Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapalabhati Pranayama

Kapalabhati Pranayama is one of the pranayamas that I have adopted in my daily routine since the start of YTT. Its the first thing I do when I get out of bed. In my experience, I feel that it has helped me greatly in digestion and ability to expel negative thoughts in my head, thus, making me largely more productive daily. 

Kapala means “skull” and bhati means “shining”. Kapalabathi is known as a method to cleanse the overall body system so much that when practised regularly, the face will shine radiantly with good health, hence, its terms Shining Skull. This pranayama involves passive inhalation and active forceful exhalations through the nose, using abdominal muscles.

 

How to practise Kapalabathi:

  1. Come to comfortable seated position such as Padmasana (lotus) or Sukhasana.
  2. Place your hands on your knees with palms facing the sky.
  3. Take a few deep breaths to prepare for Kapalabathi.
  4. At the end of the last inhalation, contract the abdominal muscles quickly. This will forcefully push air out of the lungs, making it an active forceful exhalation.
  5. Relax the abdominal muscle, and this will naturally result in passive inhalation.
  6. Repeat this by contracting and “pumping” your abdominal muscles quickly. Passive inhalation will follow. This is considered one pump.
  7. After 20-30 pumps, end on the exhalation. This is considered one round.
  8. Take a few deep breaths after 1 round. Repeat this for 2 more rounds.

 

Physical Benefits:

  • Aids digestion
  • Strengthens and increases the capacity of the lungs 
  • Strengthen abdominal muscles
  • Stimulates blood circulation

 

Mental Benefits:

  • Balances oxytocin
  • Improves concentration and memory

 

Spiritual Benefits:

  • Removing any blocks in nadis
  • Activates chakras in your body
  • Regulates the flow of prana 

 

Important things to take note of:

  • It is best to practise this with no food intake.
  • Women who are pregnant or on moon cycle should NOT practise this.
  • People with major illnesses such as cancer or high blood pressure should also NOT practise this.

Running with Mindfulness

A short reflection on running and mindfulness today.

 

My first love is and always has been running – I’ve run consistently since I was a teenager and it’s been a kind of up-and-down relationship. Running when I’m angry, running on good days and holidays. I found my way to the yoga mat in a period when I “broke up” with running for a bit, frustrated with a hairline foot fracture. I feel like this is the beginning of a story we’ve heard many times: person has an injury, yoga saves their life. That is difference from my experience; I keep looking for ways to create balance between yoga and running. These nine-plus weeks in yoga teacher training (YTT) has given me a lot of time to reflect on my relationship with running and how my practice can complement it. In the last weeks, we’ve moved through many asana and the phrase that I keep coming back to, is “sthira sukham asanam” – that asana should be steady, stable and motionless, bringing comfort to the mind without swings or pain, pleasure or suffering. Is it possible to apply this to the act of running? To simply, naturally, be in the motion with no discomfort?

 

On the last few runs, I tried to bring my focusing to my breath and being present (and also not crashing into cyclists or lamposts!). It’s quite different from switching off from being numb or bored after long distances. It’s almost liberating, to find seconds and minutes of centred-ness in motion. Like mindfulness practice, I count the inhalations and exhalations while running, working to get my strides aligned with my breath. Cycles of 20. I’m currently working my way through a book “Still Running” by Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, a mindfulness practitioner and ultra-runner. Her book is helpful and enriching in many ways, but this section was particularly memorable. In “Abdominal Breathing” she writes: 

 

“Begin by establishing a running pace that you can maintain for the duration of your run… Using the hara as ground or ‘seat’ of your awareness, focus all your attention on your breath as you run. Notice how your abdomen naturally expands as your inhale, then contracts as you exhale. Breathe easily and evenly, placing slightly more attention on the exhale as you let your body inhale by itself…. Anchor your mind in it. Let every cell in your body, every thought in your mind, be nothing but breath.When you become distracted, see the thought, set it aside and come back. Keep running until you feel you are well grounded in the breath.”

 

Here I’m thinking – that’s it! Mindfulness as applied to running. Metre to kilometre, seeing the thought and setting it aside. Focus on the breath. I’m going to do this with my runs and see where this takes me, internally.

