Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Downward facing dog pose - An ode to Koko!

"Downward facing dog" - after nearly 30 years that was the very first yoga pose I was asked to do in class. I had never heard of that pose before and I performed it miserably, with bent knees and a round back. So whats up with this "Dog pose", Downwards and Upwards? Has anyone wondered why this pose has such a special place in Yoga.

As I got more proficient and regular with classes, I realized that these two poses give you a whole body experience of stretching and can be both restorative and but give you a tremendous work out. We learnt this pose from our dogs and humans love for dogs extended into yoga centuries ago. There is reason why dog is considered man's best friend as dogs teach us many valuable lessons including some very important yoga poses. In Iyengar yoga this pose is performed in nearly every class, along with Tadasana and Sarvangasana. But is it just the stretch, or is it because of our love and attachment to our dogs, even 4000 years ago? You be the judge!

Many times when I do this pose, I remember my pooch "KOKO" my long gone friend and companion when I was a teenager. KOKO was my best friend. I raised him from a cute puppy to a rambunctious teenager and then a mid aged dog. KOKO loved to play chase and hide and seek. He loved to cuddle at our feet in bed to keep them warm, because as a Lhasa Apso his lineage was bred to do that for the Tibetan Monks in cold winters.

He was the fourth child of the family. He loved his garden chair with his favorite cushion. His one stare would be telling enough for you to relinquish, so he could immediately jump in and take his place to bask in the sun. He loved to dig out carrots and eggplants from the vegetable garden and eat them like he was chewing on bones or a nice peace of meat, where the skin of the eggplant was left as tasteless fat. There would be purple patches of eggplant skin scattered all over the yard. He was truly a vegetarian dog. His technique to devour carrots and eggplants was legendary.

His memories remain with me in form of pictures of him performing the perfect "begging pose with a hat and a tie". He could stretch better than other dogs. He could get his back legs stretched all the way back in a sitting position and he could perform the most perfect Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upwards facing dog). I pass his memories to my kids by telling them stories about KOKO. A few years back while on a family trip to India, we visited the house I grew up in as a kid and went to the park where he was buried unknown to me, as I was not present when he passed way. My kids called for KOKO and out came a stray dog from behind the bushes wagging his tail. They got a fright, but I knew KOKO's spirit was still there out in the park.

KOKO loved his stray dog friends and despite our best efforts to keep him at bay, he would take every opportunity to run off the moment the gate opened at the driveway to play with them. One day he didn't return. I had left home for college and no one was there to chase him and get him home safe. He got lost and "kidnapped" to another town. He came back three months later very sick, with a broken leash around his collar.

He must have made a brave effort to escape to come home to his family. It was unconditional love that brought him back. No matter how you treated KOKO, he loved you unconditionally with his wagging tail and Slurpee licks. KOKO never recovered from the illness. He died peacefully in his sleep one night on his favorite cushion. I was unaware and not present, having moved to another continent. I didn't find out till a year later. He was gone, but his memories have remained and will pass on through memories I have shared with my children.

I miss KOKO and most of all I miss his unconditional love. Even in heaven where he lives now, I know he is wagging his tail and performing the most perfect dog pose for me....There is so much we can learn from our dogs, what unconditional love really means and not the least some important aspects of yoga!


The Yogi

Push for perfection or accept status quo - Are some battles worth fighting for?

Just as I was about to write this post about my experience in class yesterday (it was painful and unbearable!), my human resources manager walked in to complain how the tax department in India had not given her a refund she was owed for the last two years. She will lose the entire amount if it is not refunded to her before March 2009. By paying a 20% bribe she could get it all back, but she is reluctant to do it as she feels the company owes her that money (even though technically it was not the company's fault).

What does one do in this situation? I couldn't encourage her to pay a bribe, but at the same time, some battles are not worth fighting for. In the end no one wins. Without being judgement about the state of affairs of the Indian Tax Department, this battle I know will result her in losing the entire amount. So I asked her "Would you rather lose 100% or get at least 80%?". Her response was "I just want all 100%" implying the company give her a 100% and take the loss.

