (think Aesop’s fables) put together by this great Indian sage, Patanjali.  Patanjali compiled all the scattered ancient material about yoga into the yoga sutras.  These teachings date back to thousands of years ago.  They are essentially practical steps on how to be a better person, how to live life more unencumbered, how to discover our true nature.

Yoga is not stretching.  It is not an exercise.  Yes, yoga practitioners get fit and healthy through practicing yoga but that is a means to an end.  Pantanjali made it very clear in sutras:

योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ

Yoga Sutras 1.2

Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.  Ok, I probably just lost you there.  Let me attempt to explain.  The mind controls every aspect of our lives.  It controls our body, which is actually just a machine.  The thing is, the mind is volatile and cannot be controlled at will.  It can’t be trusted very much as well due to it’s volatility.

For example, if A says I can’t do the job, I add a story to it.  I take it to mean that A thinks I am incapable.  I then perhaps infer that that A doesn’t like me very much.  Very soon, I end up believing that A hates me. What I have just done is, I have created a story based on one statement, all in my mind.  It is not necessarily the truth.  Likewise, in life, every one of us keeps adding stories to anything that happens and we can only see life through those stories.  The scary thing is, those stories become real to us and we become characters in the stories we create.  What is even scarier?  What happened was in the past but our stories keep staying in the present.  The neglected child growing up to be an insecure adult.  The abandoned wife turning to infidelity.  The reality, which we think we see, is not reality, but based primarily on our perceptions. These are the modifications or fluctuations of the mind.  They distort the truth and cause misery.


When the mind is still, the vision is clear and the Truth emerges.  A still lake reflects the mountains.  A lake with ripples reflects a distorted image.

The practice of Yoga, which comprises 8 limbs, with asana practice (the physical aspect we are familiar with) being just one of the limbs, is the process of the discovery of one’s true self, through the control of both the mind and the sense organs.  No religion. Just a whole load of logical thinking and reasoning.

These teachings from the Yoga Sutras, which contain so many gold nuggets of wisdom, are seldom taught in yoga classes for the masses.  I have never once attended a yoga class where the philosophy of yoga was even briefly mentioned, let alone explained.  If I do become a Yoga teacher one day, my students will not just be learning asanas from me.  I will do my best to distill the teachings which I have been blessed to become privy to, into my classes, to push my students onto a journey of self discovery.

Ei-leen Tan
200 Hr YTTC Weekday September 2015.

