Tag Archives: Yoga

Loving Yourself During Challenging Times

Dear Reader,

Self-love is more important now than ever. The pandemic has added a layer of sadness, frustration, and uncertainty, and navigating the new normal is not easy.  This has made it extremely difficult to breathe or feel safe to do our everyday tasks. We are social beings and feeling hopeless, angry, and suffocated.  This continuous challenge of learning how to live life during this time and staying sane is the new normal. It is more important now more than ever to put ourselves first and love ourselves like our life depends on it.  Because it does.

When we love ourselves despite the outer conditions, we give ourselves permission to gain more life force and signal to our body, mind, and heart that we matter. We owe it to ourselves to create small habits that nurture and support us in the near and long term. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to replace a few bad habits with a few good ones and that makes a huge impact on our health and happiness.  Sometimes it means getting really creative like booking a hotel and finding some space to breathe with just our own energy.

Here are some self-care strategies for challenging times.

Take some time for yourself

This might sound difficult as you might be living with a family in the same home for eight months.  Can you walk outside in nature? Can you sit under a tree? Can you dance outside? Can you laugh or watch something funny?  Take proactive action every day to shift your energy to a positive state even if it is a 5-minute walk or calling a good friend.

Feel your emotions 

Many of us have internalized our emotions in the last eight months.  We have seen a series of uncertain events and haven’t had a healthy way to cope.  Take some time to journal your feelings and really tune into what your body is saying.  When we feel uncomfortable emotions, we allow healing to begin and start processing what is ready to go.  When the body opens up the release of these pent-up emotions through feeling, crying, or other ways, you can then welcome new energy to come into your body and psyche.

Start over every day and forgive yourself

It is important we forgive our actions, reactions, and habits of yesterday and start over every day.  With the current situation, we can be normal one day and in despair another. Be kind to yourself and if you made some mistakes in eating too much food or drinking, give yourself permission to start over again.  If you skipped your exercise, start again today.  Write down somewhere on your fridge or car, I forgive myself every day and start over every day.  I acknowledge every little thing I do to take better care of myself.

Find stillness within

Meditation, Yoga, and breathing are an excellent way to alleviate stress. A deep breathing exercise with eyes closed for a minute with one hand on your heart and one on your stomach can relieve anxiety and stress.  Youtube has a huge selection of videos of varying lengths to choose from.

Home remedies 

During these times it is important to keep doing natural remedies to stay on top of your immune health. Ancient Indian roots like ginger, turmeric, and probiotics like yogurt go a long way to support your immune health.

Praying for yourself and loved ones

Give all your challenges to God. Have faith in a higher power and pray for the same thing for a few months and notice the difference. Talk to God like a best friend and sit and listen after.  Miracles are real.  If you want to explore this further, pick up my book on finding hope, faith, and trust during Coronavirus.

Remind yourself of what is going right in your life

Make a list of things that are working in your life and place it where you can see it every day. In a world full of struggles, these simple reminders will surely bring a smile on your face and bring your focus on abundance vs. lack.

Let music and dance heal and uplift you

Have you ever started smiling when you hear fun music playing? Do you notice how it just lifts you up? I find music and dance are life-giving and inspiring. If there is a type of dance you have always wanted to learn, now is the time. All you have to do is Instagram or YouTube the type of dance and live zoom classes and you can have access to teachers Internationally.   

Make effort to connect with friends and family or new people

Most of us are missing engagement and social connection with the world.  Make an effort to call friends and family. If you don’t have any friends, message people whose energy you like and tell them something you like about them and see that turn around in kindness towards you.  

Let nature heal you

With a mask on, go for an easy walk or a challenging hike depending on your fitness level and feel the fresh air, sunlight, and wind. These elements of nature show us that we are a part of a greater universe here to support us. The soothing and healing powers of nature give us a new perspective.   Try to slow down in nature and listen to what it has to say.  Breathe.  Adventure into new trails and new cities.  Ocean, mountains, and forests are natural healers as are the sun and rain.

Get help 

If you are struggling with gaining weight or another life challenge, seeking help is a sign of courage and strength. It signals to the Universe that you are ready for something beyond your current struggle. Hire a therapist to talk about your problems or work with someone to get into healthy eating habits. People are working online and here to help you. A little support, accountability, and even google research goes a long way in making changes while finding health and happiness.

