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Lifestyle Travel Yoga

The Standing Asanas – Day 17

September 17, 2016

It’s been raining non stop in Pune for the last 3 days.  The last time I experienced rain like this was in Wellington.  There the rain was accompanied by mist and the smell of Eucalyptus and Citronella.  Here I’m hurrying to RIMYI as quickly but as carefully as I can so as to make it to class on time while avoiding getting muck on my shoes and clothes.

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The 7 am class this morning was taken by Abhijata.  We started with the Uttanasana and the Adhomukha Svanasana.  We frequently start classes with these poses.   Then we were asked to get bricks and then started the series of standing poses.  We did all the standing poses without a break.  We did the entire sequence on both sides taking a break in between.  It took us only about 10 minutes.  Abhijata then told us that we can do the entire sequence of standing poses every day and in only 20 minutes.  In Iyengar yoga we start with the standing poses.  These poses are sort of like the entry point to other poses and also the entry point to start correcting alignment issues.  Structural and postural defects can be corrected only once the corrections from basic standing asanas are experienced by the body.

Another reason we begin with standing asanas is because while doing the asanas you focus on nothing but the asana.  It’s difficult to think about how much you hate your boss when your thighs are screaming in Virbhadrasana 1.  So for 20 minutes (while you are performing the sequence of standing poses), you get a mental break from whatever thoughts disturb you for the rest of the day.  This state of focus and concentration is what meditation tries to get you to.  In Iyengar yoga we use the asanas as a means to attain the meditative state.

When you try to sit and actively concentrate on emptying your mind or focusing on an object/word/thought, it’s difficult.  It could lead to frustration as well (the opposite of what we hope to achieve through meditation).  However, practicing asanas with consciousness and with an attention to detail ensures that for the time you are practicing you are also in a meditative state.

Perhaps this explains why I feel a sense of lightness here.  (Starting to wonder if I want to make it back to Bangalore….)

 

Lifestyle Travel Yoga

Stretching – Then and Now

September 11, 2016

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@Malaka Spice

 

It’s been close to 10 days here and my routine here is as challenging as ever.  I realize that if it’s your first time here, then it does take a while to adjust and adapt.  The first time I had a 4 hour practice I was incredulous … and didn’t know how to deal with it.  Rather, I didn’t know how to make the most of it.  When I practice at home it’s only for an hour and a half, and by the end of it I’m drained out.  So the first few days here, I was always exhausted.  So much so that I felt I couldn’t give the best in the asanas and always felt sloppy and ungainly throughout the practice.  Mondays and Tuesdays specially, since practice on those days is almost 4 hours long, and by the time I’m done with practice its an ordeal just to walk home.  My fantasies these days centre around buying an apartment next to the institute so that I can crawl home in no time and surface again only for the next class.

However, now I’ve started to get used to the routine.  I’m actually able to make the most of the extended practice sessions.  In fact, 2 hours is just about enough time for a satisfying practice…how I’m going to sustain this when I’m back in Bangalore is the stuff other blog posts are made of.

Yesterday I had my class in the evening (where I’m referred to as ‘Bangalore’, and another

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Milk tea just this once?

girl is called ‘USA’, oh and then there’s ‘Madam China’ in the 6 am session).  It was an amazingly intense session.  The class was fast paced with a focus on stretching the lower body (Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottansana, Baddhakonasana etc).  Finally we did the Upavista Konasana, which is a challenging pose for me.  I slowly made my way down and eased my torso onto the floor.  I remember the days when I started practicing yoga and this pose was a big challenge.  I wouldn’t be able to extend my back and my hip joint was stiff.  As the years went by, I was still pretty reluctant to practice this pose because it didn’t come naturally at all and it was frustrating.  Even now, sometimes I’m able to execute this pose well, and sometimes I feel like lead.

Yesterday I was able to ease myself down and placed my forehead on the floor.  I stayed there kind of happy and satisfied with myself.  There’s always an element of pleasant surprise also, because some days your body can extend and some days it just doesn’t.  This reverie lasted until I heard, “BANGALORE!  You’re sleeping!  Extend more!  Walk forward with your hands!!!  That’s it, that’s good.  Trance mein chali gayi thi phir se.”

