Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eliminating Toxicity from your body and mind - Iyengar Yoga at its best!

The last three yoga session have been eye opening for me to introspect on the subject of Toxicity. Our bodies gain plenty of toxins from environment we live in - the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Similarly our minds are polluted by negative and toxic toxic behavior of people. Nature has an amazing way for our mind and body to absorb such toxicity in life and continue to function as humans. But in the long term these toxins burn us out, mentally, physically and emotion.

After two years of practicing yoga, I can say with some confidence that I have been able to eliminate some of this toxicity from my life. This has become more obvious to me recently as I am bombarded with toxicity at a personal level. I find that inversions and back bends have a huge in impact on managing my stress levels. Its amazing how a combination of a Sirsasana, Setu Bandha Saravangasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana and a back supported Savasana can relax you. Abdominal twists such Bharvajasana are analogous to twisting a wet towel and squeezing the water out. With abdominal yoga twists, you work your internal organs and squeeze out the toxins.

A weekly 90 minute Iyengar yoga session covers enough ground of such Asanas to eliminate toxins from your body. Give it a try. Visit to find an Iyengar yoga teacher near you. I am so wedded to Iyengar Yoga, that no matter where in the world I am I will find a teacher or Iyengar Studio and take at least one class there. This week I am in Winnipeg Canada. Tomorrow morning I hope to attend a level 3 class at the North Winnipeg Iyengar yoga center.


The yogi

Friday, June 20, 2008

Advanced Yoga with Terry - Pranayam Relaxes and Energizes

I attend Terry Peterson's level 3 class last Friday. His quality of teaching is immaculate and he engages you in the best possible way and you don't feel intimidated - especially being the most inexperienced level 3 yogi in class with the least flexibility. Given the tightness of my hamstrings and quads, it is not possible to for me to perform a perfect Supta Virasana. This is a pose that I am continually getting more engaged in along with a simple Virasana. With continued practice I find I can perform Virasana for a longer period of time without hurting my ankles. Supta Virasana is back-bend that reaches back to the floor. I can only bend 30%, so I need support of at least two bolsters and 2 blankets. I have been performing this way for some time.

Terry corrected me in his own gentle - asking me if I needed some help with setup. How could I refuse help! He used a different set of support. He pulled in a chair and placed it upside down. Then place one bolster at a 120 degree angle. Then placed a blanket on the bolster for additional support. Then asked me to lie back on it in Virasana position. Wow! It felt great and you could finally feel the pose. Terry and his cool yoga tricks! You can see them all in the book Cool Yoga tricks by Miriam Austin. Many of those tricks are performed by him together with Nuvana.

We ended this great session with about 10 minutes of pranayama in sitting pose. He showed us how to use the fingers of your right hand to gently hold the nose while breathing out in Pratiloma pranayama. We also performed sitting Viloma inhalation. This session was so invigorating and energizing, I couldn't close my eyes during Shavasana. Terry said its ok to have your eyes open during this pose - the purpose of Shavasana is to calm your mind down.

That's powerful! If you can really reach your inner mind i.e if you can truly be in Shavasana your eyes cease to be a cause of interference and distraction to your mind. You can really detach from the noise. Reaching your inner mind is the best way to detach from noise in your life. That is the essence of yoga.



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Final level 2 with Julie Burris

The spring semester at Sunset Yoga ends this weekend. Last night I decided to fill up my makeups with a level 2 class with Julie Burris. It is her last level 2 class, as she moves on to getting her degree in physical therapy. Julie's classes are always fun. She has a distinct laughter and she has such humility in her teaching.

The class was intense and sweaty. She focused a fair amount of time on the arms and shoulders in various Adho Mukha Svanasana variations. A lot of emphasis on rolling the upper arms out and creating space to push the arm pits towards the knees. We did the intense combo of Warrior poses and then Ardha Chandrasana (Half moon pose).

I have never been able to do this pose well. Yesterday was the first time I could hold my balance for more than just a few seconds. I have noticed that with time the balance comes to you, as you continue to refine your postures to help you balance. The trick here was to line the outer little toe to the block you plan to hold in that pose. Even the Bharvajasana went quite well for me this time.

