Thursday, May 29, 2008

Avoiding Pain - Nina's mantra in class today

I took Nina Pileggi's level 2 class today - so many make ups to do. Nina suggested I donate them to friends and employees. Any takers?

Today was all about twists and pulling back and twisting around from the navel. That is hard work - I was sweating and my shoulders have become tight with lack of practice so they hurt when I do twists in standing poses, especially Uthita Trikonasa which is exceptionally painful. She transitioned from that to Uthita Parsva Trikonasa, a trikonasana with a twist.

And then there are those tough variations. She asked us to move the raised hand back, , lift the sternum and pull it back from the navel and raise and turn the head back, then bend the arm to touch the head so the elbow was not visible to the eyes. Easier said than done - she does these poses with such perfection.

I tried, many tried and you could hear the grunt and sigh of pain. She immediately recited a yoga sutra in Sanskrit and I believe it was: "Heyam dukham anagatam". She explained that it meant that we should plan for avoiding pain. In the pose she demonstrated we had to make sure the blocks were lined up correctly and in advance to avoid the pain. How true!

I was immediately drawn to her words, and it got me completely off balance and my mind recoiled back into the pain I have been suffering for many months. How can you plan to avoid pain when you have no control over the pain? I could see the physical manifestations of it with my tight shoulders and my lack of practice lately.

I was completely disheveled at that point and the pain in my mind subsumed me. My sugar levels dropped and I felt shaky. I had to take a short break to drink several cups of water. I have been avoiding pain I have been experiencing by blocking it out. I struggled through the other poses - shavasana didn't seem as relaxing. It took tremendous strength and effort to finish the class.

It occurred to me that there seems to no end to my mental pain despite all the attempts I take to deal with it. So when I came home, I decided to look up this sutra and really understand what Patanjali was talking about. So here are some excerpts from Guruji's book Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Heyam Dukkham Anagatam

The pain which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.

Past pain is finished. Pain that we are in the process of experiencing cannot be avoided, but can be reduced to some extent through yogic practice and discriminative knowledge. Unknown future pains can be prevented now by adhering to yogic discipline.

Patanjali says that yoga is a preventative healing art, science and philosophy by which we build up defenses in our body and mind to counteract painful afflictions that are yet to attack us. It will help us to face the spiritual bliss if and when thanks to our good actions in former lives, the spiritual gate is open.

I am immediately reminded of Gehlek Rimpoche's philosophy of maintaining positive emotions and actions and how they carry through our incarnation and I see the connection with this sutra. Patanjali says that spiritual light can be shattering, so we should stabilize our body and mind with yoga to help with our spiritual growth.

Reading this sutra brought me some peace of mind, a little less pain and realization that I cannot afford to get off the path of yoga no matter how much pain and obstacles come my way. It is yoga that has helped me navigate through painful times in the last many months. I must be true to this path, no matter what!

Thank you Nina for enlightening me today and helping me bring some relief to the pain I deal with every day. I am looking forward to creating a video blog with you so you can enlighten us more with your knowledge and understanding of yoga and these wonderful sutras of patanjali.


The Yogi.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Views inside and outside the "Pacific Soul" Ucluelet BC

Pacific Soul, Eion Finn and Insiya Rasiwala's heavenly abode in Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada

Nanaimo Ferry and Drive to Ucluelet B.C. Canada

O' Canada! - A trip to Eionn Finn and Insiya Rasiwala's heavenly abode in Ucluelet, BC

A few weeks back I found Eion (pronounced Ian) Finn's bliss blog on the net; one of the links on the yoga blog glob His life mission on his blog states the following :

"My life mission is simple but crystal clear: to fill my heart and soul completely with the energy of Nature, to absorb it into my being and to radiate it out into the world as Positive Energy. Teaching Yoga is one of the forms that this Positive Energy is spread, but mostly what I am sharing is a Lifestyle... a way of being where Body and Mind are in harmony with Nature and Community. Enjoy all of these offerings."

It totally captured my attention. Turns out Eion is an expert Vinyasa Yogi and an avid surfer. He teaches a form of power yoga in Vancouver BC along with his wife Insiya (what a beautiful name!) Rasiwala who is from Mumbai India and an expert in Ayurveda and Vinyasa style yoga herself. She is also a surfer. Coincidentally, Eion is a graduate of the same university as I, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. Eion is also an avid surfer and combines yoga and surfing. He has developed a number of great yoga videos, including yoga for surfers. He is a well known yoga personality in Canada and does many workshops. He and Insiya also own a heavenly place appropriately name "Pacific Soul" in Ucluelet B.C. Its on the pacific coast of Vancouver Island, the surfing capital of Canada and known for its winter storm waves. They offer yoga retreats in Ucluelet, Costa Rica and Bali. Pacific Soul is available year around as a vacation rental when Eion and Insiya are not residing there.

