I'm a warrior!!

First of all, I’d like you to watch this Japanese commercial which title is “SURVIVE!! GLOBALIZATION”. I like it very much.  (Click ‘CC’ for English caption) 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_iDfoy1v5g

 

This is a Cup Noodles’s commercial from NISSIN, well known in Singapore as well. Especially, if you have Japanese friends, it must be fun. 

When this was on TV last year in Japan, I heard that NISSIN got a lot of complains and sympathies from TV viewers. Some people said it was rude with the Japanese some of top companies (UNIQLO, RAKUTEN, NISSAN, SHARP etc…) which had changed their official language in English already before it was on TV. The others said it was too self-ridicule and pathetic for Japanese. But, I think this kind of people are Japanese. Of course including me, we are fighting with ourselves.

I’ve always wanted to overcome such a mental issue which the people in the commercial have, not only English. I didn’t have any confidents to jump into the new world and get through it until few years ago. But I think yoga practice gives me a lot of awareness and the way how to gain self-confidence. 

 

“Remember not to get frustrated with yourself”
“Remember not to rush the movement”
“Be patient with yourself”
“Take it easy, go step by step”
“Keep practicing, and it will come”
“Enjoy your journey!!”….etc.

 

These words gave me positive energy a lot!! I would like to say thank you to all of my yoga teachers.
Small little improvements everyday make a huge differences over a lifetime of practice. I’ll keep that in mind and practicing even if it seems impossible, not only yoga but also my English 😉

 

Chiaki Kikumoto   200hr TTC May 

Yoga and Time

Often yoga teachers speak about time and consciousness in class. Mostly I am told (1) to ‘be present’, and that all that exists, exists in the present. Yet at the same time, I am also told (2) that past, present, and future are equally real. I have been trying to figure where this fits in with scientific and philosophical theories of time. Both (1) and (2) represent mutually exclusive philosophical theories of time.
Two common views in the philosophy of time are (there are more, but two are sufficient for this purpose):
Presentism – only what is present is real, and exists.
Eternalism – ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’ are all equally real.
One is either a presentist or an eternalist, but not both.
At first glance, it seems that when your yoga teacher tells you to ‘be present’, she is speaking as a presentist. Yet, if past, present and future are all equally real, then it seems that your yoga teacher is speaking as an eternalist.
I am not implying that yoga teachers are flippant when they speak of time. It is plausible that there is a coherent yogic philosophical theory of time such that statements (1) and (2) can both be true at the same time. I have not figured this out, but it has been on my mind constantly these past four weeks, and I am curious enough that I might spend a semester doing research on yoga and the philosophy of time.
WL

New life, 2013.

2011
(2009, 2011)
The person you see now, every day jumping around in class and eating almost everything, is currently at her happiest and healthiest.
I had a severe eating disorder 4 years ago. The picture on the left showed the days when I was in Polytechnic. I made sure I exercised at least two hours and consumed less than 10 food items every single day, all for someone I loved then whom said I was too fat. Later, when I managed to lose 8 kg, I did not realize I lost much more. I lost what it meant to be called a woman. I lost quite a bit of hair as they thinned out so much, I missed my period for nearly one year, lost my two best friends called ‘breasts’, and surprisingly, my self-esteem. I rejected outings with my friends just to exercise and restrain myself from social eating. I was so thin, and some friends then joked that they can stick a straw and drink water from my collarbones.
After going through so much and losing my friends one by one, I thought I had sacrificed a lot for the one I loved. Ironically enough, it never lasted because I ended up losing so much weight, he said he felt like he was hugging a lamppost instead. Upset, feeling cheated and totally heartbroken, I ate all that I wanted. University started around then too, and the late nights made me indulge in junk food even more.
Needless to say, my weight rebounded. The photo on the right was taken 2 years back, when I had to wear baggy clothes to cover my tummy and weight gain. I still wore shorts because I could not deal with the fact that I was putting on so much weight, I had to convince myself that I was still fine, that I could still pull the shorts up my thighs. During that time, I ate with my emotions and within a year or so, I put on 10 more kg, even heavier than I was before. I was elated when my period finally restarted, and I no longer had to eat hormone-regulating pills. But I was not happy. I was feeling fat, sluggish and totally wasted. I started doing yoga more often, and stuck to it because I loved how I feel after every session. I did begin to shed off some weight and gain some strength. The calmness I felt during yoga was something I never got off the mat, which gradually made me realise how harshly I was treating my body in the past.
In this 200hr training course, after getting to know others and learning about their stories, I felt I was lucky to not have suffered from severe body issues having put myself under such undue stress previously. The body is such a precious temple that we have only for this lifetime. I also learnt much more about body anatomy, about the type of food we eat and how to eat right for a healthy body.
Right now, I may be heavier, meatier and rounder compared to when I was at my lowest weight, but I am undoubtedly happier and healthier. At least I do not have to worry about breaking my own bones when I fall in inversions or arm balances. I also do not have to worry about whether I was getting regular periods, or whether I had to stuff tissue into my bra just to look more normal and lady-like in my clothes.
It is true that when you have gone through suffering, you are more compassionate towards others and can truly understand how they are feeling. Compassion is such an important characteristic of a yoga teacher, not only when guiding total beginners into the practice, but also in living the yoga off the mat.
I do admit that I still stare at my jiggly bits now and then, wondering when will they ever leave me one day, but then I remind myself that I am blessed to be in relatively good health, and armed with the knowledge and means to make it better.
For that, I am already very thankful.
– Joy