Universal Law of Attraction with Kundalini Awakening

Like Karma, what goes around comes around.

The Law of Attraction works on our mental ability. It uses the power of our minds to manifest things and translate whatever we are focusing on to materialize them into reality. It could be anything such as money, job, love, health or relationship.

With the Law of Attraction, positive thoughts attract positive energy/results. And negative thoughts attract negative energy/results.

Everything we as human being have created in this world was essentially first created in our minds. All that we see are the human works in this world. First, expression was made in the mind, and then it gets manifested in the outside world. Hence, things that have done in the world be it good or horrible, all come from the human minds.

It is extremely important that we learn to create the right things in our mind in order to create what we want in our life. 

Simply put, the Law of Attraction says that you will attract into your life whatever you focus on. Whatever you give your energy and attention to will come back to you.

So, if you stay focused on the good and positive things in your life, you will automatically attract more good and positive things into your life. If you are focused upon lack and negativity, then that is what will be attracted into your life.

The entire universe is in our head. The entire energetic make-up of the human being is a self-contained experience giving apparatus with the mind as its engine. There is nothing outside of us, really. It is all a projection of the mind, which is called Maya– illusion. So this karma, these past actions are all carried with us inside our mind, like hidden files on a computer. The entire energy is shaped and coded by the karma when one show up here to have this life experience. We’re each given a distinct coding and placed in this matrix that is our own life. Your subconscious mind holds much of this programming and like a security camera it catches everything you do in this lifetime. As you can imagine, especially in our hectic modern world, the subconscious mind gets pretty filled up. It is this weight of the subconscious mind that puts resistance into your projection as you march forward toward your destiny.

I first heard of Kundalini Yoga during one of my YTT classes. It really caught my thought as how this practice enhances a person’s persona and the power to attract people. Even if the person may be an average Joe or plain Jane, he/she can have the ability to attract people to him/her. I decided to find out more. The more I read, the more it intrigues me on how it can help to make one more aware with consciousness. Most importantly, it is more than just visualization meditation.


What is Kundalini Yoga?

Kundalini Yoga is called the Yoga of Awareness. It is a dynamic, powerful tool that is designed to give you an experience of your soul. It harnesses the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the domain of the will, with the transformation and expansion of consciousness, the awakening and raising of Kundalini Energy up the spine through energy centers called Chakras. The activation and balancing of the chakras is accomplished by the mixing and uniting of Prana (cosmic energy) with Apana (eliminating energy) which generates pressure to force Kundalini to rise, by means of Pranayama (breathing exercises), Bhandas (body locks), in Kriyas (exercise sets), using Asanas (postures), Mudras (gestures), and Mantras (sacred sounds). It is therefore belives that Kundalini Yoga brings balance to the body, mind, and soul.


Using Kundalini Yoga to enhance the Universal Law of Attraction

Kundalini Yoga sets also use the manifestation of thoughts through Visualization, Projection and Focused Attention to attain specific effects.

Through the practice of Kundalini Yoga, an individual can unite his/her consciousness with cosmic Consciousness on a regular basis by carefully performing the exercises and meditations in specific sequence and combination. He/She soon becomes adept at perceiving the movement of energy within and outside of his/her body, and consciously begins to direct its flow to stimulate and awaken the chakras, for healing himself/herself and others, and becomes a co-creator with universal energies. (taken from Transitions to a Heart Centered World – Guru Rattana, Ph.D.)

As it was stated, Kundalini is an incredibly powerful storehouse of psychic energy, sometimes called Shakti, symbolized as a coiled, sleeping snake, resting at the base of the spine (Kundal means curl). Once awakened it uncoils and ascends through the central channel in the spinal column to the Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) at the top of the head, triggering an awakening of consciousness and a transcendent spiritual state.


Effect from practicing Kundalini Yoga

It is often described as ‘meeting you where you you’re at and taking you where you want to go’.  If you can breathe and lean in the right direction, you will benefit. It balances the glandular system and strengthens the nervous system so you feel more vibrant and alive.  It is practical and powerful. It works quickly to give you grace, balance, and most of all, the ability to remain calm, centered, and clear through life’s challenges. As you practice Kundalini Yoga you will grow. You will gain new perspectives and capacities, as well as habits that support a healthy lifestyle.

