Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Balance and Faith - I am back home

I am home after a long journey and jet lagged. I returned to quiet, cold, but somewhat sunny day. From extreme heat to a relatively cold April. I live in the hills with many tall fir trees, nice views of a valley and some snow capped coastal mountains but nothing compares to the chirping of the birds at dawn and dusk in Pune. I am really missing it. It is so quiet here. I hardly see my neighbors - everyone shut in their McMansions. I am missing India, but I missed my girls more than anything so I am glad to be back.

On my journey back I re- read two books. The Holy Cow and Good Life and Good Death. They are excellent books. I plan to write about these books in the near future. While on the plane, I also put some thought into the idea of faith and balance in life and how it may relate to yoga and asana practice.

I find asana practice to be most challenging. It is not like walking or running or swimming. Asanas are far more complex than a breast stroke, or step forward of your foot to walk. Mr. Iyengar says “you have to align the physical with mental”. What does that really mean? My experience tells me that you have listen to the instruction and follow it to its absolute truth. By absolute truth I mean not just following the instruction, but observing the manifestation of that instruction in your body. With that action you gradually adjust till you can feel the asana and really follow the teacher. I have experienced it many times including performing Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana, a very challenging backbend. It requires another dimension of thought and action and following of a gradual process. It requires a sense of balance of the physical and mental manifestations that occur when you are performing the asana. You have to let go of your ego and fear as your slide all the way down the chair for the very first time. You have to do it in steps and gradually.

The physical manifestation maybe a stretch or pain and the mental manifestation maybe an urgency and desire to push yourself further. I call it running ahead of your body. Your mind simply wants to peform ahead of what your body can handle but at the same time fear and pain provides a resistance. It’s a trap and its called Ahamkara – the ego. To get the most out of the asanas you have to perform them in a balance of your ego, your mind and what your body can handle physically. Once you learn how to balance them, you can enjoy a journey to your inner mind smoothly. It really is very meditative, however momentary it may be. Some teachers in Pune will tell you “Try to understand it”. I think what they really mean is try to achieve a balance so you can really feel the asana and how it helps you approach the inner mind. That’s probably the meditative state that Guruji talks about.

So where does faith come into all this? Faith is very critical in the journey to learn and perform asanas well. Many of us cannot practice as religiously as others because our lives our complex and full of distractions. Discipline is a relative word. Many a times I cannot attend regular classes for a variety of personal distractions that require more attention. You get in a slump and suddenly asanas that were so easy to perform become impossible. In my case it is very apparent in my ability to perform Adho Mukha Vrikasana. If there are distractions and stress in my life, my arms and shoulders sag and become weak. I lose the ability to lift on my own and keep myself inverted by pushing up with my arms. It can be a major hurt to my ego as well, I must admit.

Now here is where faith comes into action. Without it, I would lose momentum and suddenly yoga is going to be out of my life. It has happened to me so many times at the gym. There are personal moments in life where I seem to have lost faith. As a result I got results that I had never wanted in the first place. The negative emotions surrounding that lack of faith brings results you don't expect or want. I feel strongly that maintaining faith is an important characteristic of a true yogi. Faith brings a lot of positivity to your life but it can only exist when you can balance the negative in your life with the positives. You have to try hard to maintain balance or you will lose faith. Faith and Balance go hand in hand. You have to try hard to maintain your faith or you will lose balance. These are two forces co-exist in your life to help you move ahead towards your ultimate goal. Similar rule applies to your asana practice. You cannot truly achieve the benefits of asana unless you have faith and balance.


The yogi

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Last Yoga Class at RIMYI and Last Day in Pune

April 26th-27th, 2008

I did the final class this morning. Since Abhi is out of the country we expected a replacement to come. Well, it was past 7 am and no one to conduct the class yet. The students decided to start the prayers themselves and we were just about to jump into Adho Mukha Svanasana, when Raya showed up. There was confusion who was to teach the class, so he was late. We started with Adho Mukha Svanasa, and with an intermediate pose of Uttansana, he asked us to do Sirsasana. Ah, not today - I can't hand the blood gushing into my head first thing in the morning as I was uncertain how it would impact my blood pressure. My doctor had told me logic would dictate that inversions could cause increase in it. I mentioned it to him. I was asked to do Viparita Dandasana with support. From there it was Chair Sarvangasana and then supported Bada Konasa. We performed more time in two variations Bada Konasana and then the pranayam was inserted, eventually to Shavasana. They all have different styles - I preferred Abhi's style more. Raya also ranted quotes on yoga philosophy and how to properly get into Shavasana, while he is instructing a junior youngster who is being shamed into doing 100 halasanas. He challenges us to bring our attention to the breath and away from this distraction. To bring our thoughts inward. Then someone's cell phone ring in a typical Indian musical tone. He is obviously annoyed. My mind wanders - why be bothered about cell phone rings, when there is so much noise pollution outside. There is constant influx of sounds into the yoga hall - the buzzing, the thumping, the rumblings come right into our minds in the middle of shavasana. If we can accept that, why not accept a cell phone ring. Just a thought as I try to focus my mind back into myself.

He also quotes the Iyengar family members - what they say about yoga, about understanding the asanas and their purpose without sounding too philosophical. I get some, but I feel he will have a deeper impact once he develops his own style as he growns and learns from his own practice. The inner yogi inside him needs to slowly come out and shine in his own unique style and I believe he will. He is a good teacher. All in all it was a relaxing conclusion to the week as it was my last class. I will be taking off this weekend for home. I asked him about poses for my recently discovered Spondolysis. "Go to the library and read materials and speak to your US teachers"! I will do that for sure.

