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Lifestyle Yoga

Who Was Swamy Vivekananda? – Day 4

December 2, 2019

 

Swamy Vivekananda is arguably one of the most popular spiritual leaders of India. He was born on Jan 12, 1863 to wealthy parents. He was christened Narendranath. Born to priviledge he was also well educated and had a liberal upbriging. As a young adult the question of God and the Supreme Being fascinated him, and he tried finding answers to his spritual crisis with reason and logic. The quest for an answer took him to many religious teachers and masters. He finally found what he was looking for in Sri Ramakrishna, another prominent spiritual master at the time. This resulted in a deep spiritual bond and Narendranath became Swamy Vivekananda.

In 1893 Swamy Vivekananda represented India in the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago. His lecture was about India, Hinduism and Sri Ramakrishna’s philosophies. His speech drew a lot of interest and he spent the next two and half years in America, and eventually established the Vedanta Society of New York.

Despite a deep respect and love for Hinduism, Swamy Vivekananda thought of his countrymen first which is why he is considered to be an early nationalist.

This institute is named after him because he represents a scientific approach to Indian culture. SVYASA endeavors to explain the expansiveness of Indian culture and attempts to cultivate a love for the country among the students. For this reason we have bhajan classes and talks, students learn desh-bhakti songs as well, the national anthem and the national song are a daily affair and discourses are held on important lessons from the Gita. I know it sounds a lot, and maybe a tad bit too Hindutva for many of you. But…it’s not that bad!

Travel

My Overnight Yoga Retreat

November 19, 2018

When I plan a yoga retreat location is the first thing I home in on.  To find a place that resonates with you and the experience you want to create is challenging. So I’m always on the lookout for interesting places to conduct retreats.

A few weeks ago I drove a little out of Bangalore to a farm called Hollas Halla.  You can check out their Instagram profile here.  I’d already spoken to Manali Holla and we had decided to meet to see the property and see what kind of experience we could create there.

10 years ago Suresh Holla, chanced upon some acreage of absolutely barren land and a lake.  An MTech from IISc, no one really expected him to buy 5 acres with the dream of bringing this land to life.  Everyone dismissed it as madness.  There were no proper roads, no electricity, nothing.

 

 

When I went there a couple of weeks ago I saw the fruits of Suresh Holla’s labor.  The lake is still there, but now there is a lush jungle around it.  The Holla family conducts camps, retreats and treks at Holla’s Halla.

Initially I planned the usual yoga retreat with a morning yoga session followed by lunch etc.  But as we looked at the lake I thought it would be a dream to practice yoga next to it.  I spoke to Swetha, my co-teacher, and we decided to modify the plan so that we can practice yoga as the sun sets and rises.  An experience that few yoga retreats can offer.

The itinerary for this exciting is below:

Day 1 (Sat 8th Dec):

3-4 pm: Arrive at the farm.  Receive the grand tour.  Check-in to your tents.

4-6 pm: Tea/Coffee/Relax

6-7 pm: Sunset yoga session.

7-8.30 pm: Dinner

9 pm onwards: Bonfire

Day 2 (Sun 9th Dec):

5 am: Wake up

6-7 am: Sunrise yoga session.

7.30-8.30 am: breakfast

9 am: Trek to the nearby hills/enjoy the lake/get a water massage!

12 noon: Lunch

 

This retreat is priced at Rs. 5000/- all inclusive.

Call 9686233003 or 9886062268 to register.

You can check out Hollas Halla’s facebook page here.

 

Uncategorized

Yoga is a light…A Yogi’s Diwali

October 19, 2017

pc: Geetanjali Joshi

From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace

I learned the above shloka in the year 2009 when I went to SVYASA to do my Teacher’s Training Course.  I found that I was the only one unfamiliar with it.  When I went on to star teaching yoga myself, I learned from my students that this is a shloka taught widely in schools here in India.  This shloka is found in the Upanishads and is a prayer to Light.

If you look at this shloka closely, you can see the definition of the word ‘guru’ in the second line.  ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ means light.  A guru is someone who enlightens you; takes you from the darkness to the light.  A guru gives you the strength to recognize your own ignorance and guides you towards your truth.

Diwali is then, perhaps, also a celebration of moving towards the light of truth and peace.  We celebrate the triumph of good over evil, but we should also reflect on the inner darkness that exists in all of us and pray for it to be illuminated.

During Diwali we perform the Lakshmi puja, and many people also worship Ganesha and Saraswati during this puja.  Ganesha is worshipped at the beginning of any puja and symbolizes that which clears the way to our goal.  Saraswati is the goddess of books and learning.