Acknowledge yourself

Make a list of 5 things you can acknowledge yourself even if it is eating 1 less piece of bread, walking 5 minutes, breathing more, or not shouting at your housemate.  A little self-encouragement goes a long way in building healthy and rewarding habits.

With these tips, I acknowledge you for putting yourself first and reading an article on how to love yourself better.  That is a sign of self-care too.  Remember it is the baby steps in a healthy direction that matter and forgiveness for any mistakes that keep you from moving forward.   It is a journey, not a destination.  A year from now you might be thanking yourself for how strong you have become during a very challenging time and that can enable you to support others during difficult times in the future. 

Be gentle, kind, and compassionate towards yourself and write to me at manpreetbreakthroughcoach@gmail.com about which one of these tips you ended up using and how it worked out for you.  I look forward to hearing from you. Keep dancing, smiling, and rocking. You got this.

Much love,

Manpreet Komal 


Manpreet Komal has a 150,000 social media following and is a Clairvoyant Healer, Life Coach, and an author of the book – The Universe Sends Helpprayers to find hope, faith, trust during the time of Coronavirus. She also uplifts, motivates, and inspires others through dance at Rang De Bollywood Dance Company.

Happiness Beyond Mind: An Individual Experience

Simplicity is not simple. It takes a lot of thought and effort to condense complex concepts to a simple, practical, and easy to follow recipe for getting to “contentment” or “happiness”. By distilling the essence of ancient Indian philosophy, practicing it himself, and sharing his experiences as he travels the path of dharma (good life conduct), Rajesh Sengamedu has created a forehead-slapping page-turner of a book.

Happiness Beyond Mind gives us a clear path to rethink, structure, and execute our entire life in “thought, word, and deed” to journey to a state of contentment and happiness. As Gandhi once said “the path is the goal”, Rajesh’s book is the path.

As soon as I flipped through Rajesh’s acknowledgments, I found it thoroughly engrossing as he takes us on a journey of deep thought and introspection on why, with all worldly accomplishments and success we still feel empty and conflicted, with examples from his own life. It is this trait of personal experience that immediately sucks you into his journey into spiritual realization — you can connect with him as you look back on your own life. His language is simple for us to understand and relate to. He does revert to colloquialisms which really help emphasize and drive his points home. You really get it.

The stories and anecdotes deserve special attention. Rajesh beautifully blends quite complex analogies from the ancient Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita with his own experiences with family, friends, and colleagues — and I found myself with a big lump in my throat or nodding or simply going “now I’ve never thought of it that way!” This is not an easy thing to achieve.

Author, Rajesh Sengamedu

Rajesh also makes it clear that Indian thought and philosophy are monotheistic, contrary to lots of misconceptions promulgated by iconoclasts. The key is to follow dharma in thought, word, and deed and ultimately merge with the Absolute Reality, the one Supreme Being.

The ratha kalpana analogy from the Kathopanishad was what I would call mind-blasting (no pun intended). It would take a lot to erase the characters from memory; the passenger (ego), the charioteer (intellect), the reins (emotional mind), and the horses (five sense organs). This analogy and the function of how the entire chariot (human body) functions may appear so obvious AFTER you’ve heard Rajesh describe it. And of course, great examples are the letters to his daughter and son actually at the end of the book in three Appendices, but they’re like The Gita (the core essence) of the book! You could just read those and consider them a synopsis of the entire 185 pages preceding them.

The prescriptive part of the book where Rajesh insists that we follow the path of dharma (right life conduct) dives deep into how to think, how to handle day-to-day life situations with words, and of course action — with yoga and meditation, and finally how to approach the goal of understanding oneself and that we are part of the larger whole. “Do try it!” goes his persuasive, characteristic nudge throughout the book, you can almost picture him smiling benevolently over you. I personally found this portion extremely helpful. This will be a practical takeaway for me for years to come. This is the enduring portion and can only be realized through action. You know the author is already on the path and is speaking from his personal experience and transformation. You also realize the importance and reverence Rajesh gives his Gurus, showing a deep sense of learning, understanding, and gratitude.