This didn't seem like a fair transaction to me. So I shared some personal experiences where I settled for something less than what I deserved, because I knew if I fought for that 20% more, I wouldn't get the 80% no matter how unfair it felt. At the same time I have engaged and seen other folks engage in meaningless battles, where there was no winnder. I am not sure if she got the message completely, but it certainly re-assured me of my decisions in the past to not engage in certain battles in life. Its better to accept "status-quo" in order to move forward vs fighting battles that you know you can't win. They result in unwanted pain and suffering and there is no learning from that pain. Some battles are just not worth fighting for!

So here is the connection back to my class yesterday. It was with the lady who I described as awesome from the class on Thursday as she so diligently focused on ensuring we spent time in executing all the small steps to get into poses. She also teaches the Tuesday AM class (yesterday). I was glad to see her. The theme was restorative and forward bends mostly in sitting down positions, Adhomukha Virasana, Sukhasana with forward bend, Badhakonasana in forward bend with head resting on bolsters.

These poses can be painful if you have not done some warm up stretches prior. She pushed us to extend and push down the sacrum in order to get the thigh muscles down to get extensions in the spine. It was a repeat of the class from yesterday, except that I had already tired myself out from walking for an hour prior to the class. I didn't ease into them, such as using a chair to rest my head on vs a bolster and blankets. In this quest to push, I was battling against my body and my body was telling me "NO"!. Was it Ego, was it intimidation or was it the quest to fight my own body that made me not get up and just get a chair. I went against my own gut feeling, because the teacher was pushing everyone to go for the maximum stretch.

Did I ever lose this battle! My glute muscle pain around the sacrum returned this morning with a vengeance and so did my right shoulder pain. I overextended myself as I fought the battle against my own body for the sake of perfecting the pose and showing the teacher that I could meet her expectations. I didn't let go of my Ego! Was it worth it? - NO! Will I suffer the consequences - YES! Do I expect to fully recover - YES! But, I expect to be in pain for the remainder of my time in Pune and then some.

Some battles are just not worth fighting for - that was my lesson for today!


The Yogi

Monday, July 28, 2008

Extension of the spine is an extension of your brain

After a weekend of take-it-easy Ala no yoga, lots of good Indian food, some shopping at the crazy Laxmi Road, it was time back to class. Today was the older and a very skinny yoga teacher who must weigh all but 100 pounds. I dare ask his name or age, in case I ruffle any feathers or break any rules, I have developed a paranoia about rules at the institute. Irrespective, this teacher is amazing in demonstrating and using students as his guinea. Today's class was all about extending the spine through a series of forward bends, that started with wide-legged Uttanasana with variations and looooooong poses. My grunts and have huffs couldn't end.

I am part of the stiff group, that includes "older and seniors". I found that comment very funny. He moved me to the ropes when it was time for Adho Mukha Svanasana. He talked about extending the trunk from the side chests and the hips to get the spine extension. My neighbor became the guinea pig, as he literally pulled him up from the back of his shorts to show the extension of the spine by raising of the hips, and opening up of the back of the knees. These poses lasted 10-15 minutes each.

Then it was time for Adho Mukha Virasana by placing the forehead at the edge of a bolster and then pushing your arms out and pushing your hips down. It was my turn - He literally climbed up my back and pushed my butt down with his knees. I could barely feel anything, he was light as feather, but strong enough to get me that long extension, and then he just remained as he demonstrated to the class how "stiff" I was and how much I needed to push down to get the proper extension. I must have grunted in pain for a few seconds and it felt like it lasted for many minutes.

But it felt good. I know I am getting better extensions in all my forward bends. I can touch the floor with my palms in Uttanasana, which I have never been able to do. I also had a new appreciation of my muscles and my spine after the anatomy class by Laura Allard, an anatomist and a teacher from the Iyengar Yoga Center of Boulder, Colorado.

Our spine is wrapped around by ropes of paraspinal and paravertebral muscles that provide support to spine and also assist in spinal rotation. I will have a separate post on this class. I had a new appreciation for my body and appreciation of how yoga poses are assisting with enlightening up all these muscles, that we never think of working out in the gym routines. According to Laura having knowledge of your anatomy is one more step to the better understanding of the self, that we can achieve through yoga.

