Never Force a Pose

Today’s wisdom is that wherever you end up in a pose [Asana] is exactly right for you. No forcing, just being. Never force your body into a position that causes pain. Our bodies all move differently because of how our bones are connected. One person may be able to do full Virasana aka Hero Pose [sitting between the feet] while others may need a variation [sitting on their feet, a cushion or blocks] because of ankle or knee pain. I know it can be hard to be content, and you’ll want to do some of those amazing poses full on, but your body’s wellness is more important.

You will still be able to experience tremendous shifts in your body, mind, and heart while focusing on your safety and wellbeing. Never force a pose, or else you can cause yourself an unnecessary injury. Be humble, explore the boundaries, and see what your body can do. Move with care, have gratitude, and maintain and appreciation of all it can do for you. You can thank your body by taking care of it in return.

 

Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana by AndysArtworks.etsy.com 

 

 

Christmas Shubhashayagalu

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Shub Christu Jayanti , no matter how you say it, I want to wish you and your families all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

istamp

According to Norad Tracker Santa has already made his way about 1/2 around the world. He’s a busy guy. I’ve watched my two all time favorite holiday films “Miracle on 34th street [the original version from 1947] and The Nutcracker Ballet. I’ve planned out tomorrow’s menu which for those who are curious will consist of veg biryani, kesari bath, and paliya or samosa.

We are anticipating a white Christmas after all. Christmas will be low key in my house. Morning yoga, a cup of hot cocoa, a few gifts will be exchanged over Skype video chats with family around the world. Things are a little different than in the past, however its nice to still recognize the holiday and even start new traditions.

I must close for now, its time for a round of yoga. I gotta keep that depression at bay. So I ask you dear ones:

How will you celebrate?

What are some of your specific annual holiday traditions?

ws_Merry_Christmas_1440x900

Looking toward yoga to stay positive when things look bleak

In the face of adversity the possibilities are limitless. Its the time for monumental changes, and what lies ahead is the opportunity to look at each obstacle we face not with despair but with the knowledge that each has a purpose. Each obstacle offers us the chance to become stronger, gain more patience, and to be persistent.  The road is limitless and its up to us to stay positive until we can see our way through the obstacles or barriers to all the possibilities beyond. Everything happens for a reason, so I look at it as its the universes way of conspiring to improve us and to make us better.

Autumn in the white mountains

Yogaverse

After performing my practice I find it easier to think more clearly and realize that the world isn’t against me like it may seem. While tonight is another night of feeling down, at least there is hope for me yet… I just have to tell my self to breathe deep and use these opportunities that I am faced with to soak up the knowledge I am being offered to learn from the situation, whatever it may be. The possibilities are endless, the road may be rocky, but at least its there and not a cliff looming in front of me.

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

Tea Quotes, Sedona, life in the Yogaverse

Your life is based on the capacity of energy in you, not outside of you.

Sedona, AZ, USA

 

Life in my Yogaverse, or why this Quote is Important to me:

I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to one of my favorite places, Sedona, Arizona. Before I arrived I planned to wake up early and start my normal routine of daily yoga practice.

Sunrise in Sedona, AZ

I can’t emphasize enough, how much I had really been looking forward to starting my practice off with the sunrise, as I had my last visit. performing the asana’s in what to me is a magical place, is something I treasure. Performing the sun salutations [Surya Namaskar] with the sunrise and that fresh prana, really brings new meaning and clarity to those poses that warm my muscles up for the rest of the flow.

Due to the daily grind of a mentally exhausting job back home, I found it a bit difficult to get going with my normal routine, instead of relaxing and enjoying the peacefulness that Sedona promises and delivers. I found my self struggling with allowing my self to sit back and enjoy the respite, instead of performing my practice which in turn helps keep my depression at bay and keeps me off my meds. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy yoga, all that it encompasses, and how it makes me feel. The fact that it can keep me off anti-depressants is a major testaments to my mental health, however I sometimes dislike that I “have” to do it just as much as I “want” to do it. Sometimes I just want to be a normal person who can just get up and go, not someone who has to do something. If I just want to get up and go, I have to do this practice everyday like clock work, else those niggling feelings of depression start sinking in and its further down the spiral I go.

