Last month, September 2019, we hosted our first Yoga Retreat ever. Our main goal was for the students to incorporate yoga into their lifestyle on a more regular basis. And by “yoga” I don’t just mean the asanas, but all aspects of “yoga” including breathing, meditation, and philosophy.
We usually perceive yoga as a physical exercise. The meaning of the word “Asana” is not known, even amongst people who seem to be practicing yoga on a regular basis. Asana is a Sanskrit word that literally means “seat.” Many people would say that it means “yoga pose,” right? And it’s not wrong. Originally, it was said that the only posture in yoga necessary was a comfortable seated position. Through time, the perception of asanas changed, but the ultimate purpose of comfortable seated posture for meditation hasn’t changed.
Although we didn’t want to stress people out with the technicality, we did want people to experience yoga as a lifestyle. Through this concept, we introduced kriya and pranayama techniques as well as various asana practices. We also conducted a cooking class on making ayurvedic brownies!! It actually turned out really well, and reminded me of India (where I actually ate it for the first time). We definitely didn’t forget to have fun!!
Ok, first of all, what do all these terms mean?!
In our yoga practice, we address Kriya as cleansing techniques. The purpose of performing the various cleansing techniques are to remove impurities and toxins in our body and to prepare ourselves for pranayama, and move the vital energy to the central sushumna (energy) channel, to attain moksha (or liberation).
There are 6 cleansing techniques in yoga, also known as Shatkriyas. “Shat” means six and “Kriya” means cleansing,
During our yoga retreat (and also during our monthly Kriya Cleansing Workshops), we preform Neti, Nauli, Kapalabhati, and Trataka.
“Prana” means breath or vital energy in the body. “Yama” means to control. There are so many types of Pranayama, but that can be for another blog! I want to point out that Breathing = Life. The reason I say this is because
humans can go…
without food for 40 days,
without sleep for 11 days,
without water for 3-4 days,
but can only go without air for few seconds ~ few minutes!! (This depends on your lung capacity).
A lot of people say “Yoga” when they actually mean “Asana.” As mentioned before, asana literally means “seat.” In the past, it was said that the seated position was the only asana needed to sit comfortably to meditate. In ancient text, it illustrates 84 asanas. Now, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of asanas including variations with crazy long Sanskrit names like Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana!
In Sanskrit, “Ayus” means life, “Veda” means knowledge. Ayurvedia is a medical science of ancient India incorporating diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing and physical therapy. Ayurveda and yoga are closely interconnected in terms of techniques used and the overall wellbeing of oneself. There are three types of Doshas which are Veta, Pitta and Kapha. Depending on which category you are, the diet differs and the treatments differ. I just want to point out that ayurvedic diet doesn’t necessarily mean vegan.
The concept of Yoga Retreat in Japan is relatively new. In a culture where taking days off of work is an unspoken taboo, where more hours of work means better reputation, where taking detours in life is seen as unsuccessful (TRUST ME, I’ve been there, done that) we want to slowly introduce the view that it’s ok to take time off for yourself and your wellbeing. We are starting to see a shift in trend and hope that more people view themselves as a priority going forward.
Our Next Yoga Retreat is coming up soon! Will keep you posted!
Every Friday during my training in India, we did our yogic cleanses. We called it Kriya Friday.
To pass on the tradition, and for our students to deepen their yogic practice, we decided to incorporate that into our monthly schedule.
Our main focus is cleansing techniques. We are starting it off slowly by doing the classic Jala Neti and Sutra Neti (the two nose cleansing techniques). By clearing up the nasal passage, it helps remove impurities and dirt. It also has a significant role in improving the presence of the mind.
We move onto Kapalbhati. Kapalbhati is both a pranayama (breathing technique) as well as kris (cleansing technique). Kapalbhati is part of the ‘shat kriya’ which refers to the six cleansing techniques. It has the benefit of remove toxins from the body. Kapal means forehead and bhati means to shine. It also has the benefit of clearing the mind.
We also practice Uddiyana Bandha and Nauli, where it massages the internal organs and lower abdomen area, stimulates the digestive fire and removes toxins, indigestion and constipation. Yes, we know, it looks weird, but has so many benefits!
