Friday, June 07, 2019

The yogi whom all of India claims as their own

(This image of the Goraknath statue is from this link

I recall reading irrepressible Kabir Das poke fun at Gorakhnath, in a roundabout way actually taking pot shots at hatha yoga as opposed to bhakti or jnana yoga. Where Kabir says that no matter how much this yogi twists himself he did not get it. Which of course, if you read about Gorakhnath, you know is not true.
And the stories of him abound, with a potent moral message.  In fact, every state -- not just in India -- but in the entire sub-continent including Nepal, Bangladesh and the North Western region -- he has some cave or temple that is dedicated to him. Each of them talk of Gorakhnath as if he was born there and belonged there. Which is very exciting,  and can only be understood as how much he may have travelled throughout the continent. And having such a powerful influence even to this day. He belongs to the ranks of Chiranjeevis, the ones who are available to their devotees and whose energies are never dead.

For me, as a Tamil, it is exciting to see his name in the list of the Siddha yogis as Korakkar -- these were unconventional adepts who were determined to include the entire population -- instead of a limited elite -- into the idea of the divine. They used the path of bhakti to talk directly to the divine.

So the lineage runs like this -- Adinath, then Matysendranath and then Gorakhnath. However, in the way of our beautiful country, there is no vertical time line. The gurus and disciples mingle in the same horizontal time frame as the stories become layered one over the other to create a beautiful weave.  Historians struggle with this. They want a  linear timeline. But in India that may be difficult. Because disciples often wrote texts in the name of their gurus, in a bid to exhibit the lack of ego that this spiritual discipline required.
So historians guess that the Nath yogis may be fitted into the bracket from 6th century AD to 13th century AD. They also feel that Goraknath was centuries removed from his guru Matysendranath. However, many stories abound about them together. So, it is really difficult to tell.

I like this story.
In the city of Mayapuri, where Amazonian and beautiful women live, Matysendranath gets drawn in. Goraknath, in search of his guru, ascertains this. And he realises that his guru needs to be rescued. And lands up there to wean his teacher from this world of illusion.

However, while reading an interpretation of this story, (Chinmoy mission site), its said that Matsyendranath deliberately does this to show Gorakhnath up, for his dislike of women or his prejudice against them. And to dent his ego somewhat.

But there is another episode where the guru bows to his discple and says that he is now bigger than the teacher.

Its a beautiful moment, of egolessness.
We can embrace that message of this school of yoga.
It has the whole of cosmic truth in it.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Why eye exercises keep your brain young

Trataka is part of the fifth limb of yoga, dealing with focus. Though most of the exercises are eye-oriented, the effort is towards focusing the mind.

Intriguingly not many yoga classes devote much time to this aspect. Perhaps they figure out that since we naturally practice drishti/ focus on a point --for each asana  or practice, they can dispense with trataka. 

But these set of eye exercises are not the same as drishti-- focal point in an asana. 

In fact, even advanced hatha yoga practitioners can become restless when doing trataka. Being skilled in asana is not any great indication of the mental prowesss or spiritual discipline. Many famous  hatha yogis -- in recent years -- have been called out as sexual predators, so you get my point. 

Some odd behavior patterns that extreme hatha yogis can demonstrate -- which I believe could have been controlled through a regular trataka practice -- include: 
* anger 
* competitiveness 
* ambition
* aggression 
* overweening pride 
* self-centeredness 
* substance abuse 
* greed 

In fact, one of the reasons I simply keep off the ashram circuit is that these qualities erupt with ugly regularity amongst people who claim to be yoga practitioners. The worse part is, my fear, that a lopsided practice, favoring only one of the limbs of yoga creates monsters who have, unfortunately, learnt to hide their monstrosity (till they are called out). They fake it, and actually can cause a lot of disruption and harm unless they get caught out. 

I believe that pranayama, trataka and dhyana can tame this terrible eruption of the ego in a hatha yogi. 

That is my personal belief. But somewhat, as if to support my viewpoint, I read several reports online that support this idea somewhat. By indicating that eye exercises can help prevent decline of cognitive functions in older people while leapfrog learning skills in the young. 

Why should this be? 

* 90 per cent of our information input, into the brain, for any action is visual. 
* the retina is actually an extension of your brain
* vision takes up over 30 per cent of your cortex -- showing how much space is devoted to the eyes, in your brain 

And eye exercise help with these functions: 

* COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY  : Ability to multi-task and process information fast as an action happens and choose the appropriate action. 
* SELECTIVE FOCUS: To  cut out extraneous distractions and focus on one task while others jostle for your attention .
* RESPONSE INHIBITION  : This may be perhaps the most exciting, for those trying out new skills -- control an unwanted action and be able to complete a task without scattering one. 

