Class batch: RYT200hrs, P/T, Apr – Jun 2017

Project title: Anatomy

Project theme: Iliocostalis

Project by: Andre Neo Tai Chin

I’ve practiced Wall Rope Yoga all along. I was told to ‘Drop down and let go my body’ at the side as one of the poses in Wall Rope Yoga. Everything went smooth until the next day when I was practicing Ashtanga Yoga especially in Paschimattanasana I could feel a sharp pain at my side back muscle and when in all Marichyasana poses the twist made the pain even worse. Subsequently for the next one week, I could not sleep soundly and in pain. On the second week, I decided to find out where was the exact cause of pain at my side back muscle’s pull. 

  With the help of ‘The Key Muscles of Yoga’ reference book, back muscles area is ‘Erector-Spinae’ which has three muscles running parallel to the Vertebral column where one of the muscle is called iliocostalis. Forward bend and supine twist asanas target on Iliocostalis. iliocostalis was the answer to my finding. Now that I’d known the caused of my injury. It would be easier for me to recover using the right method (chinese medicine) to target the pain area. It’ll be a slow process to heal, but no pain, no gain.

I’ve to be careful in the future when it comes to ‘Drop down and let go my body’ pose where my body can take to its maximum in ‘Half way drop down and half way body let go’ kinda pose- literally as a saying…  

Tension & Compression

Some yoga postures are designed to beneficially stress the joints of the body to stimulate their strength and flexibility. There are two fundamentally different types of stress: tension and compression. Yogis should learn the difference between the two.

Tension is the familiar sensation of tissues being stretched. Compression is the sensation of tissues being pressed or pushed together. Both of these stresses are beneficial if done in moderation.

When a yogi is stretching a joint, he is stretching a ligament, a tendon, or both. When a yogi is compressing a joint, he is compressing bones. 

When performing yang styles of yoga (i.e. power, vinyasa, or ashtanga) you primarily activate muscle tissue to stabilize and protect your joints (this is because muscular tension compresses the joints and thereby limit your range of motion). An example would be the warrior pose, in which the quadriceps hamstrings, etc are engaged to take stress off the knee joint. 

When practising yin yoga, you primarily activate connective tissues by deliberately relaxing your muscles and putting safe stresses on your joints. An example would be Butterfly pose where you relax your legs and back muscles to allow the connective tissues in you groin, knees, lower back & ankles to gently open up & receive some stresses.

When bone is compressed, it stimulates new bone growth. Too much compression results in pain, irritation and inflammation. When muscle tissue and connective tissue is stressed (tension), it creates micro-tears in the fibers, which enables those tissues to grow longer and stronger. 

In addition to stretching and strengthening your connective tissues, you can also carefully & methodically break up scar tissues and adhesions with a regular yoga practice. You can slowly increase your range of motion by increasing the length and strength of your connective tissues. 

If you feel discomfort while practicing yoga, there are two possibilities — you are either experiencing compression or tension. If you are experiencing compression, you will not gain much by forcing the movement and you may even hurt yourself. To do the pose safely, you will either need to find a different way to do that pose or you can simply back off a little bit.

If you are experiencing tension, then this may be an opportunity to open up your body – if you listen to your body and do it safely. The key is to know the difference between placing a healthy stress on your connective tissues or muscles and straining these tissues. 

Yoga is not about being the most flexible or strongest person in the class who can do the coolest variations. Asana is simply a way of calming your mind, becoming more connected with your body, and improving your day-to-day life by having a stronger and more flexible body (according to your natural limits). Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing yoga for many years, you likely already know that your body feels different each day, so you need to approach your practice with a new set of eyes each time. If in doubt, it is always better to under do the pose rather than overdo it. You can always sink down a little further once you are settled into the pose, but it is hard to undo an injury if you over do it.

