By a seeker, for the seekers. A friend, philosopher and guide to all who embark on this inner journey called yoga. We engage with yoga enthusiasts through yoga classes, blogs, videos, workshops and more.. This is where I share my adventures on the 8-fold path of classical yoga with the connected world. Join us in your journey within.
This is a much delayed blog (but better late than never…) on our experiences with kids in the special yoga week as part of the “SnipFlip” summer camp in Raheja Vihar, Chandivali, Mumbai. About 17 kids of ages 3 to 11 participated in full swing. The kids were full of curiosity and eagerness; yoga seemed to have a good following among them!
What’s more interesting – almost every kid wanted to sit in sukhasan, eyes closed and fingers arranged in jnana mudra. That’s called media exposure!
However, Sanskrit posture names were like tongue twisters for them uninitiated lot and it was endearing to hear them trying to get their tongues around the pronunciations.
Overall, the kids responded beautifully to the gentle sun salutations, were excited for inversions (as ever), wobbly in one-leg poses and a natural in downward dogs. Guess what was their favorite one? Rabbit pose! Once into it, they just wouldn’t come out of it.
Teaching yoga to kids being so much fun, I enjoyed myself to the brim. I was surprised to see how well exposed the kids today are, they already know much more than we did at their age. Answering their questions and making sense to them involved a lot of learning opportunity for me as teacher.
Been into yoga for ages, or just starting to get the hang of it – no matter to which category you belong, the International Day of Yoga (June 21, 2018) is one occasion to make use of the global yoga celebrations for strengthening or building anew, your very special personal bond with this ancient-most science of self-improvement.
So, what are some of the classical yoga techniques to immerse yourself into, this IDY, 2018?
1. Sun bathing (Getting the sun rays)
June 21st, being the longest day of the year, has been purposefully selected as the day to celebrate yoga internationally. Giving us the longest evenings and the longest mornings, by virtue of the Earth’s location on its orbit, it offers excellent opportunity for exposing ourselves to the sun and for in-taking Vitamin D – the pro-happiness, anti-disease vitamin which many of us modern human beings seem to be perpetually deficit in.
2. Jala neti (Nasal irrigation)
Unlike many other complicated shatkriyas from Classical Hatha Yoga, Jala Neti is very easy to practice on a day to day basis. It is in simple terms, irrigation of the nasal passage with sterile, saline water and can be learnt from an authorized classical yoga professional. So, find one, learn the practice, and enjoy the freshness and the relief it brings along with deepening of the breath and better oxygenation of the upper respiratory passages.
Regular practice of Jala Neti is proven to cure sinusitis and prevent various air-borne diseases like tuberculosis, breathing allergies and regular coughs and colds.
3. Shavasana (Dead body pose)
Ever practised the ultimate relaxation technique in yoga which feels no less than being in a blissful limbo of sorts? This one is the unique most among all the yogasanas. It is said that 10 minutes of Shavasana is equivalent to 2-3 hours of good sleep. This IDY, expose yourself to the extremely energising, refreshing and rejuvenating experience which works at multiple levels – mind, body and soul.
4. Anulom Vilom (Alternate nostril breathing)
It is my personal experience that Anulom Vilom helps in removing negativity from the mind-body complex by releasing blocked energies in the pranic system. 5 to ten rounds of this kind of alternate nostril breathing, especially with accompanied kumbhaks and shunyaks (retentions and suspensions of breath) with proper consistency in the breath rate and the counts is enough to supply us with day-long boost of balance, equanimity and a happy state of mind.
5. Ishwara Pranidhan (Surrendering to higher reality)
Call it what you may – gratitude, faith, feeling humbled – the trust in higher reality is very important to go from one step to next without worrying about what was or what will be. This IDY, we can thank THE force for coming to our assistance time and again, for reinstating our trust in that which upholds all of us and for keeping us on the growth trajectory, no matter how painful the lessons learnt on the way are.
Don’t take our word for it. Try one or more of these…and experience the magic on your own.
Note: The Yoga Mile welcomes new practitioners for a free walk-in session in the week of International Day of Yoga, 2018 (18th June to 23rd June) to any of our yoga centres in Marol, Chandivali and Hiranandani (Mumbai).
