“Oh wow Madam, look what you’ve done here; that’s amazing. Such pretty colors!” My thoughts were interrupted by a very pleasant voice. I looked around and there stood the Flight Attendant with a glass of orange juice I requested for. She was making reference to the piece of art that was on my table. I smiled and said my thank you for both the compliment and my drink and got back to my mandala colouring.
Unless you haven’t been really awake the last half a decade, it is not easy to miss the fad that has swallowed the world.
Colouring a mandala is said to have the same benefit of meditation – the art therapy that can be done at any place or time. It has definitely become my flight companion after I stumbled upon it while vacationing in Bali six years ago. One thing I can vouch for is the sensation of calm and peace whenever I get my hands into mandala colouring.
What is mandala?
A mandala is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be used to aid in focusing attention of adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool. In essence, it is for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.
Mandala is a Sanskrit word for “discoid object” or “circle” and holds considerable deal of symbolism in Hinduism and Buddhist cultures.
Mandalas can be actual paintings or drawings and some of the mandalas are created using sand, which are dismantled ceremoniously after completion. The process of creating one is as important as the finished work itself as they are often created by repeating symmetrical patterns, centering the mind and body, which is why they are an ideal tool for meditation.
Mandalas have been tracked back to Tibet, India, Nepal, China, Japan, Bhutan and Indonesia which dated back from the 4th century.
What is mandala colouring?
So, mandalas are usually repeated patterns – circular matrix with a centre point; a centre point from which all things are possible. From this sacred mid-point comes infinite possibilities and potential that is unlimited. Hence, when you are colouring these mandala patterns, you are expressing the desire to heal, bloom and declare your own unlimited potential.
Imagine mandala as being alive and energetic – a pathway to a desired state of being. Perhaps a higher state of consciousness is something you aim at attaining or simply just to expand your artistic rapertoire. Whatever your reason is for choosing to work with mandala, be aware that you can achieve it – just set your intentions and awaken your mandalas by filling them in with colours.
Madala colouring is also great as a stress reliever. Our lives are hectic these days – work, family and every thing else in between. Mental health, however is the one single thing that should not be ignored. Mandala colouring is great at relieving the exhaustion from all your schedule as it require calmness and attentiveness to fill up the circular patterns with colours. This deep focus in colouring helps in stress relieving. Colouring may also reduce negative thoughts
Through the years, psychological studies show that colouring mandala has the same effect as meditation. It is hard not to imagine how the deep engagement required while colouring a mandala will not induce that.
While reducing anxiety, mandala colouring also refreshes the brain. In order to colour, the brain requires both hemispheres of the brain to stay focused, enabling all areas of the brain to work in balanced way. This activity activates the analytical as well as creative parts of the brain which aids in problem solving and refining the motor skills.
We are always told to do things that ignite our inner-child. Have you heard of inner child therapy? It is a program where adults are introduced to colouring mandala pages to help break negative thinking patterns that have been brought over from adolescent years or even prior. This therapy works perfectly for adults who are harsh within themselves. The time spent being alone, colouring give them them clarity and also the space to relight the love they have for themselves.
Mandalas are usually of geometric patterns and this represent the cosmos metaphysically. Modern science recognized that mandalas have becomes the healing tool that also induces calmness, enhance concentration, promote good sleep and reduce pain.
A spiritual and religious tool, mandalas, these days are widely used for recovery. What not to love about mandala colouring; it is fun, therapeutic and can be done almost anywhere.
It is still one of my number one companion on flights after all these years, a close tug with a good, juicy literature
We have all heard it plenty of times and I used to have questions going over in my head – if it is indeed inside of me, how can I reveal it – how come there had been times, being or staying happy can be quite a struggle – what does that even mean, that statement - joy is within me?
We live in an era where we have been made to believe time and again that happiness depends so much on what we own or achieve. The social and mass media, print and digital advertisements also people around us create a sense of false happiness that connects us directly with physical things and emotional attachments. That new Chanel bag, luxury holiday to Monaco, that new executive at work you have crush on or finding new love are just few examples.
