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Nature Needs No Filters

March 23, 2019

Every once in a while
wipe the makeup off
slough off the dead skin of
past experiences.
Exhale.
Climb out from 
under the weight of
the shoulds and should-nots
Let the wind
unfurl your hair
a flag wild and free.
Let your skin
flower in the soft sunlight.
The lines around
your mouth
your eyes
Glorious.

Nature needs no filter.

At Rainbow Falls, 2.2 kms from the Double Root Bridge in Cherapunjee

Healthy Living Uncategorized Yoga

We’re Working Hard And…

June 18, 2017

moving

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” -Socrates.

The last couple of months have been crazy busy for me.  I’ve been meaning to do this post for many many weeks now, but was only able to get to it today.  I’ve been teaching my regular classes, have a couple of retreats and workshops under my belt, have designed new classes and modules (including The Yoga Practice, which I’m so incredibly excited about) and have found time to travel as well!

The year is far from over, and I have my annual trip (study retreat?) to Pune coming up in August and September.  We’re also working on refining The Yoga Practice and getting the word out there as much as we can about it.  My practice is going well, and I see improvement in my students almost daily!  The first half of this year has been very rewarding.

I’ve also been working on consolidating everything I do under one platform.  As my practice gets more focused, so does my vision for ‘Yoga With Pragya’.  At the beginning of this year I had an idea of where I was headed and over the past couple of months the vision has became clearer.  Our new website is a step towards a more organised initiative.  As my practice deepens, my teaching becomes more refined and I’m getting very creative with how I can help people across the board.

We’re building something useful, helpful and, most of all, accessible to all those who are interested in yoga, holistic health and a wholesome lifestyle.  Most of you have been following this blog for many years.  I hope you will stay with me as I grow, expand and evolve further.  Subscribe to our new blog here: http://yogawithpragya.in/blog/.  While you’re there, please browse the site and leave us constructive feedback.  We’re really excited about the great things we have in store for you.  Please share with all your friends and subscribe to our other platforms as well (Facebook, YouTube & Instagram).

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Home for the Holidays

November 1, 2016

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The thing about Indian mythology, festivals and culture is that the role of the Woman is fundamental.  In the frenzy of the holiday season, and with our society becoming more consumerist, festivals like Dhanteras and Diwali have been reduced to shopping lists and return gifts and mandatory social visits.

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However, if we go beyond the surface to look at the origin of festivals, you will find the role of the Woman indispensable.  When we looked at the origin of Dhanteras we found the story of how an intelligent and somewhat precocious young woman who outsmarts Yama, the God of Death himself.  The story goes that it was foretold that the son of King Hima would die on the fourth day of his wedding by snake bite.  However, his new bride was an intelligent and empowered woman and decided that she wouldn’t just sit back and let predictions in his horoscope decide her destiny and fate.  So she came up with a plan with which she hoped to outsmart the God of Death.  On the day Yama was supposed to visit their house she spread all her bright jewels around their bedchamber and lit bright diyas and candles.  She kept her young husband awake by singing songs and telling him stories all night long.  Her plan worked because when Yama came (in the guise of a snake), he was blinded by the brilliant jewels and bright lamps and disoriented for a while.  When he slithered up to the top of the heaps of jewels he was spell bound by the stories and songs and listened to them all night long.  And just like this, the hour that the young king was supposed to be ruthlessly taken to the underworld by Yama, passed.  In the morning, Yama, defeated by a strong and independent woman, quietly left.

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Diwali is celebrated two days after Dhanteras and here again we see the role of women.  The time of the pooja is pre-determined (according to the Hindu calendar).  Then the whole family gathers together and prays to Goddess Lakshmi to bestow love, light, peace and good fortune.  In fact, drawing the Goddess’s feet walking into the main entrance of the house is a common practice.  Many families (such as mine) believe that Lakshmi visits the house sometime before midnight, which is why we keep the lamps and decorations up until then.  In fact, we don’t even shut the door to the main entrance of the house to ensure Lakshmi has an easy time getting in!  To turn the Goddess away is to turn away health, wealth, fortune and happiness!  And no one wants to do that.

