Yoga Daily

11 : Trataka

tratak

Trāṭaka ( त्राटक ) is the practice of staring at an external object. This fixed gazing is a method of meditation which involves concentrating on a single point such as a small object, black dot or candle flame. It is used as a way of developing concentration, strengthening the eyes, and stimulating the ajna chakra.

The practice is by staring at a candle flame. The practice is the same up until the eyes begin to water, after which the eyes are closed, and the yogi tries to concentrate on the after image, and hold it for as long as possible. At first, it will be a real after-image, but later, it will exist only in the mind’s eye, and the exercise in concentration comes from trying to maintain it there for a long period of time.

While practicing trataka, i noticed that i am able to maintain the image of the flame for a substantial amount of time. Staring at the flames causes my eyes much discomfort due to astigmatism. However after the practice,  it surprises me that my vision is slightly clearer and my mind is very fresh and calm for as long as i can remember.

Benefits of Trataka

Shloka 2.32 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “Trataka eradicates all eye diseases, fatigue and sloth and closes the doorway to these problems”. Some of the benefits associated with Trataka are:

  • Improves eyesight and vision.
  • Improves concentration, intelligence and memory.
  • Excellent method as preparation for mantra meditation.
  • Enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower.
  • Develops greater work efficiency and productivity.
  • Calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence.
  • Brings greater clarity in mind and improves decision-making ability.
  • Helps to overcome mental, behavioral and emotional ailments.
  • Provides stress relief and deep relaxation.
  • Deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares, etc.
  • According to Gherand Samhita (shloka 5.54), Trataka promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations.

Tips for Trataka Concentration

  • Trataka is best practiced on an empty stomach during early-morning hours or late evening hours just before going to bed. If you practice it during the daytime, make sure that the room is dark so that focusing on the flame is easier.
  • Try getting a decent sized flame by adjusting the size of the wick. It will help in achieving a better after-image of the flame and it will be easier to visualize it with improved concentration.
  • Do not strain your eyes while gazing on the flame. The eyes adjust naturally in due course of time and it becomes easier to concentrate and gaze on the flame for longer periods of time.
  • As I mentioned earlier, because Trataka develops deep focus and concentration, it is used as a very effective pre-meditation stage. At the end of the Trataka routine, you may continue with your own mantra meditation.

-J

10 : Shatkarma

Laghoo Shankhaprakshalana (Short Intestinal Wash)

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana is said to regularise the functioning of the intestines and encourage good bowel movement. Shankha means ‘conch’ and prakshalana means ‘to wash completely’.

Laghoo shankhaprakshalana is performed in the early morning on an empty stomach. It should not be undertaken by pregnant women. If you are taking medication please consult your doctor before practising laghoo shankhaprakshalana as it could affect the absorption of the medication.

Prepare hot salty water by dissolving two teaspoons of salt in one litre of hot water.

Perform the following sequence THREE times:

Drink two large glasses of water as quickly as you can. The water should be as hot as you can bear it.

Perform each of the following exercises EIGHT times:

Tadasana. Stand with arms raised overhead, fingers interlinked and the palms to the ceiling raise and lower the heels quickly. Acts on the stomach and stretches the colon.

Tiryaka Tadasana. Stand with feet 18 inches apart, arms raised overhead, fingers interlinked and the palms to the ceiling. Bend to left and then to the right. Acts on the small intestine and colon.

Kati Chakrasana. Standing waist rotation. Massages the small intestine.

Tiryaka Bhujangasana. In bhujangasana with legs 18 inches apart and toes tucked under. Twist to look over the left shoulder at the right foot then return to centre before twisting to look over the right shoulder at the left foot. Squeezes and massages the caecum, sigmoid colon and rectum, and also stimulates the rectosphincteric reflex (urge to defecate).

Udarakar shanasana.  Squat with the hands on the knees. Drop the right knee to the floor and twist to the left. Return to the centre and then drop the left knee to the floor and twist to the right. Squeezes and massages the caecum, sigmoid colon and rectum, and also stimulates the rectosphincteric reflex (urge to defecate).

Go to the toilet but do not strain to achieve a bowel movement. The motion may come later.

Rest in Savasana for 30 mins. After this period of rest food may be taken.

The five asanas activate peristalsis and the sphincters or valves, muscles and nerves of the digestive tract in order to enhance the cleansing process. They progressively open the pyloric valve at the outlet of the stomach, then the ileocaecal valve at the exit of the small intestine and finally the sphincter which forms the anus.

 

At the end of practice, observe mouna(silence) and refrain from doing strenuous activities. Be as relax as possible but do not sleep as this may cause headache.

