Monthly Archives

November 2017

Yoga

Healthy Body, but Healthy Mind?

November 30, 2017

With the ongoing focus on mental health have you gauged the state of your mental health?

The only way yoga works for you on a physical level is by changing you at a mental level.  Daily practice actually changes neural pathways in your brain which rewires you to think differently.  Not only are you making a conscious connection between your body and mind, but you are also ensuring that vital hormones (which are responsible for your moods and feelings) are also secreted to your system in optimum amounts.  Too little or too much leads to conditions such as Thyroidism, PCOS/D, PMS, anxiety, depression etc.

Exercising and eating a wholesome diet are key to overall good health.  But there are a few easy guidelines you can follow to ensure your thoughts aren’t sabotaging your health.

  1. Audit your quality time.  Who are the 5 people you spend most of your time with?  Do they make you feel good about yourself?  Do they lift you up or ensure you’re always down?  When those around us respect and love us, we feel stronger and more confident.  This is because when you hang out with good friends chemicals called serotonin and oxytocin which cause feelings of well being, are released in your body.  So think about the 5 people you’re spending most of your time with and consider making some changes for the better, if required
  2. Journaling.  I’ve been a compulsive journal writer since I was in second grade.  You’ll still find stacks of my journals in my parents’ home.  I was journaling all the way to the time I started working for Infosys.  But as time went on and work got hectic, it took a back seat.  Until my birthday earlier this year when one of my students gave me The Five Minute Journal.  Sitting down to do this every day has actually had a positive impact on me.  Use journaling as a means to think through things, vent, gain clarity.  Write about whatever comes to your mind, even if its just a re-cap of your day.  It feels great to be able to express yourself in a forum where you won’t be judged, where there is no right or wrong.  Sometimes seeing your thoughts and feelings physically in front of you is just what you need to feel better.
  3. Affirmations.  I would actually club this under the umbrella of meditative practices.  Write a few statements (on your phone works just fine) and go back to them often throughout the day.  Statements should be positive such as ‘Everything happens for the best.’  Reading such statements often to yourself can change destructive deep seated thought patterns that you may be unconsciously holding on to.  Repeating positive affirmations to yourself is a simple way to re-boot your mind set.

These are a few of my go-to tools to stay centred when everything around me is off balance.  Like yoga, these tools will take some time and effort to work their magic.  But once they do, you’ll have a healthy mind in a healthy body.

 

Food Yoga

Those Sneaky Sniffles

November 24, 2017

Towards the end of the year Bangalore is deliciously foggy and cold(ish).  Suddenly the filter coffee tastes better, and the post yoga breakfasts with the steaming sambhar are to die for.  Everyone is motivated to fit into a little black dress and the energy is at an all time high.  But this is also the time when many miss classes because of the common cold, sore throat or fever.

It finally happened to me too.  The other night I got my yearly cold.  My eyes watered, my nostrils got sensitive to the smallest speck of dust and I started sneezing up a storm.  Regardless of how much I try and keep my immunity up, towards the end of the year the Sneaky Sniffles manage to get to me.

But since it’s an yearly affliction, I know what to do.

