Browsing Tag

bks iyengar

Lifestyle Yoga

Savasana – The Corpse Pose

March 27, 2020

‘Verse 32 of the First Chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states: ‘Lying upon one’s back on the ground at full length like a corpse is called Savasana.  This removes the fatigue caused by the other asanas and induces calmness of mind.’ (Light on Yoga, p 422)

And we’re finally at the end of our Immunity Sequence.  In the past few weeks many of us have incorporated these asanas into our daily yoga routines and it’s been incredibly gratifying to see everyone stick to yoga routines and, quite frankly, make the most of a bleak situation.  I do feel that once we’re through this #21daylockdown, we will see that our individual actions actually did make a difference.

Svasana is also called the Mritasana.  Sava and Mrita means a corpse.  Your main objective in this asana is to simulate a dead body.  A dead body has no movement, and no thoughts (wherein lies the challenge).

It helps to:

  • Calms the nervous system.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Relieves anxiety.
  • Restores balance.
  • Facilitates healing.

 

Contraindications

No contraindications!  Anyone and everyone can and should practice the savasana.

 

Busting the Myths

Savasana is everyone’s favorite posture.  It’s often treated as a posture where your body rests.  However, in this posture your mind is also supposed to remain still.  And this is what makes this posture the most difficult.   Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • Initially you may fall asleep during savasana.  This just means that your body needs more rest.  Once your body get the adequate amount of rest, you will be able to bring a meditative quality to your savasana.
  • In a one hour class you must make sure to stay in savasana for at least 10 minutes.

 

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

Lifestyle Yoga

Viparita Karani – The Inverted Pose

March 26, 2020

 

There’s a general consensus among modern yogis that Viparita Karani or Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose may have the power to cure whatever ails you. (Yoga Journal)

 

In Sanskrit Viparita means ‘upside down’ and karani means ‘doing’.

It helps to:

  • Regulate blood pressure.
  • Treat cardiac disorders.
  • Treat stress-related headaches, including migraines.
  • Gives relief from swollen feet.
  • Relieve nausea.

Contraindications

This is an inversion and as such should be avoided if you have serious eye problems such as glaucoma.

Busting the Myths

This is actually a restorative and relaxing asana, but the final pose is quite difficult for beginners and those with stiff backs.  Read on for some practice pointers.

Practice Pointers

  • You can do this asana with your legs on a chair, or even on your bed!
  • It’s a little unwieldy to get the buttocks close to the wall to get the legs up, but there is a technique (see video).

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

 

 

Lifestyle Yoga

Sarvangasana – The Mother of Asanas

March 19, 2020

Sarvanga (Sarva=all, whole, entire, complete; anga=limb or body) means the entire body or all the limbs.  In this pose the whole body benefits from the exercise, hence the name.  (Light on Yoga, p 206)

 

The Sarvangasana is beneficial for your entire body, which is why it’s called the Mother of all Asanas.  Just like the mother nourishes you at many levels, so the Sarvangasana nourishes you at many levels.  In fact, there is also the chinlock, the Jalandhar Bandha that forms.

It helps to:

  • Expand the chest enabling deeper breathing.
  • Eradicate common cold and other nasal disturbances.
  • Stimulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  • Get rid of even chronic headaches.
  • Relieve insomnia and hypertension.
  • Detoxify the system.

 

Contraindications

Ladies who are menstruating should not do the sarvangasana.  People suffering from diarrhea or headaches should also not practice this asana.

Busting the Myths

In many old yoga books you will find this posture also called the Candlestick posture because the body is supposed to resemble a straight candle on a candle holder.  Read on for some practice pointers…

Practice Pointers

  • In the final position only the back of the head, the neck, shoulders and upper arms should be on the floor.  You must take care NOT to bring the chin in to the chest, but to bring the chest forward to the chin.  When you do this the entire spine stretches.
  • If you find that your body isn’t perpendicular work on tightening the buttocks and lifting up vertically.
  • Don’t allow the elbows to widen outwards.  This will make it more difficult to straighten the trunk.
  • Also ensure that your neck doesn’t move sideways, as that will cause injury to the neck.

 

Stay tuned for more from our Yoga to Boost Immunity Sequence.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

Lifestyle Yoga

Yoga to Boost Immunity

March 8, 2020

When Women’s Day rolls around we talk about women.  Strength, equality, acceptance, rights.  This year I wanted to talk about something more relevant.  Immunity.  Immunity to ‘what will people say/think/do’.  Immunity to unrealistic expectations. Immunity to trying to please everyone.  Immunity to self-doubt, self-sabotage.

