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…

Why stop at just drinking your 10 glasses of water? Go to the next level

It is recommended that we drink 8 – 10 glasses of water everyday (approximately 1 glass, 200ml, for every waking hour). It’s a seemingly simple step to keep our bodies hydrated that is composed of 70% water.

For most of us, getting to the goal of 8 – 10 glasses feels like an achievement as we forget or feel lazy to getup from our desks to fill up our water bottles in the middle of this important piece of work that we are doing or just don’t want to be that person that goes to the washroom every hour so pre emptively just avoid drinking water.

But there are those who have gotten over these social / mostly personal stigmas and built habits that are useful for our bodies. Are you one of those who will stop after achieving your goals? If no, read below as we will go to the next level of our water drinking routine.

Infuse water with Tea leaves

  • A morning affair with Black tea: the highest caffeine tea will instantly boost your body and wake you up. But drinking this 4-5times a day can bring your body to an unnecessary overstimulated state
  • Keep going through the day with green and white teas: they are not processed and have high levels of antioxidants
  • Energize your afternoons with flower teas (jasmine, rose, chrysanthemums, osmanthus): the smells and sweet flavor with leave you refreshed and in a positively elevated mood
  • Go to bed with lavender tea
  • Digest your heavy food with Pu’er tea: these are fermented teas aged over several years and should be paired with heavy meals to boost digestion.  If you find the taste very strong, then mix the leaves with orange zest or rose petals and be careful not to seep the leaves in hot water for more than 5 sec!

Infuse water with fruits and flowers

There are so many superfoods, herbs and nuts out there that sometimes it can be really overwhelming to think of recipes to include them in your diet. Yes, you can just drop all of them in your smoothie, but that doesn’t let the individual flavors out and can sometimes ruin the taste.

  • Goji berries
  • Chia seeds (add honey and lime to make it a perfect post workout recovery drink)
  •  Ginger (to build immunity)
  •  Apple cider vinegar (for post meal drink to balance stomach pH)
  •  Green tea, jasmine tea (for a mid afternoon refresh)
  •  Star anise, cardamom, cinnamon (fight cold in winters)
  •  Tamarind water ( digestive laxative and a fun tangy taste)

Infuse water with roasted grains

Did you know you can drink your grains? Roast them till they become effervescent then ground them or pack in tea bags to infuse your water. The smell of a roasted grain is satisfying and will be a good experiment to reduce dependence on caffeine as grain teas are caffeine free. If not all the way, blend half of your coffee with the below grains

  • Roasted barley tea: It is loaded with antioxidants, and helps improve digestion. Famous in Japan, roasted barley is infused in hot or cold water depending on the season.
  • Quinoa tea: Loaded with superfood nutrients

Ferment it!

Kombucha is a fermented drink, aged for 10-30 days. Every 2L of kombucha drink is made from 2Tbsp tea leaves, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 disc of bacteria rich scoby, 0.5L of starter kombucha and 1.5lts of water

During fermentation, the bacteria and yeast feed on sugar and tea to release acetic acid and probiotic bacterias as byproducts, improving the overall bacteria flora in our stomachs and intensities to aid digestion.

How to?

For your everyday routines, start with enhancing one glass of water with any of the above infusions of your choice, going up to 5 glasses a day. You can choose one infusion type a day / a week or mix it up as you like and as much prep time you have!

Scrambled Paneer (Cottage cheese)

The perfect breakfast in bed – Scrambled paneer with a side of 🥑 .

If your Saturday mornings start late and breakfast continues into brunch, you need something filling with a simple formula – it should be high in fiber, high in proteins, high in complex carbs

From my earlier post, banana oats pancake are a great option. And here is option 2 if you looking for something more savory.

Paneer (Cottage cheese) is made from curdled milk 🥛, is rich in proteins and calcium while being low on calories. So let’s make it the perfect lead actor in our breakfast today! Combined with some red beans (more protein in fiber) sweet potato (complex carbs), and avocado (good fats) with dashes of fresh herbs (coriander, sweet onion) and hot sauce. It’s a perfect breakfast colorful-wholesome-filling breakfast!

Recipe
Prep time: 15min | Cooking time: 10min | Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup paneer (cottage cheese, mashed))
  • 1/3 cup red beans (canned / cooked)
  • 1/3 cup sweet potato (boiled, peeled and cubed)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 strands of green onion
  • 1/4 cup coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 2-4 shakes of hot sauce

Instructions:

  • In a pan, heat oil. Add half a portion of green onions and saute for 30 sec before adding in the sweet potato and red beans. Saute for 3-5minutes till they become soft and easily mashed.
  • Add in the paneer and mix it all well together.
  • Add dashes of salt, pepper and the hot sauce. Cook for around two minutes before taking it off the pan
  • Serve with a garnish of remaining green onion, coriander and sliced avocados!

Notes:

  • The recipe comes out really well with fresh homemade paneer (and its so simple to make! Bring 1 ltr of milk to boil. Turn the heat off and add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, add more if you cant notice the curdling (milk separation into solids). Let it cool for 30min. Strain with a cloth and set in a refrigerator for at least 3 hrs before using. DO NOT Throw away the liquid. Use it in kneeling and soups or drink as is!

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