Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back to Reality - 18 inches of snow

I arrived home to a magnanimous pile up of snow everywhere your eyes can take. I had called my neighbor from Mumbai and he told me there was 18 inches of snow piled up on our street and it was impassable and my long uphill driveway resembled a ski slope.
The side and back yard of my house was being used by neighbors as a passable escape route to their vehicles parked in a make shift parking lot behind my house. The next door neighbor had cordoned off his yard with strings and a sign "Donot Trespass - Private Property". But what about the poor deer, who trespass every day?
There was no way I was going to be able to get my car out of the garage. Chains were required on all cars - life in the city had come to a grinding halt, there was not enough equipment to clean the roads and the city had shut down a few times. I can't even describe the chill down my spine when I heard this news. I was missing my munchkins and couldn't take any further marginalization, now at the hands of nature. I needed to see them and spend time with them.

What irony? People in Portland crave for a white Christmas. Now the universe had given them more than their fair share - as if to penalize us green conscious citizens for all wrong doings humanity has performed to nature in form of global warming. Ironically I have been reading "Hot, Flat and Crowded" by Thomas Friedman and ironically he discusses the wrath of nature coming in form of extreme climate changes. His words were prophetic. This was the most snow Portland had ever seen in recorded history and some dumbo justified it as "well it occurs every 100 years"......
Nevertheless, I was able to rent a not so gas guzzling 4X4 and drive up 1000 feet to the back of my house and drag nearly 60 kilos of luggage down the hill to my back door. All that shrubbery underneath, I hope they survive. I then had to climb up a 4 foot pile up of wet snow to open the door and finally I was "home". Luckily no water pipes had burst. I was in a daze as I had hardly slept and I was still recovering from the shock of how I breezed through customs this time with only one question "Are you bringing any jeera?" .. "No" I said with a smile and understood the humor in it... I controlled my laughter as I dragged myself out to the bus and freedom. I can buy plenty of Jeera at the local grocery store... I don't need to smuggle any from India.

So here I was finally home and in a winter wonderland. The Christmas tree had dried out and the timer on the lights had reset to turn on during the day, as there had been a power outage for many hours... I felt disoriented as I had not yet completely disconnected from Bangalore and Mysore. My mind was awake, but my body felt like it needed to crash and sleep.
It has now been four days since my return and I am still jet lagged. This always happens. Its not a new routine. Life is still not normal, the snow is still around and finally melting, but the cabin fever is atrocious. My munchkins and I had a nice Xmas day and my older pushed me to take them out - they had had enough of being trapped in the house the last seven days. We saw a movie "Bedtime Stories" and it brought so much joy to all of us, as we too make up stories at night, all from real life experiences.

I am still processing my experience from the trip from India. And then there are many balls in the air at home, more than I care to deal with, some I wish could just disappear. Its amazing to see how some things will just linger and fester and never seem to want to end, an infinite grind of reality of life. So the videos will need to wait some... there seems to be a surge of readers looking for guruji's 90th birthday celebrations. Please be patient. I must say it was worth the trip and for those who missed it, I promise there is more to see and there will be a lot more from RIMYI I am sure, as the entire 2 weeks was filmed by the second :)
In the meantime, I must say, I have gained a new respect for nature. I am more aware of the atrocities we have committed with the indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels and waste of energy. I am guilty as charged. The book I am reading has made an impact on me - the question now is what am I going to do about it? We all need to get serious about global warming and act NOW!.....


The Yogi

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The music from picture slides

I have turned off the music from the picture slides. I apologize for the annoyance!

Monday, December 22, 2008

BKS Iyengar "Guruji's" 90th Birthday Celebrations - Visit to his former yogashala in Mysore and bus trip back

After much searching we found his old yoga shala where he practiced under his guru Krishnamacharya. All the buses converged to the old residence of the King of Mysore in the heart of the city, which is now an Art Gallery. Our guide Mr. Rao found the school, which has long since been converted to a Catholic school. The school staff was kind to let us in and spend some time there and take pictures. It was back on the buses to head back to Bangalore to conclude the trip. The last two hours on our bus number 6 involved some singing and entertainment. A few clips that I was able to capture will be cherished...


The Yogi

Sunday, December 21, 2008

BKS Iyengar 90th Birthday Celebrations Parting Video

I am posting this final parting video in a series of videos that will appear in reverse chronological order from Dec 19th to Dec 10th. This is the final evening of Dec 19th, 2009. It was a long and fun bus journey from Mysore to Bangalore. I was on bus number 6. This was the chanting bus as the last 2 hours of the journey involved singing and chanting by the members of this group. I must say the Israeli contingent outshone everyone. Hava Nagilla is my favorite. Many thanks to Sania Sheik our tour bus guide, for inspiring us and Swati Chanchani to get us in the chanting mode. We practiced in the bus what appears in this final video before Guruji leaves the hotel in Bangalore. We all parted the next morning back on to our respective life journeys. Hope you enjoy these momentous moments and forward to them others.


The Yogi

Saturday, December 20, 2008

BKS Iyengar 90th Birthday South India Tour Dec 18th

This was day two of our trip, that included a 7 hour journey from E-Inn in Bangalore to the two 11th century stone temples in Halebidu and the other Bellur spelt "Belur". The morning started a bit chaotic, but once everyone was settled in the buses (I in bus number 6), we were on our way. Little did I know I was amongst some of the luminaries of the Iyengar yoga world including Swati Chanchani, Faeq Bria, Patricia Walden, John Schumacher .. and more... I sat next to Wolfgang, an Iyengar yoga teacher from Cologne who enlightened me about many things about yoga and Germany and we remained bus companions for the next three days. By the end of this momentous trip Bus number 6 became a world community.

Guruji followed us with his family on this trip. It was an exhausting journey till 11:30 pm at night, but worth every minute. I have so much to share - it will be several days and weeks till I complete my entire journal of this trip, and believe me, I will!!!! I have tons of video footage documenting this trip in addition to pictures. I met some amazing Iyengar yogis throughout this trip and am very thankful I had the opportunity to be part of this wonderful experience we all shared with Guruji. His presence was felt all throughout - though my most momentous experience was my short but important discussion with Faeq Bria, one of Guruji's most important students, an educator, a spiritual scientist and Vedologist, an expert in Hinduism, Yoga, Sutras, Indophile extraordinaire. He sat across the aisle and I don't remember a moment where he was not discussing something with someone in the bus, mostly in french. It wasn't until we arrived back in Bangalore and shared an elevator down, that I finally got a chance to speak to him. Wolfgang had mentioned about his amazing workshops and I had to talk to him about my strong connection with Sutras and desire to take more pranayam. In summary, I wanted to be re inspired to focus my practice back on the asanas but integrate pranayama into it as well.

I told him I felt very connected to the Sutras. He said "its not surprising, its in your blood". I almost fell to the floor when I heard those words. It is in my blood I realized or why I else would I be in it. He advised that I should start integrating pranayama into my practice right away and that a strong integrated practice of asanas and pranayama is the way to really connect with the Sutras. He added that it is too easy to intellectualize the Sutras and simply be stuck in that realm, without the pragmatic experience of asana and pranayama. His words have been resounding in my head every since.

I will have much more to share in my next few blog posts. The tour concluded this morning (2oth). I have to plug the new Bangalore (Bengaluru) International Airport. It is one more leap forward and nothing like any other airports - its world class. So those of you who maintain a critical view of things in India, well we Indians eventually do get it, through long hard struggles of thousands of years of making mistakes and the beauty of our character lies in those mistakes we make, the many times we fall, we just pick ourselves up and keep plugging away till we finally get that perfect asana and the deepest breath. There are still 500 million of us who remain downtrodden, but its those 500 million that we strive to uplift will change the world. Guruji has taken a small step in transforming the children of his native village Bellur, and I made a generous contribution to that effort as a gift for his birthday. I hope you will do so as well. That is the best gift you can make to him and the children of India. There are many such efforts underway..... I am determined in my own way to be part of that change. As Gandhiji said "To make a change you need to become a part of it....".