Mavis Tan 200hr January to May 2014 Batch


Yoga, Sama and the Spine

Spine in sama is when the spine is in line and taking its natural curve. The spine needs to be practice towards the state of sama as the “conditioned” spine is not yet there.
So what is sama and what are the natural curves of the spine?
The meaning of sama is not grasped by one word in English but takes many words to point towards the same meaning. Such as similar, balance, evenness, union, equanimity, wholeness, one, etc. In my opinion, the word sama and yoga point towards the same direction.
There are three natural curves in a healthy spine –
1. the neck (cervical spine) curves gently inward – lordosis.
2. the mid back (thoracic spine) curves slightly outwards – kyphosis
3. the lower back (lumbar spine) also curves inward – lordosis.
These natural curves of the spine are caused by the muscles, ligaments and tendons that are connected to the vertebrate of the spine. These structures support the spine and without the, the spine would collapse. Learning how to maintain a neutral spinal alignment helps to stabilize the spine during daily activities, i.e. sitting, walking, standing and doing yoga asanas.
Due to different reasons, not many people has a healthy spine that has front-to-back curves. To avoid misalignment in our spine when standing for instance, we need ‘align’, followed by ‘stabilise’ and then ‘lift’ the following 3 platforms.
1. Foot and ankle:
– broaden the metatarsals
– press all four sides of the feet down into the ground evenly
– outer ankle to be drawn in and up, while inner ankle lifts up and out
– lift up through the legs to protect the knee and never lock the knee.
2. Pelvic girdle
– press back the femurs
– lift up the frontal hip bones
– broadens the sacrum and keep the side pelvis forward
After getting the alignment in placed, elongate through the torso and side ribs. Stabilise by drawing the side hips and thighs to draw in to the midline. Avoid hypo-extension (rounding lumbar spine) and hyper-extending (over arching the lower back).
3. Shoulder Girdle:
– lift the top of the sternum and broaden across the collar bones
– depress the shoulder blades and move the scapula down the back
– move the upper arm bones slightly back in line with the coronal plane
-draw the trapezius muscles down the back
After getting into the alignment, soften and drop the bottom front ribs and elongate through the thoracic spine and neck. This will help to protect the cervical spine. In cases of hunch in the back, strengthen the upper back postural muscles and pull the shoulders outwards and move the scapula down the back. At the same time, check for wrinkles on joints of humerus to avoid excess shoulders pull.
A crooked or compressed spine will result in poor alignment in the asana and it is highly unlikely that the yogi can find sama in any of the asanas.
Claudine Yong
200 hr – July – Aug

UTTANASANA (Deep standing forward bend)

Meaning: Intense stretch
–  This is one of the poses within the sun salutation sequence
Dristi: Nosetip
Preparation poses:
1)   Paschimottanasana  (West posterior stretch pose)
2)   Ardha Uttanasana (Standing half forward bend)
3)   Forward bend leaning on a chair
4)   Uttanasana with knees bent, then slowly engage quads to straighten
1)   Stand in Tadasana with feet hip width apart and hands on the hip
2)   Breathe in and lengthen the spine by arching back
3)   Exhale and flex the hip forward by contracting the hip flexors (including psoas, pectineus and rectus femoris muscles)
4)   When bending forward, shift weight slightly to the toes
5)   Pronate both arms and press palms into the mat
6)   Activate the lower part of the trapezius to draw shoulders away from the neck
7)   Contract deltoids and biceps to flex the elbow
8)   Contract rectus abdominis muscles slightly to deepen the stretch and to protect the lower back
9)   Engage the quadriceps by pulling the kneecaps (patella) up to prevent knees from bending.
10)  Aim to flatten your torso against your thighs
11)   Hold in Uttanasana for 5 Ujjayi breaths, with eyes gazing at the nosetip
12)   Attempt to deepen the stretch with each exhalation
13)   After 5 breaths, slowly inhale and extend the hip joint by engaging the abdomen
14)   Return to Tadasana
Variations to Uttanasana:
Padangusthasana (Standing forward bend with bound toe)
Padahasthasana (Standing forward bend with palms under the feet)
Counter poses to Uttanasana:
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Purvottanasana (East anterior stretch pose)
Muscles lengthening/Stretching:
Erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus (posterior), hamstrings, gastrocnemius
Muscles contracting:
Psoas, pectieus, rectus femoris, trapezius, deltoids, biceps, rectus abdominis, quadriceps
Stretch reflex in Uttanasana:
When bending forward, the muscles being stretched (namely hamstrings, gluteus maximus and erector spinae) will involuntarily contract in order to resist over lengthening. This is a protective response to avoid injury to the muscles. When the erector spinae contracts, the back rounds and this prevents deepening of the stretch in Uttanasana. When the hamstrings contract, the knees flex and this again prevents deepening of the stretch. Rounding of the back and flexing of the knees are very common mistakes when executing this Asana. In order to lessen the stretch reflex, relax into the stretch and practice passive stretching in forward bend. This allows the muscles to adjust to the stretch.
Contraindications to the pose:
1)   People with back injuries – Attempt pose with bent knees and move into the pose cautiously
2)   People with neck injuries – Always lengthen the neck and avoid compressing the back of the neck as you look forward
3)   People with Osteoporosis
A disc bulge may occur if too much weight is borne by the Lumbar spine. To prevent this, avoid rounding the lower back.
Benefits of the pose:
1)   Helps to reduce stress and calm the mind
2)   Stimulates the Pineal, Hypothalamus and Pituitary endocrine glands in the brain
3)   Stimulates the liver and kidney
4)   Improves digestion
5)   Relieves headaches, menstrual cramps and insomnia
6)   Helps correct spinal problems such as scoliosis

