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Yoga Beyond Fitness Blog


About Karin

Yoga teacher, practicing yoga since 1997, teaching since 2003, writer/translator, global soul, world traveller (and sometimes beyond), passionate about eastern philosophy and western psychology, especially its application in mind-body practices such as yoga and somatic movement therapy, deeply in love with life, knows that our greatest teacher lies within, also sometimes a total mess - it's part of the package!

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    Recent Entries

    Origins of Thai Yoga

    Friday, September 10. 2010

    Although this may not be immediately obvious from its name, the origins of Thai yoga can be traced back to India, not to Thailand.

    It appears that at the time of the Buddha, some 2,500 years ago, this form of bodywork was being taught and practised in Buddhist temples as a means to improve physical health and to prepare the body for lengthy meditations and the higher forms of spiritual practice.

    The legendary founder of this ancient healing art is believed to have been a doctor from Northern India known as Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha. Kumar Bhaccha was a doctor in the healing tradition of ayurveda, an ancient vedic system and sister science to yoga. He was a close friend of the Buddha and worked for the community who followed the Buddha's teachings. He is also mentioned as 'the father of medicine' in the Pali Canon, the oldest surviving text of Theravada Buddhism, found today mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.

    As Buddhism spread out from India in the third and second century BC, its healing medicine spread with it and eventually reached Thailand (Siam). In the 17th century mention was made of old Thai medical texts written on palm tree leaves that included detailed descriptions of Thai yoga practices and techniques. They were held in safe keeping in the ancient royal town of Ayutthaya in the Kingdom of Siam. However, when Ayutthaya was destroyed by Burmese Myanmar conquerors in 1767, these texts were largely lost but an oral tradition continued being passed from teacher to student. In 1832 King Rama III had all surviving texts carved in stone at the Phra Chetuphon temple (Wat Pho) in Bangkok which today houses the famous Wat Pho Traditional Medical School.

    Owing to its oral tradition, a unique style of Thai yoga developed in each area of Thailand: the Northern style (Chiang Mai) and the Southern style (Wat Pho).

    More about the theory and practice of Thai Yoga >>

    Thai Yoga Basics

    Monday, September 6. 2010

    Thai Yoga practice – how is it done?
       - done on a futon on the floor
       - combines deep acupressure, reflexology and applied yoga stretches
       - you get the benefits of yoga without any of the effort!
       - stretches your muscles and opens your joints
       - can be called "assisted yoga" or "partner yoga"
       - more often called "lazy man's yoga" :-)
       - sessions lasts 2 – 2 1/2 hrs
       - introduces a deep sense of tranquillity and calm
       - you feel energized yet relaxed

    There are two Thai Yoga schools or styles of practice:

    Northern style Thai Yoga:
       - practiced in Chiang Mai area
       - lasts longer than southern style
       - many more yoga-based stretches and twists
       - thorough acupressure to stimulate energy flow

    Southern style Thai Yoga:
       - practiced in Wat Pho (Bangkok) area
       - shorter pactice sessions
       - less stretches than northern style
       - intense "plucking" or "flicking" with the fingers along the energy lines

    espritrelax offers Northern style Thai Yoga.

    Northern style Thai Yoga is more relaxing, gentle, and less "painful" than Southern style. The emphasis is more on stretching and twisting the body rather than pressure point massage, although acupressure techniques are applied throughout a Northern style session too. Northern style Thai Yoga is much more comfortable and therefore more in line with the practices and principles of Dynamic Yoga.

    More about the origins of Thai Yoga >>

    More about the theory and practice of Thai Yoga >>

    Beetroot juice for boosting stamina

    Friday, August 6. 2010

    I've recently started running every morning. I know ... some readers out there might now say running and yoga are at the opposite end of the exercise spectrum, but the two need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, I found that while yoga teaches the cultivation of body wisdom, presence and deep intuition, running teaches us to challenge ourselves and overcome preconceived physical and mental personal limitations.

    Patience is no doubt one of the most important lessons I have learned from my morning struggles to get out of bed before sunrise - after all, until then, I was only used to rolling out of bed onto my yoga mat ... whereas now I am rolling out of bed into my running shoes (!) but more about that later, in another blog.

    Back to beetroot juice...