We ended the class with a long elevated savasana, with a bolster and focusing on the breath. I felt energized after the class and I felt clarity in my head. My brain kicked in high gear, while my body felt the good pain. I could conquer any pain with this feeling. And the universe immediately brought me a mini emotional crisis right after. I needed to be still, I needed to be in samasthiti, and I performed one while sitting down in the back seat of the car as I was being driven back to work. I didn't know if that was even possible, but I guess you could establish samasthiti while sitting down - my own sitting down Tadasana.

I had no choice - as I dealt with one crisis on the phone and one visually as I drove by a family of four huddled under the overpass in pouring rain wrapped in garbage bags, with concrete as their bed and sharing it with street dogs. That is their home and I drive by it every morning while they are asleep.

My instinct was to stop the car and get out and give some money to this family. I had seen the two kids play with rocks, under this overpass around a very busy intersection on Saturday. The mother and father were toiled in back breaking hard manual labor, laying down the pavement with concrete. No one was supervising or paying attention to these young children. I always get anxious at that sight, as they remind me of my two girls who I was trying to get on the phone with after repeated unanswered attempts to call.

Its emotional, and I got anxious because they were playing in the middle of heavy and noisy traffic. One misstep and there could be a tragic accident. I struggle with what I could do about it. I could give them some money, I could stop and yell at the parents, but they have to work and their choices are limited. Such is the contrast and dichotomy in India. You take the good with the bad. You have to accept it all without judgement and complete stillness. There was not much I could do to stop and solve this problem. This one I had to accept. Some battles just can't be fought. You have to be paient and pray the ride of change will eventually make things better for people. I have done my share of effecting change, which I will write about in a future post.

I needed to disconnect and I had to be still as that was the only way I could react in order to absorb and get over these two events occurring simultaneously. So in addition to indifference and detachment, which I practice religiously now, I learnt this morning that stillness can be your shield to stressful and emotional crisis. That was my lesson for today and I think those spine stretches helped me with my ability to be still and upright. Stay tuned for the post on Anatomy and Yoga.


The Yogi

Friday, July 25, 2008

The asana is me and I am the asana - BKS Iyengar

The last two days of classes at RIMYI have been intense and full of learning. Today was my fourth class in a row. I cannot even describe what that feels like. Yesterday's class was amazing. The teacher was incredible. I will report her name next week - but her style of instruction was precise, encouraging with the theme of focusing on the steps involved in completing a pose. So attention was given to the interim steps and putting time and energy on those interim phases as you transform from lying down position into an Urdhva Dhanursasana for example. It was obvious this teacher was seasoned both in age and experience.

The asana theme involved pushing down the trapezeus muscles, working the band of muscles below the back of the neck and above the shoulder blades, positioning of the arms to do Gomukh asana, rolling the shoulders back to get additional extension of the arms, adding forward bends, extending the hips as you bend down, extending the shoulders in downward dog position, and pushing from the upper thighs to get the height and the leg extensions in downward dog. All of these leading to a much better and well performed Urdhva Dhanurasana. I was reminded of Prashantji's words from his Tuesday class I observed - "Show less and do more". I don't think I have ever felt an asana as I have felt asanas the last two days.

Today's (Friday) class was conducted by one of my favorite teachers Gulnaaz. I had been looking forward to her the jokes and wise cracks all week. I got plenty and a few planted at my direction as she worked us hard by performing some poses in fast action sequence, especially the Halasana, Sarvangasana sequence. None could handle, we all had an amazing workout that was fun none-the-less. She gave two valuable instructions - one on how to "take off" from a Virbhadra Asana I to III. The key is the distance between the legs. You have to keep increasing and adjusting as you turn to maintain the distance in order to be able to bend the knee properly in VB-I to then push yourself out with your arms and then rise on your bent leg into the flying pose of VB-III.