my training experience

As of today, I have completed 3 weeks of yoga teacher training (halfway into the course!). I wanted to start penning down my thoughts while it was still fresh in my mind but I could not. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained. All I could remember from the first week was my poor body was all aching and sore. It was like I never knew those muscles existed, or maybe they have always been sleeping.
So here I am, with a clear mind, moving into the 4th week of training and ready to write and reflect on this wonderful journey. The past few weeks have been physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. I remember having a drug allergy by the end of the first week; I developed rashes all over my neck and body, it did not help that I was perspiring like mad every morning and could not resist the urge to scratch. Thankfully it was cleared in about 5 days but as soon as I thought things were getting better, I twisted my left foot while attempting the jump-through… ….
Oh well everything aside, those incredible weeks were one of the best days I ever experienced in my life. On some days I was on a high from training. I could not get enough of how much I have learned and would go home and talk for hours to my partner about everything I was doing and learning at the course. Of course on some days I was totally exhausted to a point where I just did not want to speak to anyone. (Master Paalu was right, it really happened!)
There were also instances where, I secretly tear on the mat when training got a little tough. Honestly, I always thought I was a tough cookie. Seemed like I have over-estimated my strengths. But I was very determined to maintain my composure and not let it affect me. I have learned to take things in stride, and not let my emotions get the better of me. So far, my trusty mat has collected a fair amount of sweat and tears over the past weeks. It was very interesting to monitor my attitude and emotions and observe how it would shift from day to day. As I move deeper and deeper into practice, I also move deeper and deeper into self-love. For me, going through this training was also a transformational experience. I was on the road to self-discovery.
Most importantly, I have NEVER done a single head stand in my entire life and at week 3 I finally conquered the fear of being upside down. This is my biggest achievement in practice so far. It is really quite incredible that I am able to let go of that fear and I am really working hard to achieve more boundaries.
Physically, I have to be prepared to train every morning, whether my body was ready or not. I also often asked myself if my practice was adequate or strong enough for teacher training.  Everyone was at a different level; some of us could do certain asanas while a few of us struggle with them. But today, I realized that on top of being good with your asanas, there is another aspect that is just as important. It is to be able to teach and lead a class. We need to discover and develop our own unique style, through the way we give instructions and how we project ourselves. I am so looking forward to explore which style suits me and I shall discover this in the next few days.
Although my practice has deepened and improved since day 1, there is still more room for improvement. And as I build strength to balance steadily my asanas, I also build strength to face whatever the world throws at me. For now, I am truly loving this awesome training experience and being in the ‘present’. Practice, practice, and more practice.
Sandy