Truth of the matter is, if we cannot be happy from within, regardless of what we own or achieve, we can never be truly joyful.
Yoga preaches and teaches the art of being joyful from within, with what is already existential from inside each and every one of us. Finding it requires some time, not to mention with clear heart and mind. Once it has been revealed, joy and happiness will be yours to stay, whatever the physical or outside circumstance is.
In Sanskrit, there are three words to describe levels of happiness and one or more of these levels pretty much exist in all of us. Some are fleeting or temporary joy, while others are more substantial.
Sukha is temporary pleasure that comes when you attain something that is of fleeting nature. It can only be felt when things are going your way, for example, acquiring that Cartier XL watch in rose gold. As easy as it comes, the feeling goes away rather quickly too, when the novelty wears off or when you set your eyes on a new time piece.
Santosha is contentment; the kind of feeling you and everything you own is enough without the need to have anything extra. Those who practice santosha are able to get back their peace of mind in a jiffy when irritation or agitation happens; all because they are contented.
Happiness that comes from the core, Mudita is the kind that sees beauty in everything, be in good or bad. This type of happiness is sometimes referred to as spiritual joy.
So having explained the different types of joy, lets look at ways to attain santosha and mudita.
Many times, we have heard the adage, gratitude begets abundance. By seeing the good in every little thing that surrounds us, we automatically get into gratitude mode, which in turn switches on happy feel. It has been said gratitude heightens quality of life and it is not at all a wonder.
One birthright bestowed to us, which has often been over-looked is regulation of breathing or pranayama as it is known in yogic context. Proper breathing is stress relieving, anxiety diminishing and also known to result in the feeling of immense happiness. There is a couple of breathing exercises, which has been used in yoga practice. Correct breathing techniques induces muscular relaxation, mental peacefulness and encourages the free flow of prana or living force, also known as chi.
Two of these are Sheetali Pranayama which is also known as cooling breath and Sheetkari Pranayama or hissing breath. In Sheetali Pranayama, cool breath is drawn into the body by rolling the tongue out to form a tube and inhaling air through it. Cool breath is known to effect brain centres associated with biological drives and temperature regulation.
On the other hand, Sheetkari Pranayama is done by hissing through the teeth. It has the same benefits as Sheetkali with an additional perk of keeping teeth and gums healthy. Coincidentally, science has pretty recently put a connection between mental happiness and oral health.
Meditation has been around since antiquity in various religion and beliefs. However, of late, science has also encouraged the use of mediation to aid in certain physical and emotional discrepancies. In theory, meditation is a practice whereby an individual focuses her mind on a thought, object or activity to encourage the free flow of mental calm and happiness. So, get on that comfortable chair or mat, close your eyes, breathe deep and meditate to happiness.
In any traditional religion, chanting is used to encourage clarity in the way we view our world, those on the outside and the one within us. Chanting transmits certain frequencies, which make us vibrate from the inside out. When this happens, we are automatically tuned in to our own joyful feel from within. Do know that it does not take much to OM your way to a happier you.
Having mentioned all of the above, we now come to the core factor of bringing true joy into your life. Yoga has been around for thousands of years.
Originating from ancient India, yoga brings together a group of physical, spiritual and mental practices, which aid in total wellbeing. Yoga helps reverse fight-or-flight tendencies into rest-and-digest mode. When your body is relaxed, rested and free of anxiety, what is there not to be happy?
Contrary to what we hear on day-to-day basis from all around, true happiness is indeed attainable. Fact of the matter is, no one ever needs anything to be happy. Joy and happiness is imbedded in each and every one of us; just a matter of sieving and looking deep into ourselves.
Let’s go back to how we were; when we first get here – let us all remind ourselves over and over – our joy is indeed our state of being.