And I realized that for the most part, this is how I practice.  I arrange myself into a pose and then my mind says, “This is it, you’ve done well.  You’re done.”  And then my pose goes dead, and progress stops.  Or, as the teacher said, I fall asleep.  So when I was told to extend more, I had to push through the limitations of my mind (kind of still the internal dialogue) and discover if I could, in fact, go further.  I realized that I could, and for that little bit of time I experienced new life.  And received a bit of enlightenment.

The Halasana is a pose that we do daily in class.  We use props to ensure that the spine and neck are straight.  The picture is of me doing the Halasana many years ago.  When my internal dialogue was loud and overpowering.  I’m sure it’s improved over the years.  And after this class, I know how to work in this (and in all other asanas).

Halasana (Plough Pose)

How To

  1. Lie down straight on your back making sure your head lies on the floor.
  2. Exhale, bend your legs at the knees and bring your knees close to your chest.
  3. Lift your buttocks off of the floor supporting your back with your hands.
  4. Make sure to plant your elbows firmly on the floor.halasana
  5. Bring your body perpendicular to the floor, until your sternum touches your chin.
  6. Gently extend your legs out behind your head.
  7. Keep your face and neck relaxed.
  8. Practice with your arms stretched out behind and fingers interlocked to relive pain and cramps in fingers, hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Benefits

  • Relieves fatigue.
  • Helps to calm down the mind.
  • Relaxes your eyes and brain.
  • Controls hyper tension.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Lengthens the spine and improves alignment.
  • Reduces insomnia and anxiety.
  • Relieves stress-related headaches and migraines.

Contraindications

  • Don’t practice during menstruation and if you have cervical spondylosis.
Travel Yoga

A Yogi in Pune – Day 6

September 6, 2016

My host brought to my attention that there is a much respected astrologer close by.  Everyone goes to him and his reading is usually spot on.  The catch is that it’s difficult to get an appointment with him.  Plus I didn’t have my birth chart.

If I could get into the Iyengar institute, famed or their coldness and hard-to-get attitude, then the neighbourhood astrologer would be easy to crack, regardless of how famous he was.  Expecting it to take weeks to get an appointment, I started working on this right away.  To my surprise and delight, I managed to get an appointment in the third call.  So post my self practice session today, I decided to visit the astrologer.  Armed with a map and loads of curiosity.

In the rows and rows of non descript government quarters, I wouldn’t have been able to find his house with no address.  However, everyone seemed to know where he lived.  An appointment was going on when I walked in.  I’d expected the worst and was prepared to wait for hours, but Lady Luck was on my side and I waited for only 15 minutes.

I had asked my mother to send me photos of my natal chart on WhatsApp and I showed him these images on my laptop.

Astrologer: “You aren’t in the same line that you studied.”

Me: Nodded.

Astrologer: “What have you studied?”

Me:”Engineering.  I worked as a software engineer also for a long time too.”

Astrologer: “But what are you doing now?”

Me: “I teach yoga.”

Astrologer: “It says here that you will excel at the studies of old things…maybe history…maybe humanity.  You will do well in a field that requires you to gain deep knowledge, not superficial work.  It says here your area of work will be beneficial for mankind.  Are you only teaching or studying also?”

Me: “Yes, I study and teach.”

Astrologer: “Then there is nothing better for you than this.  This is what you were meant to do.  To study deeply and to help people.  And yoga is after all a study of the human body and the human mind.  And now with Modi getting interested…you can understand.”

Me: “Hmmm…but what else do you see?  Only teaching and studying yoga?  Same thing for the rest of my life?”

Astrolger: “No no….you will go deep.  Even amongst yoga teachers, not everyone reaches the trance state.  Not everyone goes to the higher levels.  You will also go.  You will teach and you will learn.  Yoga will take you to different places.  You will not settle abroad nor get a green card.  But you will travel far and frequently.”

Me: “I will travel for yoga?  But do you see a book published in my future somewhere?”

Astrologer: “When it comes to yoga, which is your chosen field of study, you will do whatever you want.  There are no boundaries to what you will do and there are no limits to how much you will contribute.  But stick to yoga, don’t do anything else.  Now you tell me, why did you take up yoga?”