Benjamin Button and Yoga

Remember Benjamin Button? He was the lead character from the 2008 fantasy drama that starred Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The film, which received 13 Academy Award nominations and won three Oscars, depicted the life of a man who had to live his life backwards. Brad Pitt played the character of Button, who was born wrinkled and looked like an old man, but as the years passed, grew to look younger and younger. Eventually, he ended his life as a baby.
The picture, in my view, draws a number of parallels with yoga.
The first parallel is that a life lived backwards could be far more enriching. From a physical standpoint, the different inversion and backbend asanas from camel to wheel to shoulder and head stands, yield countless health benefits.
Two-thirds of our body resides below our heart most of the time.  The heart thus needs to work hard in order to send oxygen and blood round our body every millisecond. The heart also needs to send blood against gravity to our brain, which helps and guides the rest of the body to perform every menial task throughout the day. Whether upwards or downwards, the heart is a slave.
When we lift into a Sirsasana, all of a sudden, blood flows back to our heart more readily and our brain is a happy recipient of a pool of bonus blood and oxygen, making us more alert and reinvigorated.  Along the way, our digestive system takes the opportunity to remove stubborn remains in our intestines, just like how we flip our bags upside down to clear out rubbish sometimes. And strangely, there is a renewed sense of calm inside you just by viewing the world around you with an unusual lens.
The second parallel – the movie not only leaves everyone wondering whether Brad would end up with Cate, the film also piques the viewer’s interest from scene to scene wondering how he would look as he grew increasingly younger (and more handsome too!). I, for one, admit that when I first took up yoga, it was a case of using the stretching exercises in yoga to perform better at other competitive sports. It was a means to strengthen my core muscles, stretch out my hamstrings, and improve my flexibility.
But as I practiced yoga more regularly and developed a deeper understanding of this 5,000-year-old discipline, I started to realise, and experience, the anti-aging benefits of yoga too. My skin is clearer and firmer. My breath is deeper and more wholesome. My mind is clearer and more alert.  I feel young both physically and mentally. Today when I get into Trikonasana, it is not just about how I look, whether my body is in perfect alignment, it is also very much about how I feel and if I am happy. When I step out of the yoga studio, yoga has also become what I choose to eat and say, and very importantly, how I want to live my life and treat the people around me.
The third parallel — Brad knew when to give up when he needed to. In the film, he stepped back twice and left Cate, even though she was probably the only woman he had ever loved. As yoga students, we are told to suspend intentions or expectations because when there’s an intention, there is bound to be disappointment. When you do something without expecting anything, any outcome that comes along will be a bonus, a form of happiness. Do what you can, not what the person on the next mat is doing. It is only when you open up to your insecurities and fears, and acknowledge what your mind is telling you, that you can embark on a real path to conquer your wayward mind. And when the mind is conquered, the body will follow. So sometimes giving up and surrendering, in this case to yourself, is not a bad thing at all. You may just encounter a new, and happier, you.

A perfect creation

The creator of the human body – whoever it is – is a genius. The body is a fine piece of art. Perfect balance, symbiosis and equilibrium are its trademark.
Let us start with the main engine of our body – the heart. Part of the cardiovascular system, the heart connects intricately with a complex pathway of veins, arteries and capillaries throughout the body and feeds it invaluable oxygen and nutrients.
Every heartbeat is an act of contraction and relaxation, or a systole and diastole. When the upper chambers, or atria, contract, the lower chambers, or ventricles, relax. Where blood travels away from the heart via arteries, vessels and then arterioles, there is a return path via capillaries, venules and then large veins. And where deoxygenated blood travels away from the heart to the lungs from the right, the left shares its load by transporting oxygenated blood from the left to other parts of the body. The heart is in perfect balance.
Next up is our muscular system. Regardless of the number of origins, shape or size, there are always agonists and antagonists. Agonist muscles help make an action happen, like raising a leg. To return your body to its natural position, antagonist muscles work the other way and revert the leg to its original position. Where there is a flex action, there is an extension. Where there is a need to move a limb away from the torso, or abduct, there will eventually be a need to move it back towards the torso, or adduct. Our muscles work in perfect balance.
Moving on to the endocrine system. If the body is calling out for an action to maintain homeostasis, specific hormones are released, targeting cells to enable a particular action to happen. Be it temperature, blood pressure or water level, there are hormones for each feedback the body is providing. When the body is crying out for fluids, anti-diuretic hormones kick in. And when the body returns to normalcy, production of hormones ceases. Like muscles, there are antagonistic hormones, like insulin and glucagon. They work hand in hand to make sure that blood glucose level within the body is maintained at the optimal condition. Parathyroid hormones, on the other hand, partners closely with Calcitonin to regulate the level of calcium in our blood. The endocrine system is in perfect balance.
The perfect balance is a state inherent in each of us. When we sucked in our first breath as a baby, we were happy and carefree. And life often throws us off balance. It introduces highs and lows, happiness and sadness, peace and chaos. We can each do something to help our minds and bodies find this balance again. My way is yoga. What’s yours?