The key to fighting any kind of external attack is your immunity.  The higher your immunity levels, the less likely you are to fall prey to pesky germs.

I suggested a collaboration to my friend Medha of Amruta Bindu Yoga a day before Women’s Day.  Within two minutes we were ready.  The deadly Corona virus spreading like wildfire across planet earth, we decided to focus on how yoga can help.  Yoga’s positive impact on boosting your immunity is proven and well documented.  A regular yoga practice helps in lowering your stress hormones and stimulates the lymphatic system (which eliminates toxins from your body).  Inversions (asanas where your head is below the level of your heart) help in increasing blood circulation.  This increased circulation helps in taking oxygenated blood to your organs, which helps in keeping the organs healthy.

A couple of days ago I came across a yoga sequence to strengthen the immune system, designed by BKS Iyengar.  It’s being widely circulated on Instagram and I came across it on the IYNAUS page.  Medha and I decided to share the sequence with our followers.

This sequence was created by BKS Iyengar to boost immunity to fortify the body against the invasion of germs, bacteria and viruses. Fun fact: it’s Medha and I performing the asanas in the images.

 

Daily practice is a challenge, specially when you’re practicing solo.  We decided to help by putting together this checklist for you.  You can print this out and place it where you’re likely to see it, be it your practice space, your dresser, your bathroom mirror, in front of your desk etc.  It’s a reminder to you that all of us need a little help with our yoga practice.  You can also download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist by clicking on the ‘Download’ button at the end of the blog.

Over the next few days we’re going to be discussing how each of these asanas improve your immunity.  We’ll discuss the asanas at length, giving you new insight into them.  Please reach out to any of us (on Instagram/Facebook) with your queries and we will help you out!  We’re incredibly excited about this challenge and hope it really makes a difference to you.

Download the Daily Yoga Practice Checklist.

Follow Amrutha Bindu Yoga here.

Follow Medha Bhaskar here.

Follow me (Pragya Bhatt) here.

 

You can read about the individual asanas below:

  1. Uttanasana
  2. Adhomukha svanasana
  3. Prasarita Padottanasana
  4. Sirsasana
  5. Dwi pada Viparita Dandasana
  6. Halasana
  7. Sarvangasana
  8. Viparita Karani
  9. Savasana
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.

 

Uncategorized

Crack Open to Heal – Day 9

August 9, 2018

Yoga helps.  It heals.  It gets rid of emotional blockages and psychological pain.  It brings peace.  It brings clarity.  We’ve all heard this at one point or another.  And I’m sure we all wonder – how?

Yoga helps by teaching us how to create space.  Our demons reside in our joints.  Achy, stiff joints are permanent residences for the demons of our past.  To get rid of these demons we must lengthen our joints.  Create space so that the joints can breathe and release the demons holding them tightly together.  Once these demons are gone your joints will be free to move easily and pain free.

The same applies to backbends.  Bending backward is so difficult for many of us because it requires (amongst other things) flexible back and shoulder muscles as well as a flexible hip joint.  For a long time I wrestled with a stiff upper back.  After years of practice I’ve managed to overcome this challenge….only to realize that I’m unable to access and push the hip joint up.  And this will take a few more years to overcome.  The point is that the only way to let go of years of deep rooted fears and blockages is to spend years creating space between the bones and muscles so that the tightly held demons are let go.

To overcome past samskaras it is important to crack yourself in two.  For instance, when doing the Urdhvadhanurasana I’m almost trying to split myself into two, body below the sternum and above the sternum.  For the next couple of years it will be focusing on body below the hip joint and above the hip joint.  The practice of reaching within yourself to access an area which has been ‘sleeping’ automatically infuses this place with new life…and also enables you to release the ghosts of lives past.

 

Uncategorized

The First Sunday – Day 5

August 5, 2018

A good teacher teaches the technicalities of the asanas really well. They will make you repeat an asana, they will demonstrate the asana repeatedly. They will adjust, they will give examples.

A great yoga teacher teaches yoga.

