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2019 : The End of a Decade

December 28, 2019

The last blog for the decade can’t be anything but a collection of highlights of the year gone by…

January 2019 started with me defining my theme for the year.  Month after month I strove to stick to it.  I reminded myself of it in gratitude journals and monthly reviews.  When asked about my word for the year in a bloggers’ group I’m a member of, I realized that mine would have to be perseverance.

February saw me travelling for the first time to Sri Lanka, to teach internationally.  I was excited to be teaching in Tangalle, a beautiful and calm little beach town.  We had a blast and on the way back I wrote a poem through which I tried to capture my thoughts and feelings.

March was a month of planning and preparing for a possible retreat in Italy.  TBH, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off, but I told myself that I’d already taught in Sri Lanka to positive reviews and with the right attitude, this would also materialize.  It was a charmed time, teaching alongside Suzanne, sharing food and stories, long walks through olive gardens and along the Mediterranean.  I can’t believe it’s happening again in 2020, and this time we promise it’s going to bigger and better.

In April I watched ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and wrote possibly the most fun blog ever (going by the views and comments).  What else do you expect from a yogini?  Read the blog now, I promise you’ll love it.

In May I did a little bit of humorous soul searching, trying to gain clarity on who I am and what I want.  It will resonate with all those of us who have ever used #myfitnessjourney.

June was D-month.  The month of the long-awaited yoga retreat in Liguria.  We had advertised and planned.  Discussed and thought.  It comprised getting documentation work ready for my sister, my cousin, my boyfriend and myself to head to Italy on a 15 DAY sojourn.  None of us had done anything this exciting ever in our lives and we were stoked to say the least.  We booked tickets and accommodation.  I planned my classes.  And we were finally on our way.  Read more of our adventures here.

By July I was a published author.  My book, Beyond Asanas, was in bookstores and I did my share of promotional activities for it.  My friends, family and students clicked pictures of my book wherever they saw it.  Being a published author which was a life-long dream and in August I was forced to think about reading and writing.

In September I was in Pune for my month at RIMYI (which is fast becoming an annual tradition).  I also attended my first Lit Fest as a writer and that memory will always be special.  A chance question at my session became one of the most viewed blogs of the year.  It’s called “Why Am I Not Losing Weight?” and you can read it here.

October saw me back in Bangalore to resume classes.  And a pleasant surprise came to me as if by Providence herself!   An old friend living in Tokyo, googles for yoga teachers and comes upon me.  And just a few weeks later we have a reunion after 10 whole years.  A decade changes us in more ways than we can define.  And good friendships – they remind you of why you were friends in the first place..

In November I was compelled to take a walk down memory lane and into my closet!  It was also the month where I received a sweet note from the PMO.

December was a month of national turbulence.  My mind was also restless which is why my Christmas post wasn’t all eggnog and reindeers like I had hoped it would be.  I wrote a hard-hitting poem about another event that shook the country, and for the first time performed it on stage too!

It’s almost the end of December, and with it the end of the decade.  I’ve been thinking of my word/theme for 2020.  I’ve been extremely fidgety in the last few months.  The main question plaguing my waking moments is ‘What next?’  I realize I want to move on to doing projects that have a greater impact.  I want to use everything I’ve learned and experienced this far to do something more meaningful in the coming months.  I want to do better projects, push the envelope in terms of what I have to offer.  Therefore my theme/word for 2020 came to be quite organically.  And my word is : fruition.

I wish you all dear readers a very happy new year and promise that in 2020 this blog will be have you more engaged, informed and inspired.  So stay with me and stay safe!

 

In March I was extremely honored to receive the ‘Woman Achiever Award’ in the field of yoga by the prestigious Karnataka Association for Small Scale Industries (KASSIA). The night was magical and truly special.

