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what to do in pune

Travel Yoga

Who’s the Teacher?

September 5, 2019

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

I’ve heard this phrase countless times, and even uttered this platitude a few times myself.  But a conversation with a friend of mine (another yoga teacher and owner of a yoga studio) made me take a fresh look at the teacher-student relationship.

When we say this phrase our emphasis is always on the teacher appearing.  That the teacher should know when the student is ready and then magically appear.  But what a student does/is doing while they are waiting for the teacher to be conjured is also important.

I’ve noticed two kinds of students-in-waiting:

  1. Those who have searched for a yoga class or a teacher and haven’t found one.  This is usually because there are no classes in the neighborhood or because they didn’t like any of the teachers available to them.  These students usually throw up their hands and deem that ‘it’s not time yet’.  In such scenarios your teacher may never appear, because a student who sees distance as an impediment isn’t really a student.  Also a student who looks at a teacher as mere commodities are searching for a bar of soap and not a human being who will guide them on possibly the most difficult journey in life.
  2. Then there are students who demand the teaching from the teacher.  They may ask to work on advanced asanas or work towards a specific asana.  These students demonstrate little regard and zero respect for the teachings being imparted.  The desire to learn advanced postures is only justified if it is accompanied by hours and hours of relentless self-practice.

The most important aspect of any practice is the practice itself.  Your yoga practice is your teacher.  If you aren’t visiting your teacher daily then you’re not a student nor a seeker.  Your desire to practice advanced asanas isn’t an indicator of your interest or your passion – it’s actually a measure of how tamasic you are.  You are looking at an external force to help you achieve your goal, instead of putting in your own sweat, blood and tears.

Finally, the teacher-student (guru-shishya) relationship is very much driven by the student.  The student must offer himself up first.  The surrender happens, and then the learning commences.  Until the student is able to turn off his ‘I-ness’, he will forever flail, grasping blindly for knowledge and wisdom which will always elude him.

Pictured below is my 11-12th grade English teacher.  Those of you who know me know that I went to different schools around the world until I landed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  At the American International School/Dhaka I had the double privilege of not only studying literature but also writing innumerable essays under the guidance of Ms. Spisso.  Here she is with books written by her alumni.  I like to think this is my guru dakshina to her.

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

The First Class

September 4, 2019

How many times have you quickly gone up into sarvangasana? Do you remember to pull the shoulders back, open the chest, activate the thighs and lift the tailbone up? Seemingly small modifications can change the entire posture.

Perhaps it was nervous excitement or maybe anticipation, but my first class was amazing.  By the end of the class my blood was singing and my body felt like it was thrumming (to the beat of my blood?).

I am a sucker for simple classes.  I believe if you focus on the simple stuff everything else falls into place.  This class focused on the tailbone and sacrum region.  We started the class with adhomukha virasana.  Rajalakshmi asked us to continue to extend the arms.  “This extension isn’t because you are lengthening your bones!!!” she boomed into the mike.

“The bones never extend!!!  It’s impossible for you to extend any of your bones!!!” she continued.  “Pay close attention to the parts of your body that make the extension possible!” she said.

She encouraged us to pay close attention to the tailbone-sacrum region and observe how it participates in forward bends and twists.

The most interesting part of the class was dissecting the parivritta trikonasana or the revolved triangle posture.  There are three movements that make this asana possible: the extension of the side, the bending forward keeping that extension intact and finally, the opening of the chest.  And once we were in the final posture we were asked to pull the tailbone and sacrum in to the body.

At one point Rajalakshmi caught me looking at my hip.  I realize I do this unconsciously every time I practice this asana.  I use my eyes to ensure that my hip is pushed back, which detracts from the overall experience of the asana.  “Your side is compressing and you’re becoming a ball,” Rajalakshmi explained patiently.  “Extend your chin forward and away from the sacrum.  Open the sacrum and lengthen the side!” she boomed again.

This is the magic of the annual pilgrimage to RIMYI.

Travel Yoga

An Auspicious Start – Pune Day 0

September 2, 2019

This is my fourth consecutive year coming to study at RIMYI.  In previous years I’ve had the luxury to make lists and plan.  This time I was caught in a whirlwind.  I had to wrap up projects, attend a last minute Vedanta class, plan the quantum of assignments to work on this month, and so on and so forth.  I was, of course, also trying to stuff myself with as many idlis and masala dosas as I could.  Have to survive for a month after all.

