Category Archives: Yoga

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Integrative Transformational Yoga

It is interesting to note that the percentage of people practicing Yoga in America is rising by 14% on average per annum. Given that the majority of Yoga available out there are mostly limited to Asanas, I wonder what percentage of this 14% increment had actually experienced the full complete practice of Yoga up till now.

In Singapore we have a plentiful supply of Yoga classes in gyms, Yoga studios, and public communes known as Community Centers. There is a curious side of me that loves asking every Yogi that I meet this question – What is your understanding of Yoga and why do you want to practice Yoga?

Most of the answers I get are “For physical health; increase flexibility”. Some people who have been practicing for years would say “mental peace; body mind awareness”.

I have yet to come across anyone in Singapore (or most developed countries where Yoga is a rising phenomenon) that could answer in a way that demonstrates a true understanding of what is Yoga and what it offers.

Briefly, the real meaning of Yoga is “Union”; and the real reason behind practicing Yoga is to cultivate the Mind towards its highest realization. What is this realization?

This realization refers to the understanding of how a person is an ‘architect of his own destiny’ as Swami Rama calls it; and the freedom to choose thoughts and actions leading to the highest possible development and expression of this person.

Something I would add to that would be the cognitive ability to realize how at any given moment in time, we as an individual human being is partnering the greater creative power of Life to result in both individual and planetary outcomes.

All the benefits of physical health, mental peace, higher awareness are milestones along the Yoga path, they are not the actual benefits although it is not a bad thing to practice Yoga for these benefits.

Yoga is just – Yoga

So which is the ‘best’ type of Yoga to practice? My take is – all Yoga are good. Any practice is better than no practice at all.

However if you have a chance to know and practice the authentic system of Yoga that brings benefits on levels much more than the physical plane, wouldn’t you want to?

Think of the scenario where you have a choice to invest the same amount of money into 2 different risk free bonds. Within the same investment period, one gives you 2% return, and one gives you 8% return. Which one would you choose?

In this case, your time and effort is your investment money, and the type of Yoga is the bond that you choose to invest in.

Many people, after practicing for years and decades, have come to realize that Yoga offers much more than what is being taught. One can’t help but wonder how much more progress they would have made if they had invested the same number of years in practicing Yoga integratively.

Are you a seasoned Yogi and want to find out how to get more out of your practice? Here are the 5 Tips for you to a better practice!

Contemporary types of Yoga

The most commonly known types of Yoga are namely Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, Power, and the rapidly growing Yin Yoga.

In the 196 scriptures of Yoga Sutras, only 2 of the above words are mentioned – Ashtanga and Hatha.

Let’s look at Ashtanga (made popular by the teacher Pattabis Jois). Based on the Sutras, the original meaning of this word is ‘8 fold path’. It describes the systematic process to enlightenment with 8 steps, of which Asana and Pranayama are 2 of them. However, now if you do a google search for Ashtanga Yoga, you would find it to be defined as ‘a series of challenging Asanas…’, and most Ashtanga fans now hardly practice it beyond the challenging Asanas.

Now let’s look at Hatha Yoga. The word Ha means ‘sun’ and Tha means ‘moon’. Hatha Yoga refers to a physical Yoga practice to balance the sun/masculine and moon/feminine channels of a person. Again, looking at the cyber information out there, there is much misrepresentation. For example, some websites explained Hatha Yoga as a ‘forceful yoga’ on their website, which is totally off from the original meaning as taught from the Sutras.

Iyengar Yoga is named after the teacher BKS Iyengar, and makes use of props like blocks, chairs and ropes etc to reach deeper postures. Bikram Yoga, also named after the teacher who invented it, refers to a specific series of Asanas done in a hot room. Power Yoga is yet another contemporary form of Yoga that integrates aerobic movements and cardiovascular strength training poses to result in a challenging workout.

All of the above are good, except that more than 50% of the important aspects of Yoga have been left out. Much of the work done out there are limited to the physical body. Based on the ancient teachings of Yoga, this physical body is only one out of the five bodies we have. Which means contemporary types of Yoga, in their isolate natures, give us limited benefits. 

The premise of Integrative or Transformational yoga

According to one of the earliest Taittiriya Upanishads, there are 5 koshas or ‘sheaths’ to every human being. We have namely a physical body, energetic body, mental body, higher wisdom body and a bliss body.

The cultivation of the mind towards enlightenment, can only begin to happen when these 5 bodies are activated and integrated.

To begin working on these ‘sheaths’, we have to start with the densest body which is the physical body – this is where Asanas are used.

After the physical body is cleansed, the next step is to activate the energetic body with Pranayama – which means vital energy generation and redirection.

Subsequently, the mental body is cleaned up and activated with Mantra invocations, which is a combination of breath, sound and mental focus; and meditation.

After the first 3 bodies are activated, we enter into the higher wisdom body using self study/contemplation, Bhakti Yoga (which is the Yoga of devotion and love), Karma Yoga and guided meditation with visualizations.

The final 5th body is the bliss body. When awareness permeates through the outer 4 bodies, we connect with this bliss body, and a supreme sense of joy is experienced. When the bliss body is lived, a person embodies characteristics similar to the Divine Consciousness – of pure creation, joy, bliss, unconditional love, equanimity and Oneness.

Why Integrative Transformational Yoga works every time

We have countless testimonials from Yogis who, although have had a number of years of conventional (by conventional I mean conventional by modern world standards) Yoga practice proving the effects of Integrative Yoga practice. After just one practice, they often exclaim that they felt a deep sense of calm and peace, an awakening that they never felt in other ‘normal’ Yoga classes; or some would inform us that they achieved the same effects as when they had done 3 times longer of a practice.