 

‘Beyond Asanas’ was adjudged best book under the ‘Health and Fitness’ Category at the Gurgaon Lit Festival in November. This was my first award as a writer and I was thrilled to bits.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

Do You Need a Change? – Day 8

December 6, 2019

New patients come to SVYASA on Fridays. When I arrived last Friday I didn’t get a chance to see the in-patient process as I was registering myself as an intern. Today I saw patients coming in and consulting with the doctors. Doctors then refer them to the appropriate department where their vital statistics are taken and files created for each patient. The hospital at SVYASA doesn’t have your typical hospital feel. At any given time you have interns from other institutes and around the world and resident college students observing the processes and method of treatment. The mood is light and happy instead of somber and grievous.

It was interesting to observe the behavior of new patients today. Most described themselves as ‘no problems, just a little acidity all the time’ or ‘nothing as such, just from time to time some depression’ and ‘i have no issues as such, just a little bit of weight problem is there’…and so on and so forth. In a way there is lots of optimism, but somewhere I wonder, is there also denial? If you don’t truly believe that you need a change, regarding your health or anything else in life, will you put 100% into making that change? The only time I’ve been able to bring about change is when I’ve accepted that I need or want a change more than I want the status quo. It’s important to face your issues head on, rather than trivializing them.

Also tonight is my last night here! I can’t believe it’s been one week already and I’m really looking forward to getting back home, to my classes and daily practice.  I still remember Day 1.

In other news – my Liguria yoga retreat is on track and we’re excited to announce that seats are filling up fast! Below is a snapshot of what happened in the last retreat. The next one is going to be bigger and better.

 

Lifestyle Yoga

A Pranayama Sequence – Day 7

December 5, 2019

Pranayama is the fourth limb of the Ashtanga system of yoga. The other limbs are (in sequence):
1. Yama
2. Niyama
3. Asana
4. Pranayama
5. Pratyahara
6. Dhyana
7. Dharana
8. Samadhi

Most scholars believe that this is a sequence and practitioners have to gain a certain level of mastery in one to go to the next one. Which is why in many schools of yoga, pranayama is only taught after many years of intense asana practice. For instance, beginners in of Iyengar yoga don’t practice pranayama. In 2017 I experienced a pranayama class at RIMYI and wrote about it here.

However, some schools of yoga believe that these are limbs and not steps. They believe that it is therefore possible to practice several of the limbs at the same time. At SVYASA pranayama is taught to all patients, regardless of fitness levels and health conditions. Also, some pranayama is included in the asana classes and trataka (candlelight gazing) medition sessions.

I’ve been attending pranayama class every day here and although I don’t practice pranayama in my personal practice (yet), those readers who are interested are welcome to follow the below sequence. This sequence has been designed by SVYASA after extensive research.

Opening Prayer

1. Kapalabhati
20 strokes
40 strokes

Mudra: chin mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

2. Sectional breathing
Abdominal breathing 5x
Mudra: chin mudra
Thoracic breathing 5x
Mudra: chinmaya mudra
Clavicle breathing 5x
Mudra: adi mudra
Yogic breathing 5x
Mudra: brahma mudra

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

3. Nadi Shuddi aka anulom-vilom pranayama 10x
Mudra: chin mudra with the left hand, nasika mudra with the right hand

Relax in the Shitali dandasana.

4. Brahmari pranayama using the N-kara
Mudra: chin mudra or shanmukhi mudra

Cooling pranayama practices

5. Shitali pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

6. Sitkari pranayama
Mudra: chin mudra

7. Sadanta pranayama

Mudra: chin mudra

8. Nada anusadana
A-kara 3x
U-kara 3x
M-kara 3x

Closing prayer.

I’m missing practicing in my own space. This is from a practice session a few weeks ago. Although I’ve learned a lot here, I’m itching to head back home and resume asana practice.

Food Lifestyle Yoga

An Ayurvedic Therapist’s Secrets to a Healthy Life – Day 6

December 4, 2019

Meditating (or pretending to) somewhere in the hills of Kotagiri. How I long to be back there meditating and breathing the fresh air. pc: Animesh Jain

Today I was posted to perhaps the most interesting department. The Gastroenterology department.

