Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sadhana Intensive

I am very excited as my rucksack comes out of the cupboard, my Sivananda teacher training uniform gets a fresh iron and I start packing a few things ready for my departure to Delhi on 5th of September. I am embarking on a journey, and not one merely of geographical matter but a deeper journey within. I am heading to the Sivananda Ashram, Netala, Utterkashi up in the Himalaya in India, to join the Sadhana Intensive, (intense spiritual practice) for 16 days. As described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika; from watering the plant, eventually you will get flowers and fruits, well I am hoping to go and water myself so to speak, and maybe through intense practice my flower will bloom! There is no fast or easy method on the journey that this yoga takes us on, to find the absolute, to find bliss absolute, we all have to find our own pace, this is the first time I will be undertaking this course and I am very excited and slightly nervous of the prospect. We will be rising at 4am and engaging in practice until 10pm for the duration of the course. I feel privileged and honoured that I am able to go and experience this exquisite practise of intense pranayama, (breathing techniques,) meditation and advanced asana’s (yoga postures) in the place where Swami Sivananda found his enlightenment. At the moment I’m not quite sure what is in store for me, I have experienced the Ashram life before during my teacher training down in Tamil Nadu at the Meenakshi Sivananda Ashram, which was a wonderful, beautiful, testing and life changing, I am hoping from this next experience that my practice and understandings will deepen still, and therefore enable me to become a better yoga teacher and share this beautiful thing on a deeper level. No more blog posts for the next month, as I am aloud no contact during the course time, so looking forward to sharing with you all once I return. Classes have started in Kathmandu already in my living room which my husband so graciously aloud me to turn into a little studio and at The British School Kathmandu, but I will post a substantial time table once I am back.

Sadhana Intensive is open to all graduates of the Sivananda teacher training course, you can find course dates as well as yoga vacations and locations on the official Sivananda site;

For now to my practitioners keep your mats out and keep up the practice, and I will see you all soon,
Om shanti shanti shanti
Smiling from the heart

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Yogi Diet

“We are constantly being bombarded with stimuli, and these make up the diet of our lifestyle. From the food we eat, the air we breathe, the things we see, feel, hear and touch, our environment is formed and this in turn profoundly influences and shapes our internal environment. We are what we eat literally, for the mind is constructed out of the subtlest parts of our diet and the body from the rest. To achieve the goal of life, to find contentment and perfection requires a peaceful and focused mind. To control the mind is difficult since it is in reality very much under the control of our physical body. It is therefore suggested that we first discipline and control the physical body and the mind may be easily controlled. Diet plays an important part of the process.” Swami Visnu-Devananda.

The yogi diet is traditionally a vegetarian and lacto one, mainly consisting of grains, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and dairy products. It follows a simple, natural and wholesome ethos bearing in mind the subtle effects food has on the mind and the prana (vital energy.) There are many health reasons to become vegetarian, as well as psychological, spiritual, moral and macro-economic.

In my own experience and coming from a big meat eating family, I thought it was going to be a difficult task, however cutting down gradually and then eliminating all meat products wasn’t hard at all, and I can truly say that I have never felt so healthy in my life, this is definitely due to diet and all the asana’s, pranayama and meditation practice combined that I do each day. My body feels clean, and now after two years of following this diet I could never go back. One thing I noticed after some time of being vegetarian, maybe after 3-6 months that my flexibility increased and certain asana’s (yoga postures) were becoming easier than I had found them before.

There are so many benefits of following the yogi diet, just from a health point of view, we can reduce the risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, hardening of the arteries, arthritis, gout, constipation, cancer, kidney diseases and osteoporosis to name but a few! The American Medical Journal states that a vegetarian diet can prevent 90% of our thromboembolic disease and 97% of our coronary occlusions.

As a Yogi, we take a lot of our prana (vital energy) from the sun, hence in our diet we like to eat foods that have taken maximum energy from the sun and nutrients from the earth, the closer our food is to the source the more potent the energy. Therefore eating plants that create protein and avoid undesirable elements, i.e. large amounts of antibiotics, pesticides and residue of tranquillisers that are found in meat, is best for the yogi.

In yoga philosophy the mind is formed from the subtlest portion or essence of food, if the food is pure, the mind has proper building materials for the development of a strong and subtle intellect and a good memory. A yogi diet is one that brings inner peace to the body and mind, pure foods that increase vitality, energy, vigour, health and joy, that are delicious and wholesome are best. Foods should be fresh and natural as possible, organic, not processed and eaten in the most natural state as possible, raw, steamed or lightly cooked.