Besides a solid education of the relationship between Chakras, Nadis, Prana and Kosha systems, what sets our Integrative Yoga classes apart from the others, is the underlying fundamental understanding that humans are a multi-dimensional organism. Our experience of reality is made up of a multiplex of projections.

At the beginning of every Integrative Yoga class, the sequence is designed with a purpose of waking up and activating the respective Chakras, directing Kundalini up the spine, permeating awareness through the 5 bodies, and then a guided Shavasana leading into Yoga Nidra.

Every practice brings you deeper into integration, closer to Spirit and makes you more aligned with the creative forces of Life.

 (C) Linda Loo

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Meditating on Tibetan Mantra: Aum Mani Padme Hum

There are more than several similarities between Traditional Indian Schools of Yoga and Tibetan traditions of Buddhism and Tantra Yoga. Tibetan teachings date back to roughly 200 BC (while the Vedas which forms the Upanishads, date back to roughly 1,200 BC). Many seekers and teachers including myself, believe that the original teachings were from one same source, and over the earliest years of our current civilization, had gotten dispersed.

Tibetan Yoga focuses substantially on Mantra Invocations. Sound has become something that many commercial Yoga centers leave out nowadays. Many conventional Yoga gyms and studios have avoided the practice of Mantra and Meditation to attract more customers and avoid possibly coming across as religious.

(More about that misconception of Yoga appearing ‘religious’ in another discussion.)

There are many similarities between the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and the Upanishads; although I like both, personally I feel the deepest connection to the Upanishads more than anything else. Each time i read a verse from any of the 12 major texts, it seems to be talking right at me, and it feels like home.

However, something about Tibetan Buddhism catches my attention – the Mantras.

The word Mantra comes from the root word ‘Man’ which means “Mind”. Mantras are sound invocations to adjust the control panels of our Mind. And it is totally cool because these invocations work even if the reciter does not understand the full meaning of a Mantra. As long as full attention and feeling is given when singing the Mantra, the effects would be felt.

One time, in a TV interview, the host asked the Dalai Lama his Holiness to translate and explain the meaning of the well-known Tibetan Mantra “Aum Mani Padme Hum”. Smiling with the innocence of a child, and shaking his head gently he said “Oh no no no, it is impossible to translate into English.”

That is the superiority of Mantra over language. Be it English, French, Mandarin, or any other language, regardless of the richness of the history, it is still a meaning-based tool, and bears little power over working on the subtle entities of thought and emotion. In fact, language is often a subject of our thoughts and emotions. We speak a certain way because we have a certain thought or emotion.

While we could attempt to understand roughly the vibrational meaning of a Mantra, it is simply not possible to capture the full meaning of a Mantra into words.

Let’s look at the Mantra in a little bit more detail:

Aum

Containing 3 pronunciations – Ah – Uh – Mm, this sound represents the past, present and future dimensions. It also symbolizes the cleansing and transformation of impurities of the body, mind and speech.

Mani

This sound is given to mean ‘Jewel’ or a ‘Precious Stone’. It symbolizes the preciousness, and purity of our intention. That in all that we say and act, we base our intention on compassion. Compassion for ourselves and others.

Padme

This symbolizes the flower ‘Lotus’. Think of the Lotus flower that is grows from mud, and yet keeping its head above water and looking clean, beautiful and serene. In the same way, this invocation reminds us to always keep our head above water, to maintain our ‘Lotusness’ even in the face of mud. One can also take the meaning further to understand that the spiritual journey involves mud coming into life, and that mud is inevitable. But we can still remain Lotus-like, and we have the power and discernment to choose people and situations that perpetuate our Lotusness.

Hum

This symbolizes the methodology and wisdom for transforming impure to pure. So that when we call out the Mantra, we will find the right method towards the right wisdom.

The right method brings us right wisdom; and then we will have wisdom to choose the right method. 

Brilliant and beautiful isn’t it? I hope you may find this useful, and that you would start using this Mantra for meditation.

(C) Copyright Linda Loo

Mandala of Abundance

Yogi Alert: 5 Tips for a better practice!

Ok dear Yogis! This post is something that I had been wanting to publish for months, but for some reason I only managed to locate it from my archives until now. Like the Zen saying goes – ‘Now’ is the appointed time!

Maybe you had been practicing for decades, years, or maybe you had just begun the journey of self exploration with the body. Whichever it is, I am sure you will be interested to learn that there are lifestyle tips that you can incorporate to get more out of each practice.

Sounds good? Here goes:

1) Take a cold shower before practice

I know it does not sound too pleasant, especially for those of us who like to practice in the mornings. The thing is, cold showers constricts our blood vessels and increases their elasticity, preparing them to transport more energy when we practice.

For someone like me who practices in the mornings, the cold showers always ‘shakes things up’. At first I would squirm and jump around; but after the first few seconds it feels so good and I would break into smile and song.

The only exception to this I would say is probably to refrain from it on the first 3 days of menstruation – for the ladies. In which case, it is good to either take a break from practice anyway, or do a modified practice with significantly less strenuosity.

2) Try not to shower immediately after practice

This is especially true if you are a seasoned Yogi. Water is a conductor of electricity. The sweat emitted from the body right after practice are charged with Prana, and if we shower immediately it could wash away quite a bit of energy. It may deplete Chi and make us tired.

In fact, ancient teachings (conveyed by Swami Rama from his book The Path of Light and Fire) encouraged dedicated Yogis to massage the sweat back into the pores after practice! I know it sounds a little gross for us modern urbanites; well… if we stink after each practice, maybe its time to eat a living foods diet, or at least a 50% clean diet. How clean our bodies are internally actually shows up in our smells and sweat!