Enjoy the pictures and thanks to everyone who sent their nice comments and thanks to all my new friends on this trip who shared their thoughts and experiences with me. I am truly inspired by each one of you. How amazing is this connection of Iyengar yoga and Guruji!!!! If you would like to remain updated, subscribe to the blog via email, as I will be posting pictures and videos from this occasion for the next few weeks.

Enjoy the pictures and I end with the following words from an earlier post - Change and see the world change around you! I am now yearning to return home to my two little munchkins who I love dearly and missed alot during this trip and so wished they were with me to share in this experience. There were many kids they would have loved to have hang out with ...


The Yogi

Thursday, December 18, 2008

BKS 90 th Birthday Celebrations in Bellur Village - Dec 17th 2008

Here is a slide show of some of the pictures from Dec 17th, the first day of the South India tour. It was a crazy day yesterday. We had a 7 hour drive from Bangalore to another town called "Belur" to visit two ancient temples. I sat next to an Iyengar yoga teacher from Germany, Wolfgang and had interesting chat about globalization. I have been reading a book called "Hot, flat and crowded" by Thomas Friedman.

Imagine shunting 300 people in 9 buses over 200 km through dusty and bumpy roads. We arrived back at Mysore at 11 pm. Amongst the chaos of rooms and herding the group, there was a lot of meetings with interesting people who are Iyengar students from around the world. And of course Guruji and his family were with us throughout.

Enjoy the pictures. Please, if you find the music annoying, click the speaker icon to turn it off. I will not be able to post videos which are far more interesting till later in the week.


The Yogi

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BKS Iyengar 90th Birthday Celebration - Trip to Belur on Dec 17th

The celebrations in Southern India commenced today with a trip to Belur, Karnataka, a 90 minute drive from Bangalore. Three of us, that included two iyengar yoginis - Karen, an amazing artist and architect from San Francisco and Elizabeth, an accomplished yoga teacher from Bellingham Washington were picked up from our hotels in Bangalore and zipped down to Belur in a nice van, while the rest of the three hundred travelled by buses later from the hotel central in Electronic City.

All three of us had a nice conversation about India, both Karen and Elizabeth are touring Kerala and Tamil Nadu after this trip with their families. Both are certified indophiles and have visited India 10 years prior. It was an honor to meet them and hang out with them the entire day.

We arrrived early in Belur and were greeted by Mr. Raghu, Guruji's son in law, who runs the Belur trust. Belur reminded me the hill country of San Antonio. The weather was cool, mildly humid, but had the arid feel to it. You can see a smattering of rocky hills around flat land. We were driven to the "Ashram", the facility that hosts a Senior School, Hospital and a guest house belonging to the Belur trust. A huge cultural event was planned in the afternoon with performances from the school children. The senior school has 3 grades of 8,9 and 10 and about 300 students. Its absolutely free and open to any child from the village or neighboring village. The facility looked impressive, clean and you could see smiling and curious kids all around asking your name. I enjoyed the time I spent with them.

We walked over to the guest house for breakfast and got a whopping surprise. Guruji had already arrived and was sitting right there in the room with us. We just sat down and simply absorbed this moment. None of us pulled out our camera - we simply just cherished these very close moments with Guruji as we devoured a delicious and filling carb packed breakfast along with coffee.

After sometime we were asked to leave to check out the school, and facility. This was a polite way to tell us, times up... :) It wasn't long before the buses arrived with the rest of the entourage. I think the crowd was 70-30 foreigners vs local Indian students. While the rest of the crowd was being fed, I had a chance to really get to know Karen. She is an amazing person. She is a seamstress, an accomplished artist and sketcher, a great photographer, a world traveller, and to top it an avid Iyengar practitioner and a student rather than a teacher. We spent a lot of time talking about indian culture and share life experiences. Throughout the day she sketched out various parts of the events, that included people, and the colorful tents under which all the cultural events were held. And of course she was agile and always ahead to take amazing pictures. I was envious of her brand new Nikon D-90.

After the crowd was fed, we were bused for a short ride to the village of Belur, where Guruji was born and where he had built a primary school, which is now run by the government and the patanjali and hanuman temple. He was given an amazing welcome at the entrance of the village and then there was flower laden procession to the temple. I was in photography heaven, but I never could match Karen's speed in being ahead of the procession. I imagine that by the end of this tour there will be more footage of Guruji than ever recorded or documented by both professional media and hundreds of attendees. Even one of the Sadhu's from Bangalore was out taking video on his phone cam.

There were a series of pujas conducted at the Hanuman and Patanjali temple and the event lasted several hours. Guruji gave a speech and Sunita Iyengar recited the patanjali sutras. Every time he was garlanded the crowds would stand up to take pictures, leaving others who sitting viewless. That certainly got under the skin of some, especially one lady who was outspoken and asked many to sit down, so everyone could see the events. Her name was Dhuan Khandala, a very old student of Guruji. She said she had been his student since 1972 and told me how he had transformed her life and also of her friends. She described Guruji as a tall handsome man, who was extremely dedicated to teaching yoga to the Bombay students. He would come on a train every weekend to Bombay, come rain or shine, or storms, nothing would stop him. It was rare therefore for any Bombay student to miss the class. Guruji put all of himself into these classes. She remembers how he would hold her leg up to help her with a pose, while instructing others to perform another set of poses. She remembers how he would quietly come over to her and sit on her back while she was in Adho Mukha Virasana, in order to improve her flexibility in performing that pose better. She said Guruji taught her and others that yoga was not just about performing asanas, it was a way of life and showed them the way of life, and by example. In all the years he came to Bombay to teach he always stayed in a cheap hotel at the train station. Never did he heed to requests by his fairly wealthy students to stay at their house. His dedication and simply way of living is what the students received inspiration. There were many more touching stories, but Dhaun most deeply touched my heart. It was all so real about how Guruji has transformed so many people.

We returned back to the Ashram from the village and that was followed by a heavy spicy lunch and then the cultural event of kids performing yoga and dances. Then there was some felicitation by various VIPs, including a famous swami. It was an exhausting day, but being around the children and getting to know other fellow yogis, along with Guruji's words of inspiration and thanks, made it all worthwhile. Tomorrow we head to Mysore. I hope to blog from there and I hop to post the pictures from today in my next blog. Its late, I am exhausted and the day starts back again at 6 am.


The yogi

Monday, December 15, 2008

BKS Iyengar's 90th Birthday Celebration finale in Pune Dec 14th 2008

It was a magical evening with over 500 attendees converging at Govinda Gardens in impeccable pageantry of traditional indian garb, color and music. A shloka was chanted upon Guruji's arrival. It was followed by fecilitation of Guruji by some of his oldest students that included Jawahara Banga, Faeeq, Munos and then Prashant and Geetaji. Guruji's address to the students was touching and heart warming. Many tears flowed as he addressed that gathering as his children. I will let the video speak for itself.

Afterwards there was a mad attack to the food stalls :) whilst the announcers that included Abhi requesting the crowds to not shower guruji with gifts and give him space so he could give his blessings to everyone. The food was really delicious and worth the wait in crowded lines. Guruji walked around to thank everyone for attending. I had many opportunities to get close and even ask for a picture, but something inside told me to respect his grand daughters wishes. Of course rules were broken, and there was a stream of well wishers around Guruji wanting his blessings and pictures - India is full of contradictions and Iyengar yogis can't be excluded.