Corporate yoga is very popular these days, with HR professionals in various companies conducting yoga-at-work sessions for the employees. Some call it ‘office yoga’, some call it ‘desk yoga’. It involves is practice of customized yogic techniques whilst sitting at the desk. There are lots of benefits of such corporate yoga programs but there’s much more to yoga at work. Yoga being ‘a way of life’ should not be restricted to neck and ankle rotations or a few cycles of chair-suryanamaskars. The idea is to adopt some healthy habits throughout the day’s routines – both at office and at home.
Rituals…whether we realize it or not, we all have personal rituals at home and at work. Not all of them are healthy though – we pour in cups of coffee, or stuff in cream biscuits from the office pantry. We go for sutta breaks and down cups of chai boiled many times over in aluminum leaching vessels. When such unhealthy habits take root in our lives, they lead to long term consequences for critical organs in the body. If we really care enough about ourselves, we got to attack these at the root. Nervous disturbances and stress are the key triggers for many of these. Slowly and steadily, we need to replace these with some self-care rituals which can blend with our daily work-routines – job title and salary no bar!
The “Hello Desk” Ritual
While the PC wakes up from the deep slumber each day, we can do our bit to settle in. Things to do:
Emptying the bladder
Filling water bottle to the brim – you need it more in AC rooms!
Adjusting the chair height, arm rest and sitting with spine supported
Taking 10 yogic breaths (using belly-ribs-chest) with closed eyes
Drinking water to full satiation before starting work!
The “Lunch” Ritual
Lunch is one of the most important meals we have, so it is important to get the best from the food consumed. Things to do:
Drinking a glass of water 20 minutes before lunch time to be hydrated
Using these 20 minutes to exercise key stress zones with desk-yoga
Washing hands before touching food
Eating variety (no fruits) over the week for the senses and the body!
Having enough liquids with lunch – chaas or curd or daals (but no water)
Sitting at the lunch table for 5-10 minutes to let the food go down
Being scrupulous about rinsing the mouth and washing eyes too!
Emptying the bladder after lunch
Going for a slow walk for 5-10 mins
Sitting in chair-vajrasana to resume work
The “Good Bye” Ritual
Before leaving from office, especially if we live in a city like Mumbai or Bangalore, we need to take extra care to keep our BP normal on the road! Things to do:
Charging the cell phone!
Emptying the bladder
These rituals are a way of giving the right signals to our bodies and of lowering stress levels. When we follow them day after day, these turn into habits that adorn our lives and sustain our health for years together. Tell us about some of your personal wellness rituals…
For most of us today (including me), earning a livelihood involves spending a lot of time on the desk or working on PCs. This leads to strain of eyes and saturation of the brain coupled with rigidity of the spine and weakness in the legs and the core. What’s more, the work pressure often leads to irregularities in lunch timings, water intake and rest. Every single day we think “ek din se thore hi health bigadti hai” but then days turn into weeks, weeks into months and if we are careless enough, months turn into years. When we keep following such unnatural lifestyle patterns for years together, one fine day our body just gives up.
As a corporate yoga teacher in Mumbai, I meet a lot of people who have had to learn the importance of healthy lifestyle the hard way. People come with various disorders of stomach, or kidney, or hormonal imbalances. These are problems not caused by any external agent like some bacteria or virus, these are self-manufactured, systematically created with regular indiscipline!
Many people take these health problems in their stride, but given a chance, surely, they would have preferred to avoid all the trouble. And this is what inspires the way we have designed our various corporate yoga programs where we introduce the participants to some simple and effective wellness tips so that they can prevent such health problems in their lives. Guess what! This blog mentions seven of the several wellness tips from our kitty, read on!
One: Adjust the screen brightness
The first thing to do when we sit at the desk is to check the screen brightness levels. We often take this for granted. If the screen is brighter than the surroundings and feels like a source of light, it is going to be harsh on the eyes. Usually our screens are so bright that the rest of the world just goes dark in comparison. Try adjusting the same to match the surroundings and the eyes will really start feeling more relaxed through the day.
Two: Block the calendar for meals
One pm, two pm, three pm, and sometimes when it is time for the evening tea! In the corporate work culture it is very common for lunch timings to keep sliding off into unnatural time zones, especially when colleagues freely block our calendar – for meetings which never start or end on time. Hence it is a good idea to send ourselves a recurring invite for all the lunch hours and snack times. The body thanks us many times over, when given the timely fuel it needs.
