I sit still with my eyes closed, 15 minutes every day

Meditation is an elusive word. The saints achieved nirvana and figured out the deepest secrets of our existence, the monks achieve higher sensory powers, people who meditate everyday claim to have achieved more peace and clarity in life.

Yes, Meditation is the cheapest and the simplest way to get more out of life. And Yes, we would all like to have all these amazing feelings just by closing our eyes! But when do we REALLY start seeing results?

I am a certified yoga instructor. Yoga, movement, poses, come naturally to me, but I always deferred meditation. It would be last on my list of things to do. Because after 2-3 days I would realise my mind is still all over the place and this is not for me. I can “relax” my mind by reading or sleeping or other things!

During the lockdown I decided to give myself one more chance to closely analyze my meditation journey. I decided to not even call it meditation – I sat a timer, and sat still for 15min, everyday for 30 days. Record what I feel every day right after the session. This is what happenned:

Self guidance hacks that worked: For me meditation is a journey of self, connecting with self. It should be in my power to close my eyes and get into it. So, this is how I started – sit in my go to cross legged pose, close my eyes, take a deep breath in, focus on the long exhale, feel the stomach going in and the breath coming out of the nome, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, bring the focus to the middle of my eyebrows, let myself sink into the focus and imagine the emptiness. If thoughts come in the middle – I refocus by bringing my attention to the seven chakras of the spine, finally setting on the middle of the eyebrows. If thoughts come again – I shift my attention to the sounds, smell and feel around me and then let them all go to come back to the center. I wander and come back. What worked is using different techniques to come back to centers as some time it is harder than others!

The thoughts dance: It was equally frustrating and fascinating to see the thoughts jump from one to the other. I was thinking of my breath, breathe in, breathe out, why the simple act of breathing is so important for life, the TV series where a child died in UCU because he couldnt breathe, air in the atmosphere! Stop! On my god, back to center focus on breathing! While I closed my eyes, I could see the restless of my mind. I felt I would be so tired and irritated after I open my eyes, because I am just constantly guiding myself to center

Activations in the brain: In the first few days, it felt the brain was on vibration overcharge! As the thoughts jumped from one to another, parts of the brain seemed to get activated.

The first breakthrough: In the first 7 days, I found myself getting discouraged by the barrage of thoughts and opening up my eyes just 2-3min after! But on day 8th, I achieved the first 15 minutes of sitting, and the next day I knew I could do it! I got the 15 minute power! My mind started getting used to the 15min. Somedays I foun dmyself peeking open my eyes at 55 sec left, 10 sec left, because I thought – maybe I forgot to set the timer on! haha

The 3min – 5min Bliss after: Even after the thought filled, self guidance filled sessions, I found myself opening my eyes to a new sense of calm. Just after opening my eyes, I would feel like closing my eyes again to experience that microsecond of peace. As I used to write my meditation notes, I found better focus. My eyes didnt wander around the room but were set on what I was writing. Now this didnt last for more than a couple of minutes ever in the last 30 days, but the couple of minutes were worth the results to keep it going 🙂

Fun sessions: Skin care + Meditation: There were days when you know you don’t want to sit still. But guess what, we all like sitting still with our face masks on. I combined my sitting still session with 15min face masks time! Worked!

28 Days of Yoga immersion – I learnt what yoga really means

From Feb 10 2019 to Mar 10 2019, I attended the 200hr yoga teacher-training course at The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanvantri Ashram at Neyyar Dam, Kerela, India.

The drive from Thiruvananthapuram airport snakes through narrow village roads to reach the ashram in about an hour. The ashram is perched on a small plateau on the foothills of Southern Western Ghats, flanked by a beautiful lake set against the backdrop of herb-laden mountain range. The nearest village (qualified by the presence of a restaurant) is left 10kms behind. Inside, people practice a simple life – dressed in clothes picked solely for the purpose of utility, sit on the floors, walk while stopping by to enjoy a blooming lotus, a playful cat or chasing sunsets. You hear incredible stories of people who have travelled from across the world to press a reset button in their worldly life and practice yoga.

There was a mystical energy in the place, part created by the environment and part by the people, which made the grilling 16hr day, 6 days a week, manageable. Our days began sharp at 5:20am with a communal bell, squeezing in 4.5hr of yoga, 3hr lectures of Vedanta Philosophy, Bhagvad Gita and Anatomy, 1hr of meditation, 1hr of chanting, 1hr of service, 1hr eating 2 meals a day and miscellaneous time to finish everyday homework till it was lights off at 10:30pm. To call it intense would be an understatement. On day 1 we were told that this experience would ‘change’ us and I was curious to learn how.

