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The Nature of Inspiration

October 11, 2021

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, eons ago, experimenting with new photography techniques.

I spent all day yesterday reading ‘The Exorcist’, and looking ruefully at what I intend to be the first draft my next book.  This book has a silent, sullen, intractable quality, the kind only books-that-are-yet-to-be-written and mouth ulcers have. Try as I might, I couldn’t will myself to continue my research or even just refine the chapter outline.

What is the nature of inspiration?  How are some of us inspired to bound out of bed and write blogs and books, start new business ventures, work out and even plan events?

I realise now that inspiration doesn’t choose to randomly inhabit the persons of the chosen few whilst denying itself to others.  Inspiration, instead, comes to those who are willing to create an atmosphere for it to thrive.  Much like providing a safe and healthy environment for children, pets or plants to grow in, inspiration also needs a certain fecundity of environment.  Innocuous social media trends, consumerist mouse clicks, ‘news’ in 280 characters or less….all these are inspiration vampires.  Reading a real newspaper, or even an entire book (whole and unabridged!), a Bharatnatyam or pottery class or even going on a trip with your friends can kneed the cool balm of inspiration on our frazzled minds and insipid lives.

In speaking to many people my age, I realise that the biggest inspiration sponge is a strange, inexplicable fixation on who we think we are and what we think we like.  A definition of us, if you will, and one that is cast in stone.  So whether its refusal to simply experiment with a new fashion trend, a new genre or even just a different color, the quickest way to kill creativity (excuse the alliteration) is to sigh with pleasure in our comfort zones.  The sigh that stifled a million brea(d)ths of experience.

So I wonder then, perhaps spending all day reading wasn’t really a waste of time?  It might have instead refuelled my inspiration reserves so that I can now look at my research from a different angle, get rid of the blinkers that build up even as we’re looking at the same word, closet, living room and city for the umpteenth time.

 

 

Lifestyle

What About the Healing?

May 20, 2021

I took a class the other day for a student who zooms in from Singapore. Just as we were about to start class she got a WhatsApp message. She (uncharacteristically) excused herself and checked it. Looking up she said, “My mom’s brother just passed away.”

I’m not sure what the ‘right’ reaction to this news is given the circumstances. The night before I heard that two of my husband’s friends have lost their mothers. During dinner my in-laws told us of a family friend, a doctor, who also succumbed. The week before that I got news that a family friend whom we’ve known since our days in Bangladesh, passed away in the hospital. Friends and well-wishers tried to frantically get in touch with her son. But in these times, the tone and timbre of our grieving has also changed. We are all going through collective trauma, ironically in isolation.

So I asked her if she wanted to take some time, call someone, perhaps even postpone the class. We ended up continuing with the class.

I woke up this morning feeling like I need a week off to clear my head. It’s perhaps a symptom of being under long term stress. We managed the first lock down by going online, catching up with friends over wine on zoom, baking banana bread and having it with dalgona coffee. This second wave has brought with it tragic news on a daily basis. So tragic in fact that we no longer check the news for numbers. So tragic that most of us have actively started to do whatever we can to help – donating, amplifying voices on social media, and even just staying in and balancing our chores with work.

Stress over a sustained period of time starts to change people. What we are living through is not only stress, but also trauma. No wonder many of us have started complaining about fatigue and a sense of disconnect from our surroundings. We feel like we’re on auto-mode, robotically marking the beginning and end of days; the beginning and end of weeks. Half of 2021 will be over next month, and many of us can’t tell the difference between this year and the last.

I’ve bought bed-sheets, new flip flops, changed the arrangement of my yoga room, joined a yoga sutras chanting class, even set up WhatsApp for Business and included that on my Facebook page. Only to realize that these aren’t the changes I need.

Resilience is a way of coping with trauma, and many of us continue to be brave. What about the healing from this trauma? Psychotherapist and counselor Simi Mathew says sometimes just hanging in there and going through the trauma is also a healing process. “But the actual healing,” she says, “which is about letting go and healing the actual scar, that happens when we are aware of it and we actively seek help for it.”

Perhaps even as we trudge through another meeting; as we look wistfully at the beautiful weather in Bangalore these days; as we stay up late doom-scrolling and wake up groggy; even then our healing is happening.

Scenes from our Liguria Yoga Retreat two years ago. Soon we shall all emerge from this time, ready to move, dine and practice together again.

