My yoga life..

Namaste ~ my soul recognizes your soul. I honor the love, light, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me.

Namaste ~ my soul recognizes your soul. I honor the love, light, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me.

How did I fall into the yoga radar? Well it was always subliminally there when I as growing up, since my father was and is still into his daily practice of yoga.

Did I take to the practice when younger? No.

First brush with yoga…

Much later, I learnt the basics from a teacher who came home and taught. My focus then was to use it just as a form of exercise, a cardio-workout, to lose a few pounds.

1st year journey …

Finally I got into a more regular practice of yoga at an upscale yoga studio, which specialized more in the Mysore-style-of-Asthanga-Yoga (commonly known as Power Yoga). If you think yoga is for the namby-pamby and softies, give Mysore style-Asthanga yoga a try; trust me your idea of yoga being a slow and not cardio-enough-workout will disappear forever. Who knows, you may even forgo the gym post one session of this energetic style of yoga.

One year of 3-days-a-week of Asthanga-practice, and I lost the pounds, I shaped up! Felt better, and my endurance level went up. Initially the classes used to be super-draining; I used to be so very exhausted. My muscles ached from all the stretching and jumping (there is a lot of quick transitions into various asanas/poses in the Mysore style Asthanga yoga). But I felt good; super good. It was as if the cobwebs of the mind cleared the days I practiced. I hardly missed my classes. I was hooked. It is important to note here, that one had a very good-teacher in Puja, so inspite of me being in a group glass, one got enough guidance to hone one’s practice.

Group yoga class benefits…

The best part of a group class is the collective energy of the class and the different levels of the students. The collective energy motivates to push one a bit more and the more-advanced-level-students in the class, inspire one with the thought that yes, one day, I will also be able to do it with ease and perfection.

This one-year of almost –continuous-practice, opened up my body and made me understand the science behind yoga a little more deeply. I realized it was not just a form of physical- exercise. It was way more than that. Yoga is a technique of mind-awareness via breath. Sounds simple enough, but only when one does the asana with breath awareness, not only does one get to do the asana perfectly, but also reap the benefits of the asana to its fullest.

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2nd year journey..

The next year I went into a much smaller group and practiced the more traditional-style and slower style of Hatha-yoga. I seemed to enjoy this way more, now. I was able to focus on my coordination of breath-flow along with the asanas. I enjoyed spending more time, trying to get into the final posture-slowly. I became more aware when doing an asana and in the process my mind experienced way more calm and was able to train-the-monkey-mind better. This one year I felt I had learnt and understood the art-of-asanas-better and felt more energized, even though I was a year older chronologically. :)

Different styles of yoga

It is important to try the different styles of yoga…. As in the slower-Hatha yoga-style, the more rigorous-Asthanga-yoga, or the precision-prop-help-Iyengar-style. Essentially yoga is the same, the asanas are all the same in the various styles; it is just the approach and the way it is taught. Personally over the years, I like the slower, take-your-time-approach-in-getting-into-the-asana style. It gives me the time to understand and appreciate the importance of patience and persistent practice.

A yogi, am I?

So, do I call myself a yogi? Ummm… I am on the path of becoming one, hopefully. It’s a way of life; yoga is not just about getting into a posture. I certainly have way more equanimity and sense-of-calm, ever since I began regular practice.

Post 2 years of continuous practice, I can say, I am both a student and practitioner of yoga. Since March this year, I get onto my yoga mat, practically every single day. The days I do not practice, I miss the deep sense of ‘ananda’.  Yoga helps me stay the best version of myself throughout the day!

Best part about yoga?

The absolutely bestest part about learning yoga? You do not need any equipment, it can be done just about anywhere. Rain, sunshine, storm; all one needs is a bit of space. I have done headstands ..even in the hotel-rooms when I have travelled. I have done Padma-aasan on long train journeys just to ease and calm my mind.

Releasing the strain of a long train journey by sitting in Padmaasan ( lotus-pose)

Releasing the strain of a long train journey by sitting in Padmaasan ( lotus-pose)

 Advice from a beginner-yogi …

Even if one is going to the class, it is important, that one does a personal practice alone in quietude for sometime; it helps to deepen the practice. It has certainly helped me. The practice of yoga has taught me the importance of practice. With faith, patience and time, even the most difficult poses can be achieved over time, sometimes it is the simpler ones which take more time…just the way life is :)

Shirshasan ( Headstand) Unassisted. My legs are not up yet, i am still working on the balance

Shirshasan ( Headstand) Unassisted. My legs are not up yet, i am still working on the balance

Yoag-ed yet?

Still not ‘yoaged’? Give it a shot, an earnest one… under some caring guidance. You will not regret it. This is one practice, which can be done at any age. One is never too old or not-so-fit to start. As long as there is breath in the body, you can do yoga. Trust me.