I think all the frenzied activity of the last few days caught up with me last night.  While I was finishing my packing I suddenly felt sick and threw up my lunch.  My stomach settled down after that but I was in no position to eat and went to bed.

After a quick and simple breakfast of fresh steaming idlis (surprise!) this morning we drove to the airport.  A short flight later I alighted in Pune.

Ganesh Chaturthi in Maharashtra is special and I’ve been lucky to witness it for the last 3 years.  As I got into the taxi I could hear the processions and feel the excitement in the air.  The festivities will continue for the next few days and it’s great to be here this time of year.  I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious start to my month.  Here’s to a wonderful month of growth, re-connection, beautiful discoveries and new friendships.

Fourth year in Pune for my trusted pink suitcase too.

Uncategorized

Finally some progress…

September 11, 2017

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Our goals form the blue print for our lives.  As kids we think of  growing up and becoming so and so.  Once we become so and so our goals change to the kind of cars or houses we want.  The kind of person we want to be with.  More common goals are to lose 10 kgs before year end, learn how to swim, run a marathon, travel the world, complete a reading challenge.

My first ever goal in life was to be Nancy Drew when I grew up.  As I grew up I became more laid back and wanted to spend all my time reading and writing.  My only goal in life was to spend as much time as possible reading as many books as possible.  I also wanted to write books for a living.  I finally ended up writing code for a living and that period of my life is conspicuous by a total lack of goals to aspire to.  Everyone else wanted promotions, raises, onsite trips.  People were flaunting cars, homes and eligible marital prospects.  One day I realized that if I didn’t start working out I would have nothing to wear since I had steadily outgrown many things in my closet.  That led me to the gym and then to yoga class.

As with most yoga students my first goal was to touch my toes.  I remember that I was elated when I first did that.  Even more when I touched my forehead to my knee.  Today I cringe at how bad my form was then.  Lots of people want to do the headstand and handstand.  Studying at RIMYI has made a lot of my goals accessible to me (Kurmasana for one).

As an Intermediate 2 practitioner you are expected to be comfortable in many variations of sirsasana.  You’re upside down in all classes (unless you’re menstruating), so headbalancing is crucial for an Iyengar practitioner.  There are bound to be many who topple over or come down for a little break.  When this happens you hear everything from ‘Shouldn’t have had so many modaks’ to ‘You call yourself teachers!!!’ to ‘In Intermediate 2 for so long and still not able to sustain?!’  Usually accompanied by a barrage of Marathi.

When I was here last year I used to fantasize about holding the headstand for 10 minutes.  I knew that was a prerequisite for the next level.  I’d heard of classes where students have been upside down for 20 minutes at a stretch.  All of last month I’ve worked on steadily increasing the amount of time I stay up.  I started with 5 minutes and then held it for 8 minutes for a while.  Then this morning I decided to be a little more adventurous and see if I could hold on for 10 minutes.  And I did!!!

Needless to say, it felt amazing!!!  Achieving these goals only prove that with only a little bit of discipline and smart work you are closer to your goals than you think.  Even goals that are mere fantasies for you right now.

 

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Aga Khan Palace

 

Travel

A Day Trip to Kaivalyadham

September 2, 2017
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Swamy Kuvalyananda and his disciples.

A couple of days ago I decided to visit Kaivalyadham.  I first heard about the institute when I started to explore yoga courses.  This was many years ago and at the time Kaivalyadham seemed inaccessible.  I read that it was one of the oldest yoga schools in the world.  They’ve done a lot of research on Yoga, Ayurveda, Naturopathy etc. and have helped people world wide manage and treat ailments and illnesses.  I read up on Swamy Kuvalyananda.  References to him came up in ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ and a few commentaries in the first volume of the Yogamala Ashtadala.  It was fitting then that I got in touch with an old friend of mine from Bangalore who happened to be in her last week of internship there and invited me over to see her campus.  Things fell in place – I had a day off, was only about 60 km away from Lonavala and the weather was beautiful.

The last 34 aphorisms of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are grouped under a chapter called the Kaivalya Pada (pada = chapter/part).  Here Patanjali describes the many ways in which the practitioner can attain the state of Kaivalya.  Kaivalya is the state wherein the practitioner is emancipated from the cycles of birth and rebirth.  It is an indivisible absolute state of aloneness.  ‘Kaivalyadham’ then means the place of Kaivalya.

The drive from Pune to Kaivalyadham is amazing.  Mist covered the hills and trees and I couldn’t take my eyes off the scenery.  Sadly I forgot to take pictures.  By the time we reached Kaivalyadham it was pouring cats and dogs and we had to wade through deep puddles to reach the main building.

