Monthly Archives

December 2019

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Lifestyle Yoga

Tight Hips & Deep-Seated Insecurities: A Connection

December 14, 2019

The Anjaneyasana helps in releasing deep-seated fears, insecurities and trauma. Which is the reason it can be an uncomfortable posture for many practitioners.

 

Most of my students have super tight hips.  This often lead to back pain (another thing just about everyone has) and knee/ankle pain.  Common causes for tight hips are a sedentary lifestyle, seated jobs, bad posture, wrong shoes etc.

The Anjaneyasana is one of the most effective asanas to combat these problems.  In gym/fitness class parlance it is also called the low lunge pose.  When done correctly this posture helps to loosen up tight glutes and hamstrings.  It also provides a gentle stretch to the psoas and the hip joint.  You can also use props such as bolsters, blocks and chairs to enhance the benefits of the posture.

If you’re following me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that in the past few years my interest has gradually turned towards the internal benefits of a regular asana practice. The fact that yoga helps is no longer debatable.  Now we are trying to study the impact yogasanas have on your mental makeup.

The Connection to Deep-Seated Emotions

The Anjaneyasana brings deep-seated fears, traumas and insecurities to the fore, making the practitioner uncomfortable.  This is because when we are in the low-lunge we are actively stimulating the muladhaara chakra which is located at the base of the spine.  This chakra is connected to our sense of survival, security and independence.  When this is threatened, the resulting emotional upheaval is stored in the hip area.

For detailed step-by-step instructions for this asana, refer to my book Beyond Asanas.  It is available for Kindle too!  The book has beautiful photographs done by Joel Koechlin and an insightful foreword by Kalki Koechlin.

 

Lift the torso so that the spine is perpendicular to the floor.

 

Finally lift the arms up and explore your limits through deep inhalations and sinking further into the pelvis.

For more effective yogasanas for back pain check out this blog from my archives.  I’ve illustrated several asanas with detailed descriptions too.

Books Lifestyle

The Reading Life (#readingwithmuffy)

December 12, 2019

I wish this bookshelf was mine, but alas! It sits at the Penguin office in Delhi. Every time I visit, I get to pick books from it for my personal reading.  My own kid in a candy store moment.

 

I’m always behind on my reading.  At any given point in time I’m reading (at least) three books.  I read on my Kindle, on my Kindle app on the phone and on the Juggernaut app.  Along with these I have random pdfs on my laptop.  Also – my bookshelves are overflowing with books ‘I will read next’.  Always so much to read and so little time.

A few weeks ago in a moment I was feeling particularly ambitious, I announced to a close friend that I wouldn’t buy any books in 2020.  Instead I’m going dive deep into my bookshelves.  I’ll make it a point to read books that I own and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.  One book a month.  Once I’ve read it, I’ll decide whether to keep it or donate it to Blossoms.  This should lighten my TBR pile, and ensure that I actually read and don’t just hoard books.  I’m also going to look at this as being a way to sift and sort through the thousands of books I’ve accumulated over the years.

I also love a good reading challenge.  I feel it adds more depth and variety to my reading.  While I love gravitas of something like ‘A Small Town Sea‘, I also relish the light and airy world of Regency Romances replete with the dukes and their unwilling mistresses!  So when a fellow blogger (Shalini of Kohl Eyed Me) floated the #readingwithmuffy challenge in a group we’re both a part of, I thought it would be a great way to expand my reading horizons.  Plus there’s a prize at the end of it!  Which bookworm doesn’t want a prize to read?  Below is the challenge.  If you can recommend any books for the various categories – please do!  I’m always on the lookout for interesting recommendations.

 

Beyond Asanas: The Asanas Yoga

Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Dog

December 11, 2019

I was talking about pets the other day with some of my friends.  One of them has recently adopted a dog and the other one is also planning on getting one.  All of us know a dog lover or two.  All of us know a downward dog lover or two too (#yogahumor)!