I drove up to Vancouver B.C. followed by a long but gorgeous trip to Ucluelet from Vancouver this weekend. It included a 2 hour ferry ride from the beautiful Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and then a scenic drive through the mountains, valleys and rivers into Ucluelet. The weather cooperated yesterday and gave me a chance to hike around Pacific Soul. I took many pictures of nature surrounding the area, including a deer and the bald eagle that perches on a tree across from the living room. Though I didn't get a chance to practice yoga with them, as they were not in Ucluelet, I did get a chance to relax, breathe, read, meditate with my photography, and simply observe the nature around Ucluelet and Tofino BC.

Tomorrow I will return home. Despite the long drive, it was worth the trip. To see the the majestic and tall snow capped mountains of B.C. made me very nostalgic. It reminded me of a trip to Whistler B.C., the ski capital of Canada, some years back with the family when my older daughter was just one and the younger one was yet to arrive. It was a heavenly trip and I remember feeling uplifted as we drove through the Canadian Rockies.

Eion and Insiya's Pacific Soul's interior is something out of a home interior design magazine. The aesthetics and design corresponds to their perfection in their yoga style. Its very modern yet very simple. There are yoga books and videos everywhere in the house. I took a lot of pictures. Enjoy the slide shows and Eion is right -Yoga is a way to radiate the positive energy we can absorb from Nature. Being with Nature is being in harmony with the body and mind. That is the essence of yoga!


The Yogi

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Advanced Yoga with Nuvana - My yoga is getting rusty

I have been travelling the last two weeks and therefore missing yoga classes. Yesterday was a once in a month advanced yoga session with Nuvana at Sunset Yoga. Lets call it a level 4 class. I bombed in every way. I have lost the ability to push up into adho muka vriksasana, my sirsana was not the best, I was balancing using my back. I have become rusty.

"You are thinking too much!" said Nuvana as I struggled to get up on my hands and arms. The class was all about working the glute muscles and creating space around your lower waiste to peform perfect adho mukha svanasana. Its wonderful to understand this concept of creating space. There was an aha moment for many when she commented that when you point your feet upwards while in sarvangasana you are in water - a relaxed pose. But if your feet and legs are waving too much - you are asked to point your feet down, which is earth! This provides more stability to your sarvangasana. I presume it wouldn't be as relaxing.

What an amazing interpretation. I have to fix this gradual loss of practice. I have to overcome the daily torments, insanity and rage impeding my life and give yoga priority. This afternoon, I drove through one of the most beautiful places on earth. I stopped to watch the roaring rapids of a river in the mountains of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Surrounding these rapids I saw pools of calm water and a raven quietly searching for food. There was serenity despite the roar and rage around it.

If nature can have calmness and contentment to exist amongst turmoil and rage - so can we! May peace and calmness be around you despite any turmoil and rage. You have to remain in the calm pools and be indifferent to the rage and an insanity that may surround you. As I drove down the mountain I watched the flow of the river change from raging waters to a calm flow in the valley. I have to remember there will be another valley coming soon in life bringing with it some peace and calmness.


The Yogi

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yoga - A unison of faith, purpose and suffering to create positive energy

The massive earthquake in China has caused tremendous destruction and pain. In some cities most of the human population has been wiped out. In this destruction today a young girl was found alive. Why was she singled out to live while so many died? Many questions arise in my mind as I try to understand this destruction.

I look to the Buddhist philosophy for answers. Buddha says life is full of suffering. So the end of the life means end to that suffering. Was the destruction from a spiritual standpoint caused by anger and ego, the negative emotions? Could this destruction in China been prevented somehow? Was it fair for this little girl to survive and continue to face life suffering or did she survive because she had positive emotions around her? All those who sadly passed, how many carried the negative emotions with them on to their next incarnation? All these questions propel my mind into deep thought.

Watching this destruction gives me reason for thought and reflection of the turmoil we face every day. We spend so much energy and time on these negative emotions - building them up with ego and anger, which empowers us to become destructive and vengeful. What we forget is that this sense of empowerment is not permanent. A destruction like this earthquake will end that empowerment in an instant. All that would be left is a dead body, a physical relic of oneself and the prana, the conscience, the life force will leave only to be re-incarnated with all the negativity that the mind will carry.