Most people I know love how they smell after switching to eating more Living Foods. Their spouses and partners love it too! Try it and you will know what I mean.

3) Start doing home enemas

You think you are what you eat? Yes that’s true.

Although I have something to add to that – ‘You are what you do not poop!’

Remember the times when you were constipated, perhaps for a few days, and then finally you managed move the bowels? Did you notice it immediately felt like heaven?

If you want to feel lighter, make your mind quieter, and experience deeper meditation, don’t forget to clean those pipes Yogis. Home enemas can be easily self administered, are cost efficient, and so good for shifting states. It takes a little getting used to, if you are new to it. But after a couple of sessions you would become an expert.

Feel free to check with me in class if you want to start doing home enemas but don’t know how to do it yet. I would be most happy to share 🙂

4) Remember to make sound

Sound is the manifestation of Prana.

When you strengthen Prana, you strengthen Sound; when you purify Prana, you purify Sound, and vice versa.

Any Yoga practice that omits sound, in my humble opinion, seems somewhat incomplete. Mental states of thinking, judging and fear of being judged, are sneaking around somewhere if we are not making sound while holding an Asana. We can hear the instructions “Be with your breath and focus on the now” a hundred times but the mind simply has another mind of its own.

However, the moment you do a Bhramari, the mind has to come to the present. Many teachers are unaware of the power of the Bhramari Pranayama. Bhramaris have been researched in India, and its been proven that 20 minutes of practice a day have the ability to reverse any hormonal and adrenal imbalances of the body.

20 minutes a day versus years and years of medications, pills, maybe even surgery, sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Besides Bhramaris, Mantras are another method using sound to train Prana, although its effects work more on the mind, rather than on Prana. Something very noteworthy (for the thirsty Yogi-fanatics) is that: Mantra Yoga is an essential component of Tantra, and Tantra is in fact the juice of all Yoga.

5) Be intentional

As with anything you do in life, be intentional. Before you do something, ask yourself what is the outcome you want from your practice. Beginning with the end in mind is one of the most powerful manifestation practices I’ve ever known. And of course, knowing does not equate mastery. We do not really understand a principle until we are able to demonstrate it with results.

Starting with your very next practice, start to set intentions. Start with one intention per practice. It does not have to be elaborate. The simpler the better. It could be for your health, to gain a certain realization, to solve a problematic situation in the highest possible good or simply, just for the liberation of your loved ones.

I like to offer my daily practice for the happiness and health of all my loved ones, friends and Yoga students. In a very intricate way, we are all one, people to plants to all living things to Earth and to every star in the galaxy. We are all connected in a beautiful interwoven tapestry of life. This is the highest cultivation of Yoga, known as Tantra (of its many translations, one of my favorite is ‘loom’).

Has this article been helpful to you? I hope it helps you get more satisfaction and enjoyment out of your practice. Namaste Yogis!

(C) Copyright Linda Loo

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What is the real purpose of an Asana

Many years ago, one of the things that inspired me to take up Yoga was the possibility of standing on my head. I found the idea of a full body inversion really cool.

In my first few years of attempting Yoga, I could barely touch my toes in forward bends, or sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with a straight back. I had zero flexibility, and close to zilch core strength. Naukasana (Boat Pose) always got me cursing and swearing silently, and when I hear ‘Uktasana (Chair Pose)’, I would actually shudder with dread.

Ironically, I did my first Yoga Teachers’ Training at the age of 31. It was one of the major shifting points of my life –  I could assume a freestyle Sirashasana (Head Stand), and it was so empowering. Besides the cool fact that I could see inverted perspectives of life that were hidden when upright, holding free style inversions erases fear, self doubt, builds self confidence, and deepens the connection between inner child and Spirit.

The floodgates opened after that; I became intrigued with Asanas! The subsequent years saw me exploring various other major Yoga traditions including Ashtanga Vinyasa and Iyengar. I loved Asanas so much that I would practice upon waking, before sleep, in the lift, and just simply about anywhere where nobody was watching.

Holding an Asana, refining it, tuning into the body, isolating the sense of body muscles, sweet pain and agony, sweat pouring out from my head, and heat from inside the core that feels like an erupting volcano – that sweaty feeling of bliss at the end of every practice, I was addicted to all of that because it made me felt alive. Maybe I still am.

The first few years after my first Teachers’ Training, I had what I called the Asana OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I moved into deeper back bends and arm balances. Training for any new Asana is always challenging. With my OCD I trained non-stop like a mad woman, sometimes 5 hours a day, and although I managed to assume the difficult poses, I did some damage to my wrists (which totally defeated the original purpose of Yoga in the first place). Not pretty!

Like they always say, it takes one minute of realization to see through years of folly. In one Ashtanga workshop that I participated, I met a Canadian guy whose arms were as strong as his legs. Let’s call him Mr Macho Arms. He could push effortlessly into a handstand, and walk around the hall on them. I was super jealous because I had to train like mad to stand on my arms; and he just made it look eating cake.

When he sat down next to me, I had to ask him – “How long did you have to train to get here?”

He looked at me and said – “I had a car accident when I was 17 and my lower body is mostly metal. To compensate for my legs I had to train to make my upper body stronger. My dream is to be able to sit still in lotus.” Then he paused and said “If I can sit like you, I will give up hand stands anytime.”

I looked down at my legs and realized I was sitting in half lotus. It had been such a natural thing for me that I sometimes don’t even notice the stability of my seat. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with what felt like a combination of embarrassment and gratitude.

