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!
2 years of the pandemic has brought a lot of things under the zoom lens of life – relationships between people, the roles and responsibilities of employed parents, and the way they managed work and home. The sudden shutdown of in-person meets and interactions led to a lot of upheaval of emotions on the home front. Many people found it difficult not to be able to meet their parents.
People were living inside the world of their phones and laptop and not being aware of what was happening around them – in their homes or office. This pandemic brought them out to feel that life cannot survive around just the phone and laptop. It reinstated the fact that people seeing others and interacting is very much required for maintaining good mental health.
Offices zoomed into the homes of their employees through the Zoom app! Since working from home became the norm for a majority of the employees, many of them who were staying far away from home moved to their hometowns and spent time with their family and at the same time being committed to working over Zoom interactions. It was a challenge to many as they had to manage both work and home, the noises and TV to be managed during work calls,
Teachers zoomed into the homes of their students and sought help from people at home to keep the child within the frame so that they can see their students. So either the parents or the grandparents got involved with this process. It helped them realize the job of the teacher and the challenges they face. Teaching a child is no more the only responsibility of the teacher where the parents can easily blame the school or the teacher. It has rather become a beautiful blend of responsibilities. Even though the children miss the interaction with others in person, Zoom classes helped in some way to keep the child involved in some learning.
There might be a lot of disadvantages felt by the parents and teachers but the situation was like that and I think it was the best we could do!
I had just completed my Yoga Teacher Training Program in Dec 2019 and I took 2 students at home to teach yoga asana. Just when I was getting used to the idea of “how to teach” and “how to observe the students and their movements”, the pandemic started and I had to stop the classes. While I was wondering how to go about the classes, Zoom gave me the confidence to go ahead. I started my classes online and if not for Zoom, I wouldn’t have been able to reach all the people in different countries.
When people were forced to stay indoors during the lockdown periods, it led to a lot of emotional health challenges among many. The need for coaches, and therapists started increasing. The need for improving the emotional health of people became very important. Even though in-person counseling is the most advantageous, Zoom call counseling and coaching still helped. People reached out to help regulate their anxieties about what will happen with this pandemic, the stress of looking at screens all through the day. And I did my little bit by helping people understand the right way to breathe and how emotional upheavals can be lessened with the right breathing techniques along with therapy.
Many times I have felt that the pandemic has helped people to pause their busy lives and take an audit of what is happening with their life. It has helped people understand the need for rest and rejuvenation.
The pandemic zoomed into our lives suddenly! We managed to keep our lives going with Zoom. Now, it is the time to zoom into the health aspect of our lives instead of the constant hustling.
I think I have chosen such a challenging word today, for there is so much to write about this word and what it means to me in my life! Let me delve into one of the aspects here.
There are things and perceptions in life which may feel very comfortable and something to be proud of, during a particular phase of life and then the same may feel like a burden. Here, I am talking about my uterus. I was so proud of it when I got it for the first time even though I faced menstrual cramps every month. There was also a kind of peer pressure in my class when all the girls who were going through menstrual cycles will meet secretly and discuss things. I wanted very badly to be a part of that group. I was delighted by the fact that women are the ones who have the physical advantage to help in the creation of another life and to hold the child inside for 9 long months.
Every time I had to go through the menstrual cramps, I would tell myself that this is the place of creating another life! I would be dying inside with the pain but I kept telling myself that this is all for the good and that one day I will be holding a child inside my uterus.
I burdened my body with this thought and went through the cramps every month with gritted teeth. I didn’t know what other options I had and at that time I didn’t want to look at any option.
The burden of the pain was kept at bay and sugar-coated. Every doctor I consulted gave me just pain killers and advised me to bear it – it is considered as a part of the menstrual cycles.
None of them wanted to do a pelvic scan to a girl who was not yet married, for simple reasons like menstrual cramps.
And then they gave me ideas – that when I get married, the pain will go away! Haha 😀 They put ideas in my head that menstrual cramps are cured by sexual intercourse.
But pooooffff to their ideas! I was still burdened with that pain, after marriage, and after blah blah blah!
Then came the next round of suggestions – maybe the delivery of a child will help in relieving me from the pain. Oh really? It turns out that both my children were born out of C-section surgery and the required expansion of the pelvic bone didn’t happen. And I continued with the pain every month.
It worsened when I hit peri-menopause and then later menopause. I felt burdened by the many years of being with the menstrual pain! There was no more delight in the idea that women are the only ones to carry a child inside.
And now I feel unburdened! The cycles don’t happen! There are no suggestions or sugar-coated solutions.
I have met a lot of women who sail through their menstrual cycles as though nothing has happened. It was a cyclical storm for me for nearly 4 decades! I wonder how I went through it.