And I’ve finally made a friend!!! She’s doing a BSc. here and is also employed as an Ayurvedic therapist. So she studies and works at SVYASA. She’s become my one stop shop for any queries, and it’s nice to have a friend who knows her way around!

Since the full time therapists are always too busy to answer my questions (and there are always so many questions), I usually end up discussing my queries with Aishwarya. I usually observe silently as patients describe their symptoms to the doctors. The doctors make notes in the files.

Later I pick Aishwarya’s brain.

The symptoms that most patients report are things like bloating and indigestion. If ignored or left untreated these can lead to more serious issues such as chronic constipation, IBS and ulcers. At SVYASA the first line of treatment is to put these patients on an Ayurvedic diet and have them attend various yoga and meditation sessions.

“But do you think the answer to a medical problem so prevalent is as simple as changing the diet and moving a bit more?” I asked her.

Apparently it is. Patients who come in with even severe cases of gastritis report a marked improvement after just a week on the SVYASA routine. Here their food and meal times are regulated. Although the quantity of food can’t be controlled but what the patients (and us) eat is very very simple. It is basically rice, roti, dal, a sabji and buttermilk. Not once has the food been too spicy or too salty. There’s never dessert. Fruit isn’t on the menu and in the evenings they serve a dairy-based malt instead of coffee/tea. We end up eating at the same time every day, which promotes healthy digestion.

We exchanged some personal anecdotes as well. She told me about how she was overweight before she came to SVYASA and her diet underwent a sea-change during the time she’s been here (the last 2 years). I described my weight-loss journey as well and how it was a solid asana practice and a supremely controlled diet that helped me. Aishwarya’s diet is similar to an Ayurvedic diet. Below are a few of the guidelines she follows:
. no sugar
. no milk
. no coffee or tea
. no refined flour, refined rice, refined oil

I didn’t ask her about alcohol but I’m sure that’s also a no. Also, she feels that the food served in the mess isn’t wholesome and so she also makes a malt for herself every once in a while. It’s a powder containing multi grains which she mixes with water and jaggery. Served hot.

Along with what we eat it’s important to eat at the same time every day. It builds regularity in digestion. Erratic meal timings lead to erratic digestion. Erratic digestion gives rise to every single condition treated in the Gastroenterology ward.

Sleep and stress are two factors that simply can’t be overlooked when it comes to digestion. Insufficient or disturbed sleep interferes with the secretion of digestive enzymes which is why you feel sluggish when you’re sleep deprived. It’s the same story with stress. Chronic stress inhibits the secretion of digestive enzymes. Chronic stress will also interfere with the secretion of melatonin, which will in turn lead to sleeplessness, which will cause digestive disorders…and the viscous cycle continues.

The only way to break this cycle is to wake up one day and commit to living better, one decision at a time.

Lifestyle Yoga

It Starts With a Cleanse – Day 3

December 1, 2019

If you’ve ever consulted with me, or attended any class with me, you would know that I focus more on well-rounded asana classes more than ‘do this asana for this problem’. The reason is that yoga isn’t a quick fix. You will start to derive benefits from a regular practice even if you only practice for a week, but you need to put in that week. And once you reap the benefits, if you quit, then the benefits also disappear. It’s pretty straightforward.

It was my second (and last day) at the Spinal Disorders department at Arogyadhama. Here patients are called participants. Every participant is prescribed a combination of yoga therapy and at least one other treatment for the duration of their stay here. This other treatment could be allopathic in nature, it could be an ayurvedic treatment or even plain old physiotherapy. The point is, yoga is essential in their treatment. Which is why OM Meditation and certain other sessions during the day are mandated for everyone.