This last week here was less about asana practice and more about what it meant to be here - in this little oasis of spirituality, yoga and holistic life. The house I am staying in, the Hanuman Mandir (temple) accross the street, the yoga center, the park next door, the people around this one street -- they paint a very holistic picture with a brush of "faith". I have discovered that in the midst of tremendous heat, unbearable sometimes, the buzzing of cars and scooters, the honking of horns, there is peace, tranquility and calmness. The heart warming music of the temple, the morning and evening patanjali chants at RIMYI, the chirping and singing of the birds, this little oasis called Hanuman Mandir Road is simply abundant in faith.

I told my hosts, the Shahanis, that there was something holistic about the 3rd floor of their house where I was staying. Neena said that the floor was built specifically for devotees of the Hare Krishna Temple by her father in law and now of course its primarily used for Iyengar Yoga Students from abroad. There is something very spritual about this place which gave me much needed comfort and peace and time to reflect, write and read most of the wonderful books left by many yogis from their past trips. I will write a separate blog about some of these wonderful books I read that inspired and enlightened my intellect.

Neena Shahani so eloquently put it "there is simply faith all around you". I realize as I am ready to go home, that it is the faith that brings the peace to the inner mind. It doesn't just exist around Hanuman Mandir Road, but its abundant all over India. This is probably why I am so drawn back to India. In this trip I discovered despite all the noise, the pollution, the dirt and filth in India, there is faith is everywhere you look . This is what makes India unique - despite all the contradictions and extremes that exist here. India is open to such a diversity of faiths. There are so many pathways to inner peace because there are so many pathways of faith that exist here. People see faith in trees, in stones, in animals, in people, in many animate and inanimate objects. The statues, the idols all these objects identify and exemplify these pathways. You eat, sleep, and breathe faith here and all forms of it are just accepted. I walk every morning by a tree on the sidewalk decorated with colors - I know someone worships this tree. There is faith in the trunk of a tree by the roadside and its accepted and respected by all.

You choose what you want to believe in and it is accepted. Someone posted a comment on one of my previous posts, asking about the meaning of a yogi and does he or she have leave their home and family to become a yogi. I posted a simple reply inform of a definition. I realize now, that this is such a complex question to answer. There are so many answers. The Iyengars so rightfully say, "just because you know the meaning or definition of something doesn't mean you fully understand it".

I agree , you cannot learn something by memorizing a definition. But, I have realized that having faith does bring you closer to understanding of many things, including yoga. Faith allows you to practice and practice brings an intuitive understanding of the subject you practice. It was a eureka moment! Its faith that brought me to Pune in 2001 and I had no idea then about Iyengar Yoga. Its faith that keeps bringing me back to this oasis of spritual upliftment and its this faith that keeps me on this spiral process to continually seek peace of my inner mind. This revelation made my trip worthwhile.

I must thank the Shahani's for their hospitality and kindness. I want to really thank their long time cook, who herself shows such faith despite her old age, by cooking these wonderful meals every day for me. She would call me Sahibji (sir) and I told her please call me son. She is probably my grandmother's age. She was so taken aback! She said how could she, as I was a man of stature. I told her no, she was of a higher stature both in age and experience, so she deserves higher respect. Here was another example of the dichotomy and contradiction that exists in India. People of money and stature are presumed to deserve respect. Well not in my world, not in the culture of my adopted country and I felt to be proud to be American when I told her that. Her cooking is the best I have tasted ever!

Thanks again to Mrs. Sunita Parthasarthy for helping me sign up for classes. Najeeeb for bringing the halasana bench. My staff in Pune who have such respect and regard for me and work so hard 24X7. And last but not the least Mr. Pandu at RIMYI who was very kind and will let me attend classes in future trips and found my badly needed sunglasses. I may not have perfected my asana's in this trip, but I have certainly taken babysteps to perfect my understanding of how to reach my inner mind. I left this morning for Mumbai with a hug from Manu and a comforting hand shake from Neena inviting me to come back. I told them I had a strong feeling I would be back but wasn't sure if they would have room, considering the fact that they are booked in advance. She replied, "You never know, there may be a cancellation". Well only faith will create a cancellation and only faith will bring me back to this little heaven on earth!

So as I fly out of India tonight, I promised myself to hold myself to this faith that I need to continue in my strive to do my karma and my yoga, inorder to get closer to my inner mind. I need to leave the rest - the outcome to the universe, the universal god and almighty. That is what makes a true yogi.


The Yogi

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 14 in Pune - Great yoga with Gulnaaz and Rememberence Day for Mother

April 25th 2008

April 25th is a day I will always remember and cherish. Its the day the person who gave me birth was born. She would have been 73 years today. Her birth name was Swadesh (meaning freedom, given to her by her parents as a symbol of the freedom movement in India in the 1930s). Her married name became "Seema" which means limit or boundary but she was limitless and there were no boundaries in her generosity, compassion, love and care for others. She taught me how to be patient, persevere and have hope as there was always light at the end of the tunnel. She taught me to be sweet and kind. In moments of torment and struggle, she would say "leave it to god" as everything will work out as you wish and not to ever give up hope. Though highly educated with a double masters, a degree in law, she chose to stay home and be a housewife.

