Hong Kong Integral Yoga Teachers of 2018
So many times in my life, I have felt that my needs come last.
Among the countless tasks I have to undertake in life, whether for my children: their school, homework, activities, rehearsals, social dramas; or running my business; or looking after my home; and staying on top of it all, I feel that there simply isn't enough time for me.
THAT HAPPENS BECAUSE I PUT MYSELF THERE
Doing things for ourselves may seem selfish but the very act of investing in ourselves makes us happier and more confident. We actually enrich the quality of our relationships and gain respect.
Kids will soon be back at school. With a bit of quiet in the house, it's a perfect time to invest in yourself. Here are four easy ways to start:
1. Learn to Meditate
We all know that it's good for us, but how on earth can we fit it into our already busy lives and make it regular? There are so many misconceptions about meditation... not having time is one of them.
Getting started is the most important step in understanding the mind and preparing you for an enjoyable practice. There are many tips to help you along the way. Once you do get there, you will wonder how you lived your life without it. Read more...
2. Be prepared to save a life.
Sudden emergencies pop up at the most inconvenient times. If you are unprepared, it can be devastatingly stressful. Investing in First Aid skills may be one of the most important things you can do in your life.
A First Aid course is a small time commitment, but provides many skills needed to handle an emergency. It's a great investment not only in yourself but for your family and community. Learn more...
UPCOMING WORKSHOP: SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 9TH 2017
3. Join a yoga sangha (or community of like-minded individuals) that focuses on your personal development
A community of like-minded individuals are a great way to gain knowledge, friendships and a sounding board for your life's challenges. It's especially important to be in a space where we don't feel judged for simply being human.
Integral Yoga's sangha is offering a special program where we will be combining Raja Yoga & Hatha Yoga, studying the entire Yoga Sutras of Patanjali from September 2017 to June 2018.
These classes support YAMA Foundation, which make Yoga, Arts & Meditation Accessible to communities in Hong Kong that are under-served or vulnerable. This investment in yourself actually helps others too!
4. Take the Yoga Teacher Training You've Always Dreamed About
If you want to go on a journey to fall in love with yourself and your life, then a yoga teacher training is definitely the best choice. Most yoga teacher trainings in Hong Kong are offered part-time so it's accessible to your work or family life.
If you're worried about your fitness or flexibility level, fear not. Integral Yoga's key prerequisite is not standing on your head, but having a sincere desire to learn about the integrated and holistic system of yoga and a regular practice of at least six months. (Here's a secret... I could barely touch my toes when I started my teacher training...) Here's what Integral Yoga can offer you...
So many mothers have asked me how to keep up a yoga practice with a newborn baby at home. It was tricky but here are three yoga practices you can do as a new mom.
Children read their mothers like they read their favourite bedtime stories. There’s not much you can get past them, and rightfully so. You can think you are hiding an emotion from them, but they know that you’re not yourself, and they remind you when you’re not being your authentic self.
I have two children and integrating them into my yogic life has been a very important goal for me. I didn't realise how difficult it was to put it into practice until I brought my babies home. I loved the experience of being in love with my infants, and at the same time, I desperately craved quiet time to practice.
Practice 1: Pause the postures, start the Sutras
When you first come home from the hospital, your primary focus is healing and establishing a feeding routine. Mothers may have had incisions during the labour process, so asana needs to take a step back. Here is where your Raja Yoga or yoga philosophy comes in handy.
Being a mother is “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodah” in action. (This is the second Sutra of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.) Let me explain. The Sanskrit means, “Restraining or slowing down the thoughts in the mind, to experience yoga.” Motherhood requires us to stop... pause... think about what we are about to do next that will influence our children for the rest of their lives.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a wonderful read, but to be honest, I don't think I ever had any time to read. Sri Swami Satchidananda has a very easy to understand translation, and now Integral Yoga offers an audiobook of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Practice 2: Pranayama to prevent you from heating up
Motherhood required (and still requires) me to breathe deeply and chill out. Pranyama has been my best friend in the worst of times. When my second child was born, I had a toddler going through her tantrum phase. Amidst the tears and tantrums, when I want to pull my hair out and throw a tantrum myself, I remembered to breathe.
Getting steamed up is very “un-yogic,” and my children absolutely remind me of when I am being “un-yogic.” I get bugged, but I use that as my cue to try Pranayama to calm my mind and bring my blood down from boiling point. Sithali -- the cooling breath -- is my particular favourite as it teaches me to cool down physically and mentally. Using the mouth position appropriate (either rolling my tongue or gently clenching my teeth) I breathe in cool air through the mouth and then slowly exhale out the nose.
Practice 3: Short sessions only
When my newborns would nap, I would use that time to speed clean the house, throw in a load of laundry, prepare a quick and easy meal or take a shower. Other times, I would try to roll out my mat to get some practice. One of two things happened: my child would wake up or I would lay on the mat and fall asleep.
The honest truth was that at least for that moment in time, a full practice was not possible at all. I began five minute sequences that would at least set me straight. I chose to practice both when my children were sleeping and also when they were awake and needed attention. Here is a sequence for you that helps with aches in your upper back and neck.
Practice 4: Let go of the need to do it all and just enjoy your kids
Motherhood makes you keep your sense of humour intact. Throughout all of it, your kids are the cutest, most wonderful things that happen to you. I can’t even imagine what my life was like before they came into it. Even when your whole house is covered in mess or dirt or pen marks or food or accidents... their little faces of “Oops... now what is Mom going to say,” makes me want to just cuddle them.... right after they’ve helped me to clean up their messes.
