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October 2017

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Getting My Asanas Back

October 29, 2017

The Lake as the sun comes up. Notice the little boat in the water.

I think just a little bit of effort towards health can ensure that we prevent most ailments.  But what do you do if you get attacked by a virus in those rare moments of low immunity?  I’ve already done a blog on what to do if you have Dengue fever.

My only concern after I started to feel better was my yoga practice.  I spoke to a few friends who had experience with Dengue and realized that it will take me some more time to get my strength back.  Until then I had to work with where I was and do what I could.

So I practiced a lot of patience.  I took it easy and experimented in equal measure and made some progress.  Here’s a snapshot of the week.  I’m writing this after a delicious lunch of rice and kala channa; satisfied with how this week has been for my practice.

I started Tabata workouts on Monday.  I didn’t expect myself to be able to do it, and I didn’t.  I had to take breaks, but I didn’t give up.  I wanted to focus on stretching my lower body so I did the Janu Sirsasana and Paschimottanasana.  The Adhomukha Svanasana had my legs shaking and I decided to stick to the seated postures.  Interesting enough, the Hanumanasana came to me!!!  I took classes on Monday but rested for the rest of the day.

It’s difficult to get out of bed, but this view makes it worth it.

On Tuesday my legs and shoulders ached like never before.  From the Ashtangis and the Kalari practitioners I learned the benefits of massaging sesame oil on achy muscles and creaky joints.  Before I went to sleep I tried to rub the aches away, knowing full well that they would still be there tomorrow.  I tried to do as much Tabata as I could and focused only on seated asanas.  I ended with the Hanumanasana again.  Any kind of inversion was out of the question.

Things started to improve on Wednesday.  I felt stronger and decided to practice a few standing asanas.  I did the Tadasana, Uttanasana, Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Virbhadra 2 and felt my energy levels flagging.  I tried the Downward Dog and sure enough, my legs started shaking.  I closed the practice.

However, by Friday I felt markedly stronger.  I did standing poses and the seated ones after Tabata and felt energized instead of drained.  I registered for the Go Heritage Run Srirangapatnam run and decided I would test my stamina over the weekend.

Saturday – did Tabata and headed to the lake to do a 5 km walk.  Legs were a bit shaky, but overall I felt good.  I also felt encouraged to head out for a 5km run at Cubbon Park with a friend.

Sunday(Today) – Tabata is becoming easier and the aches are almost gone.  Did the 5 km with no problem.  Very thrilled and determined to get all my strength, flexibility and asanas back!

Next week is to build strength for the Go Heritage Run and to experiment carefully with handstands.  I’m also focusing on good wholesome meals since I have a tendency to be a bit lax about that.  All in all, a great weak.

Hope you guys are having a great day too!

Waking up early isn’t just about the exercise, it’s about the serenity and beauty that you can see in nature.

 

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The Diwali Detox – What I Do

October 23, 2017

I ate a lot of these while recovering from Dengue fever. In fact, one of my favorite fruits.

I’m not one for crash dieting or diet fads.  And the buzzword right now is ‘post Diwali detox’.  Everyone is on one.  Except for those who are actually healthy.

Fasting-feasting and binge eating does more harm to your body than you can imagine.  Depriving your body and then forcing it to consume more than it needs or can handle is the perfect way to confuse your hormones.  That’s when a lot of women start to complain about hair fall, premature greying, wrinkles or other changes in skin tone/quality, and even an irregular period.

Right now everyone is dreading their plate…or looking at it fearfully and suspiciously.  Except, I’m happy to report, my students.  They have a healthy relationship with food and a holistic outlook to life.  Diwali is about celebrating and indulging and now it’s about cleaning up your diet.

Gigantic cucumber. Spotted it in a dhaba at the foothills of Singhagadh Fort. But I would be hesitant to eat it as I feel this size can only be achieved artificially.

Like I said, I don’t follow a ‘diet’.  But here are five guidelines that work for me.

  1. I try and follow an Ayurvedic diet.  So use your food as medicine.  Use lots of ginger, garlic and spices during the winter and eat lighter food in the summers.  Bangalore is neither too cold nor too hot, so I eat a moderate diet.
  2. Eat a largely clean diet.  Adding a lot of vegetables to your Maggie doesn’t count.  If you use a good quality oil, use organic veggies and whole wheat pasta – that is clean and healthy.
  3. No white sugar.  No sugar (any kind) in my tea/coffee.  There was a time when I used jaggery, but I have a sweet tooth.  And when you have  a sweet tooth you can go a bit overboard with even jaggery.  So I just don’t keep it in my kitchen.
  4. No dairy.  So only black coffee or black/green tea for me.  In my experience even small amounts of milk in tea causes a lot of bloating.  I notice a difference within just a week of having milk tea.  Curd however, behaves differently.  And sometimes I allow myself a little bit of curd.  But again, sparingly.
  5. Fruits – in moderation.  Sugar contents in fruits is very high.  So if you overdo fruit and have the traditional Indian carby diet – then it’s just extra sugar.