You should include, grains, wholegrain breads, which supply the carbohydrates needed, pulses, nuts and seeds provide the proteins. Fruits have the foremost importance in the yogi diet; the curative effects of fresh juicy fruits are astonishing. They fill the body with vitalising life-giving minerals, vitamins and fibre. Leafy vegetables, squashes, cucumbers eaten raw or as lightly cooked as possible are wonderful yogic food. We also have to think about what veggies we are taking in, some are quite stimulating and therefore not good for the quiet and calm mind, such as chilli, onions and garlic, so try to omit these as much as possible.

My lunch today, apple, melon, cucumber, cashew nuts, carrot and some rye crackers, with a fresh watermelon juice, yum yum!

Om shanti shanti shanti
Smiling from the heart.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

108 sun salutations and Janai Pernima

The full moon on the 14th of this month brought about the festival of Janai Pernima, this is when all high caste men must change their ‘Janai,’ their sacred thread, which they wear looped around their left shoulder, until the next year. This tied in with my ritual of 108 sun salutations which I normally perform at full moon time with my fellow yogis in Kuala Lumpur; we would meet around 7am at sun yoga KL, and reach that meditative state during 108 salutations, feeding energy from one another and sharing our practice. Well this full moon brought much change, no longer in KL and practicing alone on my mat in my little shala on the roof. Imagining the mighty Himalaya surrounding me (they are still blanketed in cloud at the moment) certainly helped me through, as I reached Tadasana after every salutation I felt elated, rooted in the earth and lifted at the same time. So why 108? 108 is a sacred number in Sanskrit; 1 representing overcoming our ignorance and new beginnings, 0; emptiness and 8; infinite energy. I find doing this practice a way of cleansing, its not easy to complete, especially I found this at a higher altitude to what I’m used to, but the feeling of humbleness and thanks one receives on completion is well worth the effort. Then after a hearty breakfast of bean soup, a Nepali favourite at this time of year, my husband and myself headed down to the Kumbeshwar Temple in Patan to join in the celebrations. It was so colourful, so joyous and we were welcomed warmly to join in, receiving blessings from the priest, joining with worship to Lord Shiva, hands painted with henna and watching the boys energetically jumping and diving into the two ponds where a silver and gold lingam is set up for devotes to take a ritual bath in the water that is said to come from the holy lake at Gosainkund. It was a wonderful day listening to the tiny bells tinkling in prayer around this enigmatic time. This 108, I dedicated to my friends and family for their happiness and to Raymond and Dhemeri who were celebrating their birthdays close to this day.
Om Namah Sivayah
Smiling from the heart OM.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sri Ganesha Namaha

Sri Ganeshaya Namaha
Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha Jaya Ganesha Pahe mam
Sri Ganesha Sri Ganesha Sri Ganesha Raksa mam

Homage to Lord Ganesha, oh Lord Ganesha save me, Lord Ganesha protect me.

Lord Ganesha the elephant headed God, son of Siva and Parvati, the remover of all obstacles and granter of success, the bestower of wisdom and fulfiller of all desires, he rides on or is attended by the rat and he loves to eat modak, which is a sweetened rice dumpling filled with coconut and jaggery.

He is the first God worshiped before any other God, an ancient deity elicited for his immense strength and wisdom, he is worshiped to enable our path to be clear of obstacles, his trunk sometimes turning to the left sometimes to the right, corresponding to the two ways obstacles can be got round and the supreme goal reached. He is endowed with a gentle and affectionate nature, protecting his devotees and it turn he is revered and loved by them.

You are Language
You are consciousness
You are supreme bliss
You embody knowledge
Both earthly and divine.

This morning from the rooftop of my new flat in Kathmandu I saw a glimpse of the snow capped Himalaya before the cloud fell and kept them covered whilst we are in monsoon season still. What a wonderful sight before I entered my little shala on the roof for my morning meditation, as I repeat my mantra to Lord Ganesha the image of those mountains formed at my third eye centre and I felt an energy resonate through me. Moving to a new place, meeting new people creates mixed emotions, being here only two weeks there have been many obstacles to get around, a leaking ceiling, where to find basic things one needs and learning a new map of a new city, but I take refuge in the fact that Lord Ganesha will help me overcome those obstacles and will help me find the knowledge and learn all the new things that are all around me here. As a yogi, we are meant to be able to be happy and content in every situation knowing we are here due to our karma, knowing that it is what the divine wants for us, and this morning I smiled at the prospect of the huge learning curve I have in front of me. My wonderful GuruJi in India says the best teacher is the best student, well a student that is absolutely what I am, I have so much all around me to learn from, so bring on the journey and lets do yoga!
Sri Ganeshaya Sri Ganeshaya Sri Ganeshaya Namaha

Om shanti shanti shanti smiling from the heart.
Peace to all Love to all
Om and Prem.