Spiralling…

I haven’t been to regular class in a few weeks but a phrase from one of those has been simmering for a while. The spiral of practice. It’s a bit strange to think about practice when one is not ‘practising’ but this pause has been about letting go or rather letting the ‘letting go’ happen. 
Some of the things that troubled me along the way and prevented me from accepting the situation were
– How could I let this happen to me? I should have known better, after all I was practising. 

– How do I face the ‘I told you so’s’ from all those who said running is bad for the knees? And that too, when I vehemently protested and sang about the bliss of a run.

– How could I put my poor knees through so much violence? So much for the yamas. So much ego.

– I should have listened to all that thick and heavy feeling in the right side which was a constant during my running period. 

– Ageing with or without disease is scary. Imagine having to depend on others!

– I faulted on a regular discipline of many things that were built over a period of time. However will I get back?

All of it was about me and mine, not about how things actually are. So much self obsession. 😊

Some of the learnings from this experience has been to
– Reach out for help. Ask. And then ask again. (This was perhaps the hardest)

– A favourite quote still holds true, ‘Fall down 7 times, get up 8’

– There is always a silver lining.

– The most important is Guruji’s wisdom about enduring what cannot be cured and curing what need not be endured.

I’m happy despite an erosion of a lot of activities that I took for granted. They may come back or maybe not (the husband insists that I will run again 😊) but as long as a spirit of curiosity remains, life is beautiful. I missed the exploration of asana in a home practice and found a spark of that in yesterday’s remedial class. Now, there’s a general direction of action that I can try out. One of the interesting things about yesterday was the body’s initial resistance to trouble an irritated area and the response of the mind to surrender to the teacher’s touch or more like a strong prod. 😊In my head and heart, it’s a complete surrender and part of it also springs from the sureness of her touch. 
Coming back to the ‘spiral of practice’ as our teacher elaborated, it is about the change in perspective of a particular asana through the spiral of time and space. A coming back to the same central axis at a higher perspective. The pose at the beginning of a practice or as a novice and one at the end of a practice or with a few years of experience. Now, there’s a new dimension of a pose before, through and after injury/ chronic condition. Although, that might take a while. And the irony is it is not about asana at all! 
I found this visual image of a spiral to be true in many disciplines. The secrets reveal themselves as you go through a process of repetition and refinement. It makes me think of Sage Patanjali’s coiled tail rising upwards into the pinnacle of enlightenment and the galaxies. Much is to be said for the rich symbolism of our deities and the fathomless universe. 

I remain grateful for a tumultuous year that has churned many set notions and thrown up unexpected gifts. I did have my moments of doubt, sadness and fear but it’s hard to stay down for too long when life is beautiful. Perhaps, it’s just the airy, fairy vata that keeps me from getting too tethered.😊Today’s home practice was a throwback to early tentative attempts at mimicking what I would learn in class and it felt good to play once again. 
In gratitude to Guruji and his sadhana that made hope possible.
Hari Om

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a pause…

This year has hurtled at breakneck speed with many interesting experiences. It feels like an important period which will reveal it’s secrets only at some later time. Whilst in the middle of dealing with life, all I can see is painful or pleasurable instances. In many ways, I lost all that I had worked towards and in others, I gained a whole lot of new. I lost running and have been steadily losing asana to the knee while I gained a new lease on a childhood dream. And yet, as I type this post, I wonder…

It feels a little strange to type on my laptop after using my little hand phone for almost all of my communication. Except for large excel files and films, I rarely opened up the big screen. The note feature on my phone was probably the most used as I put down class notes, random ramblings besides posts for Instagram. Somehow that tiny screen allowed my thoughts to flow in a way a large screen never permitted. Now that the phone has died on me, I’ve been enjoying the luxury of time and the freedom to be in hermit mode. I would have to get myself a new one but I’m beginning to wonder if I should…

The knee is a chronic condition now and after a few rounds of the doctor and physiotherapists, I decided to do as I thought right. In all my interactions with the medical folks, they had thoughts and diagnoses and it struck me that even they figure out stuff by trial and error. In all this, I trust yoga since there is firsthand experience of relief from cervical spondylosis. Ultimately, it is nature who heals. I’m grateful to a fellow student who nudged me to speak to my teacher about a solution for my problem rather than just working around with modifications. I’m looking forward to a solution to this bump in the road. I really miss the rejuvenation of a well earned savasana. Somehow, it doesn’t feel the same without a solid asana practice.

A complete break of a week actually saw the knee feeling happier so maybe complete rest is what it requires but the practice is really for my mind and heart. It clears my head and opens my heart in a way nothing else does. I did play around with different kinds of sequences and found that backbends did well for the knee too. It got me thinking about going to the root of a problem. Inevitably, everything in our physical existence is tied to the spine and that is where the answers lie. I feel more than a little out of practice and a bit fallen out of grace as far as the mat is concerned. Perhaps the upcoming sabbatical will prove to be a time to regenerate.