The second set of instructions pertained to performing a Vriksasana. She told the class to not worry about raising the hands up. She said "focus on the strengthening the roots of the tree and the branches will eventually grow". This meant get the foot rooted well in the leg/groin region and get the balance. Once you have that the arms will go up naturally. She showed how to best root the foot. I have been been able to do this before. I was able to root my right foot perfectly and with some wall support I was in Vriksasana heaven. I still have work to do on the left side, but it will come.

Thank you Gulnaaz you are the best! Time just flew today. After class I had my daily dose of Coconut water and had a chance to speak with some fellow classmates from abroad. One was a lady from Dubai who had been to Portland and then a German guy named Martin. He plans to attend classes for 3 months. He has been performing these perfect poses in his practice before class and certainly garnering attention from the locals.

But when in class no one is perfect - we all are subject to correction and wise cracks from Gulnaaz and that just makes this the best class for me. It is not about perfection - it is about being in the asana and becoming the asana as Guruji states in one of his interviews. He cannot separate himself from the asana. That is the ultimate progression of yoga becoming an integral part of your life. It could take 50 years of your life but "You are the asana and the asana is you" is something very achievable for anyone if you can be the doer and be doing more and focusing on learning and understanding the asana. I realized I have been experiencing it all week. That was my invaluable lesson for today and what I love about being at RIMYI Pune.


The Yogi

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back Bends - Circular Rythms to Energize You

My second class was Wednesday evening. The teacher was familiar from my spring visit. His style is quite relaxed and his Patanjali chanting is amazing, with his resounding and perfectly toned voice. His instructions are fast, and he cracks a lot of jokes with his students in Marathi. Almost every class I have taken at the Institute has a theme. Mr. Chandru's insistence on my taking classes at the beginning of the month also makes a lot of sense. There is a sequence to the classes as well.

Each teacher has a sequence of classes, where the first class may start with a sequence of standing poses and then evolve to a class with back bends. Us "foreigners" have the added privilege of 6 classes a week, which the local students are not allowed in order to create room for us to pack in the classes in a short period of time.

We started with Uttanasanas and quickly moved into Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svananasna and Chaturanga Ds. Then came the rapid fire instructions to switch between the three and a lot of emphasis on the Urdhva Mukha pose (upward facing dog). This must have lasted for 15-20 minutes. I was huffing and out of breath, as I had already spent an hour prior to class walking and then did my share of Chaturanga Dandasanas to build my arm strength. My uttanasanas had greatly improved. One class had brought a lot of my flexibility back.

Then came Sirsasana. I did well, between the wall and balance on my own. I wanted to do ropes, but I am learning as I go that the only way you get to the props and the ropes is to get their first and anticipate what your teacher is going to do next. He showed us the three steps to do Sirsasana without wall support. I did step 1 with my legs folded. Wow! From Sirsasana the class split into two, half went to the ropes to perform back bends using the ropes, the other half into Viparita Dandasana on a chair. These were not 5 min poses. They lasted for nearly 20-30 minutes.

I must admit this is the least of my favorite poses and I along with several middle aged men, were repeatedly coming of the pose, hoping to switch to the ropes soon. The teacher kept pushing us to get back into the pose. Though I don't understand Marathi, but his yells to get back sounded quite funny. The back bend cycle concluded with Ustrasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana, and then he instructed us to get completely calm , calm the mind to conserve all the energy that was created with the back bends in a calm child pose. He then discussed the benefits of the circular patterns of the back bends with did in the class. Back bends improve circulation and create energize the body. It was also important it is to conserve this energy with calming poses at the end.

I had a new appreciation of Back Bends. I have a long ways to go to with my back bends. They will come in time, but I have learnt new tricks and techniques, especially performing a Sirsasana without wall support. There is a process and technique. Every time I take classes in Pune, I learn new techniques, which is most rewarding. Looking forward to this week. I went back to work very energized.


The Yogi

Walking into a firestorm - Yoga is your shield

My last post concluded by the brief mention of the fire storm I was just about to walk into. Here is the complete episode. I finished my observation of Prashantji's class from the stairwell and walked out to see Mr. Chandru little I knew what a grave error I had committed. It now feels like he was just waiting for me to come out. He immediately pulled me aside and asked "which floor were you instructed to take class in?" and took me to his office. I was confused but overcome with intense fear. I replied "2nd floor". Then I added that the class got over at 8 instead of 830 am. "That was the wrong class" he replied.