This morning, after the childrens’ yoga class, I got a chance to observe Raya in action. He was taking a special yoga class for a large group of students who have just arrived.  Raya’s classes are always peppered with a bit of humor, lots of insight and incredible yoga.  When a student asked him to speak louder because she couldn’t hear over the noise of the traffic coming from outside, he said, “Welcome to India.  We have to cultivate different faculties to learn yoga here.”  A profound answer to a common query.

At the beginning of the class Raya asked everyone for ailments/conditions/aches and pains.  And finally he said that a body will have problems.  If there is a body, there will be problems.  The idea or the goal of this practice is not about fixing everything.  BKS Iyengar has said that we can cure what can be cured, but we must also learn to endure what can’t be cured.  So another aspect of this practice is to understand the limitations and work with them.

When you practice asanas, you have to be very alert to your feelings.  It isn’t enough just to stand up straight in Tadasana.  You must be cognizant of the feelings that exist in your soles to know if you are standing properly or not.  Feelings are like eyes.  When you feel something you are actually about to directly perceive it.  So be as aware of your feelings as you are about the positioning of your limbs.

In standing poses we have the tendency to inhale and harden the chest.  The chest becomes a metal box.  A metal box can’t spread and expand.  A balloon can expand because it’s soft.  Your chest should be like a balloon.  In all asanas you need to expand and spread instead of become small and closed.

Like I said, a great yoga teacher teaches you yoga, not just asanas.

 

Uncategorized

The Monkey Mind and Other Thoughts – Day 3

August 3, 2018

The great thing about being a returning student at the Mecca of Iyengar yoga is that you end up making friends who you end up meeting almost every time you come here.  I caught up with a friend today and it was great to discuss how far our yoga practice and teaching have come in the last one year.

Chai in Pune is always accompanied by conversation.  Long, drawn out, interesting conversation if you have the time.

I’m always interested in talking about self practice with other practitioners.  It helps me answer questions about my own practice, and sometimes it helps me ‘figure it out’.  When you’re practicing on your own day in and day out, it’s easy to get distracted.  Being distracted to the point of not practicing or being uninspired to practice doesn’t really apply to seasoned practitioners.  A seasoned practitioner would be someone who has had a self practice for about 3-5 years.  That’s when you know that you practice daily because of habit or discipline, and not because it ‘feels good’.  Because, to be honest, it’s not always going to ‘feel good’.  In fact, it only ‘feels good’ in retrospect.  While you’re practicing in the wee hours of the morning, trying to wake up a creaky body, assailed by self doubt and dealing with an overly active monkey mind, you’re not really enjoying anything.

And sometimes, as teachers, you end up with a bad case of the imposter syndrome.  While most teachers talk about the absolute joy of teaching and enjoying the energy and interaction with students, a lot of us constantly wonder if we know what we’re doing.  There’s always someone who executes the pincha better.  Someone who has a larger fan following, better retreats or maybe just published a book.  But perhaps the imposter syndrome is more about ego.  Comparisons with others.  Judging others.  Judging yourself.

A month in Pune can be hard.  The asanas are the easy part.  Most practitioners committed to dropping everything and coming here know what they are doing.  But sometimes as you go and grab a bolster you catch a glimpse of someone effortlessly holding an asana that has you break into a cold sweat (yes this happens).  Or someone else doing an asana that you don’t dream of (yet) and believe you never will.  This is the real test.  Do you allow yourself to get distracted and demotivated?  Or do you go back to your practice with unbroken focus?  I usually get distracted, and then my discipline kicks in and I continue.

And what about biting off more than you can chew.  Sometimes as practitioners we demand asanas from ourselves.  We contort and stretch and moan our way to what we think is the asana but might just end up in an injury.  Frequently we see students who are in a hurry to reach what they consider the pinnacle of practice.  They practice 2-3 times a day, drastically change their diets, start to devour books by advanced teachers and learn asanas by these teachers on YouTube.  I always tell my students that if you don’t have your addition down pat, calculus is just going to confuse you.  So if you haven’t given enough years to the basic asanas, advanced poses and teachers will be detrimental to your practice.  Pace means a lot.

These ideas are going to run around in my mind during the rest of my stay here.  But it will be interesting to see how they shape my yoga.

And meanwhile in Bangalore….

Uncategorized

Repetition of vs Repeating (an Asana)

April 29, 2018

Your body exists in the past and your mind exists in the future. In yoga, they come together in the present. – BKS Iyengar

The other day one of my students mentioned (rightly so) that in my class he spends a lot of time in Adhomukha Svanasana. Other classes he’s attended didn’t repeat asanas as much our class.