Today I had the good fortune to visit one of my oldest friends.  You will find pictures of us pomelo_20161031184644_save.jpgsprinkled across my Facebook photos.  We’ve lived together, travelled together, partied together, started Bharat Thakur Power Yoga classes together, explored Bangalore, worked at Infosys, spent Sunday mornings drinking tea and watching YouTube videos, shopped together, fought together…and stayed in touch right through all of this.  Since she lives in Delhi now we make a point of meeting each other whenever possible when I’m in Delhi.  Every time we invariably start talking about old times.  The different roommates we’ve been through, the clubs we used to visit, the places we used to shop at….and we always end up laughing so hard my stomach hurts.  We’ve seen each other grow into the people we’ve become and, like all good friends, we’re proud of the people we’ve become.

I was lucky that her family celebrates Govardhan pooja, and on this day the oldest female member of the family cooks traditional fare.  I was invited over for lunch so that we could both sit together and have a hearty lunch.  After that some retail therapy and one of my favorite places in Delhi – Dilli Haat.

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Healthy Living Travel Uncategorized Yoga

On the 2nd of Oct

October 2, 2016

Today was my first Sunday after the gruelling month in Pune.  All I’ve been trying to do these past few days is to get enough rest and practice all I’ve learnt.  But I was lookingpomelo_20161002083729_save.jpg forward to today because I wanted to catch up on some reading and just relax (I don’t practice on Sundays.  I read late into the night yesterday and woke up without the alarm this morning.

1. 6:15 am: Geetanjali and I had decided yesterday to go to the library today to pick up some reading to get us into the holiday mood.  As soon as I woke up I realized it was Gandhi Jayanti and the library would probably be closed.  I texted her and then laced up for a walk.  On days I don’t work out I like to go for long walks.  I think I clocked 5 kms today around the lake.

 

 

2. 7.45 am:  After 2 coconuts (feeling nostalgic about my post practice coconuts in     Pune),  I headed back home and did a bit of stretching.  Post walk/run stretching is a must.  Most injuries are because of lack of before and after workout stretching.pomelo_20161002083719_save.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. 11 am:  Since Eloor was closed we decided to meet up on Church Street for brunch pomelo_20161002134238_save.jpgand book browsing.  There’s always something going on on Church Street.  This time I noticed a bunch of new stores and new artwork!  There are so many awesome places in and around Church Street but we decided to go for our usual India Coffee House.  By the time we got there all the idli and wada batter was over and so we could only have masala dosas.  The dosa was delicious and I had two :).  Reluctant to have coffee at the India Coffee House (fyi – they don’t have filter coffee), we headed to Adigas (down the road) for my first filter coffee after my Pune sojourn.  But before we headed over I quickly popped into Namdhari’s to pick up some stone ground organic whole grain wheat flour (Navadarshanam).

 

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Art on Church Street

 

4.  12 noon:  We decided to explore the recently opened Bookworm instead of Blossoms today.  They were still unpacking cartons of books, but we were able to browse.  They have a wide selection of books (used and new) and they even have beautiful re-furbished classics!

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5.  1 pm:  After this it was either sitting at Starbucks with a coffee or heading back to my house to relax.  Since Geetanjali wanted to copy ‘Downton Abbey’ we decided to come back to my place so that she could copy it.  We came back home, kicked our shoes off and settled down in my living room.  Geetanjali browsed my hard drive while I made us some refreshing lemonade.  It had just the right amount of ginger, mint and lemon (if I say so myself!)

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6.  2 pm:  Once Geetanjali left, I made myself a quick lunch and then dealt with the universal dilemma for book lovers.  Which one to read first.  The Ishiguro won, mainly because I’m returning it to Eloor for Geetanjali next week, and also because I’ve been meaning to read something by him for a while now and haven’t gotten around to it.  And also because ‘Immortality’ is too heavy for a lazy Sunday.  I spent my afternoon reading ‘Nocturnes’.

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7.  5 pm:  After an afternoon of reading I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to watch the latest episode of ‘Kalki’s Great Excape’ (Fox Life, Saturday @8 pm), an intriguing show where Kalki and Joel Koechlin explore the North East on these beautiful bikes.  This show is a travel reality show and it’s great to see how other travellers negotiate the road less travelled.

