… In addition to your other fitness activities
If I was given a dollar each time someone tells me “I’m not flexible to do yoga”, I would be earning at least S$50 a month from this. My typical reply is,
“It is because you’re not flexible that you do yoga, so that you become flexible”.
In all seriousness, yoga is more than flexibility; it is about being strong physically, being clear mentally, and subsequently, being calm emotionally.
When these three aspects are balanced, the purpose of yoga is achieved; which is the union of the body, mind, and soul. And when this happens, we experience better health, and better quality of life. So, everyone can benefit from yoga.
The questions is: How is this achieved in yoga class?
Do you know that stress can cause you to fall ill? Especially when your immune system is weak. And one of the contributing factors of a strong immune system is physical health.
Physical strength allows our body to handle stressful situations with more ease, and without feeling exhausted by things.
In my yoga classes, physical strength is built by strengthening the body’s core.
Usually, when the word ‘core’ is mentioned, people think of the abdominals aka abs.
However, in the same way that an apple’s core is the entire middle section from top to bottom, and a tree’s core is it’s trunk, you’ll realise that the core of our body is more than just abs.
Our body core includes the shoulders, back, arms, abs, obliques, gluteals, inner thighs, and quads. Yup, that whole lot.
When we have a strong core, besides overall physical health, we have a better sense of our body movement. So that we have better stability to prevent falls.
Thus, in my Yoga Core as well as Basics classes, we practice ab-activation poses such as planks & crunches. But we also incorporate the yogi push-up aka chaturanga dandasana, which is a variation of the push-up. I personally think that the chaturanga is tougher to execute than the normal push-up due to the positioning of the elbows — we tuck them close to the body & bend them so they point towards the toes, instead of allowing them to point out sideways.
Other core activating asanas include Pattita Tarasana aka Fallen Triangle, Eka Pada Vasisthasana aka One Legged Side Plank, Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana Three Legged Down Dog into Eka Pada Phalakasana Three Legged Plank, Uttkatasana aka Chair, Naukanasana aka Boat (transitioning from high to low for a few rounds).
As you can tell, yoga is not only about flexibility! So go ahead, give a literal warm welcome to your stronger core, and physical body.
Be Clear Headed
How can you think clearly, when your mind is racing with different thoughts popping up all at once?
The simplest way is by keeping the mind’s focus on one thing. When the mind is directed to focus on one thing, and only one, it automatically calms down. Because other thoughts are pushed away, and will subsequently seem insignificant.
One of the simplest ways of calming the mind is by focusing on how we breathe.
I start all my classes with a simple breathing technique that quickly instills calm in the mind. As long as the practitioner’s awareness of breath for the entirety of the class, then balancing poses such Vriksasana Tree and Virabhadrasana Warrior become more accessible. Because a balanced mind allows us to have a balanced body.
Calmness of emotions is a consequence of a clear mind. The reality is that our emotions are controlled or triggered by our thoughts: when we allow our mind to think, and think, and think, it will run away and join the circus!
Thus, once we still our mind, we will experience experience stillness in our hearts too.
When this happens, people experience a state of being that many call bliss. This state is what yoga is about – a balance of the body, mind & soul.
When you reach this state, you realise that you’re able to achieve more in your life, because you’re physical stronger to do more, you’re mentally stronger to withstand stressful situations, and you’re less emotional.
So now, you know the secret of the benefits of yoga. However, this state is not constant – you’ll discover that it doesn’t stay constant, especially if you’re new to experiencing it.
Just as it is with achieving mastery in any skill, this state of balance requires practice to maintain.
So the way to it is regular yoga sessions.
In my next post, I will write about which type of yoga classes you can take to achieve balance.
Until then, the divine in me honours the divine in you. Hari Om.
Want to attend my yoga classes? View Schedule here.