What I learnt from meditating 10 hours a day

I was brought up in a staunch Christian family. In my mind, meditation has always been tied to religion and religion has always been tied to spirituality. A solo 2-month trip to India in December 2014 toppled all my previously held beliefs and perceptions about meditation and spirituality. It also led me to take a 10-day Vipassana Meditation course in Malaysia a couple of months prior to starting my YTTC in September 2015.
Here are 10 things I learnt from meditating 10 hours a day for 10 days:
1. Dress comfortably. This is pretty much a no-brainer.
2. Meditate in a clean, quiet and well-ventilated environment. You may choose to dim the lights or switch off the lights completely. If you are the type who falls asleep easily in such setting, keep the lights on. I find music a distraction, but you may, according to your preference play some music to help you relax and get in the mood.
3. Do not meditate in bed. If you nod off while meditating in bed, chances are you will just give up, lie down and sleep on. Personally, I find meditating on a meditating cushion works best for me. You may try it with your yoga mat laid flat or rolled up slightly. Try not to lean your back against the wall if possible, unless you have back problems. If all else fails, use a chair.
4. Sit cross-legged. There is of course standing and walking meditation but my experience so far has been limited to sitting so I can only comment on that. You can of course sit in many different positions eg, in lotus or with your legs out in front of you, but I find that I am able meditate the longest sitting cross-legged without compromising my back. Test out what works best for you.
5. Do not hunch. Sit up straight. Your weight should be equally distributed between your sit bones, which should be level with the ground. I find that when I sit with my spine completely erect, with my chest thrust out a little, my lumbar starts to arch. The position looks nice aesthetically but can be uncomfortable to maintain over a long period. Instead, what I do, is to keep my spine relaxed and comfortably straight over my tailbone. See what position you are most comfortable in.
6. Do not react to internal stimuli. At some point while you are sitting still, you will get pins and needles and itch to stretch your legs out or change position. It is normal and it is what your mind has been conditioned to do. Observe this physical sensation. Do not react with frustration. In case you are not aware, if you shift positions, the pins and needles will get worse, versus if you stay still. Stay still and the pins and needles will pass. In the next moment you might experience a different sensation – numbness. Again, observe this sensation with no reaction. After numbness, you lose all feeling in your legs. If you lose feeling in your legs, sitting in the same position won’t pose a problem any more. Notice how it changes from one form to another. Observe the impermanence. Other physical sensations will arise during extended periods of meditation. You may feel pain or discomfort in other parts of the body. I suffered from a stiff neck during my retreat, that manifested itself through a persistent ache in my right shoulder blade. I sat through it. There was a German woman in my course, who was 8 months into her pregnancy. She sat cross-legged on her cushion, just like the rest of us. Unless it is an acute pain, refrain from reacting. Just observe. Learn to observe. It really is very unlikely that you’re going to get injured from sitting still for 1-2 hrs.
7. Do not react to external stimuli. This could come in many forms. I  had houseflies incessantly flying and landing on me. The flies basically had picnics on every exposed surface on my body during my 10 days of meditation. Mosquitoes too. I had to will myself not to react in irritation. Recognise that there isn’t always a need to react. We react too much. Our whole life is made up of reactions reverberating through our bodies and minds. Here’s the thing, whatever manifests in our thoughts will manifest in our bodies. Someone makes a negative statement, our hearts start to beat faster, our temperature rises (body reaction) we react in anger and give a hurtful retort (mind reaction).   Learn to observe the moment without reaction. See what happens next. Most if not all of the time, the disturbance eventually disappears.
8. Refrain from reading, surfing the Internet , interacting with people prior to meditation. Refrain from using electronic devices. Switch your phone to silent, turn off your computer. That email can wait. Our minds are bombarded by external stimuli from the time we wake till we close our eyes to sleep again. Is it any wonder that the mind keeps wandering when you want it to be still? Of course, it is not always possible to avoid external stimuli before doing your meditation. Taking a warm shower or a short walk can help to still your mind and help you wind down from a busy day. You may also choose to do meditation before you start your day in the morning.
9. Your thoughts WILL wander and keep on wandering. You will get frustrated with your inability to focus. Let me assure you that it is completely normal! Do not beat yourself up over it. Your mind is like a wild beast. It will not be tamed and trained without putting up a fight. The very fact that you are aware your mind has wandered is a milestone. Say hello to Increased Awareness! Calmly acknowledge that your mind has wandered and bring your attention back to your breath and the only time that matters in this moment – NOW. Learn to live NOW. We live too much of our lives in the past and future .
10. Lastly, if you don’t already know, meditation is hard work  extremely HARD WORK. Many people don’t realise this. I didn’t realise it. If it were that easy, every one would be walking around hyper aware, with a halo above their head. Meditation is a test of body, mind and spirit. It requires commitment as well as great determination and bucket loads of discipline. And it takes time to see tangible results. For many people, myself included, meditation is even more difficult than asana practice. I think a great motivating factor to consistent meditation is when you realise how much your mind and ego have controlled your life to date and ask yourself to what end you are willing to go to in order to tame the wild beast that is your mind.
Finally we have come to the end! If you have read all the way, thank you very much! There are many different kinds of meditation and correspondingly just as many different ways to do so. There is no right way. I still struggle with meditation.  The above are just some pointers based on my personal experience but I hope that my article will help you in your practice and journey to greater consciousness.  Meditation and spirituality need not necessarily be tied to religion.  You can ask hard questions about yourself and the world around you without bringing religion into the picture.  Anyone can meditate.  Good luck!
Ei-leen Tan
200Hr YTTC Weekday September 2015

