Monthly Archives

December 2015

Healthy Living Yoga

Resting. Reflecting. Ruminating.

December 27, 2015

I’ve been reading ‘A Town Like Alice’ obsessively for the last few days and am so engrossed in the book that I decided to hole myself up the entire weekend and do nothing but read.  Towards the evening (when I was about 74% through the book according to the Kindle), I happened to glance at my calendar and realized that this is the last Sunday of the year!  Next weekend is the first weekend of 2016 (and that calls for another blog.  Any  suggestions?).  I always do a kind of stock taking at the end of every year.  This blog was on my mind for a while, but I’ve been busy getting back into the groove of things post Mysore, and of course, procrastinating.  Last year I was so excited about learning something new that I didn’t even wait until the end of the year to put up the blog.

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I know, how could I look at this only towards the end of the day, right?

There have been many ‘firsts’ for me this year.  I went to Mysore to practice Ashtanga yoga under Saraswati.  For 15 days I was just another yoga student, practicing and connecting and exploring Mysore.  It gave me much food for thought, and ties I hope get stronger with time.  It also added a new dimension to my practice.  While I just discovered Ashtanga, I have to  say that I’ve practiced it without fail every single day since I left Mysore.  I find that I enjoy the physical rigor of an early morning Ashtanga practice.  However, the Iyengar style engages my mind.  (Don’t get me wrong, Ashtanga also does, but I’m too new to the practice to be able to look beyond the physical aspect.)  Post my Ashtanga practice I feel energized to take the day on, post the Iyengar practice I feel calm and meditative.

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The main Shala, the venue for our Saturday conferences.

There were a lot of ‘first’ for me in terms of food and diet.  I learned how to bake.  For a long time I’ve been toying with the idea of baking my own bread and this year I finally got down to it.  Not only did I bake my own bread, but there have been other experiments with the oven as well (and I’ve shared a few as well).  Baking bread was a bit more of a challenge as I wanted whole wheat and vegan.  A lot of people told me that it can’t be done, that ‘whole-wheat’ meant ‘a bit of maida‘ but I was going to give it a fair shot, before I accepted that.  It helps to have colleagues who will politely swallow your experiments and encourage you for your next loaf regardless.

I explored veganism a bit more this year.  I attended a talk by Dr. Nandita20151219_110140[1] and as usual, assimilated that which made sense.  I blogged about it here. It is only natural then that I marked the last weekend of the year by baking a vegan cake.  I also attended a talk by Rujuta Diwekar and was super excited and happy for so many reasons.

Apart from Ashtanga yoga and baking, another ‘first’ is registering for a run.  Everyone around me seems to be running all kinds of marathons.  Bangalore has numerous marathons and runs year round and I never got around to registering for one.  So when a student sent me a link to register for the SBI Pinkathon Bangalore 2016, I decided to register.  I’ll try my best to train for the run, although it may be a bit difficult given my schedule.  And since the run is on the 31st of Jan, the last day of the first month of next year will also be a ‘first’ for me!

Also, the one thing that needs to be done every year is to throw out that which doesn’t serve you anymore to create room for that which does.  This can be the most mundane and tiresome of things (for me clearing out my closets and donating a bunch of stuff) to things like unsubscribing from all those mailing lists that take up precious space in your inbox (I spent some time doing this too today).  Clearing out your inbox, HDDs and closets is easier than clearing out your mind.  In the next few days I intend to take a good look at people, habits and thoughts that are taking unnecessary space in the shelves of my mind, and attempt to reason them out of there for good.

And before I forget, 2015 is also the year when I shot my first video for The Health Site.

