Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Having fun as the Asvattha Tree

The Asvattha Tree is the Sanskrit name for the sacred Pipal tree; a relative of the Banyan.  Asvattha meaning that which will not be tomorrow.  Normally we don't see the roots of a tree as they are under the earth, but by the very fact that the tree is there, we know that the roots are also there, as otherwise how does the tree stand?   This Asvattha Tree is said to be indestructible, standing with its roots above the earth  and its branches are below, its leaves representing all Vedic knowledge, those who come to know this tree, come also to know the knowledge of the Vedas and the triangle of life; Samsara.  Some of the branches of the tree go up and some go down, representing some of our actions as becoming and some as not.  The tree is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita as a tool from Lord Krishna to explain to Arjuna the rules of cause and effect and how we are governed by the 3 qualities of nature, the Gunas; sattva, rajas and tamas, that of purity, action and laziness.  By our practice of yoga we try to bring the 3 gunas into equilibrium to form perfect balance and be able to transcend ourselves.  Working with our inversions, essentially sirshasana (headstand) and sarvangasana (shoulderstand), can be a process that teaches us so much, rather than worrying about getting to that perfect posture we would like to put on a postcard and send to someone, it is the whole process of learning these poses that makes all the difference.  It doesn't matter how long it takes and the journey may seem very long at the beginning, but giving ourselves the time and being patient is key to the process.  Often it is the case we put so much pressure on ourselves that we have to be better, stronger, more flexible etc that we forget the benefits from simply going slow and taking the asana step by step and not racing onto the next stage before we are ready.  Remember often it is the process that teaches us most and not the final position.  Inversions teach us a lot of patience and acceptance, some days they may come easy and some days not so, we have to learn to accept that.  They teach us how to overcome fears that we are facing and build on our confidence, someone practicing the headstand rarely suffers from a nervous disposition.  And turning ourselves upside down can help us see things from a different perspective.  Don't worry if you think you can't do it at first, the very fact that you are trying means you are doing it.  So often in class I hear from my students "I can't do that!" As I look at them and reply 'You are doing it!.'  The effort is there, so the results will be there, it isn't about how you look in the pose as long as we are doing it safely, but suddenly when you approach a difficult situation in life with confidence that may surprise you, where did that confidence come from?  From practicing that headstand.  When you endure something with more grace than you expected in a work or home situation, where did that endurance come from? From practicing that headstand.  So have faith, dig deeply into your heart find your beautiful branches and leaves and turn them upside down for a while, you just might see something you didn't see before.  We are limitless as to what we can achieve but we must have patience and acceptance to get to that final goal, be courageous and battle on my friend, become the Asvattha tree and be strong and wonderful.
Free headstand clinic after class every wednesday at Pranamaya yoga studio, Moksh, Patan, Kathmandu; 9.30-10.45.  Clinic follows class.
Just breath and let the universe take care of everything else
om om shanti om
nicky/ mangala :-)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yogi Borscht

I found this wonderful classic of spicy borscht, but being a practitioner of mediation every day and not wanting to create any other thought patterns, I have enough of them already,  I decided to turn it into Yogi Borscht instead, leaving out the onions and chili.  It was my dinner on Sunday evening as I sat on the rooftop with my husband, watching the clouds roll over the sky and turn to night over Kathmandu, it was a truly delicious feast! Recipe as follows:
2 large raw beetroots
1 large apple or cooking apple
1/2 red or green pepper
few drops of olive oil
2 litres of water
1 tsp cumin seeds
fresh parsley and oregano
ground black pepper
lemon juice
few sprigs of rosemary
natural yoghurt
(can add a few soya beans but not essential.)