Understanding Dietary Fats and Balancing Them in Your Diet

In this blog post, i shall talk to you about the different type of cholesterols in the body, then describe to you how the different types of fats that contribute to the cholesterols. Finally i shall discuss with you some tips on eating and shopping habits that will help you to have a right balance of fats and cholesterol in your body.
Type of Cholesterols in the body
Low Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (LDL)
Also known as bad cholesterol. LDL builds up in your blood vessels and increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
High Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL)
Also known as good cholesterol. It assists to return cholesterol from the blood vessels back to the liver for breakdown therefore lowering your risk of heart disease.
Types of Dietary Fats and how they contribute to LDL or HDL in our body

  1. Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are present mainly in animal products such as red meat or poultry and full cream dairy products. Some plant products such as coconut milk and palm oil also contain high amount of saturated oils. Saturated fats can increase total LDL cholesterol level in the body. We need to limit our total saturated fat intake to not more than 20g per day.

  1. Trans Fat

The main diet sources which contain trans fats are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and shortening. Food such as deep fried foods (French fries, curry puffs, deep fried chicken wings), processed foods such as sausages and chicken nuggets sold in supermarkets, instant drink mixtures found in supermarkets (such as 3-in 1 coffee or tea) contain transfats. These fats are very harmful to our body and not only increase LDL cholesterol but also decrease HDL cholesterol level in our body. We need to avoid trans fat fat from entering our blood stream as they are the most harmful of all fats.

  1. Polyunsatured Fats (PUFA)

These fats can be found in plant sources such as sunflower, sesame and soybean oil, and some seeds and nuts such as flax seeds, cashew and walnuts. PUFA helps to lower LDL cholesterol.

  1. Monounsaturated Fats

Nuts such peanuts and almond, healthier oils such as olive and avocado oil and avocados are high in monounsaturated fats. MUFA just like PUFA helps to reduce our LDL cholesterol.
Tips of how to reduce total fats in our body and saturated fats
It is important to ensure that we limit the amount of saturated fats in our body as this increases the risk of heart disease and also contributes to obesity which can be a risk factor for many other diseases as well. We should substitute foods with high percentage of saturated fats with foods which have higher percentage of MUFA and PUFA as much as possible. However excess consumption of PUFA and MUFA leads to increase of total fat content in our body which should be avoided.
Here are some tips on how can follow a diet to limit the total fats as well as the amount of saturated and trans fats abosorbed into our body.

  1. Use oils which have more percentage of unsaturated fats compared to saturated fats. (E.g avocado oil, sunflower and olive oil instead of vegetable oil and palm oil)
  2. When buying dairy products, choose low fat options, like low fat milk, reduced fat cheese, eggless and flourless cakes.
  3. Avoid deep fried food and processed meats such as chicken nuggets and sausages as much as possible as these often contain harmful trans fats.
  4. Use healthy cooking methods such as grilling or steaming when preparing food instead of frying them. Order grilled fish or chicken rather than fried fish or fried chicken when you are out eating.
  5. Remove the skin of meat when you consume them as a high percentage of the saturated fat is contained in the skin.
  6. When you go shopping in the supermarket, look for the “Healthier choice” symbol.
  7. Prepare healthy home cooked food instead of eating frequently in food courts as these places often use palm oil for cooking their dishes

These tips may seem hard to follow initially but with discipline nothing is difficult. I have started following these tips myself since the past 1 year. The last time i ate a curry puff or a deep fried chicken wing was almost one year ago. Before that i used to buy back Old Chang Kee snacks 3 to 4 times a week. I hardly take processed food items and prefer to go for natural foods. I also use avocado oil at home for cooking and although it costs $30 for 1 litre oil, it really helped reduce the LDL cholesterol level in my blood. I also use 1/3rd of the oil in cooking dishes as i used to in the past. Sometimes i miss deep fried food so i bought a Phillips air fryer and trust me the food cooked using the fryer is almost as good as food fried with oil on a frying pan. We also eat at home most of the time instead of eating outside. As a result of this diet, my body weight has also significantly reduced. I was 65kg last year in October and now i am only 51kg, so all the ladies keen to lose weight i hope this will motivate you to follow the healthy diet tips mentioned above.