In alternative medicine the focus is not the symptom of the disease, it is the source of the disease. The source of the disease could be external (such as strained personal relationships) or internal (a congenital physical issue such as epilepsy). Here at SVYASA, treatment starts with cleansing. The daily OM meditations, the bhajan sessions, the Sanskrit chanting etc. are ‘prescribed’ to everyone to start the process of mental and emotional cleansing. It is believed that chanting raises your spiritual quotient and the particular vibrations of the chants cleanse your nadis, which in turn cleanse you emotionally and mentally. Which is why every single participant at SVYASA is put through a deluge of meditation sessions.

Another aspect of cleansing is internal cleansing of the body. For this there are several kriyas that are taught here. So this morning all the participants were marched to the ‘kriya‘ block. Kriya simply means a practice. And on Sundays at SVYASA everyone does Jal Neti, Sutra Neti, Vamana Dhouti and LSP. These techniques ensure a certain level of internal cleanliness.

Detox diets to ‘reset’ the body have become a fad around the world now. In fact, I’m about to go on one in Jan. SVYASA is doing pretty much the same thing. Treatments for all ailments and conditions start with a round of cleansing. Patients here report an instant feeling of lightness after the LSP (Laghu Shankha Parikshalana) and Jal Neti practices. After 4 days of OM meditation along with Cyclic Meditation, patients start to report a sense of calmness and relaxation. Once this happens, patients are ready for the treatment, both emotionally and physically.

The famous Swamy Vivekananda statue in the background, in front of which I have attended many yoga classes.

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

The Place Free of Disease – Day 1

November 29, 2019

As part of my Master’s program in Yoga Therapy, I’m required to intern for a total of 16 days at Arogyadhma – the hospital at SVYASA (Swamy Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana). I decided when I registered for the course that I would try to complete at least 8 days of the internship in 2019, to ensure that work doesn’t pile up.

In 2011, when I was a student of the YIC (Yoga Instructor Course) I once got a bad attack of allergies. I started sneezing uncontrollably, my eyes were watering and I could barely open my eyes. It was similar to my mother’s plight during Cherry Blossom season when we lived in the US. Although I was fine in the US, I had suffered from terrible allergies from the time I’d moved to Bangalore – the reason for that could be an entire medical case study. Anyways, the allergies became an yearly affair, and I’d somehow managed to live through the season. But this time the attack was the worst ever. I was (and still am) the kind that never takes medicine – unless my life depends on it. And that day it did.

I walked into the resident doctor’s office. ‘Help me,’ I squeaked, unable to even get a good look at who I was speaking to. The doctor made a sympathetic sound and said, ‘Take a Crocin!’

‘But I don’t take medicine,” I protested feebly. “I’m looking for a cure!”

‘OK then take a quarter of that Crocin to suppress the symptoms for now, and then do Jal Neti.’

It worked. Since then I’ve kept my allergies at bay just with the practice of Jal Neti. Theoretically, Jal Neti (nasal irrigation) should never be practiced during a bout of cold/allergies. However, in my experience Jal Neti can be used to prevent symptoms from getting worse. The first time I used Jal Neti (back in 2011), it was while I had a full blown allergy attack and I practiced it three times a day, and it helped more than anything else ever had.

Having experienced the efficacy of an alternative healing technique myself, I have a keen interest in alternative healing. Which is why I’m happy that a 16 day hospital internship is part of my Master’s program. The hospital here at SVYASA is called ‘Arogyadhama’ which is Sanskrit for ‘The Place Free of Disease.’ A combination of yoga, Ayurveda and allopathy techniques are used to treat various ailments here.

I’ve been allotted a hostel room – on the fourth floor, replete with an errant gecko in the bathroom, a swarm of ants, a few cobwebs, a grasshopper in the toilet which refuses to be flushed out and a family of monkeys. And I told them I wanted a room all to myself!

It will take a few days to settle in, and I look forward to a fruitful 8 days. I will be blogging daily from here – to give you insight into the kind of work I’m doing, the life of a yoga student, and general bits I learn about life here. Do check back in tomorrow evening for an account of my first day as an intern at a hospital for alternative therapy.

