Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strength Training Exercises

Below are 3 strength training exercises which you can perform 2-3 times a week to help you maintain muscle strength. Strong muscles help to protect against joint injury and can help you to avoid falls and fractures by keeping you balanced and mobile. Perform each exercise for one set of 8 -12 repetitions, rest for a minute, and perform a second set of 8-12 repetitions. Remember to do some warm-up exercise before each workout.

Chair-assisted Squats

This exercise works the quadriceps muscles in your thighs and your buttock muscle and improves bone density in your hips and legs.

1. Stand behind a chair with your legs shoulder width apart. Rest your hands on the back of the chair for support.

2.Inhale and bend your legs to lower yourself down towards the floor. Keep your back upright and do not bend your legs past a 90-degree angle. Hold for a moment as you push yourself back up to the starting position.

Leg Curl

This exercise concentrates on your hamstrings, the muscles along the back of your thighs and improves bone density in your hips and legs.

1.Stand facing a wall, about an arm’s length away, with your feet hip-width apart and your right foot placed about a step back. Place your palms flat on the wall at shoulder height and lean in towards the wall.

2.Exhale as you bend your right leg to curl your right foot up behind your buttocks. Do not bend your leg any further than feels comfortable. Hold for a moment, then inhale as you lower your foot back down to the ground. Repeat with the other leg.

Standing Chest Press

This exercise works your chest and shoulder muscles and triceps and improves bone density in your arms and shoulders.

1.Stand feet facing a wall, about an arm’s length away, with your feet shoulder width apart. Put your palms flat on the wall at shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

2.Inhale and slowly bend your arms, leaning your body in towards the wall. Keep your stomach tight and your back straight. Exhale as you push yourself back up to starting position.

You can incorporate this exercises into your yoga practice routine or do this exercises in the office during your lunch break.

(Taken from Reader’s Digest – Healthy Bones, Muscles & Joints)

Monday, September 29, 2008

That’s Yoga Remains Open In October

Due to the continuous support of the members, with most of them confirming that they will sign up for the unlimited and monthly passes, That’s Yoga will continue to have classes in October 2008. Classes will commence from 6 October as the studio will be closed for the Hari Raya holidays. There are some changes in the time-table for October from September’s. Yin class is now introduced after Dynamic on Saturday and after Flow2 on Sunday. It’s a perfect compliment to the Yang practice, like Dynamic and Flow. The daily 10.45 am class will be a request class, that means practitioners attending the class can request for a particular class (with everyone’s consent) from the teacher teaching.

The teachers had fun teaching and sharing in a more personalized manner at the studio and hope to see more practitioners joining us at That’s Yoga.

Anyone interested to have more details on the studio and timetable, can email azmiyogi@gmail.com.

Since a number of the practitioners wish to continue with their yoga practice during the long 5 days break, the following private classes have been scheduled:

Friday, 3/10/08

9.30 am Flow – Matthew

Saturday, 4/10/08

9.30 am Flow – Lila

A token will be collected for these two days to cover the rental of the studio. You can email me for more details.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Class Schedule for That’s Yoga @ Damas (27/9/08 to 30/9/08)

Since Urban Yoga will be closed for renovations, practitioners who wish to continue with their practice during this period may wish to consider joining That’s Yoga @ Damas. Below is the class schedule.

Saturday, 27/9/08

9.30 am : Hatha (B/I) - Matthew
11.30 am : Dynamic (A) – Azmi
1.30 pm : Gentle Flow (B/I) – Matthew
3.00 pm : Yogalates (A) - Lila

Sunday, 28/9/08

9.30 am : Flow 2 (A) – Azmi
11.30 am : Yin (B/I) – Lila
1.30 pm : Hatha 1 (B/I) – Matthew

Monday, 29/9/08

7.30 am : Hatha 2 (A) – Lila
9.30 am : Hatha 1 (B/I) – Lila
10.45 am : Gentle Flow (B/I) – Matthew
6.30 pm : Ashtanga Led (A) – Matthew
8.15 pm : Ashtanga Intro (B/I) – Matthew

Tuesday, 30/9/08

7.30 am : Beg.Hatha (B/I) – Matthew
9.00 am : Yogalathes (A) – Lila
10.45 am : Hatha 1 (B/I) – Matthew
6.30 pm : Flow 1 (B/I) – Lila
7.45 pm – Flow 2 (A) – Lila

Practitioners can purchase the walk-in pass when they come for the class. Please email karintwh@gmail.com or azmiyogi@gmail.com for further details.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Urban Yoga

I have been contemplating whether I should write about Urban Yoga and decided to give my two cents worth on the subject.

