Whenever I teach the Sirsasana, I never forget to mention that it’s the King of Asanas. And I go on to say something like, it’s the King ‘cuz it’s the grandest and most amazing pose. And well, it’s really difficult too. Until the other day when a student pointed out that that describes pretty much most advanced asanas. Got me thinking, so I did some research.The reason the headstand is the King of the asanas is the role the head plays in the life and times of an individual. The head defines a large part of who a person is. The thoughts originate in the head. Rational decisions come from the head. The power of reason and discrimination lie in the head. So much so that when a baby is born, it’s the head that comes out first. Metaphorically, the head deals with the world before any other parts of the body.
The skull and the brain are located in the head, and these control the nervous system of the body. A healthy mind is essential for a healthy body. The brain is responsible for intellect, knowledge, discrimination, wisdom and power. According to ‘Light on Yoga’ just like a King controls the kingdom, the brain controls the body. Therefore, the Headstand is the King of all the other asanas that the body can perform.
Regularly practicing this inversion stimulates circulation of blood to the brain cells, which helps in rejuvenation of the mind (and also helps in giving you that yoga glow). This flush of fresh blood to the brain cells enables you to ‘see’ and think more clearly. Quite literally, you see from a different perspective. This pose is great for insomniacs because it gives the brain some respite from the stress and tension of life. In the correct posture your torso is expanded, enabling you to breathe better and more deeply. It’s great to increase your lung capacity.
According to BKS Iyengar, regular practice of Sirsasana ensures that “One becomes balanced and self-reliant in pain and pleasure, loss and gain, shame and fame and defeat and victory.”
Yoga is a state of equanimity. (Samatvam yoga ucchyate.) – Bhagvad-Gita.
I got invited to a full day workshop about veganism this past weekend. We were invited for a detailed talk about what it is and why it’s good for us. We were going to be treated with a vegan breakfast, lunch and snack. And we were surprised with a goodie bag at the end of the session to enable us to continue on our Vegan journey without a stop. The session was quite intense, but there were a few things that stood out and they made sense to me as well. What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t all mumbo jumbo. Some of the ideas were logical. And I’m going to try a few of the things they spoke about. And in no particular order these principles were:
- Eat a whole plant based diet. Vegetarian food is high in fibre. Not only is animal based food high in fat, it is high in cholesterol as well. Because only animals produce cholesterol. So effectively cholesterol is a hormone made by animals. And ghee happens to be 100% fat.
- Good sources of fat are nuts and seeds.
- Meat and milk are equal. Both contain hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. On top of this milk contains IGF – Insulin-like Growth Factor.
- It is a common misconception that we are a milk drinking nation. We are consuming more milk now than ever before. Historically in India, people used to have one cow and not feed it hormones to give more milk. The milk that humans would consume would be the one left over after the calf had finished nursing. So that would be very less, not gallons upon gallons that we consume today. Krishna was stealing other people’s milk products because he wasn’t drowning in milk and ghee himself. Even though he was quite wealthy and had no reason to steal anything.
- The body gets enough protein on a whole plant based diet. Think about it, very few people report protein deficiency.
- Plants are better sources for Calcium than milk. Only 30% of the calcium in milk is assimilated. And anyways, you need Vitamin D to absorb Calcium into your bones. So having only milk doesn’t mean that you will assimilate all the calcium in the milk. What you should do is ensure that you have adequate Vitamin D so that all the calcium you provide to your body is assimilated.
- Eat whole foods because refined foods lose a lot of nutrients.
- Replace animal milk with soy, rice, almond peanut etc milk. (Basically plant based alternatives.) Sesame seeds have more calcium than milk.
- Say no to sugar. Have dates and raisins instead. Fruits have plenty of natural sugars. And jaggery and honey not allowed because they aren’t whole.
- Replace plain butter with peanut butter, cashew butter, sesame butter or almond butter.
- Replace paneer with tofu.
- Don’t have curd made of animal milk. Make your curd out of soya, peanut milk etc.
- No meat.
- Replace white rice with unpolished rice.
- Replace maida with atta, jowar, bajra, nachni etc.
- White salt with Himalayan salt, rock salt or sea salt.
- Don’t fry your food because vegans don’t use oil.
- Have smoothies for breakfast. So blend bananas, coriander and mint and have that for breakfast.
- Avoid tea/coffee because the increase blood sugar and stress.
- People tend to say that sugar causes diabetes, but it’s actually fat that causes diabetes. so avoid fat in your diet. The technique to eliminate fat is to eliminate all refined fats. Refined fats are those without fibre. Animal products don’t have fibre. But coconuts do, so coconut fats are good. After a fatty meal your blood thickens and fat cells get deposited in the arteries. If you remove the fat, your blood will start flowing again. Meat has free radicals which can damage the inner lining of muscles. Plants on the other hand contain anti oxidants.
- People think that Diabetes and Hypertension are hereditary, but that’s false. Both these conditions are lifestyle related and directly related to your diet.
- Honey and Jaggery are not ok. Both are not whole. However, you can eat sugar cane is good because it’s whole and unrefined and natural.
- Cheese is 70% fat. Cheese is like Vaseline. Your system can’t ingest cheese, it can’t ingest Vaseline.
- Have only 10 nuts a day. However, peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes. So you can have more than 10 a day.
- Whole foods have complex carbs. They take longer to digest and keep you full longer. Hence you end up eating less. Refined foods have simple carbs. They digest immediately and you want to eat more.
- Don’t have two grains in one meal. So don’t have rice and roti together.
- Broccoli has more protein than steak. Excess protein causes osteoporosis and kidney disease.
So the two things you should ask yourself if you want to aim to eat vegan is whether what you are eating is plant based, and whether it is whole.