What is Asana?

What is asana, Why asana?

Asanas are positions to relax different parts of our body. There are specific asanas working on specific parts of our bodies- different bones, muscles, inner organs.

By observing the natural relaxation processes in animals around us, maybe Rishis thought “well, why does a cat stretch its back like that?” They imitated it, -and realized it was very relaxing for the back. That’s how ‘Marjariasana’ and many others might have come into existence.

 

Why Asana?

A sedentary lifestyle would tell you how important exercise is. Due to all kinds of stresses that exist today, plus the emotional imbalances caused by these stresses..on top that, when we don’t move our bodies in any way, it becomes weak. All of these issues manifest as body pain.

This is so because there are blockages in the channels (Nadis) that provide energy (Prana) to us. We need to clean those blockages.

Why can’t people sit in Vajrasana the first time they try to? And 6 months later they can. (Also, conditions applied, if you don’t practice yoga regularly, those blockages rebuild).  On doing regular practice, these blockages vanish and not only do our bodies become more flexible, stronger, fitter. The real wonder that yoga is, is the effect it has on our mind!

 

Asana transcends the body, breath, thoughts, and feelings…just like meditation.

A=Asana

B=Meditation

And, A=B and B=A

Hence, the goal of Asana practice is to make Asanas meditative.

 

How do we transcend the exercise and make it an ‘Asana’?

For this to happen, First,

First,

Sangwad Chhatwam– Moving together.

We become one with our surroundings… people and environment, while in the Asana.

 

Then, Second,

Second,

Sthir Sukham Asanam– Stability and contentment in the asana.

We become one with our own body and breath.

-There are 3 stages here-

Beginner- Channelising energy into all the spaces of the body by relaxing the body in different positions. Correcting the posture, knowing proper alignment and body structure.  (working on the body)

Intermediate- Syncing the breath with the body movement and relaxing in the posture. (body + breath)

Adept- Holding the posture and becoming comfortable in it. (body + breath + meditative mind= yoga)

 

After this,

Yoga Chitta Vritti Niroddha– Yoga removes the modulations of the mind.

We take our awareness on the thoughts gradually while in the posture.

With practice, thoughts start to lessen and we reach a meditative state during the asana.

-The key, here, is not to fight or be in conflict with thoughts, but to accept all of them, good or bad

 

During our asana practice, if we take all these sutras together- a moment of awareness towards every layer-environment/ body/ breath etc, it takes us deeper every time and our asanas become meditative. Yoga Happens!

Yoga starts permeating in our everyday lifestyle and life becomes no less than a miracle!

 

 

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Kindling the Fire Inside

What is that ‘one’ thing that makes all the difference in the way we live our daily life?

The energy and will to carry out what we plan and following a discipline.

Atha-Yog-Anushasanam: Yoga is a self-discipline.

Everyone requires (and wants) some amount of discipline, but to be able to follow it, 2 ingredients are indispensable-

Inspiration (to follow discipline) and Willpower (to continue it during odds) = FIRE

When this fire is running low, that is when our discipline goes for a toss…. and discipline is not something that can be forced onto anyone. It has to be self-imposed. There is no other way.

Some of the extinguishers of this fire that we associate with daily are-

Physical contact with our bed during daytime (as it carries tamasic energy); Eating tamasic food (heavily fried and onion-ated food, non-vegetarian diet); watching too much television/movies on laptop/Youtube videos (the useless ones!) all day long…and being in wrong company- all of these, drain our energy…

…….Which gives rise to certain problems-

Dullness, Sluggishness etc. etc.. resulting in denial and procrastination.

Procrastination is a big issue today. Why do we procrastinate?

Because our energy levels are low and the ‘fire’ of determination inside us all gets extinguished.

To kindle that fire we either need to be so deep into stress that we have no option but to snap out of the ‘stress+sluggishness zone,’ which is what ultimately happens! (100% pain!)

……Or we need to do something so that our commitments don’t get mixed with our emotions and we don’t end up in the ‘procrastinating limbo’. What can we do for that?

Yoga!  (100% pleasure!)– It enhances every aspect of our life.

 

What to do when you are already stuck in that limbo?

Dancing, Getting involved in hobbies, Hanging out with people you love, Doing creative things, Implementing innovative ideas- like cooking (however ‘innovative’ it is :P), painting, singing… and making a conscious decision to come out of this zone ‘RIGHT NOW.’

 

What do you want? The path that gives pain in the long run or the one which ensures pleasure?

Only intelligent people do yoga!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annamayam Hi Sowmya

Khichdi- An Indian dish. It is generally used to convey ‘hodgepodge’. I used the word to convey the idea of yoga being a ‘tasty’ hodge-podge because yoga is a science developed by many chefs (Rishis) over a long period of time and still it is very very tasty and healthy!

