Food For the Body, That Nourishes the Soul

I always thought that all yogis must follow a strict vegetarian diet. However, there’s no written rule in yoga that you have to be vegetarian, but yoga does try to elevate the consciousness to a stage where they feel love and compassion for all living beings—including animals. Eating them isn’t exactly compassionate. Plus, it’s believed that our bodies don’t really need meat for its functioning. Eating meat puts our body into overdrive to digest it making us feel heavy and some yogis over the years also point out that meat eating nations are ones that have shown the most aggressive behaviour. Another reason for the association is that Yoga practices aim at cleansing the system to gradually bring the body to a peak of efficiency and sensitivity, meat carries the very same toxins yoga aims as flushing out. Hence, eliminating meat from your diet not only has immense health considerations but also secures an oneness with all living creators of the earth and ultimately the creator.
The practice of yoga is usually followed by a change in eating habits. Food and the nourishment it provides our bodies has a close association with yoga itself, after-all yoga is not mere exercise but a life style. While you can choose what part of yoga you’d like to adopt to improve your life, the choice of following a yogic diet is just that- a choice. But when your body and inner-self start feeling good, you tend to pay closer attention to what you put into your body.
I have learnt that traditionally, the yogic diet was called a diet of “fruits and roots” (phala mula). The bulk of a yogi’s diet would include: whole grains, beans, root vegetables, seeds and nuts, fruits and leafy vegetables, and some dairy products (primarily ghee & milk) as well. Yoga practitioners should aim to eat food that will increase their prana (life sustaining energy). It is important not to get overwhelmed when first beginning to make dietary changes. Making true the age-old saying: “you are what you eat!”

Boasting your confidence through Yoga and Meditation

Low self-confidence is a very nasty characteristic to have inside us. When you feel good about yourself, you are able to perform your best and excel in doing that. In fact, this problem is enough to prevent people from attaining their goals.
Yoga provides a holistic approach at gaining confidence since it promotes physical and mental confidence. It targets both your physical and emotional side to realise your value. How does actually this happen?
-Self awareness and mediation
Mediation helps to relieve tension off your mind and body so that you can feel confident about your physical body. Without any form of worries or anxiety, you are able to establish a spiritual connection with your internal self. You can alter your perception of things and self to realize what is truly important. It helps to erase negative thoughts or emotions that could arise from doubting yourself and your capabilities. Most people just spend a few minutes or hours each day doing yoga poses. But the failure to allot time for mediation deprives them of the spiritual and emotional benefits that can get.
 -Improved physical appearance.
Negative body image is one of the most common culprit of low level of self-esteem. A series of yoga asanas and exercises can help to address this problem. However, choose them according to your own fitness and body improvement goals. For instance, if you are having issues with your stomach area, you can choose exercises or poses that help to tone your abdominal muscles.
 -Improve posture
It is important to develop a good posture to communicate your confidence with yourself and your body. Regular exercise of yoga asanas is therefore useful in improving your posture so you can stand up straight instead of slouching. Moreover, it is advised against slouching since it can squash your internal organs that will inhibit proper functioning. You can produce proper body alignment through regular practice of asanas but be careful when performing these exercises to avoid straining your spine.

Prenatal Yoga

Yoga has increased in popularity in recent years. All yoga has the same purpose – to balance the mind and the body. It can be through slow stretching, heated rooms, or traditional poses. There are many different types of yoga cater for different group of people. Pre natal yoga is one of them that is gaining its popularity and I would certainly like to pursue further in this area.
Pregnant woman can gain additional benefits from practicing yoga: relief from back pain and nausea, and increased stamina. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that can help expectant moms to stay in shape. And the breathing meditations practiced in a yoga class may come in handy during labor.
Great changes take place in the human body during pregnancy. Practicing yoga is a great way to slow down and appreciate these changes. Through gentle stretches and simple strength-building postures, it can improve the physical health. Through meditation, it can reduce anxiety and self-critical thinking, thereby improving the mental health.
There are postures that aid in reducing back pain, swelling in the lower extremities, and misalignments due to weight changes. Many postures (for example, squats) are useful preparations for natural childbirth. During pregnancy, hormones cause joints in the body to become loose (that’s why women often increase in shoe size). Yoga postures can help to stabilize and strengthen these joints and promote flexibility in the muscles and fascia.
In addition, the food that the mother eats, the oxygen that the mother breathes, and her state of mind are all transmitted to the baby. The stress the mother feel can be the stress the baby feels. Yoga has developed to obtain optimal physical health and a relaxed and peaceful state of mind.
The words of Yogi Bhajan: “What a child learns in the womb cannot be learned on earth.”
Furthermore, I believe these classes can bring women together when they are undergoing the same emotional and physical changes, often far away from the support of their family and friends. This can greatly improve their confidence and increase their social support networks.