I remained a silent observer - there were many people who I had email contact with that I wanted to interview for the blog, but I decide to "unblog" and reflected upon his words and reflected upon the conglomeration of people from around the world who had come all the way to be part of the celebration of the life of this great man. We all have been blessed in some way by his teachings, physically, mentally and emotionally, as we all took a leap of faith into the world of his yoga.

I left Pune for Bangalore this morning, probably much less stressed than the day before. There were the customary hugs and good byes with Neena and Manu Shahani. Neena commented I looked a lot let stressed this time. Of course I am destressed! I have been in holistic heaven for the last four days with the peace and tranquility of her house and the birds chirping every morning to wake me.

She gave me a Ganesha statue as a parting gift and remarked "This is for your protection!" I turned away teary eyed ... Ganesha is my savior - How did she know? Faith, I recall her words is every where here on Hanuman Mandir Road. Its this faith that keeps drawing me to her place, over fancy hotels. Enjoy another batch of pictures from the event last night. Another post will follow with a video.... If you find the music from the earlier posts annoying please unselect the speaker icon from both posts.


The Yogi.

BKS Iyengar Pune Celebrations

Over the course of the last few days I have had a chance to attend some of the celebrations for Guruji. It was a UN affair, with many attendees from all parts of the world. I have never seen so many non Indians dressed in traditional and elaborate Indian dresses. The celebrations began on Dec 10th with the puja and then moved to Yashwant Auditorium in the heart of Deccan (Pune) where an exhibition was put together by his students chronicling his life. The evening of Dec 11th a movie on Guruji's life called "Leap of Faith" was shown. It chronicled his life from childhood, his struggles as a disciple of his guru in Mysore and then on to his path of creating his unique style of yoga in Pune and his subsequent impact on the world.

On Dec 12th we had the pleasure of experiencing the beautiful flute ragas of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasias. I captured some pictures from the exhibition and there is subsequent video footage that I will post in a future post. This trip has been jam-packed as I squeezed a few hours of attendance along with an intense work schedule. I finally met up with my friend Felipe a yoga student from Chile, who I met on the Iyengar group on facebook, and who read my Pune blog posts from April to help him guide through his stay in Pune. I was glad to hear that those posts helped him to get settled in his yoga practice in Pune.

I am now Bangalore and will be joining the next part of Guruji's celebrations in South India on the 17th. Last night was the grand celebration of Guruji's birthday. It felt like a big Indian wedding! Videos and pictures to come soon.


The Yogi

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fear of death - an update

I have had a chance to speak with numerous folks about the events of 26/11 in Mumbai. There were numerous innuendos of conspiracies and how they could have been more than 10 terrorists that landed on the coast. One said maybe as many as 100 and how this was all political and timed to be right before elections in India. I heard two comments that made my heart stop:

One was from Najeeb. One of his private students was in the Oberoi hotel with a group that was gunned down on the 18th floor. He survived by staying still and pretending dead and apparently his Iyengar yoga experience helped. He took a bullet in the leg and one grazed his leg. He spent 16 hours in a vent along with two others drinking water dripping from an AC unit. They were eventually rescued by the commandos. It was a remarkable story of being fearless and calm in a very difficult and stressful situation.

The second came from one of my managers. He said "when you have no fear of dying" you can be extremely destructive. The terrorists in Mumbai had no fear of dying, so even a small group of 10 was able to achieve such destruction. How empowered that feeling became. These guys had no fear of death. Wow, that was a chilling realization! The sutras teach us to not have that fear, and if you can achieve it, you have achieved a level of courage that can be very constructive, but I never thought about the destructive forces that such lack of fear creates, especially of dying. I realized I had encountered situations myself where the lack of fear simply made someone so empowered and as a result extremely destructive. There is always a dark side to the bright side. I fear the dark :)

This is a great question for the Sutra experts? Is eliminating fear always the best?


The Yogi

BKS Iyengar's 90 birthday Celebration - the journey to Pune begins

I arrived in Pune this morning into my holistic home away from home on Hanuman Mandir Road. The journey from the Mumbai airport was uneventful. The airport has been redone, remodelled, redug once again, and the journey from the gate to the exit got longer, though much more visually appealling.

There was chaos at the end, as none of the luggage belts showed flight information and as soon as luggage arrived, the crowds swelled and it became impossible to get out with lines backed up on Xray machines at the "green line". Why call it a green line, if you are going to check every passenger for contraband and harrass them for money anyway? I went to kind lady customs officer at the completely empty red line and remarked "I had nothing to declare". She said "go" as she got swamped by another group of 5. I tried to go, but was immediately confronted by a policeman with an old rifle. I stepped back and just went around him. I had been "Cleared".

Then came the long walk with no clear signs if I should left, which is where I always turned in the past or go right. They will work this out eventually. As I walked down this long alway with no visual sign of an exit, I was looking for armed guards and commandos - all the security that I had read about. No none at all other than a sea of humans waiting outside for their loved ones. Just one cop at the exit with an old 50s rifle. I could sense negative thoughts come into mind, so I had hurriedly detach from those thoughts and started dialing the cabbies number. I couldn't imagine how I would spot my name amongst the hundreds of sign carrying cab and limo drivers. But before I could touch the dial, there it was and then the blast of heat hit me. I needed water.

The whole front of the arrival area has been dug up. Pot holes everywhere but it felt like an ocean of calmness at that hour. No honking horns, just quiet and occasional yelling of waiting folks calling up on their arriving relatives. It was hard to say that just about 2 weeks ago Mumbai had suffered its own version of 9/11. The roads were quiet and the highway to Pune had trucks, but all seem to be quietly dragging them up the hills. It was surreal.

I was welcomed by Manu at 5 am into my digs. This time I am at the "outhouse". I wish they all knew what an outhouse means in American.... :) This is an annex to the main house. It was a book storage shed Neena Shahani had told me last time which was converted into a quaint cottage for yoga students. I immediately crashed after trying to call my munchkins, and then a couple of calls back to the office.

Its the shortest sleep I have had as on the dot at 6 am I could hear the sweeping of floors and a strange pungent smell. Someone was burning their garbage. I recalled the open sewer than runs by the park. It didn't matter, and I kept my eyes shut and finally was awakened by the alarm in a couple of hours.

3 cups of chai and I was ready to start the day at work with a stop on the way at Govinda Gardens where Guruji's birthday celebrations had started bright and early around 7 am. There must be hundreds of people there. I ran into Najeeb, one of the teachers from Mumbai and a good friend of Nuvana. She had called him - I was on the way and I had already a request to carry something back. And then familiar faces started to appear. Najeeb asked me to go eat first. While I was grabbing some quick South Indian breakfast, Geeta Iyengar walked right by me and I could just clobber a quick Namaste. Here was my chance to approach her as she hung around in this makeshift kitchen quiet and away from the masses and loud chanting outside. I should tell her about the going inner part from her audio class. I must introduce myself. Something held me back... its the damn fear - what am I afraid of?