In ‘Beyond Asanas‘ the first chapter is about the downward dog pose.  When researching this  posture I looked at dog-lore from different cultures.  My goal was also to unearth dog-related stories in our mythology.  And sure enough – I found a few stories – two of which have made it into this chapter.  In one story a dog helps Lord Indra and in another story a dog is granted admission into heaven after the battle of Kurukshetra.

The Downward Dog is a challenging posture.  The most common challenge I see with students is the inability to lengthen the spine.  Many beginners are in a hurry to place the heels on the floor, and this compromises the form of the lower back.

How To:

  1. Place your hands and knees on the floor, shoulder and hip width apart.
  2. Spread your fingers wide on the mat and press the hands down firmly.
  3. Start to straighten your legs.
  4. Lift and extend your tailbone up and out.
  5. Extend the torso by extending the spine.
  6. Lengthen the back of the legs as you push the heels into the floor.
  7. Relax the neck, face and shoulders.

It’s a good idea to start in Vajrasana because your legs are together – which is how you want them to be in the final posture too.

 

In this position position you need to make sure that your wrists are right under should shoulders. And here you can also separate your legs about hip width distance, making sure that the ankles and knees are in one line.

 

Notice the length in the spine. Things you must watch out for: allowing the shoulders to sag down close to the ears, a curve in the thoracic and lumbar spine, and bent knees. Watch this video to learn how to correct these alignment issues.

You can use props such as a wall, blocks and a rope to help you in aligning the posture.  I’ve written a few helpful hits about how to improve this posture in ‘Beyond Asanas: The Myths and Legends Behind Yogic Postures’.  Those of you who follow me on YouTube may remember this video I made in 2016.  It’s a great video for beginners, because of the detailed explanation of how to get into the posture.  Do check it out –  it will surely help.

I’ve listed out at least 10 benefits of this asana in the book.  However, there are contraindications as well, and those have also been described in ‘Beyond Asanas’.  Pick up your copy today.

I’ve never had a dog, but I’m not impervious to their charms.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve met Aston. He makes my time in Pune a little more fun, a little less lonely.

[Credits
Makeup: @makeupbyhennaanbaree
Photos: @khan.clicks deavalin_david_dsouza]

 

Books Lifestyle Yoga

The Last Month of the Decade…

December 9, 2019

After a long and dusty ride, I’m finally back in Bangalore.

It was a wonderful 8 days at SVYASA.  Yesterday I graduated to taking the vital statistics of a few patients and gave them health advice.  I also corrected postures during the asana classes.  During my free time I managed to study for the upcoming semester exams.  So all in all I had a good time.

December is always an interesting month for me.  Possibilities are in the air, there’s bonhomie, everyone wants to do something ‘before the year ends.’  For me it’s a time for lovely morning runs through the fog around the lake, cozy practice sessions in my living room, and meeting up with friends in warm cafes.  I actually take out warm socks (yes even in Bangalore!) and spend hours catching up on reading.  I make a point of reading ‘A Christmas Carol’ and watching it too!  Many Decembers ago I read Nora Robert’s ‘In the Garden‘ Trilogy and my December felt divine.

More to come in the following days about how I’m ending the year.  Bear with me, and do check-in every once in a while.  Meanwhile, I leave you with a clip of a little bird that was trying to get into my hostel room at SVYASA.  A friend told me it’s a barbet.  Another told me it is attracted to it’s reflection on the mirror – it’s mating season and it wants to mate!

 

Trying to flirt with it’s own reflection! #birdbrain

 

 

#angrybird

blog Poetry

If I Could Give One Gift

December 7, 2019

If I could give one gift…

It would be keys

to a girl.

For her to drive

her own destiny.