Then came an earful on how I had committed a grave blunder by sitting on the stairwell to watch Prashantji's class. I was given a schedule and I was expected to follow the schedule. If my class was on the second floor I had no permission to observe anything from the stairwell. No one was allowed to do that. That must have been a new rule I said to myself. I had no idea as I had watched classes before with others sitting in the stairwell.

I got 30 minutes of lecture of how rules need to be followed at the Institute. It was very disarming but at the same time I realized what a blunder I had committed by not checking first with Mr. Chandru. Ignorance is as bad breaking rules. The message I got was "please take permission" if you are to do anything at the institute outside of stepping in and out of class and the 2 hours of library access. I profusely apologized and realized why these rules were necessary - they have 1800 people in the institute taking classes every week. Rules are important to be followed - I just didn't know where to find the rules. So you learn as you go.

Remarkably I handled this with grace and strength. And this was not a closed door reprimand - people outside could hear everything. To some this would be quite humiliating. The drill down didn't bother me, I had found strength from what I had learnt from the teachings of the institute. I had heard about such reprimands from others, so it was my time to learn a lesson and I did.

As I waited for my car to pick me up I cooled down with two delicious drinks of coconut water and "malai", the soft white flesh of the coconut seed. Today was a big test of what I have learnt in the last two years from practicing yoga. I think I passed it.


The Yogi

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Show less but do more - Prashant Iyengar

I arrive in Pune yesterday morning very tired and extremely jet lagged. The direct flight from Frankfurt was great, but an 8 hour layover was something I didn't anticipate being so tiring. I saved the hassle of driving from Mumbai to Pune in the wee hours, but there is always a price to pay - EXHAUSTION and LACK OF SLEEP!. I arrived in my hotel at 5 am (its about 20 km from RIMYI, but right next door to work) and crashed. I woke up at 3 pm. Had to rush to the Institute to meet Mr. Pandu.

As always he had graciously allowed me to take classes, though I have been advised to take them in the beginning of the month rather than end. So that will be the plan next time. I finish formalities with Mr. Chandru. The place is buzzing. I got a few minutes in the stairwell to watch the medical class. I looked forward to my schedule for the next 10 days. 7 am - 830 am on most days is how I saw the schedule.

I woke up bright an early today. I need to take my walk in the park. A 15 minute ride to Hanuman Mandir Road. I missed staying at the Shahanis. They and apparently most of the housing around the Institute is rented out this time. I did remember Neena's comment about being back in August. Faith brought me back.

I spent a little time walking in the park. The laughing yoga group was there under the canopy as usual. I couldn't hear the sewer water running, but there was something new. There was sitar and tabla music being piped through speakers through the entire park. It felt like it came from the trees. It was amazing. I had planned to work my arms prior to class. I needed strength for handstands. No time for that, I was busy taking some pictures and absorbing the serenity of the music and chirping of the birds. It was nice to be back.

A short walk back to the center to be a bit early at the class. Everything was familiar, but there were lots of unfamiliar foreign faces this time. I was one of the first and I immediately got into action. The rope colors had changes to pink and black. Interesting choice of colors I say. This is India - full of vibrance and colors. I practiced stretches a bit with the ropes, along Chaturanga Dandasanas for arm strength.

The class started sharp at 7 am. It was Raya today - oh yeah tuesday morning is Raya and then a sinking feeling! Was I in the wrong class? The class went great. We did standing poses with feet spread apart. He talked about strength and how this was different than spending an hour at the gym. He talked about Guruji's discourse on Guru Purnima about the need for white color workers to stretch and build strength. The class seemed very advanced, but there were no familiar intermediate students. New faces and for the first time majority men. Something was missing - but I couldn't tell.