Today’s muse was the third section from the Shiksha valli of the Taittriya Upanishad and it was again a reinforcement of the importance of the purusharthas of our human existence. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. There is no fast forwarding to moksha and the logic of dividing life into these phases is impeccable, like the systematic development of learning asanas. A householder’s life need not be one of bondage, it is an opportunity to be of service in many ways as I am beginning to see. I find immense joy in passing on what I have learned as well as giving freely and fully which was not possible in my twenties or thirties. Hopefully by the time, my responsibilities are fulfilled, I may be able to embrace the next ashramas with grace and happiness.

Hari Om

 

Watching the waves take everything away…

The sea calls to my heart more than the mountains and there are many quiet memories that I can recall quite vividly. The sounds of the waves and wind, the feel of the tiny specks of sand that would somehow find its way into everything I wore, the smell of the salt water and so on. I’ve seen things lost to the waves and how they’ve been swept away without a hope of return. I see something like that happening in my life now. Almost all asanas are riding the wave back to the sea and I’m left on the shore…

The knee problem turned out to be three partially torn ligaments which collectively are a fairly severe issue. It would need surgical repair according to a couple of doctors and a complete break from Asana. I have yet to meet the specialist for a final verdict. In the meanwhile, I have been protective of my knee and taking care. My first thought on getting to know was dismay that even yogasana would be gone. The second was that of Mathew Sanford. That put things in perspective.

Somehow the loss of running was bearable because I could swim and had a yoga practice to fall back on. And in the range of asanas, the inversions became a friend for various reasons. I haven’t been to a class since 10 days and miss the learning already. But, there’s also a strong voice inside that reminds me of a larger picture that I cannot see.

Once I do get back to asana, I will need to start from scratch and it should be interesting to be a beginner with a little prior experience to draw upon. Injuries and setbacks are always excellent teachers. In the meanwhile, there is always savasana.

My only regret is that I didn’t get the scan earlier, I could have saved my knee a lot of unnecessary pain. I’ve been reading about it and gathered that it was likely to have occurred as a result of an impact. I’ve never paid attention to those kind of incidences and so cannot remember when it might have happened.

I’m still hoping that there is a way around this but if not, let’s see what adventures the sea holds.

Daughter of the wind?

If I had to have a deity as a parent, it would probably be Lord Hanuman, the son of the Wind. Simply because I feel like the wind and all things that relate to the endless skies and vast spaces. Sometimes that includes having my head in the clouds. 😊

Recently, I was in Chennai to attend a wedding and wished to visit the Kapaleeshwar temple but somehow that wasn’t possible. Unexpectedly and without even knowing about the Anjeneya temple, I found myself there, right at the time of the aarti. S was with me and it was once again apparent that I don’t go to a temple, the temple pulls me when it is time. The 32 feet black idol of Lord Hanuman is made of a single granite rock and is housed behind enormous wooden doors. At the time of the aarti, the doors are opened and the energy of the worship is palpable. Offering made, prasad received and we made our way out into the bustle of the temple market outside. There was a little store right there and before I knew it, I bought a miniature of the same idol. Back home, I looked at it closely and saw the resemblance of Guruji in his face. The power and serenity of a jitendriya.

Below is a picture of the great siddha from the internet. I did take a picture at the temple before I was told that cameras were not allowed. And there is another moral dilemma. Should I share it or delete it from my phone? It’s still very much with me and I don’t wish to erase it. It got me thinking of the restriction against taking pictures at certain temples. Something to do with the energy, I suppose but how is not yet revealed.

As an ideal, Lord Hanuman is a great role model. Flawless devotion, knowledge, wisdom, immense power and humility are amongst his innumerable qualities. He is said to be a master of the siddhis and a brahmachari par excellence. His Ramayana rendition is said to have made Sage Valmiki insecure and Lord Hanuman’s magnanimous heart was such that he tore it to shreds that the world may remember the sage’s retelling. His reasoning was that his Ramayana was for him to remember Shri Ram while that of the Sage was for the world to remember. (from a children’s book by Devdutt Pattnaik).

It’s an interesting perspective and one that is personally relevant too.

I’ve found a renewed passion for writing and the only rule that seems to work for me is to write for myself. And I find that it resonates strongly with many people.

I’ve been using Instagram as a medium of writing and it’s been a revelation. It’s been overwhelming to see how many folks have written privately and publicly about similar experiences. End of the day, our lives are the same, joys, sorrows, laughter, pain, brokenness and a deep need to love. Another incident was one of the relatives at the wedding saying that she felt inspired to be courageous after chatting with me. I share this not out of pride but joy, happy that someone could use my experience to find new vigour to face their life.

No coincidence since I’ve stopped believing in those. Today our teacher referenced one of Guruji’s quotes which is my motto in life too. ‘Live happily, die majestically’. It’s a thought echoed by all the realised masters. Sat-chit-ananda

Hari Om

Image source: Http://veludharan.blogspot.in/2017/07/arulmigu-aadhi-vyadhi-hara-bhaktha.html?m=1

Winds of change

I woke up, fresh and alert at around 3:30 this morning. While it was way too early, I didn't really feel like staying in. So, out of bed it was and the kittens were happy to see me, or so I like to think. Fixed myself a cup of black and read for some time. After the usual routine, I did my stuff and thought about time, it's been an unfinished muse since last Saturday.
The early morning hours between 2 am and 6 am are considered the period of vata, a predominant trait in my make up. The very existence of time is movement and space, again attributes of the wind. A couple of days ago, I was mesmerized by the Sutra 4:12. And this morning before class, I found myself climbing up to the terrace at the Institute to pay my respects to Lord Hanuman, the mighty son of the wind.