It is believed that all of us are born with the ability to make proper use of the Universal Law of Attraction. It’s one of the things humans are designed to do. A child can do it, an idiot can do it, a really bad person can do it. There’s no discrimination there.

However, using the Law of Attraction after a kundalini awakening is a bit different:

  • It allows you to utilize this Law more fully and more deliberately due to expanded consciousness
  • It gives greater speed and impact to ALL your intentions, good and bad, so the results of your choices can boomerang on you much more quickly

In summary, our bodies have seven energy centres or chakras beginning with the base of our spine and ending at the top of our head. There is latent energy coiled at the base of the spine and by practicing kundalini this energy will move upwards through each successive chakra to the crown.  Kundalini is subtle as it energizes from within to boost your inner strength and capacity.

Physical benefits may include an improvement in your vitality and overall wellbeing, stronger joints, muscles and spine and it can detoxify the entire body thereby improving the workings of your glands, organs, blood circulation, immune and nervous systems.  Other effects include an increase in your productivity and focus.  Meditation techniques enhance mental concentration, sharpen awareness as well as creating a peaceful outlook so you are better able to deal with setbacks in a more productive and neutral manner.

Enjoy the journey through Yoga which offers many ways for us to rediscover our true self, live with complete confidence and be aware of what we want to achieve when we connect deeply with our mind, body and soul.

Namaste! Have a good day ahead.

Walking Meditation with Pranayama

Following our theory session on Pranayama in the third weekend of our training course, I thought I could experiment with incorporating in my morning walks the key Pranayama techniques that Master Paalu had taught us. These were:

  • Gentle, regulated and extended breath
  • Using the standard ratio of 1:2 (inhalation:exhalation)

I started with the most basic ratio of 4 counts of inhalation to 8 counts of exhalation. Even then, it was not as easy as I had thought! I had to slow down my steps, and concentrate hard on coordinating each footstep with a breath count to achieve the desired regulated state. I must have looked pretty strange to passers-by in the first few days of my experiment. 

As the days passed, I grew more comfortable with the experience, and was able to lengthen the breath counts slightly, even fitting in breath retention in between. Personally, I still find the mindful walking practice described in my earlier blog which involves focusing on the surroundings more enjoyable. However, I do find this practice of “walking Pranayama” a lot more effective in helping to sharpen mental concentration.

Curious to find out if “walking Pranayama” is just my own somewhat unorthodox approach, I decided to do some research on this topic. I found out that walking meditation is indeed practised in several branches of the Buddhist tradition, typically in between periods of sitting meditation. 

When it comes to the Yoga tradition, Pranayama is certainly predominantly a seated practice. Nonetheless, there does exist a practice named Bhramana Pranayama (“going round” Pranayama) which is the practice of controlled breathing performed while walking. 

Some of the benefits of Bhramana Pranayama include improving stamina and endurance through fine-tuning the heart and lung, and releasing negative thought and energy. 

This practice could be a less intimidating entry-point for beginners to the Pranayama practice, or perhaps a nice occasional alternative to a seated Pranayama practice for more active people who find it challenging to stay focused while staying still. 

I can’t wait for the day when I can practise this without having to wear a face mask!

 

Walking Meditation

I’ve always loved walking in nature, but until this year, this has mainly been limited to holidays (which I used to take a lot of!) and very occasional weekends in Singapore.

When COVID struck and lockdown began early this year, I needed an outlet to release my pent up frustration and a remedy for my cabin fever. 

I turned to walking around my neighbourhood twice a day – first thing in the morning and in the evening. During the weekends, I would go for longer walks in different nature reserves, parks and park connectors. 

At the beginning, the main objective was simply to get out of the house and to ‘escape’ into nature. Quite quickly, I started to realise the calming effect that these daily rambles had on me. It was then that I thought that I might be able to harness more meditative effects of these walks by becoming a lot more mindful, and to really just focus on the ‘now’ as I moved. That is, instead of crowding my mind with all kinds of thoughts and plans, I started tuning my senses towards the details of the surroundings –  the patterns on the trunks and leaves of trees, the varied sounds made by different species of birds and insects, the feel of wind against my skin, the smell of nature, the rhythm of my gait. Whenever I got interrupted by a thought, I would try to let it pass as soon as possible and to refocus my attention on the immediate present.