Based on the most ancient teachings of Yoga, the whole point of performing Asanas is to prepare the body to be able to sit still, and prepare the mind for meditation. Asanas is but a small fraction in the whole system of Yoga.

And for the purpose of shining more light on how Yoga could possibly have been misunderstood by the masses today, the word Ashtanga actually means a 8-fold path towards self realization. The Himalayan Tradition expounded Ashtanga Yoga as a Royal path towards Samadhi. When you say the word Ashtanga today, people think lots of jumping and human pretzels; but the real meaning as taught in the Yoga Sutras is not that.

In fact, sacred Yogic texts taught that once a Yogi can assume Siddhasana (a meditation pose), all other Asanas become quite redundant.

Challenging Asanas like Sirashasana, and any other inversions for that matter, serves the purpose of directing kundalini from root to crown chakra, integrating the 2 major dualistic-natured energies (Sun and Moon, Male and Female) of a human being, activating the central channel along spine, in order that individual consciousness (Jiva) can unite with ultimate consciousness (Atma). This can only happen when both body and mind are absolutely still.

Of course, Sirashanasana brings with it many other benefits – decompression of spine, reversal of gravity and aging, full body strengthening, enhanced senses and so on. Is it a good Asana? Yes, definitely! Why else would it be called the “King of Asana”.

Is it a compulsory pose for enlightenment? Is it a sign of spirituality? Heavens no! This is where the line gets clear between the practice of Yoga and Gymnastics/Acrobatics. In Yoga, we train the body in order to get to mind, and then beyond. With the other sports, it mostly stops at the body.

Back to that afternoon with Mr Macho Arms, I was embarrassed because I realized I was already at the door – the sweet spot of Yoga. And yet my mind was still going after new Asanas like boys chasing after pretty girls. I began to laugh at myself – my Karmaindriyas (the 5 outer senses) are in overdrive, always lusting and greedy for more experiences, more achievements. Totally guilty.

As for gratitude, it was towards the deep rooted training I had in Integral Yoga – giving me flexibility in hips and legs within such a short time. I was also grateful for a chance to understand Yoga from the Himalayan tradition – whose teachings originate from one the most ancient and untainted source of Tantra.

There is a huge difference between practicing Yoga as it was handed down in totality compared to practicing its components in isolation. You start to see the human being as a multidimensional organism, a micro reflection of the macro cosmos, how we are continuously driven by our external senses, the mind as a diverse and fickle structure; and how to tackle and unite these separated entities within oneself to achieve stillness and congruence in life.

Last but not least, perhaps the most important of all, from my own experience, is how to remain this material world with all its temptations (which are really enjoyable by the way, so please enjoy them responsibly!) without forgetting our truest essence, and still practice stillness.

 

“Understanding without practice is better than practice without understanding.

Understanding with practice is better than understanding without practice.

Residing in your true nature is better than understanding or practice.”   Upanishads

(C) Copyright Linda Loo

YTTC Graduation Party 2016

Power in doing the “Impossible” (YTTC Graduation)

We had just finished another round of Teachers Training and although it was intense – spanning over 2 months, we (the 4 graduate teachers and I) thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Amidst a ton of self study, rigorous training and drills, we also did an in-depth exploration of using authentic Yoga as a tool for self realization.

Graduation was nothing short of a celebration party. The picture above was taken after 2 bottles of red wine and 2 hours of singing and dancing. My first core belief in life – Never miss a chance to party!

In this short article today I want to touch on doing the so-called ‘impossible’. If you think that training to achieve a full split or a head stand within 2 months is impossible, think again. We sure did it under the Yoga Teachers Training Course – with an intense cirriculum, hard work and discipline.

Contrary to most false beliefs, it is not the age; and definitely not size, shape or fitness level that determines whether you breakthrough on your mat, or in your life for that matter.

It is your beliefs (including your perception of failure), and level of commitment.

There is a lot of power and inner strength in achieving something we had never been able to do before. Take for example inversions. To go upside down, to see the world upside down, to be seen upside down, and to have your legs in the air, these require courage, strength, balance, control of your entire physical body and mental power.

My second core belief in life is: “Do the toughest things on your yoga mat, stick with it with integrity and grit, and everything else in your life becomes easy. When you give in to excuses on your mat, you tend to also give up power in your life. Your practice reflects your entire life, there’s simply no faking it.”

First of all, you gotta believe that you can do it. Then you actually train for it, commit to consistency and never giving up. Unless you are the reincarnation of great sages, most Yogins did not achieve difficult poses overnight; we had to train very hard for them.

For instance, when you train for the head stand Sirashasana (King of Poses); you have to keep attempting to lift the legs even though its so darn difficult. You fail, and keep failing, for a few hundred times, until your body becomes strong enough to lift the legs. If you had given up in any of those one time of failure, then the pose becomes only a book concept for you because you stopped trying.

But if you pressed on, you will come to the day when you realize you could lift one leg; and another day you realize you could lift both legs. And soon, you could bring both legs up, and then you begin to find balance upside down. You see new things in the upside down view and you discover a whole new confidence in life.

And whenever you achieved a breakthrough on your mat, the breakthrough spill over from the mat into your life. You gain a new insight about your character, why you behave a certain way you do, you see new things in your life that you didn’t notice before; and you don’t stop there; you keep moving forward. Life is always an expansion – either you expand forward or you ‘expand’ backwards, you know what I mean 🙂

So keep practicing, keep making new breakthroughs and don’t forget to celebrate every step of the way.

Be extraordinary; be awesome!

XOXO

(C) Copyright Linda Loo

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TY (Transformational Yoga) – A Manual to an awesome life

(A self proclaimed growth junkie’s view on how TY works as well if not better than any self development program available out there.)

