Autumnal Equinox

Yogaverse…Life and what not…

Mixing it up a bit this time by starting out with life first to explain my unplanned absence, and then onward and upward to yoga! Everyone’s favorite prominent topic in this blog.

Yogaverse

Recently was the first day of the fall season, and she has made her self apparent, at least here in New England anyway.  The squirrels are gathering acorns, and the leaves are either falling off the trees to crunch under our feet, or creating vibrant colors for us to enjoy.

Time to gather acorn’s!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I started writing this post awhile ago,  but just haven’t been able to bring my self to finish it. I’ve been in and out of a little funk, and found it really hard to do much of anything actually. To be honest, this unfortunate lack of motivation, most likely is stemming from a combination of long work days, tiredness, family issues, change in season / weather rut [lots of rain and overcast weather], allergies, and at one point even PMS.  I’ve had a few days where I started the day off in a good mood, but then things turned sour for what ever reason.

Feeling blue

I at least feel more grounded today but otherwise I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to look forward to, not like I usually would if my circumstances were different [read living back in my home town]. I’m feeling an immense homesickness, and feel like I lost a part of myself by moving here. Sometimes we make sacrifices for a number of reasons, I did knowingly and consciously I wasn’t tricked by any means. It can be hard to make the best of it, but I’m trying…even if I don’t like it here. I tell my self things could be worse and I am thankful they are not. Sometimes these sacrifices are a necessary means to get ahead in this life, nay this world.

So back to this business of feeling dejected or “down in the dumps”  as they say. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to do any sort of writing, blogging, email or otherwise. I’ve been feeling the need to turn inward, and by inward I mean spending time in my head, reading, listening to music [kirtan / sacred chanting / sound healing/ambient & nature soundscapes…. If your curious for music examples I’d be happy to share.]

I’m pushing hard and really digging deep. I am forcing myself to sit here and write this. Its important that I keep track of my life, my feelings  and my progress, so here I sit on a crisp autumn evening playing catch up…

Fall in New England

To fight against this funk in September, I am proud to say that I kept up with the national yoga month offerings from Ekhart Yoga. The classes were really great to be honest, and gave me something to look forward to everyday. I would excitedly wake up and practice the asanas before having to rush out the door to sit in traffic for 1.5 hours to drive 8 miles to work. Now that’s some noteworthy New England traffic!

Things aren’t all bad I suppose. I have at least been productive in the kitchen and produced some tasty concoctions. I made several  things from scratch, Vegetarian Shepard’s pie, pumpkin spice lattes, kesari bath, pumpkin butterscotch scones, pongal, samosa’s, pudina bath, banana bread and I’m sure a few other things I’m forgetting about. Now I’ve never been a horrible cook, [not trying to toot my own horn if you will but never had any complaints when I cook or bake. I’ve even had special requests or was given praise] but the points is I always feel we can improve our selves in one way or another. I am glad to say that with practice and determination I can often even just throw things together like I watched my mum do when I was a wee one and wished that I could one day do the same. Progress, all in the name of making progress.

Indian Spices

I suppose that with age and knowledge that time finally came with in the last few years and I never really took the time to properly acknowledge that. I digress, the back story is that I guess I was always too busy with work and school. For several yrs I was going to school full time and working 50 hour weeks if you can believe it. Hard work, hard hard work can really pay off, and I don’t mean necessarily myself but for us all. I was determined to put my self thru school, but I still had to work. I’ll tell you all a secret, and I really hope I don’t sound like a nutter. This is something I’ve never really put out there but I am being honest here, so here goes nothing [or something rather]…Some how by the grace of guruji, on that guru poornima back in 2007 when were were told we could make one wish…I made my wish to become successful  [let me first clarify that by successful I don’t mean rich, but I mean partially with knowledge in terms of at least a BS degree, but also possessing the ability to put food on my table, and a roof over my head, to be a least some what financially stable] and promised that I was willing to work hard and make sacrifices to get there. I think I was granted that. Sticking with honesty, the road was not paved, it was bumpy, it was difficult. I ran into several potholes even, at one point I lost my job and almost my home, but eventually I found two part time jobs and ran myself ragged in order to complete college which I did back in 2011. Somehow I even managed to get straight A’s and end up graduating with distinction [Honors / Summa Cum Laude].