 

I love this picture of tiny mushrooms growing on a tree trunk at Amrapalli Farms about an hour and a half away from Pune. I use a lot of mushrooms in my salads.

Every body is different and what works for me may not work for you.  The above list is something that I put together after many years of observing myself.  That said, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what others have tried and tested.  You might be able to incorporate some of their learnings into your life.

What dietary guidelines work for you?  Let me know.

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Yoga is a light…A Yogi’s Diwali

October 19, 2017

pc: Geetanjali Joshi

From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace

I learned the above shloka in the year 2009 when I went to SVYASA to do my Teacher’s Training Course.  I found that I was the only one unfamiliar with it.  When I went on to star teaching yoga myself, I learned from my students that this is a shloka taught widely in schools here in India.  This shloka is found in the Upanishads and is a prayer to Light.

If you look at this shloka closely, you can see the definition of the word ‘guru’ in the second line.  ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means light.  A guru is someone who enlightens you; takes you from the darkness to the light.  A guru gives you the strength to recognize your own ignorance and guides you towards your truth.

Diwali is then, perhaps, also a celebration of moving towards the light of truth and peace.  We celebrate the triumph of good over evil, but we should also reflect on the inner darkness that exists in all of us and pray for it to be illuminated.

During Diwali we perform the Lakshmi puja, and many people also worship Ganesha and Saraswati during this puja.  Ganesha is worshipped at the beginning of any puja and symbolizes that which clears the way to our goal.  Saraswati is the goddess of books and learning.

A yogi carries the light (deep) of yoga within.  As yogis we are on the path to truth, to the light, to peace in every moment of every day.  When we unroll our mats we are lighting a diya to a practice that is our path to a higher truth.  When we practice we are paying tribute to goddess Saraswati because the practice is a study of ourselves and humanity.  And when we resolve that we will continue the practice no matter what, it is an invocation to Ganesha to clear the hurdles that may stand in our way.

For a yogi, every day is Diwali.

The colors of the Festival of Lights.

Happy Diwali!

 

Travel

Dhanteras – Relevant to a Yogi

October 17, 2017

The markets are a riot of colors.

A few years ago I spent three days in the Sivananda Ashram near Neyyar Dam (Kerala).  I found out later that the ashram is called ‘Dhanwantri’ Ashram.  And in passing someone told me Dhanwantri was a sage in Indian mythology.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in Delhi looking for topics to write about and helping with Diwali preps.  A common question in most Hindu households during this time is what to buy for Dhanteras.  Delhi markets are in stampede mode.  The police are deployed everywhere and their loudspeakers only add to the confusion.

I started to wonder why we celebrate the acquisition of wealth.  Our culture is known for its vast array of literature, for its scientific approach, for its philosophy.  A day marked by going out and buying jewellery or household vessels seems incongruous with the ethos of our culture.

Turns out that Dhanwantri was the physician to the gods, and the god of Ayurveda.  Until now I assumed that ‘dhan’ meant wealth, but my mother (the Hindi literature expert) told me the word refers to any kind of wealth.  And since Dhanwantri is the god of Ayurveda, Dhanteras is also a day to celebrate ‘health is wealth’.

“But why do we go out and buy jewellery and utensils,” I asked.  “How is that related to health?”

Practice hall at the Sivananda Ashram, Neyyar Dam.

She explained that the idea is to buy a metal.  Metals have healing qualities.  I have a friend who drank water stored in a silver jug through both her pregnancies.  Copper jugs and glasses are commonly found in our kitchens.  In fact, a couple of years ago I bought this bracelet made of the ‘panchdhatus’ at Dilli Haat.  Panch = five, dhatus = metals and wearing a combination of five metals is considered auspicious because they improve the overall health and wellbeing of the wearer.

Dhanteras has also been declared as National Ayurveda Day.  I got my blood test reports yesterday and it’s a negative for the Dengue virus and my platelets continue to be in the normal range.  We can probably trace the roots of the papaya leaf and giloy juice back to Sage Dhanwantri and it’s apt that I’m hale and hearty on Dhanteras 2017.  Also, while we were out shopping I found a beautiful nose pin and decided to buy it for Dhanteras.  I feel I deserve a reward for patiently drinking all that papaya leaf juice!  I tried to get a good picture of the pin.  Can you see the mina work on it and the pretty flower design?

Probably the prettiest nose pin I own.

 

 

So a day when everyone goes out to acquire material wealth is also relevant to us yogis.  Go figure!

Travel

Dengue Fever – My Story

October 15, 2017

Baddhakonasana.