Long ago, there was a very wise person, Maharshi Patanjali, who first documented a text on yoga called ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutra.’ Then there were texts on Hatha yoga as well, written by different Rishis and Seers. Everyone gave in their own inputs according to their own experiences. Maharishi Patanjali, Gorukshanath, Swami Swatmarama were some of the light bearers of yogic philosophy.

 

Now, for the promise I made…..What comprises of the other 70%?

FOOD! 

What we consume becomes a part of us at 3 levels.

  1.  The grossest form of food is Waste..it gets excreted.
  2. The nutrients in the food become our flesh.

  3.  And the subtle part, or the ‘type of energy’ of the food, influences the quality of thoughts and feelings that arise in our mind.

Both Yoga and Food contribute to the state of body and mind.

In Yoga, we looked at the correlation between mind and body and how yoga works on both levels.

In Food matters, body fitness is something we usually care about…..but we tend to ignore the health of our mind.

If only the body is healthy and the mind isn’t, then the health is not long-lasting.

For example, Many people eat Non- vegetarian food and their excuse is ‘for physical health purposes’, but all the nutrients are available in the vegetarian diet too!

Moreover, in Hindi, we say- ‘Jaisa Khao Ann, Waisa Rahe Mann’ which can be roughly translated to ‘Your mind becomes like the food that you eat’ (you can imagine what taking a non-veg diet does to our mind).

 

We need to look at food from various perspectives:

First, How fresh is it? Is it chemically processed? : the prana (life-force energy) level in the food.

Second, the kind and amounts of nutrients the food is providing. : percentage of proteins/carbs./etc

Third, the ‘type of energy’ of the food: There are three types of energies in food:

  1. SATTVIC- best. Makes us energetic. (it does not mean bland or tasteless food!)
  2. RAJASIC- causes restlessness. eg-too many spices.
  3. TAMASIC- causes lethargy. eg-onion, garlic, non-veg, fried food.

 

Fasting helps balance these three inside our bodies. 

It is important that we intake Sattvic food so as to stop complaining about physical dullness and the bumpy roller coaster rides that our mind sprees off to! as food comprises 70%.

 

For those on the path of yoga, it works best to have a Lacto-vegetarian diet.

Now, it is up to you to decide….

Do you just want the (superficial) Body Fitness or ‘Mind Fitness’ along with it?

Remember:

“A strong mind can carry a weak body, but a weak mind can’t even carry a strong body”     —(words of Sri Sri Ravishankar Ji)

 

 

 

 

Yoga: A Tasty Khichdi

In the previous blog post, I said that Yoga is the way of life. In this post, I’m going to show how?

A better understanding of yoga reveals a hoard of commonly known physical and mental benefits, not only this but, the knowledge of yoga is extremely helpful in living and understanding our daily life. Let’s see how…

  1. Being a friend, not a foe to your body

This happens only when we know how to keep our bodies healthy. To keep it so, we need to know our theory (body structuring) and practical (asana practice).

Practising asanas in daily life helps get enough knowledge of body structure that we are guaranteed to never unknowingly ‘torture’ it. Living, with this knowledge, becomes easier.

For example, while bending down to pick up a heavy object (or just to tie our shoes), if we know the body structure and correct asana practice, we won’t end up jerking our muscles! Instead of arching and bending the back, we should bend from the waist.

When we have to sit for long hours at work or in school, the body stiffens so we can still keep it comfortable and loose if we know our body structure and what to do to relieve any pain in it! Like doing simple spinal twists and some ‘joint-rotations.’

For kids (even adults these days), stress is a big issue and leads to dwindling of concentration and a dull mind, super brain yoga immediately wakes and shakes the brain!

Working on the breath and other relaxing postures such as stretching and (the all-too-famous) Shavasana or The Corpse pose, help in getting better sleep.

 

2. Learning from the world around us

The existence of Yoga proves beautiful observation and learning on the part of the ancient Rishis of India who learned from the surrounding environment- from animals, from objects, and applied this knowledge to yoga. How?

Most asanas are named after animals, and these asanas imitate the animal which inspired their creation. Every animal has some strong point physically or a certain quality they poses. While in that posture, we try to visualize we are the animal and we imbibe their strengths.

For example- Marjariasana or Cat Stretch is really good for the spine. It readjusts all the vertebrae in the spinal column and strengthens the back, and makes our backs just like the infamously strong back of a cat.

Mayurasana or the peacock pose is the ultimate pose to rid yourself of all toxins and  immensely improves digestion, just like how the peacock can eat rock and poison and still survive.

Shalabhasana or Locust pose is inspired from the locust, known for its eating capacity. This asana increases hunger and is good for weight gain.

Gowmukhasana or The Cow Face pose is a beautifully calming asana. Indian desi cows are known for their innocence and purity, caring and nurturing quality. Their divine presence is at the core of this asana. When you do this, you ingrain and awaken all of these qualities inside you and become centered.

Kunjal Kriya is a cleansing process that we learned from the elephants. Elephants just vomit all the undigested food or anything they ate that did not suit them. In Kunjal Kriya, we stimulate our muscles to projectile.

