Support

For the past one week, I had a lots of travel to do, within the city. Breakfast and lunch was planned and packed if need be. One of the days, there was a function to attend, which involved wearing a sari.

To the person I was 10 years back, all these were not jobs at all. I was excited and thrilled with the travel. I loved the idea of packing food and eating from the dabba. I loved attending functions and dressing up for it. So all these “jobs” were a breeze!

The person I am now is different and evolved (I think so 😉) The above mentioned are jobs which needed extensive planning both physical and emotional. I needed to prepare myself for every job or work. I needed time to process what is in store for me.

The past few years of going through perimenopause, then menopause have had its effects on the physical body and the emotional one too! The loss of dear ones added to the emotional toll!

To deal with all these things felt like a challenge for me, initially! I didn’t feel like cooking most of the days. I didn’t have the josh to do anything on many days.

And later I realised one thing while going through this all – this is no challenge – this is not me against my body or emotions! I don’t need to challenge it all!

I found an easier way – supporting my body. Whenever I felt the challenge coming through me, I paused. I sat quietly and listened to my body. And I simply offered Support to my body. I talked to my body about the upcoming travel or meet with another person, prepared it and asked my body for Support during this time. I sat through those emotions, understood where it came from and held myself, gave my emotions the Support it needed.

I felt a huge relief as I supported my feelings, my body. I have never felt this good in my life!

Hexagonal Mandala

Gently gaze at the mandala! What pattern do you see first?

Now zoom the mandala and keep gazing. What pattern do you see now?

Turn the phone and try again. Observe what pattern speaks to you! Please tell all that you observed in the comments.

It is amazing, right?

This was an absolute joy to draw. Like a kid who is head over heels in love with geometry, I began drawing this hexagonal mandala.

Then circles happened inside the hexagon and outside of it too. It became very exciting when I drew the 12 pointed star. Sometimes it feels this whole mandala is about this star. Sometimes it is the hexagon. It all depends on my perspective and how I hold the art book.

So, to complement the star, I drew the night sky background and felt how all the patterns, my thoughts were all contained inside one mandala – one Universe!

My dear teacher Elsa,
You have done a beautiful job of planting a seed – the seed for the love of patterns, geometry. Gratitude for your presence🙏

The beginning of the journey – 4

The bloom

This journey of mine in the path of yoga was no easy task for me. Every new concept or idea I studied nudged me to get out of my shell – the kind of perfectionist fort that I had built around me. It started to show in my writing too. My very old posts were trying to convey something that happened to me but through the eyes of a story. The acceptance of the situation did not happen then. There were writings that dealt with everything in the third person.

Now I write from my heart – thankful to a lightweaver’s amazing writing workshop. It helped me to write the stories as they happened to me. I was able to articulate this is how I changed or this is how I healed. And I feel the sigh of relief when the words escape me and get latched on to the document.

I was a proper “to-do list” person. I generally have a plan for the day, for the week, the month, and the year too. And when things happen differently from my plan I was not very accepting towards it. I used to resist it. I didn’t want things to happen differently than what I had envisioned. It was difficult for me. And when I was forced to do those things, I did them but internally I sulked. I carried it in my heart. I was constantly on the complaint mode – talking about someone or something that didn’t go my way!

Now that I think of it, I see those moments were the triggers that I could have grasped with open hands and enabled the change to happen inside me. But then, it is ok. I learned this very important lesson in my life at the right time, for me.

And the lesson that I learned and keep embracing even now is – “Go with the flow”

I had made some progress with changes in the to-do list and started accepting the fact that certain things are not in my control. That was a huge one to take in, digest, and live with on a day-to-day basis. But I survived that part.

I want to share this story in this context. One night, as I was about to sleep, I saw an Instagram story of a dear friend. Looking at her story on some iconic picture of Chennai, I messaged her and asked if she was in the city. She said yes. And then came another message from her – “Can you travel to Auroville with me?” That message came as a big surprise – this was the first one. I read aloud the message to my husband. He was like “Do what you want” – this was the second one. This was a huge thing considering the fact that I have to cancel my classes suddenly to make a trip. I have never traveled with friends before. Before I got married, I had traveled with friends for attending a wedding. It was a big group. After getting married, it was always with the family. This kind of opportunity never happened (or maybe I didn’t see such opportunities). It was not that I was looking for some approval from the husband. But once he said those words, it hit me – Was I the one seeking approval all the time?

I just closed my eyes, placed one hand over my heart, repeated that question from my friend, and asked myself “What do I feel right now?”

I felt little butterflies in my stomach. I felt the excitement inside me. I felt the urge to go along with my friend. And I said yes to myself and to my friend.

That trip changed so many things inside me. I had moments all by myself – to be my childish self in the pool, to be my enlightened self as I introspected, to be my curious self as I went along unknown paths! I was thrilled to bits and at the same time felt a deep connection to my own self.

That beautiful bond of friendship strengthened further.

All these amazing self-realizations were made possible only when I went with the flow of the Universe! I learned that when something is placed in the path of my life, it is placed for a reason – for some change, for some understanding, for something better – here is a nudge to something! And when I looked at it with child-like curiosity I was able to feel the nudge changing me subtly so that I learn to enjoy this moment, as it comes, as it presents itself.

The frame called time

Mandala art representation of the sun and stars!

I am going to state some facts here:

The sun is a big star. Because of its proximity to our planet, we receive the light and warmth from this star. At its average distance, light travels from the Sun’s horizon to Earth’s horizon in about 8 minutes and 20 seconds.

The stars that fill up the night sky are some billion light years away from us and for us to see stars on a particular night, that light should have left the star billion light years back. Phew! I cannot even imagine that time frame!

