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Yoga, the anchor of life

Yoga, the anchor of life..

Barcelona. Eight-thirty in the morning. I take a detour via the Santa María del Mar Cathedral back home after shopping for fruit and more fruit at the Santa Caterina Market in El Borne. Two grown men kiss on the cheeks, and one says to the other: “Y tú, menos alimentos y más nervious, vale?” (And you, less food, and more nerve ok?)


photo credit : sivananda [dot] org

What great advice don’t you thing? Whether it be the dismal economic situation in Europe, or pesky kids and mean bosses sucking the lifeblood out of you, we all need that unshakable confidence that allows us to keep our sanity and live for something beyond work, work and sleep-deprived days.

Yoga is key to my sanity, my anchor in life. And why?

It was cool and faddish when I was in my teens two decades ago. Then I re-read that superb book entitled The Book of Yoga, (The Sivananda Yoga Centre) by Lucy Lidell with Narayani and Giris Rabinovitch given to me by my father. And realized what a gem I’d been given. It tells you the why and how of asanas (yogic postures), breathing, diet, meditation, the cycle of life, yoga & health. There’s emphasis on the vital need of “strengthening and purifying the nervous system, particularly the spinal cord and nerve ganglia, as these correspond to the routes of prana (life-force or vital energy) in the subtle body.”

Practice makes perfect. And so, instead of killing myself with erratic hour-long workouts at the gym, often with poor routines, I began exploring the asana variations after two weeks of basic yoga training. I had previously taken proper lessons before in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia and continued for a while at True Fitness. Now, half-an-hour daily (in between gym sessions) and I’m never bored. Always challenged. Always ending my sessions superbly relaxed and energized.

photo credit : sivananda [dot] org

Vitality courses through your veins when yoga is done right. A session can last 1 ½ hours but when you’re on the run, just do kapalabhati (alternative spelling – kapalbhati) , the skull-shining yogic breathing, when you wake up, after your first glass of water or juice has settled in your stomach. Kapalabhati is one of the six purification practices besides being a pranayama(yogic breathing). “The forced exhalation rids the lower lungs of stale air, making way for a fresh intake of oxygen-rich air and cleansing the entire respiratory system. …Its effect is to clear the mind and improve concentration.”

I do Kapalabhati as and when I feel sluggish and before a yoga session or meditation. Never on a full stomach. Here’s how Kapalbhati is done. Here’s another version of yogic detox breathing.


If you feel dizzy or nauseous you should slow down the force and pace of Kapalbhati pranayama or stop entirely and return to normal breathing.
If you have acid or heat-related gastric issues such as ulcers you should use caution with Kapalbhati Pranayama.
Kapalbhati is not to be practiced by those suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke or epilepsy.


About this Week’s Guestwriter:

Sue Chien Lee is a Malaysian writer based in Barcelona, Spain. Sue teaches legal and general English and writes for The Malaysian Insider and Cikipedia, a compendium on health. Follow her on Twitter: @suechienlee

Next week: Yoga. And the power of three..


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