I did a great Halasana without a chair and I think I had good control of my poses. It all seemed to be coming back. We ended with a Setubandh Sarvangasana. The class then ended - it was only 8 am. The sinking feeling came back, but Raya said nothing. Did they shorten the Intermediate class to 60 minutes? So I have half an hour more. I walked down the steps through a stream of students for the next class. They all looked familiar. I guess I did it again. I was in the beginner's class. But I was so sure the schedule said 7 am - 830 am on tuesday!

I stopped to see Prashantji teaching his class. I couldn't resist to hear his discourses in the middle of his class. I had an hour to kill as my car was not to arrive for at least an hour. So I sit and watch and absorb his wonderful discourse about Yoga kriyas and his signature yell to "change fast" as groups of nearly 100 students switched between posses on the floor, chair and ropes. Some day I will be in the class I say to myself.

As he instructed some of the students to get into Urdhva Dhanurasana, out came words that have resonated with me for the entire day. "Show less but do more" he said. We all want to show that we are doing more - when in reality we maybe actually doing less". He wanted the class to "show less but do more" in the poses he was instructed. I guess he meant he didn't want the students to put out a show of perfect looking poses, but rather focus on being in the pose and really understanding the pose. He said that was more sincere.

Those were powerful statements, as they apply to our lives as well. We put so much emphasis on the outwards, the showman ship, the projection of perfection. Whats inside maybe completely different to what is being shown on the outside. That one statement from Prashantji set the tone for my day. What a wonderful experience to hear such great words from a great mind and experience this great yoga. Little I knew the firestorm I was just about to step into a minute as his class ended and I walked down the steps to see Mr. Chandru. All my learning as a yogi was about to be tested. Please return for the completion of this episode of my first day of yoga in Pune.


The Yogi

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Detachment from Sorrow and Pain - Your children are your best teachers

For the first time in a while I had an amazing conversation with my father. Over the years I have learnt so much from him, but today I felt for the first time that I had enlightened him about something that he has been struggling with for years.

My father is blind and has been for the last 34 years. It was a tragic incident and I inherit those problems (Retinal Detachment). It was in that tragedy that my whole family was uprooted from India to move to North America for a better life. My dad never gave up - he worked despite his handicap for the best for his children but blindness prevented him to achieve everything he wanted in his career. He took early retirement, once his children were educated and set in life.

He lived a hard life as a youngster, first surviving one of the biggest earthquakes in Quetta (in Pakistan) in 1936 as an infant and then faced tremendous hardships as he and his family were uprooted from Quetta and moved to India in 1947, while India was divided by the British into three countries. He had a vision for his future and he worked for it, and educated himself, studying sometimes late night under a street light in a park. His life has been a constant source of inspiration for me.

While life seemed so settled and good, he still faced the trauma of blindness. He never received mobility training; so he remained dependant on my mother to hold his hand. He faced the death of my mother with great courage and a major heart surgery. What has kept him going is his utter dedication to his daily 4 hour practice of meditation, which includes chanting. But despite all this he has trouble detaching from pain and sadness. He seems to be not satisfied and is constantly troubled by his failed eyesight and he keeps thinking he still has some light. In that hope he lives, but alas that hope is just hope.

The reality is that he is able to function well and fine at home but he feels helpless. He is also devastated with recent events of my life. While I detach from the destruction in my life, he is constantly in pain and sadness by what that has done to our family. It was not in the master plan - life seemed so smooth and happy. He gives me hope but he himself feels hopeless which in turn torments me.

So today as he called me to wish me safe journey, he expressed his sadness and pain. I finally had the courage to speak up and say "why can't you just detach from this sadness, detach from my pain, and what I may be going through? What good is the 4 hour meditation?" I think those words simply summed it up for him and I think he realized that the only thing he can remain attached is hope, and the positive things he has in life. He has to detach from the pain, or he will never be happy.

I also realized that my kids do the same with me - when my 6 year old simply reads my face and says "daddy, can you please smile every time you look at me". She never forgets to remind me and it instantly brings the smile on my face. I realize how equally thoughtful and insightful your children are. Never underestimate them and never take them for granted as your private property. These were the words of a very thoughtful person. I will never forget what this person had to say. " Your children are not your property and you can't divide them or use them as such - they are not your little hostages!" I learnt an important lesson from this person. I broke down and cried.