At the end of the practice, the overall feeling is great. I feel very light, clean and full of energy. Over the next couple of days, my bowel movements are smooth and the body is very refreshed and energised with no lethargic feeling. 

My favourite part of the practice is actually when we are observing mouna. As my day job is quite havoc with people throwing questions at me all the time and full of debates and idea throwing and talking, getting an hour or two of complete silence is absolutely amazing! The silence lets us reflect and concentrate internally and onto ourselves more than ever. No phones, No TV, Nothing with the external world. Being in silence opens up our observation level to a new limit. To be aware, and to observe with no distractions lets us focus on the important things especially after shatkarma practice.

Shanti, this new found knowledge is incredible for me.

Last but not least, we also learned a mantra for for mental, emotional and physical health.

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra

ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
oṁ tryambakaṁ yajāmahe sugandhiṁ puṣṭi-vardhanam ǀ

उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनात् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ।।
urvārukam-iva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtāt ǁ

 

This mantra’s energy protects and guides the initiates a mantra re-links consciousness to its deeper and more abiding nature and repetition of the mantra constitutes Japa, the practice that develops concentration which leads to a transformation of awareness. The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is meant for healing rejuvenation and nurturance.

-J

09 : What is Yoga?

 

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Disconnect, to Connect.

Today marks the first day of the Shatkarma yoga retreat @ Bukit Tinggi Bentong. Any yoga retreat always makes me excited as being with like-minded people always brings an air of positivity that cannot be found anywhere when we are back to our everyday lives. Sometimes the energy that one gets from a retreat can recharge a person’s mind spiritually as well. I guess the best part of the retreat is very much disconnecting with our busy lives in the city and trying to focus more of ourselves and doing more internal reflections.

During the sharing session, we started to talk about what is yoga and what it means to everyone.

Everyone have different interpretation of what yoga is as yoga brings different experience and meaning to everyone
What is yoga ?

Now to answer that question, lets first look at the universal term of what is yoga?

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.

In India, Yoga is considered one of the six branches of classical philosophy and is referred to throughout the Vedas – ancient Indian scriptures and amongst the oldest texts in existence.The Upanishads are also broadly philosophical treatises which postdate the Vedas and deal with the nature of the “soul” and universe.

— B.K.S Iyengar

 

What is Yoga to me? 

Yoga has become a way of life to me. When i breathe, i practice pranayama. When i stretch, i practice asana. When i’m working, i practice yamas and niyamas. When i meditate, i practice dharana. Every aspect of my life has been yogified with one simple term;- awareness. Awareness to my breathe. Awareness to my body. Awareness to my mind.

Once i control my thoughts, my actions and my self, i gain balance and become my best self. There’s is no one to compare to, no ego nor hatred. No jealousy and disappointment. No regrets and grudges. I inhale positivity and exhale negativity. Every words spoken is of peace, love and harmony, every thoughts is untainted, pure and blissful.  I practice gratitude to everyone and every being and things. I practice acceptance, loving my body for its strengths and flaws, myself which is full of imperfections, and my physical limitations. I practice moderation. Living life in balance, whether at work, at home or at play. Life is all about balance and yoga helped me to achieve it.

Simply put, yoga is who you are on and off your mat. It is not only an asana practice on the mat, but it is also more on awareness of yourself when you are not doing any asana.

When we are aware of our very soul, we are then, practicing yoga.

-J

08 : Ahimsa

Ahimsa

 

Ahimsa, kindness to all living beings or non-killing. More specifically…

…entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word or deed. Non-injury needs a harmless mind, mouth and hand. Ahimsa is not mere negative non-injuring. It is positive, cosmic love. — Swami Sivananda, Bliss Divine

There are methods whereby we can learn to gradually apply ahimsa in our daily life.

  1. First, one can begin by trying to control the physical body, by not hurting anyone or anything physically. (Non- violence)
  2. After controlling the body, you can learn to control your speech by determining not to say anything harsh or unkind and to forgive the faults of others. (Positive in words and actions)
  3. Lastly, one can learn to check the thoughts themselves, by never even entertaining a thought of injuring anyone, instead replacing negative thoughts with thoughts of love and forgiveness. (Pure in thoughts and mind)

The application of ahimsa is easier said than done.

For the past year, i have been gradually removing meat away from my everyday diet simply because i am not a fan of meat. (I only consume chicken meat in general) More importantly, the thought of how animals are being killed throughout the whole food preparation ecosystem makes me shudder. During Chinese wedding dinners, there are times when grilled baby piglets are served and that normally makes me uncomfortable just by having that dish in front of me.

As such, ahimsa for me in terms of not harming animals makes a lot of sense since i love animals and if i am given the chance to choose my career path again, i would definitely want to work at the zoo or even be a veterinarian.