 

Just a purple Shiva meditating in the forest – a regular sight here at SVYASA.

Lifestyle

A Good Life – Diwali Musings

October 26, 2019

As many of you know, a friend of mine from my Infy days (2005-2007) visited me last weekend.  We were sitting at The Thirteenth Floor, gazing out at the Bangalore skyline when she asked me, “Do you have a good life here?  Are you happy?”  Ever the optimist, I promptly said yes.

And later, I thought about my ‘good life’.

I live in a country where poverty, lack of basic human rights, illiteracy, unemployment, lack of healthcare and proper hygiene and much more is a reality for many.  I have to only look out of the window of my air-conditioned car to see that reality plainly and starkly.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here, or because as an empath I can feel deeply, but this reality always tinges my gratitude.  Being a ‘have’ or a ‘have-not’ is simply an accident of birth.  And our lives will be shaped by what we do with the cards we’ve been dealt.

The holidays are when I get a breather.  Maybe that’s why my mind starts to automatically take stock.  Below are a few things I’ve been thinking of lately.

In a country where making ends meet can be a constant source of worry for most, I’ve been able to create a niche for myself in a place of my choosing because I’ve had the luxury of not having to worry about rent, utilities, organic veggies and well-fitted yoga pants.

At 37 and single, I rent an apartment in a nice neighborhood with no problems.  I don’t have to contend with nosy neighbors interested in why I’m single or when I’m going to get married.  No one cocks an eyebrow when I come home late and I don’t get long ‘settle down now’ lectures from aunties in my building.  In a space dominated by the 9-5-vers, my largely bohemian lifestyle is accepted.  A decade ago this would’ve been impossible.

I’m living  in a country in which people are fueling the growth.  We are demanding more from our leaders and our bosses, from our parents and our friends.  We are choosing to get married later or not at all, and it is being accepted.  We are choosing to use are expensive technical degrees to start  small entrepreneurial ventures which we hope will make big impacts, and we are finding support.  We are trading in the old definition of stability and finding purpose in new definitions.

These are pretty much the thoughts in my mind during this Diwali.

For those of you living in India, do you also find yourself thinking along these lines?  Or am I an over thinker?

Travel

What We Don’t Think About When We Think About Responsible Tourism

October 14, 2019

The summit covered by clouds at the beginning of the trek.

Last Sunday a bunch of us decided to trek up the Savandurga hill.  My friends reached my house at 4 am.  We were to reach the base camp by 6 am and start climbing.  Later than this and it would get too hot.  We had registered for the trek on https://myecotrip.com/.  This is an initiative to encourage eco-sensitive tourism by the government of Karnataka.  They offer eco-friendly tour packages that showcase the natural beauty of Karnataka.  These include day-long treks, visits to bird sanctuaries and wildlife safaris.  Navigating through their website is easy and they are quick to respond to queries on telephone.

Savandurga is a hill 60 km from Bangalore, and is considered to be one of the largest monoliths in Asia.  There are two famous temples at the foothills which many pilgrims revere and visit year round, the Savandi Veerabhadreshwara Swamy and Narasimha Swamy temple.  The hills are centuries old.  It is believed that these hills served as the capital for Magadi rulers such as Kempegowda.  It was later taken over by those in power in Mysore.  In 1791, during the Third Anglo-Mysore War, Lord Corwallis captured it from Tipu Sultan.  At one point in time it was also known as Savinadurga or the fort of death!

It is a difficult trek – mostly uphill and on rocks.  When the rocks are wet they are super-slippery.

Our guide showed us an ancient Hanuman temple a little away from the trail. Hanuman faces left, which is unusual.

The ancient Nandi at the summit.

For the most part the trek was great.  I would wish that there was less litter and plastic strewn around, but I think the monkeys may be responsible for that.  On the whole I saw that the trekkers were responsible, helpful and considerate towards others on the trail.   But I must mention the exception.

