Browsing Tag

yoga practice

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

Practice Yoga Like You Practice Life

May 21, 2018

A few weekends ago I attended a friend’s house warming party.  In India there is always an element of ritual.  So while a housewarming can be a little party for a bunch of close friends, here it becomes an event of larger significance.  So a purohit is called.  You get the stuff for the puja together, you plan for caterers, you send out invites….

When we celebrate a house warming or a ‘griha pravesh‘ we celebrate new beginnings.  We hope that the new abode brings the owners good luck and prosperity.  Some incense, a few mantras, a coconut and some ‘lucky’ plants and we actually start to feel better about the house.  These are all the accoutrements of the ritual of cleansing a space of any negative vibes so that the new owners can live peacefully.

Big celebrations so dressed to the nines.

A yogi’s abode is the body and mind.  Since we get only one body and mind per lifetime, we need to exist within them peacefully and authentically.  A yogi is constantly torn between one more drink or slice of pizza and an early morning twists or backbend practice.  You control yourself from snapping at a pesky sibling and try to stop fuming at the guy who just cut you off in traffic.  But the disturbances in the mind have already been created, and they now impact your being.

How can we maintain equanimity while living in a world designed to trouble us?

The answer lies, as usual, in the practice.  Every morning when you step on your mat and start at the beginning, you create a new story.  Each day gives you a chance to start at the beginning and go somewhere different.  Yesterday’s limitations don’t exist today and today’s won’t exist tomorrow.  This impermanence can be a deterrent for many, but for the yogi it means hope.  You return to your practice throughout a constantly changing life.  You practice life like you practice yoga, with a spirit of exploration and the core belief that this too shall pass.

Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness. (PYS 1.12) Picture taken at the Bhoga Nandishwara temple at the foot of Nandi Hills.

 

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.]

Yoga

Making Time to Live Your Life

June 5, 2014

louise I met Louise in Wellington, when I first started teaching yoga.  After a couple of months, I held her up as an example of ‘balance’ to the class.  She is in her early 40s, has two beautiful childern, a rocking career, wonderful marriage…and she still found time for her yoga, tennis, hiking, reading etc.  The credit for making her life so rich and full goes to no one but Louise.  After all, she could also sit back and complain that she had wanted a career/tennis/amazing body/(fill in the blank) but had to give it up because of: children are too small/husband has a transferrable and demanding job/has other familial obligations/(fill in the blank).  Granted Louise comes from a culture and country different from 95% of my students, and many who are reading this are thinking “well you know in our culture (fill in all the perceived limiting factors of being a married woman with kids in India)”.

Now I have an example of an Indian woman (yes, married to a man who has a demanding and transferrable job; yes, has two mrsV_transformgrowing children who demand/want time/attention; yes, has all the familial obligations that come with being from our culture) who reminds me of Louise.  Sharmishta Vardhan has been regular in my class from Day 1.  When I got to know her better, I found out that she’s a Bharatnatyam dancer.  When there’s no yoga she goes for a walk.  She’s an amazing swimmer and has been swimming since she was 8 years old.  (Incidentally, she taught me how to swim within 10 days.  I’m confident standing on my head on land, but 10 days ago I would list drowning as my biggest fear.)  Here’s an Indian woman, in her 40s, married for 9 years, two crazily energetic boys (I’ve seen them in the pool), who defies the ‘Indian woman married with two kids’ convention.  She reads, sometimes travels to pursue her hobbies, gets in her daily swim before heading home for dinner, cultivates her own friends circle with whom she goes for movies, exhibitions, fairs etc.  You can see the results of daily yoga in her before-after.