Julie has a good sense of refinement and she is very approachable - so its easy to ask her questions during the class and she response with explanations. She is so respectful of her teachers and her act of humility is very infectious. I will miss her level 2 classes. They are always fun!


The Yogi

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Run out of gas! A life lesson in patience and calm disposition

For the second time in my life and twice in 12 months my gas guzzler SUV ran out of gasoline. And this time, I was driving downhill! You can imagine the panic as the engine cut off with no warning and the despair as I was going to be late for a meeting at work. I was upset at myself. I knew I needed to fill up the night before. I drove by a gas station, but laziness and curiosity to determine how many miles I could get out of the car drove me straight home.

So here I am parked on the shoulder lane frustrated that I will be stuck for at least an hour till I get road side assistance. Last time this happened the car had to be towed. Could things get any worse? Is my life headed to a continuous stream of problems and challenges. Will it ever end?

Notwithstanding, I took a deep breath, called road side assistance, and pulled out my IPhone to get on to the blogosphere. I have been following Skeptic Yogi journey of yoga and life especially her recent experience with a yoga retreat. She had a post thanking the universe for where she is in her life - and sounds like she is in a good place and she is genuinely making an effort to learn to be in a place of peace and tranquility, through introspection, yoga and blogging.

She thanked me and others she has virtually met through the blog world in her post. The impatience and despair dissipated as I read her post. The calm disposition returned. Sometimes when you think you have run out of gas and are at the end of your rope, a moment like this reminds you that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Road side assistance is on its way, and you will get 2 gallons at least to get you to the next filling station. Life will move ahead wherever you want to take it - you just need to be patient and calm!


The Yogi

P.S. Before I could finish this post, road side assistance arrived - in less than 30 minutes! I was on my way to work. So patience paid off and the universe took care of me. Once I arrived at work - I had to face yet another negative attack from a war-monger. It has become a daily routine, though it had been quiet on that front for a the last few days.

I learnt have become indifferent to such attacks. Yoga continues to help me to drop my sail down, not show up for war and detach from such negativity in life. Thank you Nina Pileggi - your words of wisdom from the Yoga Sutras have become pillars of strength in my life.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Expectations Reduce Joy!

Someone once told me not to set high expectations because "expectations reduce joy". I never understood the meaning of that phrase till today. How can you not have expectations? How would you succeed in life if you didn't set high expectations of yourself and other's around you. Isn't that what we have been taught as children?

For the last many years, I have been performing my karma yoga by helping others. But deep down I had expectations from who I helped. I expected them to perform and deliver in a certain way. The intention to help or give them a chance was a good one, but there was an expectation of a return. Many a times I was disappointed in them as they didnt perform or deliver to my expectations.

Last year I decided to work with some folks with their future careers as their mentor. This mentoring was complete altruistic. I had no expectations whatsoever. I simply invested my time and mind share as an act of giving back to the universe and sharing what I knew. They absorbed my advice and wisdom like sponges. Today they gave me something - a gift, a token of appreciation, something I never asked for nor expected, as I was truly neutral and true to my altruistic intentions.

It was not what they gave me, it was the act of giving back that touched me and brought me so much joy. It made it all worthwhile, as in that moment all the heartache and painI have suffered these last many months disappeared. This was an act of a true yogi on their part. The act of giving with no expectations brings so much joy - it breeds giving in return. Its viral and it spreads leaps and bounds. Their act of giving is an indicator that they too will spread joy and giving with no expectations. This is truly viral.

You really do reap what you sow in this instance. You get back from the universe what you give to the universe. Its not material - you cannot put any value on joy in your life, no matter how momentary it is. It cannot be bought and it cannot be sold, it can only be shared and you feel it the most when you have no expectations. I finally understood why "expectations reduce joy"!


The Yogi

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Monday Night Advanced Class with Nina - Intense groin opening pose to make you sweat and relieve back pain!

Yesterday night's class finally made me sweat. The theme of this class was "groin opening poses". Read "intense poses that generate heat and really make you sweat". So all of you who think yoga doesn't give you an intense workout - eat your heart out! This was hard, intense and sweaty.