Ayurveda Healthy Living Healthy Recipes

Being Enlightened by Rujuta Diwekar

December 20, 2015

20151219_130154[1]For the last one week or so my friend Geetanjali and I have been excited about the Rujuta Talk that was held yesterday at Sadhu Vaswani Mission’s Little Lamps Pre School.  The excitement was palpable at the venue.  The seats up front were already taken and the camera people were ready.  The best thing about Rujuta’s ideas and beliefs about food is that she preaches a holistic approach to food.  There is nothing fitness fad-ish about what her advice, and her diet guidelines are ‘accessible’ for the masses.  With this in mind I went prepared with pen and paper.

Rujuta’s talk focused on overall family wellness.  So she spoke a lot about children.  There was a Q&A afterwards, where enthusiastic fans needed answers  to all their questions.  I tried my best to note down as much as I could.  Here are my notes:

EXERCISE

  1. 90 minutes of exercise a day is recommended for children.
  2. 150 minutes a week for adults.  Rujuta recommends that you have three sessions a week: weight training, yoga and cardio.  According to Rujuta, men develop a paunch when they lose strength and muscle in their lower body.  Womens’ hips grow wider.  Weight training is an excellent solution for the paunches and the wide hips of this  world.
  3. For every 30 minutes you sit, stand for 3 minutes.  (I’ve already started this by setting an alarm on my phone.)
  4. Diabesity = diabetes + obesity.
  5. Exercise 3 days a week AT A FIXED TIME.  (I believe this has a lot to do with discipline.  In my experience people who don’t pencil their workouts into their calendars are the ones who do them ‘later.’)

SLEEP

  1.  Don’t look at anything that emits light an hour before you sleep.  An important point she made is that fitness bands (the current fad) also emit light and fall under this rule.  So bands that are supposed to measure the quality of your sleep are actually promoting bad quality of sleep.  In her irreverent manner Rujuta said that if you want to know how well you slept then look at the person sleeping next to you.  If you haven’t tossed and turned and snored the entire night, then they would be sleeping peacefully, and that’s a more accurate measure of the quality of your sleep.  (I would like to point out that you maybe have tossed and turned for reasons agreeable to both of you…)
  2. Body chemistry and biology is determined by the HPT axis – Hypothalamus Pituitary Thyroid. (These actually correspond to chakras!)
  3. The HGH (Human Growth Hormone).  With the decreases of HGH there is a also a decrease in muscle tissue and a corresponding increase in fat stores.  And lack of sleep contributes immensely to the decrease of HGH.  (The lack of quality sleep is perhaps what is causing the increase in childhood obesity?)
  4. HGH also decreases with age, which is why you gain weight as you age.  This is why it’s imperative that you continue to workout as you age.

FOOD

  1. Always have breakfast.  Your breakfast should be hot and homemade.  Never have anything that comes out of a packet such as oats and cereals and tetra pack milk (!).
  2. Have your husband cook twice a week  Here Rujuta made a point that resonated very strongly the feminist in me.  She said that most of us have grandfathers who can cook.  Some of us have dads who can cook.  But none of us have husbands who can cook.  In fact our husbands may not even know how much sugar we take in our tea!  To be empowered doesn’t mean to only go out and earn a living and draw a fat paycheck.  Empowerment also has a great deal to do with how much equality exists in the home.
  3. Don’t count the composition of your food (calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat etc.)
  4. Coconuts have no cholesterol.
  5. Cashews have no cholesterol.  If you have high levels of blood sugar you should have cashews.
  6. The USDA has revised it’s guidelines in April 2015 to state that there is no link between cholesterol consumption and heart disease.
  7. Learn food systems and not food groups.
  8. Have a banana on your way to the airport and not a Subway sandwich.
  9. Are you bloated when you wake up?  Do you crave for coffee/tea post a meal?  Are you constipated?  Fear no more!  Just have a banana.  Bananas contain prebiotics, they help in fat burn and they are rich in fiber.  Prebiotics provide the infrastructure for all the millions of good bacteria to flourish in your gut.  These are as important as probiotics.
  10. Great breakfast option:  Roti + banana + sugar
  11. Great fruits with a meal: bananas, jackfruit and mangoes.
  12. “Banana zaroor khana.”
  13. Ghee helps in post pregnancy weight loss.
  14. Make your ghee from milk.  Do NOT use your mixer because the heat from the centrifugal force kills the important fatty acid bonds in the ghee.
  15. Ghee has prebiotics.
  16. Ghee reduces the GI (Glycemic Index) of food.
  17. Have single polished and hand pounded rice.  Rice has lycene, an amino acid which is linked to HGH.  HGH is at it’s peak in the night so if you have rice in the night, you give your HGH a boost.
  18. Raagi is high in calcium, gluten free and high in fiber.  It is a complete non allergen and it’s great for bones.  In an age when everyone seems to be deficient in Vitamin D – Raagi is the solution because it helps in retaining it!
  19. Sugarcane detoxes and cleanses your system.  (It’s cold pressed!  Rujuta exclaimed mirthfully.)  If you have sugarcane juice in the winter, you can prevent all the seasonal issues that come along with the onset of winters.
  20. Jaggery – another form of sugarcane!  It contains glycolic acid which prevents wrinkles and it keeps your collagen intact.  (Personally I’d rather eat wholesome food containing glycolic acid than slathering on chemical formulae on my face.)