I have recently started hula hooping and  I find how all this makes so much sense. For instance, you have to control the urge of the shoulders to  move with the hoop, and be still as it circles over the muscles! To only focus on those points of the body where the hoop is touching. And to move one part of the body while holding the other part still. All these points above are there in every new move I learn. 
Yes, trataka is powerful. It can be the most important aspect of yoga. I feel it is the bridge between the purely physical and the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Green is the new red: more than healing hidden in this colour

I have already written extensively of the colour green, and its healing impact. Though I don't have green fingers -- my sister is  and my mom was -- good that way. But I like the presence of green. I have always, even in Mumbai, been lucky to have a patch of green in my line of vision. I always struggled to maintain  my little balcony garden and love  to look at plump leaves. And though I often try to grow flowering plants, I realise that my preferred plants are all leafy ones. Just bushy green shrubs -- I love them. The glistening leaves, the different shades of green shimmering through, the crisp strength that leaves exhibit. It seems I was on the right track here. I am explaining below:

I was scouting for topics to write on, and trawling my huge collection of books, and came across the one that I had kept at the mantel in a manner that indicated that this book was on  my current browsing list. It is the book Vaastu, by Ashwini Kumar Bansal.

He has made a list of suggestions that I realised I was already  subconsciously following.
* Keep a patch of green near your windows.
* If possible, keep accessories (lamp shade, boxes) that are green in colour.
* Plant aromatic herbs in the directions where the energy flows -- or where u sit for concentration or work.

The wow factor about green, that has always been known, was that the colour was healing. That explains why hospitals have a lot of greens. At least in India, the ward boys wear green. And it was found that when the London bridge was painted green the  suicide rate from there fell dramatically. Again,  in hospitals, it has been found that the patients  in rooms with windows facing greenery healed faster than the ones facing concrete.

Yogis had for long stressed this connection, by showing green as the colour of the heart center /anahata chakra. (whose other colour is also pink). That this center is diseased when it feels anxiety, lack of love (including self-love), guilt. And the colour is used to heal this center.

The yoga community, which has gotten many things wrong otherwise (!), has however been correct with this connection at least, and often retreats are deliberately planned in lush green locations to initiate an inner healing.

But that is all old news.

The new exciting information about the colour green, researched by psychology groups, was that green enhanced focus and concentration. In tests participants in  control group who could see a green roof tops scored better in tests than those who just looked at drab concrete.

Green was found to spike attention.
Originally this status was accorded to the color red -- which explains why `,Alert"Signage and traffic cautions, and other  warnings are in red.

But now colour green is  being touted as the one that improves focus. Perhaps because it is relaxing that the mind is allowed to think clearly. There is something in that.

The study was done by Dr Kate Lee, in Melbourne. The research concluded that green provided microbreaks to the brain, and had a restorative value.

In fact, the research is linked to the idea of greening Melbourne. Hope our city fathers decide to improve the quality of life in India too, this way. And yes, we could do with improved focus too!

Saturday, June 01, 2019

The science of sitting still

Sitting still, to repair the body and mind

*The anti-aging effect of being still
* And a story to explain how this works

Even when one is sitting still one can have the sense of running endlessly and breathlessly. Or if you are still, you may feel dull. Energy is a rather vague thing. Nevertheless everyone is sensitive to it. I am saying this, because if you ask anybody to define energy they will find it difficult. They can only talk about it in the way it manifests itself in their behaviour and being. Or they can talk about it more clearly, when it is absent!
We all say this without thinking too much: “I have no energy.” “Today my energy is low”. “I have lost the energy now.”
So, I was browsing one of my favorite authors Dr David Frawley in his book on Soma in Yoga and Ayurveda. He says that rejuvenation needs stillness. He makes it clear upfront that he is not talking of a sedentary lifestyle. I think in India especially most of us feel that we are enjoying ourselves when we do nothing. I can’t figure out where this comes from, considering we have cheap labor! But as a yoga instructor I find this attitude the most difficult to dislodge when students sign up for my classes: that they believe recreation is in doing nothing, but sitting around with people we know and eating food we do not need! So let’s first get rid of that idea that being sedentary is equivalent to being still. (Otherwise some of you are going to use this as an excuse to do nothing in life!)
  • How to use asana practice with this idea of the soma – or the juice of immortality – flowing through it? He says each asana has soma, and if you know to tap into it, the nectar flows­čśŐ I paraphrase his words below:

Yoga asana is not only about developing flexibility but also developing stillness.Those who are flexible may not have this inner stillness. While those who have it may not have physical stillness. Stillness has the power to heal the body, awaken a higher energy, and awareness of the mind. Such a yogic stillness is not enforced born of personal effort. It is a natural stillness born of deep relaxation. To arrive at this stillness we must first let go of any disturbances and agitation in our body and mind. This may initially require movement to break up deep seated tension. But movement must not be the goal or end of the practice. We should learn to move into stillness, which is to slow down the body and mind.”

