Tag Archives: #ashtanga

Window Cleaning

Have you your tried to clean something which has been covered with grime and dirt? One single swipe of the finger will not do it – neither will one single swipe of a cloth. It takes time. First, you might have to let it soak in some liquid for hours and then clean it layer by layer. Now imagine – as you clean new dust settles in – it makes the task harder. Now you have to clean at a faster rate than the rate at which new dust settles. And until you get to a certain level of cleanliness, the world will look different to you. You will not be able to the see the world as it is but only through the filter of grime and dirt accumulated over ages.

Our minds are similar – we have accumulated all sorts of dust and grime over the years and some of it we pick up throughout the day without awareness. Unlike our bodies, we do not spend time cleaning our mind. What does this dust look like? For example, as you were driving to work somebody cut you off – you got annoyed and vowed not to let it happen again. Every time you drive now, you make sure that anybody who looks like he is going to cut you off- you are on it. With every thought, you are applying a layer of dust on your mind – dust that will prevent you from seeing the reality as it is (Maybe he has a sick child, a bad day, fight with a wife). We will never know the reason but our belief that he is out to get you is mostly inaccurate, and this is what constitutes the dust.

Light shining through glass privacy window. Abstract background

Let’s say you are listening or reading to the news – all the news about abuse, corruption leaves a not so pleasant taste in your mind and at the same time clouds your mind with its dust. The movies you watch, the conversations you have, people you hang out with – all leave a residue on your mind. And more you do it more it happens – mostly unaware because we believe that we are not actively participating in it, but your mind is always active.

All this dirt and grime in our mind is what constitutes to ignorance and makes us believe we are separate from one another. My main aim in life is to be a better version of myself every day – clean this dirt thoroughly – turn my mind into a surface where dust is unable to stick. Only when we wipe the dirt in our mind does wisdom arise. One of the ways to gain wisdom is to get rid of ignorance. And that means cleaning the windows so that you can at least get a small patch of light through which shows you a glimpse of what the real world looks like.

We are starting with so many accumulated layers of dust that it is in some ways a miracle that we all humans live and function despite all the dirt clouding our judgment. The first step towards a clear mind is awareness – know that you have filters on and if it calls to you then immerse yourself in a good spiritual book, do yoga or meditate.

Most importantly recognize that there is a layer of dust!

Yoga – musings

Growing up in India words like Gurus/Meditation/Yoga are white noise because a) they are so common- it’s like asking a fish what is water (we might not know what it really means but we know) b) there are a lot of charlatans and you are always wary when these words are mentioned.

I never had anything to do with yoga until I moved to London. It was in the Creativity and Personal Mastery class that one of the students mentioned Bikram Yoga. I was teaching assistant at that time. And in the class prof. had an exercise which was called ‘Public Commitment’ – it meant you made a public comment to share something you like with the class and do it with them like eating at your favorite restaurant, going to salsa class, hiking etc. Basically it was a way to do more of what you like and share it – thus adding emotional energy into it. One of the students said she wants to take interested people to Bikram Yoga.

To be honest I wasn’t that keen but as a teaching assistant I decided to go. I guess it did call to some part of me. As I am not the one for doing things if I don’t want to as my family/friends will confirm. So me, another student and her went to a class. We were in the last row and we did not faint. For those of you who are not familiar with Bikram Yoga – it is a 90 minute class – at 110 F – 13 postures done twice. It’s actually really good.

At that time Adam and I were doing the long distance relationship thing and I had a lot of time in my hand. So I decided to join Bikram Yoga and I got addicted. It definitely accelerated my inner journey. I did it every day for almost two years and I loved it. Infact my criteria for finding an apartment was that it should be walking distance from the studio. We did find one [Lovely place – 8 minutes from oxford street]. Point is I was obsessed and as my dad loves to say I left the golden mean -“the ideal moderate position between two extremes”

But it was too much – I had busted miles away from my mean. So, I remember waking up one day and telling Adam that maybe it’s a little too much , doing it every day. He gave me a look which said “Yeah, obviously.” So, I didn’t do yoga for 6 months. The pendulum has to swing both sides before it can find the center.

Then Adam mentioned about Ashtanga Yoga which is in some ways polar opposite of Bikram. This article describes it really well. For me Bikram was ambitious and competitive – type A, where as Ashtanga is do it at your own pace and there is no comparison – no mirrors in the room. It’s just you. I guess I had changed because we started going to Ashtanga and I have been doing it for 6 years now and don’t think about it twice. It is what it is.

