Tag Archives: Yoga

#Yoga for #Mercury Retrograde.

Yoga is not about the outward form of a pose, the asana. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define “asana” as a position that, “is steady and comfortable”. Patanjali also mentions the ability to sit for extended periods of time as one of the eight limbs of his system.

One of the stories Abhijata tells is of her pride at staying in Sirsasana for over half an hour. She went to Guriji and said, “Grandfather – I stayed in Sirsasana for over thirty minutes!” She assumed he’d be delighted, amazed at her progress. Instead he said, “But what did you DO?”

If we’re not waiting for the flashbulb to go off and record our moment of perfection, what exactly are we supposed to be doing when we hold a pose? And what do we do if it is not “steady and comfortable”?

At first, before we are able to stay and hold a pose for any length of time, we have to go the the edge of our capacity, connect with each part of the body, check the balance and alignment of the body. At this point, yoga becomes a science.

It helps to think of your body as a laboratory. Your skin, muscles, organs, bone and breath are your equipment. Your mind is the clipboard where you record your results. You apply the shape and form of the asana to the body. What happened? On the left? On the right? Will a prop extend, release, facilitate, inform the results? Where did the breath flow, touch? What shape was it?

Yoga is to explore your internal world, using the asanas and the breath to map your universe. You may find surprising things there – pain, sorrow, anger. These are like the boulders in your path. Sit for a while with the boulder and examine it. Resist the urge to blame others, your teacher, yoga. These are the best learning experiences we can have, for this is when yoga truly begins to heal.

Your Magic Zone

Julian Lennon.

 

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10 important things you need/don’t need in a #YogaClass.

  1. A bottle of water: drinking during class disturbs the digestive system. If you need to hydrate, do so before or after class. And anyway, it’s a trip hazard.
  2. Baggy leggings: your teacher needs to see your legs, ankles and feet. Baggy pants fall down during inversions. And again, they’re a trip hazard.
  3. Food: have you noticed how a good yoga class suppresses your appetite? Have an empty stomach or a little food an hour beforehand, and if you have low blood sugar, fruit is a good standby.
  4. Your own space: don’t cling to the same space every week – change your perspective and help others change theirs. So don’t ask someone else to move – move yourself.
  5. Resistance to change: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. You cannot avoid your own weaknesses or use them as an excuse. Resistance is futile.
  6. Pre-conceived ideas: teachers use different methods to achieve specific effects. The same pose can be energising, relaxing, challenging or healing, depending on the approach. Go inside and see what happens.
  7. Modest clothing: think of it from the perspective of your teacher, or the person behind you. Believe me, a thong/tiny tank top is not a good look and no-one is interested in your tattoo/navel ring.
  8. Humility: our attitude can often be narrow, limiting and rigid. With humility we allow our yoga practice to change and re-shape us, body, mind and spirit.
  9. Humour: good humour is strength of character. Laughing at ourselves, we challenge our difficulties and overcome them. Don’t give up on that handstand: laugh and try again.
  10. The outside world: by definition, things that are common in normal life but are not part of your experience. Leave it all outside the door. Allow your perspective to change and even the most intractable of problems will shift.

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (P.S.)

Zubin says: Spend one whole season with these potent thoughts. They have the potential to help you transcend the many ills which have befallen you or will strike you in future time and space.

If I ask you, “Tell me, till what point can your eyes see?” Most probably, and reasonably, your answer would be: until the horizon. But with a powerful instrument, one can stretch that horizon to far-off stars.

A discerning yoga practitioner, with the fine instrument of Yog, can learn the usages of our rich embodiment and look within and beyond the surface horizon, to see the marvellous world of associated body, mind and breath.

Just as an astronomer would peer through a powerful telescope to see and explore our expansive universe, use these ten themes to explore the universe of your own embodiment.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (10)

10. Goal is not the exclusive fitness of the body or mind but a unified condition.

‘Holics’ of any shape or size are deranged personalities. Workaholics were seen as extremely productive but it came at a high cost of their physical and mental breakdown. Hence ultimate fitness is never about exclusively building up your body or mental aspects but rather associated conditions to be engendered. The modern person should be aware of marketing spiel designed to trap him or her into buying their products. Energy drinks have no lasting energy, only a shot of extra sugar. A yogic deep breath in fact, will change the status of your body and mind.