She was determined and ambitious but she put that aside to be there for her kids, her husband and his extended Indian family. That was the tradition. She would always be there for anyone in pain, trouble and sorrow and was sought after to mediate and solve problems for everyone in the family. She garnered huge respect and love from all. She faced many struggles in life, her father passed away when she was only 13. She along with her younger brother ran the family business as teenagers. She lost him young when he was only 41. She held my father's hand for 20 years after he became blind and sacrificed more to make sure that I and my siblings could build a future out of India. She was determined and she made it happen.
She died suddenly in 2004. She had been very ill for a few years and suffered much pain. But I know she passed on happy and in peace, knowing that despite the challenges she faced all her life, she was respected by all and loved dearly by her husband and children and grandchildren, and all her sacrifices brought her a few years of happiness and joy at the end. It is her death that was a catalyst for me to seek out my own spiritual path and I am who am because of the limitless, courageous, determined and loving "Seema". She will always be there in my heart and my family, especially my younger girl who calls her Mumma.
So today as I attended my final class with Gulnaaz - it was a happy and funny class and a relaxing day after 3 days of upheaval with my health. Gulnaaz pushed us hard, but she was also very attentive to the students and especially me. I had trouble with my handstand and Pinch Mayur Asana. She even wise cracked on me -"Sirji are you still alive there - don't give up trying". I didn't and I struggled, but I got a few jumps. At the end there was Pranayama - Ujai and Viloma. It brought much needed relaxation. My blood pressure has stabilized. I bid her good bye. She was happy to have an eager student who had so much enthusiasm. It was a fun class and yes just like my mother I am determined to get those poses perfected over time. I feel her presence around me and in my heart. She still continues to encourage me to face life with courage and compassion and to do my best and leave it upto god for the rest. I hope all who read this will do the same.

I love you mother!


The Yogi

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Human Jayanta at RIMYI - A video homage

Hanuman Chalisa is one of my favorite hyms. The first time I heard it was in Rishikesh at the Parmarth Ashram's evening Aarti on the banks of the ganges by over a 100 kids who study yoga at the gurukul (ashram school). It was most uplifting and emotional and energizing.
At the Hanuman Jayanti at RIMYI, Hanuman Chalisa was peformed again. I recorded part of it and then found an mp3 on the net, which I have included in this video blog. Coincidently, last night I finally attended an evening prayer at the Hare Krishna Temple across from where I stay, the Shahani residence. This temple/ashram has existed since 1950 and is in beautiful home of Mr. Roy and his wife, both highly spiritual folks who have passed on, but left their home to be a place for peace, tranquility for their neighbors and friends to visit every evening and be with god with music and prayer. Hanuman Chalisa was peformed again and it made me feel very connected to this little oasis of tranquility and yoga in the heart of Pune. Yesterday I had a bit of a panic as the heat was intense and I was overcome by it and elevated BP, requiring a hospital visit. The music and hyms at temple made a difference. I have missed yoga classes since Monday, but I hope to attend one final tomorrow with Gulnaz. Below is a translation of Hanuman Chalisa followed by the video blog. Its the longest blog I have posted so far. Please take the time to enjoy the music at the end.

The yogi

SRI HANUMAN CHALISA (from Wikipedia)

A Hindi-language poem primarily praising Lord Hanuman, is Tulsidas's (1532-1623; Devanāgarī: तुलसीदास) most famous and read piece of literature apart from the Ramacharitamanasa. Part of a series onHindu scriptures. It has gained enormous popularity among the modern-day Hindus. Many of them recite it as a prayer every week, generally on Tuesdays or Saturdays. Hanuman is a bachelor God and many bachelors are staunch devotees of this god.

The Hanuman Chalisa (in original verse) with english translation is as follws :

Shri Guru Charan Saroj Raj, Nij Man Mukar Sudhari, Barnau Raghuvar Bimal Jasu, Jo dayaku Phal Char

With the dust of Guru's Lotus feet, I clean the mirror of my mind and then narrate the sacred glory of Sri Ram Chandra, The Supereme among the Raghu dynasty. The giver of the four attainments of life.

Budhi heen Tanu Janike, Sumirow, Pavan Kumar, Bal Buddhi Vidya Dehu Mohi, Harahu Kalesh Bikaar

Knowing myself to be ignorant, I urge you, O Hanuman, The son of Pavan! O Lord! kindly bestow on me strength, wisdom and knowledge, removing all my miseries and blemishes.

Jai Hanuman Gyan Guna Sagar Jai Kapis Tihun Lok Ujaagar

Victory of Thee, O Hanuman, Ocean of wisdom and virtue, victory to the Lord of monkeys who is well known in all the three worlds

Ramdoot Atulit Bal Dhaamaa, Anjani Putra Pavansut naamaa.

You, the Divine messenger of Ram and repository of immeasurable strength, are also known as Anjaniputra and known as the son of the wind - Pavanputra.

Mahabeer Bikram Bajrangi, Kumati Nivaar Sumati Ke Sangi.

Oh Hanumanji! You are valiant and brave, with a body like lightening. You are the dispeller of darkness of evil thoughts and companion of good sense and wisdom.

Kanchan Baran Biraaj Subesaa, Kanan kundal kunchit kesa.

Shri Hanumanji's physique is golden coloured. His dress is pretty, wearing 'Kundals' ear-rings and his hairs are long and curly.

Haath Bajra Aur Dhvaja Birajey, Kandhe Moonj Janeu saaje.

Shri Hanumanji is holding in one hand a lighting bolt and in the other a banner with sacred thread across his shoulder.

Shankar Suvan Kesari Nandan, Tej Pratap Maha Jag Vandan.

Oh Hanumanji! You are the emanation of 'SHIVA' and you delight Shri Keshri. Being ever effulgent, you and hold vast sway over the universe. The entire world propitiates.. You are adorable of all.

Vidyavaan Guni Ati Chatur, Ram Kaj Karibe Ko Atur

Oh! Shri Hanumanji! You are the repository learning, virtuous, very wise and highly keen to do the work of Shri Ram.

Prabhu Charittra Sunibe Ko Rasiya, Ram Lakhan Sita man basyia.

You are intensely greedy for listening to the naration of Lord Ram's lifestory and revel on its enjoyment. You ever dwell in the hearts of Shri Ram-Sita and Shri Lakshman.

Sukshma roop Dhari Siyanhi Dikhawa, Bikat roop Dhari Lank Jarawa

You appeared before Sita in a diminutive form and spoke to her, while you assumed an awesome form and struck terror by setting Lanka on fire.