A chanced encounter with a family of five in Sri Lanka, couple of months ago, sets me thinking; what is the fundamental basis for a family to motivate each other In the pursuit of health, happiness, positivity and success.
A little background of the family; they are in the Land of Serendipity to seek answers for leading a much happier, fulfilling, organic life, away from the current stresses that often faze us. From Australia, they feel the way to do it is to visit a place where life is not so consumed with ‘outsides’ influences.
We live in a current world where everything is constantly evolving, changing. These changes are at rapid speed; most time, we get lost in the midst of it all. Of course, when that happens our lives get affected considerably too. Most times making it hard to focus, regroup and recharge, let alone be motivated.
As a mother of two, I totally can relate to this. I constantly have to juggle between being a wife, mom, a friend - setting boundaries and motivating my kids to lead much healthier, successful lives.
The time I had with myself to address this led me to few pointers which I know will help being a source of motivation in leading a much joyful life.
In everything we do, ask the question WHY. In this instance, why is motivating the family to lead healthier and more successful life important? I’m sure we all have the answers albeit different ones. For some, perhaps family history in certain ailments is a huge motivator. Others perhaps its knowing leading healthy lifestyle could easily translate into a successful one. Afterall, its always been said, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind; and the opposite is also true.
Parents, we know that in order to relay anything to your kids is to do it yourself first. Children do not do what you tell them to; they emulate what you do. A healthier, happier and successful parent, chances are your kids will follow suit. Emotions are contagious. If you are unhappy chances are your kids will too.
I have always believed in doing chores to build character in my children. It is still an on-going journey for me. Might sound petty but telling kids to contribute in every little way is actually preparing them for what is to come in life. Doing chores is not just that, it teaches kids to be gritty and responsible. Kids will also learn the value of hard work and the art of working together in a team.
Collaboration happens a lot these days – at work, in sports and what better way than to let it start from home. Praising is a fantastic way to build self-esteem in children. However, if done incorrectly, it can also have a reverse effect. Children might feel the pressure to always score the highest or always wanting to be the best without immersing themselves in the whole process. What they should be praised on is their efforts throughout the journey of whatever project they have embarked on.
Empower kids and do away with parental dictatorship. Children do better when they are part of the decision-making or even have a say in the process.
My family loves rituals; we create our own. That evening walks after dinner, the little chats we have in the afternoons after school, making food together and sometimes just watching a good movie, curling up on the sofa on a random day. These are the things that build bonds in families.
Building meaningful relationships is essential to growth and psychological well-being. Make sure the family takes part in get-togethers, play dates, lunches or breakfast meet-ups.
The internet and many gadgets available these days are definitely magnificent inventions, however they are also known as catalyst for many problems; less focus, anxiety, hyperactivity and other social problems. Use gadget to your advantage not the other way around.
In conclusion to all that had been said, have chats from time to time with the children on ways to be healthier, happier and more successful. Reiterate to them the importance of having good amount of sleep. Tell them also what could happen to their body if there is no proper rest. Food is fuel for the body; teach them the benefits of certain food and the dangers of others, if taken excessively.
Come up with rules that work for your own family; children actually thrive on rules; use it to your advantage, parents.
Create the importance of working-out couple of times per week. It does not mean joining an expensive club or calling in a personal trainer; a run in the park, a half-hour kick-ball session or cycling around the neighborhood is sufficient. The bottom-line is to keep the body moving and sweat a little.
Teach kids about grooming; and I do not mean the primping-for-hours-in-front-of-the-mirror sort. Grooming in this context simply means being tip-top in hygiene matters; taking care of your cleanliness, body scents, hair and nails could totally change the way you feel and see yourself. If you look presentable, you feel good about yourself and of course, when you feel good, you just want to give the best in whatever you do. Parents, you have to walk the talk.