So last but not the least, the human being has to give a deep thought and reflect on their act and behaviour, not of becoming but of being. A human ‘being’ is the end sought after and not a human ‘becoming’ all the time.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (9)

9. Trainers Vs real Teachers.

Coaches and body trainers have become ubiquitous. The problem is their very little and shallow knowledge of our embodiment. Take for example a trainer preparing someone for the marathon. Making a person orient to an act is one thing, and making that person orient to the whole range of life that the person will face is another. Say there will be upheavals in life; the person’s body, mind and breath have to be taught to cope in all such situations.

What is the end you are aspiring for; Patanjali speaks of kaivalya and dharmamegha samadhi, that is supreme aloneness and a downpour of wisdom and enlightenment. Trainers can take you so far. But a philosopher-teacher or a poet or a grammarian, ayurvedachar and a yogacharya like Patanjali all rolled into one, can help you transcend your limitations at every stage.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (8)

8. A long-term investment not a short-term plan. 

Imagine if you were to give a young, strapping lad a walking stick as a birthday gift. It would be deemed worthless and impractical of course.

So when we are talking about long-term, we don’t mean so far out as to be deemed worthless. We are talking about doing a little prospective practice to compensate for our short-sighted approaches to our own health and wellbeing.

If we are having a problem, what we can’t see are the problems that will emanate from that root problem. So our practice has to be a little prospective to also build up the immunity for a later onslaught.

Mere repetition will not get us to that space. It is constant experimentation and trying to educate different parts of our being that will propel us to that associated, absorbent state.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (7)

7. Linear Vs Concomitant forces.

Yoga philosophy includes the eight steps enumerated by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. It is assumed that they are linear, that they are to be climbed like steps; and in this scheme, asana precedes pratyahara, that is the withdrawal of the senses.

But life is never a linear process. One lives with so many relationships and at so many different levels. In the same way, in Yoga, one starts with the asana to feel the rhythm, and gradually try to play out all the notes, the entire scheme of Astanga Yoga, as one goes along. This movement from an effortful effort to an effortless effort is the only linear progression Patanjali prescribes.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (6)

6. Memory building and not muscle building more important.

In the first chapter of his foundational yoga philosophy book, sage Patanjali enumerates the qualities to be developed: shraddha, virya, smriti, samadhi, pragnya, that is faith, courage, memory, absorption and keen awareness. Our gymnasiums are replete with the one-dimensional perspective of building muscles but it is more dynamic to develop lasting memory in our cells.

Take any skill that you may have picked up: say cycling. It is a memory imbibed at the cellular level by your body and mind. In asanas, you are developing and sometimes re-transforming the memory of the cells to respond. And since we are talking at the cellular level, this will sensitise us to another important aspect.

We pay so much attention to what and how much we ingest, our nutrition; but how much do we think about emptying or excreting at the cellular level. An empty vessel has more uses and hence asanas work tremendously to help you to exhale deeply in certain zones and regions, thus accelerating the emptying process. The next time you are on your head in Shirsasana, see it as a deep inter-penetration (and ultimately exhalation) in those passages of the head, face and skull region.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (5)

5. Merely Doing in the body parts Vs learning its Usages.

 When a person cycles, or swims, one is using different parts of the body to propel oneself forward. In due course of time, one will develop certain muscles and strengths.

Now compare this to the education imbibed in the asanas. In standing asanas, one not only uses the legs, but starts learning the usages of the legs, for example, on the back, the spine; this education will come in handy later when one practices asanas of different depths like backbends, balancing or twisting postures; one will begin to identify the contribution of the legs to the overall assembly. The practitioner will imbibe the knowledge of what connections the legs make with the different body parts, even the eyes and ears.

We use our minds on different parts of our bodies; why can’t we, with proper application, learn the usages of how to use our arms for our backs, our legs for our spine, our breath for our body and mind and so on.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (4)

4. Our embodiment has the potentials to be read like a book with the same benefits.

Normally, one would read or learn anatomy and physiology text books for knowledge and understanding about the different aspects of our body. The same goes for the way we have explored the mind – an entity apart from our physical processes. But we increasingly come to see that the body-mind is a fused entity.

The practitioner assumes different asanas to read the skill-set and disposition of the different parts of the body. When I am in Trikonasana or Parsvakonasana, is my inner and outer surface parallel? What about the length of my frontal leg and the back leg, is it the same? How can I make it the same and so on. Sometimes let me start with my body, but not end in the physical dynamics alone, let me see how I can balance my emotional self by creating new memories through my breath patterns.