Place the chopped vegetables into a large saucepan with the oil and water, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, you can add some vegetable stock also.  Stir occasionally.  Stir in the cumin seeds, parsley, oregano, black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.  With a masher give the mixture a good mash, add a little water and cook for a further few minutes, leave to sit off the heat for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with a spoonful of natural yoghurt on the top and a few sprigs of rosemary.  Food for the gods!!
Beetroot is a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants, including a rich supply of vitamin C. Vitamin C must be replenished every day, it helps to promote fine bone and tooth formation and helps to increase resistance to infection and bacterial toxin.   It helps to lower blood pressure and prevent heart and liver disease and it tastes delicious!  So enjoy your Yogi Borscht,
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings find harmony, balance and peace
om om shanti om
nicky :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shanti Dakshinamurti

At the beginning and end or all my classes I always chant the opening or closing mantra’s followed by Om shanti shanti shanti.  Shanti means peace, but why chant it three times?  The first time we chant it is to bring peace to our own being, both mentally and physically, the second is to bring peace to all other living entities, and lastly we chant it to bring peace to Mother Earth to free her from all disasters and tragedies.  You can also look at it from the point of view of chanting once for our minds to bring peaceful thoughts that cause no harm to ourselves or others, once for our way of speech that again there is only peace in what we are saying, and once for our hearts, that our hearts be full of peaceful love.
Chanting in Sanskrit brings out certain vibrations that reverberate into the world around us, so chanting shanti mantras allows that peaceful vibration to lighten the world around us as well as bring peace to ourselves.  In this day and age this chanting is a necessity.  Of course there are more shanti mantras than just chanting shanti, from the Vedas there were 10 main shanti mantras, which should if possible be chanted daily.  The following one I chant daily and is used at all the Sivananda centre’s and Ashrams around the world.

Om sahanavavatu
Saha nou bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvinavadhitamastu ma vidvisavahai
Om shanti shanti shanti

Meaning let the Lord protect both the teacher and the student, by giving us the Vedic knowledge may you protect and nourish us.  Let us enjoy the benefit of that knowledge.  Let me put effort into what the Guru is teaching and the Guru put effort into what they are teaching.  Let the knowledge stay fresh in our memories and let there not be any misunderstandings between both student and teacher.  Om peace peace peace.

The image above is of Lord Dakshinamurti, he is an aspect of Siva in his form of the Guru of all types of knowledge, especially of knowledge of thy self or jnana.  This aspect of Siva is his personification as ultimate awareness, understanding and knowledge.  The first teacher of yoga and destroyer of ignorance as he removes the darkness with light.  Thursdays are a significant day to start any educational endeavours and it is the day to give thanks to the Guru, so tomorrow begin your day with a positive sankalpa or resolve to learn something new remembering to chant the shanti mantra first before you embark on your learning.
Happy Shanti
Om shanti shanti shanti have a beautiful peaceful day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Love Mum

Recently I was asked by the lovely power yoga teacher Roshini what my latest ‘Aha’ moment during my yoga practice or whilst teaching my class, was.  I have just returned to Kathmandu after spending a month back in the UK with family, which was a very precious time.  Normally when I’m in my usual routine my daily self-practice takes me up to 5 hours, split over two sessions.  When I am away I try and maintain this as much as possible, but when staying with family that you haven’t seen for nearly two years, this becomes near impossible.  They need your time and it is important to have time with them as one lives far away and can’t just pop over for a cup of tea and a chat!  After a few days though I started to begin to feel a little frustrated, as I could feel my body was different my mental state, different, after not as much practice, thus was my ‘aha’ moment.  Whilst having a piece of cake, which I normally don’t eat with my mum, she commented on how lovely it was to be together and spend time just being and yes sharing a cake which she loves, and it came to me whilst off the mat that this time was as much my yoga practice as when I’m on the mat breathing, struggling, flowing, pushing myself and relaxing.  Yoga is all about giving and sharing and if I couldn’t give this time to my own Mum then it would be a poor thing really.  Swami Sivananda always said, ‘Serve, love, purify, meditate and realise.’  Sometimes we can’t always be in our routines, and other people’s enjoyment and happiness must come first.  So during my stay in the UK my yoga practice became much shorter in the terms of pranayama, asana and meditation and more about giving time to people and concentrating on their enjoyment, this is as much a part of union as the other practices, this was serving, giving and loving, together we made something meaningful.  Now I just have to concentrate on losing the two and half kilo I put on, eating cake with my mum!!   Yoga is a way of life and not just about being in the studio and what tricks we can do physically, yoga is becoming one and there are many means of achieving this.
Classes have started back at Yoga Mangala Studio, Pranamaya Yoga and The British School, Kathmandu, please do contact me on for the latest schedule, days out and retreats.  Looking forward to seeing you all on the mat, 
Om om shanti Om
nicky :-)