And then I look at myself, trying to bring focus to that breath. Even before I bring in the attention to one breath, it is already done with.

This frame of time in which we see things like the sun and stars is sometimes mind boggling to feel everytime I look up at the sky. And it is so very difficult to keep the attention on that breath as it is happening.

What are we bringing our awareness to?

For the brief stay of 70 to 80 years on this planet, what are we doing to it?

What are you doing in your timeframe?

The beginning of the journey – 3

I can actually draw a line in my thought process and name it like – Before Yoga (before 2018) and After Yoga (after Aug 2018). They are so different like the Earth and the Sky. Each one had its reasons and place in my memory bank. The person I am now is embracing all these thoughts that happened because those thoughts paved the way for what I am today!

I used to think that Yoga refers only to the practice of asanas. It was only after the study of Yogasutras that I understood that Yoga is actually a way of life. The ashtanga yoga as proposed in Yogasutra is a great way to live life. It encourages changes from the inside, in our thoughts, actions and slowly we see a change in our perceptions. And suddenly we see that everything around us has changed. It started within us first.

There was a comment by my dear friend for my previous blog post and I had replied that I look forward to her comment! As I typed that, I realized that I have come a long way from who I was Before Yoga. For every action of mine, I felt that there was a tight ball filled with expectations, and when it didn’t happen, I shrunk inside and judged people.

Life was trying desperately to teach me this lesson on letting go of expectations from others and situations too. The lessons came in many forms through many people. But I was a tough nut to crack probably.

When I trained to be a Yoga teacher, I was so keen on learning about the human body and what happens when we do particular postures. A person with physical discomfort in any part of the body will not be able to do those postures which increase the discomfort. And if I continue with my expectations that a student of mine will – has to – do all the postures I teach, I would have been in for a shock. That particular learning about the human body and how to teach postures differently to different people, without expecting a perfect posture was a great lesson for me.

This led me to a better understanding of the people around me and I slowly stopped expecting people to do something or behave in a certain way. I learned the hard way to be ok with however they did it. It was not at all an easy path. It took so much time for me to understand that what others are doing is their own journey of life and that I need not wrack my brain for people doing things differently than what I had thought.

So, to put it across shortly – As a yoga teacher, I observe my students’ postures and breath. I suggest improvements based on their body’s capability. The suggestions are given because they have come to learn from me.

In real life too, I can only observe what other people do and behave. I draw boundaries to protect my space and suggest only when asked for.

I hope you were able to make sense of this rambling…

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!

Mandala and me

I am the sky with the white clouds
I am the mountains and valleys
With rivers and trees
I am the green pastures
With wild flowers and grass
I am the ocean
Constantly in motion
And deep inside me
Is my heart filled with love!

I am the mandala
And the inter-connecting patterns
That make it!
I am the colors
Which fills up the patterns
In VIBGYOR mode…
For life isn’t just black and white
But all the colors in a spectrum of light!

The Mandala and the thought process

“The Mandala drawing is a representation of one’s own thoughts and its associated processes” – this I read somewhere and this idea kind of stayed with me.

A few months back, I took the first step in learning it properly from a beautiful soul, Elsa. And all through her classes, she taught me the precise way to draw concentric circles, mark angles and make space to draw the patterns in my own way. She made such an impression on me that precision was the key to doing mandalas. And her mandala drawings are great examples of the precision she talks about. Of course, there is always an interpretation to her mandala and she does it with ease and beauty.

My journey in the path of mandala drawing started after the classes. I watched and learnt many new patterns and techniques from others too. But I was still a novice in the way I used those patterns in my mandala.

And instead of stressing on how to draw mandalas which is an interpretation of something or a pictorial representation of a thought process, I just let myself to relax. I told myself that I will attend to any spark of thought that I receive from my mind and then take it forward.

I didn’t get to relax a lot. There were some sparks and some representations of them in my mandala drawings. The recent one was I wished to represent the Marigold flower in my mandala. I didn’t know what led to that spark; probably yellow is my new favorite and flowers are my new found love in nature!

The reasons apart, I gave in to the spark and started the work on my pictorial representation of marigold.

I drew petals and filled them with floral patterns and kept filling it up in my favorite yellow. In my excitement to draw more petals, I messed up one whole concentric circle. And instead of getting worked up on the mess I created. I filled it up with yellow and that filled me up with joy.

I forgot to draw the double line border in one circle. Another mess up. But I carried on and filled it up with floral pattern and yellow color.

In one petal on the outer most circle, I seriously messed up, filled it with whitener and then realized that yellow color didn’t stick on the whitener and this mess up was very evident. I still carried on and kept filling that yellow, wherever I could.

And then the borders of mandala faded and the marigold took over it all, which led to those free lines of yellow around the mandala. I felt absolute joy when I did those strokes of yellow with slashes of light brown and gold.

I felt complete with the mandala.

As always, I try to draw parallels.

I am like this mandala – I have messed up many a times with relationships. But that didn’t stop me from making new relationships, for I kept filling that space of relationship with love and more love.

Many decisions that I have taken have not been great ones.

Many times, my words were too much and there were times, when my silence was too much!

Many of my experiences stressed me a lot and were blocking me from moving forward.

There were times, when my expressions were not an absolute representation of what I felt because it was so intertwined with my emotional blocks!

And just like this mandala, I worked on it, taking one circle at a time. The past two months have been great that I worked on identifying my blocks and helped myself to clear them too. It is still going on and I am loving the “me times” where I work on this!

I used to be like these patterns – always following a strict adherence to rules and regulations. May be, it helps to relax the rules and go with the flow! I am learning to take it easy!

If you have read till here, I hope you see me in all the different shades that I express myself. The key point for me is that these drawings help me to see myself in those shades and be very accepting of myself and continue to love myself too!