Because ladki hai, yeh lakdiyon ke kaam nahin hain                                             

aakhir hai to ladki

even as she pays for your so(i)ns

with smothered thoughts and burnt limbs

and your boys who will always be (your) boys

and so shall inherit your earth

and now

our girls are coming home no more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[WORDS DO MATTER! This post is written for the 3rd edition of #WordsMatter linkup hosted by Corinne, Parul and Shalini. The prompt for this edition of #WordsMatter linkup is ‘If I Could Give/Receive One Gift’]

I received this tag from Nikita Dudani from Aakruti Tarot and Reiki Center. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Anjana at Myriad Musings. There are 25 of us on this Blog Hop and it is spread over 3 days – 6, 7, 8 December 2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop, you’ll love our musings!

Lifestyle Yoga

Do You Need a Change? – Day 8

December 6, 2019

New patients come to SVYASA on Fridays. When I arrived last Friday I didn’t get a chance to see the in-patient process as I was registering myself as an intern. Today I saw patients coming in and consulting with the doctors. Doctors then refer them to the appropriate department where their vital statistics are taken and files created for each patient. The hospital at SVYASA doesn’t have your typical hospital feel. At any given time you have interns from other institutes and around the world and resident college students observing the processes and method of treatment. The mood is light and happy instead of somber and grievous.

It was interesting to observe the behavior of new patients today. Most described themselves as ‘no problems, just a little acidity all the time’ or ‘nothing as such, just from time to time some depression’ and ‘i have no issues as such, just a little bit of weight problem is there’…and so on and so forth. In a way there is lots of optimism, but somewhere I wonder, is there also denial? If you don’t truly believe that you need a change, regarding your health or anything else in life, will you put 100% into making that change? The only time I’ve been able to bring about change is when I’ve accepted that I need or want a change more than I want the status quo. It’s important to face your issues head on, rather than trivializing them.

Also tonight is my last night here! I can’t believe it’s been one week already and I’m really looking forward to getting back home, to my classes and daily practice.  I still remember Day 1.

In other news – my Liguria yoga retreat is on track and we’re excited to announce that seats are filling up fast! Below is a snapshot of what happened in the last retreat. The next one is going to be bigger and better.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

A Pranayama Sequence – Day 7

December 5, 2019

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the Ashtanga system of yoga. The other limbs are (in sequence):
1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyahara
6. Dhyana
7. Dharana
8. Samadhi

Most scholars believe that this is a sequence and practitioners have to gain a certain level of mastery in one to go to the next one. Which is why in many schools of yoga, pranayama is only taught after many years of intense asana practice. For instance, beginners in of Iyengar yoga don’t practice pranayama. In 2017 I experienced a pranayama class at RIMYI and wrote about it here.

However, some schools of yoga believe that these are limbs and not steps. They believe that it is therefore possible to practice several of the limbs at the same time. At SVYASA pranayama is taught to all patients, regardless of fitness levels and health conditions. Also, some pranayama is included in the asana classes and trataka (candlelight gazing) medition sessions.

I’ve been attending pranayama class every day here and although I don’t practice pranayama in my personal practice (yet), those readers who are interested are welcome to follow the below sequence. This sequence has been designed by SVYASA after extensive research.

Opening Prayer

1. Kapalabhati
20 strokes
40 strokes

Mudra: chin mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

2. Sectional breathing
Abdominal breathing 5x
Mudra: chin mudra
Thoracic breathing 5x
Mudra: chinmaya mudra
Clavicle breathing 5x
Mudra: adi mudra
Yogic breathing 5x
Mudra: brahma mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

3. Nadi Shuddi aka anulom-vilom pranayama 10x
Mudra: chin mudra with the left hand, nasika mudra with the right hand

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

4. Brahmari pranayama using the N-kara
Mudra: chin mudra or shanmukhi mudra

Cooling pranayama practices

5. Shitali pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

6. Sitkari pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

7. Sadanta pranayama

Mudra: chin mudra

8. Nada anusadana
A-kara 3x
U-kara 3x
M-kara 3x

Closing prayer.

I’m missing practicing in my own space. This is from a practice session a few weeks ago. Although I’ve learned a lot here, I’m itching to head back home and resume asana practice.