A yogi carries the light (deep) of yoga within.  As yogis we are on the path to truth, to the light, to peace in every moment of every day.  When we unroll our mats we are lighting a diya to a practice that is our path to a higher truth.  When we practice we are paying tribute to goddess Saraswati because the practice is a study of ourselves and humanity.  And when we resolve that we will continue the practice no matter what, it is an invocation to Ganesha to clear the hurdles that may stand in our way.

For a yogi, every day is Diwali.

The colors of the Festival of Lights.

Happy Diwali!

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

The Habitat

July 11, 2016

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“Make sure your doors and windows are securely locked, the  petrol full and even if someone tries to stop you for ‘help’ DO NOT STOP.  And also, go there during the day, you don’t want to be mauled by wild beasts when night falls.”

This was the directive given to me the first time I headed to what I now simple call The Jungle.

So it was natural that we were a bundle of nerves when we headed towards the Bannerghatta National Park.  Slowly and gradually the hustle and bustle and the traffic IMG-20160403-WA0033and the potholes of the Bannerghatta road faded away and we were on the dusty country roads.  Here there were no signboards and everything looked the same.  Perhaps the danger of getting lost was very real, which is why our host kept on repeatedly calling us to ensure we were safe.  That is, when we got connectivity.  The rest of the time we kept on going on a hunch.  Driving a rickety old Alto over craggy rocks and stones and on terrain meant for four wheel drive is no mean feat.  Every time I saw a mound of formidable rocks, I would set my jaw and press along.  My own man vs nature adventure.

 

I had no idea what to expect that first weekend at the farm.  I discovered that the IMG-20160403-WA0050temperature deep in the jungle is a couple of degrees lower than in the city.  And I certainly didn’t expect to sleep out in the open inside a mesh hut.  The still remember my first night at the farm.  The croaks of the frogs, and right outside the hut, the river illuminated by the light of the moon, the silhouette of the trees framing my view.  I snuggled deeper into my warm razai and drifted off into the most peaceful sleep ever.

I’m back from another restful weekend at the ‘Vishnu’s Farm’.  Deep in the Bannerghatta jungles, this place has come to symbolize peace, serenity and the Slow Movement (even before it became the latest fitness fad).  This time I took my sister (visiting from Hyderabad).  I explained to her that most of the farm has no lights, no real means of cooking your own food, and that we might spot an elephant or a bison while walking around the acreage.  But nature is constantly evolving and moves on no matter what.  So the Farm is always a bit different every time I go.  (There is a valuable lesson in this.)

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However, the past couple of times I’ve been to this haven, an idea has been taking shape in my mind.  In our frazzled lives, oasis of calm such as Vishnu’s Farm are difficult to come by and this place is just perfect.  Devoid of the trappings of modern existence (no cell phone coverage and other such fancy accoutrement), this place hits your reset button.  The closer you are to nature, the closer you feel to yourself.    This past weekend I decided on a retreat.  A retreat focused on peace, quiet and getting back to nature.  A simple retreat aimed at appreciating how we can live the best possible life by staying aligned and attuned to nature.

Vishu’s Farm is more appropriately called a habitat.  Vishnu has made sure to integrate himself with nature rather than modifying the existing ecosystem to suit his needs.  So he’s made sure not to disturb the trees, and continues planting new ones.  He’s built lakes in the property so that the water life thrives instead of perishing (you may spot a cat stealthily waiting for it’s next meal).  When the elephants repeatedly broke a wall somewhere in the habitat, Vishnu stopped rebuilding it.  In his own words – “It’s their land, I’m just an encroacher.”  Perhaps this belief fuels his tireless work for conservation in the area.

So when you come on this retreat, you aren’t checking into a fancy resort with exotic scented soaps.  You are spending time in someone’s life’s work.  A home that Vishnu has painstakingly created against odds such as red tape and litigation, indifference and corruption.  And how can we forget the quarry mafia?!

It is no surprise then, that a retreat such as this will always be for a closed group. Comprising people who will be able to appreciate the passion and belief that it takes to live a lifestyle where there are no TVs and limited net connectivity.  Where lunch takes time to come from the nearest village.  Where there are no dustbins around the property because waste disposal is a challenge and you are encouraged to take your trash back to the city with you.

Where the days are beautiful and the nights peaceful.