6 months past my first mindful walking experiment, I definitely feel that my senses have grown a lot more acute. This has, in turn, made each walk more enjoyable and interesting because I frequently spot something new or chance upon unexpected beauty – a newly blossoming tree, an exotic bird, beautiful cloud formations – all of which immediately brightens up my day. 

The cultivation of a deeper level of mind and body connection through walking meditation has greatly benefited my yoga practice, as I have made the same transition from mechanic to embodied movement on the yoga mat. In the past, I had often found my thoughts wandering every now and then during a Mysore practice, especially when I practised alone and not in the studio. Now, I am able to maintain a steady mind and to stay fully concentrated on my breath, asana and drishti throughout the practice. Coupled with that comes the similar joy of constant discovery in every practice despite going through the same sequence.

 

Meditation.Self Journey

For me yoga was always about physical practice. I have never done meditation at home and was skipping that “boring part of yoga” in yoga classes. But after some time, part of me has developed feeling that I maybe missing something. So when I signed up for Tirisula yoga teacher training course, one of my goal was to concentrate on  spiritual part of yoga. And that’s what I have learned so far.

Meditation is an integral part of yoga practice. Yoga helps to improve and develop physically. But spiritual development is no less important for a person. The goal pursued by meditation is self-knowledge of oneself, achieving clarity of mind, the ability to relax, the desire for complete inner harmony.

In medicine there is a concept such as “chronic fatigue syndrome” – a disease of modern man.By doing meditation, you can learn to concentrate and relax, control your emotions and mind. Meditation helps to strengthen health, get rid of existing diseases, prolongs life.

The best part –  you can do it yourself, in any convenient place. In yoga centers, classes are led by experienced teachers who will help you understand and master the basics of meditation.If there is no time and opportunity to visit specialized centers, you can master meditation yourself. After a hard working day, it’s good to take 15-20 minutes. relaxation in a homely atmosphere.

As in any practice, there are certain rules in meditation. Here are a few points for conducting an independent practice:

  •     Choose a place for relaxation, where nothing will distract from immersion in yourself. Although, it should be noted that neither advanced noise nor extraneous sounds interfere with advanced practices.
  •    Take a comfortable position.
  •   Try to relax as much as possible each muscle of the body, mentally observing relaxation.
  •    Concentrate on breathing. Monitor inhalation and exhalation – the exhalation should be longer.
  •    Try to turn off your mind. Throw all thoughts out of my head. This will help focus on something specific – on breathing, on relaxation.
  •   Try to withstand a certain time. 10 minutes is enough for a start.
  •     To leave meditation smoothly, without rushing, trying to feel new sensations and maintain a state of calmness.

After trying my best and practice it regularly every day for some time , I came to understanding that : Meditation is not as difficult as it may seem. But the benefits of this practice are undeniable. And very good when it becomes a habit.

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4 The Theory

Moving Forward! Start a journey to a Yogi Lifestyle – 4  The Theory

Love the theory part, not so much that I like to read now, but so relax and easy that someone there talk and I listen, the science, the philosophy, the art, and the stories.

I had already much forgotten to recall exactly how many years from the day I enjoy listening to the teacher’s classroom teaching.

It’s back to my old golden days.

After all, after reading for so many years, my eye sights getting bad. Just packed up all my books into 26 cartons of boxes while preparing to move them to another location.

After this course, I think, likely will start collecting and pick up again, books on the Yoga’s title.

It’s pleasant reading on the Yoga Sutra, though initially having difficulties and hard time stirring my tongues over the Sanskrit words and trying to figure out what’s the meaning by reading the long explanation inside the manual, which eventually made me more confused.

Lucky enough, I managed to find and organized from the internet.
Well, IF, I meant “IF”, If I have the time, likely will add on to it’s German and Chinese or even other languages translation at my leisure if I can find it.

Here share if you need.

Here go we happy Journey to Yoga Lifestyle.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra Translation Sanskrit to English

 

汇编 Complied by Angie Chua 20190909.