I strongly urge all readers, young, old, innocent, not so innocent, brash, arrogant, big-hearted, small-hearted — to read Rajesh’s work. For each one of us reading will walk away with our individual experience and messages, and it automatically becomes The Happiness Beyond the Mind WE know for ourselves.


 Raj Gopalaswamy has over 18 years’ leadership in innovation, business strategy, account management, and new product development. 

Namaste America: Forget the Handshake

Do you remember where we were before the pandemic hit?

Inequality had reached historical records worldwide, Australia had burned for months on end, autocrats were suffocating democracy in Hungary and Venezuela, and a wave of protests had swept across six continents– from Beirut to Paris, from Hong Kong to Moscow. 

COVID-19 is spreading worldwide, confusion prevails, and some of the leaders of the advanced world seem to embrace a casual approach. We offer a simple pathway to guide that will reduce the virus spread. Coronavirus within the last seven months has brought the whole world to its knees. 

Examine the situation in India: Migrant laborers/working populations are stranded with no job prospects. No way to get back to their home villages, many hundreds of miles away. And no access to medical care. This pandemic, affecting the developed and developing nations, has had the same level of impact. 

Preventive steps are now universally encouraged for COVID19, namely “stay at home” and a virtual lockdown of economies, thus separating the infected from the non-infected. Its compliance had been erratic in the US.

It is time to reframe our approaches to daily living activities, more specifically, how we greet each other. A universal, symbolic one is the handshake. We need to reduce the communicability of infections. 

How can we reduce the spread of infection from one human to another? 

Begin to use Namaste universally. With the ever-present paranoia of touching strangers, the gesture Namaste (verbal and symbolic) can be more than just a phrase we hear after yoga.

When someone uses the namaste gesture, it reflects the intended expression of mutual respect for another person’s personality. It means that everyone extended the utmost reverence. Namaste implies that “the divinity within me respects and honors the divinity within you.” You can reflect this profound thought with one physical gesture.

However, the Namaste gesture itself unrestricted, beyond the Indian American culture. As an example, many cultures around the globe fold their hands when worshipping. In Japan, it can mean conceptually, “I am sorry,” “thank you,” or “please.” As a greeting, this gesture is familiar throughout most of Southeast Asia. 

Namaste dates back to the origins of the Indus valley civilization itself. The Terracotta figures and sculptures are depicting this gesture are dated back to 3000 years, even before the Christian Era. As civilizations blossomed and cultures intermingled, the namaste pose became even more widespread. 

The handshake, on the other hand, is used as a standard greeting in Western cultures. It is a way of agreeing to specific terms of the trust, a show of mutual trust. To prove neither side was carrying weapons. As significant life-saving steps evolve, fortunately, this handshaking might have seen its last days with the pandemonium of the Covid-19 viral infections. Dare we live without shaking peoples’ hands? 

Yes, as it is a preventative step in the spread of infections. 

Consider how interpreted grips are, when shaking someone’s hand:

Like gripping their hand too much? Bone Crunching? Too floppy? Are palms sweaty and clammy? Or are they too dry? Symbolically, as we say sometimes, the individual has “cold hands,” here reflecting a not helpful individual. One sometimes feels that someone extending the hand used some moisturizer (or a sanitizer) before that handshake! 

Aside from its simplicity, the namaste posture implicates mutual fairness. There is no prominent or submissive interpretation implied. Whereas, with a handshake, a person with a firmer grip seen as more authoritative. In contrast, a person with a less firm grasp seen as submissive. Namaste levels this field of cognitive conflicts. 

The only expected interactive way to reciprocate to a namaste is with a namaste concurrently. It is simple to remember: respect demands respect. Namaste a universal value packed into a single interactive step. 

Even more important is the social distance Namaste provides. One can greet each other across a conference table as an example. Namaste removes the ambiguity, “should I hug them?” “pat them on the shoulder?” “fist bump them?” or “shake their hand?” “peck on the cheek?” and other dilemmas that we encounter, day in and out.

We now realize that the handshakes and hugs need to take a backseat in light of the current coronavirus pandemonium. It is time that the namaste pose might become a universal form of greeting. It has gained significant traction in western civilizations. This step is a viable alternative to the potentially polluting handshakes, hugs, and fist bumps. 