Bhim roop dhari asur sanhare, Ramchandrajee Ke kaaj Savare.

He, with his terrible form, killed demons in Lanka and performed all acts of Shri Ram.

Laye Sanjivan Lakhan Jiyaye, Shri Raghubir harashi ur laye.

When Hanumanji made Lakshman alive after bringing 'Sanjivni herb' Shri Ram took him in his deep embrace, his heart full of joy.

Raghupati Kinhi Bahut Badaai, Tum Mum Priya Bharat Sam Bhai.

Shri Ram lustily extolled Hanumanji's excellence and remarked, "you are as dear to me as my own brother Bharat"

Sahastra Badan Tumharo Jas Gaave, Asa kahi Shripati Kanth Laagave.

Shri Ram embraced Hanumanji saying: "Let the thousand - tongued sheshnaag sing your glories"

Sankadik Brahmadi Muneesa, 'Narad Sarad Sahit Aheesa.'

Sanak and the sages, saints. Lord Brahma, the great hermits Narad and Goddess Saraswati along with Sheshnag the cosmic serpent, fail to sing the glories of Hanumanji exactly

Jam Kuber Digpal Jahan Te, Kabi Kabid Kahin Sake Kahan Te.

What to talk of denizens of the earth like poets and scholars ones etc even Gods like Yamraj, Kuber, and Digpal fail to narrate Hanman's greatness in toto.

Tum Upkar Sugrivahi Keenha, Ram Milaye Rajpad Deenha.

Hanumanji! You rendered a great service for Sugriva, It were you who united him with SHRI RAM and installed him on the Royal Throne.

Tumharo Mantro Bibhishan Maana, Lankeshwar Bhaye Sab Jag Jaana.

By heeding your advice. Vibhushan became Lord of Lanka, which is known all over the universe.

Juug Sahastra Jojan Par Bhaanu, Leelyo Taahi Madhur Phal Jaanu.

Hanumanji gulped, the SUN at distance of sixteen thousand miles considering it to be a sweet fruit.

Prabhu Mudrika Meli Mukha Maaheen, Jaladhi Langhi Gaye Acharaj Naaheen.

Carrying the Lord's ring in his mouth, he went across the ocean. There is no wonder in that.

Durgam Kaaj Jagat Ke Jete, Sugam Anugrah Tumhre Tete.

Oh Hanumanji! all the difficult tasks in the world are rendered easiest by your grace.

Ram Duware Tum Rakhavare, Hot Na Aagya Bin Paisare.

Oh Hanumanji! You are the sentinel at the door of Ram's mercy mansion or His divine abode. No one may enter without your permission.

Sab Sukh Lahen Tumhari Sarna, Tum Rakshak Kaahu Ko Darnaa.

By your grace one can enjoy all happiness and one need not have any fear under your protection.

Aapan Tej Samharo Aapei, Tenau Lok Hank Te Kanpei.

When you roar all the three worlds tremble and only you can control your might.

Bhoot Pisaach Nikat Nahi Avei, Mahabir Jab Naam Sunavei.

Great Brave on. Hanumanji's name keeps all the Ghosts, Demons & evils spirits away from his devotees.

Nasei Rog Hare Sab Peera, Japat Niranter Hanumant Beera

On reciting Hanumanji's holy name regularly all the maladies perish the entire pain disappears.

Sankat Te Hanuman Chhudavei, Man Kram Bachan Dhyan Jo Lavei.

Those who remember Hanumanji in thought, word and deed are well guarded against their odds in life.

Sub Par Ram Tapasvee Raaja, Tinke Kaaj Sakal Tum Saaja

Oh Hanumanji! You are the caretaker of even Lord Rama, who has been hailed as the Supreme Lord and the Monarch of all those devoted in penances.

Aur Manorath Jo Koi Lave, Soi Amit Jivan Phal Pave.

Oh Hanumanji! You fulfill the desires of those who come to you and bestow the eternal nectar the highest fruit of life.

Charo Juug Partap Tumhara, Hai Parsiddha Jagat Ujiyara.

Oh Hanumanji! You magnificent glory is acclaimed far and wide all through the four ages and your fame is radianlty noted all over the cosmos.

Sadho Sant Ke Tum Rakhvare, Asur Nikandan Ram Dulare.

Oh Hanumanji! You are the saviour and the guardian angel of saints and sages and destroy all the Demons, you are the seraphic darling of Shri Ram.

Ashta Siddhi Nau Nidhi Ke Data, Asa Bar Din Janki Mata.

Hanumanji has been blessed with mother Janki to grant to any one any YOGIC power of eight Sidhis and Nava Nidhis as per choice.

Ram Rasayan Tumhare Pasa, Sadaa Raho Raghupati Ke Dasa.

Oh Hanumanji! You hold the essence of devotion to RAM, always remaining His Servant.

Tumhare Bhajan Ramko Pavei. Janam Janam Ke Dukh Bisravei.

Oh Hanumanji! through devotion to you, one comes to RAM and becames free from suffering of several lives.

Anta Kaal Raghubar Pur Jai, Jahan Janma Hari Bhakta Kahai.

After death he enters the eternal abode of Sri Ram and remains a devotee of him, whenever, taking new birth on earth.

Aur Devata Chitt Na Dharai, Hanumant Sei Sarva Sukh Karai

You need not hold any other demigod in mind. Hanumanji alone will give all happiness.

Sankat Kate Mitey Sab Peera, Jo Sumirei Hanumant Balbeera

Oh Powerful Hanumanji! You end the sufferings and remove all the pain from those who remember you.

Jai Jai Jai Hanuman Gosai Kripa Karahu Gurudev Ki Naiee

Hail-Hail-Hail-Lord Hanumanji! I beseech you Honour to bless me in the capacity of my supreme 'GURU' (teacher).