At the age of 10, I told myself that I would live an extraordinary life; a life based on my own terms and conditions, and what I want out of life. I made up my mind to create an awesome life, and never settle for mediocrity.

Since then, I constantly strive to be better. While other kids my age were thinking about where to go for movies after school, or where to go for the next school holiday, I worked to earn money for my education. Before I realized it, I was all grown up – a successful young working adult who overcame adversity to get to where I was. There were several successful achievements of which I was proud of – being a straight ‘A’s student in college, earning an NUS degree all by myself, getting my dream job in a financial industry, and a paycheck I never imagined was possible.

The best thing that ever happened to me however, was not the material success. It was the early-life crisis that led me to question “Who am I?”, and eventually the wisest choice of my life to leave corporate and pursue my passion in Yoga. My life now is much more satisfying and fulfilling and I will never want to exchange this for anything else.

The thirst for knowing myself has somewhat compounded in the last decade. A self proclaimed ‘Growth Junkie’, I attended more development programs than I could count with my 20 fingers and toes. From loud ‘ra-ra’ adrenalin pumping seminars, to language based forums, intensive retreats and camps which included lots of crying and screaming, to energy-based healing therapies like Reiki, esoteric dance, hypnotherapy and eventually Yoga, I spent a whopping 6-figure sum on developing myself just in the last decade alone.

All these programs were mostly great; they worked at that specific space time of my life. While I used to enthusiastically enroll close friends and loved ones to do the programs that I did, I stopped doing that when I discovered two things:

  1. At some level, every tool employed in these programs is a Yogic tool. There is nothing I can find in them that I can’t find in Yoga. However, there are plenty in Yoga that are not found in them.
  2. The results gained varied with different people, and some seemed to fade off with time.
  3. There are flaws in every modality, none of them are complete on their own; just like there are imperfections in every human. Some teachers and program facilitators are aware of that (which is very respectable); some are not.

Regardless, when friends and yoga students asked me of an opinion of these programs, my first response is always that of delight. Anyone striving for betterment deserves nothing less than a delightful response. Then I would give a summary of my experience, followed by a hi-five “Give it all you have, enjoy the whole process and have a bunch of fun!”.

The only one Science that caught my heart, and continued to captivate me even more as I delve deeper into it however, is only Yoga. The word Yoga means union, as taught by the sacred texts that existed long before anyone invented any conceivable self development modality. It has been there way before the well known masters and trend setters like Socrates, Karl Marx, Pyhatogarus, Freud, Jung and Einstein. We don’t yet know for certain how and where the scriptures, the Upanishads originated from – some sources traced it to ancient holy men called Rishis who meditated and compiled it, others said it seemed to be there before human beings even existed. But unmistakably the study and practice of Yoga itself is a journey towards completion. Anyone who is passionate and consistent about Yoga knows this – It always feels like we have reached home.

Science is only now beginning to discover all the laws of reality that has already been recorded in the Vedas and Upanishads dating back up to 6,000 years ago. Does that tell us something about the integrity of Yoga?

In our modern world today there are too many scattered ideas and methodologies about Yoga, and I consider it our good karma to have a chance to know Yoga in the ancient forms, particularly the Transformational tradition. This tradition is unlike most other traditions in that it unifies and integrates the key ancient principles as taught in the major Upanishads.

(The Yoga we are talking about here is not the diluted forms practiced in gyms and commercial centers. We are referring to traditional Yoga, the non adulterated forms of teaching as handed down in the Upanishads, practiced consistently and applied proactively, in a targeted and self inquiring manner.)

In and of itself, Yoga, when practiced the ancient way as taught by the sages, is a tool for self realization. Here’s where it gets interesting. What has self realization got to do with winning in life? Realize what?

Upanishadic wisdom teaches that our ultimate aim is to realize the Self, the unlimited, infinite, vast Source from which came all these experiences of reality we think we are experiencing. In this Self, lies our infinite potential. In other words, the Upanishads teach that our ultimate aim as a human being includes winning (ourselves) and succeeding in life. We are meant to thrive, not survive.

To win in life can be generally accepted to mean getting what we want, and reaching new heights in life. It includes being successful in career, money, love, social circles and all areas of our life. So, I had always been curious – what determines the actions that lead to success? What determines how much conscious choice we have over actions that create a destiny that is successful?

The answer to that is Awareness and State.

Awareness
For any lasting transformation to occur, you first must have self awareness. If you can’t see it, you can’t solve it. If you can’t see why you are creating the same situation over and again, you can’t change a thing. Only when you see how you allow yourself to play small, why you always sabotage yourself, that you begin to command higher situations into your life.

State
This refers to the energetic state of beingness with which we think, speak and act. Is it an expansive, empowering state; or is it a reducing, limiting state. Is it highly, positively charged, or flaccid. How often do you live in the former, and how often in the latter. This is so important, and so simple that most of us don’t notice.

Besides having a body that someone 20 years younger than you would envy, there are some pretty good reasons why Yoga is the coolest tool you can ever learn and use to live an extraordinary life. As for Transformational Yoga, well, it is simply kick-butt powerful! I’m not even going into the details of how TY gives you at least double the effects of any regular Yoga class you get outside. Perhaps I will just mention that the very moment you add in the breathing and sound projections into an Asana, you amp up the heat and difficulty. If you could do an Asana with TY, you can do it in any way you want – Hatha, Vinyasa or Bikram.

So, here’s why Yoga is cool:

Would you go shop for apples in the markets when you can have the entire apple plantation, with every possible breed and colors of apples, in your backyard? Why not go straight to Source.