Lesson plan

This is a lesson plan for advanced beginners or intermediate practitioners. Focus is on synchronising the breath with each movement, and each asana builds up to the next flow.
Introduction
1. Greet class; introduce myself
2. Check medical history or first timers
3. Introduce Ujjayi breath and how it should be used throughout the class
Warm up
4. Calm breath and centre mind (1 minute)
5. Cat and cow poses (8 breaths)
6. Move into downward dog (5 breaths)
7. Uttanasana (raise heads halfway for 5 breaths)
Standing
8. Suria Namaskara A (2 rounds)
9. Go into a flow series where one asana is added each round. A vinyasa is done with each flow.
Flow 1: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II
Flow 2: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II – Reverse warrior
Flow 3: Utkatasana – Virabhadrasana II – Reverse warrior – Utthita Parsvakonasana
10. Tadasana (mountain pose for 5 breaths)
11. Vrikshasana (tree pose; one on each side)
Seated
12. Preparatory pose: Half bow (one on each side)
13. Preparatory pose: Locust
14. Full pose: Dhanurasana (wheel)
15. Rest in Child’s pose
16. Get up slowly into a Rabbit pose
17. Janu sirsasana (one on each leg)
18. Paschimottanasana (2 times, hold for 3 breaths each)
19. Urdhva Dhanurasana (2 times for 5 breaths each; bridge as variation)
20. Release into supine twist as a counter pose
21. Happy baby pose
22. Savasana (5 mins)
May the breath be with you.

The Eightfold Path

The eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life and serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct as well as self-discipline.Through this eight fold path, they help practitioner to accept the spiritual aspects of nature. The most important aspect for building construction is the foundation, whereas the construction of the spiritual edifice of raja yoga is constituted by yamas and niyamas. More advanced practices such as meditation should also be pursued but there will be no substantial progress until the 10 practices of yama and niyama are established.

Yama
The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. It should be noted that all yamas should be practiced in the spirit and put into practice. All 5 yamas are interconnected and should be practiced in relation to each other. Although sometimes they are contradictory,Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The five yamas are:

  •  Ahimsa: nonviolence . It also means “entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word or deed.”Non-injury will require harmless mind & actions.
  • Satya: truthfulness. It is more than merely telling the truth. Everyone should practised what they preach and walk the talk.
  • Asteya: nonstealing and is self-explanatory. However, it is good to bear in mind that there are many subtle ways to desire what does not belong to us.
  • Brahmacharya: advocating chastity or celibacy as sex is the most depleting activity to the psychic and nervous system. Like all traditional spiritual traditions, yoga advocates restraining from indulging in sensual gratification. This energy is built up through the practices of yoga such as asanas, pranayama and japa but is dissipated during sensual enjoyment.
  • Aparigraha: noncovetousness and the state of being contented. This also includes the notion of not accepting gifts that would bind us to the giver.

Niyama
 Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice. The five niyamas are:

  • Saucha: cleanliness which includes purity of mind and thoughts. It also include the cleanliness of the boday which includes kriyas 
  • Samtosa: contentment with your life though it is good to do improvement to your lifestyle. One must remember that the world is not a perfect place.
  • Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities is required to strengthen ourselves physically and mentally . One of the best way is through fasting.
  • Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self. For a vedantin the best scriptures are the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras
  • Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God’s will and devotion. All ethical and moral precepts of yoga culminate here.

Asana
Asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Furthermore the posture must be kept still for a long time and therefore it needs to be extremely comfortable. When the meditator is not able to control his mind, he is advised to practice the asanas of hatha yoga in order to gain the needed mastery.
Pranayama
Generally translated as breath control, this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As implied by the literal translation of pranayama, “life force extension,” yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself.Very much like the wind creates the motion of the leaves, prana creates the motion of the mind which gives rise to the vrittis. Air is the primary physical medium of prana and breathing is our best method to gain control over the prana.
Pratyahara
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. The analogy given to us is that of the tortoise which, under perceived danger, pulls in all its limbs and head.

Dharana
As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. One-pointedness. The meditator is fully focused on the object of concentration, his mind as still as the flame of a lamp in a windless room. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation. Which is dhyana.In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point.
Dhyana
Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. In dhyana there is still duality of consciousness which is the feeling of separation between the meditator and the object of meditation. When maintained long enough this state will lead to the highest rung of the ladder of ashtanga yoga which is samadhi.This may seem to ba difficult task , however do remember that practise makes perfect and at every stage of our progress, we will benefit from this practice.
Samadhi 

“The state of consciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness; here the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought become one in perfect absorption of the mind.”

At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. This ultimate stage of yoga which is enlightenment can neither be bought nor possessed. However,  it can be attained through continual practice.

Beginner ( first timer) lesson plan

5 min:

  • Introduce your self
  • Ask for medical history, not feeling well

20 min:

  • Do OM X3; explain OM

It is believed to be the basic sound of the universe, the cosmic vibration and contains all other sounds. When repeated correctly it penetrates all and creates harmony and unity with all that exists – with mind, body and spirit and that to all others

  • Start on breathing; show them how to breath, exhaling sucking in the belly and inhaling expanding tummy.