Jo Sat Baar Paath Kar Koi, Chhutahi Bandi Maha Sukh Hoi.

One who recites this Hanuman Chalisa one hundred times daily for one hundred days becomes free from the bondage of life and death and ejoys the highest bliss at last.

Jo Yah Padhe Hanuman Chalisa, Hoy Siddhi Sakhi Gaurisa

As Lord Shankar witnesses, all those who recite Hanuman Chalisa regularly are sure to be benedicted

Tulsidas Sada Hari Chera, Keeje Nath Hriday Mah Dera.

Tulsidas always the servant of Lord prays. "Oh my Lord! You enshrine within my heart.!

Pavan Tanay Sankat Haran , Mangal Murti Roop. Ram Lakhan Sita Sahit, Hriday Basahu Sur Bhoop.

O Shri Hanuman, The Son of Pavan, Saviour The Embodiment of blessings, reside in my heart together with Shri Ram, Laxman and Sita

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 11 - Yoga break for two days

April 22, 2008

Had to take a break from morning yoga yesterday and today. Work took priority. I should be back in action tomorrow. I have been reading the latest Yoga Rahasaya. There are several pages just on Trikonasana. I am workig on the Hanuman Chalisa video. I hope you all will like it.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 21st - Hanuman Jayanti

Today the institute celebrated Hanuman Jayanti. Lord Hanuman is a hindu god, deeply revered in the hindu religion for his role in rescuing Sita from the demon Ravana in the great epic Ramayana. He was also considered a yogi and has deep reverence at the Iyengar Institute. This is an annual event. Geetaji did a talk on Lord Hanuman, the Hanuman Chalisa was chanted and the next edition of Yoga Rahasya was released by Guruji. A nice short and sweet event with about 100 students and their family in attendance. Coming soon is a short video.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Day 8 Don't Jerk but transition and flow into correction -- A short conversation with Prashant Iyengar

Today was a 7 am intermediate class by Abhi, guruji's grand-daughter. I can tell she is very pranayam inclined as it began in her discourse at the onset before the patanjali prayer. Focusing on breath awareness right from the onset. I fore-warned her about my high blood pressure - she nodded. I was concerned about inversions. We started the dog pose on the rope. Now if you have never done this 0n a rope, best to put a blanket. These ropes can cut into your thighs until you really get used to them.

She instructs to extend from the sides of the torso and with every exhalation you can walk out further despite the resistance of the rope which is carrying all your weight. Then onto Uttanasana, the pressure is building in my head and fear of an imminent collapse is overcoming me. Should I just go ahead and do a half uttanasana instead. Would she find it offensive? Before the thought even completely processed in my mind we instructed to do a Shirsasana with a belt around the upper thighs. My heart sinks. "Be Indifferent" echoes in my head. " The blankets need to be on top of the sticky mat, not the other way around". I shall make a mental note of this instruction. Couldn't stay long on this one.

Then we were off to Viparita Dandasana. Wham-bam chairs are out fast and off we go. Now my head is really pounding. I get her attention and tell her softly "my head is pounding". "Get three bolsters" she says. So out I get and bring back three bolsters. She adjusts them so my head and neck are more flat and rested. The thighs are tightly strapped, I can still feel a slight back bend. Its relaxing. Off to Chair Sarvangasana. This pose has been repeated throughout the week consistently. She talks about the "throat" and how most thought come from the throat and how important it is to relax the throat. All these poses are designed to cool the mind and quieten the metabolism. If the throat is not relaxed then neither is the thyroid gland, which increases the bodies metabolic function. She called it "yogic science". I am just absorbing this like a sponge. I can't put it all in words but this all makes sense, and yogic or not what I heard is science for me. All these poses are being done for at least 10-15 minutes, so they are long poses.

We move to Viparita Karani - Long pose. Nearly 20 minutes. While in this pose she instructs us to do Viloma Pranayama. This was most relaxing. Finally my head felt completely relaxed and it had a cooling effect. I could hear loud noises from downstairs. Prashantji giving instructions at the top of his voice - like a football coach. I can't wait to sit and hear his next dissertation. We end in a shavasana. I ask Abhi about poses for high blood pressure. "Forward Bends" - sounds great!

Prashantji's class is in full swing. I spot a familiar face Zubin Zarthostimanesh, Nuvana's cousin. I hand signal but he is too absorbed in the class. Prashantji talks about how many Iyengar teachers are too focused on correction. He compares a person in a pose to a moving train. He says you cannot simply correct them with a jerk. Then the teacher is simply a jerk to force such a correction. The body while doing a pose is in motion, and correction can only happen in the flow. You cannot catch the moving train without being in sync with its motion and velocity. How true! Prashantji is a modern day genius yogi.

He claims that the best way to correct is to give instructions and let the practitioner correct himself in the flow and motion of the asana. Hearing this I realized I need to lower my expectations of teachers who simply give instructions. His words simply cannot get out of my head. I spend all of the remaining 30 minutes watching the dance of the students switching from one pose to another while he ranted out his amazing philosophical discourses on yogic science. He talked about how the sun is revolving around the galaxy at 550,000 miles per hour while the earth at 65,000 miles per hour around the sun and how where the sun and earth were last year is probably not where they are today in the orbit and that these are spirals. How true. I can completely relate to spiral processes coming from the computer field. Our mind and body are bound by such spiral processes as well. I can't fully comprehend all this in words, but I get it intuitively. I got what he was saying and it was very uplifting and powerful.