I think your children are your greatest teachers. They are as thoughtful and intelligent as you may be; despite your age and experience. It is not your right to use your children as emotional pawns. They love you unconditionally and they will give it you unconditionally. Love your children unconditionally, teach them, take care of them - but also be open to their feelings , listen to them and learn from them and don't deny them the love they deserve from others, just because you may no longer love those people anymore. Let them go, let them be the person they need to be, free them from your own emotional chains, they will only love you more for that, but never love you any less. I guess that is in itself a form of detachment, while you remain so strongly attached to them.

With these thoughts I am off to Pune, India. I will hopefully detach some with the distance from my pain. I will miss my children every day while I am gone. They are my two little yoginis and I know they love their dad unconditionally no matter what, just as I love my dad no matter what.


The yogi

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yoga for bad knees and back ache - An update

This is no epiphany - increase weight, even 10-15 pounds can add you to your backache woes. I have gained about that much in the last 4 months. As my stress mounted, I missed yoga classes , my walking schedule went to hell, I went back to using fattening foods, too much sugar, overeating and yes a few more trips to McDonald's as a medication for stress. The discipline I had maintained for nearly 1.5 years has been slowly dwindling. So old problems like backache and more recently painful knees have re-appeared. So here is how I am dealing with the two:

Bad hurting knees:
I noticed them while climbing stairs. Solution - when doing standing poses, such as VB-I (Warrior Pose), I perform a trick taught to me by Nuvana. I simply move the foot below the bent knee more to the right, so its at an angle rather than straight. This works for many standing poses, where you are putting pressure on your knees by bending or extending them.

Hurting Lower Back:
While in attempting a VB-1 with ropes last night in class, I pulled my back and I had a spasm in the middle of the class. I immediately went into back relief mode. I tried to not join my feet while doing Uttanasana and Utkatasana despite instructions to do so. I also tried to pull the buttocks down while doing Utkatasana. The action of spreading your legs and pulling your buttock muscles down, helps release back muscle spasms. Also pulling up your arms and upper back, along with thbe downward pull of the butt brings tremendous relief. I found Halasana and Sarvangasana to be very uncomfortable. Its better to try it with a chair or try Setubhanda Sarvangasana instead. Any twisting pose such Marichi Asana I and ending your session with a Viparita Karani, with your legs up brings additional relief to your back.

Today I spent an hour half with Nuvana working on various back relieving poses. It works well before my long trip to Pune tomorrow. Yes I am heading back to the mother ship. I will be working mostly, but I hope to blog as well from RIMYI. I arrive non stop to Pune for the first time and will avoid the drive from Mumbai at the wee hours of the morning.

Today was Guru Purnima in India - Guru's or Teachers day. Its a big event at RIMYI. I want to thank all my teachers especially all my yoga teachers especially Nuvana - she has inspired me to remain dedicated to yoga and every session with her helps me learn more about my own body and how to self heal, physically, mentally and emotionally. Nina, thanks for inspiring me with your quotes from the Sutras and Terry for being patient and encouraging me to attend your level 3 class. And most of all to the greatest inspiration of all - Guru Iyengar - his books and omni -presence is a driving force in my life and so many others who are dedicate to his yoga and philosophy.


The Yogi

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The wall ropes of Iyengar Yoga - Extension and Therapy

Sunset Yoga finally got the ropes hung in the studio and it was just heaven to take the advanced class last Monday with many of the poses performed using the ropes. I have done rope Sirsasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana in Pune and at Nuvana's place before, but this involved additional poses including Trikonasana and its variations. You simply get a different feeling when you hang upside down and you experience a whole new level of extension with the ropes. I found I could extend better during my Wednesday class in many of the forward bends.

At my Friday home practice with Nuvana I complained about my knees hurting while trying to be in Utkatasana position. She immediately got me to lie down on my tummy with a blanket folded and my knees partially resting on the blanket. She put a rope around the calf and then move it down so it positioned right behind the knee. She started pushing the foot down slowly towards the back, in a position you would start a Dhanurasana with and then pulled the rope back with her foot, and kept pushing it till you said stop. A few rounds of this motion and the knees were released and back in position. The pain was gone.