Since I had been feeling content, and was enjoying the respite from work, I decided I would take advantage of the spiritual cleanse from visiting vortex’s. I felt confident, brave, and daring. Like the saying “fortune favors the brave”, I took a chance. I slept in! I caught up on sleep for a change. If I woke up early, I read and disappeared into the depths of an alternate world we call books. I drank copious amounts of water as if it was going out of style, to stay hydrated in the high desert temps [100-112F/37c-44c]. After a while I waffled between reading my novel, and yoga news.

An article caught my eye. Now while the point of the article was discussing early morning yoga classes, vs doing what one feels best for their body. I thought okay let’s see where this goes. In my case the words of a yoga guru stood out in my mind. “The point of yoga,  is  more unlimited joy for you.” Yoga should make us happy it should be the thing, or one of the many things, we can look forward to most in our day. It should be something that can provide us  a break from our worries and woes, not something causing them. So then why was I feeling so torn. The article said, “why should yoga, of all things, drag us out of bed and make one miserable”? Well yoga certainly does not make me miserable, however I so wanted to just relax, and just be. I didn’t want to feel torn, and doing a practice because I had to vs because I want to vs should I allow my body to catch up on sleep and relaxation or do this other thing [yoga] that is always so beneficial for me.

Prior to reading the article, doing yoga later in the day as the temperatures rose was not as desirable, early morning it would be [70 F-80 F] so it was obviously a bit cooler and more tolerable for practicing. There wasn’t room in my hotel room for a practice, so I had to make a decision quick. To do yoga, or not to do yoga, that was the question. I decided to stick with my guns and my original decision, and relax, sleep if I felt tired, and read if it was too late for yoga. Glancing at the time and the rising temperatures, it was too late for practice today, and that’s how it happened the rest of the week. I did not scold myself, or allow myself to beat myself up over it. I saw that quote and allowed myself to feel the positive energy from within, to feel content and happy with my decision. I did not focus on the fact that there was a potential for spiraling down the rabbit hole later, I focused on the positives of my trip. I took advantage of the beautiful weather. I took a hike one day, and meditated later that evening, there was certainly room enough for that.

Sedona will always hold a magical place in my heart, one that I hope to visit again and again. If I could live there, I certainly would.

 

Yoga, Chia Seeds, and that Core Vinyasa Flow

Yogaverse

Since this blog is also record of my spiritual journey practicing yoga, and life in my yogaverse, I thought I would start this post off with how I am feeling, and boy am I feeling in a funk today! I don’t know what happened, maybe I “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” as they say, or perhaps my working life is causing me not to get enough sleep, or perhaps my hormones are out of whack, but I just couldn’t shake it. Whatever the case may be as the day progressed on I found myself more and more irritated with the people around me at work. I wanted to escape to seek tranquility, peace and solitude elsewhere. Regrettably that was not in today’s cards.

Everyone that I try to avoid in the office for a myriad of reasons was seeking me out today. They were in full force! Not to mention they were really trying my patience. I dug deep and tried hard not to let my emotions get the best of me but try as I might I think they could tell something was up by the questions of “oh are you okay” that came my way. As much as I wanted to say the naughty [read not nice] thoughts from my mind I refrained and just said “oh I’m tired”. Well that didn’t get them to leave me alone either! My word people, then they started asking me more questions and making recommendations of things to try when all I wanted was to just get my cuppa tea from the kitchen and be on my less than merry way. I was easily annoyed today.  I have to remind myself that I have plenty to be grateful for and these people keep me in a job.

I must admit I was surprised I was feeling so moody today, especially after a 40 min core strength vinyasa flow this morning, and a 30 min vinyasa flow yesterday morning. I can only guess that perhaps as can sometimes happen with yoga, that sometimes our deep emotions are brought to the surface and we have to let go, to release them. Tonight [or what’s left of it] I am trying to center and ground myself. I’m trying to clear my head and find peace within the chaos. I am looking forward to an upcoming trip to one of my favorite spiritual places, Sedona [Arizona] next month. I’m looking forward to warm weather and waking up with the sun for a sunrise yoga practice.

Chia Seeds

I decided to jump on the chia seeds band wagon and give them a try. I’m eagerly awaiting their arrival to my door this week but anticipate that they will help me feel full and add to the vitality of feeling healthy. I suspect they are similar to the seeds found in falooda [a basil seed].They are supposed to help balance blood sugar levels, add omega 3 to the diet, sustainable energy all day long, cut out food cravings [my sweet tooth has been rampant lately] . They are a good source of fiber.

