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a yogi in pune

Travel Yoga

Don’t Go After the Stretch

September 10, 2019

pc: @khan.clicks @deavalin_david_dsouza makeup: makeupbyhennaanbaree location: Cubbon Park

I had a late class yesterday.  It started at 7.10 pm and went up to 8.40 pm.  The teacher was new to me.  After the usual queries (“Where are you from?  Who’s your teacher?”) I spread my mat and got ready for a class.

All the teachers at RIMYI have a distinct style of teaching.  The strong teacher-student tradition of yoga ensures that your attitude, approach and philosophy towards the practice reflects that of your teacher.  Your students will be able to see the ‘Iyengar’ or ‘Ashtanga’ shades in your classes.  If you go to multiple teachers/don’t go to any teacher – that is pretty evident too.

There isn’t much of a crowd at RIMYI this year.  Last night’s class had about 15 students.  We had enough space to spread out.  The class was quiet.  It wasn’t action-packed or fast paced.  We did very few asanas.  We held each asana for a very very long time.

As you continue to hold, you’re able to go deeper into the pose.  You can intensify the stretch.  You can observe which limbs are working, which are sleeping.  I worked on lengthening and opening my torso in Trikonasana – I noticed that I could actually activate the hamstrings more.  Similarly in Parsvakonasana.

“You may be feeling a stretch in your hamstrings and on your groin,” said the teacher.  “But feel the quietness in your abdomen.”

I blinked a couple of times. It’s a mannerism Ive noticed recently.  It’s an automatic response if I’m surprised or intrigued.

“Most of us go after the stretch.  We think asana works only if we feel the stretch.  But all asanas bring quietness in the abdomen too.  Find this quiet.”

And with these few sentences, he changed my asana practice forever.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

A Yogi in Pune – Day 16

September 16, 2016

I’ve practiced more in these 16 days than I ever have in my life.  In Mysore practice used to be for an hour and a half.  That was for 15 days.  During my teachers’ training at SVYASA we used to have practice for up to 2 – 3 hours a day.  Here we practice for up to 5 hours a day.  Some students even opt to observe classes, so that’s more yoga during the day.  It is intense, it is powerful, detailed, thorough and it’s amazing (I may already have mentioned that before.)    In the past 2 weeks I’ve had time to really work on my asanas.  I’ve also had a chance to see the practice in a different way.  To kind of lift the asana lid and peer into the pot to find the importance and relevance of yoga in our lives.  My own steadily improving practice and watching all kinds of people practice day in and day out.  Doing the Trikonasana (and other asanas) over and over again drives home a few important lessons.

  1.  Practice makes perfect.  But nobody’s perfect.  So perfection is a process and practice is the means to it.  In the age of beautiful Instagram filters, it is difficult to believe that even the jaw dropping and awe inspiring pose has scope for improvement.  There is scope of improvement in everything.  Your projects are a work in progress.  Your relationships are a work in progress….your life is a work in progress.  You are a work in progress!  So accept your mistakes.  Internalize the lessons they teach you and don’t make them again.  Remember, a mistake made over and over again is a habit.
  2. Spend a lot of time on your fundamentals.  Here we have practitioners of all levels.  However, what we practice day in and day out (yes for 5 hours daily) are the fundamentals.  Trikonasana, Uttanasana, Downward dog etc.  The other day the entire 2 hour class was about Uttanasana.  That is all we did during the entire class.  In fact, I’ve heard Abhijata say that your inversions will never be stable unless your standing poses are stable.  Next time you find yourself fumbling in a pose, try and analyse why and what you can do to make the pose better.  And next time you find yourself getting impatient or bored of the fundamentals, remember there’s always scope for improvement.
  3. Cultivate discipline.Be strict with yourself because when it comes to your body no one else will be.  Make the time to move your body, however inconvenient it may be.  Make the time to cultivate a hobby which requires you to move.  Enjoy the process of movement and getting in touch with yourself.  The tragedy of our times is that people will set reminders on their phones to take the medicines they have now become dependent on, but they won’t throw back the covers and go for a quick jog.  Every little bit matters, but you need discipline.  To start and to stay on track.

[Above: Healthy food choices always.  Remember my 80/20 rule.]

Lifestyle 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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Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Yoga and the Menstrual Cycle – Pune Day 8

September 8, 2016

To practice or not to practice – even the most devoted yogini asks herself this once a month.