There are a lot of things that I understand now about my body, my pain, and sometimes feel the burden I was carrying inside my head contributed to this pain syndrome!
May we all learn the art of unburdening – whether it is pain or anything!
I try to begin my day with an intention like this – let me be 1% kinder than yesterday! Easier said than done – this is a lot of effort but worth every moment of it!
This happened recently – I came across an artificial jewelry seller on Instagram, as I love these big chunky pieces of jewelry esp the jhumkas. I contacted her and ordered first. And I was very happy with the service that I have been buying regularly from her. Recently, I ordered a necklace to send as a gift to this person L. I received it neatly packed and without even opening it to check (my trust in the seller being the reason), sent the gift across to L. It was received well and then I came to know the link chain with the hook was missing from the necklace. I contacted the seller – before she replied to my text, I was drowning in my own thoughts – is it wrong to trust that seller? – why didn’t I check it completely before sending it across? – This has never happened before…why now?
Then I stopped thinking about this and went to do some yoga. I distracted myself from it and did chanting as I did yogasana.
I got a reply from the seller stating that she had sent the link chain separately and she asked me to check the cover. I hid my face under the table. Thinking that clutter-free is the norm, I had thrown away that cover without checking the contents on the same day itself.
I sat and thought about the whole thing. I can either be critical of my actions or keep sulking all day long. I can direct all this to the seller and tell her to take the blame for this incident. But both options will not solve the need – to deliver the link chain to the person who needs it.
I decided to be 1% kinder to myself than yesterday. This was an important moment – the changeover happened at that moment.
So I sent a message to L, accepting that there has been a mistake and I will send the link chain soon. She was quite OK with it. I suddenly realized how simple this turned out to be than breaking my head over the fact that I needed to be the perfect human being doing everything perfectly, according to my standards.
And like this and in many small ways, the practice of kindness is slowly and gently becoming a part of my life.
There is this sense of kindness to my body – listening to it groan, rumble, creak and tries to tell me something. This was my first step. The second part that I committed to do was to be kind with my breath, to watch it and allow it be and then slowly bringing in the nudge to do better. This kindness towards myself is something that keeps me going day after day with a sense of joy and appreciation.
To all the people who come across my path and whose path is not clear to me, let me be 1% kinder than yesterday.
To my husband who carries all the stress and anxiety into the home from his workplace, let me be 1% kinder to him than yesterday.
To my daughters who are caught up in their web of careers and friends, let me be 1% kinder to them than yesterday.
To those people who are dear to me and who have their own life to live and sometimes miss texting or calling back, let me be 1% kinder than yesterday.
It also instills inside me a deep sense to draw boundaries so that I can be kind to myself first. And then, from within those boundaries, I am trying my best to practice this “1% kinder than yesterday”!
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.
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 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!
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.
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!
I am the first grandchild on both my amma and appa’s sides. More precious was the status of the first granddaughter! Being cherished and celebrated by both the thatha and patti is such a blessing and something that I will hold dear to my heart always! Patti and Thatha (paternal) doted on me and I always found their presence at home as a constant comfort – to whose lap I can go and lie with my face down and without a word, my hair will be stroked and suddenly I felt enveloped by bliss! Patti’s hands were so soft and even now I think of her hand stroking my hair to fall asleep! I still remember the amazing stories she used to spin on the spot for us! Patti never believed me when I told her my age and she used to say “you are still my kuzhandai”! She was beaming with pride when I delivered my first child – “kuzhandaikku kuzhandai”! My maternal grandparents were stricter than the paternal ones. There were certain rules that we needed to follow as part of living with them but thatha was impartial; the rules applied to everyone at home. But I always felt loved and taken care of by patti and thatha. There used to be only 2 meals a day. After a lot of playing and running around, I used to feel hungry and there was always a second round of curd rice. On some days, patti used to make some nice tiffin and feed me during evenings after playtime. I cherish this act of love on her part! Slowly and gently, this circle of comfort started to fade! One by one, the grandparents were making their way out of this earthly existence and last weekend, it was the turn of my patti (maternal)! Suddenly I feel alone – there is no one around who will address me as “kuzhandai” (a baby/child) – there is no lap that can give that comfort – those soft hands are nowhere here to stroke my hair…sigh! But I hold them in my memories, I feel them while cooking a particular dish, I hear them when I listen to songs or slokas! I remember them when I feel strongly about certain values I live by! I look out for them in the sky, on a star-lit night! I cover myself with a quilt imagining it to be the hands of my patti, soft and comforting and sometimes, stroking my hair and I sleep like a “kuzhandai”!