The next day we hired a taxi to take us along the coast down to Tangalle. On the way we had planned to stop at Galle.
Our driver, Mical, sauntered in 45 minutes late. Soon after we started, he asked, “Sir! Ravana – what do you think? Good man or bad?”
Unsure of the most politically correct answer, I decided to take the middle ground, “He’s a complex character, with good and bad shades so it’s difficult to say. And what do you think?” I asked him.
“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”
“Ma’am sir! We think he is very good, but only one problem. He abducted Sita Amman. Otherwise everything else very good.”
The Moonstone Mines
Sri Lanka is known for its gemstone mining. Mical, stopped a little short of Galle at a gem factory where we got to see the process of mining moonstones, the process of refining them and finally creating jewels out of them. Ana and I both got a matching moonstone pendant as a souvenir from the mines.
Marine Turtles Protecting Centre
This was an unplanned stop for us. None of us had any idea about the amazing work that this centre is doing in terms of rescuing and rehabilitating turtles. The tsunami of 2004 affected the marine life, displacing, maiming and killing much of it. The Marine Turtles
Protecting Centre works with turtles to enable them to one day return to their natural habitat.
Galle is one of the major cities of Sri Lanka. The Portuguese built it as a major port city and the Dutch later went on to use it as one of the major ports of the country. We spent a long time walking along the cobblestone streets, ducking into souvenir shops, taking photos and sampling the local food. The National Maritime History Museum is in Galle, but we only had a couple of hours and wanted to spend it walking around the city. I’d read about Galle Things Roti, a restaurant specializing in rotis and curry and we had some great lunch there. I was also keen on having tea at the Amangalla hotel, a historic heritage hotel. While their tea isn’t special, the hotel has a lot of antique furniture which makes the ambience and the experience unique.
We reached our destination a little late. Tangalle is a quaint beach town. I was to teach yoga classes here for the next two days.
“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).
A few days ago I mentioned in one of my updates that you may eat the best food that you can possibly find, but if your body doesn’t assimilate all the nutrients then eating healthy food is an exercise in futility. To the right are 6 poses which are beneficial in stimulating and massaging the digestive system and maintaining its good health. However, remember, as always, that yoga poses can’t be practiced in isolation. For the practice of yoga to work for you, you must incorporate these asanas in a regular yoga practice.
Below are a few important points to remember when performing these asanas.
Setubanasana – The Bridge Pose
Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
Dhanurasana – The Bow Pose
Marichyasana – Lord Marichi’s Pose
Vajrasana – The Thunderbolt Pose
Pawanmuktasana – Wind Releasing Pose
One of the highlights for 2016 for me is the workshop with Manouso Manos. Most yogis will recognize the name. A long time student of BKS Iyengar, Manouso sold everything he owned and came to India in the 70s (in his mid-20s) with his wife. And they both went back year after year to practice with the master and to discover themselves in the process. And now, decades later, I feel that he was able to put us a bit more in touch with ourselves, though we only had 5 days together. I usually blog about my trainings and workshops, however, this time I had resolved not to write about the workshop because I realized after the 1st day that this was more experiential and would require a little reflection, and therefore, it would be difficult to write about the ‘teachings’.
I’m still not going to talk about what I learned. My students will experience the difference in class and my friends will hear about it all the time (as they have been for the last couple of weeks). However, there was something Manouso would repeat during classes which I found intriguing. BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” Manouso would say something to the same effect.
Every once in a while he would say something like, ‘Find balance in the imbalance.” or “Find a state of equanimity in the chaos.” And once even, “Use the problematic pose to fix the problem!”
During the course of the 5 days he would say variations of this every once in a while, and I would think if only he’d allowed us to take notes I could jot down his exact words. But unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take notes.
However, what BKS Iyengar said decades ago and what Manouso was telling us now, is perhaps the single most important mantra for our lives and times. Since the new year is just around the corner, most of us are thinking (if only fleetingly) about our resolutions for next year. It’s important to think about resolutions. Last night I jotted down a few thoughts for next year, and its a good way to let your subconscious know that there are a few things that need to make a home in it. But I think the overriding idea and the main message we should all keep in mind is ‘Find balance in the imbalance.’