Three: Circulate the fluid
These days, I see many instances of young people with kidney problems. One common culprit is the habit of holding urine for the sake of getting the work at hand done. We forget that our kidneys are also always working equally hard, if not more. We can’t be putting off urinating for something as inconsequential as readying a presentation or submitting a project. Go urinate often, and drink enough water. Don’t take the kidneys lightly. Please!
Four: Let the feet breathe
When we sit for 8 hours a day on a chair with our feet wrapped in closed shoes, it is really bad for venous circulation. It is important to expose our feet to ambient air, so that the nerve endings are stimulated. Even the simple act of moving the toes has a very soothing and rejuvenating effect on the mind and body. For work, we should consciously choose footwear which can be slipped off so we can wiggle and curl our toes and get them some fresh air.
Five: Get creative with sitting
The word “asana” in fact means “to sit in a particular way”. One of the things we have today completely given up in our everyday life are the various healthy Indian ways of sitting. Even in an office chair, we can get the zing of yoga at work with slight adjustments in postures like vajrasana, vrsasana, ardhapadmasana. These asanas were designed by yogis to work on our energy centers in specific ways so as to bring flexibility, strength, stability and improve circulation.
Six: Walk from time to time
Get up to fill your bottle, get up to urinate, get up to just walk to the elevator and come back, get up to see if the legs are fine, get up to see if the back is fine, just get up and generally take a round of the premises, or even go out of the office for some outdoor air. Walking is a great way to naturally de-stress not just the mind, but also the body. 80% of the diseases are caused by stress and we need to be mobile to make sure that stress doesn’t make our body its home!
Seven: Cultivate a real hobby
Often our non-work hours just vanish while we scroll through social media half-dead and the clock goes around. It is important that we plan our non-work time – take up something that brings a spring in our stride; something that gives us a reason to call it a day and leave from work early. There are so many things we could do – doodle, sing, read. These things let us connect to our real self and give us an outlet to express and explore our imagination.
Dr. Jayadeva, fondly called as Dr. Sahab, is the only great soul I have seen, with my bare eyes, breathing and living amongst us. By the time my association with The Yoga Institute began, in 2015, Dr. Sahab had already retired from active involvement in day to day administration and teaching. Being one of the newbies at the now 100 year old ‘The Yoga Institute’, however, I did get to hear various anecdotes about Dr. Jayadeva. Even today, every single anecdote, no matter how oft-repeated, seems ever new, brimming with profound wisdom and wit. Even though many of us never interacted with the great soul in person, we always felt his presence like the warmth of the soft winter sun, always comforting and calling us out from our shells.
Today, he chose to leave his body.
But what he really left for us is something to be immensely thankful for….
For showing us how to live yoga.
For exemplifying perfect balance of spiritual living in a material world.
For giving us invaluable gems in the form of spare but wise words.
For mentoring and guiding so many wonderful teachers who we are now so lucky to study under.
Thank you, Dr. Jayadeva, for lighting our path on the yoga mile…
As with every profession, the desk job too comes with pros and cons. Years of sitting hunched over keyboards takes a toll on our neck and issues like cervical spondylosis, cervical spondylitis gradually develop over time due to lack of self care and self awareness. In traditional history of cervical issues, age related wear and tear was considered as the major cause, but today we are seeing the incidence of the problem among people as young as 23 years. No wonder, our necks are under undue pressure and most of us tend to pay attention to it after it is too late.
UNDERSTANDING THE ORIGIN OF CERVICAL CURVE
Our vertebral column is a flexible structure and the cervical curve is one of the post-birth developments, i.e. it is not present at the time of the birth. It gradually develops as we learn to raise our heads in sitting, standing and crouching positions. That ‘raising’ of the head is what cervical makes possible, and thus, this crucial curvature helps us hold our head high and also keeps us level-headed – taking the weight of the head in various positions, preventing the weight from directly impacting the lower portions of the vertebral curvature.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN A NORMAL CERVICAL CURVE
Prevents pressure on mid and lower back: The normal cervical curvature protects the rest of the vertebrae from added weight of the head. Thus, changes to the same lead to abnormal pressure on the lower spinal muscles and skeletal structures, thereby increasing the probability of developing spinal arthritis and spinal disc related disorders.
Allows cosy room for cranial nerves and vessels: The natural position of the arteries and nerves passing through and/or around the cervical vertebrae gets compromised, thereby increasing the probability of reduced or insufficient flow of signals and vital nutrients to the brain.