In turn for my wish Guruji told me “be a guru to someone else“. I really wanted to give back, and do just that. I thought how can I when I am quite remote and far from people… So I sat and had a think. I believe in paying it forward, I have access to the internet and a penchant for writing, thus this blog was born. I created this blog with the sincere hope that one day my words would reach an audience who could benefit from them or share them with someone who could. I’d hate for any one to have to suffer in life and go thru all the things I have been thru. That’s another conversation for another time.

Guruji – Sri Sri Ravi Shanker

Circling back to food, since that’s what I was talking on before ADD got the best of me…  I am forcing myself to be social and attend a pot luck being thrown by a co-worker for the “peoples of India” clique if you will at the office. They invited along me along as an “honorary Indian”, since I’m practically an Indian [ Kannidiga ] anyway according to them. I’ll drag the Mr. with me, and even cook a dish or two to bring along.

Yoga!

Yogawise, after practicing yoga for so many years now some I’ve made progress in the form of receiving the guidance from teachers. I wasn’t ignoring it before so I don’t want that to be what my words are conveying, but instead it makes more sense now. Things just “click”, I’ve had a few “a-ha moments” and I can actually do what they are describing. These suggestions are an integral part of a practice I feel but unfortunately not all teachers provide this. I’ll give and example in just a moment so you can further understand what I mean, but first want to say the rest of my thought before it disappears which is that unless you practice yoga on a somewhat consistent basis, the gentle steering from your beloved teacher or guru will most likely not make as much sense which is what happened to me anyway. It’s like the saying “practice  makes perfect”.  For me it’s the continued repetition of poses, even after all these years, that added guidance from a guru makes a difference and deepens my practice. I’m not an expert by any means, and not a yoga snob so I am okay being humble and admitting that there is always more to learn. Even though I can do more intermediate and even a few advanced poses I still feel that the knowledge one gains come through to us in a life long learning process. Even poses [asanas] such that can be found in a beginner classes / flow/ routine such as Utthita Trikonasana [Extended Triangle Pose] that can be in some instances deceptively easy for some,  can still offer us knowledge through our practice and repetition.

Utthita Trikonasana – Extended Triangle pose

Now as an example  [I bet you wondered when I was finally going to get to that] in the asanaUtthita Trikonasana if you don’t take into account the guidance directing one to make such small adjustments such as move your right hip or left hip back [depending which direction you are facing / and which leg leads], or move x hip out, or square the hips, elongate the trunk, draw the thighs up, to deepen the practice if you are flexible place your “x” hand on the outside of “x” leg if less flexible keep on the inside of “x” leg/foot or on “x” leg or “x” ankle, use a block, ground into the feet to come up…There’s different ones for different poses, but you get the drift. Some even carry over to many asanas, but its little adjustments like this than can make a difference between being in correct alignment and causing your self unnecessary pain. No matter how small they can seem, they really are not only helpful tips but key to proper alignment and posture.  These type of “tips” are therefore really worth taking into account, listening to, and performing the action. Not only does it really make a difference for the aforementioned physical reasons but additionally it will also help you deepen in your  practice by what can seem like leaps and bounds even from something as small as squaring your hips. You will feel like your making great strides, and soaring on cloud9.

Soaring on Cloud 9

Another key item [that I can not iterate enough]  in a practice is the  importance of listening to your body, no matter how long you have been practicing yoga.  As an example just because I can do Urdhva Dhanurasana [Wheel Pose], if I am experiencing back pain, I am going to hold off that asana in a practice and instead do a modification [a different asana]. This mindfulness happened recently to me as a matter of fact. During national yoga month [September] in the week that I was performing heart opening practices, on one or two days I was having some lower back pain. While the class was doing wheel pose, for the safety of my back that day I performed a modified Setu Bandha Sarvangasana [Bridge pose] and placed a yoga block directly under my sacrum for support.

setu bandha sarvangasana – Supported Bridge Pose with block

I know for some we don’t like to admit when we are in pain, or hate not being able to do certain poses at times, or sometimes if at all perhaps due to health conditions but trust me its better to listen to your body, your doctors and or teachers. Its okay to do modified poses, no one will think any less of you. they are too busy tuning into their own breath to care and are not there to judge you. if I saw someone performing modification, the first thoughts that come to my mind are: wow that person is being mindful, the are grounded and practicing with awareness. They are listening to their body and doing what is best for them. A good teacher will show modifications, if they don’t just ask and remind them. No need to feel embarrassed.