This sounds good. But for a lot of us, this is more of the sublime state that we don’t know how to access. Instead we can come back to brass tack: How exactly can I create stillness and where do I start on it.
So seated meditative poses have this impact, according to Frawley:
  • ·         Direct energy to our navel center / manipura (ego center)
  • ·         They remove the knots in our heart (love center/anahata)
  • ·         They relieve anxiety and fear
  • ·         They remove /control anger and aggression


That way you learn to forget your body.
I was deeply touched by this beautiful story by Thich Naht Hanh: He says he had a Vietnamese student who was imprisoned for her good work. The prison guards would get angry when they saw her meditating. So she would meditate at night. Sitting still with natural strength gave her the sense of freedom despite being inside the prison. She taught this to other prisoners, the strength of sitting still with oneself. Here is what Hanh says, which I found poignant: If you can sit like that the walls are not there. You have more freedom than people outside who are imprisoning themselves with their agitation and anger. People can steal many things from us, but they cannot steal our determination and practice.
Hope this resonates with you. And if you are resisting meditation, you probably need it the most!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Mental imagery as a tool in learning new skills

Just  a month back, I started hula hooping and was excited to learn it over a few days. I picked up the waist-hooping in three days, and soon progressed in duration (ten minutes!), and then added more challenging hoop tricks with the lighter polypro hoops (called off-body hooping): hand spins, palm spins, cross arm throws, skipping, both hand rotations, foot hooping, chest rolls!  I felt like a circus-artist, magician, and a happy child all rolled into one. I am in my mid-50s, and around this point is when most women are sniffling in some corner, feeling lost. So in a sense my yoga and hooping have kept me from these dark spaces that other people in my age group recede.

Most importantly, the flush of self-approval that followed this innocent activity (of hooping)  made me sit up and wonder why others were not engaging themselves in novel body movements that released them.
It was not just the hooping but the intense joy it gave. Plus, I realised, that it was improving the execution of my yoga poses substantially, and making me feel lighter in very tough poses. It was as if there was a greater clarity in execution and a litheness of the body and mind. I wanted to find out more about learning new skills. And this is the first in a series I intend to do here.

An exciting study by sports psychologist William Straub found that imagining a skill, and "practicing" this regularly can actually fast-forward your learning. In fact when compared with those who practiced physically, and those who did mental "practising", the latter seemed to have an advantage. When they combined mental skill with physical practice, obviously their advantage sky-rocketed.

I first read about this in the book by Sandra Blakesle and Mathew Blakesle ( Book image, above). Studies done with three groups established that mental imagery by itself had the greatest impact on learning a new skill, even more than physical practice. And when combined with physical practice, as less just one day of actually practising it,  the results  got even better. The game that was used in this research was dart-throwing.

Just relaxing, and visualizing oneself throwing a dart, and feeling the sense of satisfaction at having done it well was the primary mental practice. This was done over a period of eight weeks. Listening to training tapes, and actively engaging the mind in the skill required, and doing it in a relaxed manner seemed to get these fabulous results.

This happens because the brain is plastic, it can learn anything when it gets engaged. And when this happens, you actually use less energy because the mind is relaxed.

When I teach advanced poses in my yoga class, I tell those who are taking the longest to learn some pose, to stop stressing over the physical attempt and focus longer on their mental imagery: chunking the pose, and then running it over and over in their mind. If they have control over their mental imagery and self-talk, these students do pick it up rather fast. However it is important at this point to understand that their inner self-talk is important. How well they talk to themselves, and whether they listen to themselves, and if there is clarity in their inner talk, all this matters. This is a rare ability, and  I believe those who meditate regularly have this skill.  Others seem to have mixed results if they are really not convinced about the efficacy of their mind playing a role in such skills.

This also happens because those are not used to  this sort of inner talk can actually create what is referred as the self-talk dissonance: meaning, they do not acknowledge their fears and instead pretend themselves to be calm. This difference in actual and imagined states can ruin skill-learning, or any performance.

As a teacher, I often have this problem with students, especially students who are a bit disconnected with their body, or u can say, do not have an intense body awareness. Apparently, another study has found that this lacuna in body awareness, and dissonance, can come from childhood where physical contact with care-givers is restricted.

That's interesting. And a bit discomfitting.

Because then the hurdles while learning something new can really be high.

If you meditate, or are trained to watch your thoughts, you can learn other skills that manipulate your inner self-talk: Stop  negative self-talk, and rewrite it into a positive and proactive one.

More on this engrossing topic soon. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Do kids go to the playground with a sense of purpose? What is your yoga purpose?

The ultimate yogi is the one who is described as child-like, with nothing to prove, full of joy, caring and emanating trust and love. This sounds like we were,  when we used to be kids. Somewhere along the way, the adult need to have a purpose and a goal got thrust on us, and we have carried the burden of this since. 

