Newsletter December 2010 – January 2011


News

Happy New Year from Yoga Now.

We’ve had a very busy season with yoga retreats running back to back with lots of interesting people from all over the planet. So busy in fact that the december newsletter was so late that it is now the january newsletter

Our very first Yoga and Nature discovery retreat went very well thanks to the warmth and professionalism of Ayu and Othman from Rimbawi Geo Discovery.

We’ll be taking a bit of down time ourselves for the first two weeks of March. We plan to head off to Suan Mokkh – a forest monastery in Southern Thailand – to join a 10 day silent meditation retreat. So there will be no classes or retreats during that time.




Links

Amazingly, our yoga classes and retreats are currently listed on www.tripadvisor.com as number 8 in the top 10 things to do in Langkawi. Thanks to all for the positive reviews.




SAVE LANGKAWI'S RAINFORESTS

Beautiful Trees

If you have a moment to spare you can sign the petition to halt illegal logging in Langkawi’s rainforests.


www.thepetitionsite.com





Yoga in India

More people have written with the same question - can recommend a good place to study and learn yoga in India? Yes we can.

Some of you already know Swami Tattwarupananda from our website (that's him with us in the right hand colum) and have donated to help him look after underprivileged children in Southern India. He has recently joined forces with Swami Govindananda (in the photo below) to form Sivananda Yoga Vidya Peetham (SYVP), a project for an ashram to be set up for the learning of Yoga and Vedanta philosophy. Both are Indian Swamis who were involved in the Sivananda organization. We know them personally and they are the real deal.

Swami GovindanandaThey don’t have an actual ashram yet but are already teaching courses in India. You can get all the details from their new website:

www.sivanandapeetham.org




Asana of the Month

Ustrasan - Camel Pose

This is a kneeling backbend that really gets in there and squeezes out those seasonal toxins from the kidneys. It also stimulates the adrenal glands which help boost the immune system and energize the whole body.

How to do Ustrasan:

  • Come to a kneeling position with a bit of space between the knees and the feet
  • Some people find kneeling uncomfortable - if that's the case then you can fold over the front your mat (if you use a mat) to add a little extra softness under the knees.
  • If you are comfortable in backbends then you can point the toes away so the tops of the feet are on the ground.
  • Otherwise you can tuck in the toes, which will give you an extra few inches leeway.

  • You can start progressively in stages.

    To warm up
  • Bring the hands on the hips
  • Lift the chest
  • Push the hips forward
  • Let the head hang backwards and feel the stretch on the throat region
  • Breathe deeply, expanding the abdomen first, then the chest.
  • It's important to get that lift in the chest before you lean back to help protect the lower back.


    Ustrasan











    Now for the classic version
  • Kneel with knees and feet slightly apart
  • Lift the chest
  • Push the hips forward
  • Reach the hands back to the feet using a backstroke movement to open up the chest
  • The hands or even fingers just need to reach the heels to support yourself - remember its about arching the lower back
  • Lean the head back and stretch the front of the neck and throat
  • Keep the hips above the knees
  • Squeeze the buttocks to keep the hips forward, also to support the lower back
  • Bring the hands down further if you can - maybe the palms of the hands on the heels or even the hands around the ankles if that is comfortable for you.
  • Do not hold the breath
  • Expand the abdomen then the chest
  • Push back with the chin
  • Push forward with the hips

  • To come out of the pose
  • lift the head first bringing the chin towards the chest
  • The head is quite heavy so lifting the head helps shift the centre of gravity significantly
  • Stretch one arm forward in front of you with the horizontal
  • Extend forward and come back up to a kneeling position
  • Keeping the feet apart sit down between the feet bringing the hips to the floor in Vajrasan
  • You might need to move the calf muscles away
  • If you are comfortable there you can lie down in supta vajrasan and stretch the arms over behind the head with the hands touching

If your knees don't allow you to do vajrasan then bring the knees together and the big toes touching together and sit on the feet. Place the hands, palms downwards, on the thighs.

Sit quietly with the eyes closed and observe the effects of the Ustrasan.

As with any backbend Ustrasan stimulates the adrenal glands. (We've talked about this before in previous newsletters, but there's no harm in repeating a bit.) The heart beat accelerates, the breath may become erratic, the mind can become quite agitated. Strong emotions may be experienced - anxiety, panic, fear, anger, rage are not uncommon.

Sit and observe all this. Accept the sensations and emotions. Do not push them away or label them as 'bad'. Be aware and mindful.

The part of us which is aware of the experience is quite different from the part of us that is having the experience. Pure awareness is not affected by the emotions or thoughts or the physical sensations in the body - it is just aware. When we move into awareness we are drawing closer to our true nature. Duality starts to fade and we realize the impermanence of the whole mind body system.

Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.

Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.

Developing awareness is one of the most important aspects of yoga practice.




Instant tension relief.