Anyway that’s about all I have to offer forth from my heart currently. I feel a bit better after sitting down and sharing my thoughts and progress. Thank you for listening, with an open heart I will leave you with a beautiful Apache blessing from an ombre colored birthday card I sent my Mum:

Image Sources:
http://www.yogajournal.com.au/wp-content/uploads/295×198-lift-on-up-7.jpg
http://derbyimages.woot.com/ramyb/On_Cloud_9-kxqj1m-d.jpg
http://img.surfing-waves.com/images/ex-triangle-posture.jpg
http://www.allaccessboston.com/blog/files/2010/10/Boston-Fall-Leaves-300×199.jpg
http://www.massvacation.com/fallfoliage/images/fall2012/animate/driving-squirrel.png
http://bawandinesh.name/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Guruji-on-Guru-Poornima-2010.jpg
http://www.aboutdepressionfacts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Am-I-Depressed-Quiz.jpg?9d7bd4
http://2.imimg.com/data2/XS/FC/IMFCP-2412716/indian-spices-250×250.jpg

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Yoga, Music and My Spiritual Healing Journey

First stop today is a catch up of life in my Yogaverse, then onward to a post about music. It’s sunny outside, a nice reprieve from the constant rain we have had lately here in New England. There’s a smile on my face. I feel when we are with out the sun that I have to push myself that much more, and really work extra hard to not feel low, lose my concentration, or my motivation. It’s hard sometimes, okay most times, but today I feel like I made it through to the other side and I can smile.

I know the rain is what keeps everything looking so lush and green outside but I would be remiss if I did not admit that its hard to mentally deal with so much rain. As I sit here typing away on my keyboard, having a cuppa Tulsi [sacred holy basil plant] tea I brought back from India, and listening to some Kirtan music, I felt inspired to change my original topic to music.

Tulsi Plant (in the decorative planter)

One thing you will find a lot of at these combined music and yoga festivals [i.e. Bhakti fest, Shakti fest, Tadasana Festival etc…] is Kirtan/Bhajans or general upbeat music.  The music carries you, uplifts you, and brings a smile to your face. Your heart will open and you will feel as if you are receiving so much love from the universe.  Kirtan, Bhajan, no matter what you call it, is a style of music known as the call and response chanting using devotional traditions stemmed  from India. If your not familiar with this style of music, another benefit is that it can also bring you closer to the gods if you believe in them. They are a vehicle to show devotion to the gods, however please bear in mind that you need not be religious, spiritual, or following a certain faith to enjoy and take advantage of the healing powers from the music.

Bhajans reverberate through your entire body and [at least for me] leave you feeling fulfilled, content, calm and “healed” from mental sadness or other botherations. The music is fun and invokes that feeling where you want to drop what your doing and sing along. I have always enjoyed music, singing and dancing. I  can now add that I consider chanting to be a part of my spiritual path.

There are quite a few podcasts out there and other ways to experience the music if its something your not familiar with. For the sake of making your life easier I will include some resources here.

Resources:

spotify you can download the free client and type in keywords such as “kirtan” or “bhajan” and listen to some selections. Like most free accounts these days you will be subjected to commercials.

New World Kirtan Podcast calming chants for a crazy world.