  1. Ginger.  I drink ginger infused water in earnest.  Water infused with herbs is a great, easy and cheap way to detox your system.  During the winters I stick to warm water with ginger.  I find all the other spices too ‘cold’ for my constitution.  If I’m out of ginger (as busy girls with no time to stick their noses into the fridge are wont to be), I just stick to warm water.
  2. My special tea.  I’m actually a filter coffee person.  But when my immunity is compromised I turn to my trusted organic black tea.  I brew all the spices I have with a vengeance.  Some of these spices are: cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and ajwain (curcumin seeds).  I’m not a big fan of honey, but I found one forgotten jar in the back of my cabinet.  Honey is high in calories but feels great on a throat that feels like it’s lined with asphalt.  I throw in a few tea leaves as well.  Many ask which tea I use.  I like to think I bring home only the rare and the fine.  Currently I use the Korakundah Black Tea (100% Organic, single estate).
  3. Brandy with hot water.  Most  people don’t believe me when I tell them my parents used brandy as a tonic for my sisters and me.  Instead of using chemical laden concoctions, they gave us a tiny dose of liquor and it worked like magic.  We slept well and woke up healthy.  This was also my weekly staple up in the hills.  The chilly evenings are better with a soothing glass of hot brandy between your hands.  Sometimes I spoon some honey into my glass, but usually the calorie count deters me.  The other night I broke into my liquor cabinet and found bottles of whisky, but no brandy!  There was an open bottle of Old Monk.  Good enough, I thought as I fixed myself a glass of rum with hot water.  And it worked the magic of my childhood.
  4. Spicy food!  This is the time to have that really spicy curry/dal/sambhar.  I know chicken soup is the usual.  But not for me such remedies of the commoners!  I add lots of ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilli, hing (asafatoeda) to whatever is cooking and viola! you have an awesome cure for the common cold.  Like they say, let food be thy medicine.
  5. Jal Neti.  When the sniffles come, nothing flushes away the irritants better than warm water with rock salt.  If you’re not doing Jal Neti, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Do yourself a favour and drain those sinuses.  You’ll end up preventing wrinkles too in the process.
  6. Sleep.  I broke into my liquor cabinet, brewed the different decoctions, imbibed everything … all by 8 pm.  I didn’t have the mind space to read or watch something.  All I wanted to do was snuggle under my warm blanket and wake up to a clear tomorrow.

…. and wake up to a clear tomorrow I did.  The hour was deliciously early.  Not even the birds were stirring.  I brewed another cup of tea, and rolled out my mat.  And all was well with the world again.

 

Yoga

Three Surprising Facts About Pune

November 17, 2017

At the Aga Khan palace, on a day we were free.

By Pune I mean the Ramamani Memorial Iyengar Yoga Institute (RIMYI).  For Iyengar practitioners ‘Pune’ is synonymous with ‘RIMYI’.  After studying for five years under my primary teacher here in Bangalore, I started going to Pune last year.  I’ve written about my time in Pune in previous blogs.  This blog is about the little known and surprising aspects of the RIMYI experience.

  1. RIMYI is the most famous institute for Iyengar yoga on the planet.  It is the epicentre of all Iyengar yoga related activities in the world.  There is a wait list to attend classes at the institute, and you may have to wait for up to a year or more to get a spot.  To even apply for a spot you need to be studying Iyengar yoga for at least 5 years under a certified teacher.  We reserve our seats and accommodation many months in advance.  Sometimes years in advance.
  2. Everyone cries.  Yes, RIMYI has a lot of grownups in tears.  Teachers at the institute aren’t known to mince their words or to bother about the political correctness of their words.  The experience can be intense and nerve wracking.  What’s interesting is that despite quaking with fear, dread and nervousness on our mats, we still return year after year!  I’ve broken down countless times.  The experience can be very cathartic and just goes to show that the path of yoga takes your blood, sweat and tears.
  3. Teachers hit you.  While we’re not being shoved into doors and walls, a sharp slap on the quads or the back of the knees to take our awareness to our ‘sleeping’ body parts is routine.  I’ve had teachers slap my quads, the back of my knees, the sides of my thighs…even had my toes flicked painfully because, ironically, they weren’t relaxed enough.  We joke that ‘BKS’ Iyengar stands for ‘Beat Kick Slap’ Iyengar!

So you see, studying at the best yoga school in the world is not a blissful-gentle-stretching-meditating-all-day experience.  It’s actually a tremendous achievement to make it through and back again the next year!

At the Osho Gardens. I had Dengue during this time!

Sundays looked like this. A joke we will never forget!

Weekends at a farm, amidst nature, never get old.

Travel Yoga

Why Do We Run/Practice Yoga?

November 7, 2017

Over the weekends while everyone is asleep in their cosy beds, a few of us stumble out of bed at 5 am.  To meet and run.  Why do we run?