Later in the afternoon after a nice lunch and a nice kerala massage, I went back to the center to visit the library. I saw Prashantji at his desk. I approached him and asked to talk to him for a few minutes. He was very receptive. I told him how I have been drawn to his discourses for the past few days. I tell him how much sense they make and how much impact he has had made on me in just a few days. He talked about how such analogies with science are important in the understanding of the mind-body connection and yoga. He is an enlightened soul and he sits at a simple desk writing by hand with a pen and paper, while the world moves on to electronic text. I was nervous talking to him, very emotional, but I did blurb out that I wrote this blog and I was going to write about him today.

I feel vibrations inside me as I type this blog. I have termed it the "Prashant effect". His discourse has been running in my head all day today. Especially the process part. Here is my humble interpretation of it. We are all in a process called life and everything around us, whether cosmic, real or abstract is really a process. In order to effect the process in anyway we need to get in sync with it first - with its motion and velocity. Only then can we understand it, impact or change it. This was my take away from his discourse today. I know somewhere and some place this brilliance from Prashantji is going to impact my life. I don't yet know when and how. But I can feel the cosmic connection already with this process.


The Yogi

Day 7 in Pune - Wise Cracking Yoga Teacher

I missed the Thursday class. Work fires and meetings early morning. But there was something to look forward to on Friday. It is to be with Gulnaaz, a short fair Indian-Irani lady who has wise crack style. She is incredibly funny and her style just lends to learning and pushing without it being too serious. I saw her practicing Urdhva Parsarita Padasana in the main hall prior to class. Guess what? It ended up in the class and it is tough, especially if you are asked to do 10 reps twice in a row. We did the usual typical poses, like a wide Uttanasana to adho mukha savasana and then the various Supta Padangusthasana variations. This pose is done pretty much in every class. My hip and sciatic pain has completely disappeared. I really liked her instructions. They ask you to pull your arms back with the belt in the I pose and then in the II variation she asked I not take the raised leg down completely to ensure the other leg was straight. She showed how in the quest to get the leg down, we lose alignment. Nice tip! And then came the wise crack. An older gentleman in his quest to stretch his leg wrapped the belt around his neck. She yelled "Sirji please don't do that, I need to see you in my next class"! We all just cracked out laughing. I have a hard time keeping composed and I find her class the most enjoyable and look forward to next Friday's class. There is so much to learn. I feel I have gained a new level of flexibility in one week.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 5 - 100 degrees and HOT YOGA!

April 16th - 9 pm

I woke up wednesday AM sore. My head was sore from the shirsana and the back from the fall. Despite the blanket the hard cement floor can be harsh. We (yes I include myself in the foreigners group despite being Indian born) are spoilt by our nice and soft hard wood floors, extra thick mats, extra firm and long belts and softwood blocks. The blocks in Pune are called "bricks". They are wooden, but they weigh a ton more than what we are used to. They are heavier than real clay bricks and you certainly wouldn't want to be in the way of one that maybe used as canon fodder. These bricks along with the short belts, the thin mats, the hard cement floor; for a tall guy like me can be quite harsh. Add the 100F temperature - whoo! this is hot yoga folks - seriously! I can see why there is a moratorium on foreign students from April to May.

Today's class was at 7 pm. I arrived 15 mins early only to witness the medical class on my way to my hall. This is probably the most intense part of yoga at RIMYI. It was an amazing sight, with several teachers including Raya and Abhi with guruji at the helm helping students with yoga therapy. All the amazing props in the main big hall were out and in full force use. I see a young disable girl being helped with various poses including Uttanasana using these props. What an amazing sight! I am reminded of the hustle and bustle of the outside world suddenly in coming into this hall, along with the heat and intensity.

My class today was intermediate and this might as well be advanced by our standards. The instructor simply gave the pose name and you are expected to "do it". There are no instructor demonstrations. There is not much one on one assistance, unless you tell the instructor in advance. Given the hot temperatures this evening, he asked us to do mostly restorative style hip opening and back bending poses - LONG restorative poses.

We started with call and response chanting and prayer. I love this part - the echoes in the hall make it so much more dramatic. Everyone sings loud. We started with Supta-Virasana, transitioned to folding legs in padmasana pose (or half for folks like me), then to Supta Badha konasa, followed by a Setu Bandha. These are usually relaxing poses - but the heat made them unbearable. I wish this was in the morning... - I just had to tolerate it. The uncomfortable feeling was there, but I recalled a comment from Nina Pillegi, the night before in an email, the essence of which was that the Sutras say that you should be indifferent to uncomfortable situations. It helps to maintain tranquility. That led to some tranquility for me this evening, but being indifferent to discomfort is really hard.

We moved on to Viparita Dandasana on the chair, that was very uncomfortable. Then a badakonasana on the chair with a back-bend. This was supposed to be very relaxing. I did the best I could. Then on to Setu Bandha Sarvangasana on the hard floor with the hard wooden brick. I had to keep the "brick" at the lowest height and then to Shavasana. Each pose was probably done for 10-15 minutes. Its rare to experience this. All in all the heat made it challenging - I can't imagine what happens to folks who do Bikram Yoga. What I took back with me was indifference and seeking comfort in the moments where I did feel relaxed, which was in the shavasana. I could have just fallen asleep.

As I left I could see the Iyengar family having their dinner through their open windows in the front of the house. Guruji on a chair in their TV room presumably with his dinner plate on his lap. Prashantji eating at an office desk in another room that is the main enterance to their house. I always see Geetaji in this room in the morning. I was humbled by the simplicity and dedication of this family. It reminded me that life is not about comfort and material things, but about inner peace and happiness which they spread through their love and dedication to yoga. Every time I return from India, I come back with this feeling that we can live on less and still be much happier people. I feel blessed I can afford to make several trips every year to experience this joy and happiness and simplicity of life. Its a life I once grew up in as a child and the universe has thankfully has brought me back to it.


The Yogi

Day 4 in Pune - Bump on the head and fall on the back- Reality check!