Whatever you tell the children, you have to do the same. Kids usually learn by example; so you have to eat healthily, think positively, behave amicably – if that is what you desire your kids to be
Our life experience is a combination of thoughts, actions and choices. Life sometimes can be a tad challenging. When that happens, scaling down will be necessary to make room for only issues that matter while keeping our sanity intact. Improving our life means committing ourselves to living simply and in harmony; physically, emotionally and mentally. Living at peace with others and making a pact with our environment for a more sustainable living is another part that needs to be looked into. It is also imperative to know our purpose on earth. When that has been established, we can live according to it and get rid of all distractions that hinder us from living the life that we desire.
When it comes to living simply, a couple of things need to be re-assessed and money has got nothing to do with it. Getting rid of all the stuff you do not need is a first good step towards simplicity. Physical clutter is the by-product of mind clutter and vice-versa. Hence, in order to lead a happier and clutter-free life, declutter. Our physical well-being is so attached to our emotions. Let go of all emotions that have been weighing us down. This way, we will be able to have clarity of mind to go about in our new pursuit of living simply and consciously. Soon the quality of health will also improve. The expression - healthy mind, healthy body is so apt.
No matter what denomination one practises, I have always been an advocate for speaking to the higher power. We are so tiny in this vast universe and most of the time in need of some sort of justification for our existence. This outlet can be both calming and therapeutic. Meditation is one of the best ways to seek internal peace and tranquillity. There is something magical about sitting in a quiet place, concentrating on your breath, and focusing on the present. Check your day-to-day schedule and make sure it is not overloaded with appointments. Scale down if need be; little breathers in between your hectic schedule go a long way.
To give is to live; an important message for everyone. Exhibit compassion to others; only then will our journey towards simplicity and wholesomeness come to light. Our life in this 21st century is filled with distractions and it will definitely be great if we can all work together to reduce as much distraction as possible; put that phone on silent mode, cut down television time and unplug that computer. Take your children for walks or have some quiet time in the garden or at the park. The idea is to minimise all distractions so that our brain can function better and at its maximum capacity.
Most of the time not having our own thoughts and perspective embroiled in certain matters lead to a higher level of thinking; that in turn, will open up the minds and make the transition to this new mode of living smoother.
Forgiving others and yourself is one of the most important steps in order to move on totally in life. Forgiveness clears up the path of self-healing which in turn helps absorb in all the goodness that presents itself while in transition. Spending time with those you love and value will never go out of style; it’s actually more rewarding. So pick up that phone and make plans for playdates, dinner, lunch or coffee with those who mean heaps to you. This life is for living so make sure it’s lived and valued mindfully every moment.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, we are all being sucked into the concept of the more things you own, the better you feel. Attaining happiness through the pursuit of things is not sustainable and definitely untrue. One thing is for certain, that’s the more things you own, the more emotions you hold onto. The more the emotions, the harder to manage those feelings. The pursuit and acquiring of things should never be a benchmark for happiness. The euphoria is definitely temporary and should not in any way be mistaken for real happiness.
When worldly possessions and feelings become imbalanced with the internal harmony, the focus is usually lost. Ample time will be spent thinking and doing things which are not relevant to internal growth; which in turn makes life out of balance and complicated.
Sadly, that is not true at all. Life needs to touch all the important aspects of quality living to make it even worth the journey. It is so easy to be so overwhelmed with all the thoughts, technology and consumerism-based lifestyle we have now. When that feeling hits us, it will be good to sit down, breathe and reflect. Relax the mind because when it is at ease, we are able to see things in a different perspective and find the path to the great, wholesome life we have always imagined. We will be able to re-evaluate what is important, or what is just there as a distraction.
Look within ourselves and determine the areas we want to improve; all changes start with self. Let go of all that do not serve us any purpose. This action might have some retaliation; so being honest is the best way to go.
Grooming and body pampering should not just be a female-only domain.
Gentlemen, your whole body needs looking after too.
Make sure you set-out sometime weekly to do body and soul maintenance. Facials, haircut, massages, meditation, time at the gym – these are all good for the physical, mental and emotional aspects.