Post the session everyone gathered around Rujuta to ask her questions, take pictures and have her sign their books.  I also took a book along but was dissuaded to go up to her by the throng of people around her.  However, Geetanjali whipped out her phone and egged me on.  And when I finally managed to get up to Rujuta and told her that I’ve taken notes and is it OK if I put it up on the blog, she said yes! of  course and what blog is it that I write for?  I told her that I have a blog called yogawithpragya and Geetanjali captured this moment:

 

Rujuta says she’s read my blog!!!! OMG!!!! Rujuta Diwekar has visited my blog (happy dance)!!!!  That explains this expression:

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All in all it was an awesome morning.  Rujuta is an engaging and intelligent speaker.  She seamlessly links grandmother’s food wisdom to solutions to modern day environmental issues such as global warming.  She talks about cooking and women’s empowerment.  She talks about the transience of food fads.  And she reads the newspapers and this blog! 🙂

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #15

December 14, 2015

‘Twas my last class with Saraswati and I was super excited.  Because she’s a woman of few words, we have to glean whatever we can about her personality from the little interaction that our practice sessions afford us.  Saraswati is very equanimous.  She has never displayed ego.  She has never displayed displeasure.  Sometimes (rare and delightful occasions) I have seen her smiling.  And never have I heard her rebuke a student, until this morning.

When I walked into class this morning Saraswati was reading a book.  Very intently.  If I wasn’t a huge fan before, I was one now.  Who doesn’t love a person who can’t tear themselves away from a good book?  (Personally, I love all those who try to get in a few more paragraphs in the middle of a work day.)  Finally she shut her book walked into the main hall.  I was up to the seated postures when I heard her speaking to a student:

“Yooouuuu, you don’t want to pratice?!!!”

Student mumbles something.

“Yes yoooouuuu sleeping.  Don’t want to practice?!”

Student mumbles a bit more.

“Always missing from led class.  Sleeping sleeping all the time missing led class!!!”

Student giggles and mumbles something.

“LAZY BOY!!!”

Saraswati walks away and a bunch of us are trying hard to control our laughter.  Someone falls out of the Ardha Baddha Padma Padmottanasana, clearly unable to contain their laughter.

 

Saraswati is sweet like that.  Even when she’s strict and rebuking a student (I’ve been on the receiving end), she doesn’t lose that gentleness.  I get the sense that when she teaches us she does as she would her own children.

When she came to adjust me today, she told me that I now need to start raising my leg higher in the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana.  She gently raised my leg to show me how much farther up I will be able to lift.

She was clearly in high spirits today.  She asked me how far I’ve gone and I said “uh marichyasana…” and tried to think of whether it was C or D.  “C” I said halfway between a statement and a question.

