Monthly Archives

July 2013

Yoga

Which Category Are You?

July 31, 2013

DSC04259

Today I concluded the first month of teaching here in Bangalore.  When I started the class, there were about 8 enthusiastic people along with 2-3 others who dropped in out of curiosity.  Some wanted to see what ‘yoga’ was all about, and some to see if the class was worth the money being charged.  After a month of waking up early and trudging to the class braving the cold winds, I have 5 students who come regularly.

I’ve been to numerous yoga classes over the years as a student.  And I repeatedly see this trend.  Classes start out full and then students begin to drop out.  I used to think that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to keep students coming back, to keep the tempo of the class going and to design routines that students will enjoy.  After all, a teacher is supposed to provide a class that appeals to students.  And if students don’t like the class, well then, the teacher should introspect and do something about it.

However, over the past couple of days I’ve started to think that its as much a student’s responsibility to be wake up and show up, as it is the teacher’s.  Sadly, when the temptations and excuses to stay in bed are numerous, and the reasons to show up to class so few, there are not many who possess the self discipline to get to class.

I’ve observed three kinds of students:

1.  The lazy bones.  Those who will not sustain a regular yoga routine, or, for that matter, ANY kind of routine.  Making space for a class in a busy schedule is not easy.  You either have to wake up when everyone around you is snuggled comfortably in their warm beds, or trudge to class after a tiring day at work and all you want to do is sleep for the next 2 days.  It takes great effort to leave the warmth of your bed, change, pick up the mat and head to class.  Even more so when it’s cold and windy outside.  I’ve seen that those who don’t come, won’t come despite relatively easy schedules.  I feel that a sense of commitment kicks in for these people only when something goes wrong, ie. doc tells them to lose weight.  And then they go into weight-loss overdrive and might end up hurting themselves more in the process.

2.  Those students who are a bit more aware and enlightened.  They do sometimes run out of steam and need encouragement from the teacher, but on the whole they are committed and contribute effectively to the vibe of the class.  These students are a great addition to the class because once in class they are attentive and 100% involved.

3.  The self-motivated student.  These people are committed, aware, and involved.  They ask questions, listen very carefully to what the teacher has to say, and at times they have something of their own to contribute.  They proactively read up on health and wellness and have a high degree of committment to themselves, their bodies and their mind.  They are a delight in class.  These students are a motivation to other students as well.

And as I told my students this morning, I’d rather teach a smaller but committed group than a large group of semi-focused people.

Can you classify the people you know in the above categories?

Uncategorized Yoga

Mudras – Seal the Energy In.

July 15, 2013

Mudra is a Sanskrit word which means ‘to lock’ or ‘to seal’. The word ‘mudra’ signifies hand gestures, or even symbols. Mudras are an integral part of a yoga practice in that they enable you to control the flow of prana, or the life force, thereby making you more energetic and full of vitality. In addition to this mudras help you lock energy inside your body so that you can utilize it, rather than letting it dissipate.

The fingers of the hands represent the different elements of the earth. Taken together these 5 elements are called the panch tattvas. These are:
Thumb – Agni (Fire)
Index Finger – Vayu (Air)
Middle Finger – Akash (Space)
Ring Finger – Prithvi (Earth)
Little Finger – Jal (Water)
It is believed that by bringing together the fingers of the hand you call upon the energy of the elements that those fingers represent, and these energies can heal your body, mind and soul.

The Practice
Always make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure and always keep your hands relaxed when practicing the mudras.
Mudras can be done while you’re seated, standing or even lying down. Your body and mind should feel relaxed and centred.
There is no specific time to practice mudras. Whatever time you choose, you need to be able to relax and withdraw into yourself. This can be before or after eating, as soon as you wake up, or right before you go to sleep.
Always plan your mudras depending on what you need. Practice one or two mudras consistently for a few weeks. Monitor the effects of these mudras on your body. You will see that as things change in your body, you will see a corresponding change in your life as well.

A Few Mudras
Chin/Gyan Mudra
chin_gyan
Use this mudra during your mediation practice. This mudra helps in relaxing the body and focusing the mind to meditate. It also works to release stress. Do this mudra if you suffer from insomnia, depression and even high blood pressure.

Apana Mudra
apan
Bring your thumb, middle finger and ring finger together. Extend the remaining two fingers out. This mudra has a direct effect on the gall bladder and liver, and so helps in removing toxins and waste from your body and mind. Also, patience, confidence, balance and harmony increases through the use of this mudra. It’s also great to increase your digestive fire. It has also shown positive results in treating diabetes.

Akash Mudra
akash
Because the middle finger represents the sky or space, this mudra helps with imbalance in terms of space in the body. An imbalance creates problems in the joints, in the heart and also in the ears. This mudra also strengthens the bones and helps with issues like vertigo and balance. It will also help with issues related to blood pressure.