April 15th 2008 : Tax Day

Jet lag can be great for early morning starts. I have been up since 230 am working with staff back home. At 6 am I get ready for my walk and then class at 7 am. The walk in the park is nice, and its much more packed with residents of the area, many drive to it I wonder why? The walk around the area is so quiet and peaceful. I get to class early. Upto level II hall. No one is there. Hmm.. what happened to the pump it up guy. Its nearly 7 and only a handful of unfamiliar faces show up. Then the teacher arrives. He is a young guy named "Raya" an upcoming prodigy. He is lean, fit and looks like a young indian sadhu. He immediately asks why I am in this class - I am puzzled. I explain and he says that this is a beginners class not intermediate, which starts at 8 am, so I should leave and wait for that class. I say in mind so whats the big deal let me just stay... well before I could say anything he allows me to stay.

Beginners' class it was not. Since we are at the tail end of the semester the students were already doing more advanced stuff such as head stand. He was rattling off instructions - this would be seriously a level 2-3 class in the states. And of course my ego came in the way today. I didnt balance on the head stand properly and bruised the head. Then came chair sarvangasana - my mind was definitly not on chair sarvangasana as I put my legs through the chair vs above the chair and down I crashed flat on my back on hard cemented floor. Yes folks this is not wood and soft and comfortable. I was still in one piece.

While doing some chair twists Raya commented on how doctors (there was one in class) and executives have such bad postures and are so stiff. Apparently he is one of the few fortunate ones to be part of the medical classes with Geeta Iyengar. I nodded my head in agreement - my posture is bad as I am constantly on a chair typing or leaning back. Then came the ultimate comment about computer software professionals "they are stiff in the head". Voila ! that hit the nail in the head being an ex-programmer myself. We had a short discussion about it. It made sense that when they are in front of a computer all day long, thinking and typing, nothing else much moves and it can lead to physical problems. I will need to re-educate my Pune staff who a year ago were doing iyengar yoga in the office once a week. Now its all stopped as transitions to newer employees diminished interest.

The class concluded 30 minutes early - beginners is only 1 hour. Prashant's class downstairs was still in full swing. I sat on the stairwell and listened mesmerized by his discources in between poses on yoga technology, breathing, kriyas and philosphy. He is a true yogi. I was inspired.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Day 3 in Pune - First Yoga Class at RIMYI

Intense class. I arrived 15 minutes early. Our routines are so different. We sit quietly on our mats and do light stretches. Here one of the first students to arrive was already pumping his heart out, doing stretches and push-outs on the rope. A 70 year old lady followed suit. I was totally intimidated. The teacher was familiar, I had attended his classes before. He loves to push you, especially standing poses. We are in the last two weeks of the semester. He gently corrected me a few times. As usual there is mad rush to switch props, and I lost my blankets to someone else. Suptapadangustana was intense and wonderful for my hip and sciatica. I learnt a new way to do Viparita Karani. At the end one of Guruji's pet students and an intermediate teacher came by and asked everyone to fill out surveys - one of the questions was how you were before and after taking classes at the institute. Great! Wish I was here long enough to do that. Enjoy the short video.



Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 2 in Pune - Enjoying the ambiance

April 13, 2008. 1 am IST

Its 1 am and I am jet-lagged. I wake up to complete silence and quiet. Its in the middle of the night and the chatter outside, the honking of horns, the traffic, the chirping of the birds all subsided to a complete quiet silence. Its meditative and hypnotic. I feed myself some toast and tea. I missed my first class yesterday evening. I slept through it after a nice sumptuous lunch with my hosts, Neena and Manu Sahani. We had a pleasant conversation about Iyengar Yoga, the center, Geetaji, Guruji - they are both practitioners of Iyengar Yoga, technology business, life. I climb the three floors upto my room and crash.

I crash back again only to wake up at 5 am. Its time for a walk to explore, observe and experience my first real day in Pune.

Trip to RIMYI - Day one in Pune

April 12th 2008 - 830 am.

I arrive in Pune at about 6 am, 2 hours later than planned. The car/cab I was travelling in got held up in traffic on the highway for an hour. The trucks that couldn't handle the steep climp up the ghats (coastal mountains), were stalled and you had these guys running accross the lanes putting wooden wedges underneath their tires so they wouldn't roll back and crash into vehicles behind them. It was insane! 3am t0 4 am is peak time for trucks to get on the super express and usually super empty Mumbai-Pune tollway. It is incredible to watch how these monsters are being stopped from rolling back down hill. Its real drama with cars trying to circumvent each other and weaving in and out. The concept of lanes doesn't exist. We are dead stalled for an hour while traffic meanders around these monstorous but powerless vehicles with drivers who are fools and refuse to follow rules. Welcome to India - welcome to the world of patience, perseverance and observence of peaceful coexistence with chaos.

We finally get through this mess and arrive the house without any further problems. I am led by my host Mr. Manu to my apartment. I crash and wake up two hours later. I have a 9 am appointment with Mr. Pandu. I am running late. I can't get the gas turned on, I can't figure out how to turn the hot water on, I can't find my tooth brush and my shampoo has leaked in my suitcase. No time for any breakfast or tea - I rush to the center, a short walk. Enjoy the video:

Inversions - My world upside down!

I am in flight to India. It is my bi-annual trip for business but I am fortunate to dock in Model Colony right next to Guruji’s Yoga Center RIMYI. I have to sincerely thank Mrs. Sunita Parthasarthy, Guruji's daughter who so gracious to request Mr. Pandu that I be allowed to take classes for two weeks I am in Pune. Thank you! I am excited and looking forward to the energy I have been craving for the last few months.