2017 isn’t going to magically change us and the lives we live. Your approach to your food or relationship choices won’t change overnight. You won’t start to miraculously wake up early and magically stop procrastinating. Because real change comes from within. And instead of us trying to go the 100-0 way, what we can do is try our best to keep our resolutions, but at the same time accept that to change habits requires a little bit of hard work, time and patience. Basically find a balance in the imbalance of life.
Taking it a step further, I would suggest to those of you looking at establishing a fitness routine to work with what you’ve got. Don’t plan on waking up early AND working out. That’s two resolutions you have to work on at one go, and if you’re unable to keep one, then you miss the other as well. If you’re not an early riser, then sleep in. Workout when you get up, if you have that sort of flexibility in terms of time. Or workout once you’re done with work for the day. It will be easier to keep your workout resolution during your waking hours than when you’re fast asleep. And being under slept and cranky don’t amount to having a good time at the gym.
Whatever the constraints in your life, there is a solution. Until then, find a balance in the imbalance. Learn to endure that which you can’t cure.
I get a lot of queries about diet and food. Since holistic health is largely about diet and exercise, I make it a point to attend as many sessions as I can to gain insight into different food trends and beliefs. Your diet, like your style of clothing, has to be something that you are comfortable with and that works for you. Food trends that may work for others may not be suitable for your body chemistry. A diet which is convenient for others may not be convenient for you at all. For this reason, I feel we should all be very mindful about our diets, and also willing to experiment. Beliefs that we’ve been holding on to for years may not hold good for us. Alternatively, things that we think are not true and ‘don’t work’ may actually show results!
Growing up around the world at a time when Indian food wasn’t easily accessible ensured that I’m a simple and unfussy eater. I did have my quirks (like all kids). For instance, for some reason I couldn’t stand tomatoes in any sabjis and dals and would always fish them out of my food! However, living all over the world ensured great gastronomical delights such as candy apples in the famous carnivals of Brazil, khubz and fasulia in the by lanes of Yemen and mishti doi in the mangroves of Bangaldesh knowns as the Shundarbans. Food is a big part of culture and to this day I enjoy sampling local flavors and cuisine.
Rekha Diwekar is a proponent of local food. Her talk was aptly titled ‘Delicious Yet Nutritious’. She wanted to dispel the myth that food has to be tasteless and bland in order to be nutritious. Her contention is that it is possible to remain fit and healthy by eating clean and local produce.
Below are some points from her talk:
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 looking 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.
3. 11 am: Since Eloor was closed we decided to meet up on Church Street for brunch and 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).
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!
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!)
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’.
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.
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!
The other day I walked into the practice hall and saw Mr. Pandurang sitting on the stage and the Chinese students gathered around as the audience. I found out that the Chinese students had requested him to give them a talk about his experience with yoga and the institute over the years. Pandu’s talk was informative and interesting. Here’s what I remember from it.
Pandu came with BKS Iyengar to look at the site for the institute in the early 70s. By this time there were many Iyengar schools around the world and none in Pune. Guruji used to travel all around the world conducting workshops, but there was no institute in India where he could teach. The earliest students used to convene in Guruji’s house and practice in whatever space was available.
The decision to build the institute was also fraught with uncertainty. The fear that no one would come to practice at the institute was in everyone’s mind throughout the construction process. At one point Guruji told Pandu that if they were unable to use the building for yoga classes, then they could always rent it out as a wedding hall!
The weekend that the finishing touches were being made to the building, Guruji was in Bombay. His wife had been ill for a long time and she got worse during that weekend. She eventually ended up passing away and Pandu and everyone else at the institute weren’t sure of how to tell Guruji. Finally Pandu called Guruji and told him to head back to Pune as his wife was very ill. Guruji would later talk about how he had in inkling that there was something seriously wrong. By the time BKS Iyengar came back to Pune, his wife had already expired. They decided that they would name the institute after her.