Outside this calm eating area, I can't even begin to describe the pageantry, and chanting of hyms by a group of priests who sat around Guruji. There was at least 3 camera guys, making professional videos and hundreds of foreign contingent all dressed in colorful Indian garb with bindis on their forehead and henna feet. It felt like an indian wedding. It all felt unreal - I became a silent observer and amongst hundred that had their cameras out taking pictures. I spotted more familiar faces including Zubin and my teachers. It was an amazing event - especially the part towards the end when Guruji is given a bath by his family in the grassy knoll outside. A priest sings and the music is most touching. I didn't know what it meant but I instantly thought of my two girls, and overcame with emotion and love for them. I missed them. I wish they were with me experiencing this beautiful and heart touching event, where the family pours blessed water on their through a cloth full of jewellery from the family. A lady offers her gold bangles that she takes off from her hands and is firmly told that it was not necessary. I was touched not just by the offer but the firm refusal to accept such gifts. Cameras were clicking away non stop. I am certain this event will have been captured as a very important event in the history of yoga. A guru turns 90 and is wished another 90 years.

As I stood there observing I could only think of my two munchkins and how much I loved them unconditionally and that my devotion to yoga exists only because I am so devoted to them. I continue to strive to plant the seeds of my belief systems, culture and tradition all culmination into my passion for yoga and I know that nothing in the world can stop that from growing. In those feelings I continue to understand the message of yoga and patanjali - its eventually about achieving this unconditional love!

Here are some pictures from the event. I will be attaching videos in the next few days, as I find time to edit the videos.


The Yogi

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Going inwards with a shout from Geeta Iyengar

Ever wonder how asanas allow us to get inwards and explore the depths of our minds? This question burns inside me every time I get into a yoga practice in class. While I am focused on being in the asana, awakening those untouched and unused muscles, I frequently question how it is helping in my inward journey.

On Dec 6th Sunset Yoga organized a 2 hour class where a recording of Geetaji's class from August 1 was played, as we followed her instructions. It was the most intense class I have ever taken. The after effects of a 2 hour intense yoga practice where you have been subjected to being in asanas much longer than you normally experience, not by choice but because once she put you in that pose, she spent another 5-10 minutes bantering with loud lectures, corrections, reminding these yoga students who themselves are teachers and experts that they are still on the journey of going inwards. Was the journey in those two hours inward or simply trying to absorb everything that comes out of her mouth? Was it the fear of being caught not following her instruction or simply trying to understand her instructions and the philosophical dissertation that comes along with?

What does come out is incredible! Its incredible how she observes every student and how she can correct them and get them focused on the “right way”. She is self cynical in her banter – BUT after this two hour audio journey of her class, I realized how much inwards the class took me. I only realized it after I woke up the next morning. I could barely move. It was the best damn two hours I have ever spent in a yoga class, with 3 teachers demonstrating and one correcting. It woke up muscles I didn’t think I had. I learned how callous I have been with my yoga practice and how amazing, powerful and inwards focused Geeta Iyengar really is – despite her bantering and really very humorous style.

There was huffing and puffing, grunts and moans – now that is my kind of yoga class. I was thoroughly exhausted – but I relished every moment and it gave me confidence that despite myself I could survive a Geeta Iyengar class – or not! And I only have 3 years of yoga on my belt.

I now know how I can motivate myself to restart my home practice. I need to purchase a CD set of her classes and get started once a week of my own 2 hour practice. It is like being with Geeta without being spotted. Yes all the yelling and shouting along with her really great sense of humor is all worth the journey of going inwards.

My plane journey has been horrible. I am numb on my feet and arms, with non stop pins and needles attacking me. Sitting doesn’t help and carrying 40 pounds of camera equipment and electronic junk on my back makes it worse. I have to endure, but I need to get smart and find a cart at Frankfurt Airport.

In the meanwhile I look forward to arriving in Pune in a few hours... There will be numerous posts and pictures of Guruji's birthday celebration. Dec 10th is his real birthday. So please return frequently :)


The Yogi

Monday, December 8, 2008


A very wise person told me last night "Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real".... It made it all real for me about the current state of affairs inside and outside my life. We are being gripped by fear - not necessary and uncalled for fear. What are we really afraid of? Our own shadows? Our own insecurities?

So as I take off for Mumbai (and then immediately to Pune), I say goodbye to my fears, I have to ... that is the only way to move forward. I arrive on the 10th, Guruji's 90th birthday and hope to attend a few functions while being at work. It will be intense and I expect little sleep. I hope to practice yoga with one of my teachers privately. I will be thinking of my munchkins. I am not taking any books, no reading, just long shavasanas on the flights.

Watch for posts, pictures and possibly videos from my trip.


The Yogi

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What does it mean to be detached?

I continue to explore and deepen my understanding of "detachment" through my yoga practice and real life experiences by increasing my awareness of this concept - in a nut shell i have become much more aware of the need to detach from situations that create imbalance in my life. Its in this exploration, awareness and experimentation that I feel I am approaching a deeper understanding of it.

But this exploration also leads to more questions and concerns in my mind. What does it really mean to be detached? Does it mean that when I detach from something or someone have I become cold and dis compassionate? Does detachment means "avoidance"? Does it make me weak and meek? Does it prevent me from fighting back when I need to fight? Does it mean I become a victim and victimized, when I feel the need to detach from situation where I may feel oppressed and at the losing end of some battle. When do you detach and what do you detach from? All these questions brew in my head, every time I find myself in a situation where I simply detach from.

Yesterday I found myself in a situation, where my detachment compelled me to be unresponsive. I was put into a situation where I was to compete with someone for a position, that I had no desire to seek or asked for, but was compelled to be in the situation to avoid a worse situation. I had no desire to win, so I lost because I simply detached from the need to win. Winning would have been great for my ego and ego of others, but losing meant keeping peace and neutrality. But who likes to lose? In the past I would have never inclined to put myself in such a situation - I would rather just walk away or duke it out. I didn't fight and I chose to simply detach and not even participate in voting or canvasing. I lost, but did I really lose?

It concerned me and I questioned if I should have taken a different path. If I was put in the fray wasn't the right thing to fight and put my best foot forward to win vs becoming detached? Once it was all over, I was relieved I lost, but was it really over for me as I maintained my detachment from the whole process including not participating in the rejoicing emails that followed. I clapped for the winner, as I truly felt that was the best outcome, but if I was detached, I wanted to detach in completion and not be part of the winning or losing, the rejoicing or the disappointment. I had to remain neutral by not voting and not seeking and finally not rejoicing for the winner as a good loser. It did concern me and question - was this truly detachment and essence of Patanjali's yoga sutra or simply an avoidance of hurt.

I questioned if at the end in such instances, was there really a winner or a loser? Does it really matter who wins or who loses, if the goal at the end for us is to merge our soul with the higher power. My happiness and contentment comes from observing and experiencing what comes at me in the present and then let that present moment dissolve to the next moment. The less I judge it, the less stressed I feel. Is that the true essence of detachment?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror in Mumbai - do I fear death!

It was the evening before thanksgiving and as I drove up North with my munchkins toward Seattle, I received a text message from one of my employees "Did you hear about Mumbai"? I replied "No" and she replied "Terrorist attacks"! I was numb, but this was not an unusual news, its happened many times before - I could only reply "Ok"!

Once I arrived at the hotel and flicked the TV on to Larry King Live, I realized the gravity of the terror. Two major hotels that are major South Mumbai landmarks are bombed and attacked and many innocent lives lost. I was stunned and shocked. I could only watch it for a bit - my kids were ready for the night at the water park, I couldn't help but detach.

I remained detached for most of the weekend. I would go on the net and read through the sites on what the status was. It was incredible to see a group of 10 take on hundreds of police and commandos. It was war live on TV. I could only imagine the sinister planning that went into this. The Taj Mahal Heritage Hotel is a maze, most wonderful maze of rooms and floors with amazing antique furniture and wooden finishes. Just two years ago I spent and afternoon there with my family, lunch at the pool side restaurant. I just visualized it being gone. I was also at the Oberoi a few years back visiting a family member who stays there on every trip. His suite becomes a congregation of many family members who come visit. This was all to spooky and frightening and hit home, but I remained numb. I started questioning my own trip next week, where I fly into Mumbai, though only for a few hours, and then drive to Pune. What if the airport is next?