There are many different techniques in yoga that help to relieve stress and tension from the body and the mind. We could even say that a greater part of yoga practice is specifically concerned with letting go of pent up tension in the body and the mind. One of the simplest and most commonly neglected practices is a simple sigh.

Often when we are occupied with something we unconsciously hold the breath or breathe very shallowly. Sighing is something that we do naturally and unconsciously, but is also something we can use to our own benefit. The breath is rapidly expelled, evacuating built-up carbon dioxide from the lungs. We also let go of physical tensions that are inhibiting our breathing process.

On a psychological level sighing is very interesting. Think of any circumstance when you naturally sigh. When we sigh the mind makes a fundamental shift. We naturally move from a place of resistance to a place of acceptance.

In general terms we are always told in yoga to breathe only through the nose. When we inhale through the mouth we loose the benefit of the natural filtration system of the nasal hairs. However, when we exhale we loose prana (vital energy). Even talking depletes our energy levels, as the breath naturally flows from the mouth when we talk. What we talk about and who we talk to also affects our energy levels and peace of mind, but perhaps that is a subject for another newsletter.

But of course there are times when we have a little too much energy or agitation. For example think of how you feel after a series of backbends. Back-bending stimulates the adrenal glands and we experience a surge of adrenaline in the blood stream with all its attendant sensations. The heart beats faster, the breath becomes erratic, the mind becomes agitated, the eyes open wider and may even start to dart around. Emotions and thoughts ranging from anger to anxiety or panic might crop up. Some people even shout at the teacher or suddenly burst into tears.

We can observe all these sensations and acknowledge them as the effect of the postures. On an intellectual level we can rationalize and tell ourselves that all this is impermanent. Karma is at work. Action and reaction. We put the body in a certain position and this creates a corresponding mental position.

Our true nature lies closer to the pure awareness of the experience than in the experience in itself. Awareness is just aware. It isn’t affected by the erratic heartbeat or the jumpy mind. Awareness doesn’t rationalize.

One of the fundamental teachings of yoga is that peace of mind comes from being aware and accepting reality as it is and not necessarily as we would like it to be.

Some people use this to justify non-action (as opposed to inaction, which is an action in itself – read the Bhagavad-Gita for more details). They feel they can’t, or shouldn’t, strive to change anything because to do so would be to create further mental unrest by not “accepting reality as it is.”

When a truck is coming thundering down the road and you are standing in the middle of the road contemplating the sunset there comes a point where mere acceptance or awareness is not enough. You have to make an effort to change the reality of the situation, or else stubbornly stand your ground and convince yourself that the fender of the truck is your inevitable karma. We can still accept the reality of the truck, but at the same time we have to accept the reality that we have to take action and get out of the way.

Similarly when we experience all the different sensations, thoughts and emotions resulting from the adrenaline surging through the blood stream after the back bending we can observe and accept all these things and take action as well. Exhaling through the mouth can be an effective means of countering all these effects and releasing that excess energy through the mouth. (The same is happening in the example of the shouting student, but the awareness and the ego and the action are configured differently.)

Instant tension relief. Try it right now. Take a deep breath and then immediately relax the chest, abdomen and diaphragm and let out a deep sigh.

When we sigh and let go of the breath we let go of more than just air.




Upcoming yoga retreat dates

Here are some dates we have pencilled in for yoga retreats this year, but of course we can still work around your own dates even if they are not listed below.

    2011

  • Januray 3 - 6
  • Januray 9 - 16
  • Januray 26 - February 5

  • February 6 - 10
  • February 12 - 15
  • February 23 - 26

  • March 17 - 22
  • March 25 - April 1

  • April 3 - 13
  • April 16 - 19
  • April 25 - 29

  • May 3 - 8
  • May 11 - 14
  • May 16 - 23
  • May 26 - 30

  • June 2 - 5
  • June 7 - 10

  • July 4 - 7
  • July 11 - 17
  • July 21 - 24
  • July 27 - 31

  • Aug 4 - 11
  • Aug 16 - 26

  • Sept 1 - 4
  • Sept 7 - 11
  • Sept 15 - 22
  • Sept 26 - 30

  • Oct 3 - 13
  • Oct 20 - 23
  • Oct 25 - 31

  • Nov 3 - 6
  • Nov 10 - 17
  • Nov 21 - 27

  • Dec 1 - 4
  • Dec 8 - 18
  • Dec 22 - 25
  • Dec 27 - Jan 3 2012

For more details on our retreats (and many other things) you can look at our website on this link: Yoga Retreats




Meng Foong and Marc

Thanks for your time and wishing you peace and harmony in your daily lives.

Hari om tat sat.

Marc and Meng Foong (a.k.a M&M)

May all beings be happy.

Determination, courage and self-confidence are the key factors for success. If we have firm determination, we can work out obstacles and difficulties. Whatever the circumstances, we should remain humble, modest and without pride.

- Dalai Lama