I am not in a hurry to learn poses now – I am happy. The reason I do yoga is I feel happy, my body feels happy. And plan to do it till I die. And I am very grateful for all the teachers who have taught me as Yoga is one valuable gem which has been passed on from one generation to other.

And for inspiration check out the video of the 98-year old doing yoga.

V. Nanammal is a 97-year-old woman from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Even at her advanced age, Nanammal practices the art of yoga, and what’s more, also teaches it to other enthusiasts.

Mind Over Matter – how much can you stretch?

It was summertime and I remember very vividly that my dad who is usually very fit kept sleeping for an entire weekend – non-stop. He had just made a trip to Delhi or some other city for business and when he came back all he did was sleep. His clothes had a slightly yellowish tinge – anyways they did go to the doctor. Doctor did a few tests and told him that he had jaundice but it’s on the decline now. The worst was over. So his Jaundice was at the peak during his business trip but it didn’t affect him at all.

If you are wondering why I am telling you this incident then here it is – Mind Over Matter. I believe that my Dad is one of the few people I know who are very good at mind over matter. What does it really mean?

In my dad’s case he willed his body to believe that it was all good – one can argue that he slept the whole weekend but you get the point. Basically what this is saying is that your body can withstand anything it’s your mind that you have to convince. There are scientific studies which prove this as well – let’s say you flip a coin 20 times what are the chances of heads/tails – 50% right? However, there was an experiment done where they had participants who willed a certain outcome like either heads and tails and the probability was not 50%. Check out this article for more details. If it could be done for coin flip experiment – imagine what we could all do if we ALL set our minds to it. Another famous example is the DC crime rate which started dropping when a meditation project was started and then started increasing when the project was disbanded – read about it here.

Our faith can move mountains. All we have to do is to believe.

The question is – If there is so much evidence that meditation/focusing your mind on an object is so powerful then how come most of the people don’t do it? Why is that each and every one of is not drawn to meditation?
The only answer that I can come up with is – when the student is ready , teacher will be ready otherwise even if you read about it, even if you see it, you are still blocked to it – you will not see it really. But it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

And then there’s a flip side to it too – you can only push yourself so much. It’s like different rubber bands can be stretched only to certain points before they break – so you have to find out your breaking point and work on it to increase its elasticity if you are so interested and called to do so!

It also comes back to my favorite quote – its all in me – all in the mind. Everything that happens to us, including the angry boss, difficult stakeholders, great pets, lovely spouses is all within our mind even the so called external circumstances like political situation/global warming all of them – they are all creations of our mind and most of us are ignorant of what our minds are creating.

But nobody said it better than the Mysore style Ashtanga teacher Pattabhi Jois – it’s true even in yoga.

Priceless !

This blog is dedicated to all the priceless entities.

Vipassana meditation retreats that I keep mentioning in my blogs are free – they are run on a pay it forward or donation basis. You pay with what you can and pay only if you want – a lot of people come back and volunteer for another course as it is a completely volunteer run retreat.

The reason I mention this is because in one of his discourses Goenka Ji says, “What price will you pay for this teaching? This teaching is invaluable.” And I am beginning to realize more and more how invaluable it is. It helps us get out of the suffering that comes from being in the human predicament. If Buddha hadn’t figured a way out we would have to do it on our own. Buddha went through lifetimes to find this invaluable jewel – it is truly priceless.

Similarly, if you have gone to yoga class – the sequence of asanas has a reason behind it. And the asana itself – why lift your leg only this way, why not do only the right side – there is a lot of science and art behind it. Imagine coming up with a yoga sequence, be it Ashtanga – Iyengar – Bikram.

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

How would we ever put a price on yoga?

Creativity is another example. We recently went to a Taiko performance by a Japanese Group Dadan.

There was a moment during the performance where I had tears in my eyes and I am not the sentimental type. But the energy and the creativity is so pure that you connect with it at such a deeper level that it stirs your soul and you experience a glimpse of the ultimate peace – that is priceless.

If you think about even the other items that have a price tag on it – for example a carrot – some farmer somewhere put the seed in, mother earth brought up the carrot along with little help from the weather elements like rain and sun. Someone plucked it, put it in truck, cleaned and through many other change of hands it ended up in the grocery store. Does the price tag take into account all that?

Another movement which is picking up some speed is the pay it forward movement. Pay it forward is an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others instead of to the original benefactor. An example of this is the Karma KitchenImagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those who dine after you.”

This blog is my namaste to all these priceless items which have helped me in my life and without these it would be incomplete.