This whole 3 day ordeal affected me, but not until I went onto the times of India obituary section and then it became all to real and unbearable. It was unbelievable to see pictures of folks, couples, fathers, mothers who died in this ordeal. They all seem to have the date of 11/28/08 as their date of demise. Somehow 11/26 and 11/27 was skipped. I guess it was the day they were turned to their families. This whole incident has become overwhelming for me and I started questioning if I should travel to India at all.

I feel fearful, but then I recall the Sutra discussion from the week prior where the Sutras teach you be fearless, especially fear of death. So, I have decided to dispel my fears and move forward with my trip to India next week. How can I fear death? How can I fear destiny and how can I let the terrorists hold me back?

I will be flying to Mumbai next week and then will be in Pune for work and also attend Guruji's 90th birthday celebrations. The class on Sutras last week have given me much strength and a pathway to continue move inwards and find strength in dealing with trials and tribulations of life. Being in the present gives me the ability to stay calm and focused on whats most important in life - to shine your light and let your love and compassion lead you on while you leave your anger and ego behind.


The Yogi

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Sutra Class with Chris Saudek

I had the pleasure of taking a two hour Yoga Sutra class with Chris Saudek, a well know Iyengar yoga teacher, who was conducting a work shop at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center this weekend.

I walked into to find many of my fellow students from Sunset, along with Nina in the class. Everyone except for me had the Sutra book and a note book - I guess there was a required reading of certain Sutra's but somehow I missed that part. It wasn't really intimidating though - I was there to learn about the Sutras, even though I have made invaluable attempts to read through the Light on Sutra's book by Guruji, most of my learning has been through listening many of the teacher's especially Nina refer to the sutras in class and the one that I have been most impacted by is the sutra that tells us to be "indifferent, tranquil and detached".

It was a very interactive class, as Chris went through some selected Sutras and there were some interesting discussions and thoughts presented. Though I don't claim to be an authority on the sutras, but here are some of my interpretations of some of the essence of some of the Sutras that have had an important impact on me and my life and have changed my view of the world in the last three years:

1. The purpose of Asanas: Chris asked the class about their interpretation of the asanas, why asanas were important as one of the eight limbs of yoga. I didn't get a chance to put my two cents in, as I had already in some way challenged the notion of long, interrupted practice of asanas as a way to develop detachment. Asanas are invaluable in helping you go from "the outer to inner self", slowly and thoughtfully, but in a highly physical manner. It is the physical mechanism to activate your body to allow you to deep into your inner mind. Understanding of your inner self allows gives you a pathway to achieving detachment and neutrality.

2. Detachment : Detachment is really about being neutral and balanced. I feel we cannot be completely detached, complete compassionate, or dis compassionate, desired or undesired. Anything in extreme is unbalancing for our mind, body and spirit. Detachment allows to simply step away from situations and events and allows to experience and observe events that are distractions to our mind, disruptive to our lives, in a neutral manner. Detachment allows us to express the love and compassion that is seeded in our soul. Detachment gives us the ability to balance all the virtues and vices that are also seeded in us. It allows us to deal with our fears and insecurity.

3. The inner mind: Chris asked everyone to describe a picture of our mind. I answered "circle". She said a circle implies your mind is bound and restrained. I thought about some more and I think our minds are circular, but with a twist, they are really spirals, as a spiral is an evolutionary symbol. I think yesterday I was looking at spiral from the outside in, from the top view of a spiral. Mind evolves and circles like a spiral. To get to your inner mind is an evolution and the essence of the mind is really connected to your soul, what ties all of us together to form the collective soul, the higher being that we are all part of.

There were many other aspects of Sutras that captured my attention in the class, but the essence of what I took back was that we are on a journey, I am on a journey and yoga has helped me make this journey a lot more thoughtful and introspective, allowing me to experience life with a lot more calmness and detachment despite the constant storms and tribulations I face every day. I don't know the outcome of all this, I quite honestly no longer focus on the outcome.

I simply try my best to live in the moment and experience and observe every moment of life as it comes to me with as little malice, judgement, ego and remorse I can. I try not to look back or forward. I just try to remain in the moment. It doesn't mean I don't have visions, desires or purpose - but I make my best efforts to have the balance in order to remain in that moment. That is the essence of detachment and neutrality. That is what I have learnt from the little I have learnt about the Sutras in my journey in the last three years.


The Yogi

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Change and the world will change around us!

Lately, I have not been able to post on here as regularly as I have been in the past. I have really been quite busy with out of town travel and conventions and they can be most taxing in terms of time and energy. I have procrastinated on my yoga practice, but it is slowly coming back as Nuvana has returned from her one month in India and my one-one practice with her commences this week. I have been able to squeeze in my personal training sessions with Nick, and these are really unique as they combine strength training with yoga poses in mind. He has a back ground in body mechanics and yesterday we worked on a number of core strength work outs with weights that hopefully will assist me in a variety of standing poses.

The last few weeks have been taxing on everyone, with the economic meltdown and folks cutting back everywhere. I attribute this meltdown to greed, fear and insecurity. Many of us didn't buy risky mortgages and have regular jobs that didn't need to be impacted by such greed. Greed leads to fear and fear leads to insecurity and that leads to rash decisions, the very opposite of what we are taught in yoga. If we all just took a deep breath and remained calm through all this chaos, the world would not have been any different than what it was 3 months ago. Its amazing how a change in people's thinking about the world and the economy can leash such a calamity that in a matter of a few weeks, the entire world is in the middle of an economic meltdown.

So its time to change our thinking and our stand and being. Its to walk away from the darkness and the goom and doom, and time to walk outside to be under the bright sunny day. Its time to be more compassionate and giving and be less greedy. Its time to be more centered and detached from the chaos and fear, and think more positively about the future. Its time extend our hand out to others and see how we can help them, vs how we can take from them.

Its that simple of a change. And if we can bring that change in ourselves, I am sure the world will change around us! That is an essence of what I have learned in the last 3 years by practicing yoga. Last night I saw a small glimmer of that..... and I continue on this path of change one asana and one breath at a time. I wish the same for you.


The Yogi

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Release yourself from pain and hardship!

Over the course of this blog I have written about the pain in my life but never discussed what this pain really was. Today a friend, or actually a group of friends asked me finally the "Question" - and I finally answered ... it was cathartic and I finally came to grips with my impending divorce and destruction of my family. These last 18 months have been most painful and my devotion to yoga has helped tremendously in dealing with this pain - but the pain is systemic - how do you deal with the destruction of your family and your life as it stands and how do you deal with the impact on your two little kids whose life is completely wrecked and destroyed. How do you deal with the marginalization of your time with your kids, who you love and adore and want to be with the most in such a turmoil in their life.

The family law system in the US and many western countries "marginalizes" loving and active fathers from their children's lives because it percieves it being in the best interest of young children. There is no consideration to the feeling of fathers and the children foremost, who are caught in the middle and cannot express their true feelings as they are torn in the middle. The pain and hardship is so severe that no yoga in this world can help manage or reduce it. You simply have to detach from it. The problem is systemic in this country, its like a disease and the worst form of discrimination as fathers are marginalized from the lives of their children. The children are mentally and psychologically damaged. I am a victim of this disease and so are my children. I only pray to the universe that some day this discrimination and disease is eradicated from the society. In the meantime I focus on my yoga and do my best to detach from the pain and put my energies in making the best use of my limited time with my children.