My Journey with Kakasana

The Kakasana Pose
What is Kakasana (Crow Pose) ?
In this asana, the arms of the person are positioned to become the legs of the crow,  the hands are positioned in a manner so as to become the crow’s feet and the thighs and legs are finally folded up to become the body of the crow. Here is a picture of someone doing this asana.
Physical and mental benefits of Kakasana
Kakasana helps to strengthen the shoulders as well as one’s arms and wrists. It also helps us to improve our balance. It increases flexibility and elasticity of the spine. It also helps the individual to focus and improve his or her concentration.
Getting into the pose

  1. Squat on the floor and place your hands on the floor in front of the feet with fingers facing forward
  2. Bend your elbows a little as this will help you to bring your knees up into your armpits.
  3. Lean forward at the same time transferring the body weight to the arms and lifting both feet up.
  4. Work to straighten the arms as much as possible while keeping the lower body strong and pulled together.
  5. Hold the position for as long as you are comfortable.
  6. Conclude the asana by slowly bringing your feet down to the floor.

My Personal Experience with Kakasana
In my yoga 200 hour weekday class, when Master Trainer Wei Ling showed the class how to do this Asana, I was so scared to do this Asana and was worried that I would end up injuring myself by fracturing my hands or arms while doing this. However when I saw some of my classmates who successfully did the asana, I felt more confident of doing this. However I tried a few times to do this in class but failed. Wei Ling did not let me feel discouraged and told me some techniques to help me do it. One of the important things I remember her telling me is that during this Asana, it is important that I focus mentally and believe in myself.
When I came home I decided to try again to do the asana. I failed yet again. I realized I had a hesitation to lift up my feet. It seemed very hard to get them off the ground. I think back now and realized that this was mianly due to the persistent fear of not trusting myself to be able to support my weight on my hands. One of the reasons for this fear was that my arm strength was not enough. I had never gone to the gym and was not in good physical condition. I didn’t give up and decided to tackle this problem. I took my husband’s weights and spend 30 to 40 minutes every day lifting them. Of course he guided me on how to lift them appropriately to build arm strength. Finally about 5 or 6 days later after daily exercising to build up my arm strength, I finally managed to have the courage to lift up my feet from the ground. My arms were shaking a bit but I focused on keeping it straight. I kept my feet up for about 3 seconds before I came down. I was very glad that I finally managed to do it although I could not remain in that position for long.
I am still practising that asana regularly and have now improved to remaining in the position for about 10 seconds. I wish to improve this duration to make it even longer. I am sure with practice I will become better.
200hr Weekday Hatha Ashtanga YTTC (September Intake)

Yoga Philosophy | Peace Mantra

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 8.41.26 PMWhen practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa each session begins and ends with a chant or mantra. It is a beautiful way to bring those in the room together in a “collective consciousness”. Additionally, the chant helps to pace the breath for the practice.
I came to understand the mantra in three parts: prayer for truth, praise to the King of Nagas, appreciation and respect. The poetic beauty can be lost and the commentary below is a singular (loose) interpretation of the mantra. I am relying on the wisdom of my teachers and other readings as I unfortunately cannot read sanskrit, but I hope you can enjoy and find your own meaning.