Nasika Mudra
nasika
This mudra is used in the anulom-vilom pranayam (alternate nostril pranayam). It is important to fold in the index and middle fingers because this stimulates specific nadis in your system, and this adds value to your pranayam practice.

Adi Mudra
adi
This mudra helps in balancing and healing the sense organs. It also stabilizes and calms down the nervous system. The oxygen flow to the lungs, throat and head area increases with the use of this mudra.

Prana Mudra
peace_pran
The yogic variation of the modern peace/victory sign. This mudra helps in increasing the prana in your body. Increased prana means increased vitality and energy and therefore this helps with all types of diseases. This also increases immunity and the power of eyes. And refreshes your entire system.

The Effects
Regular practice of mudras will make you feel relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated and flexible. You will also start to feel younger.

Yoga

Up the Ante on Your Quality of Life: Practice Yoga Nidra

July 12, 2013

The Yoga

Yoga Nidra, literally translated to ‘Yogic Sleep’, is a way of consciously relaxing the mind-body complex.  Regular practice of Yoga Nidra has shown positive results in cases of heart disease, asthma, stress related problems, headaches, migraines, hypertension, depression, insomnia  etc.  Along with quiet and calm, the practice of Yoga Nidra also brings about peace of mind.  The mind is trained to go into the deep sleep phase of the sleep cycle (the dreamless state).  However, this is done consciously with the use of emotions, sensations and images.  The difference between sleeping and yogic sleep lies in the control of the subconscious mind.  In Yoga Nidra there is a full control over the subconscious mind while in sleeping there is none.  By being in touch with the subconscious mind it is possible to train the mind to let go of negativity and harmful habits.  In fact, it can even be an effective tool to inculcate good habits.

 

The Science

To understand the difference between Yoga Nidra and deep  sleep at a scientific level, it’s important to know about brain waves.  At different times of the day, and depending on the brain activity, brain waves of different frequencies occur in the brain.  These are:

Beta waves :  associated with daily activity.  Also associated with stress and tension.

Alpha waves : associated with a relaxed state of mind.

Theta waves :  associated with a drowsiness, half asleep state of mind.  When you’re half asleep but still conscious of what is going on around you.

Delta waves : associated with deep sleep, the state of sleep which is completely unconscious and, therefore, dreamless.  These are the brainwaves experienced during Yoga Nidra.  However, unlike in Deep Sleep, in Yoga Nidra, you are consciously sleeping.

In the practice of Yoga Nidra, the brain experiences a conscious and gradual shift from each of these brain waves until it reaches the delta waves consciously.  However, simply the occurrence of Delta waves in the brain does not denote Yoga Nidra.  It denotes deep sleep, which may also be unconscious.  Yoga Nidra will always be conscious deep sleep.

An experiment was first conducted on this in 1971 by a yogi called Swami Rama in Kansas by the Menninger Foundation.  Swami Rama basically relaxed into Yoga Nidra while scientists monitored his brain activity.  The pattern and duration of the brain waves was pre-decided.  In addition to this, scientists kept on asking Swami Rama questions.  Results showed that Swami Rama was indeed able to move through the various states of consciousness at will.  He was also able to tell them the questions he was asked while in that state as well as the talk that was going on in the lab during the Yoga Nidra!!!

What This Means for You

This is good news for everyone suffering deep-seated psychological issues.  The origin of problems in our body is usually the brain.  If you are able to tap into that part of your brain which is holding on to negativity and are able to release deep seated and deep rooted tension, then you will be rid of many problems standing in the way of a better quality of life for you.

On the physical level you will see that your sleep improves, your efficiency at work improves, your concentration levels improve.  Essentially, you’re upping the ante on your quality of life.  So start Yoga Nidra today!

Uncategorized

Gomukhasana – The Cow Face Pose

July 8, 2013

gomukhasana
1. Start with your legs out in front of you and your back straight.
2. Bend your right leg at the knee and place the right heel next to the left buttock. Then bend the left leg at the knee and place the left knee next to the right buttock. Make sure your knees are aligned. Your buttocks should be on the floor. Make sure you’re not leaning over to any one side and continue to keep your back straight.
3. Bend your left hand and reach over your head and behind to your shoulder blades. Reach back with your right hand and clasp both hands together.
4. Keep your back straight. Awareness on the stretch on your shoulders and the expansion of your chest. Breath.

This asana is called the Cow Face Pose because in the final step your body resembles the face of a cow (visualize your legs being the lips of a cow).

This asana is great for :
*flexibility of your hips and your shoulders
*strenghthening your wrists and your fingers
*opening your chest and therefore promoting better breathing
*stretching your back therefore helping with issues of the curvature of the back

Caution:
If you’ve ever had an injury to your wrists, hands, arms and legs, then avoid this asana. That said, I believe every body is different and you should be aware of how your body feels and make your own judgement about whether you can practice this asana.