I was supposed to come to Delhi on the 18th of this month and leave on the 21st. Since I took two months off from teaching to study in Pune, I felt I should get back as soon as possible.  With this in mind I messaged my students  that classes would start on the 2nd of Oct.


 

 

 

 

 

But on the 28th of September I started feeling a bit tired and my appetite disappeared.  I found out from some other students that it was a 24 hour virus that was going around.  I managed to drag myself to class on Friday and Saturday, but collapsed in bed post class on both days. My sister was slated to visit me for a day on Saturday and I willed myself to get better. I popped a few Crocins on Thursday and Friday and hoped the fever would sweat out of my body. On Saturday the sis arrived and I was still a little shaky.  But I was tired of laying in bed all day, infirm.   We set out for the Osho park and I hoped that being out and about would make me feel better. I returned that night as tired as ever.

Kakuli & I in the Osho Gardens.

With Sneha in the Osho Gardens.

The next day was the 1st of Oct. I got to Bangalore and once again collapsed in bed.  The virus was supposed to be only a 24 hour virus and I was sure that I would be better in the next couple of hours.

I took classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It was great to see my students again, but I still didn’t feel 100% myself. I didn’t have the energy to do my own practice and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt that if I was able to drive myself to classes then I should be able to practice too. At the same time I started to question the meaning of life and dwell on its futility.

I pinged my sisters that someone had given me the evil eye because what else could be wrong? I had no appetite and I was listless. I asked a friend of mine how to get rid of the evil eye and went out and even went out to buy a packet of red chillies.

Upon my mom’s insistence I went to the doc.  I’d never had to go to the doctor and so actually had to ask some people in my building for the closest reliable and trusted doctor. The doc asked me to get a platelet count done and also to check for Typhoid and Dengue.  The results showed my platelet count was 80000 (below normal range but not life threatening) and I tested positive for Dengue. The doc and my mom gave me an ultimatum. The doctor hooked me up to an IV and pumped glucose and Paracetamol into my system. My friend booked a ticket for me to Delhi. I went home and threw some stuff into a suitcase. Then I collapsed until another friend arrived to drop me to the airport.

No one in my family has ever had Dengue fever, but because this disease reaches epidemic like proportions every year in Delhi, everyone knew what to do. Since I fell sick I’ve heard of so many other people who’ve fallen sick during or after their time at RIMYI. Usually Dengue fever lasts anywhere between 5-7 days and it takes a person almost 2 weeks to completely recover. Because of my regular yoga practice I feel I was able to fight the infection relatively quickly. I had fever for about 2 days and was able to attend and conduct classes soon after.

This was the first time I fell sick (thanks to the yogi lifestyle) and my recovery was remarkably quick too.

Here are a few things I learned from getting this disease. Hopefully this will help you in combating the disease.

  1. Use your mosquito repellent.   I’ve heard Citronella oil,  Eucalyptus oil and Neem oil also keep the mosquitos away.
  2. Don’t fight the idea that you might be infected despite taking all sorts precautions.  I was almost in denial as I told the doc that I was going about my normal active life and didn’t understand how I could be infected.
  3. Take care of yourself – as yogis we sometimes put self-care on the backburner.  Cancel your classes and try and sleep.  Allow the fever to do what it will and focus on resting.
  4. Allow someone else to take care of you. You’ll have someone to tell you that life isn’t over.  I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time at home, but it made my recovery that much faster and more pleasant.
  5. When I had a fever all I felt like eating was apples and drinking cold water.  Looking at even a slice of toast made me want to throw up.  Before I found out it was Dengue I felt I should force myself to eat a little bit or I would fall sick.  Now I know that loss of appetite is a symptom of Dengue and my body craved hydration.
  6. Monitor your platelets count daily!
  7. Papaya leaf juice works like a charm.  Take some papaya leaf juice and water and grind them in your mixer.  Strain and drink.
  8. Sleep!
  9. Catch up on your reading.  I renewed my Kindle Unlimited subscription and my Goodreads saw a lot of activity too.
  10. Don’t worry about your practice/classes/work.  Once your mind and body are well rested, you’ll be back with a bang.

 

I hope to never ever be sick again.  This illness has reinforced my belief in making healthy choices every day without fail or excuses.  Sometimes getting an infection can’t be prevented but being in good health ensures you fight the infection like a boss.  This illness has also made me grateful for all the wonderful people in my life.  People who wake up early to drop you to the airport, people who check up on you in the middle of the night, those who ping you from around the world to make sure you’re OK.  I was lucky to be able to fly home at a moment’s notice and my mom was ready.  I’m grateful to my mother’s maids who knew where to get papaya and giloy leaves and promptly brought them home.  Even my tattoo artist reached out to me!

Any disease takes a toll on you physically, but if you have people around you who love you and care about you, you win the battle sooner.  I had loads of people who were there for me, and for that I can never be thankful enough.