Opening Mantra

Section I: Prayer for Truth

Sanskrit (transliteration) Meaning
Om Original sound of the universe
Astoma Sat Gamaya Lead me from non-truth to truth
Tamasoma Jyotir Gamaya Lead me from darkness to light
Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya Lead me from death to that which is immortal
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om peace, peace, peace

The topic of truth is complex and can be discussed in great length. What I have gathered is ‘truth’ is dynamic, it is a state of being that must be lived. When the mind is somewhere else, asat- we stray further from the truth. A way to understand truth is to realize that ‘fact’ is a subset of truth and is past tense. A fact is something that has happened, while truth ‘is’ and now. An exploration of the 8 Limbs of Yoga digs deeper specifically discussion around Satya, one of five Yamas.
Specific translations include: (A) Sat – non-truth; Sat – truth ; Gamaya – deliver me/ bring me to; Tamasoma – darkness; jyotir – light; Mrityorma – nectar of reality; Shanti – peace

Section II: Praise to the King of Nagas, Lord Vishnu

Sanskrit (transliteration) Meaning
Jeevamani Prajatpana A jewel shines
Sahasra Vidruth Visvampara Radiating from the jeweled crown, 1000 different ways
Mandalaya Anadaya A foundation, everlasting; Ananta (Lord Vishnu)
Nagarajaye Namaha Bowing to the King of Nagas (snakes)

mandalaThe imagery in section II is vivid. According to Master Paalu a king cobra is very rare but highly sought after. It is believed that a king cobra only has one chance to use its venom and when it does the poison crystalizes into an everlasting crystal. We also learned that wisdom can come from darkness, and we should ‘spit’ goodness into the world, keeping the wicked inside, crystalizing it till our last breath.
Mandalaya is one of my favorite words in this manta, it represents structure and strength. Each day I look at a hand painted Bhutanese Mandala geometrically centered around ‘Om’. It provides me clarity and peace. Each time I chant I envision its beauty.

Section III: Appreciation & Respect

Sanskrit (transliteration) Meaning
Abahu Purushakaram The soul with (human-like) hands
Sankha Chakrasi Dharinam

Holding a conch shell, a wheel (discus of light) and a sword (discrimination)

Sahasra Sirasam Svetam 1000 headed king cobra
Pranamani Patanjalim Give thanks to Patañjali
Gurubhyo Namaha Salute to all gurus
Devatabhyo Namaha I bow to the divine

Below the King of Nagas is depicted. I have seen this imagery throughout Asia, and am particularly fond of Nagas as they play a large role in Cambodian folklore and legend. The same 1000 headed snake adorns Cambodian architecture. A personal tie for me.
lord vishnu
Closing Mantra
Parama. Rishbhyo. Namaha (3x) Om.
The meaning is to give thanks to the sages that have passed on the knowledge.
Weekday Hatha/Ashtanga 200 Hour YTT September 2015

Essential FATS

Fats and oils contain many different fatty acids that affect the body in different ways. They fall into 2 main categories- saturated and unsaturatd fats. Saturated fats comes from animal sources like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. Plant sources are derived from coconut oil, palm oil and peanut oil. A diet rich in saturated fats will raise the blood choleterol level in the body.   Whereas unsaturated fats help lower the cholesterol levels when you eat them in place of the saturated fats. From unsaturated fats comes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats found in Omega-3 and Omega-6 provide 2 essential fatty acids that our body cannot reproduce on its own and must be obtained from the foods we eat. Consuming fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines as well as flaxseed, walnut and canola oils which contains Omega-3 help to reduce inflammation. Omega-6 tends to promote inflammation. Evidence have shown to shift the ratio of Omega-6 to higher intake of Omega-3 instead.
The fatty acids in Omega-3 help to reduce the thickness of blood so that the heart does not have to work so hard to push the blood through the blood vessels, prevents blood clotting which can trigger a heart attack and as well as lower triglycerides. People with arthritis have experienced reduced tenderness in joints and numbness. Fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth that are needed for the transport of fat-soluable vitamins A,D,E and K.
In general, vegetarians often do not obtain enough quality fats and oils for proper nutrition due to their limited diets.  By avoiding animal fats, most vegetarians cannot eat enough of the right fats and oils to be as healthy as they could be. Vegan fats include avocado, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and vegetable oils.  Flaxeed and hempseed oils can provide most of the omega-3 fatty acids a person needs if one eats them daily.  One must have a tablespoon or more of the oils.  Lacto-ova vegetarian fats include eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. I highly encourage all vegetarians to eat eggs and if possible, unpasteurized dairy products or sardines to get enough high-quality fats into their diets.  Otherwise, vegetarians are extremely prone to fatty acid imbalances, particularly a lack of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin found in animal fats.
Esther Ong
Sept weekday 200YTTC