“I don’t teach Marichyasana C,” she said to me imitating my statement-question tone.  This time I didn’t bother controlling my laughter.  You’ll only know how cute Saraswati mimicking you is when she mimics you.

Then she sat down to help me with Marichyasana D and asked me, “Your last class?”  Yippiee!!!  Saraswati knows my last day!!!  She knows I exist!!! She may even know my name!!!!  I think I detected a slightly puzzled look in her eyes in response to the huge smile that broke across my face when I was contemplating that fact that Saraswati may actually know my name.

Her high spirits remained even when I was leaving.  She was chit chatting about the heat with some students who were standing outside the door waiting for their turn.  When I came out I thanked her.  She asked me if I was going back to Bombay.  I told her I’m going to Bangalore.  She told me her daughter is in Bangalore.  I told her yes I know.  She asked me where I am staying in Bangalore.  I told her and I also told her it’s close to Purple Lotus where Sharmila teaches.  I asked her if she comes to Bangalore.  She said many many times.  I told her I will see her in Bangalore.  She smiled.

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As I was leaving I heard her calling out to a guy standing near the naariyal paani wallah.  

“Where you from?”

“I live in Delhi,” said the guy who was originally from Manipur.

“Ooooooohhhhh I thought Chinese,” said Sarawati before heading back into her shala.

My journey with Asthanga yoga continues in tomorrow, in Bangalore at the Purple Lotus.

 

Travel

Somanathpur & Tallakad

December 14, 2015

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Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #14

December 13, 2015

Today was my second and last ‘led’ class with Saraswathi.  I got there about an hour early and people had already started queuing up.  And as soon as they opened the door all the places were taken in no time.  Led classes are always the same, but since I’ve been practicing for two weeks now, I’m more familiar with the sequence and I feel I’m able to get more out of the class.  Today Saraswathi allowed me to go all the way up to Marichyasana D.  Tomorrow morning is my last class in Mysore and I’m excited that I will go all the way up to Marichyasana D.  I’m happy with the progress I’ve made in the last two weeks, and I’m looking forward to continuing my practice in Bangalore.

We decided to do a bit of sight seeing today since it was a holiday for Sharath’s class.  So at around 8 am 5 of us we headed out to Somnathpur and Tallakad to see the famous temples.  I’ve wanted to see the temples ever since one of my students told me about them and I’m so happy I got a chance to see them today.  And it wasn’t just seeing the place, but going with this particular group of girls that was great.  We were all interested in seeing the temples, taking awesome pictures and having a great day out.  We managed to get to Somnathpur in good time.  It wasn’t too hot, the bathroom was clean and the site wasn’t too crowded.  We even took some yoga pictures!  The Somnathpur temple is beautiful.

The temples at Tallakad seem to be more popular with people, for some reason.  There are a total of 5 temples in the complex, and they are still used by people.  But the Somnathpur temple has beautiful and intricate carvings.  These temples seem unfinished and built for the purpose of regular use, and not so much as a display of art.  Maybe the Somnathpur temple was for the royal family and the Tallakad temples for the commoners who perhaps wouldn’t be able to appreciate art so much.

By the time we finished seeing the first two temples in Tallakad, it was hot and the crowds were surging.  So we found a shady place to eat and then had ice cream while some of us went to take a look at the Cauvery river.

Pictures coming up soon!

 

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #13

December 12, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how old the legacy of yoga in Mysore is.  I’m a sucker for history anyways (the kind that you can see and not just read about) and stories.  A lot of people here have trained with internationally famous yoga teachers, some of who were the first ones to train under Shri Pattabhi Jois.  I am curious to know about the first foreigner who heard about the little man in Mysore who teaches yoga and came in search of him.  At the time Mysore was just Chamundi Hills and the Palace, which probably looked very different from what it is now.  People may have come in through trains and hailed autos.  Auto wallahs might have been surprised to see foreigners (who still seem to be a novelty here.  When we go out, random locals ask for photos.  I discreetly step out of the frame because I know the subject they are interested in.)

