Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Release yourself from pain and hardship!

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

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

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


The Yogi

Monday, October 20, 2008

Its been quiet at the Yogi front

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

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


The Yogi

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Augmenting your yoga practice with strength training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May the entire world be filled with love and peace!


The yogi

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An insightful class with Julie Lawrence!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Yogi