As we neared week 3, I found myself adapting to the ashram lifestyle. Sitting cross-legged for 8hrs everyday was becoming manageable, I felt comfortable with two meals a day, I could tame my thoughts for a couple of seconds during meditation, I got into headstand from crow the other day, I was learning a lot about yoga philosophy and postures… But unfortunately none of this qualified as ‘change’ but felt merely as signs of progress, till I was pushed, while getting out of the airport bus after landing back in Bangalore city from the ashram.

I felt like an alien who has come to the city after spending years in the jungle. I felt a sharp aversion to the craziness at the airport, the bags, the crowd, the lights. I wanted to rush back and find a calm place. I longed for simplicity. That’s when I knew something deep had changed inside me. After getting back home, I decided to pen down my thoughts for anyone who was curious about the path of yoga or was on his/her own journey.

What I learnt – The Why, How and What of Yoga

Why should we do Yoga and what is the purpose?

Our mind is our apex center. It has the power to make decisions and orchestrates the nerve signals and muscle movements to take necessary action. It decides if we should succumb and reach out to that cheese oozing pizza. It decides if we have enough time to overtake the truck ahead in a fast lane highway. Every second, the mind is getting signals from the billions of cells in our body on rate of metabolism, infections, pH levels etc. Every second, the mind is bombarded with sensory perceptions of the outside world through our 5 senses. The mind is constantly preoccupied and working very hard, splitting all the inputs into tiny tasks and defining a conscious / subconscious / unconscious response.

What if we could harness all this mental power and focus it on one point, one problem, one project! You might solve world hunger! The true purpose of yoga is to achieve that control on the mind.

Asana based yoga, uses body as a tool to rein in our breath and then mind. On the last day of the course, we did 2hr of meditative asanas, i.e. holding asanas for upto 5min with deep breathing and closed eyes. After the class, instead of being tired, I felt a strange sensation of peace. So strong that I just wanted to focus on something deep within me. I didn’t care about rushing for the last meal of the day. I didn’t crave for checking my phone. I wanted to be in the moment.

Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind

How to do yoga the right way:

  • Start with Savasana to relax body and mind. Don’t jump into it. Even if you do yoga in the morning, start with 5min of Savasana (complete relaxation, corpse pose) because you never know what the dreams or checking that phone did to you.
  • Learn correct breathing. Correct yogic breathing goes like this: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Know the breathing routine to get into the pose and breathe rhythmically when in the pose.
  • Feel the pose. Focusing on how the pose is stretching your muscles and which organs are getting activated, will help to get deeper into the pose or to hold it longer or to do the pose with eyes closed. Just consciously bringing your attention to the body part will fire the nerves and bring amplified benefits to that part.
Breathe, Focus and feel the pose

What asana to do and where to begin?

  • Check your alignment. Take a picture of you standing straight sideways and notice how you are hunched forward or backward (in an ideal posture, you can draw a straight line through your ear, shoulder , hip, knee and ankle joints). Focus on asanas that counter the bad posture and correct the stance. Adopt right posture for sitting, standing and walking.
  • Do a full spinal workout. There is a Chinese saying that says, you are as young as the flexibility of your spine. If the nerves in and around the spine aren’t supple enough and unable to send the signals / nutrients across the body enough, than no matter what you eat or do, you will be prone to diseases and pains. An adult spine is a set of 26 vertebra divided into 4 sections, that can allow movement forward, backward, twists and lateral. Focus on all for a complete daily practice. Sun Salutation is a great all spinal workout that can be added as a warmup with 5 rounds or a full 60min workout with 108 rounds!
  • Pick up a challenging pose. Build strength, flexibility, balance AND endurance. There are 8.4M yoga asanas out there. Leave alone mastering them, even the account of these asanas is not mentioned anywhere. Based on our  practice we tend to gravitate towards one type. We are afraid of building strength or holding poses for longer thinking that it’s not “our” style of yoga. But in the end, it is all one yoga with one aim. Our muscles need all four actions, so challenge yourself and challenge them!

You are born with every breath.
So Breathe. Breathe consciously and breathe fully.
To be a better, stronger, calmer and more focused version of yourself…

Exercise your brain

Have you ever wondered, how do we take care of our most intricate body part, that is unique to us humans, we can only access it by our thoughts or some complex scientific procedure and that even science hasn’t been able to figure it out completely as yet!

Yes. Thats our brain. It actively works while we are awake processing millions of signals each receives from every cell of the body, and unconsciously streaming dreams while we are asleep. For this non stop activity, our brain needs some exercise.