This evening with these wonderful and supprotive friends finally gave me the courage to open up. They have been silent and supportive all this time. I couldn't have asked for any more. I realized tonight that yoga helps you detach from pain and hardship, but the only way you can eliminate it from your life is to just release yourself from the pain. Guruji says "in pain there is salvation", but the real salvation lies in not just the detachment, but complete release from it. It means breaking all barriers that lock the pain inside you and let it out completely. I took my first small step this evening. Maybe you can try it as well.


The Yogi

Monday, October 20, 2008

Its been quiet at the Yogi front

I am sure some of the readers are wondering what happened to my posts... I am here, I still exist, but I have been very preoccupied with travel and other commitments which have kept on the go for the last two weeks. Nevertheless I have tried to keep up with my yoga class at least once a week and some bare bones practice in hotel gyms. I also was exposed to two great sessions on wellness at executive retreat in San Antonio. The first one was by a Dr. Sushil Bhatia, a chemist by profession, but an entrepreneur and practitioner of yoga and meditation. He did a session on laughing yoga and also talked about stresses in the world of business right as the stock market was tanking.

He talked about meditating for 20 minutes at 2 pm in the afternoon. He will suspend his meetings and business to get this 20 minutes for himself. I have considered shutting my office door and trying some restorative Setu Bandh, but never a 20 minute meditation. He is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation. It was an eye opener for many attendees and an affirmation for me - I am on the right track. My gym routines for strength building are working well. Today I had an hour session and then later I will be in a 90 minute level 3 yoga class. I can definitely feel more strength in my core and arms. I have also started focusing more on my diet. I have been adding more fruits and vegetables for lunch, as a matter of fact, today's lunch consisted of only a home made salad, fruits and a berry energy bar. I will pass on the berry bar next time. I feel peckish now, so had a banana. Feel more peckish, so there will be another fruit snack. Meals now consist of mostly Indian lentils, okra, rice and yes there is an occasional pizza with the kids. Thanks Skeptic Yogi for inspiring me to make an effort.


The Yogi

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Augmenting your yoga practice with strength training

I have recently started a personal training program at the gym. My trainer (Nick) has also been a fellow student in Nuvana's classes at the gym. He has since started teaching yoga at the gym. I picked Nick because of his yoga experience, though I cringe at the thought of how one can become a certified yoga teacher in 6 weeks. Only "Yoga fit" could answer that! :-)

I have had two sessions with Nick. His yoga background has really helped in putting together this program for me, though in a number of exercises, he gently reminds me not too keep my chest open so much, especially in pull ups. It is an interesting paradox and contrast to how we do poses in Iyengar yoga.

There is about 10-15 minutes of cardio such as walking or biking, which allows a more gradual increase in heart rate and then the rest of the time has been spent on mostly isometric exercises to work the muscles. These include sit-ups, pull ups, and some light weight training that is working muscles in the arms, stomach, legs, calves, and the core etc. The movements add some cardio to it as well.

I think a program like this is a perfect augment to my yoga practice. I need to build up strength in my shoulders, arms and core in order to do some of the more challenging inversions and shoulder stands. The cardio work out is important to continually strengthen the heart. For the last 12 months I have not been focused on this, and mostly yoga and have since gained some of my weight back, which has impacted my yoga practice as well.

So I am returning back to my old program of yoga, cardio (walking) and strength training to get my weight down, improve my strength and feel more energized. And I cannot forget about the "cleansing diet" that Skeptic Yogi has gone through. It is on my list, at the right place and right time, I plan to try that and see how it impacts me. The diet component is as important in the overall wellness. So I shall attempt it one step at a time.

Julie Lawrence graciously sent me the shlokas she recites from Bhagvat Gita at the end of her class:

Loka samasta sukino bhavantu.
Loka samasta sukino bhavantu.
Loka samasta sukino bhavantu.
Om. Shan’ti, shan’ti, shan’ti.

May the entire world be filled with love and peace!


The yogi

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An insightful class with Julie Lawrence!

My friend Care, a fellow Iyengar Yogi invited me to attend a level 3 class with Julie Lawrence, director of the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland. Julie has been teaching Iyengar yoga for a very long time and many of my teachers were her students. Wednesday nights are becoming my yoga adventure nights; to try a different class with a different teacher. This class was quite different and Julie is a legend amongst the Iyengar Yoga teachers in the community.

The class was packed. Her yoga center is in the heart of downtown Portland near the Max-line, packed with restaurants, including my favorite Indian called East India Grill. It was a warm evening, probably the last warm evening of fall and the windows were open and you could hear the hustle and bustle outside as it was end of the day office hour and the restaurants were turning on their stoves with the wonderful smell of food being cooked gently floating in...

Julie had a sign up on a small whiteboard in front of the class. It had a quote from Yoga Sutras about friendship. She asked the class to make that the theme of the class this week. The invocation was done in Virsasana style and this pose was carried through many of the initial poses in the class. Additionally we performed an Adho Mukha Svanasana with arms flat in the Pinch Mayurasana form. All in preparation for poses such as Eka Pada Bhekasana (one legged frog pose).

I had a stiff neck and stiff upper back from an introductory personal training session at the gym- yes I am back on the dark side again to improve my fitness level, strength and cardio vascular training. Just a kick in the pants to get me back on my walking track.

I couldn't get into Adho mukha Vriksana, but I did get into Pinch Mayurasana twice. Julie's instructions were similar to Jen's on how to position your index finger and thumb on the blocks, along with rolling your wrists from the outside to inside. Up I went, but no balancing. Push your feet together .. I heard in the background. That's hard with my tightness.

We then migrated to Supta Virasana which I did just fine. There was not much adjustment needed and then onto the One Legged Frog Pose. That was my first time in this pose. I think I got a real appreciation of being able to push the sacrum down while raising yourself in that interesting contortion. Then it was onto Dhanursana - back bend. One of my readers mentioned that back bends connect you to your past as it gives you a chance to observe your past while you are in back bends.

In that moment I was so sweaty and exhausted, I was really only focused in the present. Julie said earlier yoga helps you be in the present - that made so much sense as I didn't seem to have any connection to my past. I wasn't thinking much in the class and neither was I feeling the pressure to grunt or groan or not. It was a challenging class, but I didn't feel like I needed to prove anything to anyone, including myself.

I was truly feeling myself and enjoying every moment of the warm breeze flowing in from the open windows. I was reminded of RIMYI, in Pune with the open windows with a lot less noise. But who cares about the noise - this is just part of the ambiance... there was no focus on the noise, external or internal as it really didn't matter. I was more focused on enjoying the poses and the pain that you are in when you are in long virasana position. Wait! Wasn't that mentioned in the sutra at the start of the class?

The last major pose was Halasana (with some variations). Since I had to use the chair, I couldn't do the variations. It was harder than usual, as my upper back was really hurting and I had frequently bend my knees which needed correction from Julie. She walked the whole class and there were lots of questions being asked. Once out of Halasana we went into a longer than normal Shavasana.

My eyes couldn't shut initially, so I just stared with a blank mind in the darkness and eventually the eyes shut. I was not asleep but I was out - I didn't hear the bell ring. It was very quiet. Julie then chanted another heart warming sanskrit shloka.. I don't recall all the words, but the last few were Bhavantu, Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Om Shanti! Peace is what that implies and peace is what I got at the end...

I enjoyed the class very much. Julie invited me to come back again which I will. My friend Care and I then walked across the street to the best Indian restaurant in town and I broke my 3 day vegetarian diet with my favorite Rogan Josh.