Yoga for Runners

Before practicing yoga regularly, what I do to stay active is running. Over time, I do experience some lower back pain and sore feet. These are common complaints for those who tend to jog or run often.
A typical runner experiences too much pounding, tightening and shortening of the muscles and not enough restorative, elongating and loosening work. Without opposing movements, the body will compensate to avoid injury by working around the instability. Compensation puts stress on muscles, joints and the entire skeletal system.
Runners can use yoga practice to balance strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. Asanas move your body through gravitational dimensions while teaching you how to coordinate your breath with each subtle movement. The eventual result is that your body, mind, and breath are integrated in all actions. Through consistent and systematic asana conditioning, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all of your intrinsic muscle groups, which support and stabilize the skeletal system. This can offset the effects of the runner’s one-dimensional workouts.
Tension is the athlete’s downfall, and breath awareness is the key to reducing it. Conscious breathing and pranayama exercises, which soothe the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and relax the entire body, can be of great benefit to runners.
To recover from a long run, you can rest your back with your legs propped up on a wall. This inversion speeds recovery by draining fluids from the legs, stretching the hamstrings, and relieving tired legs and feet. This can be done after a recovery meal or shower. It helps to relax your whole body.
I have since started to incorporate yoga postures into the warm-up and cool-down portions of my workout. Think of running as the linear part of the workout and yoga as its circular complement.

Yoga for Golfers

Recently, a friend of mine who is an avid golfer told me that his friend has improved on his golf game after going for yoga classes for some time. He asked me if it’s true that yoga can help in this area.
I have learnt that by incorporating elements of yoga practice, you can develop the mental discipline that golf demands. Apparently, all the instructions in the world won’t help you if you allow stress to seep into your game. And in order to reach the mental peak of your game, you need the instrument of your body to be well tuned-a strong and flexible body,
 -The flow of concentration
During the game, the conscious analyzing mind steps in and they begin to think their technique is faulty. They tell themselves they have to practice more, hit harder, and correct their imperfections. In these cases, it’s usually not faulty technique but the stress of negative self-talk that disrupts the flow of concentration, and therefore, impairs the physical aspects of the game. Earl Woods, father of golf great Tiger Woods, reminds his son, “If you don’t clutter your conscious mind with endless pointers and tips, you make it easier for your subconscious instincts to guide you.”
 -The physical game
Due to the fact that golfers swing from one side of the body, there is asymmetry inherent in the sport. Overtraining and repetitive motion manifests as larger muscles on one side of a golfer’s body; specifically, the shoulders, biceps, forearms, and upper back will be more developed on a golfer’s dominant side. These stronger muscles are also tighter, while the weaker muscles are more flexible. The tight muscles, in turn, restrict the free movement of surrounding muscles, ultimately leading to limited range of motion.
To create more equality on both sides of the body, golfers need to hold strengthening poses on the weaker side of the body and opening poses on the stronger, yet tighter, side of the body. This is in addition to a regular yoga program of poses performed equally on both sides. Striving toward symmetry and balance is the essence of a yoga program, which breaks down tension the body has learned to work around. As Earl Woods tells his son, “What you’re looking for is a soft, flexible, fluid swing—that’s power.”

Vi-Nyaah-Sa

Vinyasa, (pronounced: vi-nyaah-sa)  is a Sanskrit term used in certain styles of yoga. In Sanskrit, Nyasa means “to place” and Vi means “in a special way”.  So we define Vinyasa as, “a specific sequence of breath synchronized movements used to transition between certain postures.” The Vinyasa flow is a variant of Surya Namaskar A and consists of the flow from chaturanga to chaturanga dandasana to urdhva mukha svanasana to adho mukha svanasana. Vinyasa is the alignment of one’s movement and breath and it turns static poses into a more dynamic flow. The length of one inhalation or one exhalation dictates the length of time spent transitioning between postures. Poses are then held for a predefined number of breaths. Attention is placed on the breath and the transition between postures rather than solely on achieving perfect body alignment in a pose, as in Hatha yoga.
Vinyasa is used is various forms of yoga. For example: Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga
The breathing style used in Vinyasa Yoga is Ujjayi. This is a relaxed diaphragmatic style of breathing which first fills the lower belly (activates the 1st and 2nd chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (3rd and 4th chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. It is characterized by an ocean sound which resonates in the practitioner’s throat. Throughout a practice, this specific breathing style is maintained in alignment with movements. The steady cycle of inhalations and exhalations provides the practitioner with a calming, mental focal point.
Together, Vinyasa and Ujjayi create internal heat, which leads to purification of the body through increased circulation and sweating.
 