Food Lifestyle Yoga

An Ayurvedic Therapist’s Secrets to a Healthy Life – Day 6

December 4, 2019

Meditating (or pretending to) somewhere in the hills of Kotagiri. How I long to be back there meditating and breathing the fresh air. pc: Animesh Jain

Today I was posted to perhaps the most interesting department. The Gastroenterology department.

And I’ve finally made a friend!!! She’s doing a BSc. here and is also employed as an Ayurvedic therapist. So she studies and works at SVYASA. She’s become my one stop shop for any queries, and it’s nice to have a friend who knows her way around!

Since the full time therapists are always too busy to answer my questions (and there are always so many questions), I usually end up discussing my queries with Aishwarya. I usually observe silently as patients describe their symptoms to the doctors. The doctors make notes in the files.

Later I pick Aishwarya’s brain.

The symptoms that most patients report are things like bloating and indigestion. If ignored or left untreated these can lead to more serious issues such as chronic constipation, IBS and ulcers. At SVYASA the first line of treatment is to put these patients on an Ayurvedic diet and have them attend various yoga and meditation sessions.

“But do you think the answer to a medical problem so prevalent is as simple as changing the diet and moving a bit more?” I asked her.

Apparently it is. Patients who come in with even severe cases of gastritis report a marked improvement after just a week on the SVYASA routine. Here their food and meal times are regulated. Although the quantity of food can’t be controlled but what the patients (and us) eat is very very simple. It is basically rice, roti, dal, a sabji and buttermilk. Not once has the food been too spicy or too salty. There’s never dessert. Fruit isn’t on the menu and in the evenings they serve a dairy-based malt instead of coffee/tea. We end up eating at the same time every day, which promotes healthy digestion.

We exchanged some personal anecdotes as well. She told me about how she was overweight before she came to SVYASA and her diet underwent a sea-change during the time she’s been here (the last 2 years). I described my weight-loss journey as well and how it was a solid asana practice and a supremely controlled diet that helped me. Aishwarya’s diet is similar to an Ayurvedic diet. Below are a few of the guidelines she follows:
. no sugar
. no milk
. no coffee or tea
. no refined flour, refined rice, refined oil

I didn’t ask her about alcohol but I’m sure that’s also a no. Also, she feels that the food served in the mess isn’t wholesome and so she also makes a malt for herself every once in a while. It’s a powder containing multi grains which she mixes with water and jaggery. Served hot.

Along with what we eat it’s important to eat at the same time every day. It builds regularity in digestion. Erratic meal timings lead to erratic digestion. Erratic digestion gives rise to every single condition treated in the Gastroenterology ward.

Sleep and stress are two factors that simply can’t be overlooked when it comes to digestion. Insufficient or disturbed sleep interferes with the secretion of digestive enzymes which is why you feel sluggish when you’re sleep deprived. It’s the same story with stress. Chronic stress inhibits the secretion of digestive enzymes. Chronic stress will also interfere with the secretion of melatonin, which will in turn lead to sleeplessness, which will cause digestive disorders…and the viscous cycle continues.

The only way to break this cycle is to wake up one day and commit to living better, one decision at a time.

Lifestyle Yoga

Learning New Cleansing Techniques (LSP) – Day 5

December 3, 2019

Yesterday was my first day at the Department for Metabolic Disorders. The person in charge was short, squat and had a very aggressive look to him. His name is Shan and I decided to stay clear out of his way.

Class was almost over. All yoga sessions here are similar. Today many supine and prone asanas were included in the routine because we were dealing with metabolic conditions. I was surreptitiously checking the time when all of a sudden I realized Shan was talking to me. “Do you know how to do DRT?” he asked me with an evil glint in his eye.

‘No…uh yes!’ I stammered.
‘Yes or no?’
“I know what DRT is and I’ve attended sessions also but I’ve never conducted it,” I told him, finally getting a hold of myself.
“Hmmm….meet me in my office after class.” He looked at the other intern pointedly, indicating that she was also expected.