I was thinking how the eastern philosophy originally was  like that: the leaders of such strains of thought led, by example. We have the absolutely fabulous Bodhidharma
(who not many in India, as usual know, was from the South of India) after setting up the Shaolin style of philosophy and fighting skills, got on to a bullock, and gave his treatises to the man at the gate of the city, and rode off into the horizon. The same is true of Adi Shankaracharya who, after preaching Advaita and setting up maths // institutions in the four directions of this country, disappeared without a trace. It was too powerful an example for the rest of us to follow.

It is interesting to see how when new age gurus try to rekindle our interest in these ideas, they actually ending up adding a "purpose' to such things. The whole eastern idea is to do everything completely and move on. It means the journey is the destination. You can all see the travesty here, which unfortunately everybody is pushing down our throats. The path is not leading anywhere, in eastern thought. It is where you find yourself. But unfortunately now they have made this path lead someplace, so many people start seeing imaginary goalposts, they have targets, they have experiences that assure them that they have reached some important spot  in their path. They also believe their path is more special than others (ha ha, the competitiveness reasserts itself). To have a purpose on the path, makes you a spiritual materialist.

BE childlike, in your practice

It is now so entrenched that we are beginning to have to have a purpose in everything we do. I believe part of the problem of the world lies in this terrible need to infuse purpose in everything. Some things have purpose, some don't. Once you make a habit of putting a purpose into everything, it becomes a terrible need in itself.

The urgent need in today's world is to bring something of the child back into  our lives. This will defuse 
* violence
* depression
* aggression

We have to shake off this unnatural need to have a purpose. Be pure. But this idea is not accessible, like it was earlier.
We have no real leaders today who can communicate this idea as a matter of transmission. Most leaders today are regurgitating old ideas but are themselves so full of  purpose and ambition, arthat they have set up empires attracting followers with equally exalted goals.

The need for today is to have a part of our lives where we are childlike, with no purpose.
When a large swathe of humanity has this joyful space within, we would create a different world, with less strife, more giving.

The fear of the void, makes us put stuff and purpose into it.

To understand it, you have to be fearless.

This quote of Bodhidharma: If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you'll understand both.

It is a trick, to see a purpose in all things. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Moon-bathing, to cool off your heat

I was trawling through this book on Tao and Dharma. It is one of those things, you have so many books, but suddenly you find yourself reading several books that together seem to sort your particular problem in that particular moment of your life.

So this book Tao and Dharma, by Dr Robert Svoboda and Amie Lade, threw up these natural remedies for "heat". The solutions are so commonsensical that it is worrisome that we have to read it elsewhere to do what is natural. On this note, moonbathing is a suggestion.
I remember as kids we would take our mattresses, or mats, which were more commonplace, and bed sheeets to the terrace, and sleep in the open, unafraid. There were no dangerous predatory human beings, or predators (since we did not encroach forests, those days), and mosquitoes did not attack us so much because, well, there were their natural predators like frogs etc in plenty. Now we have turned nature topsy-turvy, so there are more of pests and pestilences. And human beings are turning into monsters. So that sort of innocent moonbathing is not as common as before. Perhaps in villages, with little choice, people still do this. And perhaps that accounts for less crimes there.

So, this suggestion by Dr Svobodha is for cooling down an aggravated pitta -- which causes inflammatory conditions. In case you cannot sleep on your terrace or any terrace, walking under a moon, (which is possible, still, if you have parks ) or in its light, sitting near a window where the moon is visible is still a good option.

It is the sense of the night. A kinesthetic experience of nature, close at hand, that can soothe away anger, which is a pitta condition, and aggravated vata (of anxiety). Kapha naturally seeks out the moon. But Pitta dosha needs the moon.

Let us know of other possible ways in which you could moonbathe.. watching a video? Or reading haikus on the moon. Taking holidays to spots where it is possible to moonbathe. And keeping track of the lunar calendar to know when full moon is on, or when it rises, and position yourself in that spot, once you locate it in your home! Or in its vicinity.

I have spotted the moon even in this crowded city of Mumbai, with its skyscrapers. So, yes, it is eminently possible:)
Happy cool down to you all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wealth in your hands:Kubera mudra

I first read of the Kubera mudra in the Mudras: Yoga in your hands, by Gertrud Hirschi.  I was super excited and immediately started connecting to some mudras/hand gestures. In the yoga-crazed of a neo convert I started reading up on all mudras, bought up books, some repeating themselves, and then downloaded several from all over the internet.

Of course, with the maturity that comes from regular practice, now I have trimmed by enthusiasm somewhat and realise that I need to keep a few ones for regular practice, and dip into others, as I need them for healing. And also, as I started gaining some insight into them, I realised that not all can be practiced continuously. This was also the time when I started making the connection between yoga and ayurveda. Each mudra is also dosha-specific and those with specific doshas must not overdo those mudras that are surely going to aggravate their conditions.

Nowadays I see mudras, suddenly discovered by the asana-intense yoga community, being dished out like pretty spa gifts. And sigh!

Any case, this mudra is dope!
Kubera mudra, Hirschi, had said was a wish-fulfilling mudra. I have myself never practiced it, because I have inhibitions asking an higher power for material things.