So why do we waste so much energy in negative emotions? I don't have an answer for that. What I do know is that if I can channel that energy into a positive action or thought, I have put one negative karma off my carry list to the next life. So with that thought in mind I am going to practice Adho Mukha Vriksanasana (hand stand) at home tonight and put all my energy to re perfecting it and getting my legs to kick up effortlessly by holding my arms straight and strong. The wall will be my support and guide. I will hold myself up for as long as I can by putting in all the extra effort and energy I have. I will attempt it several times till I tire my body out and then get ready for Savasana. At the conclusion of Savasana, I will pray for those departed souls. I will pray that they carry more positive energy into next life, which is then full of more positive energies and love - as at the end that is all that matters. That is all they will carry to the next cycle of their lives. Everything else material will all be left behind to decay. Thank you Gehlek Rimpoche for enlightening me with your book!


The Yogi

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Inconsistent Yogi - I need more practice!

I missed yoga all last week. I blogged, reflected and enjoyed every moment I had with the kids, but physcially there was no yoga, not even a short walk or stretch. So today was the day to get back into the yoga class. Monday nights is advanced class with Nina at Sunset. But today it was Terry Peterson substituting. Its been a while since I attended his class, so it was a pleasant surprise. Terry has a very unique style - gentle but firm, with lots of Iyengarisms blended in. His demonstrations are Nuvaneseque - highly precise and you can see it all in the book "Cool Yoga Tricks" that both he and Nuvana have been photographed in as models.

Today's class was mostly forward bends, but with a twist - they were longer and supported with props like blankets and chairs. My favorite was the supported Uttanasana. I immediately went into calm mode and it is excellent for my high blood pressure. His words "let go of your thoughts and simply observe yourself in the pose" helped me be calm and perform the poses without feeling like I had to bend more than I should. I simply enjoyed what I could do given the tightness I have developed over the last two weeks. I balanced on my head for the longest I can remember - a good 2 minutes off the 5 minutes.

On the way out Terry and I chatted briefly about my time with Nina and Manu Shahani in Pune. Terry had stayed in their holistic heaven twice before I did. I found out about this place next to the RIMYI center through Terry last summer. He asked if I enjoyed the food. "Enjoyed" was an under statement. I simply loved it I said! I can't thank enough the old lady who so humbly made the daily meals and walked up a flight of stairs to serve it to me on a tray or in a container called tiffin. She would also make a bowl of fresh yogurt every morning and remind me to finish it or it would become sour! Its the best yogurt I have ever tasted.

I came out of the class feeling like I had a new family - familiar faces, with greetings and hellos. I felt a sense of calm and relief from the turmoil I face every day - at least temporarily. I savored every moment of that calmness as I drove home. I was really enjoying the moment and truly in it. I am not sure what tomorrow holds. Whatever it is I hope to handle it with a calm, thoughtful and pleasant disposition. There is no other way. I need to practice my yoga every day so I can get better at being more observant of my life, so I can accept what it has to offer with calmness and contentment. I hope you will too.


The Yogi

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ego and Anger - The inevitable karma of life

Ever since I have read Rimpoche's book, I have become more observant about these two emotions that cloud our mind and create enormous negativity in our lives. These two emotions are highly destructive. I encounter it daily and I struggle with it myself. Yoga and this blog becomes my outlet to humble myself - to let go of the ego and then anger that comes along with it. I think ego is the source of many problems in our lives. The "I", the "Me" drives this ego.

With ego comes the anger - they are interconnected. Ego naturally leads to anger and anger causes the negative emotions which lead to strife, battles, war and destruction. When my ego is challenged or hurt, I get angry and upset. I wish to retaliate - but the inner mind wakes up and questions this urge to retaliate. The yogi in me puts a period at the end of the sentence that ends in retaliation. You slowly let go of this ego, the anger dissipates and the urge to retaliate goes away.

I realize the ego and anger are inevitable part of our karma in this life. We cannot avoid them. They are easy to pop out. We just need to learn to catch this burning hot toast as it pops out of the toaster and dump it into the trash can. The more we do it, the less would we be inclined to feel challenged and hurt, and less will ego and anger pop out of the toaster. So as I calm myself of this ego and anger and type this blog, I wish the same for you. May there be less ego and anger in your life as well. Thank you Gehlek Rimpoche!


The Yogi

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Rebirth of Consciousness - there are no coicidences!

According to Rimpoche life may end with death of the body but the mind and consciousness never ends. It lives on, and is reborn perpetually in physical life. I don't think the rebirth is limited to physical life. There are many things in life that have a beginning and end. Today my kids and I fly out to see a new born life, the first grandson in our family. A new consciousness has arrived in this world. My girls are excited and have been awaiting this event.