“We learnt from animals, why leave man-made objects when it comes to learning?” Someone probably thought this (or not :P) and so we came up with Dhanurasana Bow pose); Naukasana (boat pose), so on……

Practicing them brings stability, balance, forbearance, determination, just like a boat floats in all kinds of waters and a bow aims and hits the target.

The magnitude of the world around us captured so beautifully leads to Wonder and a deeper Understanding of it.

 

Lastly, I’d like to resolve what I get asked a lot. Many people ask me “how can you become all of that, by just practising asanas for sometime in the morning?”

My answer is:

What you keep revising you remember, what you keep practising you perfect and what you keep revising and practicing, you become…

So, Practice for ‘some’ time, Live it for the rest of the time!

 

PS– Asanas (with all the visualisation and breath sync) reap only 30% of the benefits.

To know what comprises of the other 70%, and why I called Yoga ‘a tasty khichdi’, lookout for my next post 😉

 

SMILE 😀

 

 

 

 

YOGA- The Way of Life

What happens when all the different aspects of our lives don’t compliment each other? When our mind and body don’t work together? We suffer.

When there is no union within, there is no union outside.

 

What is Yoga? It is more than just asanas….

YOGA comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning ‘union.’

Union of what? Of the Body, Mind and Spirit. If these 3 always work in union, there is NO MISERY IN LIFE.

The mediator of this union is BREATH.

Now this union works in 3 different layers….It is all very scientific and interesting to know.

In the first layer, yoga unites the breath and mind.

Every emotion we feel has a corresponding breathing pattern associated with it….when we are angry, our breath becomes short and quick; when we are peaceful, our breath becomes long and deep. The ancient seers of India were very intelligent, they said since it is not an easy job to discipline this vacillating fickle MIND, why not work on the breath, so that the mind will automatically get controlled!

In the second layer, the mind gets united with the body.

Firstly, What is mind? The general concept of mind is, that it is an organ inside the brain and that the mind exists inside our bodies. But it is not so! The mind is an aura-like layer (even more vast than the aura) that contains our bodies. So, the mind has a larger circumference than our bodies! Our bodies are mere puppets inside a strong mind (If the mind is strong).

In the third layer, the spirit makes its presence felt….

*At this stage, it is important to know some important aspects of yoga- the Breath, the Action itself and Awareness.*

In the first layer, the breath and mind get united- through awareness on the rhythm of breath (Pranayama);

In the second layer, the mind and the body get united- as a result of Action (Yogasana) and awareness;

In the third layer, we Meditate. Why? cause we start at the grossest: by doing Yogasana we tire the body, by practicing Pranayama we regulate the breath, and then, for the subtlest….we sit and meditate and all the healing happens effortlessly.

To reach this state of effortlessness, Yoga and Pranayama are inevitable.

 

(Introduction to Yoga)

Obscure Wisdom

Wise people twist their answers into obscure riddles. It is the same case with great literary authors; they tend to remain willfully vague. Why do they CHOOSE to be vague?
When someone is truly wise, they are compassionate and very accommodating. They just keep on giving faded boundaries to the audience.

Hence neither too obscure,
nor like a tell-all.
Just the required amount for guidance.

 

 

 

The Wonder We Live

Every little thing has the capacity to turn into wonder. Our own bodies, the human mind, the organs, their functions, nature, the new age science, the subjects in school, the realm of expanding knowledge that has been able to make the world a global village.

What remains that has not been touched by wonder?

It is so because real wonder happens when knowledge dawns.

A true gourmet can know true taste, an art critic can recognise a thing of beauty.

What is so similar about them?

They both have so much knowledge and passion for their fields, that they are able to appreciate the details.

That is the way it works: the more you get to know about something, the more sensitive you become to its details.

Same way, When we are in knowledge, it is only then that we are able to appreciate the wonder around us in the tiniest thing.

It is rare that an intelligent person doesn’t have any wonder, for wonder is only for the intelligent.

It literally pours from every pore.

It vibrates in every vibration.

Eventhough wonder is so obvious, it takes knowledge to acknowledge it!

It uplifts us into a space of nothingness and what I call ‘egolessness.’

I call it a moment of egolessness because then we’re free from the arrogance that we attach with talents.

In those precious moments, we become the instruments through which mystic talents are just flowing. We are in a state of a high consciousness. We will not unwittingly think “‘I’ did this” because we know more than that.

We know these talents are just given to us, they are not ours. So we learn to respect them and always remain humble…. because if we don’t recognise the idiocy of thinking it was ‘I’ who did it, we’re finished, as ignorance takes the upper hand.

Wonder is a question that doesn’t need an answer.

Eg- like sometimes we just say….

‘how beautiful are the skies!’

‘What calmness the air carries!’

…..and we don’t look for an answer.

The Questioning mind runs off when wonder takes birth.