First, Urban Yoga announced that the outlets in Damas and Kepong will be closed for one week for some renovation works but they remained open and no renovations were done. Members who wanted to have a place for their yoga practice were very happy that the outlets remained open even though the condition at the outlets were very dirty with no cleaning being done.

Next, they said that they will start charging fees from 15/9/08 but then decided to give free classes until 1/10/08. This resulted in the classes being packed with more than 30 students in one class. Is everyone going to the outlets to have a good yoga practice or they just want to get all the “free classes” until the end of the month? I heard that one member came all the way from Klang to Damas for the classes.

I have been to the Damas outlet since Urban Yoga took over (not for yoga classes) and noticed that there are no renovations being done, no cleaning being done (hairs all over the place), only 1 hair dryer left in the ladies changing room and some mats are missing in the studios. The atmosphere at the outlet is not the same as I do not get the warm and friendly feeling from the yoga practitioners.

With effect from 1/10/08, Urban Yoga will start charging RM88 per month for ex-Yoga Zone members who wish to continue their practice with them. Will we see an influx of the members joining due to the “cheapest package in the market”? Or will the members boycott Urban Yoga as they feel Urban Yoga is just a "repackaged Yoga Zone"?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Continuation of That's Yoga @ Damas

That’s Yoga @ Damas will continue with classes in October 2008 if it is able to sustain with the same number of members joining the unlimited package (and hopefully more members will join).

I know it will be tough to compete with Urban Yoga’s package of RM88 per month but members who have been attending classes at That’s Yoga will realize the difference between the two studios.

At That’s Yoga, yoga is taught with heart, creativity and clarity by the three teachers. Classes emphasize on the interplay of focused action and receptive awareness supported by the breath.

Yesterday, I attended Azmi’s Flow class where we had a great 90 minutes workout followed by Lila’s Yin class where we did some stretching postures for our back and hips. Attending the two classes back to back was wonderful as after a vigorous workout in the Flow class, the Yin class really made us feel relax especially with Lila helping us to go deeper into the poses through her ministrations.

I hope That’s Yoga will be able to continue operation as there is a warm and friendly community being formed at the studio.

Yoga is about clearing away whatever is in us that prevent our living in the most full and whole way. With yoga, we become aware of how and where we are restricted -- in body, mind, and heart -- and how gradually to open and release these blockages. As these blockages are cleared, our energy is freed. We start to feel more harmonious, more at one with ourselves. Our lives begin to flow - or we begin to flow more in our lives” - CYBELE TOMLINSON, Simple Yoga

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Three Pillars of Yoga by Max Strom

This article is extracted from Max Strom's Find Peace in Your Yoga

Learn to balance power and peace through the three pillars of yoga.

Transformation comes when we make the effort simultaneously in all three pillars: body, mind, and breath (or spirit). As all three harmonize, we begin to experience ourselves more deeply, and we also happen to become stronger, more flexible, and calm. We even sleep peacefully through the night.

Here is a guideline of how to begin achieving a more meaningful practice and peaceful life:

The first thing to do is close your eyes and focus on your intention. In other words, aim at something. Dedicate your practice to a meaningful transition you wish to have in your life. An example here might be Peace, Forgiveness, or Patience. There is an old saying that if you aim at nothing you’re sure to hit it. But when you direct your mind and heart in one direction, it gives your actions great power. Your spirituality, however you define it, can be infused into your body so your body radiates who you are from your soul – and what you stand for in this world.

