Reflecting and resetting my knowledge of Yoga

I was introduced to yoga at least a decade ago. To me, Yoga was then considered as a mild exercise regime with movements incorporated with breathing techniques.

Fast forward, it has somehow become a habit for me to go for yoga classes in hope to increase flexibility, stamina and strength. However, I have been asking myself why my flexibility has not been improving and why am I not able to get into more advance poses like crow pose or even headstand?

With the current COVID-19 situations, classes were limited and it is even not possible to get postures corrected through zoom classes or online app. The only way to self-improvement, I thought was to embark on this yoga teacher training to gain the foundation of yoga and deepen my practice and knowledge.

The experience has been amazing and mind-blowing with Tirisula Yoga, and I believe there will be more to come until the day we graduate. Every week, we discover something about ourselves and our ability to achieve something I do not believe I can do it.

Our trainer, Master Paalu emphasizes the capacity of one’s mind. The works of the human mind and how the power can be unleashed to achieve what seems impossible. Using this application, he applies to our yoga movements.

Fundamentally, it is about thinking of the muscles moving in the body as we practice, can help them to work more efficiently by connecting it with our movement.

By adding conscious movement and visualization to our practice, we will be able to make our movements more intentional and the signals you’re sending to your brain will be stronger. Finally, the conscious movement then can not only lead to more effective practice but also better form, reduced risk of injury, and potentially better results.

Using one of the most common poses – Adho Mukha Shavanasana (downward facing dog), the engagement of rectus femoris and using hip flexors are important. The rectus femoris acts as a synergist of hip flexion and has increased activity with abduction and external rotation of the hip joint while hip flexors create stability in order to stretch the hamstrings and calf muscles, while opening the shoulders to improve overall postural alignment.

Through the yoga practices with Master Paalu, we learnt how to activate the correct muscle groups during poses and utilizing proper muscle activation and technique which will help prevents pain and injury and most importantly the breathing techniques that go along with the movements and transitions of poses.

Besides learning the asanas (known as poses), there are more to Yoga. Yoga is a practice for internal and external wellbeing which gradually increase my energy levels and overall happiness. We were taught not to focus only on the asanas but to practice integrated breath (for the soul) and meditation (for the mind).

Right now, I’m motivated and committed to learn and embrace the art of yoga building the foundation of deep yoga practice through asanas, pranayama coupled with mudras and learning of the 7 Chakras to find fulfilment in achieving mind-body-soul balance.

Yogic diet and mind balance

By Harsh Thakkar

Do you control your mind when it comes to eating what you want to eat or does the mind tell you what to eat? And how does the food one eats contribute to the state of mind?

Ayurveda is described as the traditional Indian system of medicine (incorporated in Atharva Veda, the last of the four Vedas) which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems and uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing. Balance as we know now is also one of strongest pillars of Yoga. Literally translated it would be “Ayur” meaning Life or Age and “Veda” meaning science or knowledge. In most western countries although it is considered as a system of complementary and alternate medicine. Even though I do not have the complete knowledge of Ayurveda and all its practices, whatever I have read so far it tells me that it provides guidelines for diet, seasonal routines and homemade remedies from plants and herbs to remind us that one’s health is a delicate balance between the environment, body, mind and spirit.

According to Ayurveda, food has a prominent role in achieving balanced body-mind-soul consciousness. It is said that the nature of food a person consumes reflects their nature or temperament.

Any food you eat can be categorized as either sattvicrajasic and tamasic according to its character and effect upon the body and the mind.

Sattvic food

Sattva is that which makes us curious, thoughtful, and alert.

Sattvic food is always freshly cooked and simple, juicy, light, unctuous, nourishing, cooling and refreshing to mind and body. It increases the energy of the mind and produces cheerfulness, serenity and mental clarity. Sattvic food is highly conducive to good health.

Foods: Whole grains and legumes like Rice, Whole wheat, Millet, Corn, Lentils, Oats, Beans etc. Freshly picked and organically grown vegetables like Celery, Sweet potatoes, Sprouts, Cauliflower, Zucchini, Lettuce, Green beans, Spinach, Broccoli, Asparagus etc. Fresh fruits such as Apples, Peaches, Oranges, Bananas, Guava, Berries, Papayas, Pomegranate etc.

Rajasic Food

Rajas are invigorating and mentally stimulating and make us active, giving us the desire to work, push, and manifest.

This is food that is fresh but heavy. The rajasic diet is also cooked fresh and is nutritious. It may contain a little more oil and spices compared to sattvic food. Rajasic foods are bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot and dry. It stimulates aggression, passion, fire, imbalance of the emotion, energy, alters the consciousness, and creates depression.

Foods: Fish and meat such as Salmon, Sole, Trout, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Tuna, Eggs etc. Excess of Sharp Spices like Salt, Pepper, Black Pepper, Ginger, Onion, Radish, Garlic etc. Stimulants such as Coffee, Tea, Tobacco, Sugar, Cola Drinks, Chocolates, Alcoholic Drinks etc.

Tamasic Food

Tamas gives us the desire to stop, slow down, and rest.

Tamasic foods cause lethargy, inactivity, mental block, severe anger, darkness, ignorance, and no control of self. These foods are considered to be highly detrimental to the body and mind.

Foods: Fried food, Eggs, White flour, Fast food, excess starch and sugar, chillies, sauce, fermented or stale food, ice creams, chocolates, preserved meats/ fruits and jams, artificially flavoured drinks, alcohol, breads, cakes, Pickles.

We have all the three Gunas / qualities within us in different proportions. All 3 of these qualities (Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic) are necessary for survival and to move in a progressive direction in life. How we respond to the events and circumstances in our life very much depends on the predominant Guna / Quality within us.

Sattva qualities make a person calm and joyful. ‘Small amount’ of Rajas makes the person active and passionate, while Tamas in ‘moderation’ is considered as grounding and promotes stability.