 

Words cannot convey the value of yoga, it has to be experienced ~ BKS Iyengar

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sindoor Khela…. women camaraderie … where strangers become well-wishers ..

Part of Debi Boron/ Durga Boron is the popular and much loved ritual of ‘sindoor khela’ (Play with kumkum) at the end of Durga Puja.

Post applying Durga and her consorts with sindoor, ladies apply it to each other and wish each other well for the coming year. A sweet meat is offered to each lady and wished sweet-times ahead.

Sindoor Khela is a beautiful tradition, where even strangers are heartfelt well-wishers and bless each other for sweet and happy times ahead. There is no judgement, only good wishes and positive energy. Could we not do this everyday? As in, wish even strangers well? There would certainly be less strife in the world..

Some captures of sindoor khela with some known and some beautiful unknown souls…

Sindoor Khela … a beautiful tradition which celebrates women camaraderie

Sindoor Khela … a beautiful tradition which celebrates women camaraderie

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Durga Boron… till we meet again ..adieu ..

Durga Boron: One of the most-loved part of Durga Pujo, personally for me; bidding adieu to Durga with the promise that she will return again, to remind mere mortals like me that yes, it is possible to slay the demons within … 

This is the only time during the festivities that I get to be near ‘her’ … touch her, talk to her and ask her to come back again next year….. otherwise one has to be be happy far away and try and look at her…and that is why is is a favorite part of the festivities. Nothing like a deep-personal-conversation is there?🙂

Her beautiful serene face invokes a certain aura….

Her beautiful serene face invokes a certain aura….

I look at her benign face, mesmerized

I look at her benign face, mesmerized

“I look at Durga’s benign face and try to fill myself with the power to win over the asuras within me…amidst all the pomp and show, I hold onto this thought”. 

In gratitude, and thankful for the blessings

In gratitude, and thankful for the blessings

Wishing her adieu…. along with her kids back to mt. Kailash

Wishing her adieu…. along with her kids back to mt. Kailash

Everyone has to be wished well for the onward journey…

Everyone has to be wished well for the onward journey…

I touch her feet…before she leaves. Thank her for the blessings…

I touch her feet…before she leaves. Thank her for the blessings…

Durga Boron is a simple but fun ritual which takes place on the final day of the 4-day Durga festivities which take place mostly in the Eastern parts of India and also in places where there is a large population of people from the East of India ( known colloquially as Bongs/Bengali/Bangali), eg; Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai… actually most parts …though the largest celeb happens in WestBengal, of which Kolkata ( Calcutta) is the jewel.

This is also the day when rest of the country celebrates as Dusshera…where the effigy of 8-headed-Ravan is burnt, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.

Greetings of ‘Happy Dusshera’ or ‘Shubho Bijoya’ are common during the next few days.

Wishing all readers good health, warm wishes and peace ….

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Cathedral of Florence ~ Brunelleschi’s best architectural delight

Florence; there is so much to see and experience in this city. If one was to pick up two main attractions, they would surely be Michelangelo’s David and the famous Cathedral of Florence, also popularly known as Brunelleschi’s Dome or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore ( or Cathedral of Saint Mary of the flower; fiore =Italian for flower).

The famous cupola of the Cathedral of Florence

The famous cupola of the Cathedral of Florence on a beautiful bright crisp day …

Brunelleschi’s Dome… a foolish plan!  There is reason why the famous ‘Duomo of Firenze’, is called ‘Brunelleschi’s Dome’, because it was Brunelleschi who made the construction of the dome possible in the 15th century. To say it is massive, is an understatement. Brunelleschi, with the construction of the dome of the cathedral, showed amazing mastery of technical knowledge.  When the plan was first mooted by him, most thought it to be a foolish design, something which was not doable at all. Brunelleschi successfully proved his skeptics wrong, and built one of the most important and defining landmarks of Florence and Italian Renaissance. Approximately, 4-million bricks were used for the construction of the dome alone. Gothic, classic, multi-colored stone-filigree …awe! Yes, exactly… the first impression on seeing the dome is one of awe, thanks to the huge size of the dome and the stone-filigree work which adorns its gothic windows, spires and walls. Array of colors; pink, green and white marble is what the famous Cathedral of Florence is made up of.  The exterior itself is so captivating and ornate, imagine what the inside would be like!