Warm up :
Legs:

  • Move your legs on the spot( jogging style)
  • Swing your left leg forward and backward x5 ( do the same with the right leg)

Hip:

  • Stretch out your hand and move up ( inhale ) & move down ( exhale) with hands touching the mat x5
  • Stretch your hand up and interlock your fingers. Inhale and stretch. Do the same on the left side and right side (holding breath for 3 counts)

Shoulder:

  • Rotate your shoulder clockwise and anti clockwise

Neck:

  • Rotate your neck, left to right and right to left x5

30 min:
Asana:
Sun salutation A

  • Stand at the front of the mat, place hand together in prayer position.
  • Inhale, arms up and As you exhale, hollow out your belly and fold into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), connecting down into the earth. Keep your legs firmly engaged.
  • Inhale half way up, look up , hands placing on the mat, step right leg backwards followed by left leg.
  • Stay in plank position
  • Inhale and exhale normally
  • Exhale,8 limbed staff pose on the mat  where  toes, knees, chest, chin are touching the floor
  • In hale , lift the knees, moving slightly forwards into upward facing dog.
  • Exhale into downward facing dog.( adho mukha svanasana)-breakdown as below:
  1. Come into all fours
  2. Place your knees right under your hips, making sure first you have fully extended your spine.
  3. Place your hands on your mat, shoulder-width apart
  4. Light spread your fingers and making sure your middle finger faces directly forward.
  5. Lift your pelvis to the ceiling and draw your hips back, look at your feet. They should be hip distance apart.
  6. Your heels may / may not touch the ground- try to ground your heels ( you will be able to feel your spine being stretch and your hips, hamstrings & shoulders)
  7. Press hands and stretch your hips back from the tops of your thighs.
  8. Shift your weight back into your hips and look towards your belly
  9. Ensure the crown of your head is aligned to the natural line of your spine
  10. Breath slowly X5
  11. On your 5th exhale, bend your knees & look between your hands.
  • In hale, look up place right leg between the palms and repeat the same for left leg.
  • Exhale back into uttanasana ( standing forward bend)
  • Inhale and stand up in praying post.
  • Remain here for a few breaths & continue your next  salute

Standing pose:
Trikonasana=Triangle pose;Utthita trikonasana:
(Do take a block if needed)

  • From Tadasana( mountain pose) facing the long edge of the your mat.
  • Step your feet wide apart and turn your left foot out so it is parallel to the front of your mat
  • And turn your left foot in slightly.
  • On inhalation, raise your arms parallel to the floor, extend your arm bones away from your center with all your heart.
  • On exhalation, bend towards right leg, keeping hip square. Place your right hand on your right leg / on a block/ hold the ankle.
  • Keep your gazing point towards the your left thumb; keep your breast wide apart and look up. Breath for x5 . Repeat on the left side.

Savasana/Cool down( 5 min):

  • Lie down, spread your legs apart, your palms facing towards the ceiling.
  • For instant relaxation, in hale & tense your toes, ankles, thighs, buttocks and abdomen. Exhale
  • Inhale and make your hands into fist, tense your chest, biceps/ triceps , facial muscles, crown of your head and exhale
  • Relax and focus on your right feet, relax your toe, thigh, ankle. Relax your left feet, toe, ankle, thigh.
  • Relax your abdomen, and focus on your hands. Relax your shoulder, hand, ankle, wrist, fingers.
  • Relax your facial muscle, your eyes, your head crown
  • Bring the awareness back to body and sit in Sukhahasana. Bow gratitude.

Lesson Plan – Building Up to Trikonasana

Introduction (3 min)
The following lesson plan focuses on building flexibility and strength in the core to hold and position the body properly in Trikonasana, open up the hips so that the toes and kneecaps can be pointed in the correct directions, as well as increase flexibility in the back of legs and strengthen the quads so that back leg can be used actively to support weight distribution.
Ohm and Pranayama (12 min)

  • Ohm x10
  • Ujjayi – 5 min
  • Bhramari – 5 min

Warm-up (5 min)
Asana (30 min)
Suryanamaskara A x5
Suryanamaskara B x5
Navasana (Boat Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

Santolasana (Plank)

Vasisthasana (Side Plank)

 
Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)

 
Tiryaka Tadasana (Side Bending Pose)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Leg Forward Bend)

Parsvotanasana (Intense Stretch to the Side Pose)

Ukatasana (Chair Pose)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

Parvaritta Utthita Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)

Closing sequence
Closing (10 Min)

  • Kapala Bathi
  • Savasana
Thanks to the Fat Girl for doing the poses.