In Western cultures, we only have seen Namaste used by yoga instructors.

Namaste, its meaning, and significance with its health and wellness benefits make it ready to be universally acknowledged. 

So the next time, when having a neighborly chat, start with a Namaste – no language limitations – even from across the yard with a coffee mug in hand.


Reema Kalidindi is a junior at Lower Bucks High School and a lead volunteer at Bharatiya Temple’s school for children. 

Dr. Akkaraju Sarma, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., Ph.D., has academic roots in Anthropology and Internal Medicine. He has practiced medicine in underserved areas in Philadelphia (37+ years). He leads the health & human services programs at Bharatiya Temple for a decade and help. 

123…The Happiest Man!

The oldest man in the world? The happiest man alive? A yoga genius? Who is Swami Sivananda?

Virtual Bharat’s latest in a 1000 film journey of the untold stories of India, takes us to Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, this International Yoga Day. The film tells the story of Swami Sivananda, an old man, who when asked his age, grins at the camera stating with pride…“I am? 123!” Born on August 8, 1896, Swami Sivananda is today, 124 years old, making him the oldest living man on the planet! The Guinness Book of World Records has yet to certify him the longest living man. 

Like many Indians, even decades younger, Swami Sivananda has no official verification of his birth, save for a temple register that has his birth listed under this date. India’s passport authorities have used this as a confirmation of his age. He jabs at both his passport and aadhaar card when the team asks him if he has anything to actually prove his age. He adds, with confidence, “if you want proof, you can bring a doctor!” 

With ageless grace and a sharp sense of humor, he takes the team through his daily routine. Two solid hours of yoga, two simple meals a day comprising of dal, roti, and sabzi (vegetables) and the rest of his time reading the Gita. To him, it is this discipline and simplicity that has allowed him to live up to this ripe age. “Yoga brings mental peace and happiness”, he says as he also states that he has no desire, disease, or depression—the 3 Ds that he has no time or space in his life for. 

Yoga for him is the key to a happy life. Swami Sivananda lost his parents by the age of 6 and was then taken under the wing of a spiritual guide who took him around the world. His eyes gleam as he rattles off the long list of countries he has been to…Luxembourg, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Netherlands…almost 50 in total! That was his introduction to yoga. To this day, he practices yoga, and the film depicts his stunningly supple body at this inspiring age. 

He laughs as we ask him what the key to a long life is, and says, “This is the kalyug; everyone is greedy. It is impossible to live for 123 years!” It is with this cheer that Swami Sivananda goes about his day, claiming he has no time for anything apart from this: “I am, not only the oldest but also the happiest living man in the world!” A man who has lived through almost two pandemics now, smiles bright as he tells the world that happiness and simplicity are what keep him going. A story of joy, simplicity, and humor, this film shows us there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

Virtual Bharat in collaboration with India Currents will release a monthly series highlighting the stories Virtual Bharat is capturing in India. Stay tuned for more!

Virtual Bharat is a 1000 film journey of untold stories of India spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more in a repository of culture. The vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience. The films are under 10 minutes in length and are currently available on Virtual Bharat’s Youtube Channel

6 Indian Habits That Travel With Me

When it comes to leaving India – there is a storm of mixed emotions. I want to fill up my pockets with all the beauty that exists here and leave behind the few things I hate. Global Indians and NRIs understand the duality of leaving a place like India. Having lived in India my whole life, there are a few things I’m unwilling to give up. Digging deeper on what influences my life, here are six habits acquired from Indian culture that stick with me, regardless of where I go. 

CHAI – THE MIGHTY CUP OF TEA!

 ‘Chai’ should be declared as the national drink of India. The joy of drinking the carefully brewed tea with milk in clay cups is beyond this world. With a dash of spices like ginger, cardamom, holy basil, pepper, and cloves – it’s not just healthy, but mystifying. There is nothing as soothing to the senses and calming to the mind as a hot cup of tea in the morning. It rejuvenates!

World food chains like Starbucks and Teavana have gloriously adapted to the Tea Culture and now serve Indian Style tea labeled as ‘Chai Tea’ around the world. Being an Indian knowing the drill of making a mighty cup of tea it’s difficult to love the taste that is brewed abroad. My love for chai stays with me wherever I stay in the world!