The lesson I learnt that evening was that being yourself is the best thing you can do for you. By focusing on yourself, you empower yourself to be who you are and try not to be who you are not. I realized that I have to strive to be present in the moment and not worry too much about the past, though I cannot forget my past. Being in the present means being surrounded by what helps you to who you are and not what others expect you to be. That is what yoga teaches you the most - Just Be Yourself! Thank you Julie Lawrence, I will be back! For more information on her yoga center visit


The Yogi

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back bend'est week of my yoga life

It was back bend mahem all this week. Starting Monday with Nina's back bend class, where I could barely raise my head in Urdhvadhanurasana and completely collapsed in Pinchmayurasana. Then on to Wednesday in Jen's class where there was some progress. I could pull off a pinchmayurasana without any help. Finally to this Friday with Nuvana for a serious back bend immersion.

A one on one session that involved practicing many intermediate steps for being able to lift my head up in that pose. And I finally did it. I could finally lift beyond the crown of my head which included a finale at the gym this morning with Nuvana... It was all about back bends..... Back Bends! Back Bends! Back Bends! I am completely savoring them now.

Back bends have mean't being up later than I need to every night. Seriously its hard to fall asleep. But all in all its been an awesome learning and experience. Friday was a great class with Nuvana. We went through various poses to get to the ultimate - UrdhvaDhanurasana.. and finally today I was able to do it without any assistance. Mission accomplished. I am including some practice shots. Small baby steps shown. I have still a long ways to go....
But the best news of all - I was able to secure a place to the Bangalore trip with Guruji on his 90th birthday celebration... all the back bends were worth it! It was an exciting back bend'est week of my entire yoga life!

Some pictures of some of the steps I learned in the practice all week....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back to Level 2 - Jen is a Gem!

A number of my fellow yogi friends at Sunset Yoga have been raving about Jen Shonk, a fairly new teacher at the center (well she has been there for sometime now). Today I decided to take a level 2 class from her as I will be missing my regular Monday night class next week which Jen attends as well. So a make up in advance....

I must say that this was one of the best classes I have recently taken. Jen started with the patanjali chant in a virasana position; a new variation for me. I had forewarned her that back bends and pinch mayurasana were my nemesis. I mentioned my back problems but forgot to mention about my knee problems. Her class felt like more of a level 2/3 rather than a level 2 and it reminded me of the Saturday morning level 2/3 with Nina, which I am no longer able to take.

After a series of Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana poses we moved into hand stand(s). Today was not my day for Adho Mukha Vrksasana, despite a fair amount of practice last Friday and then in class on Monday night. But I managed one with some assistance. I think this happens when I am thinking too much on how to get into the pose. Jen encouraged us to try to balance. This was a small class so Jen was able to give each one of us personal attention. She suggested trying with both legs - I usually go up with my right leg. My left leg refuses to lift up... practice practice practice, those words from Enlighten up! echo in head. Detach Detach Detach I had to tell myself ...

Next there were was a shoulder and arm strengthening exercise prior to one of my nemesis - Pinch Mayurasana! I have only been successful a few times in performing this pose and mostly in intense practice with Nuvana. Jen explained the pose in intricate detail including how to position your thumb and index finger around the blocks that are flush against the wall. There has to be a gap and the wrists firmly bent inwards, and upper shoulders pushed back. Revelation! I always had them flushed with the block. Up I went on my first try and I could even balance.

There were no sighs, no grunts or groans, as I have become conscious of them since Monday. I was simply relieved and overjoyed as I had miserably failed in performing this asana on Monday along with the back bends. "Thanks Jen" is what came out. I tried a second time and it worked. I was tired by the third try - my heart is racing.... I drop back and held back my groan, but hey everyone else is groaning, so why was I picked out on Monday :) ! There is a whole blog post coming on groaning in class ....At least I didn't fart or exhibit bad body odor....but groaning, how can you not, especially when you have tight hamstrings and you are pushing yourself to really get into the pose...Detach, Detach, Detach from these thoughts, I had to repeat to myself!

We moved to Trikonasana and the revolved version next, with the back foot flush against the wall. I asked Jen why my neck felt so tight. She got me back into the pose and showed me how to avoid it. Just let go of your head and keep it in line with your body and not raise it, just rotate it as you rotate your chest... what a revelation and several in class had the same problem..

We eventually moved to back bends, Urdhva Dhanurasana, and started off with inclined blocks on the wall along with a bolster. Back bends are the least practiced poses for me. My experience today and in Monday's class tells me I need to start practicing this more often. I actually did better than Monday. I could get raise with the crown of my head and felt the strength to raise higher still in my second attempt. I couldn't go beyond the head without the blocks and bolster, so Jen had me switch positions. She asks me to grab her legs and she pulled me up into the real pose.. At the same time I am hearing groaning from another fellow victim of tightness..I feel the thoughts around groaning coming back into my head again, I am developing a groan/noise complex.. I quickly had to detach to another more joyful one..

Wow I said to myself.. that felt good. I used to do this easily when I was 10. And now at 43, years of lethargy, bad posture, sitting at a desk all day in front of computer results in tight shoulders, hips, back, hamstrings.. u name a body part and I can claim the tightness. Somewhere in the sequence of back bends there was a wall supported Ustrasana and Viparita Dandasana on chair. Serious work out...

The shavasana at the end felt great even though my eyes remained wide open and I had a slight cough. Next time I need to raise my head a bit. I liked Jen's style. I told her I would be back again next time I need a make up. I think its great to try different teachers. Nuvana encourages me to, as every teacher has a unique way of teaching. You get a different perspective on different poses, and sometimes those unique "gems" in form of instructions can overcome your nemesis. But nothing beats "practice, practice, practice".. and "just being yourself"... and yes I am getting there...


The Yogi

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Energy flow into an asana - Its the breath!

This Friday with Nuvana was eye opening. My yoga practice goes through these up and down cycles every few months. I am currently in a down cycle - though for once I could perform an Ardha Chandra Asana (Half Moon Pose) completely balanced in my Monday night class with Nina. I received many corrections from Nina for which I am very grateful. How can you not know your knees are bent in Uttanasana? I guess when your brain is disengaged and deep in thoughts that happens ! :)

In this session I wanted to just focus on improving my inversions - Adho Mukha Vriksasana and Sirsasana - just these two poses. We started off with an interesting variation. A transition to Uttanasana (Intense forward bend) by spreading the arms out sideways, rather than the Urdhva Hastasana pose, and the gradually bending forward to get into the pose. I could touch the floor immediately....She remarked "observe how your energy and breath as you get into this pose". As you breath out, the energy starts to gradually dissipate, just as you turn on the tap on a water bucket. I had to try it a couple of times to really understand this concept. Eventually she said you will feel more energized rather than tired after an intense asana.

Quickly we moved into some very intense Adho Mukha Svanasana. The idea was to help me increase my energy levels while I performed such intense asanas, especially in the inversions, where you need incredible amount of energy and abdominal strength to stay up and balanced. Having your hips and tail bone completely uplifted and backs straight help provide the space and energy to maintain the length in your body and room to kick up. Aligning of your breath along with it, and release of breath as you try to remain in the asana controls the energy you need to maintain in order to stay in the asana.

It will be sometime till I experience the re-energizing post asana. I was completely spent in the dog pose (variations) and panting like a dog. A stump pose break was necessary to get my breathing in control.

Next thing I know I had kicked up into the hand stand and my older kid started clicking pictures. It was the first time in a few months since I have done this pose and stayed up for more than 5 seconds. It felt good and we did it at least three times. Then there was an intense leg spread forward bend against the wall. It really helps stretching out those tight hamstrings.