This is the magic of the ropes and Nuvana. On another note my yoga teacher Nina Pileggi has started her India blog where she plans to chronicle her journey while in Pune for the month of August. I hope there will be a lot of learning in this journey of hours that she will share with us. Visit


The Yogi

Enjoy some videos on using ropes in Iyengar Yoga:

Wall Ropes for Yoga Poses -- powered by

Wall Ropes for Yoga Stretches -- powered by

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Impact of Yoga on School Kids - A story from Minneapolis

This is an amazing report of how yoga is being used in the elementary school system in Minneapolis. Its called "Yoga Calm". They are planting the seeds of calmness early. All the power to them and I hope there will be more such stories.

Fix Lower Back Pain with Iyengar Yoga Therapy

Long air travel has been never been good for my lower back and this recent trip back from Canada brought it back with a vengeance. I have been back-ache free for many many months. There was no personal class with Nuvana this week so I decided to attend her back-care class on Saturday at Sunset Yoga Center.

The class was overflowing - wow! I barely squeezed in. She asked by a raise of hands on how many of us were suffering from lower back pain. Majority raised the hands. I was expecting the usual poses, but Nuvana had a different sequence today. The class started with a Dandasana, with real focus on lifting up the spine. We quickly moved to Tadasana. From Tadasana, it was urdhava hastasana and then Utkatasana. She focused on making sure that the back was straight and the buttocks moved down. That action of pushing the buttocks down and stretching of the upper back is key to relaxing the lower back muscles. That brings immediate relief.

We then moved to doing an arm stretch on the wall and the slipping down to a half Uttanasana. The focus is again on stretching the spine, and creating some space for the lower back to relax. The next set of poses involved using a chair to perform a forward bend while sitting on the chair, but tying a strap around your lower waist. This was followed by a twist on either side while in a forward bending position.

Then a standing pose against the wall with one leg on the chair in a square position and pushing the bent leg back to the wall while pushing the opposite leg to be flush with the wall. This pose was amazing for the back as the pressure was applied to the gluteus muscles to tighten and give the relief and space to the back muscles.

By the time we approached the last asana of the class - a supported badhakonasana / savasana my lower back pain had disappeared. Its been over 24 hours and there has been no recurrence. Not only did my back get relief, I was relaxed and felt I had a decent workout as well.

As I left I had convinced one new student that this was the way to go. My colleague mentioned that her headaches had improved after her first class with Nuvana. This is the power of Nuvana's sequence of yoga poses and Iyengar Yoga Therapy. Thanks Nuvana!


The Yogi.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Reduce conflict by reducing expectations

We frequently face conflict in our lives because we can't deliver to someone's expectation or we expect too much from others. When they fail expectations, we get angry, upset and forget all the good in them because of one failed expectation. I see that everyday at work when angry customers call me because someone didn't meet their expectations in service or the product failed them. Some hold on to that as a grudge and constantly bring conflict. It doesn't serve them well in the long run. I see that in my personal life as well.

With yoga I have learn't to detach from the stress caused by conflict, but at the same time I have learn't to not expect the world from others. I had written in an earlier post about "expectations reducing joy". I came accross these words of wisdom and wanted to share them. They are around the same thought of expectations and forgiveness and focusing on positive in others:

Are you always having heated arguments with people who matter, and saving the best of your behaviour for people who don't? Many of us unleash our frustrations on the people who are closest to us. In the process, we end up hurting our loved ones and create distances that take years to bridge. When a loved one hurts you, try and think about all the good that they have done for you in the past. You will see a lot of pain getting erased. You will then realize that it is after all not fair to forget all good deeds for one bad deed.

Expectations are a root cause of most fights and heartache. If you stop expecting a lot from your friends and family, you will see most conflicts getting erased.

Let this be the mantra for today and the future.


The Yogi

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish - Steve Jobs a yogi at heart

I have been a fan of Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computer since I started using the Mac in 1984. Here is an inspiring video of him speaking at Standford University with powerful messages for our minds and our hearts.


The Yogi