Learning new things, stepping out of the comfort zones, solving complex problems keeps it active. But whatever we do we would still be using under 10% of our brain’s potential. And in our modern lifestyles we are making things even worse.

Most of us are in jobs where we do the same things over and over again. We are constantly deferring to ‘why remember something when you have google’. We stay in our lanes. The result – our memory muscles, creative muscles, sensory muscles, imaginative muscles.. get weak. And the ones we use more often get tired easily.

We can’t let that happen especially when there is such an easy and soothing solution to it. “The humming bee” Pranayama. This one exercise creates vibrations so strong that they can reach deep into the realms of the human brain keeping all its muscles supple and active.

How to?

  • Start with sitting in a comfortable position
  • Use your thumb and fingers to gently close your ears and eyes.
  • Take a deep breath and as you exhale, exhale from the throat keeping the mouth shut and tongue touching the top of the mouth.
  • You will feel ‘hhhhhummmmm’ voice, similar to that at the end of an ‘Om’ chant or that of a humming bee
  • Repeat this for 3-10times
  • And…before you rush to open your eyes, take a moment to feel the vibrations like a gentle massage to your brain

So don’t forget your brain, when you finish off your daily set of exercises!

Relax your eyes

Ever imagined how much our eyes work every single day. While they are working nonstop when we are awake, we have made the task any easier with (1) our dependence on digital screens of all sizes (2) staying in dry air conditioned, polluted environments

So let’s treat our eyes with a surprise refreshing acupressure massage every night before you go to bed. I have been trying them for a week and already seeing the effects.

  1. With each of your thumbs locate the intersections where the top of your nose meets the eye, on either side of your nose. Gently press upwards on the upper eyebrow bone. Hold for 5sec and leave, and repeat six times for a total of 30sec
  2. With your index finger press on the space in-between your eyebrows

You would find you body relaxing just as you gently press the key zones located on your forehead. You might feel a bit of pain when you move along the eyebrows, which is simply our body’s way of saying it is holding up stress. So, Don’t worry just gently keep pressing along and you would find the pain easing and the eyes relaxing with increased blood flow and reduced muscle tension.

#energy #eyecare #massage #accupressure #thesatorilifestyle #consciousliving

How to ease into a Headstand

Three years ago, I decided I want to learn how to flip my body up side down and get into a headstand.

It took me a couple of months to overcome my fear and get my legs up against the wall, another six months to learn how to maintain balance without the support of the wall and almost two impossible years to move into a gracious jerk-free, guaranteed headstand balance in the middle of the room. I had tried different tricks, watched several youtube videos and almost given up till I tried these three simple things that transformed my handstand in the last 10 days!

 

Exhale when you lift up: One of the most important things while being upside down is breathing.

After the dolphin pose, bring your legs as close to the forehead while maintaining a stable 90degree position of the top of the head, As soon as you feel you have achieved the limit and head is starting to lose balance, take a deep breath and start slowly exhaling and simultaneously lifting one and then second leg to the middle position. Exhale further and you will feel the stomach tightening that will help you move your legs further up to the final position. Exhale the last air out of your lungs to stiffen your core and get into the proper stable headstand

 

Divide the move into three stages: Headstand is not one pose. Its a final milestone of the journey and every-time you get into it you have to pass through the other milestones. You cant jump to it.

The reason it took me two years to master headstand was because every time I would just jerk my legs from the floor to the air hoping that I would catch my balance. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. The fear that it wouldn’t, esp in yoga classes, made sure that I could never get into a non assisted headstand in a yoga class but could do one at home.

Divide the pose into three or more stages – On the floor, legs half up in the air and both legs straight up in the air. When you are at each stage, take a second or just consciously move your attention for a split second to make sure you are stable with  a quick check of the key body parts (balance of head, even pressure distribution in the hand and stability). Just knowing this helps move onto the next stage smoothly

 

When falling fwd tighten the lungs, when falling backwards stiffen the legs: While you are learning headstand you fall. There is no escape. Loosen the grip and let the body fall to avoid injuries.

After you have mastered headstand, you still fall because the mind wanders. But knowing what you can do to adjust balance when you feel the bosy swaying fwd  / backwards helps to consciously stabilize the body.

How to know where you are falling: When you are falling fwd you will feel more pressure on your hands, but when falling backwards you will feel more pressure on your head

 

In the end, one you are in the pose, play with it. In a perfect headstand you balance all your weight in a tiny area at the top of your head. Its not easy and definitely looks like a serious pose, but play with it and have some fun. Because the rush of blood in your head and the energy you will feel afterwards is going to make it addictive for you!