I first learned of bhajans from the “Art of Living“. One day while I was at an advanced course during Guru Poornima, I heard two that stood out in my mind they are Govinda Radhe Radhe Shyam and Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

and

Yoga and Your Diet

Before I jump in and talk about the topic of yoga and the diet connection, I want to apologize for the lack of posting and being a bit behind. Since this blog is a also record of my spiritual journey practicing yoga, and life in my yogaverse, I thought I would add a few personal notes to make up for it. Sometimes life takes over and there’s not enough hours in the day, let alone the week. Like most of you I become busy with work, family obligations and those responsibilities that niggle at us as adults. I’m nearly finished going thru my photos from my trip to India, and about 1/2 the way done digitizing my travel journal.

Land Puja I participated in. Mysore, India.

I started this blog because I enjoy yoga and all that it has to offer me. I wanted [and now feel blessed to have] a place where I can talk about yoga. I am humbled and thrilled any time I see someone like or follow me. Thank you dear readers. You make my heart feel warm and fuzzy inside. Today is mother’s Day and I find myself missing my own mother. She thankfully is still alive but is on the other side of the continent. A 6.5 hr plane ride from where I currently stay, which may as well be the other side of the world, since that’s what it feels like. Wishing you all a happy mother’s day out there.

Bright blessings,

Namaste.

Vegetarianism and Yoga

We all have to eat to survive. The reason most of us yogis and yoginis partake in a vegetarian diet while practicing the ancient discipline of yoga is that we feel like it enhances our practice. We feel cleaner, healthier, and more motivated.  We feel like the prana flows more freely. Everyone has their own path and experiences, their own reasons for doing what it is they do.

I personally follow a vegetarian diet like many yoga practitioners however that was not the main reason why I started this “vegetable diet” as my grandmother calls it. I don’t preach that all yoga practitioners need to follow a vegetarian diet, sure its recommend, but above all do what works for you. This is not a place to judge and therefore it does not bother me that I am the only vegetarian in my side of the family. I began a vegetarian diet as part of a cleaner lifestyle and diet when I decided I did not want to be on anti-depressants any longer and took the plunge to stop them all “cold turkey”.  It’s not recommended for individuals to stop medicines like that, but somehow I just knew I would be okay. I guess a week-long session with your spiritual Gurus will do that for you.

I found the internal strength that I needed to survive without all those anti-depressant toxins in my system and thus began my vigorous Art of Living  classes  combined with my own personal vital self-discipline. This was 6 yrs ago and I am still a vegetarian today. I look back with a smile on my face and have no regrets in  my heart on that decision. I feel the healthiest I have been, I have more energy and feel so much more alive. I feel more in-tune with my body like never before. That is why I am a vegetarian. I feel lighter and more energetic and want food that I feel enhances my journey.

Now that I am more in tune with my body, I can tell what I need when I have certain cravings or certain aches or pains. For example those leg cramps, yah I need more potassium. Bananas and coconut water sort that out for me. I have to make sure that I drink plenty of water, exercise, and have plenty of fiber in my diet. I can’t stress enough the importance of fiber and water in ones diet.  Being a vegetarian I found my most favorite type of food to eat has been Indian food. There are just so many more tasty and flavorful  possibilities in my eyes. When I became a vegetarian I wanted to learn how to cook Indian food. It seemed so daunting to me before learning. In my head I kept thinking it would be quite difficult. Along the way I learned  how to cook some Indian food dishes. I learned how to take other dishes or recipes and “Indianised” them and also give them my own spin or flair if you will. I don’t necessarily even follow all Indian food recipes to a “T” anymore. I haven’t taken any such cooking classes, this is just me experimenting on my own.

One thing I have learned is with Indian cooking, you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to measure exactly the amounts of spices for example, the way you would in say baking those American cakes or cookies. This keen observation I learned makes it that much easier for me to cook my favorite foreign foods and worth a share.

Yesterday I found that in my normal routine of  preparing dishes to have for my weeks lunches at work, I had a craving for Vegetarian Shahi Biryani. I scoured the interwebs and found a recipe that I adapted and made my own. One change to the recipe for today that provided some extra protein was to swap out the rice for quinoa [“keen-wah“]. As a side salad I also made a cucumber dill raita.

My Lunch: Quinoa Vegetarian Shahi Biryani + Cucumber Dill Raita