Vasari's 'Last Judgement', inside the Cathedral of Florence

Vasari’s ‘Last Judgement’, inside the Cathedral of Florence

Inside the Cathedral..  Beautiful frescos depicting scenes from Jesus life adorn the inside walls of the Cathedral. Giorgio Vasari’s ‘Last Judgement’ is something to look out for, when inside the cathedral; you need to look light up to find it :)( apparently Vasari’s depiction of the Final Judgement was despised by many, as per lore) 463 steps climb to the top of the Duomo… 926 both ways ! The best way to get a close-up-view of Vasari’s ‘Final Judgement’ and to get some stunning views of the city of Florence is to climb up the famous cupola of the cathedral.

Climbing down the spiral steps inside the duomo ..on the way down

Climbing down the spiral steps inside the duomo ..on the way down

The maze of steps …to climb up ..

The maze of steps …to climb up ..

Ummm…it is not easy, especially if you harbor fear of heights or have bad knees or heart! Otherwise the 463 steps can be a breeze😉 Remember they are narrow stone steps, steep in many places, and yes, sometimes the movement space is just enough for one single person.😀

Sea of beautiful red-terra-cota-tiled roofs of Florence

Sea of beautiful red-terra-cota-tiled roofs of Florence from the duomo top

Truth be told, I found it difficult. I was panting and the closed space, triggered an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia ( btw, I am NOT claustrophobic), not to mention my fear of heights! But, I DID it! Thanks, to the constant encouragement by the husband.  The last stretch is particularly steep, but a whole lot of fun.

Panoramic view of Florence from the duomo top

Panoramic view of Florence from the duomo top

The grand stunning view of the beautiful city of Florence, makes the trudge up the stairs, completely worthwhile. We spent some time admiring the city and soaking up the ambience of Florence from the cupola. I let the florentine breeze kiss my face and refreshed myslef with the much needed water, before venturing down. There is no elevator; so yes, the only way down is to climb down, approximately the same number again; yes, 463😀

The shadow of the huge-cupola on the city below from the duomo top

The shadow of the huge-cupola on the city below from the duomo top

Oh! Man, once down, my legs felt wobbly post the 926 steps, but the heart felt good…for more than one reason ( Not only I could overcome my fear of heights/ claustrophobia, I was rewarded with the panoramic view of red-terra-cotta expanse of Florence’s roof tiles).

Bunelleschi admiring his creation for eternity, sitting in the piazza outside the Cathedral

Bunelleschi admiring his creation for eternity, sitting in the piazza outside the Cathedral

Out in the piazza we saw Brunelleschi’s marble-figurine looking up at the Duomo and admiring his handiwork. Brunelleschi, the very first artist to be buried with the saints.. Vey aptly, Brunelleschi is buried in the crypt of the cathedral.  A very high honor, it was for Brunelleschi then. The first of its kind; for architects were not in the same standing as a saint, who were mostly buried in the cathedral crypts. Brunelleschi is often referred to as the Renaissance genius, who re-invented architecture; he made the impossible ( the large dome) a reality way back in March 1436.  Amazing to know, though not formally trained, Brunelleschi, known as an ingenious gold-smith created one of the most lasting edifices not just of Florence, but of the Renaissance.

With his genius and workmanship,  Brunelleschi made artists, worthy of everlasting admiration in the company of the saints; an enduring image of Renaissance.

So, as you can see, this is one sight, which just cannot be missed, if you happen to be in Florence!

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Michelangelo’s David ~The World’s Most Admired Male Nude

Yes, it has been a long hiatus, since I wrote here.

Michelangelo’s David.

Michelangelo’s David.

What better way to begin writing, than by penning down my admiration for Michelangelo’s David at Florence. The man, I could not take my eyes off! No trip to Florence can be complete, without saying hello to this masterpiece by Michelangelo. In-spite of having seen many a picture of David online and in print, when I actually did see him in reality, ‘he’ was a ‘huge’ surprise. One literally looks up to David in awe!

The sheer size of it; at about 14 feet, one has to crane the neck up to admire this stellar Renaissance masterpiece, created between 1501 and 1504. Guess, how old Michelangelo was, when he sculpted David? Just 26.  Made from white Carrara-marble ( Carrara is a region in Italy, where even now high-quality-marble is mined), the Biblical hero David, looks almost real. Yes, real! It is thanks to the details of his body so exquisitely crafted; one can see the veins on his hands and legs and the details of his muscled body. David’s facial expression is calm yet forceful and intense.

Unlike other depictions of David (where he has been portrayed after his victory, triumphant over the slain Goliath), Michelangelo has depicted him prior to the confrontation; a first of its kind.

Contrapposto

David, one notices is not standing straight, but slightly sideways; in a classical pose which is known as contrapposto; wherein the weight of the whole body is practically on one leg, with the other leg slightly forward. Just imagine the genius of Michelangelo…he successfully carved this out of a single block of white-marble, without it toppling over.

In secrecy.. 