Anatomy and asana – Vriksasana (Tree pose)

The tree pose is one of the first pose that drawn me into yoga.
Although it is not part of the Asthanga serie, it is an emblematic pose worth noting and exploring.
I appreciate the contrast of strength and balance which is needed to hold the pose and the gracefulness that can be expressed with the arms and the upper part of the body. With enough focus, one can really feel the tree analogy, the energy connection with the earth when properly rooted and the lightness of the arms micro balancing like branches slowly moved by the wind.
How to get into the pose?
Start in Tadasana (mountain pose), lift the right knee 90′, using the wall for support if needed, place the sole of the feet against the inner left tight, or below the left knee if need be – make sure the pressure is NOT on the knee.

Make sure both sides of the trink are equally stretched. Breathe slowly and steadily.

Keep the hands on the hips or folded together in prayer position in front of the chest. Control your hips and pelvic region and ensure they are in neutral position and balanced, tuck the tailbone in if need be.
On an inhale, lift the arms up, alongside the ears, with the palms still pressing on one another. Steady the gaze. Smile. Stay in the pose for several deep breaths. Enjoy, and feel free to open the arms and stretch them. Do you feel the wind?
Exit the pose by releasing the hands and the knee with control, back into Tadasana. Switch legs.
Watch out areas:
– Standing knee, make sure it doesn’t hyperextend and that the folded leg doesn’t put any direct pressure on the joint.
– Control the flexion of the folded knee, and rest the sole of the feet below the knee of the standing leg if flexion is too strong.
– If any lower back pain or injury, control the balance and stability of the hips and pelvic region, control the level of flexion of the folded knee.
– Shoulders: if lifting the hands and arms straight over the head is not possible or painful, keep the hands in prayer position at chest level.

Meniscus and lotus pose

Knee pain problem is very common especially for marathon runners &  elderly people. Of course, there are also other groups of people which I did not mention here.
Majority of the people complaint about the pain in their knee which is the medial side of the knee. However, there are a minority group expressing the pain is outside of their knee & also about pain running through thte centerline of the knee or around the knee cap. These 3 areas mentioned are due to stress in the knee in different ways.
In yoga, pain inside the knee is the most common problem and is mostly associated to the leg being in a half or full lotus position. This is mainly due to the compression of the medial meniscus. However, it does not mean that the meniscus is torn , it could simply mean that this area has been irritated repeatedly.This knee pain could also be related to  hamstring or adductor  & hence, a good assessment is the key for knee injury.
 In this article, only medial meniscus will be discussed as there are many stories of knee problem in the lotus position. This could be indicated by the swellingin the back of the knee and sometimes regular clicking sound that follows the pop. However, again, good assessment of the injury is needed and the best option is to seek the doctor and if needed a MRI  will be done.
 Before we go deeper into meniscus, below is a brief explanation in anatomy context:

 In anatomy, a meniscus (from Greek μηνίσκος meniskos, “crescent”[1]) is a crescent-shaped fibrocartilaginous structure that, in contrast to articular disks, only partly divides a joint cavity.[2] In humans it is present in the knee, acromioclavicular, sternoclavicular, and temporomandibular joints;[3] in other organisms they may be present in other joints (e.g., between the forearm bones of birds). A small meniscus also occurs in the radio-carpal joint.

 In the knee structure, there are two separate pieces of cartilage that make up the meniscus. Each is an additional piece of cartilage that sits between the femur and tibia and this is where the two bones come together and form the femorotibial joint ( knee joint). The function of this cartilage is to add cushioining to the joint and allow the knee to flex, extend and rotate.

The shape of the meniscus is crescent shaped and sits on top of the tibia which is referred to as tibial plateau. One of the meniscus is on the inside ( medial) while the other is on the outside ( lateral) which makes up the anterior & posterior.The MCL (medial collateral ligament) attaches to the medial meniscus, which is why injuries to these structures may occur at the same time. The MCL runs up the inside of the tibiofemoral joint. On the outside runs the LCL (lateral collateral ligament) which has no attachment to the lateral meniscus. The lateral meniscus does, however, attach to another structure called popliteus. Popliteus is a muscle that covers the back of the knee and helps “unlock” the knee from a fully straightened position. It is also thought to help pull the lateral meniscus out of the way during knee bending, so to avoid pinching and subsequent tearing of the meniscus .The area of the meniscus with the most problem is the posterior portion of the medial meniscus especially in the lotus scenario.
Can torn Meniscus heal?
This is a very common question and the answer is dependent on the degree to which the meniscus is torn.If the tears occur on the outer edge of the meniscus, it can heal on their own as there is a small blood supply that feeds the outer edge to help it heal.If the inner part is badly torn, surgery could be required as joints should not have friction and a tear will cause an increase in friction which will then result in swelling, irritation and pain. If unattended, the tear could grow in size and damage the cartilage on the femur that has slide over to the torn area.
 Medial meniscus and lotus pose
There are 2 movements that would put tremendous pressure on the medial meniscus which are the flexion of the knee and the internal( medial) rotation of the tibia.In lotus position both the femur and the tibia have to rotate externally. Hence, if the tibia does not have enough outward rotation, there should be enough in the hip to make it up.In order to avoid any injury while doing the lotus pose, we will need to understand the problem. The degree of mobility for Hip joint is very important in this pose. 
Lotus Pose (Padmasana) is a supreme position for meditation, and Lotus variations of other asanas can be profound. However, forcing the legs into Lotus is one of the most dangerous things you can do in yoga. Each year, many yogis seriously injure their knees this way. Often the culprit is not the student but an overenthusiastic teacher physically pushing a student into the pose. Below are some variations which we could do in the lotus pose:

    1. Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana (Half-Bound Half-Lotus Forward Bend),
    2.  Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose):As one move from the Dandasana( staff pose) to baddha konasan,the ball-shaped head of the thigh bone must rotate outward In the hip socket about 100 degree
    3. Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose):Bending the knee and  placing the foot in preparation for  Janu Sirsasana requires somewhat less external rotation, but as a student bends forward in the pose, the tilt of the pelvis relative to the femur brings the total rotation to about 115 degrees

Padmasana requires the same amount of external rotation (115 degrees) just sitting upright, and the angle of rotation is somewhat different, making it more challenging .When we combine the Padmasana action with a forward bend, as we do in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, the total external rotation required at the hip joint jumps to about 145 degrees.

The above picture show the safe knee placement. Most of the people , the thighbone stops rotating partway into the pose due to tight muscles or ligaments( shown in the below picture). In some cases, it could be due to bone-to -bone limitations deep in the hip.When the femur stops rotating, the only way to get the foot up higher is to bend the knee sideways. Knees are not designed to do this-they are only designed to flex and extend.