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It’s always great to meet old friends.  We strolled around the campus as we talked.  Mamata took us to the gowshala where she spends a lot of time.  Kaivalyadham has a large Ayurvedic hospital and I even managed to get a quick consultation!  Like most residential yoga institutes, Kaivalyadham serves only sattvic food and we loved the lunch there.

They also teach cleansing kriyas as a part of their courses.  I was delighted to finally find clay neti pots in their gift shop and picked up a few for my friends as well.  Bangalore friends – now you know what I’m bringing back for you.

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Uncategorized

Paying Homage

August 24, 2017

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Last Sunday was BKS Iyengar’s punyatithi (death anniversary).  There was a function organised by the institute in which Abhijata spoke.

When I got to the institute (half an hour early), it was buzzing with activity.  Students were helping to arrange mats on the floor for all of us to sit on and technicians were taking care of the audio/video system.  The program started with the invocation to Patanjali and then Abhijata took the stage.

Her speech was a combination of personal memories of her grandfather, his approach to yoga, his method of teaching, his commitment to the subject and his belief system.  A nice little addition was the re-enactment of scenes from BKS Iyegnar’s classes, where the rest of the teachers went up on stage and pretended to be students as Guruji taught.  Abhijata did her best impersonation of the disciplinarian Guru while we tried to imagine our teachers in the plight that we so often find ourselves in.

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What I really liked about Abhijata’s speech was how she wove the lessons learned with personal anecdotes.  When talking about how Iyengar yoga helps us in cultivating a sense of peace or understanding who we really are, she said the Guruji had once said ‘My sole and soul is the same.’  Meaning that it is through the understanding and awareness of the gross body that he was able to cultivate insight.  You need to work so hard, make your body so potent that you can escape gravity.  Although anatomy is a rigid structure, you can’t pinpoint where the body ends and mind begins.  Your inner working has to be revealed through your outer self.

She also said that yoga is a living art.  Asana is a metaphor for life.  Yoga teaches you how to navigate through problems in life.    Chitta vritti has to come so that you can learn how to deal with it.  Action can’t guide, reflection does.  The prakriti has infinite potential, so it is possible to change our lives.  As an analogy think of a farmer laying the groundwork for his crops.  He does his best without thinking of the mechanics of how the seeds will sprout.  He lays the groundwork and the seeds sprout on their own.  Similarly, we must put in the practice, and everything else will also fall in place.

Life is to live.  Your sensitivity to yourself and the world around you increases through the practice of yoga, and this heightened sensitivity helps you to solve your problems.  For this your tapas has to have fire.  Your practice should have drive, passion and zeal.

It was fitting then that Abhijata ended her speech a little teary eyed and saying ‘He taught me how to live.’

 

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Recounting experiences with BKS Iyengar

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Sunday the 18th – Koregaon Park

September 20, 2016

 

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Early morning walk around Koregaon Park.

 

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.

 

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This should be better by December.

 

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 pomelo_20160911194640_save.jpgwanted 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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Lifestyle

Book Review – Indian Superfoods

September 7, 2016

Today was the first day I had an early morning session.  I’ve become used to waking up around 7, so 5 am was a challenge (funny how easy it is to get into the habit of waking up late).  I got ready quickly and hurried to the class.  As usual the class was full, even at that early hour.  We went through the usual rigmarole of standing poses, inversions etc.  Not much to report.   Except that I continue to read voraciously.

What I like about Rujuta’s books is that they are very relevant to our lives and times.  She talks about local food.  And essentially, she makes health and fitness accessible to the masses.  By masses, I don’t mean the vast majority of Indians who don’t have access to Acai seeds.  I mean those of us who are so busy with the mundanity of life, that we don’t have time to hunt down the best quality goji berries or chia seeds available to us.  So this book is a great resource for those who would like to eat well with the least hassle.  For me it was great because I believe in simple food and wholesome health.  To stay in  optimum health and shape is more a function of eating simple unadulterated food, instead of exotic produce and unpronounceable ingredients lists.  My idea is simple.  If you focus on quality, then the most commonly available ingredients will have you glowing a la lightbulb.  I believe this and try to eat like that, and I do enjoy good health for the most part.