It was on to Sirsasana balancing after that. Face towards the wall, with a distance of the feet and hips. We normally face away from the wall, if trying a sirsasana with wall support. This is the opposite and it prevents one from bending their backs, as the body tends to do that knowing there is a wall for support. I am able to balance much better with this practice.

Practice, practice, practice - that needs to be my mantra if I am to improve my inversions....
The Yogi

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Enlighten Up! the movie - Up Close and Personal with Kate Churchill and Nick Rosen

This past Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Boston premiere of a beautiful movie about yoga - Enlighten Up! It is directed by writer, documentary film director and fellow yogini Kate Churchill. The premise of this movie comes from a local Boston couple Ted and Jeanne Hagerty who met yoga guru and indologist Norman Allen in Hawaii in 2003. They were inspired by him, which sparked a passion to create a movie on yoga, their first movie production. Ted and Jeanne connected with Kate to create the concept behind the movie "A skeptic's journey into the world of yoga".

Kate found Nick Rosen, a journalist by profession who had recently quit his job, He was mountain climbing in Europe when Kate offered him the opportunity to be the subject. Nick was a yoga novice, a skeptic, but at the same time a very intelligent and thoughtful man, who had grown up on a farm in Quebec and exposed to eastern philosophies and religious movements of the 70s. Kate was hoping to transform Nick by putting him on this 6 month journey of exploration and learning of yoga by connecting him to some of the great yoga luminaries in the US and India. She hoped that some of that transformation at the end would rub on her and she would gain some enlightenment from that experience as well.

The six month adventure started in New York City where Nick was introduced to yoga through classes at a variety of yoga studios in the city. Nick's struggles to get into the various contortions and poses are funny and reminiscient to many of us die hard yogis, as it reminds us of our own struggles, the challenges, the fears and the exhaustion we faced when first took a yoga class.

Nick tries several classes including Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, Dharma Mitra, Jivamukti and Kundalini. His conversations with the teachers and fellow students are honest. funny and real as he as he attempts to understand the true meaning of yoga. He is struggling with his understanding and feeling pressure to develop this "transformation". He is constantly being questioned and challenged by Kate, who expects him to continually evolve on this path of enlightenment. He describes Kundalini - Kundalooney, causing the audience to break into laughter.

Nick is on a compressed journey and his first "true yogic experience" occurs in Hawaii when he travels to the big island to experience yoga with Norman Allen. Norman is the inspirational character behind the movie. He spent many years in India studying Indian Religion and History and is a gold medalist from Mysore University. He also brought Ashtanga yoga to America. Nick is challenged in many ways, both physically, intellectually and spiritually by Norman.

From Hawaii, Nick and Kate travel to Mysore, India to experience Ashtanga Yoga at the Yoga Shala of Shri Pattabhi Jois. Nick is physically challenged by this practice but he finds little spiritual connection. "Practice Practice Practice" says Guru Jois when asked about how to find this path to enlightenment. Nick finds himself out of place at the Yoga Shala - though later he admitted that he liked the Ashtanga style of yoga.

From Mysore Nick and Kate travel to Pune, India to meet the grandmaster of yoga, Shri BKS Iyengar at his institute, RIMYI. He gets an audience with Guruji and I think this is probably the time where some of the confusion in Nick's mind is resolved. Guruji tells him he didn't even think of the spiritual aspects of yoga till 1960, nearly 30 years after he started doing yoga. It was all physical for him prior to that. That hit a chord with Nick and he describes Guruji as "cool". There several scenes from the insitute with Nick on the ropes in Prashant Iyengar's class and the interview in the library.

This was a touching moment for me, as it was reminicent of my own experience in Pune and bringing back memories of own experience at RIMYI. I saw Nick practicing next to Abhay, one of the teachers I took classes from in one scene. A most poignant moment was when Nick slowly and cautiously glided his legs up into a balanced Sirsana. Three months prior Nick struggled with keeping his legs up; he crashed down while being instructed by Dharma Mitra.

This was a physical transformation that Nick experienced. I am uncertain if he realized that as he was still questioning and trying to find the pathway to enlightenment. All through the movie Nick was experiencing a transformation that he continued to challenge and question and butt heads with Kate. Nick mentioned in the Q and A later that the Iyengar style definitly connected with him, especially in his mountain climbing experience.

There are many such poignant moments. There was one towards the end of his time in Mysore when Kate questions him about his experience in Mysore. Nick was missing his family by then and had missed thanksgiving with them. He gets emotional and tears rolled down his cheeks as he remarked that the healing atmosphere of Mysore somehow reminded him of his mother and the yoga experience in Mysore connected him back to his mom.

My tears rolled down at the same time, it was too close to heart, as I am many times reminded of my mother and family when I practice yoga, especially in India. I think many of us have experienced some strong connection back to our family and home during that time. I think that was a transformational point for Nick.

The journey then moves to Brindavan in North India, where Nick experiences Bhakti Yoga, the most devotional aspect of yoga. Nick has a guide "Shyamdas" an American he met at Jivamukti, who has lived in India for 30 years and can speak Hindi and Sanskirt. Shyamdas connects Nick with many Sadhus and Yogis, who are much more absorbed in the spiritual aspects of yoga rather than physical. The most inspiring and telling experience was with Guru Sharan Anand. Nick asks about the path and practice to enlightenment; to which he responds "Its inside you, you are the mostest important person under the sun, happiness is within you, whether you believe in god or not, practice yoga or not".

Guru Sharan's simple but powerful discourse and conversation with Nick summed up this intense and challenging but most inspiring adventure of Nick and Kate. Towards the end, there is a quiet scene with Nick, Shyamdas and Kate on a boat on the river Yamuna. Nick is reflective and doesn't know what to say, when Kate asks him what he was thinking. Shyamdas remarks "sometimes you don't need to share or say anything to preserve the moment".

The journey to India ends when Nick leaves home for New York at 190 days from the day he started. He missed his family and it was time to go. The music all through the movie by composer Krishna Venkatesh was uplifting and inspiring.

Nick's life journey had only begun. He came back to New York confused and challenged. He decides to move to Boulder, Colorado, where he starts a new life as a writer and documentary film maker for rock climbing. He admits he is no longer practicing yoga regularly, though occassionally he will gear up and attend classes when his back his hurting and feel better and then the pressures of life take over. Nick feels there was some tranformation and enlightenment. His mother visits him regularly in Boulder.

This movie is a must watch for anyone and everyone whether they do yoga or not. There are some very special and inspiring moments that have been captured from these amazing spiritual gurus. I was very engaged by the movie, as there were many moments during the film where I personally could relate and connect with both Nick and Kate, including the skeptisicm, along with the burning desire to transformation. His connection to his mother in Mysore hit home with me in a very deep way.

His conversations with Guru Sharan were incredible and simply inspiring. There are lots of funny moments and many where you reflect on yourself and reflect and reminice your own experiences in life. This truly is a beautiful creation and believe it or not there is 485 hours of footage that has not been shown. It took 4 years for this project to be completed. Nick and Kate started filming in 2004.

There are so many pathways to experience yoga, sprituality and enlightenment and it all starts from within, from you, as you take a journey from the outside to inside to discover yourself and who you truly are. Enlighten Up! tells a story about this so personal and profound experience. So please go watch it and if its not yet scheduled to come to your city, lobby for it.

Thanks again to Kate and Nick for letting me interview them. The movie will play at MFA through Sunday and then play at Kendall Square through September. Kate tells me there are definite plans to take the movie to many other major cities including Portland. We hope to see you there. Please visit the Enlighten Up movie website for more information.


The Yogi

Video: Upclose and Personal with Kate Churchill and Nick Rosen

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

Enlighten Up! Trailer

Out Takes from The Movie