So as I sail to the Mother Land at 40,000 feet I have with all humility the luxury of flying business class. It gives me the space and leg room, and a near flat bed. I have known to work my yoga poses in flight with my most important prop – the yoga belt/strap, please don’t leave home with out it! I sometimes I will do some poses in the galley as the flight attendants watch with amusement and awe. And of course my neighbor passenger may on occasion have to deal with a spilt glass of water, as so happened in this flight. As a matter of fact I will write a whole blog on doing yoga on a long journey like India. 10 hours to Frankfurt, 4 hour lay over and then 8 hours to Mumbai (though that will be in shavasana). Then another 4-5 hours drive to Pune in the middle of the night. By dawn I will be at my destination tired and jet lagged.

So as I settle into my seat I get my yoga books for reading. The two I bring to read are Light on Yoga and Cool Yoga Tricks. It is great to read them. One to simply absorb the mechanics of poses through Light on Yoga, but Miriam Austin's Cool Yoga Tricks is just a joy. Today I started with Cool Yoga Tricks as my book of choice. Not only do I refresh on the various tricks but I get to look at the models some of whom are my teachers, such as Terry Peterson and Nuvana. My routine would not be complete without my Ipod playing “Leaves In the Wind” and a glass of wine.

I flipped over to a section called Inversions.
It has been some time since I read this section - my memory of the introduction had faded away, but deep down it was there somewhere about why “Adho Mukha Vriksasana” was my most favorite pose. As I read through the Miriam’s homage to Inversions I realized why this pose is my favorite and closest to my heart. I realized spiritually why it is my kids favorite and every kid I have taught yoga also finds it the most fun pose. This realization just poured out the emotions and feeling I have bottled up inside me for the past year. Those simple words evoke so many emotions inside me and opened up my heart chakra. I quote Miriam from her book on this beautiful synopsis of Yogic Inversions:

“Upside Down – Inverted poses gives us great energy. They help to balance the glandular system and the hormonal system and bring oxygen to the brain. They increase our physical strength and balance. Emotionally inversions bring us internal balance and poise when our lives are upside down!

Inversions give us new perspective. When we see the world upside down, we glean new understandings. In a shoulder stand and Plow our view is a more intimate as we gaze deep down into our own hearts. When you take the time to look what secrets does you heart want to share with you?

In Inversions we put our heart above our heads. Can you imagine how our lives – how the world would change – if we put our heart above our heads more often!"

It was the last sentence that brought all my pent up emotions to the surface. As I type this blog I have shameless tears pouring from my eyes. I have no shame, I have no fear as I experience this wonderful cathartic explosion of my heart and pour it out in open. It is what I have learnt in this journey of pain and suffering which I have dealt with by practicing Iyengar yoga.

I have been on a journey of severe mental and emotional pain. Since early 2007 my life has been fractured and simply took a journey of its own – to a complete destruction. I have been hanging upside down in every way. I can’t describe in words the pain and suffering it has caused. But in this pain there has been a salvation. Being upside down has brought my heart above my head. It has compelled me to think from my heart – it has brought me closer to my inner soul and it has propelled me on a new path. Putting my heart over my head has not been so easy. It has been a challenge, just as challenging as pushing yourself up in a hand stand. Sometimes I can only be there for a few seconds and sometimes I simply cannot lift up. But those few seconds when I do are uplifting and full of hope.

Observing the world when transitioning into handstand or down the chair in a Duipada Virpiriata Dandasana gives you a completely different view of the world. It gives you a renewed level of confidence and comfort – so that you can reach the end goal slowly but surely. Being upside down brings an acceptance that life whether up or down is simply “life”. I does give you a chance to look at life from another angle, especially the 180 degree upside down angle. Being upside down brings your heart closest to you. It strengthens you in every way. I now know why I like inversions – I am an inverted soul and my heart always has been and wants to be above my head. I can’t ask for anything more from the universe but the strength and courage to appreciate these inversions that happen in my life. However hard and painful they maybe it gives me a chance to appreciate them, understand them and learn from them with courage. I hope you will too.


The Yogi.

Restorative Halasana and Sarvangasana - Video

Here is a video of Restorative Halasana and Sarvangasa - Nirvana with Nuvana. Please return to watch daily video blogs of my yoga journey at RIMYI (Iyengar Yoga Center) in Pune India.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nirvana with Nuvana - Restorative Halasana and Sarvangasana !

If you want to experience Yoga Nirvana try a restorative halasana. Its the ultimate experience of yoga - life could not be any better than being in this pose for 20 minutes. This Sunday I walked into Nuvana's house with the kids for a family yoga session (Well I do the yoga and the kids jump around). Her first comment after our Om chanting was "you look drained". It was time for chest opening, chair-sarvangasana and supported halasana vs the intense poses we normally do.

I did about 5 minutes of chest opening on the stairs and then on to a chair supported sarvangasana. And then came the moment of glory. She pulled out the Halasana bench she brought from India and with my thighs resting on the bench, legs and feet stretched arms holding the bench, on came the weights on the calves. An amazing release to my tight back! It was instant energy booster and I woke up from my drained existence. She then had me pull my arms behind stretched holding on to her legs, which forced the shoulders to roll back. There was an amazing gush of energy in my body and I had an out of body experience. One I cannot forget.

Then the weights moved over to my thighs and a blanket and chair as weights on my calves. The out of body experience only expanded - And the cameras started clicking pictures. 20 minutes later, I was more energized and my heart was pumping and the blood was gushing in all the energy I could get. I was in HEAVEN! It was truly Nirvana from Nuvana. Then a resotartive ending with the chair sarvanagansana.

Sequence of poses

1. Chest opening: Sit on the first step of the stairs, lie back on the 2nd and 3rd step, stretch out the legs, roll the shoulders back and let the head rest on the blanket on the 3rd step. (10 minutes)

2. Chair sarvangasana (10 minutes)

3. Halasana on bench with weights (20 minutes)

4. Chair sarvangasana (5 minutes)