Anatomy on Headstands

1. Headstand develops the masculine qualities of will power, sharpness of the brain and clarity of thought. Headstand tends to heat the body and stimulate the nervous system and tones the neck muscles
There are four major systems in the body that the practice of sirsasana positively influences: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine.
The circulatory system is comprised of the heart, lungs and the entire system of vessels that feed oxygen and collect carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cells. Arteries fan out in an intricate tributary system from the heart, which pumps freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs outward. Veins return blood to the heart and, unlike arteries, make up a low-pressure system that depends on muscular movement or gravity to move blood along. One-way valves at regular intervals prevent backwash and keep fluids moving towards the heart in a system known as venous return. Turning yourself upside down encourages venous return.
Inversions also ensure healthier and more effective lung tissue. When standing or sitting upright, gravity pulls our fluids earthward, and blood “perfuses” or saturates the lower lungs more thoroughly. The lower lung tissue is thus more compressed than the upper lungs. As a result, the air we inhale moves naturally into the open alveoli of the upper lungs. Unless we take a good, deep breath, we do not raise the ration of air to blood in the lower lungs. When we invert, blood perfuses the well-ventilated upper lobes of the lungs, thus ensuring more efficient oxygen-to-blood exchange and healthier lung tissue.
Inverting also gives the heart a break. The heart works persistently to ensure that freshly oxygenated blood makes its way up to the brain and its sensory organs. When inverting, the pressure differential across the body is reversed, and blood floods to the brain with little work from the heart.
The lymphatic system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system response. Lymph vessels arise among the capillary beds of the circulatory system, but comprise a separate system that transports stray proteins, waste materials, and extra fluids, filtering the fluid back through the lymph nodes and dumping what remains into the circulatory system at the subclavian veins, under the collarbones. The lymphatic system is analogous to a sewage system, an intricate, underground network tied to every house in town which keeps the citizens healthy.
Lymph, like the blood returning to your heart via the veins, is dependent upon muscular movement and gravity to facilitate its return. Because the lymphatic system is a closed pressure system and has one-way valves that keep lymph moving towards the heart, when one turns upside down, the entire lymphatic system is stimulated, thus strengthening your immune system. Viparita karani is a good example of this, as it is a mild inversion that one can enjoy with no stress on the body.

Pressing down through the upper arms and forearms relieves pressure on the neck. Activating the entire core, the sides of the torso, and tucking the tail further aligns the joints and stabilizes the posture, enabling it to be held for a longer period of time. Glutes, quads, hamstrings, every muscle is active. Flexing the feet, spreading the toes, reaching up through the heels, pressing up at the arches of the feet, and activating the inner calves and thighs as you continue to press downward with the upper arms can give this posture more lift.

The Human Heart

A poem, by Elaine Ee
The human heart begins beating about 21 days after conception
It is located in the middle of your lungs
Behind your breastbone, slightly to the left
Encased in a sac that protects the heart,
Anchors it to the surrounding body parts and
Stops it from overfilling with blood
It weighs about 300 grams and is roughly the size of your fist
It comprises mostly smooth muscle
Each day, a heart beats an average of 100,000 times and
Pumps 7,500 litres of blood
Your heart has four chambers:
Two atria and two ventricles
The left ventricle is the strongest
And has enough force to pump blood through your whole body
Electrical impulses from your heart muscle cause your heart to beat
With each beat your heart contracts and relaxes
Systole and diastole, systole and diastole
And the amount of blood ejected by each systole
Is called the stroke volume
So you can see why when blood stops flowing to
A part of the brain
It is called a stroke.
Also known as a “brain attack.”
Your whole life is in your heart
That’s what people mean when they say
My heart is in your hands
Treat it gently
Please don’t break it
If a heart is broken
The heart muscles suddenly weaken
The left ventricle bulges abnormally and you experience congestive heart failure
In mild cases of a broken heart, your ventricle returns to normal in two months
In extreme cases, you die
When your heart is broken you feel physical pain in your chest
Your heart grows sad and lonely
It slows down
Feels heavy
And aches
This type of broken heart a cardiologist cannot fix
So take care of your heart
All 300 grams of it
Because when it is weary
It weighs so much more
And if you love someone
Give them your heart
All 300 grams of it
And it will mean so much more