When you feel good, your precision will be way better too.
When my boys dragged out the yoga mats, spread them out and mimicked my downward facing dog, I was elated. So elated that I decided to look further into yoga for kids. I knew then, I had read somewhere what yoga can do for growing minds. That was 2013.
My boys were then two and three years old. We were living in Oslo, Norway where authentic yoga is a pretty rare commodity, what more, yoga for kids.
Fast forward a year later, relocation to Kuala Lumpur and brief conversation with a friend led to many online researches to seek more information on kids’ yoga. It was then that I found MAYI’s Super Yoga Kids Instructors certification course.
I have never looked back since.
You see, Super Yoga Kids is a total depiction of what adults’ yoga is, and more.
Super Yoga Kids (SYK) is the name given for MAYI’s yoga classes for children.
The term Super Yoga is coined from the fact that it is believed a child will emerge awe-inspiring in more aspects than one after picking up yoga at a young age. The age we are talking about is four – yes, a child can start taking up yoga at the tender age of four; even though there are remote cases of even younger kids practicing this beautiful ancient Indian art.
Now, what exactly is Super Yoga Kids?
Like regular (adults) yoga, children are guided through tailored asanas (poses) to safely develop balance, strength and suppleness.
At the same time, establish a better sense of physical, emotional and mental ability.
Specialized teaching techniques are used to stimulate young minds while nurturing their physical and mental development.
I cannot reiterate enough how positive yoga is to anyone; and for a child, it will definitely be the greatest gift ever.
The best part, in my opinion is that Super Yoga Kids helps to instill values in the young. The current state of chaos in this world makes it an even better time to expose our young children to the right rules of conduct and standards of behavior.
First and foremost, let’s take a look at the physical aspects of SYK; how the kids are guided in this art and what they can expect in terms of physical development.
To put it simply to a child, SYK is just a way of moving their tiny bodies gently and without much effort to improve and maintain their physicality and keep them in tip-top condition.
Of course, as the young child gets older, he might be keen to know the deeper meaning of yoga and they are very much welcome to research more into this art.
With the heavy load school-going kids carry on their shoulders each day, the countless hours they spent hunched in the classroom; not to mention mental alertness that is required to follow through lessons, I can only think of one activity, a saving grace, if you will, that should be incorporated into their daily lives – YOGA. SYK will see that their lopsided shoulders get eased-up, rectify their hunched back to a better posture and most definitely calm and sharpen their minds for better attention and absorption of what is taught in class.
To put things in perspective, let’s take a look at a typical SYK session.
In SYK, sessions usually start with awareness and energisation. It is SYK’s philosophy that children must be taught to be aware of their being and existence. This exercise reiterates the beautiful and miraculous part of themselves; their bodies.
Joint exercises or pawanmuktasana, as we call it in yoga, comes next. In this session, kids are guided through stretching, bending and rotating sequences of their joints in every part of their body; better still the places which are often neglected, like the hip and toe joints.
After working and easing on the joints, the children will then go on to do Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation. Surya Namaskar is a chain of choreographed asanas or poses to help in the clarity of mind, regulation of breaths and total body well-being.
Asanas comes right after Surya Namaskar. Asanas or poses in SYK, most often than not, are conducted in fun and interactive manner. Most asanas are given animal names so kids can act-out and mimic the given animal for each of the asanas. This creates a lot of imaginative play and teamwork; not to mention the improvement of vocabulary and word-grasps.
Yoga Nidra is a very powerful form of relaxation. It is a combination of awareness of the physical body and and creative visualisation through rotation of conciousness. Children are guided through simple and short visualizations.
Breathing plays a vital role in SYK. Deep and proper breathing ensures oxygen is taken to right places so that inner cells are well oxygenized and energized to function properly.
Oxygenized cells also mean improved nervous system, better mental alertness, improved digestive system, which also acts as an immunity booster. So common coughs and colds will be at bay; good news for parents!