Core Vinyasa Flow

The flow series I did today was quite a work out, but definitely in a good way. In case you are interested in trying I am posting the video below.

Sources:

http://www.turmerichealthbenefits.net/2011/10/chia-seeds-benefits-and-side-effects/

Yoga and Cultivating Compassion

Karuna is a Sanskrit word that roughly translates to the actions taken to diminish the suffering of others. Helping others in their healing process can also help us. Today I woke up with an intense feeling of need to extend and voice my compassion to others out of love. Its part of my own healing process after all.

If I were to take a trip in the way back machine, several years ago I decided to take action since my mental illness [Severe Depression] was consuming me. It’s no lie that I have to work everyday to keep my depression at bay, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Yogic practices and the knowledge system behind it have made the process easier. I am able to cope with life, I can deal with stress better, and I can actually laugh at times, smile or think positively. Huge steps.

I wanted to share bits of my own journey. I know from experience, that when information in the past was shared with me, it was hard to accept. Especially when I felt like others did not understand how I was feeling or what I was going through. How could they truly offer or provide me compassion. In other words it was as if they were on a soap box stating all this information that would be helpful, but yet not being ones who suffered themselves the information and compassion only went so far. Sometimes compassion and love is all you need to motivate you. It is this reason that I share my journey with you.

My goal is for other mental illness sufferers to know that while you may feel alone, you aren’t the only one feeling this way. I realize at most times you might feel like your existence is bleak. You have no hope or positive thoughts entering in your mind. It does get better. It won’t happen over night, it won’t be easy, it will take work, but if you want to feel better, which I am sure most of you do, the help and resources are out there for us. They are out there just waiting for us to tap into them. We all have so much potential, and its up to us to realize that. When our life might be out of sorts and we feel off kilter we have to be reminded of such things. We have to be reminded that we are not alone. With depression we are so often caught up in a fog and feel hopeless, that along with all the other symptoms is no way to live. I would not wish depression on my worst enemy, that is if I had one but you get the point. It’s a terrible thing to live with, however it can be turned around.

I feel like it helps define me, not in a bad way mind you. It is one facet that makes me who I am. I can embrace it now, as part of the process of compassion. The spin or positive thoughts I can say about depression is that it has opened up new doors in my life. New avenues to learn and the ability to provide compassion to others who are out there suffering, some of which are possibly even in silence. This blog is my “Karuna”.

Remember that you really are loved and cared for. Your not alone, no matter how alone you may feel. I hope you can feel the warmth of the sun’s healing light today. I hope you can feel relief today, if even brief, and have a smile on your face. Love and light to you.

Yoga for Depression

Today was one of those days where I needed to balance the mind, body and emotions. I felt deep within my spirit that today was a day for a much needed  longer practice. I felt off kilter and manic, and quickly realized I needed a “time out” to ground and center myself. My depression was sneaking back in slowly and my body was crying out for a change in routine.

I wanted to bring back that feeling of peace and joy. That feeling of the sun shining on your face pouring its healing light on you. To not only unite my body and mind, but  to rid  my self of the winter blues and anxiety. You may not know it , but yoga does actually protect the brain from depression. This is really important to consider , especially since depression suppresses your energy for living, and make you more vulnerable to illness as it dampens the immune system.

Yoga and meditation combined with proper breathing patterns such as pranyama or ujjai, is such bliss. You will feel so relaxed and the practices drive those low feelings and blues out. Regular practices not only allows us to put our best foot forward, but we will feel bright minded, flush out toxins, improve our circulation, and brings us closer to spirit.

If you or someone you love suffers from depression, such as myself, after time you recognize the symptoms.  Its important to dig deep, access that inner strength you possess to get you going. I know in the moment it can be hard to overcome those feelings, believe me I have been so low I was hanging onto life at one point by a thread. Keeping up with my yoga practice really does relax the mind and body. I have found more so than any other type of exercise I have taken up.  I firmly believe the scientifically proven link between yoga and emotional well-being is a better type of prevention for depression. Yoga eases our suffering and provides a release, an outlet for all those unhealthy thoughts and feelings. Its also a lot healthier for your body than taking loads of anti-depressants that mask symptoms at their best and more often than not cause other unpleasant side effects.

Immersing my self in a daily yoga routine has really eased my suffering. I was able to see the world in a whole new light. This is most important in my daily routine since I am someone who is otherwise afflicted with long term severe depression.