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Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Mysore Diaries – Day #4

December 3, 2015

I’ve been sleeping so much during the day that I’m unable to fall asleep in the night.  When I finally fell asleep last night it was after 12 and I only got 4 hours of sleep.  The funny thing is that I was still able to give a 100% during class.  I didn’t feel fatigued or tired.  Plus, I got there early enough to not have to place my mat right in front of the door!!!  I pushed myself through the 20 Surya Namaskars, practiced the Pada Hastasana (from yesterday).  As if on cue, Saraswati appeared to guide me through the Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend), and the Parsvottansana (Intense Side Stretch).  I’m glad we’re not doing more than an asana a day!    During the practice a lot of questions fill my mind.  The style of teaching here is very different from what I’m used to.  In my Iyengar class we pay minute attention to detail.  Here we focus on breath.  There we use props, here the most I’ve seen people use is a yoga towel.  There the teacher demonstrates, here the cues are all verbal.  There the instructions are detailed and very specific, here the cues are not even complete sentences.  The differences are more than I can verbalize, but the interesting thing is that these differences don’t dim my enthusiasm for the classes.  I’m still eager to learn and internalize and haven’t dismissed this style as ‘not for me’.  I’ve read in other blogs that there is an energy and a power in this place that transfixes you.  Maybe I’m under the spell?

And truth be told, I’m kind of surprised at my approach to this class.  I’m sort of a type A personality.  There are always a million books to be read and many more to be written.  There are 840,000 asanas to be learnt!  My practice barely scratches the surface.  However, here at ‘the source’ of Ashtanga yoga, I’m completely laid back.  I only practice once a day, I’m hardly reading about the practice and philosophy, and I’m not even badgering the teacher to teach me MORE.  I’m kind of allowing the teacher to set the pace for me.  And today, post the Savasana, when I heard another student asking Saraswati to teach him specific asanas he was interested in, I realized what was the matter with me.

I believe a yoga teacher is a yoga student too.  And a good student is a good teacher.  I’ve noticed that over the years I have become intensely selective about the yoga classes/workshops I attend.  If my heart is not in it, I won’t go.   The teacher may have a large following and might have a million publications.  The teacher may have huge hoardings all over the city and lots of endorsements.  However, I will only go to a teacher who I feel a sense of grounding with.  A sense of living in this world in spite of the problems, and not as a means of escaping from the problems that plague our world.  And over the years I feel I’ve managed to ‘hear’ such teachers out and I’ve tuned out the rest of the din.  And I’ve tried to cultivate a practice which rings true with me, under the tutelage of all the teachers who I resonate with.  After all, if you want to build something, the most important thing you need is a strong foundation.  So perhaps it is with this mind-set that I came here.  I know all these teachers are experienced and reputed.  I’ve read a lot about the lineage and the method (although I’ve discounted stories about how ‘power’ and the ‘energy’ and the ‘vibe’ because that’s purely subjective).  And when I finally applied to practice here, I came as a student would come to a guru.  For guidance.  Because I don’t ‘try’ teachers or ‘experiment’ with teachings, I feel that when I go to a teacher I’m open and receptive.  I feel that it is not for me to question the teacher or to tell the teacher what they should tell me.  As a student I listen a lot and I will do whatever the teacher asks of me.  As a thinking person I sift through what the teacher has imparted.  Some things I retain and incorporate into my personal practice, while others I retain as philosophies that also exist.  I’ve read somewhere that a student has to surrender completely to a guru.  I think that makes sense to me now.  When I go to Saraswati’s class I’m just a student awaiting guidance.  She has been teaching for long enough to be able to observe a student and guide her accordingly.

Also, at some level I feel that if you bring the ‘I’ to a teacher, then you are at some level obliterating the teacher.  And that’s a pretty valuable thing to obliterate.  Which is why I don’t go to teachers to tell them that I can do so and so asanas.  A good teacher can tell.  In fact, a good teacher will make you realize that you can do even that which you weren’t aware you already could.

Lifestyle Yoga

Week 3 – What Balancing Asanas Teach You About Life

February 15, 2015

On the first day of this week lets practice balancing asanas.  The thing about balancing asanas is that they don’t teach you more than just balance.  They teach you how to balance with constraints.  Your legs may be weak, your arms may wobble a bit or your brain may not be able to focus because of the busy day you have ahead.  But, you have to harness your existing resources and do the asana.  It mirrors real life.  Give it some thought.  So start with the Natrajasana.

The Natrajasana or the Dancer pose.

IMG-20150209-WA0004[1] If you’ve been practicing this pose for a while then you are familiar with the basics.  If you want to push the work in this pose up a notch then reach forward with your arms simultaneously kicking the back foot up.  Hold this stretch.  This will ensure that the other leg also gets a deep stretch.  Try and extend your gaze in front of you, you can even try to keep your eyes on the fingertips.  Count to 10.  Slowly.  Both sides.