    To boost my stamina there's nothing better than a simple glass of beetroot juice. A glass early in the morning allows me to exercise for longer before tiring. It also lowers my blood pressure, boosting my heart's health.

    Besides this, my research shows that it is also an excellent source of anti-oxidants and is known to help lower cholesterol. But this is not all! Beetroot also contains the minerals magnesium and silica, both of which help to utilize calcium effectively and maintain healthy bones - very important for runners!

    For more info, see the beetroot juice report from the Queen Mary University of London.

    Or the findings in the Journal of Applied Physiology from the University of Exeter.

    My mom was right: Eat your beetroot and do not spit!

    The Flower Shower - A Zen Story

    Tuesday, July 6. 2010

    Subhuti was Buddha’s disciple. He was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and objectivity.

    One day Subhuti, in a mood of sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about him.

    “We are praising you for your discourse on emptiness,” the Gods whispered to him.

    “But I have not spoken of emptiness,” said Subhuti.

    “You have not spoken of emptiness, we have not heard emptiness,” responded the Gods. “This is the true emptiness.”

    And blossoms showered upon Subhuti as rain.

    (Quoted from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki.)

    Samadhi - Transcending the Mind in Yoga

    Tuesday, May 11. 2010

    Our dualistic concept of reality is by nature limited. It is entirely based on our physical senses and our emotional and mental interpretation of our limited sensory perception. Consequently, reality as we know it, is subjective rather than objective because limited sensory perception is all we have to perceive it.

    Still, our limited nature does not prevent us from declaring objectivity in the material world. We objectively decide what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, and what is true and what is false. Some of us might even assert that the idea of time passing by has objective reality and that it exists independently of our sensory perceptions and subsequent mental assertions, despite the fact that there is no real evidence of it. We forget that to believe in the reality of time and asserting it as objective truth is to be deluded by the mind’s relentless need to fix every perceived movement or phenomenal change between the beginning and end of something – usually in what appears to be an unpleasant current situation that the mind (the "I") must escape from.

    It may not be that obvious but what we interpret as movement in time is just a movement of thoughts in our mind to make sense of our limited sensory perceptions with regards to the relative movement and change of phenomena. In other words, our mind creates the movement of time in order to make sense of the dizzying pace of observed phenomenal change and then manipulates the seeming nature of it according to the context in which it is perceived (and best interpreted!). Thus, time is merely an instrument, a mental concept for understanding the unfolding of physical reality (phenomenal change taking place in space). Consequently, no movement in time can take place unless the mind (the "I") wants to believe it.

    Likewise the fear of there not being enough time, or the sense of having wasted time, will only come when we are at the mercy of our thoughts pulsing through our mind. Because when we identify with a persistent thought we literally merge with it. We become one with it and no longer see what it actually is – just a thought! Objectivity is lost. Subjectivity takes over. We no longer perceive WHAT IS REAL. We perceive WHAT IS UNREAL - an illusion of reality manipulated by our thoughts. This is the bomb in the foundation of our subjectively created "objective reality", unconsciously triggering the very thing that we desperately want to avoid, e.g. an unpleasant current situation or outcome.

    Paradoxically, when we take away the perspective of who is looking and interpreting (the "I") the meaninglessness and absurdity of the distinction between WHAT IS REAL and WHAT IS UNREAL become obvious. This is what happens to the yogi when he enters the state of Samadhi. For when the mental movie stops, there is no real or unreal, no true or false, no good or bad to define. In the real objective realm (Samadhi), the distinction between what is real and what is unreal, what is true and what is false, and what is good and what is bad, does not exist. As a matter of fact, the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity loses its significance as well. When the personal self (the "I") has died, or at least has become greatly diminished, all dualistic concepts will dissolve. This is called Advaita in Sanskrit, which means "not two." And as the dualistic concept of reality is thrown overboard, strangely enough, time is no longer needed to make sense of reality which underlies all creatures and all phenomena. Time simply disappears:
    Reality contemplated from the highest level of consciousness is experienced as a single, unchanging whole. At the lower level, we experience this same reality as a sequence of events – as changing positions in space and a continuous transition from one moment in time to the next.
    Mark S.G. Dyczkowski, "The Doctrine of Vibration"
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