The class was estrogen majority. I was the only male (what happened to the other two) in class and probably most "pose challenged". With tight hamstrings, I couldn't dare stretch the back leg in "Hanuman Asana". We did a number of groin openers and supporting poses to allow the groins to really open. Supta Virasana, variations of Adho Mukha Svanasana, Raj kapot Asana (Pigeon Pose).

Nina borrowed some inspiration from Nuvana's back-care class. Its strap trick. A small strap tight around your lower waist. The belt is wrapped around your sacrum, and high part of the gluteus muscles real tight. I use this trick when I have lower back ache or when I am long flights to India. Then you add a wider belt at your sacrum in loop around the tight belt. You then pull down the wider belt with your feet. It pushes your buttock muscles down, releasing the back. This provides amazing relief to your back.

This trick was taught to me by Nuvana early on in my training with her. Back and shoulder ache were to most persistent problems I encountered - both of which are now much better since I started yoga. There are so many benefits to yoga, but I must say I use this Nuvana trick all the time to relieve lower back pain. If you are in metro Portland or visiting try the saturday morning back care class at Sunset Yoga. You will be amazed!


The Yogi

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Neutral and Indifferent - They are two sides of the same coin!

As I continue my journey with Yoga, these two qualities or attributes have become exceedingly important to me. Indifference and neutrality allow me to accept challenges, things that may otherwise bother me, difficulty, and stress in a whole new way. I can detach more easily and that helps with regulating the stress.

I have been thinking all day about these two attributes, as I am challenged by the universe to be neutral and indifferent to situations that are hurtful and bothersome. They come my way daily and are extremely stressful. I have come to the conclusion that both these attributes are necessary in order to create and maintain detachment from this stress created by ego and negativity. Neutrality and Indifference must coexist. They are two sides of the same coin.

Ego is the big trap door to negativity. Avoidance of ego is the best way to avoid negativity. Neutrality and Indifference are the vaccines you need to fight the disease of ego. Inoculate yourself with neutrality and indifference by practicing yoga frequently. I know it makes a huge difference.


The Yogi

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Power of Yoga is 4 months today with 3000 unique visitors - Yoga has lasted for 2000 years, Will it?

I posted my first blog on January 6th 2008 out of a desire to share my experience with the world - about how yoga had changed me and changed my life. I want to express my thanks to all of you who have read what I have to write, to the many who have commented and sent me personal emails. Writing this blog has inspired me to become aware of yoga philosophy, the real message and purpose of yoga beyond just the physical benefits. Just like yoga this blog has become inherent part of my life.

Yoga is a way of life. It is a system that is 2000 years old and still going strong. How does a system last for 200o years? I am asking that question to all of you who read this blog and come from all corners of the world. Please write to me, or add comments here. I look forward to hearing your point of view.

My biggest inspiration comes from my children, and the 30 children who are in their class, who learn yoga from me one day a month. The sequence and theme of my last class was requested by a 7 year old student. He wanted surya namaskars and surya namaskars he got. I found that simply "amazing"!

I look into the eyes of these youngsters who are only 6-9 year old but the passion and delight they have for yoga is par none. I observe that incredible joy and excitement when they line up to practice Adho Muka Vriksanasa (Handstand) and clap when each one of the finishes the pose. I am amazed by their devotion to the yoga philosophy. Unknowingly they are absorbing the true message of yoga. They spent 3 weeks preparing a puppet show to demonstrate yoga poses with their little fingers, as a way to thank their teacher. What more can their teacher ask for? It comes to them naturally and that gives me tremendous joy and happiness.

Many of these youngsters are yoga masters of the future. When they grow up many of them will pass this knowledge of yoga on to the future generations. This is how yoga has lasted for 2000 years and will continue to last till eternity. I feel blessed to be part of this way of life and I am heartened by this insight. Thank you Nina for sharing the same insight with me. Thank you kids for making it all worth while with your devotion and delight to practice yoga with me. I couldn't ask for anything more.


The Yogi

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Negativity - Don't rent it space in your head!

This came my way from someone who read my blog. Thanks. I think it makes so much sense. I have added my own thoughts to it.