The first students to come to the institute were from England. Some of the 70 odd students brought along thick mats with them. Those thick mats (sort of like workout/gym mats) were a novelty here in India and localites were very curious about the mats. BKS Iyengar, being the innovative man he was, thought of different ways to use the mats. His creativity and love for his subject was such that he was constantly thinking of how to make the poses better and more accessible. That is how he came up with different ways to use ordinary objects such as chairs, blankets and blocks. According to Pandu there are 250 ways to use the Setubandhasana box. He also added that if he were conducting the teachers’ exam he would fail everyone because nowadays teachers aren’t as innovative as they used to once upon a time (referring to the fact that we don’t know the 250 different ways of using a prop).
The story of the sticky mats is pretty much the same. This time it was a German student who brought the mat. In Europe they were using such mats under their carpets so that the carpets wouldn’t slip. The student thought out of the box and brought it back to India. Mr. Iyengar looked at the sticky mat and his little grey cells started working.
On the subject of modern teachers he said Guruji always said that you should only follow one teacher. When he came across students who followed multiple teachers and schools he would say that you are not a lover, but a gatherer. You are just going around gathering the knowledge of yoga. There are many instances where people want to become yoga teachers without having practiced for any significant amount of time. Pandu emphasized the importance of a teacher being fundamentally sound. .Teachers with no personal practice and little experience may end up hurting students. This would give a bad name to a discipline which was already infamous. At the time Mr. Iyengar was teaching, yoga was looked upon with a bit of trepidation. The vast majority of people thought that it was circus tricks at best or black magic at worse. Changing people’s perceptions was an uphill task. And teachers at the time had to ensure that yoga as a practice shouldn’t be vilified.
On the nature of Guruji’s practice and teaching Pandu said Guruji was a hard task master. Students attending his class would be sore for a week afterwards. And as for his own practice, though he had a large family; he would never make any excuses. He practiced daily. Early morning he did pranayama. In the evening he would practice inversions. Pandu emphasized the importance of a daily practice. He said that those who don’t practice daily shouldn’t teach. He also mentioned that he’s noticed that when teachers start to gain popularity, the first thing out the window is their personal practice. All RIMYI teachers are regular with their own practice. Remember that once you lose a pose, it’s a struggle to get back to it. A Chinese girl in the audience asked how to balance teaching and learning if your livelihood depends on teaching yoga. Pandu thought for a moment and said that he would always recommend teach less and practice more. Give preference to your own practice. That’s what Guruji did.
In the early 50s (between 1953-1954) Guruji was asked to teach at NDA (National Defence Academy). BKS Iyengar had to cycle for about 20 kms daily in order to get to class. Because of that he developed hernia. He treated hernia as his guru and allowed the condition to guide his practice in order to get rid of the condition. I was interested in knowing a bit more about the NDA days and found out that classes are going on their even now. When Guruji was no longer able to go he sent Pandu. Eventually Pandu also passed on the responsibility. Pandu remembers that the classes were for one and all, from the cadets to the officers. I do wonder if anyone posted in NDA during those days would have any pictures from that time.
The oldest running class at the institute is the women’s class (these days conducted by Gulnaz Dashti). Pandu was asked why was there a separate class for the women. In those days, was it to separate the sexes? Pandu replied that in Pune during those days women would be free only once the husband and the children had been packed off for the day and the housework was finished. This was typically between 9 am – 12 noon. So it was actually the women of Pune who requested that a special class be conducted for them, and that class continues to this day.
Your body is your guru. However, don’t do asanas when you ‘feel like it’. Sequencing is very important, else you will definitely experience problems. When Pandu and Prashant were practicing under Guruji, the practice was different every day. Tuesdays they would practice only forward bends. They would practice the Janu Sirsasana for 40-50 minutes at a time. Prashant and Pandu used to do all the forward bends in the sequence. Pandu also advised us not to do only the sirsasana and end the class. He said it’s important to do the Sarvangasana and Halasana. Also practice the Setubandha Sarvangasana. As far as be the body is concerned, there is a lot of bending in the circus. Ballet also has a lot of flexible bodies. But what happens in these disciplines is that the spine suffers.