Blog Lifestyle Yoga

A Note of Thanks

April 29, 2021

We’re living in unprecedented times right now.  None of us actually thought we would end up in a situation where the roads in our overcrowded cities would be painfully empty again.  In March 2020 I looked out at the busy junction outside my apartment and tried to digest the surrealness of it all.  A year later I live in an apartment that doesn’t face a loud busy road but wonderful neem and bougainvillea trees.  If I crane my neck just so I get a peek at Ulsoor Road.  These days I find myself craning my neck a bit too often, incredulous that today things are so much worse than a year ago.

At this moment my work gives me lots of solace, and I am grateful for that.  I realize few people can claim that, and that makes me more grateful for the choices and decisions I’ve made.

My first online class during the pandemic was in March last year.  It was a forty minute call because Zoom only allows forty minutes for free users.  It was a mix of my private and group students.  I am grateful I had an old MacBook that I could use because my Lenovo has a malfunctioning camera (I am looking to replace said Lenovo).  I am grateful that my living room at the time was rectangular and clean, which made it easy to position the laptop at an optimum angle for teaching.  I am grateful to those students who gave it a go.  That support has kept me going financially, emotionally, intellectually and also spiritually.  At a time when many yoga teachers were turning up their noses at teaching online, I was able to jump on the bandwagon fairly quickly because of the acceptance and encouragement I received.  None of us knew this would become a way of life, and in retrospect most of us are thankful that we went online sooner than later.

I’m thankful also to all those teachers who collaborated with me, bridged boundaries to connect, learn and grow virtually.  Our sangha or community has grown in ways we never thought possible.

We are in the middle of one of the greatest challenges we have faced as a country, and I can only hope that things get back to normal soon.  But until then, we must keep doing what we can, with the song of gratitude in our hearts.

From two years ago at Rainbow falls in Nagaland. Happy, carefree and amidst nature.

 

Lifestyle

39th Birthday Musings

March 1, 2021

Happy girls are the prettiest.

Bangalore has certainly been unusually cold these days and my days have been super hectic.  So hectic in fact, that I didn’t even consider taking a day off for my birthday.  But egged on by Medha and enticed by vegan pizza, I made my way to a cute bistro in Indiranagar for a huge meal and hearty laughter.

As we tucked into some fresh, delicious pizza we discussed my upcoming nuptials.  I thought with a certain irony about how last year this time I was thinking about a retreat in Rishikesh and this year I’m headed to the same region but for a different kind of life altering  experience.

Last year was a test.  It tested the range of our creativity, resilience, compassion, strength, our reason, commitment, persistence, our unity, cooperation, our fears and also our ability to wait and watch.  For me it was a time to let my practice guide me.  How could I make teaching fun for me and for my students?  How was it possible to stay dedicated and fresh to the practice day in and day out without burning out.  Housekeeping chores are my least favorite and I started to look at cooking as a pause in the day and it helped break the overwhelm that infused those days.

Mask it up!

This year is off to an auspicious start.  New ideas and a new house to work on them.  New spouse and new adventures to go on.  A new outlook and loads of optimism to go along with it.

Below is a video I made to commemorate my 39th birthday.  It’s a demo of the first 39 asanas from Light on Yoga.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

Word of the Year (2021)

December 22, 2020

BLAZE

Social media is constantly trying to tell us that this year has been a terrible one.  This message has gotten louder specially now that the year is ending and we’re all making resolutions for the next year.  However, if you listen to the softer voices, you’ll realize that there is a parallel dialogue going on; one where this year hasn’t been the worst, but actually one of the best.

I remember last year vivdly for all the travel and good work it brought me.  Last year was defined by movement – to travel, to work, for leisure and for the soul.  This year was a stark contrast to last year.  The world was indoors, the skies cleared up, Netflix reduced it’s video resolution (for a while at least).

It was seemingly the perfect time to take up a new hobby, to read the TBR books, to clean the house and your friends’ list.  It’s no surprise most of us got none of this done, this year was unforgiving with its strangeness.  I thought I’d go through the pile of books accumulating on my bookshelf (and on most other surfaces in my apartment.  I also thought I’d write my magnum opus.  The piles continue to grow and the magnum opus is a dream.

But I’m also well rested, bubbling with ideas, still in love with yoga.  I have the energy to teach 7 consecultive classes and the enthusiasm to draw rough outlines for my magnum opus.  I write 3 journal pages a day and read a chapter every night before I sleep.  This year has given me an important pause.  Next year I’m ready to blaze on…

[You may also want to check out a similar reflections exercise I did last year.]