Isolated Yoga modalities can be found in every, and I literally mean every, self development program out there. But as I mentioned earlier, we can’t say the same for the vice versa. Many famous, ‘ra-ra’  kind of motivational programs uses intensity, movement and loud music to alter state. They showcase life examples of other participants as a huge mirror so that we can see ourselves – awareness.

In TY, we use Mantras to work with the mind. Instead of using Mantras, these programs use language. The difference is that Mantras invoke an energetic effect – it bypasses our thinking mind; while language stills carries a layer of individual meaning, which is subjective. The results depends on how much gunk a person has on their filters. For some, the effects are impressive immediately after the program; however they sometimes disappear quickly too. Shifts are hardly permanent unless new structures are established – usually involving new routines, daily rituals and joining a community.

These are all good, and of course every institution has their own agenda. Many of their programs are structured around these agendas. As in, your progress after the program hinges on serving their agendas. Which are not wrong or bad; but it certainly helps for us to see clearly what these are. It is OK to serve their agenda as long as it serves you equally well too.

Language based forums are great in creating shift, I myself benefited substantially from some of them. But then again, I had Yoga as my base; and sustainability of results for different people vary greatly, as I’ve noticed. The compromise comes from the fact that human beings are multi layered integral beings with states of consciousness beyond the mental body. There are more powerful states beyond the mind that affect our habits and behavior. These states are not detectable in our waking state ie. they are not accessible while we are engaged with the mind using words. Because words and language are still created within the boundaries of mind.

The most effective method to access, understand and alter these deeper, subtle states of consciousness is via the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra (which is NOT hypnosis by the way; its a different game altogether).

“The Cosmic Person (Purusha) is all this, what has been and what will be.
From his mind, the Moon was born, from his eye came the Sun. From his mouth arose the powers of fire and lightning. From the wind his breath was born.
From his navel came the atmosphere, from his head Heaven, from his feet the Earth and from his ears, the directions of space. Thus all the worlds were formed.”

Rig Veda X.90, 2, 12, 14.

The Vedas taught that the ultimate aim of humans is to realize the Purusha, the light of the Cosmic Being and Cosmic Universe. This Purusha both exist in our hearts and pervades throughout the entire Universe.

Before we begin to ascend the path, we have to possess clear vision.

Many of these retreats and programs are great as ‘spring cleaners’. They wipe off the dirt from our windscreen, and suddenly, we see clearer. At least for a few days (or weeks depending how dirty our car is). And then you see new roads, new options. But before long, dirt starts to accumulate again.

Transformational Yoga practice gives us crystal clear vision. After every session, we sense mental clarity, become calmer, more balanced, and more self assured. We are ready to start on a clean slate. Compared to peering through a murky windscreen, we can now drive with more confidence. It doesn’t end here; even if we allow for just a simple 5 minute breath meditation or silent self inquiry, we could actually begin to see how the dirt flies onto our screen, and prevent it from flying onto our screen again.

Here’s a really simple tip. Before you begin your practice, start by centering yourself through the breath. Then set an intention. It could be – ‘I want to solve this problem right now and I want to see more options for solutions at the end of this practice.’ or ‘What is it in me that is creating this repeating behavior in this situation/person.’ or ‘What is it that I’m not seeing that is preventing me from getting XXX.’ or ‘What is the immediate thing I have to do to achieve this XXX result.’ At the end of your practice, center yourself again, and then revisit the question. Then simply allow the answers to surface. The truth is that you already know and have all the answers, resources to everything you ever needed. Your answers are found in your own Truth, this Truth is all you ever need, and it resides in your Self. TY shortens the distance between you and Self.

There is only one Truth in you, and that’s the only Truth you ever need to know; everything else is just what other people says to you.

I was one of those people who are always going for different healing retreats, meditation camps and programs. While it is good to explore different modalities at various intervals of your life, there could come a time where you overdo it and get pulled in several different directions. Yes, maybe there is some trauma to release or some blind spots to realize, but it could be easy to lose sight of what was important in the first place, plus an average understanding of each modality, hardly a mastery.  You must know that all of these things you learn are only as useful as they help you to realize your inner Teacher, they must help you look within, and eventually your inner Teacher becomes strong enough that you don’t need external teachers. Make sense? There has to be a time where you actually start doing life.

“Whatever is here is found elsewhere. But whatever is not here is nowhere else.” Mahabharata

As long as any teacher has a physical body, there is a possibility of limitations. Whether it is a highly respected facilitator or a swami wearing robes, he/she is still human. The greatest teacher is the one that lives in you. All external teachers (including yours truly, if I’m fortunate to be one of yours) are meant to lead you to your own Truth, your own Teacher. Therefore, there is no hard and fast rules to follow for prolonged periods of time. What worked before may not work now or in future.  What I say to you now could be completely obsolete in another 5-10 years. But they will work in this moment to bring you closer to your own Truth.

This is where Yoga, especially Transformational Yoga beats all the other programs hands down. The more you practice, the more you recognize your own Truth, and you become your own Teacher. You have at your disposal the tools to clear your windscreen any time you wish; and alter your state at will. Life unfolds before you like a huge forum everyday, people and things show up as your biggest mirror for learning. All you need to do is just set aside alone time and go hang out on your mat.

If you could win a million bucks now without moving an inch, would you choose to wait and have it in 3 years and only after traveling a hundred miles?