Anticipation, Apprehension – My first class

 
Leaving the Tirisula TTC, I was not at all confident about my ability to teach yoga to beginners.  It had nothing to do with the course; the course was great. It was me.  I’ve heard many people say you don’t have to be a good practitioner to be a good teacher but I couldn’t subscribe to that.  I just couldn’t. My body wasn’t flexible or strong enough for a lot of asanas. How could I, in all good conscience, teach?  Anyhow, back in the Andamans, a few of my friends who work on the island insisted I do yoga classes with them.  As teaching is part of the 30 hour project work, it worked well in my favour and Yoga with Pritha at 4:30pm was planned.  I had 4 students, all beginners to yoga.
I wasn’t sure how to structure my first class.  Should we say the prayer? Should we chant Om a few times? What about Pranayama?  My students wanted to do yoga to get “fit and bendy” as one of them said.  They weren’t really interested in the “other, superfluous” (as another called it) stuff.  So there I was, sitting on the horns of a dilemma, wondering whether to structure the classes according to what the students wanted or how I thought would be the right way of doing it.  I didn’t want to make someone spend 15 minutes with breathing and pranayama if they really weren’t interested.  But it was important, no?  After losing a whole night’s sleep over how I’d structure my first class as a yoga teacher, I decided to do the prayer, pranayama and Oms, but a shortened version.  I told them we would do it for the first few classes and if they really didn’t think it was interesting or beneficial, we would figure something else out.  Of course, it worked because there is a massively therapeutic and relaxing element to the vibrations and energy created by the Om sound as well as a few rounds of Kapal Bhatti and everyone felt it instantly.  Phew.
My other big worry were the asanas.  For the first class, I made sure I taught only those asanas that I felt confident performing myself. That wasn’t too hard.  What I was worried about was what if they asked questions I couldn’t answer?  And someone did. She asked me where and how the body weight should be placed in Matsyasana so as to avoid stress to the neck.  I knew it was mostly in the arms, but what about the legs? Do I relax them or keep them engaged? I had to go back into the asana to figure it out.  Slightly embarrassing, but not a huge catastrophy.  My students knew this was my first class; I was upfront about it.  Also, they were my friends so I got away with being way less than perfect.
Anyhow the point of all of this is that, I enjoyed my first class, it wasn’t as frightful as I thought it would be and after class, my students said “Pritha that was great. Can we do it again tomorrow?”  Great feeling. Each day, teaching gets less stressful and more fun.  I realize now that baby steps are important.  Thanks to my first group of students who really are wonderful and very forgiving.  Teaching them, my friends, is a great stepping stone to building the experience and confidence for going off and teaching complete strangers.
 
 

Acro-Yoga

Few weeks back, I walked into a garden café to ponder what I would blog about and there was a group of 6 people doing something that sort of looked like yoga.  Except they were on top of each other, in two sets of three. “Its called Acro-yoga” is what I was told by the French instructor leading the sequence. “A combination of yoga and acrobatics and involves two or three people doing one pose together” Seemed interesting; new concepts usually are.  They asked me if I wanted to join the class and since I had nothing else to do and could not think of a topic to blog about, I agreed. Seemed really hard and scary and like a lot of fun.   The first thing I was told is that I had to trust my team members and completely relax my body.
Here’s how the class worked.  One person is the base, one person is a flyer and the third person, if the pose calls for a third, is a spotter. As beginners. all three must be of roughly equal size and weight.
First, we learnt the plank on plank which is a two person pose.  I was surprised at how easy it was to have someone else do the plank on top of me while I was also in plank.  Some strength, but mostly technique and perfect alignment. I was the bottom plank or the “base”, she was the top plank, or the “flyer” and had her feet on my shoulders and hands holding my ankles. Easy enough.
The second pose involved three people.  I, the base, went into downward dog. The flyer backed up onto my sacrum, went into a back bend with arms stretched out behind her. The third person held on to her arms and, standing behind me (the person in down dog) also did a slight backbend, pulling the flyer deeper into the bend. I hope this makes sense?
Next we learnt the ”folded leaf”.  As the base, I lay on my back with my knees bent and with Charlie chaplin feet placed just below the flyers hip bones.  With straight arms, we held hands.  On an exhalation, the base straightened her legs to 90 degrees and bends her arms, bringing the flyers head down and legs a little less than 90 degrees, feet pointing to the ground and as wide apart as possible.  You tend to get all clenched up, especially as the flyer.  Its about trust and an openness to fall, because you really are only falling a few feet.  I thought of it as more acrobatics and less yoga, but with many of the same principles of breathing and alignment and keeping an open mind to a little bit of pain.  Either way, it was tons of fun. I took two Acro Yoga classes; they were a nice little break from the routine of  the Ashtanga primary series
This “acro – trust – yoga” seems to be becoming the latest yoga fad.   The last one I’d heard of was yogilates a combination of yoga and pilates.  And then there’s hot yoga.  And probably many other hybrids that I’ve yet to stumble across.  It’s all about ideas and being the first to have them. You take a concept, anything that hasn’t been done before, give it a fancy name, put a cool marketing spin on it and soon, everyone’s raving.   People are looking for innovative and interesting things to do to such an extent that it’s even penetrated this age old, established practice. I wonder if I can find a way to combine  yoga and splashing about in water. “Aqua-yoga.” Find a few celebrities to endorse me and I’m half way there to my first million. Whoever said there’s no money to be made in yoga?
 