Is connected to Vishuddhi Chakra and confidence levels: We all have read enough about body language and the importance of holding the chest broad, the shoulders back and down and the head high. But we hardly go deeper into how aligning the body’s geometry in a perfect manner is connected to psychology. That is where ‘pranamayakosha’ or the energy aspect of our existence comes in. The energy flow in our body has certain fixed pathways and bending the spine in an abnormal manner creates blockages in that flow. The cervical curvature is connected to the Vishuddhi Chakra which helps among other things, in building expressive confidence levels, unleashing creative energy and communicating impactfully. Habitually holding the head down affects all these aspects of our personality!
HOW CERVICAL PROBLEMS DEVELOP
Every skeleto-muscular problem arises from continued neglect and carelessness. These problems do not crop up ‘one fine day’. They have a long gestation period during which we keep entertaining the problem, despite suffering from it. And a time comes, when the problem gets bigger than all that we have been busy with. Yes, work related stress and hyper-competitive world, where a sense of ever going rat race keeps forcing us on, despite our depleting batteries, is one of the key socio-economic triggers. Every time stress overpowers us, our shoulders subconsciously get raised and rounded forward in order to deal with an invisible but in-our-minds-very-real pressure! This creates contraction in the muscles and adds to the postural damage which is caused by long hours of using the desk-top technology.
CLASSICAL YOGA WAYS TO PREVENT AND MANAGE CERVICAL PROBLEMS
Yoga offers safe and cost-effective ways of preventing and managing cervical pain and cervical spondylosis. It works using a combination of physical rituals which strengthen the muscles, re-develop the normal curvature; relaxation rituals which improve the ability to deal with stress triggers and lifestyle habits which work towards bringing homeostasis at all levels – physiological, mental and emotional.
1. Greeva Sanchalan: It is a must-do for all modern human beings, because gadgets are not going away, let’s accept it. Nor can we escape from the need to use them. So one of the yogic solutions to prevent and manage cervical issues is the regular and ritualistic practice of Greeva Sanchalan. “Greeva” in Sanskrit indicates “neck” and “Sanchalan” relates to “movement”. Thus, simply put, Greeva Sanchalan is a movement of the neck in different ways: upward and downward bends, sideward bends, sideward turns and full rotations. For those with severe cervical issues, forward bending is contraindicated and semi circular rotations (minus the downward curve) are suggested.
2. Skandha Sanchalan: Skandha Sanchalan is yet another physical yogic ritual that is a must-include for those prone to or suffering from cervical problems – which sort of includes all of us! “Skandha” in Sanskrit relates to “shoulder-joint”. Thus Skandha Sanchalan is a movement of the shoulder joints. The most common type of movement practiced and suggested here is the holding of the shoulder joins with respect hands and circularly moving the hands thus alternatively bringing the elbows or the shoulder blades together in the process. Yet another movement practiced is one with hands normally hanging on either sides and shoulders being moved circularly (raise-being forward-press down-take backward) in each direction.
3. Stress relieving techniques: Yogendra Pranayama IV or gentle abdominal breathing is a great tool to relieve physical, physiological and emotional stress. So is Shavasana or the corpse-pose which helps us let go of our whole being to mother Earth’s welcoming force of gravity and rejuvenates us like we just woke up fresh from a good few hours of sleep! Nishpanda-bhaav is yet another technique which destresses beautifully, by creating in us, a feeling of stillness despite external environmental disturbances and stimuli. All of these train the mind to be at peace, no matter what.
4. Backward bending postures: A lot of yogasanas help build incremental strength in the cervical region Yogendra Chakrasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana are some examples of such postures. Here, while flexibility may already exist, the added focus is strength building, so that the normal curvatures are reinstated and retained by way of the muscles becoming strong again.
5. Sun-bathing: Letting the sun warm us up during the morning or late noon hours is a great way to replenish depleting Vitamin D, which is not just great for skeleto-muscular strength but also great as a happiness vitamin! We tend to underestimate the importance of sun in energizing not just the greens on the Earth but also the immunity of the various other living creatures.
6. Timely sleeping and waking cycles: Sleeping early, latest by 10 pm in today’s lifestyle and waking up early (before 6:00 am) helps in keeping muscular stiffness away and allows body the rest and drift into sleep more peacefully. Sleeping early is linked to better resting ability of the body and better repair-work of the physiological aspects of the body.