KPJAYI has spawned a lot of local industries.  The auto-wallahs who stand outside the Shala, who charge up to Rs. 300 for a trip to the main market while an Ola cab will charge you only Rs. 109.  The coconut guys who are swarmed with people post classes and usually in the middle of the afternoon.  The cafes where you can find avocado salads, vegan food and crepes!  It was a challenge for me to find food that would ‘satisfy’ me.  I went to Gokul Chaats.  It’s been reviewed on Trip Advisor, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  However, a small restaurant away from the main road called Sri Durga has the most satisfying and wholesome food.  Ever since I’ve discovered it, it’s become my go-to place for coffee.  The infrastructure isn’t great, but the food and service is awesome.

We went to another restaurant today that has been catering to the influx of yogis since the time of K Pattabhi Jois.  ‘Eat at Nagarathna’s’ is a small and cozy establishment with close links to the Pattabhi Jois empire.  It’s run by Nagarathna and her husband, in their house.  The old shala was close to this house, which is how the earliest students stumbled upon it.  Nagarathna told us that her father-in-law was friends with Pattabhi Jois.  When his student’s needed nourishment, Pattabhi Jois would send slips of paper with the dish the student needed (hot pepper soup, dosa, salad) and send the student to Nagarathna’s.  This is how some of the earliest students found their way to Nagarathna’s table.  And we found ourselves at the very same table.  Those of you who know me know that this is exactly the sort of priceless experience I look for during my travels.  Nagarathana told us stories about some of the earliest students.  I don’t know much about Ashtangis, but my friends were delighted about hearing the names of their teachers and also imagining them as young yogis in Mysore, much like what they are now.  Names that clearly stand out in my mind are Tim Miller and Richard Freeman and Eddie Stern.  Nagarathna talks about how all the old Ashtangis used to sit around and enjoy the food and a few also hooked up with each other (she was talking about a couple who were Jois disciples a few decades ago.  I don’t remember the names, but they are currently teaching and famous in the Ashtanga community.)

The food was great, your typical South Indian fare.  But what stunned us is Nagarathna’s albums of old photos of some of the earliest Ashtangis! She had black and white and colored photographs.  Some were taken in her kitchen, in front of the old shala, in the hotel now known as Regaalis (and was known as Southern Star then), in front of the Mysore Palace…etc.  The album kept us riveted for a long time.  We even took photos of photos!  The picture that enthralled me was an old photo of the guru actually posing for a portrait with his students.  He’s sitting on a chair with female students in the front row while the male students stand in the back.  The sides of the picture have been eaten away by age and neglect(?).  I love this picture because I imagine Shri K Pattabhi Jois just like this, surrounded by students he loves, students who perhaps did not even dream that they would travel the globe to spread his word.  The guru with his devoted shishyas.

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Over lunch we talked about the first foreigner who stepped into this hitherto uncharted territory.  Allegedly, the first foreign student found out through the grapevine that there is a man teaching yoga in Mysore.  He promptly came to Mysore and Pattabhi Jois (the Brahman) refused to touch, much less teach, a foreigner!  Not to be deterred (and with no idea that he was throwing the gates open for future generations of yogis) he sat on Pattabhi Jois’s front porch for 3 weeks until the great Guru finally relented.

Everyone decided to head to FabIndia post the lunch (I’m surprised we could lift a finger after the way we stuffed our faces.).  I had some unfinished sightseeing left.  I grabbed a cab to Yadavgiri.  I saw the house, and it’s being renovated.  There was a huge padlock on the gate, but there were workers inside.  So I stood on the boundary wall and shouted to the workers, asking them to let me in.  They did.