A couple planted themselves right in front of the bull, with no regard for the multitudes of others who had huffed and puffed their way up to the top to get a glimpse of the ancient Nandi.  This is disrespectful on so many levels.  Not only is this a place of tourist interest, but also a place of worship.  All the visitors waited patiently for their turn to whisper their wishes in Nandi’s ear (a custom) while this particular couple refused to move an inch.  Finally my friend went up to them and pointedly asked them to move, which they did…for 10 minutes.

When we think about responsible tourism, perhaps we need to think of this aspect as well.  Just because this temple/place of interest isn’t manned by temple/government officials doesn’t give you permission to be rude, insensitive and inconsiderate.  Some of us trekked up for a darshan of the Nandi, some of us to look at an ancient historical monument, either way we deserve to look at it without two inconsiderate lovebirds crowding our frame.

When we talk about responsible tourism we need to factor in responsible tourist behavior too.  Lest civic sense become as uncommon as common sense.

 

 

 

Books Poetry

It’s Not That Time of the Year Without…

October 6, 2019

A surprised glance at the months gone by,

for just like last year

this year has also passed softly, lightly.

The perfect accompaniment for these deliciously nippy evenings.

Books left untouched on shelves

which, not too long ago, I swore ardently ‘to read’

A year older, a year wiser?

Change has crept up on me

Calmly

For I may yet live

more expansively

in the days to come

I will not let these months pass

Without ridding

myself of heavy clutter

Without bonding

over cards

in houses twinkling with laughter and goodwill

Without looking

at an old space

and breathing new life.

Without affirming that

though I may seem the same,

my life the same,

my spaces the same

I have ridden the waves of Time

for even as I write this

I am not the same

my life is not the same

my spaces are not the same.

[WORDS DO MATTER! This post is written for the 3rd edition of #WordsMatter linkup hosted by Corinne, Parul and Shalini. The prompt for this edition of #WordsMatter linkup is ‘It’s not that time of the year without…’]

I received this tag from Anamika at https://thebespectacledmother.com/. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Shinjini at https://moderngypsy.in/. There were 38 of us on this Blog Hop and it was spread over 3 days – 4, 5, 6 October 2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop, you’ll love our musings!

Books Lifestyle Travel Uncategorized Yoga

The Pune International Lit Fest

September 23, 2019

A free flowing conversation about the process and experience of putting the book together.

I’ve been attending literature and art festivals forever. The Jaipur Lit Fest many years ago, the Kochi Muziris Biennale, the Bangalore Lit Fest, the Venice Biennale and finally the Pune International Lit Fest. For years I’ve always been an attendee, always wondering if I would ever be on the other side. The writer’s side.

And this weekend, at the Pune International Lit Fest, it happened.  I was officially on the writer’s side.

Always good to see your work next to those you admire.

 

It was amazing.  I registered as a speaker and was shown into the author’s lounge where I met other speakers and writers. I checked for my book at the bookstalls, signed books, took photos, hobnobbed with other writers.

 

 

 

Our session was scheduled for the last day, to ensure that my RIMYI schedule didn’t clash.  Joel Koechlin (the man behind the beautiful photos in the book) and I were speaking about Beyond Asanas with our editor Gurveen Chadha of Penguin Random House.  The three of us had interacted with each other extensively during the making of this book, and the comfort level was evident on stage. We had a free wheeling chat about the process of creating the book, the challenges we faced, the importance of yoga, why it is worthwhile to read the history and mythology of asanas, inspiration….the hour went by pretty quickly. We fielded as many questions from the audience as time would allow.

 

 

 

The fest was well-organized, the sessions were varied and interesting, the goodie bag was great and the bookstalls were well stocked.  A heartfelt thank you to the organizers for this amazing event.

 

With poetess and friend, Tanushi Singh. Check out her latest collection of poetry called, In Pursuit of Sunshine in Rain.

Always thankful for those who can share my little joys with me.

 

Came with a great goodie bag too!