Face it, one reason we are afraid to breathe deeply is because we know deep down that breath is connected to our emotions. If we are feeling stressed out and not paying much attention to our feelings, breathing deeply may be terrifying. So, we keep our breath small and shallow and erratic, no matter how many times our yoga teacher says, “Breathe deeply.” This can create two kinds of catastrophes. One is disease; unexpressed grief over decades can create diseases like cancer. Two, we can destroy our relationships; we tend to hurt the people we love the most because we are carrying our own emotional wounds that are invisible to the untrained eye. Imagine trying to embrace someone who has open wounds under his clothes that you aren’t aware of. His reaction would be like a wounded animal lashing out. So, when we consciously utilize yoga breathing to heal, we heal these hidden wounds In this way, breathing practices can change our life because it changes our behavior, and that affects all of our relationships.

Practice your asanas (postures) with focus on your breath. Breathe into your heart center, breathe in light – filling the lungs completely, breathe out the past, that which you no longer need. If you have a spiritual practice, use your own visual image of God or name for God. Inhale as if you were inhaling the energy of God; exhale all that is not useful. Breathe into your entire body while in a posture, as you move, or as you hold in stillness. When you begin to feel overwhelmed or fatigued, rather than push, rest a few moments. (Even machines need to rest.) Allow yourself to move into child’s pose at least four times in an hour and half practice. Learn the difference between an all-out state and a rest state. Many overachievers know only the concept of “all or nothing.” Explore the space between zero and ten. Try practicing at level seven, not ten. This will develop sensitivity, patience, and kindness. Move your focus off your outer body and on to your inner body.

When one is inspired by an intent to transform, and from this intention we breathe, when the mind quiets and the energetic heart center begins to open. When this happens grace happens - change happens. The yoga postures and breath are tools to rebuild ourselves. The goal is not to ties ourselves in knots - we’re clearly already tied in knots. The aim is to untie the knots in our heart. The aim is to unite with the ultimate, loving, and peaceful power in the universe.

The Breath of Life by Max Strom

My sister, Jackie found this interesting article written by Max Strom, we would like to share it with all yoga lovers.

"A few years before I began teaching, I was aquainted with a woman who had practiced Hatha yoga in various styles for over two decades. She had naturally limber joints and her body was unusually flexible and quite strong as well. She appeared to never break a sweat. She and I used to practice in some of the same classes together and although I was highly impressed with her external practice, I noticed that her disposition was a bit anxious and critical. This confused me. I didn’t understand how someone with such an advanced asana practice could carry such nervous energy and negativity. Over time as I became more aware of the significance of breath during asana practice, I realized that during yoga, this woman’s breathing was in fact inaudible. Upon closer observation, I realized her breathing was shallow and even tense and her ribcage barely moved. Then I comprehended why she never seemed to sweat: she was building no internal heat with ujjayi (yoga breathing). The picture became a little more clear. Then one day, she confided that she had begun wearing a retainer to pull in her front teeth. I was surprised because she had what I thought were very nice teeth. Well, it turned out that when she practiced yoga, she would unconsciously press her tongue into her upper front teeth with such force, she had changed the angle of her bite, and she now needed a retainer to realign her teeth. This explained her condition to me. In her dutiful practice of strength, flexibility, and apparently will, she had unknowingly been cultivating internal tension. Her breath was shallow, preserving and “freeze-drying” this tension within. This is why she could practice daily and still be “a bit high strung,” as she described herself. My personal conclusion from this and other similar observations is a good asana practice produces better health, strength, and flexibility, i.e.: health and athletic benefits. But asana practice combined with a devoted breathing practice, and vigilant attention gives us all these benefits as just the beginning. Because what happens next is that the lungs open. The lungs, literally containers of both grief and inspiration, release old grief from the chest region - then the storm within the mind begins to recede, and the nervous system calms down. Breath penetrates, breath invigorates, and breath heals. Conscious breathing is one of the most powerful transformational tools available to us. Many people are skeptical until they have experienced the power of their own breath. But once people have experienced the power of their own breath, they understand why it is called, Life Force. The ancient yogis said the breath was our direct energetic connection to God. If this is so, then to focus on our breath with spiritual devotion, makes Hatha yoga a spiritual practice - because as we fill our body/mind with breath, we fill ourselves with the great spirit of the universe."
About Max Strom
Max Strom is known for inspiring and impacting the lives of his students, teaching with the aim of personal transformation and has become one of the most revered Teachers of yoga in the US. Former owner and director of Sacred Movement Yoga in Los Angeles, Max taught over 400 dedicated students a week. Many teachers have cited Max Strom as a most important influence in their teaching and yoga life.
He now travels extensively teaching and lecturing on yoga and spirituality and trainings teachers. He is recognized by the Yoga Alliance at their Advanced Teacher Level (ERYT). You can see more of his work on his DVD, Max Strom Yoga – Strength, Grace, and Healing at www.maxstrom.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Guide to Meditation