But wealth is not always about material things, you realise. It also the freedom to explore, and the support that allows you to do that. It is also joy in simple things. It is so many other things, than real money.

So, today I could look at this mudra differently. It is done as shown in the image attached. Tips of middle and index  finger touching tip of the thumb. Other fingers pressed down. Done for each hand. And whenever you wish.

The middle and  index  finger stand for ether and air element respectively. In terms of impact, they stimulate the mind positively, keeping it upbeat. The earth and water elements, represented by the ring and and little finger, are depressed in this, and that means the practice controls lethargy and sensitivity.

So, on very "technical" terms, it uplifts the mind, makes it confident and focused and fearless, and controls lethargy and sensitivity. All ideal in the recipe for success and focus.

Its been over two decades since I started practicing yoga, but i have never actively practiced this, as I explained above. But now, I am a little bit more sensible, and perhaps its time to start practising it?

Let me know if your wishes came true.

Happy sadhana  

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Walking on cobblestones can keep you fit?

I had a serendipitous moment. I was reading a book on the Japanese route to happiness (Ikigai) hat the Oregon Research  Institute study -- provoked by some western scientists watching the Chinese do this ritually at their parks -- confirmed that walking on cobblestone, barefoot, had tremendous health benefits.
and stumbled on this intriguing information:
The study was done with about a 54-strong control group, of people  over 60s and into their 90s, done over 16 weeks, thrice weekly, for an hour.
This exercise proved terrific benefits, over conventional walking.
* Better physical function
* Improved blood pressure, circulatory benefits
* Mental and physical well-being.

Traditionally, the Chinese did this because in acupressure therapies, the sole of the foot has the body map of the entire body. And walking on the uneven, but soothing pebbles, impacted them, activating points that gave improved overall health, better sleep, and pain relief.

So I googled for cobblestone mats, and was astonished to find that these are indeed available, even locally. Though at a price that is a bit out of range for me. Maybe in a few years time and when I really need it, I will buy one on EMI!
But I do my workouts -- including my kickboxing bare foot (with the danger of an occasional rusty nail or broken glass lying about on the terrace where I work out). I find I am able to grip the ground better that way. I also have wobble boards and balance boards (that I hardly use but am now tempted after reading this study:)

Any case, I ordered a synthetic cobblestone mat -- and will get it by month-end. Will post further on that, and how it feels soon.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Why not beer yoga? Here's why..

Somebody asked me about this, so I am putting my thoughts here: Why not beer yoga? Here is why.

Technically, Hatha Yoga Pradipika says there should be no hard or fast rule about anything. Adherence to rules is itself unyogic. Chapter 1, Verse 15, clubs "adherence to rules" as amongst the many things that destroy yoga. 

So, you can see why the beer-swilling and wine-loving yoga practitioners believe they are in the right? Right? Wrong! Because the same verse warns against "Unsteadiness". While of course, many drinkers take pride in their threshold limit, it still is unclear what can trigger unsteadiness even in a heavy drinker (who, if he/she did yoga regularly, will not be a heavy drinker in the first place). So,  the same rule that some people use to run around doing their wild thing is also advising against it! 

While the Hatha Yoga Pradipika exhortation not to adhere to rules can be seen as an invitation to do anything, it is simple commonsense that is also very much part of yoga that you do not eat /drink anything before a yoga ( or any work-out).  

Let's get down to brass tacks: 
1) Too much of water even can cause water intoxication, actually leading to cramps. In fact, its old news that drinking a lot of water or energy drinks before a marathon was promoted avidly by manufacturers of these drink  till somebody realised that this was causing terrible accidents, even fatalities, on the track. The body is on a high-stress mode during physical activity, and needs to release its energy packets fast. Too much of water actually dilutes and messes up the electrolyte balance of the blood, confusing it thoroughly. 

2) Work-out /any physical exertion makes you dehydrated. Alcohol makes you dehydrated? So do you think this is a great combo? Ahhh, it would call for great suspension of disbelief to pretend that it is good! 

3) Even mild alcohol interferes with muscle recovery after a work-out. So, I rest my case. 

4) The other obvious thing is, if you talk to anybody who is a regular yoga practitioner and not looking for entertainment on the mat, the high comes from the practice itself. Serious yoga practitioners do not need these incentives. Its not just a mystical or spiritual thing: any physical exertion releases the body's own opiates (endorphins). You get a super-kick from a strong practice. 

5) A simple analogy should explain the above point even better: a beer yoga session is akin to  a one-night stand, while a strong personal practice is like a strong loving relationship. Everybody has their choices even here, so it sort of puts a label on what you are about, on the mat. So, if you say  you do  beer yoga to a "real" yoga practitioner, they will walk away from you. Its not that they think you are scum, but that they feel you are not serious about the practice, and so have nothing in common with them. 