Before my fitness journey running wasn’t even in the charts for me.  Walking really fast would have me out of breath.  I started with running for 15 minutes on the treadmill and increased my time to 30 minutes.  Eventually I started working on distance.  After a while I quit the gym and took to the streets.

I’m not a great runner.  I don’t have special gear.  In fact, I frequently run in my yoga pants.

When I did a 5km in Srirangapatnam and felt proud of it, my sister did the 21 km in Hyderabad.  Why does my sister run?

I think I run for the same reason I practice yoga.  To do more and to be better.  When I run or practice yoga I know I won’t be better the next minute.  Or even the next day or the day after next.  But I know that soon I will be able to bend just that bit more and run just that bit faster.

We run, or practice yoga or lift weights because we have faith in our ability to be more than what we are now.  We have faith in our ability to do more than what we do now.  There is no upper limit for our endeavours.  We run because we believe in our  infinite potential as human beings.

“The obsession for running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”

Below are a few images from yesterday.  This was our third run with the Go Heritage Run initiative.

 

 

Yoga

How to Manage Your Fears and Face Them Head On

November 2, 2017

When I needed a wall behind me for the Sirsasana.

Halloween got me thinking about fear.  As a society we value fearlessness.  As people we take pride in saying, “I’m fearless.”

But I’ve never met anyone who is fearless.  Some fear pain, some fear solitude, some fear poverty, some fear for the safety of their near and dear ones, aging.  Over the years I’ve heard of the fear of pigeons, fear of sprouts, fear of going bald.

A strategy that used to work for me was to avoid the cause of my fear.  But, it turns out, there are some fears you can’t avoid.

When I was ill I wasn’t able to practice for what felt like a very long time.  My teacher once told us that if you don’t practice for a day, it’s equivalent to putting your practice back by seven whole days.  As each day passed, I thought of all I learned in Pune.  With so much time on my hands I became increasingly anxious, nervous and fearful.

In the path of Yoga there are inevitable roadblocks and problems.  But Yoga is a holistic practice so the solution also lies in the practice.  The first limb of the Ashtanga (8 Limb) yoga practice is Yama.  The Yamas are  set of 5 ethical principles that practitioners must adhere to.  One of the Yamas is aparigraha or ‘non-attachment’.  As yogis we become too attached to the practice.  Some of us feel guilty if we are unable to practice.  Others push themselves too hard.  Some pride themselves on the asanas that they can do.  We stop enjoying the journey, we focus only on the destination.  And in the process become attached to the destination.

I am very attached to my asana practice. I spend a lot of time trying variations, reading, watching and experimenting.  When I can finally do an asana I feel a sense of accomplishment.  There is nothing wrong with feeling good about finally attaining something that you’ve worked hard for.  But if you beat yourself for not attaining the final asana despite a rigorous practice; or start to lose faith in the path because your goal seems far, far away; then you need to take a fresh look at your attitude and approach.

I was fearful of discovering the state of my yoga practice post illness. If you’ve read this blog, then you know that I was significantly weakened by the illness.  Waking up every day to practice felt like an exercise in futility.  It was scary to try asanas and not know if I would be able to do them.  Asanas which I ‘owned’ before.  But I guess by force of habit I kept on returning every morning…to fail.  Until one day I started improving.

And that’s when I realized that fear can’t be ignored.  You can’t not think about the object of your fears.  It doesn’t help to face fear head on.  Fear can only be managed, one day at a time.  You don’t have to look at the entire marathon, you need to look at the Majaa run first.  You don’t have to dwell on whether you’re going to get the job, you only need to work on giving the best interview ever.  You don’t have to worry about the Sirsasana (Headstand), you just have to work on doing a very good Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Dog).

BKS Iyengar once told Patricia Walden (who was struggling with a heavy case of depression) to ‘Take one step no matter how small.’  I realize this is what I have been doing ever since I’ve gotten back on the mat.

Do you have a strategy to deal with fear?