As per legend, Michelangelo carved this in secrecy; he wanted to surprise his patrons. And yes surprise he did with his creation. The 14 foot tall David was considered far too large and yes, beautiful and perfect to be placed up in the Cathedral of Florence( where it was initially meant for the niches high up).

Place the gorgeous man where?  

It was decided post a lot of rumination, that the statue of David be placed at Piazza della Signoria in front of Palazzo Vecchio, the political heart of Florence, then. David stood there, in all his intense splendor for very many years, and then to prevent the wear and tear by the weather, he was shifted to the safe confines of the Academia in 1873.

Replica of David in front of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Replica of David in front of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria, Florence.

Not 1 but 2 Davids in Florence!

Ha! Ha! That is true. But the original one, crafted by Michelangelo, there is only one, which is placed in the Academia. The statute of David, which now stands in front of the Palazzo Vecchio is a replica of the original; a tribute to David’s original place.

See David's veins?

See David’s veins?

Huge hands & head .. ? 

When one sees David from close quarters at the Academia, one notices that his hands particularly look very big compared to the rest of the body. For that matter his head too looks very prominent. Well, there is a reason for that. David, remember was meant to be placed high on top of the Cathedral of Florence…and not really so close up. So in order that people would be able to see David clearly in all his splendor, master sculptor Michelangelo, made his hands and head larger🙂

… the marble that speaks in stone…

… the marble that speaks in stone…

David truly is beautiful. One could spend hours watching, this beautiful creation. I did spend quite a bit of time soaking in his beauty and marveling at Michelangelo’s exquisite  detailing of the human form.

No one could have written a better tribute for Michelangelo’s David than Giorgio Vasari, the 16th century artist, architect and writer, considered by many as the world’s first art-historian.

…When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it

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No-Sugar journey part-3

Well, it been a while since I have been on the no-sugar journey ( 3months plus). As in no artificial-white- sugar, no table sugar and almost negligible intake of cakes, cookies and shop-manufactured-Indian sweets.

Journey so far: Great. Surprisingly no sugar-craving post a meal ( which was a habit with me, previously). A spoon of non-industrail-honey ( read organic / or honey from smaller traditional apiaries) on days when I feel like something sweet, satiates completely. Sometimes a small cube of dark-chocolate.

Taste buds: Sharper taste for sure; I can spot sugar even in very small quantities if put in a dish ( some Indian preparations have the requirement).

Best after-effects:

  • Gradual weight-loss. Weight which had plateaued for several years gradually slid off..melted away; without doing too much really.
  • More energy; yes, that’s true! Sugar giving energy is a BAD myth; it does not. Have it in the natural form via fresh-fruits, dry fruits, honey.
  • Better skin…yes, this came as a surprise.
  • Better digestion.
  • Hardly any PMS !
  • Calmer.. ha! Just the other day I discovered the Buddha in me😉

Everyday simple tips which worked for me:

  •  Home-cooked meals, mostly made the traditional way. ( which means fresh ingredients; no previously canned/ paste/ pureed stuff)
  • Simple exercise; currently yoga 3-days a week for just an hour.
  • I eat everything, including the much maligned white-rice and regular toned milk and full cream yogurt; and hey I have still managed to shave off the plateaued pounds! The food satiates, and that is why I do not have hunger cravings. Portion control is of course important.
  • Be consistent ( No binging)
  • Last but not the least, with Christmas round the corner, I am indulging in a glass of wine occasionally and enjoying it the most!

Try the no-sugar-journey; it is fun!  Your body and soul will thank you for it. Yes, you can take my word for that; having experienced it myself.

Golden words … completely agree..

There’s a huge emotional component to weight loss.

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Discovering the Buddha in me….

It has been some time since I wrote. But I had to write today. It was an eventful day today in a very special way, since I truly understood Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher and poet’s following words……

You are a Buddha, and so is everyone else. I didn’t make that up. It was the Buddha himself who said so. He said that all beings had the potential to become awakened… Mindfulness and enlightenment are one. Enlightenment leads to mindfulness and mindfulness leads to enlightenment.

A unique not-so-pleasent- first-of-its-kind- incident triggered this deep understanding of Thich Nhat Hanh words. My reaction and how I finally dealt with it…made me realize that there is a Buddha in me too; a great learning for me as one gets ready to bid 2014 adieu.

So the next time you encounter a situation which is not-what-you expected/ rude/ or unhappy…let the feelings of hurt, anger, bewilderment wash over you. Don’t suppress; savor and feel the strong emotions, focus on them. Trust me, it is a matter of time ( can be a few hours/ or days) when the not-so-great- feeling will diminish and then finally disappear. The calm post that which descends on one’s consciousness is very deep, refreshing and cathartic.

Discovered the Buddha in me ...

Discovered the Buddha in me …

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