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Now for some dinner, maybe some TV and then lights out so that I’m geared up for the first day of classes after a month off!

 

Healthy Living Travel Uncategorized

Stop Drawing in the Clouds

September 15, 2016

When I was living in Sanaa, Yemen my parents decided that we should go to school during the summer holidays as well.  Both my parents were working and three kids can be quite a handful.  So they spoke to the principal of the school run by the Indian Embassy there, and we were packed off to what would become summer school for us.

There was a boy in my class during the time, who was from Russia.  He didn’t speak English very well and couldn’t read or write it very well either.  The English teacher was supportive but it is difficult to teach someone a language when you have no common language to communicate in.  The thing that I remember about this boy is that he was a talented artist.  Perhaps he’s a cartoonist or an illustrator or a graphic designer now.  Back then he was amazing at art.  Unfortunately, we grew up at a time when if you were good at Math and Science, you were smart…and nothing else really drew much appreciation.

One day we were given an assignment during English class and we were all furiously working on the assignment.  All of us.  At the end of the class the teacher was curious to know how the Russian student had done.  He handed her his notebook and we all registered her stunned expression.  She looked up and showed us his notebook.  While the rest of us were working on our assignment, he was busy copying the cover page of the book.  I forget what was on the cover, but I remember there were clouds and the name of the book was written over the clouds.

“See he’s drawn the English, he doesn’t even realize it,” said the teacher.  “He thinks it’s a part of the picture.  He doesn’t know what he’s drawn.”

I find a lot of that happening in yoga class.  After 15 days here, at ‘the source’, I’ve started to feel like 95% of yoga studios/teachers/students in Bangalore have skewed focus.  I see it in classes too.  Students are in awe of other students and teachers who can go upside down or do other fancy things….and somewhere the focus shifts.  The acrobats develop a comfort zone in which they preen and prance while the rest of us aspire to gain entry into that comfort zone.  In any yoga class, you will see all the students practicing the basic asanas with concentration and focus.  As the asanas get more challenging the students grumble and groan but still focus on the posture and working with their bodies.  And finally, for the ‘advanced’ poses you will see most students gazing admiringly and enviously at the few who are able to do the poses.

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At any point in time, when your attention is no longer on what is going on within you, then the practice ceases to be yoga.  I keep on saying that yoga is not about the postures, yoga is about life.  All of us have different lives, and so our relationship with yoga will also be unique and personal.  What is going on in your body when you do the Uttanasana will be based upon your lifestyle, life choices, mental and emotional states.  These factors will be different for your classmates and so their Uttanasana will be different.  What I see in students is the desire to do the Uttanasana that their neighbor is doing.  And those who are able to execute what they think is the ‘perfect’ Uttanasana stop working in the asana.  Teachers too, focus more on how far down you can go rather than on how you can work your body optimally to execute the best Uttanasana you can given your mental and physical state at that given point in time.

The result of this style of teaching and learning is that we are missing the point.  Movement in yoga classes is becoming mechanical and mindless.  We’re missing the bullseye….in fact we’re not even aiming for bullseye.  We are confusing asanas for acrobatics and vice versa.  Every time someone else does kapotasana and we can’t, we’re lose a bit of ourselves.  And going farther away from ourselves, which is opposite to what yoga aims to do.  Remember, yoga means to join or to yoke together, and if you are focusing on the getting your leg behind your head, you’re not appreciating the feeling of expansion in your hips.

Stop drawing alphabets in the clouds, learn to read the words.

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Healthy Living Uncategorized Yoga

Nightlife of a Different Sort

September 13, 2016

Lord Ganesh would probably be the poster boy for Hindu mythology.  I’ve rarely met a foreign yogi who hasn’t heard at least one legend about how he got the head of an elephant.  I’ve rarely been to an Indian or an Indophile’s house which doesn’t have a picture or a statue of Ganesh-ji.  I don’t profess to have more than a rudimentary knowledge of Hinduism and am not in the least iconoclastic.  But I also have a beautiful statue of Ganesh in my house.  One of my favorite pieces of jewellery is a gold Ganesh pendant that a friend of mine gave me when I was about to embark on an import journey in life (thanks Lakshmi).