Trataka is also type of cleansing technique of the eyes. In the future, we hope to practice Dhouti (instestine Cleansing) and Vasti (Rectum Cleansing). Stay tuned!
Healthy Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins
On a different note, we also serve homemade breakfast after this workshop. Due to high demand, we decided to post our recipe on our blog every now and then 🙂 ENJOY!
3 cups rolled oats or old fashioned oats
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 cup bananas mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with non stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl combine the oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
3. In a medium bowl combine eggs, honey, mashed bananas, vanilla, milk and coconut oil.
4. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until combined, do not overmix.
5. Fold in the chocolate chips.
6. Scoop batter evenly into prepared muffin tin.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and the tops are slightly brown.
8. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to cool completely.
OM and my childhood My father always chanted OM in the sauna. When I was little, he would tell me to chant with him. It felt funny and weird at the same time. It was a surreal scene where my father was sitting in sukasana with gyan mudra, sweating from his head and chanting OM continuously. I sometimes chanted with him. But most times, I was just listening because I didn’t understand what it meant or why we were chanting in the first place. He never explained the meaning of this chant. All he said was, “Just try it, it’s good for you.” Or something along those lines.
After many years, I started practicing yoga. In class, we would chant OM, and it came so naturally to me while others in class felt reluctant to chant. The whole sound and vibration actually felt good. It made me calm and refreshed. Then, it reminded me of my father in the sauna and I finally understood what he meant by “Just try it.” OM is the entire alphabet Om is broken down into three sounds. “A”, “U”, and “M”. The A-U makes the O sound. Thus, shortened to OM. A (Ahhh) is the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet; the waking state. U (Ohhh) is the middle letter of the Sanskirt alphabet; the dreaming state. M (Mmm) is the last letter of the Sanskirt alphabet; the dreamless state. Silence is the last part of the AUM chant. It is the vibration which is beyond verbal pronunciation. It is said to be the pure consciousness of the self. “A” is an open sound with open lips resonating at the front of the mouth, “U” moving midway, and “M” ending at the back of the throat with the vibration traveling throughout the head. Lead by silence, contemplating on the vibration. By chanting OM or AUM, we vocalize all the sounds the voice can produce (meaning everything in the Sanskrit alphabet), representing the universal consciousness. What does OM mean? OM has a lot of meanings. It is usually defined to replicate the sound of the universe. It is said that even on NASA’s website, earth itself sounds like OM. As mentioned above, the three sounds “A”, “U”, “M” in itself have meanings. It is the waking state, dreaming state and the dreamless state. It can also mean the past, present and the future. It can also represent the Hindu gods Brahma (creator god), Vishnu (sustainer god), and Shiva (destroyer god). From the Mandukya Upanishad, “OM is the imperishable word. OM is the universe, and this is the exposition of OM. The past, the present, and the future, all that was, all that is, all that will be is OM. Likewise, all else that may exist beyond the bounds of time, that too is OM.” So, basically, it’s deep, and it’s everything. Now What? Reading this blog is not going to do much. You now have to experience OM yourself. Chant “AhhhOhhhMmmm” followed by silence to notice the vibration, and repeat it 3 times. You will notice calmness, stillness and quietness within. I understand now that my father was experiencing this in his safe space, the sauna. His saying, “Just try it” really makes sense now. I believe the true benefit of OM comes from personal experience, just like practicing yoga. And recently, I starting making it a night time routine for my kids to practice 5 yoga asanas and to chant OM before and after these poses. Today, one of my daughters had a breakdown during the day so I told her, “Breath in. Breath out. Wanna do OM?” and without any hesitation, she said, “Yes.” I was happy that my kids are experiencing this benefit at an early age.
As a child, I’ve always loved chai. My father would drink it every morning and I would have a sip of it. Today, it makes me happy that my kids love it, too. I’m sure there’s the caffeine concern, but I use decaf or smaller amount of tea leaves when I make it for the kids.
Another way to go is to scratch the tea leaves completely and make spice milk. The spices used in chai have many benefits, especially on the digestive system.
Spices and Benefits
Ginger is known to sooth upset stomach and promote the digestive fire. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory, lowering swelling and pain that comes from poor diet or even stress. I recommend to keep the skin on while chopping or grading to maximize the nutritious value.
Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels and kills harmful yeast in fungus in the gut, increases energy, improves skin health and supports weight loss. It is said that less than one teaspoon is enough to see these benefits.
Cardamom is known to improves digestive functions and balance stomach acids. Similar to ginger, it reduces swelling and reduces pain and cramps. The spicy flavor you taste when drinking chai mainly comes from Cardamom. Even if you don’t have any other spices, just make sure you have this one!
Cloves have the property to dull pain associated with toothaches, headaches, joint pains and menstrual cramps. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities making it a perfect ingredient to add during colder winters when we tend to get sick more often.
Peppercorn aids digestion and weight loss as it warms up the body. If available, I recommend getting the fresh, green peppercorns from local spice stores since it has natural oil that maximize its benefits in the digestive system.
Anise helps with upset stomach, intestinal gas, and runny nose. It also regulates mensuration, and reduces symptoms of menopause.
Sugar vs Honey
I recommend honey over sugar for the following reasons:
Less amount of honey required for same sweetness
Honey is slowly absorbed in the bloodstream, thus a healthier digestion process
Honey has more nutrients
Masala Chai Recipe
Makes 2-3 cups
3 cardamom pods (smashed)
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 teaspoon black peppercorns (green, fresh ones if possible)
1 piece fresh ginger (graded)
5 whole cloves (ground is ok)
1 piece star anise (optional)
2-3 teaspoons cheap loose black tea leaves
1 cup water
2 cups whole milk
Honey as you wish
Yoga and Pregnancy
Just a week ago, I delivered my 3rd child. What a blessing to be surrounded by people you love. Today, we are going to talk about practicingyoga during your pregnancy. Before we start, I just want to inform you that everything in this post is from my personal experience. It may not apply to everyone. So please just take this as one of the many information out there.
Tons of questions cross your mind during pregnancy.
Is it safe to practice yoga during my pregnancy? When can I resume my practice? What asanas can and can I not practice?
We’ll take a look on practicing yoga while pregnant.
First rule first
It depends on the person!
Some people undergo complications during their pregnancy and need to be on bed rest. Others are active to a point that they forget they’re even pregnant.
Getting a doctor’s opinion is good, but let me tell you, they’re always going to stay on the conservative side. In my very personal opinion, just ask if there’s any risk of complication or bed rest. If not, and if you feel comfortable, you can practice yoga.
Keep your legs strong and shoulders flexible!
As you put on weight, it’s going to be harder to move your body freely. By keeping the legs strong from the beginning of your pregnancy, it will not only help with the remainder of your yoga practice, but also with your delivery when you have to push!
Same with your shoulders. It will be more difficult to move your shoulders and upper body as your body shape changes and boobs get bigger. By keeping the shoulders flexible, it will not only help your posture when carrying the baby, but will also stimulate breast milk production! In addition, when your shoulders are inward and back being hunched, there is a risk for postpartum depression, or feelings of negativity. When times get tough with the baby, it’s important to keep a positive mind, and flexibility in your shoulders and opening of the chest will help!
5 Asanas I Recommend and Pointers
It’s important that you and your baby are safe when you practice.
My rule is: if you’ve been practicing yoga and you feel comfortable, continue doing it! Headstand, for example, can be practiced if you have been doing it before your pregnancy!
If you’re new to yoga, it’s important to listen to your body and your instructor.
I practiced most of my asanas throughout my pregnancy. However, in my last month of pregnancy, it was very difficult for me to practice sarvangasana (shoulder stand) as my boobs and belly were both getting bigger and falling onto my throat. If anything uncomfortable happens, don’t push yourself. You can always practice it after your delivery!
After Delivery and Yoga
Ok… this is really tricky.
For someone like me, who feels very uncomfortable not practicing asanas, it’s hard to stay away for more than a week. So on the 2nd day after my delivery, I started very slow with paschimottanasana (forward fold), baddha konasana (butterfly), and supta matsyendrasana (supine spinal twist).
A week after my delivery, I resumed my regular asana practice.
I believe it’s recommended to wait at least a month for natural birth, and 6-8 weeks for C-section. In that case, you can always practice pranayama and meditation, which are vital parts to yoga practice too.
The most important of them all. Don’t forget to enjoy time with you baby!!