Meditation is perhaps the most fundamental tool there is to get in touch with our spirit. When we meditate we enter the field of infinite possibilities, the gap between our thoughts. People meditate for all sorts of reasons: to sleep well, to unwind or overcome stress. Meditation will give you all these things, but its true purpose is spiritual development.

When you meditate, one of the three things can happen: first you might get restless or anxious, which indicates that you need to meditate more. Second, you may get drowsy and even fall asleep. This means you need more sleep.

The third experience is entering the gap between your thoughts. When this happens, you might get a tingling feeling. This sensation is the activation of your prana (life force).

By quieting your mind with this technique, you will silence your internal dialogue and get in touch with your soul.

To begin meditation, sit comfortably with your hands open on your knees. Observe your breath going in and out, with your eyes closed. Every time you breathe in, mentally repeat SO and then HUM when the breath goes out.

As you practice the SO-HUM mantra, you might feel sensations in your body or hear sounds in the environment, but try to focus on the mantra. Once your mind and body are quiet, inner energy is spontaneously awakened.

(Taken from http://www.suryasakti.org/inspiration.html)

"When we meditate, what we actually do is enter into the deeper part of our being. At that time, we are able to bring to the fore the wealth that we have deep within us." - Sri Chinmoy

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Yoga Diet

Having practice yoga for some time now, most of us will wonder if we should change our diet as diet is one of the five principles of yoga. Some of us will wonder if we should become vegetarians as the yogic diet is a vegetarian one, consisting of pure, simple, natural foods which are easily digested and promote health.

However, some of us might not want to turn vegetarian as changing our diet overnight is not an easy matter. But if we know what food we should avoid, it will help to make us feel so much better. If we start eating properly, it will aid our health and lead to a strong body and a better state of mind.

The Yogic system of nutrition recognizes three types of food:

Sattvic Food

This is the purest diet, the most suitable one for any serious student of yoga. It nourishes the body and maintains it in a peaceful state. And it calms and purifies the mind, enabling it to function at its maximum potential. A sattvic diet thus leads to true health: a peaceful mind in control of a fit body, with a balanced flow of energy between them. Sattvic foods include cereals, wholemeal bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, pure fruit juices, milk, butter and cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey, and herb teas.

Rajasic Food

Foods that are very hot, bitter, sour, dry, or salty are rajasic. They destroy the mind-body equilibrium, feeding the body at the expense of the mind. Too much rajasic food will overstimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Rajasic foods include hot substances, such as sharp spices or strong herbs, stimulants, like coffee and tea, fish, eggs, salt and chocolate. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic.

Tamasic Food

A tamasic diet benefits neither the mind nor the body. Prana, or energy, is withdrawn, powers of reasoning become clouded and a sense of inertia sets in. The body's resistance to disease is destroyed and the mind filled with dark emotions, such as anger and greed. Tamasic items include meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, such as vinegar, and stale or overripe substances. Overeating is also regarded as tamasic.

If you want to change your diet, learn to substitute more Sattvic food for Rajastic or Tamastic ones. Include plenty of green, leafy vegetables in your diet while minimizing the intake of meat. Ensure that you have a regular intake of good protein food, such as nuts, legumes, whole grains, and cheese. Eat some fresh fruits every day.

In time, you will see the benefits of a Yoga diet. And as much as the food in a Yoga diet is nutritious, it is also rich in Prana or life force. When you feel the increase of life energy as brought about by this diet, you will understand the meaning of the saying, "You are what you eat."

