Hello from Ha Noi, the capital of Vietnam! I'm here this weekend to attend a friend's wedding, visit my 94-years-old grandma who lives just 2 hours south of Ha Noi in the Nam Dinh province, and then onto my hometown Sai Gon next week to see my parents. The fall weather is nice & fresh this time of the year, preparing for a humid & cold winter, which could get as low as 10 degrees Celsius in January. I took a sunset walk around Hoan Kiem Lake yesterday to feel the capital's end-of-the-day vibes, one of my favourite things to do in Ha Noi. Legend has it that in the mid-15th century, a fisherman caught a sword in his fishing net in the lake. He gave this to Le Loi, the leader of the Lam Son Rebellion against the Chinese, who successfully drove out the invaders. Le Loi later became Emperor Ly Thai To and returned the sacred sword to the lake, which was thereafter named Lake of the Restored Sword.
This week's quick dive: Supine Spinal Twist, Tapas (Self-Discipline) and What To Do With An Old Yoga Mat.
Yoga Pose of the Week: Supine Spinal Twist
A pose that guarantees feel-good anytime, anywhere. I usually even start the day with this, in bed, when I wake up, before even getting out of bed, and then close the day with the same pose before falling asleep. It stretches your lower back, and sometimes the hips as well, depending on where you place your knees. If you attend an in-person class, don't hesitate to let the teacher know if you would like to have a hands-on adjustment for this pose. The teacher could help you intensify the stretch significantly, making it feel sooooo good, without much risk of injuring you.
If your shoulders and spine feel super tight, and you find one shoulder floating in the air in this pose, try to keep it on the floor by using a blanket or a pillow under your bent knee. In addition, you'll feel more of a lower back stretch by having that knee higher, closer towards your arm. Otherwise, some of the stretch feeling will be transferred to the hip/IT band area.
Just to recap, below are the poses that we already talked about that are super good for the lower back. Use them in your yoga on the mat and stretching off the mat, as you need!
And not to forget basic poses we have not talked about in the Yoga Quick Dives that are also super good for the spine:
Cat and cow
Savasana with a bolster below your knees
Last word: Take care of your spine. Otherwise, you'll have to visit a spine doctor in Egypt: a cairo-practor! Just joking, hope that brought a smile to your face.
Eight Limbs of Yoga: Tapas (Self-discipline)
We continue our journey through the Eight Limbs of Yoga with the third of the Niyamas, Tapas. In Sanskrit, the word Tapas is derived from the root verb ‘tap’ which means ‘to burn’, and evokes a sense of 'inner fire', ‘fiery discipline’ or ‘passion’.
On the mat, practicing Tapas does not necessarily mean pushing ourselves harder in a physical sense. Rather, it means sticking to the intentions and goals we set before we step on the mat. Sometimes it simply means to show up and stay present through the 60-minute practice. To create a discipline and consistency in our practice (for example, block the calendar for yoga, every Wednesday morning at 7am). Some other times, it means trying our best to achieve a certain goal, powering through a pose we usually avoid or find difficult, or leaning mindfully into our edge within a tough asana. Working with core strength is a surefire way to tap into that sense of ‘fieriness’ stoking the ‘agni’ or inner fire. The core is where our Manipura Chakra lies, and this energy centre governs our sense of self-confidence, inner strength, willpower and self-discipline.
The discipline we learn on the mat is a fantastic lesson to take off the mat and into our everyday lives. Personally, off the mat, I practice Tapas by pondering on a couple of lingering questions. What wakes you up at night? What pulls you out of bed in the morning? We each have some goals in our life, things we want to achieves, directions we want to take, purposes we want to fulfill. I like to let these goals, directions and purposes nourish my inner fire, to remind me the reason why I need to persevere every time I'm faced with a challenge.
The root verb 'tap' which means 'burn' in pTas also refers to the element of fire, hence a sense of creation of transformation. Practice Tapas or your self-discipline, allow changes to happen and you should be able to witness the resulting transformation, whether it's in your body, your mind or your life. "By tapas the yogi develops strength in body, mind and character. He/she gains courage and wisdom, integrity, straightforwardness and simplicity." (B.K.S Iyengar, Light on Yoga)
Read more about other Yamas and Niyamas in the Eight Limbs of Yoga:
Ahimsa – Non-violence
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Non-stealing
Brahmacharya - Moderation
Aparigraha - Non-possession
Saucha - Cleanliness
Santosha - Contentement
Anything above the Earth and below the Sun is Life. Hopefully something useful to you, or at least something that will bring a smile to your face. 😊
What To Do With An Old Yoga Mat?
Speaking about Tapas, or self-discipline, some English interpretation uses the word 'austerity', which, as an Economics major in university, I can't help but interpret as a 'reduction in spending' 😅. Let's see if we can apply Tapas to the recycling of our beloved yoga mat today!
I have been meaning to write a longer article ranking the different types of yoga mats, and that will come, but for now, how do we make the best use of the preloved yoga mats we no longer use for your daily yoga practice. Here are a few ideas:
My favourite recycling method: turn your old yoga mat into knee or elbow pads. Just cut parallel to the width of the mat. How long the pads should be depend on your forearm length. Carry the pad around with you, it's especially useful when you exercise outside on the hard cement floor or on the grass.
If you have a standing desk, turn your old yoga mat into a standing pad to make the concrete a little more comfy.
If you have a green mat, use it as your green screen background for your Zoom calls.
Use it as an extra floor/bed when you go camping.
Ditch your regular beach towel and use your mat instead.
Use a rolled mat as a drink koozie. Wedge a cold bottle into the opening at the end of a rolled mat.
Use it as shelf liners to prevent slipping.
Do some upright rows or bicep curls with a tightly rolled mat.
Donate to Animal Shelters, a local retirement home
Give it a try, thank me later.
Thanks for reading! But don't leave just yet!
Ask me TWO questions or leave me TWO comments below. I'd love to hear from you.
Until then, take a deep breath and keep your worries away!
Yoga Quick Dive is a series of bimonthly newsletters that should take no more than 5 minutes of your reading time. Let's deep dive quickly into 3 topics: Body, Mind and Life.