 

Aum Salutations to God Vasudeva

1. Aum the Universe, the cause of the universe, Brahman, Omkara, The All-pervading, the Recipient of offerings in sacrifice, the Lord of the Past, Future and Present, the Creator of beings, the Sustainer of Beings, the Absolute Existence, the Self of Beings and the Originator (or generator of beings).
2. The Pure Self, the Supreme Self, the Supreme ultimate goal of the liberated, the Immutable (unchanging), the Spirit (who exists in the body), the Direct witness to everything (with no intervening medium), the Knower of the field (the body) and the Undecaying one.
3. The Union (of the body with Paramatma), the Leader of those who know yoga, the Lord of both prakriti (primordial nature) and the individual self (Purusha or the jivatma), the One with the body having the features of both man and lion, the One who has Lakshimi eternally (embedded in his chest), He whose hairs are handsome (or who has under His control the trimurthis – Brahma, Vishnu ans Shiva) and the Highest of Spirits.

Aum Salutations to Narayana

The Sri Vishnu Sahasranam

The Thousand Names of Vishnu

Translations

Sloka 1
OM

 
Nama 1: vishvam / a) Universe or Cause of Universe b) One who is full in all respects. Om visvaya namah.
2. Vishnu: – a) One who permeates everything, is inside every sentient and non-sentient being. b) One who surrounds everything. Om vishnave namah.
3: vashatkara / One who controls and directs (not merely pervades).
4: bhuta-bhavya-bhavat-prabhu: The Master of all things past, future, and present. Nirukti – trikAla vartinAm seshi – The Lord of all things that exist in the past, present, and future.
5: bhuta-krit / The creator of all beings.
6 : bhuta-bhrt / The supporter of all things. Bhutani bibharti iti bhuta-bhrt – One who supports all. (seems to be further elaborated by namas 8 and 9)
7: bhavah / He who exists with all the splendor. He who exists always, independent of anything else.
8: bhutatma / The AtmA or soul of all beings – sarvesham bhutanam atma
9: bhuta-bhavanah / One who nourishes and nurtures all beings that He created.
 
 
Sloka 2

10: Putatma /  The Pure Self – One who is untainted by the effects of karma – good or bad. Puta Atma yasya sa putatma – One who has the pure Atma is pUtAtmA.
11: paramatma / The Supreme Soul – for whom there is no other guiding or superior soul
12: muktanam parama gatih / One who is the ultimate goal for all muktas or Released or Liberated Souls.
13: avyayah / a) One who does not send back anyone who has reached Him (to the cycle of birth and rebirth .(Sri Bhattar) b) Indestructible (Sri Sankara)
14: purushah / a) One who bestows on the Muktas the enjoyment of the Bliss of Himself in plenty.- puru sanoti iti purushah. b) One who is reclining in this body – puri sete iti purushah. c) One who existed before anything else existed – purA AsIt iti purushah. d) One who completes and fulfills existence everywhere – pUrayati iti purushah
15: sakshi / One who directly witnesses everything .as it is. , The All-Knower, The Omniscient
16:kshetrajnah / One who knows, and can lead, the muktas to the exact place where the muktas will get their sought-after Supreme Bliss.
17: akshara / One whose greatness never diminishes over time in spite of being enjoyed by the miktas constantly. na ksharati iti aksharah .