Here in Pune, women on their period are given a different, more restful sequence to follow.  So they will do all the standing and seated asanas and the twists with the rest of the class.  When the class goes into inversions (which is what we practice towards the end of the session), the menstruating ladies go into either forward bends or restful supine positions.

When I was in Mysore last year I found out that in the Ashtanga tradition, women are allowed 3 rest days while on their period and these days are called the ‘Ladies’ Holiday’.

Now that we know that two very old traditions of yoga recommend rest during this time, it’s worth dwelling on why.  I’m sure I’ve talked about it in a previous blog, but the most obvious reason is that inversions force the flow of blood to go against the natural course, which may lead to unhealthy periods.  Also, when you start to integrate bandhas with your asanas, the mula bandha opposes the flow of blood again.

Mensturation is also the time when a woman’s body regenerates and gets ready to procreate again.  This ability to procreate is held holy and revered in many cultures.  This is a time for a woman to slow down and give time and space to her body, spiritually and physically.

When I first started practicing yoga, I admit I thought not practicing when you’re menstruating was just a myth.  And so I practiced all the time.  A lot of us can get away with intense challenging practice sessions even while we’re on our period.  However, your body will change and it’s important to be attuned to these changes.  Your flexibility levels vary day to day, as does your stamina and state of mind.  As your body and your practice change you can expect that one day you may just want to relax during your period.  Listen to your body, don’t just obey your mind.

How did I make peace with easing up on my practice?  I decided to take it the Iyengar way.  During my self practice I spent a lot of time in Supta Baddhakonasana and in various forward bends.  I did a lot of hip openers because I find that feels good.  I worked on my Hanumanasana as well.  My back feels relaxed and flexible and I still feel like I did a good practice.

On to other related topics.  Lately I’ve started looking into having a zero-waste period.  As many readers may know, sanitary napkins and tampons are non biodegradable or recyclable and end up in landfills.  There are reams online about TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) but my primary interest in a zero-waste period is the environment.  Pads and tampons started to feel like the deep-fried, coated in refined sugar, unhygienic sweet that I didn’t even want to look at.  I discovered alternatives.  Here’s a video that will shed more light on this:

 

And if you’re interested in getting your own set of re-usable pads, you can get them at the link below.  The reason I like this organisation is because they are involved with lots of rural initiatives.

https://ecofemme.org/domestic/

Travel

A Yogi in Pune – Day 5

September 5, 2016

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I’m a lover of stories (maybe a collector of stories?).  The house I’m living in is located on Flight Lt Sudhir Pawar Road.  I found out early that Sudhir Pawar was actually related to my landlady.  He was her uncle.  Once on a sortie, the plane malfunctioned and he crash landed.  The government named the road on which he lived after him.  Once upon a time there were several bungalows on this road, however now there are only two left, one of which is the one I’m staying in.  The compound has 3 bungalows within it, and the grave of a fakir.  That piqued my interest.

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to my landlady’s father who is a retired architect.  In his 80s now, he is bedridden but his mind is spry and alert.  Deaf since the age of 17, he approached Morarji Desai for permission to travel abroad (in the 50s) to see if there were any doctors who could help him with his hearing.  Morarji Desai provided 400 pounds and letters of references to top doctors in Austria to help him out.  He set sail.  While on a quest to find a cure for his hearing loss, he managed to get a job in London, rented a Viscount’s house, learned lip reading from nuns in Birmingham, travelled all over Europe and finally decided to come home to get married and look after his younger brothers.  Still deaf, he decided on a final jaunt to Dubai for work before he came to India to settle down and start his own architecture firm.

So I decided to ask him about the fakir’s grave.  “No no he doesn’t walk…he doesn’t go anywhere.”

“What?” I was puzzled.

“Yes, he doesn’t walk anymore.  We’ve created a walkway for him and given him a house, so he doesn’t bother us.  He stays there only.”  So he was talking about the fakir.

The house he’s referring to is right behind the room which I’ve taken.  There’s a tree under which the fakir lies.  For obvious reasons I choose not to dwell on that right now.  However, I will try and get a picture of that house and tree one of these days.

Ganesh Chaturti is a big deal in Maharashtra and today was one of the first holidays pomelo_20160905130314_save.jpg(besides Sunday).  I realized this only last night and I got so excited when I realized last night that I could actually read all night if I wanted to.  That’s exactly what I planned on doing, but stumbled upon ‘The Painted Veil’ on YouTube.  I’m having issues putting the book down these days, and I was curious to see how they’ve done the movie.

