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Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy Travels & Other Escapades

Swimming With the Sharks (A Maldivian Honeymoon)

March 19, 2022

I learned how to swim pretty late in life (early 30s) thanks to a Mrs. Vardhan who was generous with her patience and with her time.  I wanted to learn because it’s a wonderful workout, and therapeutic at that.  Little did I know that one day I’d be swimming with sharks in the expanse of the great Indian Ocean.

All set to snorkel near our water villa. Sea life differs from area to area and we looked forward to seeing the variety of fish surrounding the island.

My first experience of snorkelling was years ago during a school trip to the Andamans.  My memories of that experience aren’t particularly fun, so I wasn’t overjoyed about snorkelling in the Maldives (at the Sun Island Resort).  But Animesh was super excited, and so off we went.  It wasn’t until I got into the choppy waters with the snorkelling gear jammed tightly over my face did I recognise that the discomfort I was feeling was actually a sense of fear.  I was out of my territory – I’ve spent years training myself to breathe deeply through my nose.  Breathing through the snorkel with my mouth felt strange, unnatural and very very uncomfortable.

BKS Iyengar famously said, “Your nose is for breathing and your mouth is for eating.  If you breathe through your mouth I will put food in your nose.”  Under the water, with tiny (and not so tiny) fish flitting all around me, I strained to inhale and exhale through my mouth.  And then it dawned on me that a truly flexible human isn’t one who is able to breathe rhythmically when on a yoga mat with the intention  of doing so.  True flexibility is being able to breathe in whatever way the situation demands.  So, as I struggled to get comfortable in the depths of the Indian Ocean, I forced myself to calm down.  I started to engage my lungs to breathe deeply and rhythmically through my mouth.

A lazy tree pose on deck. Happy to see the sharks and other fish up close.

Recently I lectured my students about the importance of cultivating a self-practice. When there is no self-practice, yoga is merely an activity confined to our mats and we remain limited to and by our physical boundaries.  Our physical boundaries are a fraction of what we are as humans.  The expanse of the human mind is more vast than the Indian Ocean, and just as interesting.  When we practice by ourselves, devoid of the expectation of cues and the ‘experience’, we can begin (and hope) to tap into this space.  In this space lies the ability to breathe better when needed, to calm down and detach, to relate to others more intelligently, to listen to the wisdom our inner voice and to marvel at the plethora of life in the universe,

Once I worked this out in my mind, swimming in the ocean seemed like an extension of my practice.  I observed more, moved my arms and legs in different ways, swam in place or in circles, didn’t panic at the sight of sharks or a little water in my face mask, and most importantly, was able to explore more of the deep blue sea

 

 

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

 

 

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

 

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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 :).

 

 

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

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.

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

How To: Matsyasana

May 11, 2020

It is said that if you perform the fish pose in water you will be able to float like a fish. Yoga Journal

The thoracic spine is the most difficult part of the spine to bend.  That’s because the structure of your upper body has so much bone and tissue which needs to be considered in a back bend.  While the lumbar spine has only soft abdominal organs and muscles, the thoracic spine has the rib cage and the sternum to deal with when it needs to bend.  In the Matsyasana you are trying to bend the upper spine very deeply.  Therefore, the best approach to this asana is a very cautious one.

The benefits of Matsyasana include:

  • Expands the rib cage and enables better breathing.
  • Alleviates anxiety.
  • Helps to massage the abdominal organs.
  • Promotes better digestion.
  • Massages and stimulates the thyroid gland.
  • Fixes problems of the curvature of the back.

 

Be careful with this Matsyasana if you have a migraine or high blood pressure as this may aggravate the condition.  Also, if you have a serious neck or lower back injury then you may want to avoid this posture.  If your neck feels too tight and painful when you perform this asana, then use a pillow or a rolled up blanket under your neck.  Watch the video below for some tips.

 

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/

Enquiries Into Yogic Philosophy

How To: Ardha Matsyendrasana

May 10, 2020

Done with some reflection, this pose helps yogis discover blocks in their bodies and in their lives.  You will be able to look at your present and future without the fog of the past clouding your vision.  you will experience clearer vision and perception. (Beyond Asanas, p 33)

In Beyond Asanas I wrote about the Ardha Matsyendrasana in Chapter 6.  Ardha Matsyendrasana literally means Half Lord of the Fish Pose.  Read more about Matsyendranath in the book and find out about the man who learned yoga from Lord Shiva himself.

Benefits of Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Stimulates your digestive system.
  • Stretches the shoulders, chest, arms and spine.
  • Reduces lower back ache.
  • Trims the excess fat from the sides.
  • Helps us realize that everything that has been ‘twisted’ can be untwisted.

 

Most students focus on the twisting aspect of this posture, but I would encourage you to focus more on the chest expansion.  If you feel that your breathing is labored when you’re in this asana, it means you need to work a little more on opening up the thoracic spine.  If you continue to practice the Ardha Matsyendrasana in this manner, you’re adding stress to an already tight spine.  Find out which variation works best for you in the below video:

 

Participate in our Work From Home Challenge this entire month and win a giveaway at the end of the challenge.  Download our practice tracker and asana sequence below:

Download Practice Tracker

Download Yoga Sequence

 

 

For more information go to:

Medha Bhaskar: https://www.instagram.com/medha.bhaskar/

Amrutha Bindu Yoga: https://www.amruthabindu.com/

Pragya Bhatt: https://www.instagram.com/yogawithpragya/