My Practice moving with Asana

In yoga, the word asana means “posture”. The movements are gentle.   Performed regularly and slowly, they make the body strong enough to hold the positions for a length of time without discomfort. The real work happens when we are holding the pose.  The alignment of the full posture has to be in line. The idea is to keep still while the position is maintained, breathing consciously into the pose.   Then the body and mind will flow naturally into stillness and equilibrum.   As we breathe deeper, we can take the stretching alittle further. Asanas strengthen, stretch and tone every muscles in our body.  The important work of the asanas is in the strengthening and purification of the nervous system. Especially the spinal cord and nerves because this correspond to the channels of prana. The increased pranic energy will awaken the spiritual potential.
My attempt at Sirsasana (Headstand)
Prior to training at Tirisula, I’ve never been able to do a headstand. On our first week at class, we were asked to do a headstand with support to the wall and I remember Huiyan telling us to practice safety first at all times. Facing the wall, I kneeled in fear and thoughts of me getting into the pose and channeling ‘I can do it repeatedly’ just was not clicking together. Under her careful guided instructions sweats rolling down my forehead, fingers interlaced and forearm on the mat elbow width apart, I walked towards my chest as close as possible and push off lightly from the toes. I begin to elevate my feet off the mat and knees closed to my chest holding it here in stability for mere seconds. My arms were shaking and it has also spread open. After several corrections and attempts, my arm was now firmly planted and back strongly engaged. From there, I then tried to bring my feet up straight up pointing towards the ceiling. Consciously breathing into the posture, holding it 5 seconds and increased with time. It takes effort and determination to succeed. Repeated tries brought me in alignment and I can now say I’ve done it.
Through the practice of Asanas, it promotes a therapeutic state of mental well-being and improved physical health.   It restores vitality and activates the nerves centre in the brain. Maintaining alertness of the mind, reduces stress and improves concentration.   Gradually, one begins to experience the sensation of pranic energy flowly freely through our channels.
Esther Ong
Weekday YTTC Sept

Being Mindful

Our thoughts and beliefs serve to create our reality. There is no doubt that the mind’s ability to analyze, discriminate, communicate is where we are today. Because of this, changing our thoughts can change our lives. Although the brain help us to reason and relate to others, we do not learn to switch off. It can sometimes be overwhelmed. If we are negative and fearful, we attract experiences that echo those thoughts. When one is positive, we attract more happiness, love and good health into our lives. By exploring our inner world and bringing it into consciousness, we can “find ourselves”.
Meditation is much more than simply relaxation. When the mind is in a relaxed state, it wanders uncontrollably. Whereas during meditation, the mind stays alert and is brought back to the point of focus. It cleanses the mind of limitations and fears. It releases positive energy and find peace by connecting our self to the universal self.  It brings relief from anxieties to silence our inner negative thoughts to create a serenity of peace.
So this is how we can meditate. Once you are sitted comfortably, back straight, head and spine in alignment with the eyes closed, begin to relax by focusing on the breaths. It is important to concentrate on our breaths, elongating and deepening our breathing. Detached your mind from the thoughts that pass through.
Breathing is the key to calm the mind. As Master Paalu quoted the word ‘Spiritus’, latin word for breath. It is the manifestation of our lifeforce energy. The deeper our breaths, more oxygen gets delivered throughout the cells in the body. It fuels the production of energy for our body to function, a direct effect on the nerves and muscles.
By using meditation to restrain the wanderings of the mind, we are brought to full awareness and experiences. We benefit from a lower heart-rate, reduced blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones.
Esther Ong
Sept weekday YTTC