In Yogasanas, the whole embodiment complex is read like a book. The same book will be read for not only physical skill but also to develop mental and emotional fibres like will, volition, adaptive potentials and reasoning. Whenever one hears the word Yogasana, one imagines sweaty bodies exercising; that is just one aspect of their dynamics; they also have other potentials like healing potentials, remedials and corrections.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (3)

3. A unique condition, wherein our body, mind and breath support each other.

The practice of Yoga bestows a unique gift on its practitioner: associated body, mind, senses and breath. Come to think of it, all our endeavours, sports and educative explorations develop exclusive body awareness or mind awareness. Most of our athletes develop the physical side at the cost of their mental faculties. The practice of yogasanas and pranayama uniquely help to associate the body, mind and breath with each other and create a synergy of sorts in the altogether unique entity.

When one starts accessing the body through the yogasanas, the body-mind-breath complex develops a symbiotic relationship in the expanse of the consciousness. The different aspects of mind like intelligence, emotions and intuition can reverberate in the whole psyche and the body slowly gets the vital support of the mental and pranic elements. There is unique synergy which the practice of yoga creates.

Like missiles can be fitted with nuclear war-heads, similarly the body actions can be headed and aided by breath dynamics which will transform the capabilities of that instrument. And with less catastrophic and more beneficial effects on the human race.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (2)

2. Our outer social gates are always open but yogic practices will help us to be open to the inner social culture within us. 

The human being is essentially a social creature, a gossipy animal. Social media is replete with antics of our movie stars and celebrities. In this era, we are naturally more selfie-conscious than Self-conscious. We have the technology to capture our surface appearance but we fail to develop more vital tools to sense our ever-changing nature within. Let us stop and reflect: can I sense which spinal muscles I access in different positions, sitting, standing or bending? Can I tell if I am breathing equally from both my nostrils, can I enhance my rib cage action sufficiently in my breathing process?

We have so much information about the world around us but very little about ourselves. Am I using my joints and muscles evenly while walking or is my weight only on my knee joint? Do I have access to my back thighs? Can I use my breath cycles to filter the mind stuff?

Our minds are channeled to the world outside and sometimes in the process become disproportionately dependent on its feedback. This makes us easily prone to wildly swinging positive or negative conditions.

Yogic practices open out the inner gates. One starts looking at the processes and impulsions behind one’s actions. A deep observation and education of our inner culture will open out new possibilities.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

 

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Zubin: Ten Talks About #Yoga (1)

1. Yogic practices are the vital apps to manoeuvre on unfamiliar terrain within.

As anyone living on our planet well knows, apps have become more important and indispensable to our lives than even tools like the Swiss army knife. When you are navigating in unknown terrains, the one indispensable tool is a navigator or an app like GoogleMaps. The path of Yoga gives a similar kind of support system like GoogleMaps in an unknown land. Our internal world is an unknown mass, very difficult to find and understand new pathways or live in different mental or breath channels. Normally an average person exists in three positions: standing, sitting and lying down. We merely operate and live in and through these three positions. Now just imagine if we can expand the scope of these positions, what could or would happen. Through the hundreds of yogasanas, we learn to wire and rewire our internal nervous and muscular connections, so that stress doesn’t build up. We learn to create apps (leg apps, arm apps, spinal muscles apps, breath apps) for ourselves to touch our whole embodiment.

The practices of yoga help to familiarise the practitioner with these internal pathways, and more vitally, discover and connect to the junctions of body, mind, breath, senses and speech, where further new possibilities open out.

Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh

 

“For every complex question, there is a simple answer… and it is wrong.” H.L. Mencken

http://www.yogafestival.world

Image: The main practice hall at RIMYI in Pune. (H. Lovegrove)

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5 simple steps to #yoga practice at home.

Yoga, Pranayama and Meditation – why is home practice so difficult? With a little more time and effort between classes you could develop your practice and begin to understand and enjoy some of the more intangible benefits that yoga has to offer. These five simple steps will help to capture the enthusiasm from class and bring it home into your private practice. It’s really very simple and the only question is what path you might take between steps four and five.

