The beginning of the journey -2

The most important lesson in the Krishnamacharya tradition of yoga is that the asanas cannot be generalized. The asanas need to be adapted or modified to suit the person, their body, and their requirement at that time. For example, a person who has lower back pain or stiffness cannot be made to do all types of forward-bends on their first day of practice.

This lesson might sound very practical and many of us can also go like “oh yeah! Why do you even think otherwise?” But for a person who I was in 2018, this was something very valuable to learn.

I was illusioned by the fact that there are only 2 categories under which things fall – one is right and the other wrong. I was under the impression that I did everything the right way. And whoever did anything different from that, I considered them all as wrong. If someone took the effort to explain their way of doing it differently then maybe I agreed to a little extent. But this idea inside my head that I am right and all others are wrong was so deep-rooted. I also never voiced it to them. I held them all inside. So, when things didn’t go the way I had envisioned in my mind, I sulked and ranted sometimes to a chosen few. This was not a healthy way of living or dealing with people and situations but I was gloating in the fact that “I am a perfectionist and the others are not”

Sigh! I feel sad for that illusion which clouded my thoughts and actions.

Studying to be a yoga teacher was putting myself on the path to a “better me”. The Yogasutras have so much wisdom in them that understanding them, incorporating them into my life, led me to feel and think better.

Just like how asanas cannot be generalized for everyone, their physical body, thoughts, actions also cannot be generalized. Each one performs certain actions, believes in certain things based on their experience and perception of things.

So the circumstances that led me to do things in a certain way were not the same as others and hence they do things differently.

Actually, I was amazed by the functioning of the human brain and how it processes information, how it learns from experiences that happen during our childhood. It was such an eye-opening time for me.

I felt the change happening deep inside me. I became more accepting of others and the way they did things instead of being critical about their words and actions.

One thing led to the other. When the acceptance set in, I started accepting myself too, as I am. I didn’t expect myself to be a perfectionist like before. I learned to laugh at my mistakes. I started loving myself more. I loved the way I was changing.

I started creating art. I connected more with nature. And here I am, documenting them all!

To be continued…

The beginning of a journey

When I joined the Yoga Teacher Training program in 2018, I was filled with self-doubts. “Will I be able to teach another person all the yoga postures and help them with their physical fitness?” – This one topped the list.

It was a time when I was discovering my body and I made a list like this – the “can do easily postures” and “hmm…not now…cannot stretch beyond this postures”. I had a task at hand to work on the second set of postures. And this list did not even include the inverted asanas.

During that time, I also had a family responsibility – to take care of my mother-in-law (amma). She needed some help and along with the household work, I had a tight schedule. By the time I could find some free time to practice asanas, I used to feel exhausted to practice. Sometimes the free time was after mealtime. And it didn’t work great for my practice.

The teacher who handled the asana practice session for us was very good and nudged us in gentle ways to do better than before. One day I told her about the situation at home and how I was unable to practice daily. She just me gave this answer – “Every day you practice is like a spider climbing and building a web. You gain flexibility and strength. But if you let go of the practice, it is like the spider falling from its web. It has to be rebuilt again. You need to start from scratch.”

And I used to feel bad for all the days I couldn’t practice because of all the work at home. Taking care of an elder person needs continuous presence and the willingness to be present with them.

While I was going through all these thought processes, we were learning Yogasutra parallelly. And I am thankful for all the lessons learned from Yogasutra and all the credit goes to my Sir who had a knack for teaching and also to making us think. As he says “The idea is to plant a seed”!

Yoga is placing oneself in a new position (in life) / new physical posture (asana). It is like we are embarking on a journey to understand life or our body better.

In Yogasutra, the first lesson was of course the meaning of yoga. And understanding the meaning changed my perception of what I was thinking about the asana practice which I was missing. At that point in my life, I decided that my yoga was to take good care of amma, to be with her when she needed me, to be present for her. The moment I formed this sentence in my mind, it was like some weight was lifted off my shoulders. So, even though I practiced only twice a week or so, I didn’t feel bad. The spider story didn’t scare me. I was doing the best I can in that situation and I was happy with that.

It was like prioritizing what was important at that moment of my life. Once it became clear, the body and mind worked in sync to be there for amma. All through the pandemic, without any help from nurses, I was able to manage the care given to her with the help of my daughters.

After amma’s passing away, the definition of yoga changed in my life. I was able to prioritize my practice sessions and there was a remarkable change and improvement in the way I held the postures and also in the way I was approaching life.

The sincere effort to the practice of ashtanga yoga helped in lots of healing inside me and I am grateful for that moment I was guided to this path.

To be continued…

Body-mind connect

I have been focusing a lot more on the connection between body, breath, and awareness towards both. It has been an enlightening journey as I found simple and joyous acts of my childhood were aimed at strengthening the body-mind connection. Somehow along the way of growing up and enjoying the status of adulthood, the disconnect had happened. I am now in the process of strengthening this bond between the body and mind. This is not a single day’s job. It is very similar to breathwork and work needs to be done regularly to keep the connection strong.

The process that I use for this connection is through an oil bath. Yes, it is so!

Do you have an oil bath? The process of applying oil on hair and every part of the body and gently massage for some time. Then a hot water bath to wash off the oil. It is super relaxing and assures a good afternoon nap on oil bath days. We used to allocate Sundays for this process. Once in a week, we aimed at making the body-mind connect using oil as the lubricant, as we gently touched every part of our body, applied oil, took some time to see our own hands and legs, and enjoyed this whole process. As the hand gently ran around the skin, behind the ears, the neck, the spine, the chest, and the abdomen, it was a cue to the vagus nerve, letting the body flow into the rest and digest mode.

We create a bond with our bodies. The love for our body builds here. Here we gain confidence in our inner self by strengthening the bond with the body.

Why don’t you try it one day? Here is how you go. Warm up a cup of oil (of your choice, coconut oil/sesame oil/olive oil/almond oil). Start applying the oil when it is warm. Massage your hands, legs, lower back, shoulders – wherever you can. Stay with yourself for some time – let the oil soak in. And then wash it off with hot water and soap or whatever you want. The most important part is where the connection is made with the body using the hands. Feel the warmth of your hands on your body and enjoy this whole process. This is where the connection between body and mind happens.

If you have children, please teach them to enjoy this process of connecting with the body.

Whenever I have an oil bath, I think of my paati’s loving soft hands on me and I feel so comforted. She instilled this love for oil bath in me and I am so happy that it works great on the body-mind connect!