I read somewhere that RK Narayan’s study used to face a huge tree and that he used to stare at the tree when he had writer’s block.  There was no tree inside the boundary wall of his house, but there were two right outside.  Maybe, decades ago, when he was living in the house, there was no boundary wall.  Maybe there was no pukka road, but a dirt road running in front of the house.  If that is how it was, then it’s believable that he would stare deep into the branches and trunk of the tree for inspiration…

Seeing the house is great, but I still sort of wish I’d managed to see it when it was falling apart.  I would have been able to sense the real character of the house.  However, I will have to settle for coming back next year to see the finished house.

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I would also like to mention that I’ve asked a number of localites about RK Narayan even saying ‘Malgudi Days?’ in the hopes of a spark of recognition.  But surprisingly, no one has heard of him!  I feel like I’m the only one whose heard of both Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and RK Narayan!

Now the days are starting to really whizz by.  I leave on Tuesday morning after my practice.  I’ll be back in Bangalore for lunch.  This morning I glanced through my class schedule for the rest of the year (tried to fit in the Ashtanga classes as well.  I think I will be able to figure something out.).

I’m looking forward to getting back to my classes.  I can already sense that these past two weeks have been incredibly unique and special.  I can feel a paradigm shift in my approach to yoga.  I can’t really put my finger on what.  I know these two weeks have given me lots of food for thought, new philosophies, new books…which is bound to change the way I practice and approach my classes.  I guess that’s only inevitable when you come to a place teeming with the energy of something so old and powerful.

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The picture had me transfixed.  I must’ve been in this position for 10 minutes.

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #12

December 11, 2015

In the Ashtanga style you are supposed to practice every day.  There is one day off in a week (mine is tomorrow) and on ‘Moon Days (which was today).  Moon days are days of the full or new moon and happen biweekly.  The practice is so intense, that I feel that it’s good to have more than one day off every once in a while.

Once a week, we have what is called a ‘conference’ where Sharath addresses all the yoga students.  I’m not sure if he has a fixed agenda; sometimes it sounds like he is just rambling and going off on a tangent.  The tone is light hearted and he keeps these ‘lectures’ very interactive.  For me it is a chance to listen to an eminent teacher and get insight into philosophy.  And for most of the people who have converged here from different parts of the world it is a chance to interact with a teacher who they highly revere.  I can feel that reverence spreading through the room whenever any of the teachers walk into the room.  It’s a very strong feeling that pervades the room, it’s very palpable.  I could feel it today as well as soon as Sharath walked into the room.  All heads turned to him and conversation died down.  All eyes followed him as he made his way to the stage to sit on a chair.  He adjusted the microphone and almost looked like a king addressing his subjects.  He wore a sparkling white kurta, and his ‘throne’ was an ornately carved chair.  He scanned the room and then started to speak.

He started talking about Moon days.  He began by saying that Moon days are crazy days with crazy energy.  Last week he spoke about how he had an oil bath on a moon day, and he was a bit under the weather for 4 days.  (An ‘oil bath’ is nothing but Abhiyangam.  So an oil self-massage before a shower.)  Today he told us that the reason we don’t practice during moon days is because moon days are days of elevated energy levels.  This extra energy makes you behave uncharacteristically.  People go crazy, they do crazy things, say crazy things.   He said we should make an extra effort to relax on moon days.  Keep the body and the mind calm.  He was expecting crazy questions and told us we can expect crazy answers.

As I said, the conference didn’t focus on any particular topic.  He spoke about various topics.  He discussed where we should practice yoga.  He told us that the quality of oxygen is really important.  So yoga in the mountains is great.  A lot of people want to close windows when they practice in the morning because they feel cold, but Sharath advises us to practice in a ventilated room so that our lungs have fresh oxygen available.  He says that you should generate heat in your body though the practice instead of cutting off fresh air.  He also said you shouldn’t practice out in the open, or in the forest.  Also, he said, do not practice where other people can see you.  The practice is private.