In fact, TY helps you realize in astonishing short periods of time, the things in your life that are unnecessary, people and situations that are not helpful, and how you can avoid them amicably. There was a point in my life that I was doing a few programs simultaneously. Friends called me a ‘seminar junkie’. Not that there was anything bad with that, but I was completely wiped out on most days. Plus I had no life. Growth was phenomenal yes. Was that the only way to get the same growth? No. Was there a shorter simpler way with more time to enjoy the other parts of my life? Heck, yes. When I reflected back, I realized I could have that same growth, maybe even more, had I allocated a fraction of time to my Practice; if I had taken time to look inwards instead of outwards. But its all good, because that was what I needed to realize I don’t have to go that way again, and take other better alternatives.

Shifts are not permanent unless you eradicate the underlying beliefs.

Beliefs are caused by Samskaras, or simply, the loop of our Karma. These Samskaras, flavored and colored in a certain pattern to cause us to believe, behave and become in a corresponding pattern, are only visible when we get conscious of our unconscious natures.

Samskaras live in the unconscious parts of our mind and continue to control our behavior from there. The bad news is that we will never be free of these Samskaras as long as they stay hidden in the unconscious. We can keep attending seminar after seminar, program after program; retreat after retreat; we keep sending the car for a wash, change a new car, use a new car washer, and still, the Samskaras will cause the same kind of dirt to accumulate in the same speed at the same spots on our windscreen eventually.

The good news is that, we can ‘discolor’ the Samskaras, bit by bit, via Yoga Nidra. We fade them out so they have a less push/pull over our behavior. Yoga Nidra is extremely powerful, but also one of the hardest modalities to master because its effectiveness lies not only with the cleanliness of our physical, emotional and mental bodies, but also with the strength of concentration, and intensity of Kundalini that has been awakened. The beauty of TY is that it prepares the practioner to be ready for a deep NIdra in the shortest amount of time.

As Samskaras loses their color, the drivers of actions become paler, less dirt flies onto our screen. Eventually, we see new roads that are smoother, shorter, less dirty and more enjoyable than others, and we choose to drive down those roads.

You are everything that you experience as Reality and more.

You are the Universe.

Have you ever wondered – What is this reality that we are experiencing? We already know that matter is not solid. If everything is energy in the universe, then Einstein’s famous equation of E = MC Sq offers some comfort. But this formula has too many flaws in that the assumptions are doubt-able. For one, this formula works only when there is gravity i.e. a point of reference. And two, that the speed of light is constant and time is linear. But is time really linear? Any one who practices meditation or studies Quantum Mechanics will tell you that linearity is questionable.

It is not inaccurate to say that space and time only makes sense with the force of gravity. And our planet is but a speck of something which we don’t quite know yet, in a continuously expanding Universe.

Hawkins came up with a brilliant conclusion on Reality “There is no observer-independent observation of reality.” Physicists have now discovered Quantum Mechanics, theories which are in total conflict with Classical Particle Physics. In short, Quantum Mechanics suggest that matter, or simply stuff as we know, is not fixed; atoms behave like a particle when nobody is watching, and a wave when someone is observing.

Here’s where it gets exciting. Under the study of Quantum Chromodynamics (how atoms bind together to give us stuff), the formulas work backwards into a value of zero. The Universe is nothing in terms of quantity.

Quantum Mechanics and its modifications have been widely argued and debated. From the perspective of Science, our human brain could not comprehend why matter is nothing, and how can something be derived from nothing. But from the perspective of a Yogic brain, armed with knowledge from the major Upanishads, we know we have been asking the wrong question. The right question to ask instead is –  Why does nothing seem like something? The answers to this question alone will lead us into our Truths.

Are you becoming as excited as me? There is something about Quantum Mechanics that reinforces everything we read and practiced in TY. It keeps me awake at night, and makes me so enthusiastic that I want to do cartwheels around my neighborhood.

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Your life is as awesome or as awful as you want it to be. You choose it, and then you create it, whether you know it or not.

You are already creating destiny every moment; why not make it conscious, make it awesome and live like a champ?

(C) Copyright Linda Loo 2016

To start your awesome life today, join us for a trial class. More details can be found here. To register, email to contact@lightlovelaughteracademy.com with your name and contact number.

You can also get a copy of the book to begin your practice at home.

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7 things that make a Yoga Class rock

Almost 2 out of every 10 guys I meet nowadays say they had tried a few classes and liked it. Today there are no shortage of Yoga classes to choose from – fitness centers, gyms, boutique studios and in Singapore we have something called Community Centers (which offer government subsidised services for mass market consumption). But good classes are rare. Any savvy and genuine seeker of Yoga knows that there aren’t that many authentic Yoga classes in  Singapore that offer close to the benefits of what Yoga is supposed to bring.

Because I feel blessed to have the karma of learning the most original, undiluted teachings of Yoga, I’d made it my personal mission to share this ancient tool of self development with as many people as possible for their positive transformation.

This article is written mainly for certified Yoga Teachers; but it would help expand any practioner’s perspective when choosing a class for yourself. Whether you had done your certification with us under LLLA’s Teacher Trainings or with other institutions, I’m sure this will interest you.

What makes a Yoga Class awesome and sets it apart from a mediocre one?