I could hear ‘Ganpati bappa moriya!‘ as my hosts brought their Ganpati home and I went up later to see what they’ve done.  Family members have been visiting all day and festivity is in the air.  Tomorrow is the visarjan, where they will take the idol and submerge it the river.   Good to be in Maharashtra at this time.

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

A Yogi in Pune – Day 2

September 2, 2016
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Soup of the Day: Ghia soup.  I’m telling you, a hostess after my own heart.

I’m not sure whether it’s the my cold or it’s the intense practice here, but by the end of each practice session I’m EXHAUSTED.  This level of exhaustion is new to me.  In Bangalore I’m up super early and I have loads of energy to teach morning AND evening AND to do my self practice AND to write AND go to work.  Here I’m too tired to even eat sometimes and I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  This morning I woke up at 6, but lazed around in bed because I had to be at the institute only by 10.30 AM.  These small luxuries will only be available this month to me, I reasoned.

Today I had my self practice session first.  I got there early and spoke to  a few other first time students. And then it was time to quiz Mr. Pandurang for all everything he could tell me.  Who was this Pandurang Rao and how was he so intimately connected to the institute?  What was his story?  I decided to start asking him in Hindi about how long he’s been here.  He peered up at me from behind his thick glasses in surprise.  After a few questions we fell into an easy conversation.  He told me that Prashaant, Geeta and he used to practice with Guruji in the early 60s, in the house in the city, which is where the family used to stay then.  The loyal students at the time felt that Mr. Iyengar should have a place of his own to teach and practice in, similar to how he had studios all across the world.  Mr. Pandurang was a part of the original group of people who toiled hard to secure and create the space the world knows as RIMYI.  The opening was in 1975.  Pandurang speaks in the same low voice and neither his face nor his voice have any expression.  “What year where born?” he asked me abruptly.

“1982,” I replied.

“Hmmm…abh dekho, yeh 1975 se hai.  Aap thoda time do.  Yahaan ke barre mein bahaut hai seekhne ko.”  And with that our tete a tete came to an end because I had to go for my self practice session.

My self practice today went a lot better than yesterday, partly because I vegetated the morning away, conserving my energy for the session.  Here I encountered another luxury, the luxury of practicing with no time limits.  At home we all have time constraints.  Having what seems like all the time in the world and all the tools at your disposal, can put you in your happy place.  However, it can be overwhelming too.

 

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Room where my led class happens.  Pink ropes, what more could a girl want?

 

My led class was in the evening today and I met a Korean student while crossing the road and we chatted all the way to the institute.  After changing into the ‘uniform’ (more on this later), we trudged up three flights of stairs to the Women’s class.  Twice a week the institute has a women’s only session and I get to take the Friday eve women’s class.  The teacher is a bundle of energy.  She keeps a nonstop banter going through the class.  And she keeps her sharp eyes on everyone.  The caught me looking at the floor and shrilled, “BANGALORE!!!  Keep your eyes open!  Always!  You are with me!  You are with the class!  You are with YOURSELF!!!

It’s my turn to be at the receiving end I thought to myself as my mouth curled up into a smile and I nodded lightly.

While doing the Trikonasana: “BANGALORE!!! Look straight at me!  You are in my class!  Stay in my class!  Stay with us!  What are you looking at the ceiling for?!

Next time, she caught me glancing at the clock and she bellowed, “Why do your eyes always go up?!!! TRANCE mein chali jaati hai (giggles).  Trance mein jaana hai par meri class mein nahin.  In this class just go into the Trikonasana.”

During Sirsasana she bellowed, “BANGALORE!!!  Again!  Be with the class!!!  Come to the centre of the room, place your mat HERE and now face that way and now up you go

During the Sarvangasana: “BANGA-, wait what’s your name?”

Me: Pragya

Teacher: “Ek to itna lamba naam leke aa jaati hai.  Look!  Your blankets are uneven!  Make the even end on one side and odd end on the other side.  Yes, like that.”

As we filed out of class,  I said my customary thank you to which she said a simple: Good.

Hmmm, go figure.

I walked home and sat to pen down the day.  As I tied together some lose ends at work, Anuja (provider of the hot soups) and I made plans for the weekend.  I want to see the sights and sounds of Pune.  See different facets of the city.  She’s proving to be a great storehouse of info…and she’s following this blog too :).

But first we’ve decided to watch a scary film on Netflix tonight.  Turns out, both of us love scary movies, but prefer watching them with people.

Until tomorrow, stay healthy, stay happy!

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