Anatomy — Uttanasana (how to avoid/ alleviate pain in the hamstrings)

Anatomy – Uttanasana
 Stretches hamstrings and spine, strengthens thighs and calms the body down (parasympathetic).
 Stimulates liver and kidneys. Improves digestion.
 Relieves stress and mild depression; reduces fatigue and anxiety.
 Relieves symptoms of menopause in women.
 Effective for ailments like asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis, and sinusitis.
 Back injuries  perform pose with modifications (eg: bend knees or rest hands on the wall, legs perpendicular to torso and arms parallel to floor)

Obstacles: Tightness in hamstrings
Typically the pain is present during forward bends such as Uttanasana or Paschimottanasana and is located in the region of the sitting bones (ischial tuberosities) where the hamstrings originate. This soreness can become chronic because continuing to stretch the hamstrings in the same manner aggravates the problem.
Resolve: Balance and Distribute the stretch during forward bends

The hamstrings are located on the backs of the thighs. They are composed of three muscles. On the inside of the thighs are the semimembranosus and semitendinosus. On the outside are the biceps femoris. The hamstrings originate from the ischial tuberosity (except the short head of the biceps, which originates from the femur). They insert on the lower leg. Contracting the hamstrings bends the knee.
1) Biceps femoris (long head)
2) Semitendinosus
3) Semimembranosus
4) Biceps femoris (short head)
The following movements aid to distribute the stretch along the length of the hamstrings:
1) Bending the knees releases the hamstrings at their insertions on the lower legs.
2) Activating the psoas muscle tilts the pelvis forward and stabilizes the origin of the hamstrings. This action draws the torso towards the thighs.
3) Maintaining the pelvis tilting forward and gently contracting the quadriceps to gradually straighten the knees focuses the stretch on the distal regions of the hamstrings and away from the overstretched area at the origin. Contracting the quadriceps also results in “reciprocal inhibition” of the hamstrings and causes them to relax into the stretch.

It is best to build this new method of stretching over time. If pain occurs in the hamstrings, one should back off on the stretch by slightly bending the knees.

How to Safely Hold Asanas If You Have a Joint with Hyperextension

Increased flexibility is many people’s goal when they are practising yoga. However some people can naturally have too much flexibility in their joints and this must be carefully managed to help prevent damage to their joint. If a person has hyperextension of the knee or elbow hinge joints, then it will look as if the joint is being bent backwards.
The anatomical name for this over flexibility of the joints is called “hyperextension”. Hyperextension can also occur through injury, however in this blog I am going to discuss the importance of differentiating the asanas for those who are born with elbow and knee hyperextension and how to perform them without causing injury.
Whilst hyperextension does not cause discomfort to people whose joints are like this, it can in the long term lead to arthritis or ligament damage: when a joint is hyper extended the ligaments supporting it will be put under a lot of stress. It will also mean that the correct leg or arm muscles are not engaged during the asana as the joint will be taking the pressure.
One example of when you may see or experience hyper extension of the knee is in standing asanas such as tandasana. If one hyper extends their knees then this must be counteracted by slightly bending the knee, to prevent the knee joint from over extending backwards. It will of course look different to the traditional tandasana pose, however this is the correct way to do the position to avoid injury to the knee ligaments.
Hyper extension of the elbow can occur in sitting and inversion asanas. An example is when one is performing trikonasana or marichyasana poses. A person who hyper extends their elbow should counteract this by maintaining a slight bend in their elbow, which will allow for the correct muscles to be engaged and developed and will prevent overbearing weight on the elbow joint.
So, if you have hyper extended joints, or if you are teaching someone with hyper extended joints, this will mean that the visually asanas should look different as bending of the knees and elbows will be necessary to counteract the hypertension.