Yoga philosophy – Asteya

The underlying philosophy of yoga is simple: the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life are all heavily connected and feed off of one another. Yoga can help develop and strengthen all these dimensions in a person in parallel. People who don’t understand this philosophy and the technicalities that go with it, tend to treat yoga as an alternative to the gym – to work on just the physique, improve flexibility or shed weight. I say this with conviction because for a while, I was one of those people. Little did I know that yoga for the physique (asana) covers just one of the 8 limbs of Astanga yoga. The other limbs of Yama (ethical), Niyama (Discipline), Pranayama (breathing), Pratyahara (withdrawal), Dharna (concentration), Dhyana (concentration) and Samadhi (bliss) leave no stones unturned with helping us evolve into the best that we could be.
What took me by surprise is the level of detail some of these finer aspects get into, and that too thousands of years ago! Within Yama, for example, Patanjali has given structure to the concept of Asteya or non-stealing. At first glance, the topic looks straightforward, common and self-explanatory. But when we care enough to take a closer look, we realize that there are so many subtle ways to gain access to what does not belong to us. Stealing doesn’t only refer to those things that thieves do. Governments have been trying to control such behavior through negative reinforcement techniques, to make sure no one else follows suit. Asteya educates us about more intrinsic and effective ways to curb one’s desire to worldly things that one can live without, and then the desire to steal. In yoga, we are taught that when we no longer desire something it will come to us by itself. Paulo Coelho, inspired by this concept, sums it up in his famous book, The Alchemist – ‘If you are brave enough to say “good-bye”, life will reward you with a new “hello”.’
– Ruthu Shree Ragavan

Eight-Angle pose

Eight-Angle pose (Astavakrasana) is dedicated to the sage Astavakra who, according to legend, enraged his father while still in the womb and was cursed to be born crooked in eight places.
As the story goes, the wise Astavakra says, “If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound.”
Benefits Of Eight-Angle Pose
Eight-Angle pose strengthens the wrists and arms, improves balance, and tones the abdominal muscles. Given the twisting nature of the spine, Eight-Angle pose also aids with digestion and the elimination of toxins from the body.
Eight-Angle Pose Step-By-Step
1. Begin seated in Dandasana (Stick Pose), with both legs extended out in front of you.
2. Bend your right knee in to your chest, then bring your right arm to the inside of your bent right leg. Take a hold of your right foot or ankle with both hands and begin to snuggle the underside of your right knee behind your right shoulder, as if you’re pulling on the strap of a backpack. Hook your right leg as firmly behind the right shoulder as you can.
3. Keeping the calf of the right leg hugging firmly behind the right shoulder, place your palms down on either side of your hips. Spread the fingers wide, keep the chest lifted and the collarbone as broad as you can.
4. Maintaining the hug of the right leg around the shoulder and the palms planted on the ground,  cross the left ankle in front of the right and hook the ankles.
5. Begin to bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle and extend the heart forward as if you are moving into Chaturanga (elbows over wrists). Squeeze your upper right arm between your thighs. Extend your legs as straight as you can.
6. Note the tendency for the left shoulder to collapse here, and keep both shoulder heads lifted and level with one another. Stay here for 3-5 full breaths, then gently lift the torso, straighten the arms, and set your bottom back down on the ground to come out of the pose. Whenever you feel ready, repeat on the other side.
1.  Opening up the legs and hips with preparatory poses such as Pigeon
2.  Although arm strength is important to help get you up, it’s actually your abdominal muscles that elevate your hips and keep you lifted. Working on core-strengthening poses such as Plank, Dolphin Plank, and Boat (Navasana) pose are all excellent preparation for arm balances such as Eight-Angle pose.
3. Keeping the gaze focused on one fixed point (perhaps on the ground just in front of you ) can help with stability and mental focus.
Contraindications and Cautions
Avoid this pose if you have any wrist, elbow, or shoulder injuries.
have fun everyone!
eight angle pose duxton

Shi Jye
200hr Hatha/Ashtanga Weekends – July 2015