  1. Work with the Chakras – If you don’t know what are Chakras and you call yourself a Yoga Teacher, you are shortchanging your students. Chakras are energy vortexes from which our several dimensions of reality arise ie phyiscal, emotional, mental and so on. Everything is created from the vibration of Chakras; and the whole point of Yoga is to purify and balance these Chakras to achieve union. Your class will be amped up if you understand what are Chakras, how they affect daily life of a person, and how to structure your class in accordance to the locations of a person’s main Chakras.
  2. Your own Practice – This is one of the underlying factors that will determine how effective you are as a teacher/facilitator; actually this extends to almost anything you do. As a trainer, your students can only progress as much as you do. So before each class, you first have to make sure you have done ample practice to super charge your cells with Prana and vibration. So that you can ground the space and provide the room for your students to reach that deeper part of themselves that they could not reach on their own.
  3. Your Listening and Perceiving – I don’t mean listening with your ears. I mean listening with your whole being – your 5 senses and more. Once class begins, feel every of your student, feel their breaths, and through their breaths feel their feelings and thoughts, resistances and fears. Feel where there is room to work a little harder, and feel where acceptance is required. Listen to the sounds they make, and beyond the sounds. Witness how they are pushing beyond their own boundaries. Hold that space for them in love, and non judgement, as they have entrusted you to.
  4. Meditation – This could be done via sitting, lying down in a simple guided relaxation, or a deep Yoga Nidra practice. A Yoga Class is incomplete without Meditation, don’t skip it for any reason. You could cut the another part of the class but not the Meditation because this is the ultimate goal of Yoga. A good facilitator will know how to remind the class that Meditation is the primary reason why they huffed and puffed through the challenging Asanas. A Yoga session becomes awesome when there is shifts in the consciousness, and these shifts can only occur via Meditation.
  5. ‘The’ Class vs ‘A’ Class – Before every session I think, plan, meditate and run through everything I intend to teach in the class, with one main objective – to create upward shifts. It is not simply ‘a’ class that I mechanically go through; it is an event that I treat seriously because I know there will never be the same class again. When you treat something as a precious experience that will only occur once in your lifetime, your whole perspective changes.
  6. Variety – The fact is that human beings are easily bored creatures, hence the saying familiarity breeds contempt. Too many commercialized Yoga classes teach the same old sequence again and again, some for years. Nothing wrong with that, especially if its a sequence that works. But if you want your students to still feel the wow in your sessions after years, then variety is key. I get bored with my own training after an average of 3 months, and I make sure I cross train my muscles with running and swimming. Finding new ways to keep yourself engaged as a trainer determines how much your students benefit from your classes.
  7. Individual Attention – I have a prejudice against large classes. I feel anything larger than 15 people in a class is an ineffective use of time for the students. I once heard a Yoga teacher (supposedly celebrity level) from Bali say that “every class is just bodies and bones, and with 50-80 students in a class, most of the time I have no freaking idea what is going on inside of them.” Well, I don’t have x-ray eyes either, but I find it hard to trust a teacher who sees me as just one of the many “bodies and bones”. If I were attending a class, I want to know that my trainer got my back while I’m exploring my potential. This is not baby sitting, but rather an extra pair of eyes to help me watch where I can push and where I should let go. It is literally impossible for a trainer to give that kind of attention to a class of 20 and more. So, keep your classes small and you will impact your students better.

 

Some tips to TRANSFORM SAMAKARAS

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Some tips to TRANSFORM SAMAKARAS

Samakara is not an easy Sanskrit word to translate accurately in English, though it is loosely described as your rite of passage through life.

 

If you wish to, you can change your samakaras. Here’s how:

  1. That which you repeat gets reinforced. When propelled by the guna – qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas – of prakriti, often the individual, against his better sense, behaves in a particular mode and further feeds his vikaras of greed, lust, anger, attachment, pride, ego and jealousy.
  2. Have you ever been emotionally disturbed and done or said something which, on retrospect, you feel could have been handled with more dignity? The most intelligent and spiritual of us are also not immune to these often repeated actions which decide our fate.
  3. Each time you repeat an emotion, you are deepening the groove of your personality, your tendency or samskara.
  4. It is the energies accrued by our samskaras, which draw some people and circumstances into our life – for an energy exchange and levelling of debit and credit.
  5. On the spiritual path, recognising nuances of the mind by a steadily growing awareness, we become aware of our emotional reactions and the fact that we are being swept away by them into some pit or the other.
  6. For instance, there may be someone who constantly feels insulted and rejected by others. As he realises that most of the time his misery is not due to external circumstances, but due to his own distorted cognition based on some previous experiences.
  7. Now comes the struggle to overcome emotional reaction by awareness, introspection, understanding and restraint.
  8. Suppression makes an emotion grow to monstrous proportions. The fate of whatever emotion is repressed could be one or more of the following:
    • Becomes stronger
    • Emerges later like a volcano emitting lava
    • Produces psychological problems or ailments
    • Remains as a strong urge
    • Makes you lacking in awareness of all parts of your being. Thus, you cannot be an integral whole.
    • Makes you behave as a hypocrite
    • Makes you judgemental towards others. Often psychologists have recognised that what we judge in the outside world is what we suppress.
    • Revealed in dreams
    • Attract people – with the traits that you are suppressing – as enemies or friends. This explains fatal attraction and antipathy
  9. To use your spiritual wisdom to create a “new you” , this is what you have to do:
    • Remember, this road is for those who are brave at heart
    • Recognise your predominant samskara with full awareness and humility
    • Each time you react the same way, reflect on how you could have viewed the triggering event with a different perspective and taken a more balanced action
    • Persevere till you can abide in your awareness during the event and can respond rather than react. Besides the predominant samskara, thus, getting fainter and weaker and losing its power to drive you, one also needs to create a fresh, new, strong, positive groove to allow mind energy to flow as alternative to the old emotion.
    • Replace anger with patience, lust with charity, a low self-esteem with empathy. To sum up, change, transformation and transcendence are three ways by which you can help yourself progress on the path

Credited to : Dr Sharda Batra

Photo credited by: Linda Loo

Join us for authentic Yoga, practiced the traditional way as handed down by Himalayan sages and rishis, and begin lightening the colors of your samskaras today. More information here: link to yoga testimonials. Email: contact@lightlovelaughteracademy.com to register for the next available mat.