6) But if you are still against such yogic snobbery, here is one last compelling reason why its risky to  swill beer while upside down: 
There has to be a respectable gap between the time you consume anything (beer or water or food) or yoga practice. Two hours, after a mild intake, and four hours gap between heavy food. Unlike other workout, here you do inversions where the torso is upside down. In many poses the body's blood pressure is switching rapidly, to adjust to this movement of the blood and the body and  its  load carrying impact of some movements.  Alcohol will can have a disastrous impact on this. Not just alcohol, anything can even cause fatalities.  

7) Think of it: the flap at the osephagus is there to prevent the food you ate from coming up, If you fill up the tank,then flop yourself upside down, it puts a severe strain on this sphincter,  Short term, you would be lucky to get away with acid reflux, But it depends -- if you sphincter is already flaccid, you could just send something up that can actually choke you. You may have heard of some drunk choking on his own vomit? Well, that is technically what could happen when the flap releases stuff it should not, while doing an inversion, after ingesting anything, including water. Also, why would you want to send the stomach acids into your gullet? Stomach acids are so potent they can burn holes in a kerchief. Imagine the impact on this on your throat, where it should not  be! And if you eat or drink and do any inversion, you are creating all the ideal conditions for a serious problem. In the long term, the sphincter is even likely to get more flaccid and create chronic conditions of acid reflux. It is not as simple as it sounds. Its an extremely distressing experience. Plus, it is often symptomatic of oesophagal cancer. 

If you still argue in favor of beer yoga, god be with you. I have nothing further to say to u, and your ilk!

#Happy sadhana

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Youth giving jelly! Chyawanprash

It is the typical tale of ignoring what is in your own backyard. So, since I can remember I know of chyawanprash. I also know other types of jelly -- but having something like that shoved into your mouth while recovering from some sickness puts you off such things as a child.
Now, with foresight born of five decades  of life on this planet, and with the desperation that comes from that I have suddenly, and fortuitously, rediscovered this powerpacked jelly.
I have been having it for a month now, twice daily. And find that it does do something to old aches. Whether that is part of its design, I do not know. But it has helped my old knee injury so much so that I have restarted jogging and skipping, which I set aside every time my old injury starts acting up.
All of us have these ups and downs with our body. But the ups have been more, and the downs less, with this chyawanprash.

So, I tried to research a bit about this. And my favorite ayurvedic doctor on this, Dr David Frawley, apart from discussing the ingredients, gives it the metaphysical spin that really appeals to me.

He says that it promotes love, longevity and good fortune. It is regarded as the long-living tree. And that is is used to treat mental disorders (Book reference: The Yoga of Herbs). He is using all my favorite words. Appealing to all that appeals to me. I love the idea of the chyawanprash being a tree. And a long-living one, is magical. And if having this jelly gets me good fortune, who am I to sniff at that?

The base, he explains, is Amla, raw sugar, and ghee (another traditional ingredient that has enjoyed a happy comeback). And then each of the ayurvedic school, possibly depending on the region they are from, have different formulations. Every time at look at a label (and till now have tried two brands, one ordered from Kerala online) they have a long list that appears to go on and on. It makes me feel good, because like most of us I rather talk of health than do much about it. So to think that just a few teaspoonfuls is getting my quota of health for the day is a very special feeling. On the day I forget I fret a bit, but it is a good sign.
I mean, it is about self-engagement when we take the trouble care for  ourselves. The more I read of health, thanks to my being a yoga instructor, I keep learning that  self-engagement is the only way to ensure you do not go downhill. If you let go, it is going to create the grounds for mental and physical decline.
Having watched my grandmother suffer so much towards her end, with decline in physical and mental faculties and the way my mother had to struggle in taking care of her with no help whatsoever, has made me determined  to focus on health. Health  above all the other things that seem  to attract the rest of the world.  My grandmother did not know much of what she suffered, but the ignominy of losing your faculties, that left a deep mark on my mind.  As a kid I have seen so many deaths -- and many of them long-suffering where the burden of most of the care-taking fell on my mom, that has left a deep mark. I see others around me glibly ignoring health as if they feel it is a given -- it bothers me because it is a lie. Health has to be worked upon. It is like an investment. You cannot expect a lottery. And other people's savings will not help you. You are alone -- when you are unwell. Even the ability to bear pain, that comes from strength of the mind. If things must go downhill, at least we must walk to our grave and not flail our way into it.

So here is this nice story that is associated with this jelly:

Apparently a young princess married an aging rishi, Chyawana. His youth is restored by the Ashwin twins, through the use of rejuvenating herbs all of which find themselves in this jelly. And that, sort of sums up why this is regarded as an essential part of kayakalpa-- youth giving practices of ayurveda.