It was an ironic day. Something in my life ended - it was not a physical death, but it was an end of a part of my life that was very important. I never wanted it to end, but I had no control over it. So as that part of my mind and consciousness ended coincidentally a new life came into this world.

I have always felt that there are no coincidences life. This beginning and end of life, real or abstract was no coincidence. It was one of the saddest days of my life and then a happy moment to hear the news of this birth. The universe has its own mysterious ways to bring some joy in the deepest moments of sadness. Its all part of the recycling of this universal consciousness. So when there is deep sadness in your life, accept it and hope for that moment of joy. It might just be right around the corner waiting to be born again.


The Yogi

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Good Life Good Death - A great book by Gehlek Rimpoche

I read this book during my two weeks of late night and early morning bliss in Pune. What a wonderful book! He is one of the great teachers of Buddhism in the west. He was brought up in an upper-crest Tibetan family belonging to the 13th Dalai Lama and had to undergo the harsh life of the formal training of an incarnate lama. In 1959 he escaped with the current Dalai Lama to India. In this book he discusses reincarnation, life and death but what I found most compelling was his discussion about emotions like anger, patience, kindness, jealousy, pride and ego and how the connect to both our past as well as our future in life after life. I read about Buddhism as a kid but never explored more about it till I started reading this book.

Rimpoche says emotions like anger will bother you much more in your future life and at the time of your death than any physical problem. The mind goes with you but the body stays. This is very eye opening. He says emotions change the mind and they pop into the mind suddenly. The inner mind is pure, he calls it the natural mind. When you encounter the natural mind, it is a relaxing feeling - much to the like of what Guru BKS Iyengar talks about what yoga asanas can do for you in your journey to the inner mind.

So when emotions like Anger pop up our inner mind is clouded. It goes from a clear transparent mind, to red, cloudy and disturbed. It creates tremendous negativity around us and others around us. The older we get, the more we tend to hang on to such negative emotions, because trying to bring positive emotions in replacement is a struggle. We have over the years trained our mind with negative emotions. They may give us temporary relief but long term it is a recipe for destruction. But like anything these emotions are impermanent and we just have strive to get rid of these emotions. Rimpoche also says that such problems we face today, the emotional problems, the fears, anxieties are nothing but delusion. We have to work with such delusions to overcome them. We cannot make a deal with delusions - that's like making a deal with the devil. We have to work to overcome them.

Anger is very expensive and it can cause hurt and harm. Unless we can counter it with patience it will cost one spiritually a tremendous amount of virtue. Anger impacts the future tremendously. He says like fire anger consumes a lot of fuel and this fuel is created by positive virtues. Positive virtue take a lot of time, thinking and sacrifice. One moment of anger can destroy that. Anger is also addictive. Once it becomes a habit it can effortlessly pop out, like a toast from a toaster. It may give us temporary relief, but it has destroyed a life long work of positive karma which will take a lifetime to recreate.

Buddha says

There is no error greater than hatred, And nothing mightier than patience.
So I strive in every day to learn patience

Rimpoche's words are deep, compelling and striking but simple to understand. The message is so clear - Anger is the cause of most human destruction in this world. By practicing yoga, I have learnt more patience and I am less inclined to get negative emotions take over me. It is not possible to completely eliminate anger from your life, but by working on positive emotions you can detract it. I work on it every day through my own tumultuous life. I try my best to pass on positive emotions to my children and remind them that anger is not the way to deal with things. Its interesting to see how anger and kindness pops into kids. Kindness, compassion and understanding are virtues we need to pass on daily to our children and re-enforce them, so they will not become addicted to Anger when they grow up. Anger along with our mind will carry on to our next life. I would highly suggest reading this book - angry or not!

May peace, love, patience and kindness be the center of your lives.


The Yogi

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Skeptic Yogi - A parallel universe of yogic consciousness

While in Pune I noticed traffic suddenly appearing from a website called - Itsallaboutyoga. Its a blog created by Diane Cesa, a yoga therapist in New York. It opened my eyes to the world of yoga blogs by several yogis like me, including Diane. She had listed my blog on her site along with many other yoga blogs. The link that caught my eye first was called Skeptic Yogi. I launched in to this site. Its a blog by a native of Canada living in Northern California, Caren McGill. She moved to Mountain View, CA two years ago and it seems like sometime in 2007 discovered yoga. She is on an amazing path of self transformation. She is in India right now blogging her journey of experiencing India and yoga as we speak.