I guess it was destiny for me to come to Maharashtra when the most special festival is going on.  Ganesh Chaturti here is celebrated like Dusshera in Mysore.  The festival has been immortalized in numerous Bollywood songs and last night I had the pleasure of visiting the 5 famous Ganesh mandals here in Pune.  These are so famous in fact, that it is rumoured that Bollywood celebrities come all the way here to offer their prayers.  Going to the old city and walking through the crowds to make your way to the Ganpatis is no easy feat, and I guess it was destiny once again that I had a group who was kind enough to think of me when they made their plan.  Had it not been for Hariharan, Shivangi and Subbu I don’t think I would ever have had the chance to participate in the festivities.

 

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The route.

We had a very capable and organized navigator.  Hariharan did the groundwork.  We had the names of the famous Ganapatis and the walking route printed out.  We knew that it was going to be crowded, so we left our bags behind in the car and ventured out on foot.  Don’t get too close to the venue to look for parking because you won’t find any.  We parked on the other side of the  Mula Mutha river and crossed the bridge.  The area is cordoned off for vehicles.

 

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Have to go back to this.  I’ve heard there is a sound and light show here.  Also, it looks very different from how it does in Bajirao Mastani.  I will have to go back for a closer look.

The Ganapatis we wanted to visit were:

  1. Kasba
  2. Tambdi
  3. Guruji Talim
  4. Tulsibaugh (we missed this one)
  5. Kesriwada

So the Ganapatis, in no particular order are:

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The oldest Ganapati.

While here I want to make sure that I have as much vada pav and pav bhaji and other local fare, and in keeping with that we stopped at JumboKing for their famous Wada Pav Burger.pomelo_20160913161647_save.jpg

 

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Mario Miranda on the wall.

 

Fortune tellers, old and new friends, phenomenal yoga teachers and amazing practice sessions…what else will Ganesh-ji bring my way during the rest of my Pune travels and in my life?

 

 

 

Healthy Living Uncategorized

A Yogi in Pune – Day 4

September 4, 2016

Since Pune doesn’t shut down by 11, last night I was able to do something that I haven’t time and inclination to do for a while now – club hopping.  Since I’m here only for 4 weekends, Anuja wanted to give me a wholesome flavor of the Pune nightlife.  A simple relaxed sit down dinner morphed into something completely different.

Our first stop was The Foundry Club which has a Church Street Social kinda vibe.  So lots of techies and beer.  Food was awesome!

Next we went to a club called Euriska.  Neon interiors and teeny boppers bobbing up and down on the dance floor.

Finally we ended up at Stonewater where the crowd was pretty much the same.  Once in a while, when you’ve been through what seems like days and days of back breaking yoga practice, you just nee to let your hair down like this.

 

When I woke up this morning I realized that I had the entire Sunday to myself to do what I pleased.  I have the entire city to explore, I have a bunch of friends to meet…however, I reached for my book and slid back under the covers.  After more months than I care to remember I started my day lost in a book and Skyping with a friend who also spends time lost in books.  Come to think of it, even if I wanted to go out, I think  what I really wanted to do was rest as much as I can on my very first ‘rest day.’  I’m going to slide under the covers again with a movie…or maybe a book.  After all, it’s my rest day and the possibilities are limitless.

 

Travel Uncategorized

A Yogi in Pune (The Day Of and the Night Before)

August 31, 2016

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Unfortunately my allergies have flared up.  Leaving your house can be a messy affair for a homebody like me.  I think of my house in my absence and I simply can’t tolerate the thought of a messy house left to it’s own devices.  I need my house to be spic and span in my absence so that a thin film of dust is all I really have to deal with on my return.  So for the past two weeks I’ve been cleaning along with packing and my nose has paid the price dearly.  However, I managed to clear the table tops and the counters and ensure that things were in their rightful places before I went to sleep last night.  And once settled in comfortably I Skyped late into the night with a friend of mine, excitedly catching up on all the old and what it feels like to be on the brink of the new.

I woke up early today and did a quick practice after which I showered and drove myself to a friend’s place to entrust him with the care of my car for the next few weeks, and to partake of whatever breakfast he could offer an excited yogi just about to embark on a great adventure.  I still remember that the last time I came back after a long trip, the battery of my car fought a slow death leaving me stranded many a time.  This time I wasn’t going to take chances, specially not with breakfast.