In addition to this, Rujuta has also brought to light lots of fruits and vegetables from different regions in India.  It helps in us becoming curious and a bit more experimental with our food, and also inculcates a sense of awareness of the richness of what our land has to offer.  From ghee to something called the ambadi fruit, her book makes local produce come alive and become tempting.  This blog isn’t a summary of the book, but just a little bit of info.  The book has a lot more information to offer and I would really suggest that you read the book.  However, here is a little bit of information to pique your interest:

  1. Ghee – It’s a myth that ghee is fattening.  In fact, it is lipolytic, it breaks down fat.  So if you eat ghee you’re helping in breaking down stubborn fat.  Helpful advice that she gives for women:  If you get skin breakouts before or with every period eat ghee at least three times a day.  Plus she has a bonus recipe for how to make ghee.
  2. Kokum – this is a fruit I haven’t had, but I had a drink made out of this at Dastkaar.  Rub kokum butter on the soles of your feet right before you sleep and you will sleep deeply, regardless of how stressed and frazzled you are.  Definitely on my shopping list.
  3. Banana – here I have a banana before every class.  Actually, in Bangalore as well.  It’s a myth that bananas are fattening.  They are low on fat and in fact help in fat burning and in reducing cholesterol!
  4. Kaju – good to combat PCOD and hypothyroidism.  Prevents adult acne and improves fertility too!
  5. Ambadi – I’ve never had this plant nor heard about it.  Another item on my shopping list.  If you know how to pronounce this word, do let me know.  Interestingly, this local green (and other’s like it) are called ‘orphan crops’, crops that no one grows because there is no demand for them.  You can make it into a sabzi and get your iron, vit B and folic acid from it.  The stems of the Ambadi plant are used to make jhadoos and fabric.  I wonder if they make yoga mats out of this…
  6. Rice – prevents premature wrinkling and supports good hair growth.  Need I say more?
  7. Coconut – doesn’t contain cholesterol because it’s a plant based food.  Plus it actually helps in reducing ‘central adiposity’ (fat in the middle) and so helps in ensuring a slim waist.
  8. Aliv – used in laddoos!  Great for skin, it evens out skin tone, gets rid of patches and naturally brightens the complexion.  Wonder if Diwali laddoos contain this seed…
  9. Jackfruit – low in fat and rich in fibre, so it helps in reducing cholesterol levels.  Also, the fruit has a lot of anti-oxidants.
  10. Sugar – don’t replace with jaggery as both have different properties.  Jaggery adds heat to the body while sugar is a coolant.

If the above points were interesting, you should go out and get a copy of the book.  It does give you food for thought and even if you’re unable to apply everything she talks about into your life, it still helps to be aware of what we are eating and what are the food choices that are available to us.

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Lifestyle Uncategorized

A Yogi in Pune – Day 4

September 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Travel Yoga

A Yogi in Pune – Day 3

September 3, 2016

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I had a 7 am class this morning and boy was it jam packed!  I think the practice hall can accommodate about 25 people comfortably but we crammed in about 50 people.  We were told to keep our mats right next to each other.  To adjust and to understand.  In life and on the mat.

My self practice was in the evening today and it was simply AMAAAAAAAZING!!!!  I had been avoiding practicing back bends for a while.  I’ve analysed why in my head several times, however will take reams and reams of blog posts to get into why.  Anyways, what I really like about the self practice sessions here is that the students come and practice with unwavering dedication, even though there are no teachers to help out or to guide.  I come across so many people who say that they need to join a class else they slack off.  Until now I understood this as a lack of inspiration to work out, to dance, to practice yoga etc.  However, when I look around at the self practice room and see people practicing intensely, I have a new found respect for those who maintain a regular fitness regime.  For myself, yoga isn’t a fitness regime.  I’ll risk sounding clichéd, but it’s like brushing my teeth.  It sets the pace of my days, it makes me feel balanced, it helps me focus and express myself.  Yoga simply defines my days.

 

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Soup of the Day: Tomato and Carrot

 

Today also marks the momentous occasion of me buying my very first Iyengar yoga shorts.  There is a local man here (a Mr. Vasanth), who along with his wife makes yoga shorts and tees and props too.  I’m going to upload his contact details here so that all who are interested can contact him.  They customize the shorts as well, so I’ve asked for plain black.  Until then I will make do with the blue tie and dyed ones I chose from amongst the ones he had.

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And finally my first weekend in Pune has arrived!  Anuja and I are going out for a meal so that we can let our hair down and set the tone for the weekend.  I have two complete days to work this exhaustion out of my system (maybe going out tonight isn’t in line with that goal…).  Anyways, girls who work hard need to play hard too.

Also, we watched ‘Hush’ last night.  Completely forgettable.