Alcohol Use Disorder & Yoga

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

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

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

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

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

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

 

Reference:

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

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

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

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

Sound Therapy

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

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

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

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

Let’s relax, restore, and reconnect 🙂 xoxo

 

Shu (aka Sharon Chong)
200hrs YTT, Sept 2017 (Weekend)
— Blog 1/4

Understanding the Chakras

There are 7 major chakras in the human body, aligning with the spinal cord, plus another 4 minor chakras in the arms. A chakra, or wheel in Sanskrit, is a rapidly-rotating disc which emits energy and a certain frequency, moving in a up-down spiralling motion rather than being fixed. These are found at the points in our body where Kundalini or cosmic energy flows, or the 7 Nadis located around the major energy centres of the body. Starting at the base of the spine and working up to the top of the head, these are:

  1. Muladahara – found at the root of the body, pelvic floor, coccyx, represented by the earth element, fulfilment of basic survival needs and more animal instincts such as food, water, shelter and sex;
  2. Svadhisthana – genital and lower abdomen area, sacral area, represented by water element, drive to go beyond basic survival to imagine and create;
  3. Manipura – navel, solar plexus and lumbar area of spine, represented by fire element, calm, self-actualisation;
  4. Anahata – behind the heart, represented by air element, compassion and spirituality;
  5. Visuddhu – based of throat, cervical spine and thymus, represented by ether, knowledge and understanding;
  6. Ajna – between eyebrows, 3rd eye, pituitary gland, spirituality and connection;
  7. Sahasrara – crown of the head, the brain and pineal gland, intuition.
  8. Some also include an 8th chakra which is what we emit as a whole person – Aura – the bioelectric field or vibrations we emit from our body. (Iyengar 2014; Tirsula Yoga, 2015)

A fully healthy, balanced human will have balance and harmony between the different chakras, with their energy – somewhat akin to Chi or lifeforce in Taoist philosophy – flowing naturally. However, blockages can occur in different chakras leading to distortions of the mind and body. Namely, our healthy functioning mind and body become affected by trapped energy in one or other parts of the body, in turn leading our mental, emotional and behavioural energy to be over-emphasised in some parts of life rather than others. In order to deeply connect with the chakras, we need to work through the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga and to overcome the 6 evils (greed, desire, anger, pride, infatuation and envy), allowing us to connect the human body with our divine self (Iyengar, 2014).
With sustained practice, we can gently activate the chakras through asana practice. For example, grounding asanas such as Utkatasana (chair) tend to help activate the root chakra, Muladhara, whereas asanas such as Sirsasana (headstand) help to activate the crown chakra, Sahasrara.
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Meditation, mantra chanting, pranayama and mudras (healing hand and body gestures which help to receive energy as well as set our intentions) are particularly useful to activate the chakras (Electric Energies, 2016; Rice, 2015). For example, to promote activity at the Anahata (heart) chakra, we can practice Padma Mudra (shown in the photo above), where a lotus shape mudra is made with the hands whilst using deep breathing and chanting YAM. I find this a really powerful meditation myself, though I feel I am already quite balanced in this area. The resonance of this mantra and the lotus mudra hand formation help to draw energy to the heart centre. If we are experiencing a major blockage in the Anahata, we will tend to have low spiritual connection, lack compassion towards others, and lack ability to love and understand ourselves and others. Opening this area up can, as with the other chakras, help us to flourish as fully-rounded and spiritually connected individuals.
By shifting the energy evenly between the chakras, we can heal and re-align our physical and emotional conditions, redirecting negative energies and habits towards positive ones (Singh Khalsa and Sauth, 2001).
References:
Eclectic Energies (2016) Working with the Chakras, https://www.eclec*cenergies.com/chakras/working. Php
Iyengar, B. K. S. (2014) Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, New York, Dk Publishing.
Singh Khalsa, D. and Stauth, C. (2001) Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of your Natural Healing Force, New York: Fireside.
Tirsula Yoga (2015) Tirsula Yoga Training Manual, 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course, Singapore: Tirsula Yoga.
Rice, A. (2015) 7 Mudras to Unlock Your 7 Chakras, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20543/7-mudras-to-unlock-your-7-chakras.html.