Me: “I myself can’t really tell you why.  Something within me is drawn to the practice.”

Astrologer: “And that is what!  That is why you must continue.  Don’t worry about money.  You won’t get Rs. 5, 10, 50…when you earn you will get in the thousands at one go.  You will earn in different currencies, but only through yoga.  Don’t switch your line and stick to it.  Whatever you want, you will get.”

As I walked away from his office, I was reminded of what Pattabhi Jois was so fond of saying,” Do your practice and all is coming.”  In a way, this famed astrologer was telling me the same thing.

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.

 

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.

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Yoga

Why Gym Goers MUST Practice Yoga (Part 2)

November 11, 2013

In ‘Why Gym Goers MUST Practice Yoga (Part 1)’ I gave you what, to my mind, were very compelling reasons to supplement your daily workout with a few yoga sessions a week.  Here are 5 more reasons for why you have no excuse NOT to practice yoga.

6.  Lets talk about abs.  The real kinds.  Anyone who has them will tell you they need a strong back and strong sides.  Ever seen anyone with washboard abs slouching?  Or do you associate their mien with that of a proud pigeon?  Well that tall, proud profile is a result of the strong back muscles which hold up the abs.  And the strong back muscles are a byproduct of a regular yoga practice.  Ofcourse you still have to work like crazy for the abs … but every bit counts in the quest for Those Perfect Abs.

7.  Do you workout before work?  Then the guided meditation in the savasana post a yoga session can refresh you mentally and physically, so you won’t feel fatigued for the workday, Au contraire, you might experience new found energy due to the increased oxygen flow through your system.  You will get that perfect bod and that perfect appraisal.

8.  Breath control.  You can harness this natural process to increase your body’s ability to breathe better and increase your performance and well being.  Whether you’re a casual gym goer or an athlete, being able to breath better will bring about an immeasurable improvement in your performance and overall well being.  Breathing exercises form an integral part of any yoga class.

9.  Balance.  I’m not talking of the Natrajasana variety.  I’m talking about mental balance.  Your first yoga class may make you feel like you’ve been beaten into a corner.  Everyone else will seem to be effortlessly gliding into poses and smiling while doing unbelievable contortions.  And in the middle of it all, there’s you, an adrenaline driven gym rat who competes with himself/herself every single moment they’re in the gym.  So when you’re unable to do an asana, it can be more than a triffle de-motivating.  However, think of the unbelievable mental strength that you will cultivate when you take yourself back to yoga class every day and then see your body and mind becoming stronger and more supple.  This point is about the mental strength, the physical aspect is a byproduct.

10.  It’s fun!!!  Have you ever seen anyone frowning or grimacing during yoga class?  It won’t kill you to add some fun to your daily workout.  Fun is good for you!!!

Yoga

Why Gym Goers MUST Practice Yoga (Part 1)

November 4, 2013

Often people feel there is a conflict between an adrenaline powered, iron pumping lift-til-you-drop gym workout and a deep breathing, body contorting and meditate-like-you-mean-it yoga session.  Well, the news is, there is no conflict.  In fact yoga can complement your gym workout.

Here are 10 reasons why gym goers MUST practice yoga:

1.  Practicing some yoga postures before your workout reduces the risk of injury and loosens your body to start your gym workout.  NO, this is not like any other stretch that you do before your workout.  Yoga asanas have evolved after careful study of the human body and its alignment.  So when you practice a posture, you’re not only opening up tight muscles, but correcting the alignment of your body, which may have gone haywire after years and years of slouching on a chair in front of the laptop…or carrying heavy loads, or cooking in a kitchen not designed for your height, or sleeping on the wrong mattress, or watching tv from the wrong angle…you get the drift.

2.  Post a workout asanas will help you stretch your muscles.  Asanas help the protective and connective tissue around all your muscles and muscle cells (called the fascia) grow.  When the fascia grows the muscles encased in it have more room to grow.  If the muscles experience this kind of freedom, then they achieve a better shape and help you look great as well.

3.  If you’re one of those gym rats who can’t do without your daily gym workout and pump some serious iron then you’d do well with a post yoga workout to relax your nervous system and release all the tension that accumulates in the muslces during the gym training.