With gratitude…always.

Lifestyle Yoga

Staying With Your True North

December 19, 2020

I don’t remember exactly who sent me the Yearly Compass, but sometime around this time last year I got the free downloadable document on WhatsApp and promptly printed it out.  On a Saturday morning I sat with a friend in Cubbon Park and we spent a few hours filling the document, coming closer to my true north.  I did the same this year, in my living room with a friend.  As I started my yearly roundup and reflection, I started wondering what draws me to this activity year after year…

My Experience

There are many advantages of doing a yearly review, or reflections for the year.  Below are some of the benefits I have personally experienced.

  • Helps you be more mindful.  Regardless of how hard we try to be mindful daily, a year is a long time and we often lose track of the bigger picture.  When I look at my year in retrospect I can see where I went off track, and what caused me to alter my course.  These then become lessons for next year.
  • Helps you appreciate your achievements.  While doing the yearly review I was bummed that I didn’t have anything I could count as an achievement this year.  No second book, no endorsements, no big money making projects.  Then I started to look at the year a bit more closely and realized that I had also won a National Yoga Competition, scored really well on my exams and started a yoga calendar that everyone is loving.  Sometimes we get so lost in doing things that we forget to celebrate getting things done.  Journaling helps us to take a pause and a breath.
  • Self assessment/introspection.  There was a project I undertook at the beginning of the lockdown which I realize I should have never agreed to.  The vision wasn’t aligned to mine and had I said a firm no I would’ve saved a lot more time.  I learned that I have to trust in my true north and say no to whatever doesn’t make my heart sing.
  • Keeps you focused on the goals for next year.  I love this aspect of yearly reflection.  When I see my goals listed clearly before me I feel like I’m aligned to my true north.   On the other hand, it’s also good to assess your goals every once in a while and make sure these are actually the goals you want to work towards.
  • Gratitude.  If you have the attitude of gratitude, you can always see the silver linings.  The ability to see the stuff that you have going for you even in the darkest time is truly a gift.

Journaling is not fancy and doens’t require too much time.  Use this prompt to start your journaling practice:

You can download this prompt here.

There’s so much more I could say about how much journaling has helped me and how I consider it to be a mainstay of my spiritual practice.  Medha and I have created a yoga calendar for 2021 where journaling is an integral component.  Today we’re going live on Instagram to talk about how the Yearly Compass has helped us and how our spiritual practice has been impacted by our journaling.  Please join us.

I speak more about my journaling practice in this YouTube video.

Lifestyle

The Best-Laid Plans Of… (#MondayMusings)

December 15, 2020

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry…  

This sentence has fluttered in my mind every so often since March this year.

Not even the most ardent pessimist could have conjured the year we’ve had.  Back in February, I remember my boyfriend saying, “Something is spreading across the world – a highly contagious virus.  They’re saying it’s coming from China.”  I had just celebrated my birthday and was looking forward to an Iyengar yoga retreat in the mountains with Usha Devi.  Surely the virus wouldn’t come to India, and ofcourse, us yogis would be able to handle a little flu.

When We Lived Contagion

Within two days of the ‘something spreading across the world’ conversation, the Indian government started chartering special flights to bring Indian nationals home.  Overnight, quarantine facilities were put up in major cities.  The pull of the yoga retreat was too strong and I was willing to take the risk of contracting the virus to attend the workshop in Rishikesh.  I had been looking forward to it for months.

As it turned out, I ended up not going for the workshop and the next few months were all about online classes interspersed with cooking and cleaning.  As the months wore on plans got cancelled.  Birthdays, festivals, weddings were cancelled.  Court cases were on hold, exams were delayed, many remained separated from their loved ones.

Delayed Gratification/Denied Gratification

It all got me thinking about the tenuity of our lives.  We postpone plans with friends thinking we can catch up ‘some other time’; wait to tell those we love that we love them until the mood or the time is ‘just right’; plan to start yoga/gym until the kids’ exams finish; wait for time to magically present itself to indulge in our hobbies or passions…we wait and wait and for many of us the wait wears us down until there is no joy in the celebrations, the hobbies and our beloved doesn’t feel that zing anymore.

If this year has taught me anything it is that delayed gratification is sometimes denied gratification.  The time to act is now.  After all the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

 

As I wrote this post I was curious to see what my post last year this time was about, and it was such a pleasant walk down memory lane.