There are only a dozen negative people in the world but the problem is that they move around a lot. Negative people are stress carriers but the only way they can pass on their stress is if you rent them space in your head.

If you want to allocate neural real estate to the comments of other people then keep a good memory store of all the positive feedback you have received from friends and contacts.The best way to defuse a negative comment is to transpose it on to a mental picture of your tombstone and to see if it still carries any sting.

If you view things in a whole-of-life way then what seems big at the time will shrink to appropriate insignificance. Try it ... it works.

I feel strongly that Negative Emotions carry with you to your next life. If you believe in reincarnation - then put your focus on positive emotions and do everything in your life that puts the positive emotions over the negative emotions. Be indifferent to negativity and negative carriers around you. Don't give it the space in your mind or life. With yoga you can balance your emotions and intelligence i.e. your head with your heart. The balance allows you to think more clearly, be more neutral, so you can create the space in your mind to bring calm positive feelings which helps to over power the stress that comes from negativity that may surround you.

May you bring more positive thoughts to your mind by not allowing negativity space in your mind and life. Just be indifferent to them. That's the best way. According to Nina that is what sage Patanjali says in the sutras and that is what Gehlek Rimpoche says in his book Good Life Good Death.


The Yogi

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back on the yoga practice track this week

I had a busy week. I finally got back in the groove. I have been on a roll. Monday was advanced class with Nina. Wednesday evening was a gym class with Nuvana. Friday afternoon I taught Surya Namaskar to the kids class at school. 30 of them all at once. It was my last class before summer break. They made a thank you card and then did a puppet show with yoga poses. It was fun. All of them including their teacher are true yogis. I felt on cloud nine. We will back again in September.

Two hours later there was a personal yoga session at Nuvana's house. Given my trouble with hand stands we worked on chest opening poses and arm strengthening. The stress and the lack of practice had collapsed my chest and work was needed to push. We did several arm strengthening poses starting with dog pose and then variations of chest openings. At the end she asked me to try the handstand again. I did much better. I could kick up higher and my shoulders and arms felt much stronger. We will be focusing on this for weeks to come. That is the magic of Nuvana. She is simply the best.

Its Saturday morning - another class with Nina. Today's class like Monday night's advanced class was one of the best classes I have attended this semester - maybe the best ever. I like restorative poses - its something I enjoy doing and got a plenty of it at RIMYI in Pune this April. Many of my private session with Nuvana are similar. They are a great way to relax your mind and at the same time stabilize your emotions and your blood pressure.

Nina's theme was out of the last few pages of Light on Life by Guruji. Asana's for emotional stability - how appropriate! Asanas for balancing your head with your heart, balancing emotions with intelligence. We started with a restful Adho Mukha Svanasana with the forehead on a block. We spent several minutes in that pose. It was followed by a supported Uttanasana. This really allows your mind to relax and is excellent for managing and controlling high blood pressure. This was followed by a 5 minute shirsasana. I HAD NEVER DONE 5 minutes, but the relaxed approach and focus on keeping myself up helped me stay for 5 minutes. Combination of balance and wall support helped. These poses according to Guruji are to calm the mind.

The next sequence included Viparita Dandasan on chair, Chair Sarvangasana, Nirlamaba Sarvangasana, and supported Halasana, followed Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - my favorite restorative poses. Yes there were weights on my thighs. All these poses were done in an extended manner, with Nina setting the timer. These chest openings were to balance the heart intelligence. The next three poses were to balance the heart with your mind, that included Upavista Konasana, Badakonasana, supported Paschim Uttanasana using the chair or bolster, and then Viloma Pranayam (sitting or in raised Shavasana pose) and then ending with Shavasana.

My week of yoga is not over yet. Tomorrow there will be another on hour class in the morning at the gym with Nuvana. I have rekindled my yoga practice and I am committed to keeping up with it. My next few blogs will hopefully have more pictures and videos of my home practice where I will show some of these restorative poses. So if you are feeling stressed, lethargic or demotivated that your practice is not what it was - its never too late to restart. Get up and get to class and then repeat the practice. Practice makes perfect.


The Yogi