So, whenever I pop the gooey jelly in my mouth, I have this story running through. Its a powerful affirmation, not even consciously attempted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Yoga herb: miracle herb to power your yoga practice

On turmeric ..the healing Herb that is referred as the yoga herb my you tube channel

Safe headstand: how to be safe upside down

It now belongs to the stuff of yoga legends ..that the stellar yoga guru Iyengar won instant acclaim for having propped an octogenarian European queen into the headstand. So age is never a barrier for learning it.
However even simple tasks need prep. And standing upside down is not simple. So it needs more prep. If you are not used to any physical activity then u need more prep. And perhaps need to be initiated into it with props.
I was lucky to have trained partly in the South of India with Asana Andiappan. And in his institutes he would have a simple pulley to help even stroke victims enter the headstand with a lot of support. It made sense to me activate sluggish parts of the brain and spine. I have seen older women ( who in other parts of India will simply baulk at it)  and even overweight people ( who normally have several inhibitions about inversions) just go to  the corner reserved for the headstand and when their turn came, happily stand upside down for quite some time. 
It powered my own practice.

But I learnt that to do the headstand scientifically helps makes it very easy. Here is my brief YouTube tutorial on the simple poses u need to do before u start on your headstand.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Yoga game: Pada Sparsh

Dear readers
So good to be back ­čśé Remember  the time ..if u belong to my generation..when u didn't have electronic entertainment and had to play out in the sun. Tough games. Climbing trees.
 Getting bee stun. And not wilting when u fell.

So here is one of those games. Of Yoga Belonging to a period  even  earlier than my childhood. Its on  my YouTube channel Yoga with a view .. Watch it. Like it. Subscribe to it. It's not about me at all. About the  spirit of yoga ..

Friday, August 31, 2018

Kapala dhauti: yoga cure for headache

I have restarted my blog after a long gap. My apologies. But here is an immediate yoga tip. No side effects. Works. If nothing else, offers topical soothing. Third eye healing, for those who like to spice up their yoga knowledge with metaphysical connnections.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Belly fat: why even yogis have it and what to do

Belly fat is the very devil. It makes u feel bad. Its as if it implies u are not being disciplined about your food or your health or your exercise. Its not so much about how it makes u feel ugly. Its really about making u look bad as a person. The implication of belly fat bothers many of us I think. Its demotivating also ..especially if u are trying stuff u have been trying efficiently for years but now see that these same tricks are not yielding the right results.  So I too have a yo -yo relationship with this despite my vigorous approach to health.

These are things I have noticed about belly fat..after 50s ..that may help u too, whatever your age:

* It becomes exaggerated when u are stressed. The correlation beteeen stress and belly fat has been well we need to de-stress with a firm intent. Funny books or movies. Cooking good food. Art and craft and hobbies. And a regular workout. They elevate your mood and release stress.

* Have a dynamic workout. Interval training..short bursts of exercise followed by relaxing stretches..even for 10 / 20 minutes thrice weekly will have immediate impact. This is a new breakthrough but entire researches and books vouchfor it. So do I.

* Diet is the key. U have to consult a professional if needed but do it so u feel the impact immediately. Trying something that works for your friend may not be the right answer for your body type.

* With yoga lose belly fat ..incorporate dynamic sequences and flows( as shown in video). Dynamic poses are more challenging and burn more fat especially at the belly and thighs.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Yogic eye exercises: its about the cosmic vision

I have these Buddha eyes all around my spaces ..whether it is my home or my work space. Something about the brilliance of trataka/ eye exercises infuses itself through them to me.

Its amazing that despite all the drama and fervour over yoga not many classes or teachers encourage its practice. All that I  know of this I know from the Bihar school of yoga books.

I was browsing  a Hatha Yoga Pradipika translation by Sw Muktibodhananda and rediscovered its magic.

According to the author Swatmarama trataka not only sorts eye problems but also removes  "fatigue, sloth".  But even more, according to the translator it awakens the susushmna nadi ..the  spiritual consciousness. It can even arouse clairvoyance, telepathy, telekinesis and psychic healing. Clearly for such states to be created the practice must be intense.  Done at brahmamuhurta ..the time of the divine ..4 to 6 am.

Perhaps because of such powers it was always meant to be a secret practice . 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

How not to be a wind bag

When u are a woman over forties u learn that when  the guys are hitting on u their strategy has changed: they will start talking to u about their "gas" problems,  in detail. This may include intimate details about the timing, the exact nature of attack and will wind  up with a heartbreaking ( they believe­čÖä) request for some solution from u. Why they think its going to make them attractive to u is a big puzzle. But its amazing how odd it is that they combine this with their bid to flirt with u.  Its galling but there it is. And as an yoga instructor I always have some solution handy but we can bet on it they are not going to follow it at all. Because they have now entered an age themselves where they believe being flatulent is part of their attraction­čśë.

But if u want to be less windy here are some tricks.  Apart from the more common ones like the wind-release pose ( pawan muktasana) whose name makes the powerful impact it has.