This is a post for Corinne’s (from EverydayGyan) prompt titled ‘What 2020 Has Taught Me’.  I also enjoyed Geethica’s post for the same prompt.

All in all, it’s been a great year, one which has brought a smile to my face despite the surreal strangeness of it all. Expect more amazing pictures on my blog from now on, specially since I now have my own personal photographer handy :).

 

 

Lifestyle

38 Things I’m Grateful For

December 7, 2020

A great way to do a roundup of the year is to think back on the year past.  And this year certainly forced us to think  a bit differently.

Without further ado – the 38 things I’m grateful for are:

  1. My work, interest and passion are the same.
  2. My strong immunity allowed me to overcome (what I think was) a bout with the dreaded Covid virus.
  3. Despite being a country teeming with people but low on resources, we came together to fight this pandemic beautifully.  The supermarkets were always well stocked, people were following social distancing protocols and we all felt supported by our people and our government.
  4. The pandemic gave rise to many an innovative solution!
  5. I missed attending a retreat and conducting one – but because we were all forced indoors, my practice and teaching grew by leaps and bounds.
  6. I was able to focus on my work with little distraction.
  7. Spent THREE weeks in Goa this year!!!
  8. While in lock down got to know my delightful neighbors and that made this year so much more bearable.
  9. The weekend parties and cookouts with my beautiful neighbors.  While many were cooped up in unhappy situations, we were living it up in our corner of the world.
  10. Saw quiet roads in a country which is teeming with people and traffic. I may never see this again.
  11. My friends and family are safe and sound.
  12. I have been able to build a life where I was safe in all ways during the pandemic, and could support those who depend upon me for their livelihoods.
  13. I read so much more during this pandemic (more than my Goodreads challenge).
  14. My creative juices were flowing!  There are so many new and exciting projects in the pipeline!
  15. I can cook and actually enjoy nourishing myself with food I whip up in my own kitchen!
  16. Won a National Yoga Championship, something I may never have been able to do if we weren’t in a pandemic.
  17. My Master’s studies weren’t hindered and I was able to stay on track with my exams and vivas.
  18. Made some long lasting friendships and bonds because of late night exam study sessions!
  19.  Completed an introductory Vedanta course (something I had always been curious about).
  20. I’ve owned a copy of the Bhagavad Gita for years, but this year I started studying it more deeply.
  21. I got to study with so many teachers who were inaccessible before, but available online now.  This helped me grow as a student and also gave me new perspective.
  22. I found many podcasts which are so incredibly interesting and also helped broaden my knowledge.
  23. I was a guest on a my dear friend Veganosaurus‘ podcast – my first time!
  24. My beautiful house was just the perfect for my online yoga sessions – the living room is big, clean, spacious and filled with natural light.
  25. I have a TV that hooks up to my laptop so that I can take online classes.  I’ve hardly ever used the TV, and now not a day goes by that I don’t use it!
  26. My boyfriend had an extra laptop (faster than mine) that I could use to conduct my classes.
  27. I saw a surge in students registering for my classes and it worked wonders in boosting my confidence as a teacher.
  28. Netflix and chill were the mainstays of my weekends.
  29. My latest tattoo is aesthetically and symbolically lovely!  A tattoo that even my tattoo artist said was special.
  30. I have proven to myself that I am self sufficient.
  31. The Artist’s Way kept me focused on slowing down and observing myself and my thoughts.
  32. I had a friend who did The Artist’s Way along with me and we paced each other well.
  33. I detoxed my bookshelves this year!  Analyse why you’re holding on to something and if that itself holds no good reason, then it’s easier to let go of things we thought we may never be able to let go of.
  34. The growth in my YouTube channel!
  35. Bought a beautiful bed that matches the rest of my furniture.
  36. Online shopping!!!
  37. My boyfriend proposed this year (exactly 2 days ago to be precise)!
  38. The love of my life and I finally decided THIS is it.

On the 20th floor of the Conrad Hotel, Bengaluru, looking at my city and my life with a new perspective.

 

I’m linking this blog to Corrine’s Gratitude list and also to Sunita’s Gratitude List.

Lifestyle Yoga

What Are Restorative Asanas?

June 23, 2020

In the last two weeks I’ve had two requests for a restorative class.  Seems like an interest in restorative asanas is building up. In view of the times we are living in, I’m not entirely surprised by the request.  However, I do feel that the requests were fueled more by the idea that restorative postures are for when you’re unable to do your regular workout, instead of a useful addition to the routine.