“What course are you doing here,” he asked in his office.
“MSc,” I said. “But distance,” I added, hoping that was some sort of justification for not knowing the Deep Relaxation Technique, a meditation technique patented by SVYASA.

“OK, first – tomorrow you both will bring your mats,” he said. “You guys must also participate in the classes. Seeing you the patients feel motivated to move.”

“Yes sir,” we both said in unison.

“Also tomorrow we don’t have class, we have kriyas. You guys be there by 6 am and help the patients.”

I saw this as my chance to practice kiryas under supervision, and quickly seized it. “I can do jal neti, but sutra neti and vamana dhouti are really difficult for me.”

“Then I will teach you. Do you know LSP?”
“Heard of it but I’ve never done it. But I want to!”

I reached the kriya block with my neti kit and my nerves in a bundle. It had been years since I’d done the sutra neti and vamana dhouti. And I was hoping LSP – Laghu Shankh Prakshalana wasn’t going to leave me with the runs.

“Sir, this sutra isn’t going into my nose,” I said as I worked the rubber catheter into my nostril. But he kept encouraging me and eventually the catheter was in the back of my throat. In fact, this morning (because he threatened that he would do it himself) I was able to reach into my throat and pull out the other end of the catheter. This was the second time in my life that I was able to do this.

Vamana Dhouti

 

Sutra neti. I wish I had images of me doing the kriyas, but I was so busy doing them that I forgot to document them!

During vamana dhouti he told me about the importance and relevance of cleansing practices. “If you’re a regular practitioner you should do this once a week. Your asanas will improve. These practices are important.” I tried to re-gurgitate the water without resorting to pushing my fingers down my throat. In the end, it was my fingers that did the trick.

LSP is a technique to clear the entire digestive system. I drank 4 glasses of salt water and then did the basic stretching exercises. Then drank another 4 glasses and did them again. By the time I was back in my room I was ready to exploded in the thunderbox. It took a long long time. The water makes it way through the entire digestive system, bringing along toxins. You know your digestive system is clean when the water coming out of you is clear. As he said, “The water should look like your urine. If it doesn’t you have to go again.” It took me all of one hour, but I’m happy to report that my first time at LSP was good. I’m going to continue doing this practice at home too.

As I got the final sign-off from him, I noticed that his smile didn’t look evil or intimidating anymore. Note to self: the greatest lessons sometimes come from the most unexpected sources.

Lifestyle Yoga

Who Was Swamy Vivekananda? – Day 4

December 2, 2019

 

Swamy Vivekananda is arguably one of the most popular spiritual leaders of India. He was born on Jan 12, 1863 to wealthy parents. He was christened Narendranath. Born to priviledge he was also well educated and had a liberal upbriging. As a young adult the question of God and the Supreme Being fascinated him, and he tried finding answers to his spritual crisis with reason and logic. The quest for an answer took him to many religious teachers and masters. He finally found what he was looking for in Sri Ramakrishna, another prominent spiritual master at the time. This resulted in a deep spiritual bond and Narendranath became Swamy Vivekananda.

In 1893 Swamy Vivekananda represented India in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. His lecture was about India, Hinduism and Sri Ramakrishna’s philosophies. His speech drew a lot of interest and he spent the next two and half years in America, and eventually established the Vedanta Society of New York.

Despite a deep respect and love for Hinduism, Swamy Vivekananda thought of his countrymen first which is why he is considered to be an early nationalist.

This institute is named after him because he represents a scientific approach to Indian culture. SVYASA endeavors to explain the expansiveness of Indian culture and attempts to cultivate a love for the country among the students. For this reason we have bhajan classes and talks, students learn desh-bhakti songs as well, the national anthem and the national song are a daily affair and discourses are held on important lessons from the Gita. I know it sounds a lot, and maybe a tad bit too Hindutva for many of you. But…it’s not that bad!