IMG_20140528_173423So next time you think you don’t have time for yoga remember that there are women like Louise and Sharmishta who are busy living the lives they love, and making time for yoga as well! 🙂

Yoga

How to Get Over That Hangover – Pose 3

November 13, 2013

Janu Sirshasana (Head to Knee Pose)

How To:

  1. Sit with both legs spread out in front of you. Make sure you’re balanced on your buttocks with your feet together and your toes pointing upwards.
  2. Start with the left leg.  Bend it at the knee and bring your foot as close to the groin region as possible.  Make sure the sole of your foot is parallel to the right thigh.  Also make sure the left knee is on the floor and not floating in the air.
  3. Inhale at this position.
  4. Now exhaling start to reach out to grasp your toes.  Don’t worry if you are unable to grab your toes.  Make sure not to curve your back.  Imagine that your spine is extending upwards towards the ceiling and you need to work on making your back concave so that your chest is slightly outwards.  You want to aim at getting your abdomen on the thigh.
  5. Go as far forward as is comfortable and breathe for some time in this pose.
  6. Once you’re comfortable take your awareness to your torso.  You want to try to bring the left side of your body close to the right leg and the right side a little away from the leg.
  7. Make sure not to hunch your shoulders.  Throw your shoulders back.
  8. Inhale as you come up.
  9. Repeat on the left side.

Variations

  1. If you’re unable to grab your toes you can also use a belt.  String the belt around the balls of your feet to ensure that your toes continue to point upwards as you come down.
  2. If the knee of the folded leg doesn’t touch the floor, you can place a cushion or a folded blanket under it.
  3. Pregnant women should practice this only until the second trimester.

Benefits

  • Great stretch for your back, legs and shoulders.
  • Increases flexibility of the hip joint.
  • Massages the kidneys, spleen, pancreas and liver, thereby stimulating their functioning and helping to detoxify the system.
  • Stimulates digestion by massaging the abdominal organs and the pelvic region.
  • Relieves menstrual pain.
  • Eases the effects of stress, tension and strain on your body and relaxes the mind.
  • Helps in promoting good posture by correcting the curvature of the spine.
  • Helps in alleviating depression and anxiety because it tones and massages the adrenal glands.
  • Great to alleviate fatigue.
  • Can help in treating symptoms of high blood pressure and insomnia.

Contraindications

  • Practice with caution if you have asthma or diarrhoea.
  • Practice with caution if you have slipped disc, sciatica or hernia.

janu_sirsasana

Uncategorized Yoga

Mudras – Seal the Energy In.

July 15, 2013

Mudra is a Sanskrit word which means ‘to lock’ or ‘to seal’. The word ‘mudra’ signifies hand gestures, or even symbols. Mudras are an integral part of a yoga practice in that they enable you to control the flow of prana, or the life force, thereby making you more energetic and full of vitality. In addition to this mudras help you lock energy inside your body so that you can utilize it, rather than letting it dissipate.

The fingers of the hands represent the different elements of the earth. Taken together these 5 elements are called the panch tattvas. These are:
Thumb – Agni (Fire)
Index Finger – Vayu (Air)
Middle Finger – Akash (Space)
Ring Finger – Prithvi (Earth)
Little Finger – Jal (Water)
It is believed that by bringing together the fingers of the hand you call upon the energy of the elements that those fingers represent, and these energies can heal your body, mind and soul.

The Practice
Always make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure and always keep your hands relaxed when practicing the mudras.
Mudras can be done while you’re seated, standing or even lying down. Your body and mind should feel relaxed and centred.
There is no specific time to practice mudras. Whatever time you choose, you need to be able to relax and withdraw into yourself. This can be before or after eating, as soon as you wake up, or right before you go to sleep.
Always plan your mudras depending on what you need. Practice one or two mudras consistently for a few weeks. Monitor the effects of these mudras on your body. You will see that as things change in your body, you will see a corresponding change in your life as well.

A Few Mudras
Chin/Gyan Mudra
chin_gyan
Use this mudra during your mediation practice. This mudra helps in relaxing the body and focusing the mind to meditate. It also works to release stress. Do this mudra if you suffer from insomnia, depression and even high blood pressure.

Apana Mudra
apan
Bring your thumb, middle finger and ring finger together. Extend the remaining two fingers out. This mudra has a direct effect on the gall bladder and liver, and so helps in removing toxins and waste from your body and mind. Also, patience, confidence, balance and harmony increases through the use of this mudra. It’s also great to increase your digestive fire. It has also shown positive results in treating diabetes.

Akash Mudra
akash
Because the middle finger represents the sky or space, this mudra helps with imbalance in terms of space in the body. An imbalance creates problems in the joints, in the heart and also in the ears. This mudra also strengthens the bones and helps with issues like vertigo and balance. It will also help with issues related to blood pressure.