I am like my children’s favourite bedtime story. I may not be treated wtih care and am definitely not in pristine condition. My pages are torn, corners folded, and I am never kept neatly on a shelf. However, I’m read over and over again, and kept very close by. It reminds me to keep my life as an open book... a funny story of how truth and love are the most important parts of being in an imperfect yet wonderful world.
Motherhood has been my best teacher. I always have an opportunity to put the teachings of yoga into practice.
Question: Is chanting a mantra a form of meditation?
Answer: Repetition of a mantra is a very valid meditation technique when you use the mantra as your object of focus. It is regarded as one of the most widely used concentrative techniques. If the mind wanders, you can just bring it back to the mantra.
Known as concentrative thought forms, mantras are not mere words; they carry meaning, energy and vibrations that tune your subtle frequency in a gradual way. Sri Swami Satchidananda states that the more you repeat a mantra, the more you produce that sound vibration within you. After some time of constant repetition, you will start to feel that vibration within, which is a holding place for you to evolve and grow into heightened states of awareness.
Mantras given to you by your spiritual guide or Guru carry an extra energy charge. It’s like planting a seed which you grow and cultivate by repeating the mantra not only during meditation but also throughout your life as well. Mantra initiation is a ceremony where a Guru imparts the mantra to you but also means that you have committed to the teachings of this particular Guru and the system or lineage.
If you haven’t been given a mantra, choose one carefully. They have different energies and different purposes. Reflection of the meaning of the mantra is an aid.
If you are not into Mantras in ancient languages, then you can substitute a mantra for a positive affirmation. Make sure it’s inspiring and something that you would like to go back to every day.
Different ways to use mantras as the object of your focus:
Start by saying your mantra out loud about 10-20 times. Then whisper the mantra 10-20 times. After that, say it in your mind 10-20 times, then renew for another 10-20 times over and over until you are ready to come out.
Count the number of times you recite a mantra in your head. If you lose count or you catch your mind wandering, start over. The first few times, you may barely get past repeating it once before the mind goes somewhere else. Don’t lose heart. Over time you will see progress. You may actually get to repeat it twice.
Coordinate the mantra with your inhalation and your exhalation. Try to find a pace to repeat it that is sustainable and does not strain your breath.
How to create your own positive affirmation:
Follow an expert such as Louise Hay who has books of positive affirmations linked to physical health and wellbeing. Choose an affirmation that resonates with you or corresponds to a physical or emotional ailment you are suffering.
List seven positive attributes about yourself. What do you like about yourself? Seven is often a tricky number. Many will stop at three. Write down seven things. Your affirmation can be, “I like that I am #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7.”
Observe the negative self-talk or judgements that you give to yourself and write down an opposite or positive statement that dissolves the negative belief.
Create an affirmation that you believe in. If you do not believe in them, you are not setting yourself up for success. Positive affirmations have to be real and based on yourself. You can start by saying, “I am willing to believe that…”
Receiving a mantra from a Guru or spiritual guide:
A Guru literally means “the remover of darkness.” A Guru is there to guide you spiritually on the path towards self-realisation. Choose a Guru carefully — make sure you resonate with the person on a soul-level. Make sure the teachings of the lineage or system are in line with your personal values.
If you have found a spiritual teacher that you follow, and want to commit to following these teachings, then you can request to receive initiation from that person. It is up to the spiritual teacher to decide if you are fit to receive the mantra.
If you have had initiation before from another lineage, usually you are not encouraged to take another mantra initiation. Stick to the mantra that you have.
The benefit of initiation is for the person receiving it. The Guru or spiritual teacher does not lose anything.
Controlling the thoughts in the mind is definitely not easy, but it’s not impossible either! It takes practice, practice, practice... The benefits of meditation are endless, but in order to receive them, it takes commitment, dedication and most importantly patience.
Once prepared, we are ready to begin our practice of meditation. All meditation techniques have the same goal: to focus the mind on a single point, so that the mind remains calm and still, leading the meditator to self-realization. Below are some techniques you can try:
1) Yoni Mudra
This is an exercise in withdrawing from your senses. Close your ears with your thumbs. Cover your eyes with your index fingers, then close your nostrils with your middle fingers and press your lips together with your remaining fingers. Release the middle fingers to inhale and exhale when you meditate. This helps the mind focus less on external objects and bring the focus within.
2) Tratak (Steady Gazing)
A wonderful exercise for concentrating. This involves looking at an object or point without blinking and then closing the eyes after some time and trying to visualize the object in your mind’s eye. You can focus on the nose or the space between your eyebrows. Another object of focus in a lit candle. One minute of gazing is sufficient to start and then build up to ten minutes. If the eyes feel strained, then relax.
3) Focus on the Breath
For beginners, a simple object of focus in the breath. Because the breath is moving, the mind can start to focus on different aspects of the breath. Focus on the breath also slows the breath. The breath is also connected to the mind, so as the breath slows, the mind slows and can slowly reach one-pointed concentration.
4) Repeating a Mantra or Affirmation
Mantras provide a tangible point on which to focus the mind. The Hindus also believe that when mantras are repeated in meditation, it will bring the individual to a higher state of consciousness. You can repeat your mantra out loud (by saying or chanting it), whisper or mentally. Repeating the mantra mentally is the most effective.
Never get discouraged and set realistic goals. Try for only five minutes every morning for the first week. Second week, try 10 minutes. By the third week, try 15 minutes and stick to it for about a month. You’ll soon find that you can sit for more. Remember that your thoughts will definitely come in and distract you... many many times. Don’t worry... whenever you remember, bring your mind back to your object of focus. Keep doing it and you’ll get there...