It occurred to me, a friend of mine recently asked me a question.

Q: So, do you like animals more than human?

I answered yes, without even thinking twice. The complex human mind is sometimes too evil. Everyone ALWAYS… have a hidden agenda in their head and a reason for them to do anything. Human is naturally selfish, greedy and egoistical. Or at least, most of the people i have met in my life is like that. It is extremely rare, for me to meet people who are pure at heart, mind, thoughts and actions. And even if there is, my complex human mind will doubt this behaviour. I believe there is nothing wrong with this as it is human nature… but it also explains why i love animals more than humans.

After that conversation, it further dawned into me how untactful i am sometimes in my daily conversations.

I hurt people with my words very often due to my sarcasm and also nature of work when dealing with people. Sometimes, my sarcasm is used to intentionally make people realise of their own mistake. That said, i always am too fast with my tongue and not let words linger in my head first before i spill them out. Who am i to judge another person when i am myself not perfect?

So yes, the application of ahimsa is not as easy as it seems because it also encompasses our speech and inner thoughts to not hurt anyone, any soul, any being.

That said, of late i have been trying my very best to give myself  at least 5 seconds to think before i answer and if in any chance i find myself untactful in conversations, i try to apologise or make it humorous instead of sarcastic. Better sharing happiness than insinuating negativity right?

-J

07 : The Journey

Hong Kong

Couldn’t attend TTC this weekend as i was away to Hong Kong for my yearly trip to the extended family in HK. I am always very excited and full of gratitude when it comes to visiting HK. Maybe cause visiting HK brings me a lot of memories of being with Pete, someone i considered as a mentor for my well being and personality.

You see, Pete is someone who encourages the goodness and well… the real you. Somehow he have this ability to make you be at your best self, and also points out indirectly and sometimes, directly, what you have done wrong in life. And this trip to HK makes me anticipate this feeling that i really like associating with – being myself.

I called this entry The Journey, as for the past weeks, i have been reflecting on my path of learning yoga for a good… 11 years. Yes, it has been 11 years. And yet, somehow i am still learning something new each time i step into class, whether it’s a teaching class, beginner’s/intermediate or advance class, or even just attending to a different type of yoga class. Each class is so different than the others and i ALWAYS walk out learning something new. And after giving a real hard thought … i realise, that, was the reason why i finally mustered the courage to take up TTC. I wanted to give other people the same feeling of learning something from my class, because the feeling and the idea of learning a new idea/wisdom/knowledge/asana or anything at all makes a person hunger and thirst for more in their life. This is the exact feeling i have after all my classes for the past 11 years. I am in gratitude for all my teachers that i have learned from , for the past 11 years, and sometimes i can still remember the exact words they uttered when they teach the class. Yes, the impact was really great, especially those that can alter my mindset to be a more positive and better person.

I also remembered how i was obsessed with classes when i was in Yogazone and how i would actually attend 3 classes back to back. I was thinking hard why i actually did that and i couldn’t find an answer. Perhaps i was really in love with yoga back then.

Maybe i should reflect more because all of a sudden i have a lot of memories on my yoga classes, most of them very, very beautiful  moments of my progress in Yoga.

I started from being in awe with instructors who can do handstands easily to doing them myself, although still with struggles. I was quite flexible since young, but some instructors thought me on how to use my core instead of relying on my flexibility in certain asanas. I then took up Capoeira, a brazilian martial arts when i started attending advance classes to tone up my arms, since my arms are my weakest point. Well… my arms are extremely weak. Surprisingly, i love Capoeira too, and am happy of my advancement every year to a different cordao/belt. Later on, i started running marathons to build up my stamina for advance poses, since most of the advance poses requires lots of strength and focus. To think back, i took up many other fitness courses to help train my body for yoga. This was actually also motivated by my yoga instructor. He told everyone from the advance classes to take up different fitness regime to tone our weakest muscle and especially the ladies to start doing more weights in order to be able to do a better chaturanga and push up asanas. Although i am still not at my strongest, the journey towards where i am today, to be able to balance in postures i initially thought i couldn’t was extremely rewarding and satisfying. And yet… the journey has not even ended or no where near the end. Right until the path where i am taking TTC, everyday i am breathing in something new and something different.

Somehow taking TTC could’ve been the best thing i have done for myself in such a long long time. Even traveling and new gadgets and toys do not make me this happy and satisfied. I guess with age, i also started to realise how material things are temporary and humanity and love are far more important than anything else in this world.

That said, although i was actually anticipating my short holiday to HK this year, i was also quite taken aback that i couldn’t attend the TTC classes this weekend. But in a way, it was a also a good thing as it gave me time to do a lot of reflection and trying to understand myself better.

-J