Nasika Mudra
nasika
This mudra is used in the anulom-vilom pranayam (alternate nostril pranayam). It is important to fold in the index and middle fingers because this stimulates specific nadis in your system, and this adds value to your pranayam practice.

Adi Mudra
adi
This mudra helps in balancing and healing the sense organs. It also stabilizes and calms down the nervous system. The oxygen flow to the lungs, throat and head area increases with the use of this mudra.

Prana Mudra
peace_pran
The yogic variation of the modern peace/victory sign. This mudra helps in increasing the prana in your body. Increased prana means increased vitality and energy and therefore this helps with all types of diseases. This also increases immunity and the power of eyes. And refreshes your entire system.

The Effects
Regular practice of mudras will make you feel relaxed, refreshed, rejuvenated and flexible. You will also start to feel younger.

Uncategorized Yoga

The Fashion of Yoga

June 21, 2013

“And I’ll tell you something else,” my friend said conspiratorially, “Yoga has become fashionable now.”

Yes, in recent years people have started to frequent more yoga classes, yoga has gone mainstream and what with Nike and Reebok coming up with yoga apparel, yoga has caught our collective attention spans in a big way.

Yes, but what is making yoga fashionable?  It’s an age old science, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of life…but the masses aren’t going into sanyas.  What the masses are doing is paying their local yoga studios/yoga teachers/gurus hard earned money for an hour, sometimes hour and a half of various sequence of poses.  And yes, they are reaping the benefits.  Everyone does yoga, from my maid to the CEO of your company.  And they have all contributed to the fashion statement that is yoga.  I thought about all the yoga practitioners I’ve come across so far and came up with a few categories of new age yogis:

1.  The first and foremost: The Constipated Yogi.  Matsya-asana ensures that their digestive systems are unclogged, but not so for their attitude.  Quick to look down upon the ‘unreal’ practitioners (i.e. anyone who doesn’t bow down before a guru they recognize to those who do yoga to lose weight) these yogis will direct their cool gaze towards you and expostulate at length about why they follow who they do and why that is the One True Yoga Path.  Before you can contribute your two cents to the conversation to tell them you like nothing better than starting your day sweating it out in a Hot Yoga or Power Yoga class, they let you know their not so positive opinion of these unauthentic/new/commercialized forms of yoga, vehemently and in no uncertain terms.  Before you can take a deep breath, they embark upon a detailed rant about the corruption of yoga at the hands of the vast majority of commercial yoga studios.  When you’re in this situation, I suggest practice your deep breaths, clear your mind because The Constipated Yogi isn’t really interested in anything you have to say.  You see, they know what real yoga is.

2.  The Eternal Sunshine Yogi.  These yogis are leftovers from the 70s.  A lot of them are following the path their parents trod in the 70s….many of them still in Birkenstocks or flip flops.  You’ll see them in diaphanous kurtas, sipping vegan chai with a somewhat vacant (spaced out?) look in their eyes.  Lord Shiva used ganja as an aphrodisiac they are quick to tell you, and know their Ganesh from Govardhan.  Assimilating as much of the culture as possible, you’ll see them wearing bindis, rudraksha malas around their necks and a beatific smile on their lips.  You see, the Eternal Sunshine Yogis are on a quest to spread peace and happiness worldwide, and they will do so one Namaste at a time

3.  The All-That-Brawn Yogi.   Erstwhile gym rats, they can plank better than the best of us.  Plus, they are faster, stronger, fitter than you.   You can tell by the perfectly sculpted muscles under their expensive, dry-fit, ribbed, breathable body con workout gear.  Or better yet, they will drop down and do 108 Surya Namaskars for you even before you can say yo-ga.

4.  The Social Yogi – These yogis are the centre of attention of the yoga class….or any of the other numerous classes/causes they are a part of.  There’s not a person they don’t know in the class, usually because they take it upon themselves to welcome newcomers…and to increase their circle of influence.  They are easy to spot – they are loud, exuberant, gregarious, forthcoming…and get withering looks from the Constipated Yogi because…well because they know that the Social Yogi is not the real thing.  But the Social Yogi couldn’t care less, they are too busy bonding with the Eternal Sunshine Yogi.

These are my observations so far.  What are the yogis you’ve observed?