I had an immediate connection with her blog and what she was writing about. She had recently witnessed the slaughtering of a goat at a Kali temple in Calcutta and was horrified. I put a comment on her blog explaining why. She immediately responded and that started a series of email exchanges. Just as she had, I had moved to Mountain View, CA from Canada but back in 1987 to start my career. I am reminded of the California lifestyle, the sunshine, the green gardens, the fruit and palm trees, the pool, beaches, the parties, the friends, and the high tech capital of the world - Silicon Valley. And I was only 22 and felt like my whole life was ahead of me. The day I arrived I commented that I was in wonderland and this is where I got a start in life to build my dreams and aspirations.

It seems like Caren and I are on a parallel path of yogic transformation. We were both in India at the same time suffering the heat but simultaneously absorbing all that is so rich and wonderful about India. She is wrapping up her journey to India in another week and hopes to return with a fresh start in life. She tells me despite the heat, the dust, the chaos and filth, deep down she knows she will return to India again.

So please visit her blog and experience her wonderful, funny, deep but light hearted journey as a yogi. There are so many of us living in this parallel universe of yogic consciousness. Her blog is a must read for yogis and wanna be yogis. Its a must read for anyone visting India for the first time to discover all it has to offer. Caren's blog has touched my heart. I hope it will do the same for you. Visit Skeptic Yogi.


The yogi

Friday, May 2, 2008

Getting back to Sunset Yoga - Yoga with Nina Pileggi level 2

I attended my first class at Sunset Yoga after being gone for 3 weeks. Level 2 with Nina. She was happy to see the ropes I brought back that will be hung soon on the wall. The class almost seemed like a continuance from Nuvana's class yesterday. A lot of shoulder work with Adho Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then on to Adho Mukha Vriksasana (Hand Stand). I completely bombed on the hand stand, as I did in Pune. The 2 months of sciatic pain and scant attendance and practice is the culprit. I was just too tired. We then started on some quad work and gently back bends mostly geared towards getting into Setu Bandh Sarvgasana by the wall. That was hard. I was sweating and so was most of the class. It was a good work out and I got some baby steps before I get back to the Level 3 class. Nina also gave me a book on Medicine and Yoga, which I forgot at the center despite her reminder to not. My absent mind! There is a whole section on my recently discovered lumbar spondilysis. Forward Bends , but no back bends. I need to read it and will report back here on what they have to say.

Coming back to classes at home, I realized how much I missed the tranquility of the classes at Sunset Yoga and Nina's gentle and demonstrative style of teaching as compared to rampant instructions at Pune. They are all different shades of grey. I have learn't to appreciate the beauty in all these styles and diversity in teaching of yoga. If we could only appreciate such diversity in life. Have tranquility, peace, patience and a smile in our lives, by letting go of our ego and anger. This world would be a much peaceful and happier place to live.


The Yogi

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Yoga at the Gym with Nuvana

Every Wednesday evening Nuvana teaches an hour class at my gym. I decided to start attending this class again to get back into the gym groove. This is a bizarre place to do yoga. It had a very open arboretum type area, with huge floor to ceiling glass windows in a semi circle. The windows face west, so on a sunny evening, you have the sun glaring into the teacher's eyes. Up above us is running track and a work out area, where they have this marvelous set of gym equipment and exercise bikes. There is also a piece of equipment which serves great to tie ropes and hang down in rope sirsasana. I bought ropes back from Pune so Nuvana showed me how to tie them and hang down. I am certain we were being gazed at by the crowd in horror as I hung down like a bat.

Doing yoga in this gym is not as peaceful and quiet as you would want. There are people running up on the track and constant thumping and shouting in the 4 basketball courts behind the wall. Reminds me of RIMYI yoga halls in Pune, with all the noise from the outside. Its so noisy around, that Nuvana has to yell instructions - one student comments "why doesn't she use the wireless mike?". Well she is probably used to shouting instructions from India I presume.

The class is intense. Its all about stretching your spine. Various twists and poses to lift up the sternum, stretching your spine, creating the space by further lifting the arms and eventually two variations of Downward Facing Dog by the wall, moving to Upward and Downward using blocks. My uttanasana seemed to greatly improve as I could finally touch the floor. I am sore, the whole class seemed to have a good workout.

This is what I like about Nuvana. Consistent well formed instructions and a flow of sequences to the final pose and then gentle pushes and corrections. Its all so logical. I am glad to be back in her class. Pune seems so much more different. But they all have the same purpose. Teach you great yoga! A fellow student asks me in the change room if I was as sore as he was. I said "yes" but its good sore and Nuvana is one of the best teachers in town. I think he is coming back again.


The Yogi