Thank you

I’ve mostly been self taught since my late teens and it settled into a comfortable habit, this slow stubborn plod through whatever subject I was interested in. Much later, I ran alone, practised alone and stayed on the fringes of groups. Studies of the texts have also been mostly alone. In all this, I did have direction and guidance in the form of books, excellent ones. That’s one of the advantages of self study, one quickly learns to separate the good from the average. 

Blogging has been my connection with others and over the years, I have enjoyed, learned and been inspired by fellow bloggers. Listing them below in no particular order, each one a precious home on the web. For the sake of brevity, these are blogs related to yoga and in one case ayurveda. 

One of the pitfalls of access to information is the explosion of content and it is difficult to find original and authentic thought and experience. These blogs have rung true for me and I remain grateful for the chance to see life through the lens of their authors. A heartfelt thank you to some wonderful fellow travellers who have shared freely of their experiences. 

 

 

Food & play

Iyengar yoga is known for its alignment, precision, long holds in asana. The second class was one of play as we moved repeatedly, waking up sleepy muscles of body and mind. It doesn’t happen often in class since the Institute follows a syllabus and it is geared towards systematically developing a practice for oneself. But, as our teacher said, “and sometimes you should play like children also“, as we moved back and forth in pawanmuktasana and did reps of halasana, paschimottanasana. It leaves a different taste after such a practice, lighter.

As my other teacher mentioned during our introduction, class is like a thaali (a multi course Indian meal), where many dishes are served till the point of bursting. There is no time to savour the rasa individually like we do with food prepared at home. It is a home practice which allows us to taste the flavours in each asana.

Back to lessons from the universe, coincidentally one of my readings was

भूरिति वै प्राण:। भुव इत्यपान:।सुवरिति व्यान:।

मह इत्यन्नम्। अन्नेन वाव सर्वे प्राणा महीयन्ते।।५।।

Bhuh is prana. Bhuvah is apana. Suvah is vyana. Mahah is food. Indeed, it is by food that the pranas thrive. (Translation by Swami Chinmayananda)

It is interesting to see and experience the role of food in our lives. The Annamaya kosha is the outermost sheath and nourished by food. What is food, though? There is a lot of ‘information’ available out there but the ‘knowledge’ about is pretty scarce. Much of it has faded from our lives alongwith the older generation. Ayurveda has it’s food rules and at one time, it was common knowledge as people turned to their kitchens for preventive and curative medicine. Food was prepared as an offering before being consumed. The traditional prepping methods released the benefits in a way that was most suitable. There was no complication of a ‘diet’. People ate what was native to their region, in season and prepared in the way of their ancestors. There was an order in which it was consumed for the best absorption and assimilation. Food was meant to nourish and sustain and it was in sync with the prakriti of a person. At the end of the day, it was a subjective exercise, like yoga. 

The general rules provides a framework but the magic is in self exploration. It’s an ongoing experience as I discover much about my misconceptions with food and begin to see my place in the circle of life, like in the movie, The Lion King.

It never fails to amaze me how astute the sages were. They codified everything as it is while we complicate matters with analysis and research. As Paul Coelho says in The Alchemist, it is the Language of the World. Or as Patanjali states, ‘Words, objects and ideas are superimposed, creating confusion; by samyama, one gains knowledge of the language of all beings.’ (Translation by BKS Iyengar)

In gratitude 

Standing on my head!

In my head, I call my class, Wednesdays with Abhijata, sort of like “Tuesdays with Morrie”. It is the highlight of my week as I come back with new things to try out at home and also look up. Last Wednesday, I got into Sirsasana for the first time. We were learning to kick up when my teacher nudged one leg up the wall and the other went up. It was a happy moment and very unlike what I imagined I might feel. I thought that the blood would rush to my head and I would feel heavy and shaky. None of that happened. I could have stayed there for a while. Maybe it was all the adho mukha Svanasana, Uttanasana, prasarita paddotanasana and ardha sirsasana that familiarised the head down position. However Sarvangasana was another challenge altogether. I just felt very heavy and couldn’t get my balance. The interesting thing about not getting stuff is that it is not a reason to despair but an opportunity to enquire, to chip away at it until something happens.

I am beginning to see how the work with the arms, legs, trunk and spine help in getting ready for sirsasana. The illustrations in the Preliminary Course talk to me now, revealing a little more with each reading and looking at them.

I took a couple of days off full fledged asana practice at home and got back to it today. Blame it on my vata tendencies or the season being one that aggravates my flightiness, I was feeling quite ungrounded. I was starting to fret about practising at home and running and that took the joy out of two things that make me happy. Before I realised it, I had a few late nights in a row, excess coffee in me and very light sleep. The speeded up mind, fast speech and feeling of being overwhelmed were all indicators of not being in sync. Sure enough, my neck started to ache. The whining pain before it could turn into a nasty snarl. It made me wonder if it was such a smart idea to think that my cervical spondylosis was sorted. Thankfully, there was the sense to pause and see what I was doing to myself. So, I slowed down and stopped all the hyperactivity and did things to nourish myself.

Abhyanga with a heavy sesame oil, liberal use of ghee in my food and warm clothing and teas. I also took a few days off running since there was a fair bit of stiffness and soreness in my knee and IT band. I used the time to work with my little balcony garden and read and write. The ache disappeared in a day and I felt in balance again. It is amazing how much insight Ayurveda and yoga have about the human body and mind. A few adjustments and one can actually heal oneself. All this with just a rudimentary understanding of the principles. Hope to study both in detail. Someday.

In gratitude to all teachers.