  • Place
  • Plan
  • Time
  • Sit
  • Lie

MMChairWindow1. Make space – a corner will do, somewhere you can put your mat down and shut the door. In this space, create a sense of the sacred. Use a windowsill, shelf or side table and make a shrine – a tea light, a statue, a flower in a vase – any objects which bring focus to the mind and humility to our intentions. This space reminds and encourages us to do better, to go deeper, and the people around you will appreciate and respect it too. (Saucha – Cleanliness.)

2. Have a plan. Even if your plan is to go with the flow you’ll find it helpful to have structure to act as a reminder once you’re ‘in the zone’. If you want a sequence, write it down. Preparation is an important part of the process. (Santosha – Contentment.)

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3. Use a timer.
To build up your strength and stamina by holding poses, staying in inversions, and for recuperative poses, in home practice the timer is our teacher and our best friend. For Savasana, Pranayama and meditation, a timer can help you to release more and in the end, you won’t need it. If you use a phone or tablet, use it to store your practice notes, make use of the timer, but always put it in flight mode. (Tapas – Discipline.)

satya11

4. Always begin by sitting for a few moments. This quiet time prepares the brain and the body: it instills the essence of yoga practice from the outset and reconnects the brain with the body. (Svadhaya – Self Study.)

01 Savasana knees supported5. Always finish with Savasana. The healing benefits of your practice need to percolate through all the cells of the body and this takes time. Offer up the fruits of your labour (however bitter!) to a higher self. Lie flat, a blanket for the head and/or a chair for the legs, if necessary. Set your timer and if you fall asleep, so be it. (Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender to a higher being.)

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Praise in a #Yoga class: is it Satya?

satya3Satya is the Sanskrit word for truth. It also refers to a virtue, to being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. In Yoga, satya is one of the five yamas. It is the virtuous restraint from falsehood and, crucially, the distortion of reality in one’s expressions and actions.

A student recently asked me why I didn’t give positive feedback to individuals in class. It’s a question that comes up from time to time. Speaking as a school teacher, she said she spent her working life encouraging and praising pupils for effort and achievement. Why is there no praise in a Yoga class?

There is a stock answer: when I say to a yoga student, “Well done”, I am giving myself a pat on the back. I am saying, “Look! My teaching is so excellent, and this student is living proof!” Is that Satya?

alignment1What about all the lessons that student has not learned, the basic actions avoided and evaded even after months and years of practice? Shoulders back, lift your chest – do I still need to say this every time? Clearly yes – I have not taught them this lesson yet. That these actions are not coming tells me their mind is elsewhere or their ego is still in the driving seat, and I have not dealt with those issues. That is the reality, the Satya in this situation. To say “Well done” is to distort reality for both of us.

How many of us experience moments of dread when the teacher moves on to our ‘worst’ pose, the one we love to hate? Somehow we struggle through, cling on and breathe a sigh of relief when they move to the next pose. And then when we are practicing, when we see the results begin to come, is there a part of us that looks forward to showing off our new-found skills and achievements in class, anticipating admiring glances from our fellows and praise from the teacher? Is this Satya?

satya12Some students just seem to flow into the  most demanding of poses – deep twists, spring up into handstands but how is their practice in, say, Savasana for instance?

And is it so very wrong to quietly say, “Well done” to someone who has been struggling and finally gets up into Urdhva Dhanurasana? When I’m immersed in my teaching, sometimes the words just pop out of my mouth! But what if a student is unlikely ever to achieve that pose? Maybe there’s an injury, a difficulty that precludes them from the final pose – is their effort any the less because of that?

satya11Saying, “Well done” to someone in a Yoga class is the quickest way to stunt their progress. When someone is praised, in that moment, the learning stops: out come the laurels and the ego, effort ceases and is replaced by laziness, apathy and then disillusion. The brain takes over and their experience of yoga narrows down to a few postures they can use to demonstrate their experience and ability. Satya includes the reality of our inexperience, our inability too.

In Iyengar Yoga the challenge is to learn the essence of the pose, not just its technique or shape. If it was all about form and beauty, Yoga would be an Olympic sport, like gymnastics. When Mrs. Urdhva Dhanurasana finally lifts up from the floor, to say “Well done” creates a distortion of reality: the discipline and effort are gone and the student gets mentally ‘stuck’, believing that’s all they have to do. Their practice will suffer because getting into the pose is only the beginning. My teaching therefore is at fault. That is Satya!satya9

 

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