INDIAN FOOD & THE HABIT OF EATING WITH HANDS

Unlike the world, India doesn’t have a cutlery or fork & knife culture. Most of the Indian cuisines are designed to be eaten with bare hands, lapping up the essence of the taste. While the luxury of using the fork and knife shall remain in restaurants, the habit of eating the food items like Rice, khichdi, chapatis, etc., with hands, shall remain.

The certain communion with the food, enhancing the digesting abilities is the main aim for the use of hands. Hands help in texturing the food, making the partaking of sustenance, more intimate. Seeing it scientifically, the use of hands for eating is advisable to a certain extent, as the flora present on the fingers is swallowed, beneficial for the health of various parts of the body like mouth, throat, and intestines as fingers release various digestive juices. This practice of eating with hands is something I look forward to, as I go around the other parts of the world, for its benefits and digestive advantages.

BARGAINING AT STREET SHOPS

Street shops are the powerhouse of all things fashionable at budget-friendly prices. In India, all the latest home décor, clothes, and jewelry are available at great quality and cheap price at the street shops. ‘Cheap’ because the hefty prices quoted by the shopkeepers are bargain-able. Travel anywhere in the world, the most authentic shopping experience lies in street shopping. Being trained in slashing down the prices by almost half in street shopping, the ability to bargain stays as a habit for me. No matter where I go, the trips to street shops would come as a choice, and bargaining will be something I will stick to.

YOGA – THE ART OF LIFE!

Yoga originated in India centuries ago. From ancient yogis to the modern-day yoga instructors, Yoga is a gift of Indian history. The benefits of Yoga for health and life balance have been mind-blowing. It aids in the balancing of the body, mind, and soul for a fulfilled life.

Having grown up in India, Yoga has become one of the daily rituals that keep a check on my physical health and fitness alongside my mental health. The ritual to spread that yoga mat and start practicing with an intention is something I would not give up for anything!

Yoga is fast becoming popular even in the West, for its ability to secure spiritual, mental, and physical health. However, not all its aspects have been tapped in the West; with physical fitness regime widely practiced, to attain body flexibility and stability.

AYURVEDA – SECRET OF NATURE!

Deepest darkest of nature’s secrets rest into the arms of nature! Ayurveda, the science of nature has been of close relevance in India. From home remedies to ayurvedic supplements and medicines – it is something that treats us to live a healthy life.

My Indian living has brought me closer to ayurvedic recipes like that of Turmeric milk, neem leaves, aloe vera extracts, etc, for a healthier life. While the world is educating itself on Ayurvedic benefits, my little world of ayurvedic knowledge stays with me.

The major benefit of Ayurveda is its ability to not harm the patient’s body with the side-effects of the prescribed medicine. Apart from its natural and organic way of healing, it also prescribes better eating habits for a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing. 

ADDRESSING PEOPLE WITH RESPECT

Indians are used to calling every other man as ‘bhaiya’ or brother, especially when they aren’t related to you. This brings in a sense of respect and affection for the person. So when I address a driver, cleaner, shopkeeper, or any man of service around me – it would go as brother or uncle.

For women, the words are didi (sister) and aunty. Instead of addressing people by their names or surnames – I would stick to this personalized call to utter respect in conversations. And yes, ‘Namaste’ wouldn’t be forgotten too!

Greeting and meeting people with warmth is the basis of such a practice. It also binds two (or more) people, with sheer kindness through soothing words. Another way of looking at it is, giving respect to every human being, irrespective of their status, and creed.

Some habits inculcated from childhood are a gift of being born as an Indian. No matter how much I travel or turn into a global citizen – the 6 habits stay with me when I leave India!

Abhishek Bade is a writer and a rover with a passion for writing. He is adept at writing travel-based content which is informative and insightful. 

Looking for the Good Within

Breathe, and take a moment to think about how you truly feel in these uncontrollable times. We all feel some level of anxiety, some more than others. How we manage and handle this anxiety will impact both us and those around us. 