Why the repetition?

The thing is, we might be doing the same asana over and over again, but we’re not actually repeating it. Emotionally, physically and mentally, the asana is different every single time we redo it. Each time we execute it, we go deeper. We look at nuances, uncover hidden depths. It’s a new asana every time. In Trikonasana, for instance, I can focus on the alignment of my ankles, or on my shoulder blades, or the rotation of my spine, my drishti, or the alignment of the femur and shin, or even the extension of the metatarsals and soles. To maintain awareness simultaneously on all the factors that build the Trikonasana is hard, and we practice to achieve that. And, if for a moment we attain that state, we meditate upon what it taught us, what we learned.

I frequently come across posts on social media about ‘flipping your perspective’ or ‘get a new perspective’ and usually such posts are usually accompanied by pictures of Sirsasana (headstand) or Adhomukha Vrikshasana (handstand). In an Iyengar yoga class, you will gain new perspective and flip existing ones while doing basic asanas repetitively, constantly, consistently and persistently. To gain new perspective, we don’t really need to look beyond what we already have. Perhaps all we need is to be more attentive.

Take the Trikonasana above for instance. We can always focus on bending to the side and making contact with the toes/foot/ankle/ground. Or we can focus on bringing out the various triangles in the posture more distinctly and intensely.

Your focus will determine the quality and maturity of your practice and your life.

Uncategorized

How to Manage Your Fears and Face Them Head On

November 2, 2017

When I needed a wall behind me for the Sirsasana.

Halloween got me thinking about fear.  As a society we value fearlessness.  As people we take pride in saying, “I’m fearless.”

But I’ve never met anyone who is fearless.  Some fear pain, some fear solitude, some fear poverty, some fear for the safety of their near and dear ones, aging.  Over the years I’ve heard of the fear of pigeons, fear of sprouts, fear of going bald.

A strategy that used to work for me was to avoid the cause of my fear.  But, it turns out, there are some fears you can’t avoid.

When I was ill I wasn’t able to practice for what felt like a very long time.  My teacher once told us that if you don’t practice for a day, it’s equivalent to putting your practice back by seven whole days.  As each day passed, I thought of all I learned in Pune.  With so much time on my hands I became increasingly anxious, nervous and fearful.

In the path of Yoga there are inevitable roadblocks and problems.  But Yoga is a holistic practice so the solution also lies in the practice.  The first limb of the Ashtanga (8 Limb) yoga practice is Yama.  The Yamas are  set of 5 ethical principles that practitioners must adhere to.  One of the Yamas is aparigraha or ‘non-attachment’.  As yogis we become too attached to the practice.  Some of us feel guilty if we are unable to practice.  Others push themselves too hard.  Some pride themselves on the asanas that they can do.  We stop enjoying the journey, we focus only on the destination.  And in the process become attached to the destination.

I am very attached to my asana practice. I spend a lot of time trying variations, reading, watching and experimenting.  When I can finally do an asana I feel a sense of accomplishment.  There is nothing wrong with feeling good about finally attaining something that you’ve worked hard for.  But if you beat yourself for not attaining the final asana despite a rigorous practice; or start to lose faith in the path because your goal seems far, far away; then you need to take a fresh look at your attitude and approach.

I was fearful of discovering the state of my yoga practice post illness. If you’ve read this blog, then you know that I was significantly weakened by the illness.  Waking up every day to practice felt like an exercise in futility.  It was scary to try asanas and not know if I would be able to do them.  Asanas which I ‘owned’ before.  But I guess by force of habit I kept on returning every morning…to fail.  Until one day I started improving.

And that’s when I realized that fear can’t be ignored.  You can’t not think about the object of your fears.  It doesn’t help to face fear head on.  Fear can only be managed, one day at a time.  You don’t have to look at the entire marathon, you need to look at the Majaa run first.  You don’t have to dwell on whether you’re going to get the job, you only need to work on giving the best interview ever.  You don’t have to worry about the Sirsasana (Headstand), you just have to work on doing a very good Adhomukha Svanasana (Downward Dog).

BKS Iyengar once told Patricia Walden (who was struggling with a heavy case of depression) to ‘Take one step no matter how small.’  I realize this is what I have been doing ever since I’ve gotten back on the mat.

Do you have a strategy to deal with fear?