Class today was primarily twistings and again I thought of the air element in the squeeze and release. Right at the start of class, during the invocation, our teacher's cues changed the sense of occupancy of breath and presence in my body. A different experience, yet again.

There is change in the air, a stirring of old dreams which seem possible and once again, it is the blessings of yoga.🙏 Now, I sit typing these thoughts before they scatter away on the wind…

Hari Om

Of bricks and hills

By far, sitting in simple sukhasana for the invocation is the most difficult part of practice. The settling down on to the mat, preparing the body and mind to stay alert yet relaxed. Witness and participate in equal measure.
Maybe it's just habit but the invocation is an integral part of my home practice. The cues come quite naturally from all the instructions in class and I find myself running a mental checklist. And, there is something else happening now, a sense of interconnectedness that is not just intellectual. It's a physical play of the upper body and the lower body, the arms and legs, the fingers and knees and so on. I'm beginning to experience the nuances of expansion and extension for myself. It's discovery. This is common knowledge for those who have gone before me but these tiny ah ha moments are precious, gifts of abhyasa.

I'd originally thought of playing around with some balancing poses this morning but somehow veered towards opening the chest kind of poses. It was an instinctive carry forward from getting ready for japa practice much earlier. As I settled to start, there was a sense of many cogs in the body coming together to open the chest. Last Saturday, our teacher used the analogy of the gears in a watch working in sync to keep time. That thought has been simmering since then. Those kind of analogies are what catch my attention more than the 'knees straight', 'elbows locked' ones that are so much a part of our learning as raw students. Gross actions until we can start to actually get them into a semblance of activation. The practice felt intense like how a class feels despite it being a short one. Quality over quantity. The brick, wall and ropes were my teachers today as I experimented with them in ways I haven't learned or been taught. I ended up in the region of the abdomen where the breath found its pause and the mind found its expression.

Tapas and Tejas were the first words of those thoughts. Fire and heat right in the belly. More play with the five elements. And it took me to Prashantji's words about the manipuraka chakra. At such times, I so fervently wish to be able to spend more time at the Institute, soaking everything in and studying and practising. Perhaps even getting an opportunity to attend his classes. Maybe someday…

As my days in yoga pass, I am reminded time and again of how little I know or understand. It's nearly three years since I commenced learning and all those things that my teachers would say back then make a little sense today.

Teaching the body to obey is one thing but the greater learning has been bringing a sense of presence in it. Inhabiting the space and time of this embodiment. These are all just fragments of experiences and will take a while to become a new base level. Right now, it's the joy of having crested a hill. The view is fresh and I'm drinking it in with all my heart. It will become part of me in time and the journey of a thousand hills will continue.

Hari Om

Death and all his friends…

Both my father and father-in-law passed away in July a few years ago. As per the Hindu calendar, my dad’s death anniversary falls on Ashadh Ekadashi, an auspicious day that marks the beginning of a 4 month period of increased sadhana. It’s also the period when Ram and his brother paused in their search for Sita and made the acquaintance of the vanaras. 

Death is not a topic discussed freely, neither do we spend time contemplating it. Yet, savasana is where the magic happens after an honest practice. Savasana is where we surrender our flaws, our handicaps and become recipients of divine grace. 

Savasana is where the elements begin to express themselves in the walls of the nostrils and the moist, warm breath. The visual imagery that it conjures is one of the heat of the cosmic energy transforming the water element to expel itself as air only to merge in the vast consciousness of the universe. All this through the earthlike equipment of the body. A poor description of a tiny and expansive sensation. Perhaps, it is an overactive imagination, perhaps it is real. All I know is that the thought sprang up and asked to be expressed. And then, there is that cue that came in the prashnayantra email, “In ancient Indian thought, there is great attention to language and grammar, and almost no distinction is drawn between the word and the object denoted – they are two manifestations of the same underlying concept, as it were. Secondly, a direct correlation is recognised between language and mind-making. The given statement is an example of how delving deeper on language and grammar helps cultivate our understanding.” Anyways, that’s an ongoing exploration. 


I’ve been fascinated with the elements for a while now but recently came across a signpost in Guruji’s interpretation of Sutra 2:25. And somehow it makes me sit up and relook at the direction of my enquiry. As I understand it today, exploring the elements and the gunas is just about scratching the surface of a first step! The more time that passes, the more ignorance comes up to the surface. A welcome reminder to remain ever a student.

I’ve gone through the Sutras in the order that they are written, the way they are linked and also randomly. Lately, I’ve started reading it backwards and alongside an other commentary. The striking difference is the experiential sense of Guruji’s interpretation versus the more scholarly version of Edwin Bryant. It is interesting to get a different perspective and reading both backwards is like seeing the world in Sirsasana, the drishti changes.

Hari Om