I managed to catch a few minutes of sleep on the plane before we landed, but airplane don’t really count by way of making you feel rested.  The opposite, yes.  I deplaned to find out that there was a transportation strike in Pune and therefore couldn’t get a pre-paid taxi to my accommodation.  Ola shared cab to the rescue.

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My accommodation is a room nestled in a culvert near RIMYI.  I have a clean, freshly painted room all to myself.  The kitchen is easily accessible and I spent a little while getting to know my hostess over a mug of (much needed) hot green tea.  Turns out that the house is situated on Sudheer Pawar Path, and Sudheer Pawar was my hostess’s uncle!  He was an officer of the Indian Air Force who crash landed due to a malfunctioning airplane and the government named the road in his honor.  Add a bit of history to anything, and you increase my wonder for it manifold.

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My hostess was kind enough to provide me some paranthas for lunch and after a quick rest I decided to go exploring.  My hostess gave me clear and concise directions and I reached the institute in no time.  The evening timings of the institute are 4-6 pm and I was a bit early.  I made enquiries with the guard who told me that I should come at 4 and not to worry as there won’t be much of a crowd.  I remembered the mad rush at KPJAYI and wanted to make sure.  Finally he told me that there is only one day of the year when there is a rush (I forget which one) and after that since there are no new admissions, there is no rush.  I did notice that there was a board on the gate which said that the admissions are closed until May 2017.  And here’s where I felt grateful that I had somehow beat the queues.

I decided to explore a bit more and wandered a bit further down the road where a random lady walking next to me started lamenting about the transport strike.  And she didn’t trust 20160831_170644.jpgOla.  Not sure what she was planning to do.  I bought myself a toothbrush, toothpaste and a coffee and answered some messages until it was time to head to the institute.

I decided to ask for the legendary Mr. Pandurang Rao at the institute and see if I could register today, since I was already there, instead of having to wait until tomorrow.  I know these guys are sticklers for rules and I wasn’t sure I would be entertained.  However, I was!  Mr. Rao handed me the registration form and once I’d filled it out he drew up my schedule on a pink post it…only to ask me once again how long I’ve been practicing and then relapsed into deep thought.  Then he decided to make a phone call and spoke to the person on the other end about ‘the student from Bangalore’.  The conversation was in Marathi, so even though I heard it all, I couldn’t understand it.  He came back and asked me ‘Can you do the Sirsasana?’  I said yes and he then took a while to figure out whether to put me in the Intermediate or the Senior class.  Finally, the Intermediate it is and I have to report to the Ist floor tomorrow morning at 7 am.

My hostess is taking us all out for dinner tonight, so I get to meet some of my housemates as well!

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Uncategorized Yoga

Asanas for the Week – Part 1

August 29, 2016

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Today was the last day for our Yoga In the Park group.  We’ve been a strong group and have stuck together for 3 years.  All of us keep on taking breaks to travel or to be with family, 20160731_115722[1]qbut at the end of the day we return to the group, enriched by all our adventures.  From a small group of 3, we’ve grown to a vibrant group of 10.  A year ago, when I went to visit my parents for 2 months, I had created a program that I wanted the girls to follow while I was away.  It was a very general outline, and to my delight, one of the girls still had it saved on her phone.  She sent the entire routine to me and I decided to make a few modifications to it to suit the practitioners after an added year of practice.  Here it is:

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  1. Squats (remember to do these slowly, engaging all your muscles)
  2. Stretch your quads after this.  Hold for 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Trikonasana
  4. Virbhadrasana 1
  5. Virbhadrasana 2
  6. Parsvakonasana
  7. Janu Sirsasana
  8. Paschimottansana

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Day 2 (Arms Intensive)

  1. Chaturanga -ups (try your best)
  2. 2 min plank
  3. Adhomukhasvanasana (Downward Dog)
  4. Gomukhasana
  5. Paschimnamaskarasana
  6. Garudasana

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Remember to start all your workouts with a few stretches and Surya Namaskars.  As the weather gets colder, you can increase the number of Surya Namaskars.