You can also try the below variation.

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Kakasana or the Crow Pose

Photo Collage Maker_0Dymy2[1]This is a pose we practiced on Thursday this week in my Acro Yoga group.  Have you fallen on your face in this pose?  Remember, that’s almost like a requisite to find balance in this pose.  Like in life.  Once you muster up your courage to face your fear, it ceases to have a hold on you.

Once you’ve fallen and realize that it’s no big deal then try and lift one foot up and then the other.  Beginners may notice that their knees are on the outside of their arms.  That’s ok.  Continue to tighten your core and arms.

Garudasana or the Eagle Pose

Once you’re comfortable with the basics of the pose, the try and bend the standing leg as much as you can.  IMG-20150209-WA0009[1]Try and push the shoulders down and forward.  Hold for a count of 10.  Slowly.  You can also try and apply the Moola Bandha.

On the second day of this week focus on twists.  Twists help in increasing the digestive fire of your system.  This in turn revs up your metabolism.  Along with this, twists help in maintaining the flexibility and mobility of the spine.

The Marichyasana or Sage Marichi’s Pose

2015-02-15 15.11.43[1]What most people forget when practicing this pose is that both feet must be alert.  One foot should be pointed in towards your face and the other foot should be pushed into the floor.  The hand on the floor should be active and participating in keeping the spine straight.  Both shoulders should be in one line.  The hand which is bent should push the knee back and the knee should push the elbow out.  This creates life in this pose.  Keep your fingers active as well.

The Ardhamatsyendrasana or the Half Lord of the Fish Pose

This is an advanced spinal twist.  There are many variations of this twist.  Opening up the chest and pushing the shoulders back gives length to the arms which helps in grabbing both hands behind your back.  Pull your stomach in.  Keep both hips on the floor.  Make sure the leg which is on the floor is flat on the floor.  The knee should not lift up off of the floor.

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The Chair Twist or the Utkatasana

In the Utkatasana try and reach forward with your arms2015-02-15 15.02.33[1] and sit back on your heels.  Reach down with your tailbone.  When you twist, join your hands together tightly.  Push your elbow against your knee, but make sure the knee is firm in its place.  Elongate your neck and push your shoulders down.  Expand your chest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these asanas and let me know how it goes!

 

 

 

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

10 Days of Gratitude – Day 9

June 3, 2014

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We’re almost done with the #10daysofgratitude challenge. Today lets be thankful for the interests that make us unique. These interests give us something to pursue, they make life colorful and make sure that we’re constantly stimulated.

Yoga

10 Days of Gratitude – Day 7

June 1, 2014

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We hear of people denied fundamental human rights in different parts of the world, honor killings, girls being kidnapped to make some kind of convoluted point etc. It’s horrifying, unsettling, unfair, illogical…and it’s happening! So today lets join our hands together and be thankful to the freedom that we usually take for granted and send courage and hope to people stuck in situations beyond their control, for no fault of theirs. Namaste.

Yoga

Yoga: Help With PCOS?

April 8, 2014

PCOS or Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition that 1 in 15 women experience.  To put it briefly PCOS effects a woman’s mensturation cycle, her weight, her moods and her ability to have children.  If left untreated it can lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, acne, hair loss, depression.  Here are a few reasons why yoga can help with PCOS:

1.  Most yoga classes incorporate strengthening poses that need to be held for long periods of time.  This helps in building muscle and increased muscle mass helps in decreasing insulin resistance.

2.  Most power yoga and Ashtanga yoga classes will have you increasing your heart rate and building up a sweat.  This helps in burning fat and getting you back into shape.

3.  Most yoga classes have a combination of pranayama and meditation techniques and this helps in calming down the body and ensuring the cortisol is in check.

4.  A regular yoga practice helps to build a positive self image and acceptance of your body.  This helps you to live in harmony and fortifies you to deal with whatever emotional and physical problems may come your way.

To derive benefits from yoga it’s imperative that you cultivate a wholesome daily practice.  Poses such as the Butterfly Pose, Badhakonasana, Suptabadhakonasana, Bhardvajasana etc can help in treating the symptoms of PCOS.  Along with these, the SuryaNamaskar provides a great way to build up a sweat and burn fat.  However, when you look for a yoga class make sure that it incorporates elements of the Surya Namaskar and asanas so that you get a holistic workout daily.  This will ensure steady progress and long lasting results.