During the Q&A, two students asked about the bandhas.  Ashtanga yoga is a very physical style, the asana practice is intense 6 days a week.  However, the asanas are done with vinyasas (breath coordination), bandhas and drishti (where you rest your gaze).  Since I’ve just started the practice, I practicing asana and vinyasa.  A student asked Sharath that he has heard about and learned the bandhas from various teachers and he wanted to know how he can practice the bandhas in the asanas.  Sharath reiterated that you must stick to one style and teacher because mixing styles can confuse you.  He said he never went to another teacher to confirm if what his grandfather was saying is correct.  He then said that when we practice we must put in our best.  The bandhas will happen on their own.  Another student asked about how we can tell that we are doing the bandhas right.  Sharath once again said you will know.  Just practice.  I suppose this is along the lines of Shri K Pattabhi Jois’s famous quote: Practice and all is coming.

After the conference all of us got together and headed for a quick snack to a café nearby.  What was supposed to be a quick snack turned into a three-hour long conversation about our practice, our inspiration, our lives, our students, our teachers, India…

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #11

December 10, 2015

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This morning’s practice was a bit different.  Saraswati walked around adjusting people while loudly giving me instructions from her location.  So she was essentially shouting at me from wherever she was standing.  I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed about being picked on or whether I should feel ‘special’ that though she was adjusting others, I commanded her attention more than anyone else in the room!  She reiterated that we need to go step by step through the sequence instead of randomly doing asanas.  And she ended with telling me that in the ‘led’ class this Sunday I can take two more asanas.

Lately, I’ve become increasingly interested in the philosophy behind yoga.  Not just traditional philosophy, but also the views and opinions that contemporary (and I use this word very loosely) teachers.  Yoga has changed over time.  And over the years teachers have understood the need for yoga to evolve.  Whether it is T. Krshnamacharya or BKS Iyengar or Pattabhi Jois, everyone has contributed to ‘modernizing’ yoga.  So for instance, T. Krishnamacharya started to teach women.  Pattabhi Jois has also categorically stated that now women can do all the asanas because now women are strong.  BKS Iyengar himself personally taught his daughter and granddaughter to carry on his legacy.  During my time here I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with people who are very deeply immersed in the practice.  Many are advanced practitioners and have been through a fair amount of yoga theory and philosophy.  It’s interesting to listen to their ideas. Yoga is evolving and there are many rules and conventions which are now obsolete.  It’s interesting to see how these young yogis are thinking and evolving and finding how to live their lives within the confines of the philosophy, yet by applying thought to it.  Here I find that people are endeavouring to find a way to live the most authentic life consciously by questioning and reasoning to conclusions.

As the year draws to a close, I’m wondering what lesson exists here for me to carry into 2016 with me…

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #10

December 9, 2015

As a teacher I come across a lot of people who start to look for ‘results’ after only a couple of days of practice.  I think it’s always a good idea to practice yoga for at least a month before you start to look for ‘results’.  And in my experience, the changes come more as a realization, than as a tick on a list of goals.  Usually, when a student approaches yoga with a time bound goal, they get disappointed.  Truth is, you can’t put a deadline on when you will start to notice changes and how long it will take you to get a particular result.  The more effort you put into your practice, the better your practice will be.  But there is always room for improvement because it is a continuously evolving practice.  I’ve spoken to a lot of yogis here about what makes them converge here from all over the world, saving up holidays, leaving family and friends behind to come to practice in a small city in Karnataka where their classes are bursting at the seams, they have to acclimatize and they are not likely to get any personal attention from the super busy teachers.  If they want to ‘learn’ something, they could go to an exclusive workshop or practice with their teachers in smaller classes.  I’ve found that for a lot of people this is like Mecca.  This is where their guru’s guru taught.  They come to soak in the energy and practice with the most famous Ashtangis in the world.