It’s a common mistake to equate ‘restorative’ yoga with ‘too easy for me’ yoga.  Many people consider restorative yoga classes to be ‘slow’, ‘easy’ and ‘for the old and injured’.

It is incorrect to think that a restorative yoga class is an easy yoga class that is somehow less than a vigorous sweat sesh.

What Are Restorative Asanas?

Restorative asanas ‘restore’ your body.  Restore it’s energy, vitality and good health.  Classes are slower, with longer holds for asanas.  Students are encouraged to use props and to always rest the forehead.  When you rest the forehead, your nervous system immediately relaxes.  In fact, I’ve taken my students through an entire class designed to show the difference between supported and unsupported asanas.  Watch it here.

The asanas in a restorative class are a subset of the ones in your regular yoga class.  But these are asanas focused more on forward bending and gentle twists and backbends (all with the support of props).  Below are examples of a few asanas that you may encounter in a restorative class.

 

Supta Badhakonasana. I love beginning a restorative class with this posture.

 

A restful janu sirsasana. Restorative asanas focus on relaxing the mind, by resting the head.

 

Dwi pada viparita dandasana. This posture is very intense, but this variation can be done even while you’re menstruating (as I was when this picture was taken).

 

A supported sarvangasana – a posture that should be done daily, but is not accessible to all. The props make it easier and more restful.

 

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

  • Provides relief from anxiety and stress.  Holding asanas for longer helps in releasing deep seated tightness.
  • Great for when you’re menstruating!  Even on your first day!
  • Promotes better sleep.
  • Helps the body to heal.  When your nervous system is rested it starts to work optimally, providing a boost to the healing systems of the body.
  • Improves immunity.  A stressed mind impairs the body’s ability to produce immunity-boosting cells, leaving the body prone to infection.
  • Lowers blood pressure (by promoting relaxation).
  • Relief from a busy mind and fast thoughts.

What’s interesting is that though a restorative class is slower than other forms of yoga, it doesn’t mean that a flexible and bendy practitioner who is ‘good’ at yoga will be ‘good’ at restorative yoga too.  In fact, I’ve seen very flexible and seemingly energetic students find it difficult to ‘rest’ and ‘do nothing’.  After all, in such a busy and complicated life, stillness is elusive and to sit and simmer with it all is more elusive still.

Have you ever practiced restorative asanas?  Do you find value in adding an element of restorative yoga to your existing yoga/fitness routine?

Lifestyle Yoga

5 Things I Wish I Had Known About Online Yoga Before the Corona Virus

June 10, 2020

In Lodhi Gardens, Delhi pre Covid 19. pc  Devashish Sharma

The Covid 19 has driven us all indoors, and our yoga online.  A few weeks into the lock down, my entire teaching schedule shifted online.

After a few weeks yoga teachers across the world realized that this may very well be the future of yoga.  Many senior teachers offering online classes & workshops.  With considerably more time at hand, I started attending some of these online yoga classes.  I even downloaded a few courses and the accompanying reading list.

As more and more yoga studios went virtual, Savitri from Saktiisha Yoga connected with me and soon I was on their virtual schedule.  I started inviting guest teachers to my class too.  So far we’ve had amazing yoga sessions with Medha Bhaskar and Susanne Mayer and look forward to many more.  I wish we’d discovered online yoga earlier!

Here are 5 Things I Wish I knew About Online Yoga Before the Corona Virus

  1.  It is absolutely possible to practice yoga with a teacher online.
  2. The teaching isn’t diluted on an online medium – in fact, it’s amplified.  Teachers teach from the comfort of their homes and this is evident in their demeanor.
  3. An online class will save you a lot of travel time.  That time can now be spent sipping some tea, meditating, catching up on reading, meal prepping etc.
  4. There are various online offerings  – from a touch base once a week to membership access to thousands of videos – you can find something that works for you.  I have registered for weekly live yoga classes & membership to the YogaBranches portal.  I’ve also explored Carrie Owerko’s plans.  In addition to this I attended a few online classes with Amrutha Bindu Yoga and a weekend workshop streamed to London by Raya UD.  In addition to this I’ve bought several David Garrigues courses for philosophy study.  I looked at OMStars too, and not to forget – I tried a few workouts with Cult.fit as well!
  5. Practicing in your rattiest and most comfortable pajamas beats pulling on a pair of yoga pants any day.

 

Have you jumped on to the online yoga bandwagon yet?