In yoga several poses make you look up..between the eyebrows. ( eg Cat Stretch/ marjariasana and all of the prone backbends) We all know it impacts  the pineal gland..psychic third eye. But whie reading the book  Gut by Giulia Enders I read that sitting straight and looking up gives the gargly oesophagus a powerful stretch that can iron out burps and stuff.  And in the same book I was astonished to learn her suggestion that lying on your left side can help the metabolism in such a fashion as to make u feel less heavy after a meal. This is what the marvellous branch of swar yoga offers. Its mindblowing to see how yogis had  cracked these hidden secrets of the body ..secrets that I doubt even many modern day doctors  are aware of.

Any case u know now how to be less windy ...and what to tell old flatulent men when they hit on u­čśü

To sum up: looking upwards relieves gas.
Lying on your left side if feeling "heavy". 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Age erase, with oats

Yoga ia very ritualistic about personal care. Its sister science Ayurveda has elaborate advice on the type of massage oils / powders each ayurvedic dosha must use. I have super books on this by Dr David Frawley and Harish Johari. 
This one I stumbled recently.. I have been breaking fast every morning with a bland bowl of oats relieved by seeds and dried fruits. I would convince myself that horses look superb ..with rippling muscles and great overall tone, thanks to their oats diet! But oats is more than great food..its a marvellous skin care product. Here is what I 
discovered : 
*That oats make great face masks. *They are anti-wrinkle. *They brighten skin. * Exfoliate..remove dead skin. *Tighten pores. *Have stuff ( saponins)  that acts like natural soap and remove grime from inside the pores. * Lots of fats to remove dryness. * Lots of other natural moisturizing agents. 

Basically it depends on what you mix with the oats ..honey or milk or powdered sunflower seeds or almonds or lime juice ..The oats must be softened by puttibg it in a blender. 

Each of the secondary ingredient 
adds its own goodness. If u search online ..on valid sites ..u will find lots of skin care recipes.  So I am not giving u that. Its better you choose according to your skin care needs. I did my own pack by blending oats with sesame oil and rose water as a bath scrub. Feel spanking clean, I must say.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Indian toilet is yoga!

This rivetting book Gut by Giulia Endes notes that in cultures where u need to squat while defecating has less incidence of haemorrhoids and diverticula. And also less of problems that come from exerting while defecating ( which happens in Western style toilets) like varicose veins, stroke and defecation syncope ..fainting on the toilet!
The author has a suggestion on how to mimic the impact of the Indian style squat while excreting. " Just incline your upper body forward slightly and place your feet on a low footstool placed in front of the toilet.."

She cites research by Israeli Dr Dov Sikirov who studied the impact of position u hold while excreting. Those who squatted reported emptying bowels most satisfactorily and in as less as 50  seconds. Not surprisingly those who sat took almost twice the time and unsatisfactorily. Another Japanese research also found tge squatting position appeared to give a clear route for bowels to empty.
It appears that some practices are rejected just because they are ancient ( the author's observation, not mine) and new ones are seen as modern and thetefore more hygienic ( despite contrary evidence). 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Youthfulness is about your nerves

Biologists are still trying to find the elixir of youth. For some,  like Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, its a mission. If u read her books you get a clear idea that a virile mind ..which is connected to the rest of your body a great way to maintai├▒ youthfulness. 
The nerves are how your body tunes in to who u are.  Their vitality is important. This pose here called namaskaranasana ( prayer pose) is not only intensely challenging at a physical level but also "excites" the nerves all over the body. Nerves in all the limbs are set off positively. 
And that difficult joint..the hips ..become stronger and more flexible. After 50s strong hips could mean longevity, youthful mobility and a better quality of life.  
  The chest also opens and collapses in a manner as to strengthen it and release hidden tensions. And the neck is also toned.  The neck a metaphysical level..  .often   collapses at the slightest hint of conflict or stress. 
And I cannot  help but  to point out that to execute this pose you need strong knees and ankles and an  ability to squat low.  In what I call the Indian toilet squat..but more on that later. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Heartily healthy! Easy way to sort your heart

When I started yoga I was completely overwhelmed  by the science behind yogic practices. And the branch of mudra yoga was one of those things that mesmerised me. Despite a lot of spiritual and religious significance to mudras they are really based on the science of neurological brain map of body parts. I do not want to get into this but have written a lot on it. All of my ─║inks on this was drawn primarily by the wisdom of  Swami Satyanandaji's writings.
This mudra shown here ..was amongst the first one I learnt. Its also called hridaya mudra, amritsanjeevani mudra. These names suggest the significance of this mudra.

It is believed regular practice of this can even help avert a heart attack. It can make the heart strong. And control heart problems

And only recently I learnt that this can  even help in emotional problems, specifically dealing with heart-related ones.

For real impact u need to hold the mudra at least for 30 minutes. U can manage this by using it while meditating or doing pranayama.  Or even while watching TV.

If u have high blood pressure, ├žirculatory problems, heart-related issues or a broken heart ...this is the mudra for u.