"The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." ~Bob Moawad

Friday, September 5, 2008

That's Yoga @ Damas

I have signed up for the unlimited package for the month of September under That’s Yoga @ Damas. The classes are being conducted by Azmi, Matthew and Lila, who are very good international teachers. There are 3 classes being conducted in the morning and 2 classes in the evening from Monday to Friday. On weekends, there are 2 classes in the morning and 2 classes in the afternoon. The classes include Gentle Flow, Flow 1, Flow 2, Dynamic, Beginners Hatha, Hatha 1, Hatha 2, Pilates, Yogalates, Ashtanga Intro and Ashtanga Led.

The launch for the studio was held on 31/8/08 and quite a number of existing YZ members had already signed up for the unlimited package during the first 2 days. The support from these members shows that they are very confident with the teachers even though YZ Damas is still having classes.

I attended a Hatha 1 class on Monday,1/9 with Matthew, a Flow 1 class with Azmi on 2/9 and a Hatha 2 class with Lila on 3/9. The dedication shown by the teachers in the classes really overwhelmed me; they really paid attention to the students’ alignment and went round making the necessary adjustments for them. Lila even asked if there were any special requests for any of part of the body which needed to be worked on. One member informed that she felt very tired in her shoulders and we had a good workout with poses for opening the shoulders. We even did some partner yoga in the class. I felt very relax after the class and had a good night sleep.

The atmosphere of the class is very good as everyone just want to have a good yoga practice without any worries. I am back to my routine of going for my yoga classes after I finished work and during the weekends, at least for the whole of September.

Anyone interested to join us for the classes can email me for further details.

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Coffee and Body Stiffness

Recently, Yogajess wrote in her blog about the effect of coffee on the body which results in stiffness. I have always had this love-hate relationship with coffee. I love coffee for its aroma; if someone in the office makes coffee, it really perks me up just to smell it. I hate it when after drinking coffee especially local coffee; I would have trouble getting to sleep at night.

I always try to take only 1 cup of coffee per day and usually take my coffee – Nescafe Gold - in the morning except on days when I go for my yoga class in the morning. Then, I will have to drink a cup of coffee after the class, normally feel very sleepy if I don’t have my cup of coffee for the day. I discovered that it is ok for me to drink Nescafe in the afternoon but not any other coffee.

I did some surfing on the net on the effects of coffee on the body and found some interesting articles : coffee – grounds for concern? Debunking Coffee Health Myths

Well, the effect of coffee has on someone may vary with another depending on how the body reacts to the caffeine. I know of someone who can sleep through the night even though he has just taken a cup of black coffee in the evening. Caffeine is the main ingredient in coffee. According to research, it is not harmful to drink one or two cups every day. However, those who exceed this can endure the negative effects that include difficulty in sleeping, headaches, irregular heartbeat, nausea and muscle tension. But persons who consume coffee can also have the same effects by consuming produces that contain caffeine. Examples of these are tea, sodas and chocolates.

Coffee effecting body stiffness? Couldn’t find anything on this. Well, I think our body is stiff due to sitting in our chair for too long especially if you are an office worker. Stiffness has an antidote. That antidote is stretching exercises. Stretching exercises take the ends of each muscle and mechanically pull them apart. By doing so, links between adjacent muscle fibres are mechanically broken. The fibres are brought into alignment - so they more nearly run parallel to one another. The muscle tissue itself is lengthened - allowing the sketelon to resume its full range of movement, and eliminating unused joint surfaces. Performed diligently, stretching exercises have the power to return most muscle tissues to their natural lengths over time. But a word of caution, stretching individual muscles too forcefully can damage them - by causing excessive microscopic tissue tearing. Age and stiffness is linked. If you look at young tree branches, they are moist and supple. By contrast, elderly branches tend to be dry and stiff. So, young people are usually more flexible.

I will still go back to having my cup of coffee everyday as research has also shown that coffee can help in the prevention and treatment of diseases and illnesses as varied as Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, liver disease, skin cancer, Parkinsons's disease and more. Read article - Coffee benefits your health and protects against many diseases

"Flexibility without strength is not always desirable. Strengthen the muscles you stretch as well as stretching the muscles you strengthen”