I agree with these sentiments now.  But when I applied to practice here, I realize that I didn’t really think too much about what I was going to achieve and learn here.  At this point I can’t really define what drew me to Mysore, except for the fact that I wanted to try Ashtanga yoga and I reasoned that if ‘the’ school for Ashtanga was next door (in Mysore), then it only makes sense for me to drive down here.  I’m glad I had no expectations.  It allowed me to immerse myself in the classes with calmness and no sense of urgency.  My mind wasn’t constantly busy and noisy.  Although I felt that my body was made out of wood the first couple of days, gradually I started to feel that I could actually extend more.  Now, in forward folds I am able to make minor adjustments that make a great difference to the asana.  I have become better at the asanas, but I suspect another reason I’m able to make the minor adjustments is that I have a better connection to my body.  The intense focus on breath with movement ensures that you slow down and feel what the movement is trying to teach you.  Today Saraswati showed me the Tiryangamukha ekpada paschimattanasana.  It’s a slightly longer sequence but I think I’ll be able to repeat it tomorrow.

Even though I endured chanting class today, I went for a Yoga Sutras class today.  This class also involved a lot of chanting.  I’m coming to the conclusion that although I love yoga philosophy, I would rather it not be mixed with chanting Sanskrit.

Another thing I notice is the serious lack of Indian yoga students here!  There’s just a handful of us.  It would be worth finding out why there so few when the number of yoga teachers has grown exponentially all over the country.

Healthy Living Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #9

December 8, 2015

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Today Saraswati helped me with the Utthita Hasta Padangushtasana and then asked me if I could do the Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.  I said yes and showed it to her.  In her usual clipped style she told me, ‘Good.  Tomorrow new asana.’ So in her clipped style I asked, ‘Today?’  She responded, ‘Not today.  Today is Tuesday.’  I was confused but decided that they probably don’t teach anything on Tuesdays.  Later on I found out that they don’t.  I’m not sure why, but maybe the answer lies in the ‘Yoga Mala’ which I’m waiting to get my hands on soon.

Since we didn’t have chanting class today, a bunch of us decided to go to the Lalitha Mahal Palace.  It’s the second largest palace in Mysore and situated on a small hill.  The architecture is very British and I think it was actually used by the British resident of the state of Mysore at one point.  It has sprawling gardens on all sides and a great view on all sides.  The building has been renovated, but the colors they’ve used on the outside of the palace are kind of tacky.  I wish the interiors had been done up better too.  The furniture is shabby and the upholstery, dirty.  They’ve painted ghastly religious figures on some of the glass work on the first floor.  The life-sized portraits are of the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty, but the pencil sketches are all of the fall of Srirangapatnam and the surrender of Tipu’s sons.  Some of the furniture is really nice though.  They have huge tables with intricate carving on the side panels.  These have just been pushed into corners with obvious disregard.  We saw a wooden chair that I liked so much that I would’ve brought it back with me if I could have snuck it out.  The most comfortable wooden recliner ever.  For some reason it had two sets of arm rests, one of which could swivel out and around to the front and across the chair.  We put our heads together but couldn’t figure out what the chair was for.

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There was another curious looking piece of furniture pushed against huge dirty French windows.  It was too high to be a table, and besides there were not carvings on it.  I went closer and saw that there were hinges on the surface and that you could actually open this box on 4 legs.  Alexa helped me lift the lid and this largely ignored piece of furniture was a grand piano.  And you could still play it.  Feedback for the Ashoka group:  try and preserve the character of these heritage properties when you take over!12325025_10153135417542461_1327757027_n

Once we were done wandering around we sat down for some tea.  The hotel staff started to ‘politely’ clear away our cups by the second hour of our conversation.  The sun had set and the lights of the hotel had been switched on.  We took photos.  We stopped by Bombay Tiffins Annexe  to pick up some Mysore Pak and then Dose Corner for dinner.  Tomorrow I will be up bright and early for the new asana that I have been promised by Saraswati!