4.  Often gym goers have a lot of stress stored in their bodies and very few outlets for stress release.  Now I’m not talking about the kind of stress that makes you kick and punch extra hard (that’s just aggression, which can also be taken care of with yoga).  I’m talking about the kind of stress that makes a permanent home in your muscles.  The kind of stress that prevents you from truly relaxing and easing into a deep sleep.  The kind of stress that gives you tight hamstrings, tight shoulders and that painful lower back.  Ever seen a yogi try really really hard to kick up into the handstand, topple over and sit up smiling like a goofball (albeit radiantly)?  Compare that to someone trying to lift that extra 5 kgs, and grunt in frustration when they can’t?  I’m just saying….

5.  Have you experienced muscle cramps after or during weight training and heavy lifting?  A yoga session a few times a week could work to ease out muscle cramps and reduce the risk of reoccurence.  Could that help you lift more and lift better?  Think about it…

(To be continued in Why Gym Goers MUST Practice Yoga (Part 2)

Yoga

Getting Over That Hangover – Pose 2

October 23, 2013

Utkatasana (Chair Pose) with a Twist

How To:

  1. Start with your legs together, toes touching, knees touching, back straight, shoulders relaxed.
  2. Start to inhale and as you inhale bring your hands up and over your head making sure to align your arms with your ears.
  3. Lock your elbows.
  4. As you exhale sink down as though you were sitting in a chair.
  5. Make sure that you can see your toes and that your knees are not leaning too far forward and covering your toes.  Also make sure that your knees are together.  Your knees should be directly above your ankles.
  6. Hold your torso as erect as possible. [Note:  If you are new to this pose, you can stand with your feet hip-width apart.]
  7. Now bring your hands into the Namaskar mudra in front of your chest.
  8. Twist your torso to the right so that your left elbow makes contact with the outer edge of the right knee.
  9. Leverage the strength of your left arm to gently push your chest forward.  Look up at the ceiling.

Benefits

  • Great to increase flexibility of the spine.
  • Strengthens legs, hips and back.
  • Helps in alleviating flat feet.
  • Great to stretch the torso, shoulders and chest.
  • Stretches your abdominal muscles as well.
  • Great for sciatica and for arthritis of knees and ankles.
  • Tones the abdominal organs.

Contraindications

  • Practice with caution during menstruation.
  • Those with lower back problems should be careful when practicing this posture.
  • Avoid if you have a meniscus problem in the knee or any other knee problems.

seated_chair_twist_crossfit

Uncategorized Yoga

Getting Over That Hangover – Pose 1

October 10, 2013

Marichyasana (The Spinal Twist)

How To

  1. Sit on the floor with legs extended out in front of you.  Make sure your toes point straight up and knees are pushed into the ground.  Make sure your back is absolutely straight.
  2. Start with the right leg.  Bend the right leg at the knee and place the right foot on the inside of the left knee.
  3. Take the right hand and place it behind you so that your torso also twists to the right.
  4. Keep the left arm straight and elbow locked and place the elbow on the outside of the right knee.  Hold on to the left knee.
  5. Now push slightly with the left arm and deepen your twist.  Exhale as you do so.
  6. Look over your right shoulder.
  7. Repeat on the left side as well.

Variations

  1. This pose can also be performed without crossing the bent leg over to the inside of the other knee.
  2. Instead of holding the opposite knee you can also just keep your elbow bent

Benefits

  1. Great for digestion.
  2. Helps flush toxins out of your system.
  3. Revitalizes you.
  4. Helps in reducing the fat around the sides and therefore gives shape to your body.
  5. Tones and massages the abdominal organs.
  6. Helps to improve the functioning of liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and intestines.
  7. Helps to relieve backache.
  8. Relieves lumbago.
  9. Increases the flexibility of the neck and shoulders.
  10. Helps to improve the alignment of the spinal cord and keeps it supple.
  11. Cures indigestion.
  12. Relieves flatulence.

Contraindications

  1. Do not practice if you have diarrhoea.
  2. Pregnant women shouldn’t practice this asana.
Marichyasana will wring out all the toxins in no time.

Marichyasana will wring out all the toxins in no time.