With all these in mind, it’s not a wonder breathing takes the center stage in yoga.
SYK’s signature Mind Training is a definite boost for children. It works on internal factors like left-right brain hemispheres which helps in creativity and being calm, amongst others.
Since we are dealing with young, active minds and bodies, creativity plays a huge part. Thematic asanas is big with children of SYK. They just love to wonder their minds in fantasy, depending on what theme that days holds, while their tiny bodies move fluidly, from each asana to the next.
So, with the physical aspects of SYK explained, let us take a look in depth as to what constitutes instilling values in SYK.
There are two parts to this; Yama and Niyama.
Yama is regaining balance in life; while Niyama is the practices that lead to wisdom and self-knowledge.
Together, they have the power to help to implement and regain values that most certainly are depleting, unfortunately, with the rise of technology and use of gadgets.
With all these conveyed to a child at a very young age, it will be amazing to see him or her develop and function as a wholesome and well-rounded individual later on in life.
Super Yoga Kids, as we call it, will not turn a child into Superman but it will definitely make the child a super human; body, mind, soul.
Super Yoga Kids is offered by Malaysia Association of Yoga Instructors (MAYI).
Connect with them on FB https://www.facebook.com/mayi.yoga.academy
A worldwide phenomenon, yoga is an art and science of healthy living. Yoga has been deduced to be the healing power of many sorts of discomforts and ailments. If done correctly, some restorative yoga can also bring about reversal of certain ailments. In short, yoga is a force to be reckoned with; a ‘chi’ for living, if you will.
The world has started taking notice of yoga since the 1950s but it was not until the 60’s and 70’s Flower Power era that catapulted yoga to its current state of euphoria. Afterall, isn’t yoga all about giving love, receiving love and living wih a non-violent idealogy? Yes, yoga is indeed all that and much more.
This beautiful ancient practice is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. The fluid movement, shifting from one asana to the other, as soft and gentle as it may seem brings about total mental and physical awareness.
Breathing which many of us take for granted is the fundamental point of yoga, without which, all movements will be just that; simply movements, without impact whatsoever. Breathing consciously is the essence of yoga. It assists in connecting with subtle energy from within. It is through breathing we are able to navigate different levels of consciousness. Breathing consciously has a biological effect on our mental, emotional and physical state.
Coming back to the ancient practice of yoga, there are few written books that chronicle the early days of yoga and its original structure. Theories and asanas were compiled into one such book by the scholar Patanjali in the 2nd or 3rdcentury B.C. This book is entitled Yoga Sutras.
Patanjali wrote about the classic Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is the original system of this ancient practice. Translated to Sanskrit, Eight Limbs of Yoga is known as Ashtanga – also where Ashtanga Yoga got its name from.
The Eight Limbs are namely :
1. Yama (restraint)
2. Niyama (observances)
3. Asana (the physical yoga exercise)
4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)
5. Pratyahara (preparing for meditation)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (absorption, submerge with the eternal and divine)
However, like any other sciences, Yoga evolve. Evolution of Yoga is most definitely a positive one.
The variety and interpretations of yoga practice available makes yoga accessible to people of all different cultures, belief systems and socio-economic levels.
Having said that, the fundamental Eight Limbs of Yoga scriptures of Patanjali should always be the main core of the practice, whichever variation and interpretation one dwells in. These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature. These eight steps mainly focuses on the mind and body’s wellbeing and health without swaying too far from the original .
It is also in the most recent years, in yoga’s evolution era that people have come to realize that yoga is a non-religious practice. My most favourite quote to-date is, “Yoga practitioners consists of very secular, practical, body-oriented people, to the most spiritual people on the planet, and everything in between. And it serves all of those purposes because these are universal teachings." - such a profound way to expel any religious connotations.
After all these years, one thing I know for sure; an inspiring teacher should always be chosen to lead the way for this beautiful practice. The essence of yoga is most definitely student-teacher relationship and the intuitive passing along of knowledge from one another.
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