Someone in the audience asked Pandu about the asana sequence that is described at the end of the books. Pandu said that the books were written many years ago and that many things have changed since then. Props have also changed. The ideas expressed in the books are a product of those times, and as time passed, the practice, ideas and philosophies evolved.
Pandu then told us a story about yoga. He said a long time ago when someone would fall sick they were told to take sanjeevani (a medicine). Then one day all the sanjeevani in the world finished and people went to God to ask for more. God told people that He couldn’t give them sanjeevani but he can give them yoga vidya. God told people that with yoga they will be able to maintain their health. However, the yoga vidya went to the rishi munis. And unfortunately, the rishi munis weren’t easily accessible to the common people. That’s when yoga teachers came into existence. They bridged the gap and brought the knowledge of yoga from the rishi munis to the common people. This is the tradition that Krishnamacharya and his disciples are a part of. For centuries they have de mystified an esoteric practice. They have brought it to the masses, but; emphasises Pandu; they have done it properly.
I watched ‘Eat Pray Love’ and later devoured the book. I loved the book and the movie. I remember googling to find out what ashram Elizabeth Gilbert had checked into. My friends and discussed the book and its ideas to death. We planned similar journeys. And finally, all of us hoped that should we ever experience a life altering event, we would have the courage and strength to overcome it just like Elizabeth Gilbert.
Elizabeth Gilbert went on to write another book about her life post marriage with the love of her life (whom she met in at the end of ‘Eat Pray Love’). I haven’t had a chance to read that book yet, but I do hope to pick it up soon. Over the past few weeks the internet exploded with news that Elizabeth Gilbert has divorced her husband of 12 years – for the woman she’s in love with. The thing is, this news wasn’t brought to the world through newspapers and magazine stories; Gilbert put it up on her Facebook page herself. She included a picture of herself with the woman she loves.
Today while in the Sirsasana, with rivulets of sweat running down(up?) my torso and onto the mat, I think I gained a new perspective. This morning we were taught how to balance our shoulders and torso in the headstand. The teacher took us through various moves that helped us understand the positioning and behaviour of our shoulder blades and other parts of the torso. This was to give us insight into how we can improve our headstand. I was experimenting with my headstand and the experiments had me almost toppling and definitely very very unstable.
I’m sure falling in love while married, deciding to commit to the woman you love (despite knowing she has terminal cancer) and finally calling it quits on a relationship of 12 years with the love of your life (and which has been immortalized in a couple of best selling books) wasn’t easy. And it didn’t happen overnight. There must’ve been moments of uncertainty, of fear, of helplessness, anxiety, doubt, anger…and an overwhelming sense of insecurity. Deciding to go public with an intensely private matter of this kind also couldn’t have been easy for a woman known the world over for her soul searching trip to India and Bali. No one in the public domain is impervious to criticism. With social media being so pervasive, every detail of your life can be analysed. You can be publicly berated for your actions, opinions and personal choices. Therefore I think it was very very brave of her to be open about the choice that she made, and to risk a lot of bad publicity, ‘unfriends’, ‘unfollows’ and ‘unlikes’. In an age where lifestyle choices are beamed out to the world the second they are made, we are constantly under the scanner.
For health and fitness professionals, it is imperative to look their best in every post. Even pictures of them looking less than their best are always pictures of them looking fabulously less than their best. The constant scrutiny from fans and followers creates intense pressure to look a particular way or make certain choices. For fitness professionals choices such as drinking, smoking and indulging the sweet tooth present a challenge – to broadcast or not to broadcast? I wonder, for instance, as a yoga expert what if I were to one day get a condition that yoga is meant to prevent – how would I go public with it? Would I, like Gilbert, have the courage to talk about my experience? Or what if I were to gain all the weight back (a fear that I constantly live with)? How would I even begin to talk about it? Which is why I feel like the protagonist on ‘Eat Pray Love’ is more courageous than what was portrayed in the book. Her courage is uncommon and her quest for herself is very honest.
This is something we can all learn from. What if an event in your life forced you to re-evaluate everything you’ve stood for so far? Most of us are so fixated in our opinions and lives that we can almost never admit that we are wrong. And what if we had to do so publicly? I can’t imagine what Elizabeth Gilbert went through, but I think it would have been a process of immense growth and fulfilment.
When was the last time you were faced with a situation that challenged your basics and how did you deal with it? Was it a process of growth and learning? If yes, what did you learn?
Half the month is over, and, as Anuja pointed out in the car earlier today, half the year is almost over. I bet a lot of people already made their New Year’s Eve plans. I’ve only been able to plan for the first week of December when I may be off for a new adventure.
However, while I’m here I would like to experience a bit more of Pune. So this past Saturday I decided to meet up with a friend of mine from my Infy days. While in the UK, Bhavani and I were out frequently clubbing, pubbing, eating or just watching movies. The last time I met up with her we went to Mallaka Spice (Bhavani & Me @Mallaka). Last Saturday we went to a popular hangout here called The Bar Stock Exchange. Nice place. Good music, good crowd and nice drinks :). We headed back to Bhavani’s house with plans of watching ‘Sinister’. Once I realized I’d already seen the film, I promptly fell asleep.
The next morning was Sunday and I’m not one to miss out on a delicious breakfast. Because of the early classes here, I’ve become very frugal with my breakfasts. But I think I’m essentially a breakfast girl. The other day (at Funky Kona in Baner) Anuja and I were discussing how much more fun and romantic breakfasts are over dinners. Show me a breakfast and I’ll show you girl who isn’t afraid to stuff her face. So we drove around a bit to get to our breakfast place. The Yogi Tree is right next to the Osho Ashram. Bhavani had her usual parantha while I had a sandwich. I have to confess, I don’t miss south Indian breakfast, but I do miss the coffee. I’ve started to hallucinate the smell of fresh filter coffee!!! I guess I know the first thing I’ll have in namma Bengaluru.
I wanted to indulge in a little bit of street shopping also while here. I did go to Lakshmi road a day before the Ganapati festival. It was crowded and I don’t think I’ll ever willingly go there again. But I managed to pick up two pairs of beautiful Kolapuri chappals, which; for the record; happen to be my favorite kind of footwear.
Many people told me that Koregaon park is known for its small quirky boutiques. Bhavani and I decided to walk around. I was looking for nice spots to take yoga photos. Sadly, couldn’t find a single pretty background. However, we did go to a few of the small boutiques and indulged in some retail therapy. I got a sense of the vibe of the place which is youthful and vibrant. There were interesting little food joints interspersed with the clothing and accessories boutiques. Lots of places for dessert, but I’m keeping my chocolate addiction under control these days.
Once I got home I said hi to Aston. Aston makes a dog’s life look very chic. He moves only if he has to. He sprawls under the TV and sort of rolls around there every once in a while. And he spontaneously has barking fits. Playing fetch is his only form of exercise, but we know he’s in love with the tennis ball. Anuja claims that he sleeps on his back and sometimes dreams about running after the ball. So she says Aston’s legs move, as though he’s running after the ball. Except he’s asleep.
I decided to strike a few poses while Aston was catching his breath.
Sunday evening Anuja and I decided to go back to Koregaon park to Dario’s. I’d heard so much about the place and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. They have delicious food. We decided to taste the vegan cheesecake and had some bruschetta and coffee. We thought we’d go for a round of shopping before we sat down for dinner.
When we emerged from Dario’s it was raining, but the weather wasn’t going to keep a couple of girls away from clothes. We browsed through a few boutiques in Koregaon park. I was looking for interesting quirky stuff while Anuja was checking out the merchandise. We headed home early so that I could be up bright and early for my 7 am.