There is COVID-19 news everywhere we turn and we feel like a pressure cooker at home, lonely, anxious and ready to explode. Some of us feel lost and unable to control things for us and our loved ones. What feels overnight, we have been confined to our homes with or without family members.

As it is said that,” You can’t calm the storm… so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.” We need to gather ourselves and stay calm for ourselves but also our elderly, our children and the immune-compromised. 

What can I say to help you in this time of need? What if we tried to change your thought process by changing your frame of mind? Can we try to change the story you are telling yourself? At this time, tell yourself that the Universe is giving the world a chance to reset itself by slowing down, for you to look at life from a different perspective and reconsider our ways. Sometimes taking time to do nothing brings everything in perspective.

We realize that we are deeply interconnected with human interaction that we have taken for granted. Becoming aware of what we had and being grateful for the smallest of things we have now, will help us move forward. You are alive and breathing if you are reading this and we need to feel the warmth of gratitude. You may like to place a ‘gratitude jar’ in your home and let everyone put in a slip for expressing what they are grateful for. You will realize that there are chaos and difficulty in the real world, but you are still able to find things that you are thankful for in this present moment. Writing and reading these slips of gratitude will help change your thought process to look for the good! As I mention in my book, ‘You Are the Cake’, “The simple daily act of gratitude can lower our stress levels and ground us for a healthier and happier life… Be in the moment and feel how fortunate you are in so many ways. Count your blessings.” Read these slips of gratitude and over time your mind will automatically look for the good. 

Send out your positive vibes to others and those suffering. But in all this do not lose focus that you must practice self-care and compassion. You have time now to spare, so sit down and be steadfast and reduce your anxiety. Don’t give all your attention to the external world. Look for the good within. How do you do this and reduce stress? Meditation, Visualization Tapping are different ways of achieving this (you can find more information in my book, You Are the Cake). At this time of need, I have made the kindle version available at virtually no cost to everyone.

Here is a short Metta or loving-kindness meditation and visualization we can use to reduce our fears and send out positive vibes to the world. 

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes.
  2. Breathe in and out regulating the breath. 
  3. Visualize yourself, your family, your loved ones, the community and the people of the world one by one.  
  4. Say this in your mind with a feeling of compassion.

May I and the others be happy, safe and well. 

May there be peace, wellness, and love. 

All is okay 

  1.  Continue breathing with calmness in every breath. 
  2.  Close your eyes and picture that you are gathering all your negative stressful thoughts. Visualize yourself taking a broom and sweeping up all the negativity. Picture it being put into a bag and thrown away. Let go of this stress and move forward towards looking for the good. 
  3. Visualize yourself calm, well and happy. Breathe, be grateful and open your eyes gently. Let that smile linger on your face and in your heart. 
  4.  Feel the stillness deep inside and keep some energy and balance within.

Mental and social isolation can get to one. I suggest that you connect with your friends and family via phone, video conferencing, emails or so many more ways. I can video-chat, participate in group calls or multiplayer social games with my friends. This laughter and connection make me feel good and centered.   

Listen to the fact that we need to shelter-in-place to provide safety and flatten the curve of this deadly outbreak. To those who can offer help to the elderly via shopping or other errands, please reach out safely. You can donate to the families of the first responders, our heroes or the homeless. Donate blood at the Red Cross. Some people are printing 3D face masks for the responders, others sewing masks. Do whatever you can to help this hurting world. Working on a hobby will keep you focused and fulfilled. I enjoy painting and trying to sing, but when I do then everyone leaves the room!

We can take turns becoming a balm for each other. Let’s not worry about being perfect or getting it all right. Know that you are doing the best you can. 

Reduce your stress, be in the moment and be grateful for the smallest of things. Stress makes you believe that everything needs to happen right now while faith assures you that everything will happen at the right and perfect time. Have faith and move towards looking for the good. 

Geetanjali Arunkumar is the author of ‘You Are the Cake’ and a wellness coach. 

What Are Bay Area Residents Doing Behind Closed Doors?

Toilet Paper Na Milega Dobara,” writes Sheetal Gokhale as a rehashed title to a Bollywood film. Then quickly types “Doh Toilet Paper Bahrah Hanth”. On a Saturday morning the Saratoga dentist is playing a game of adding toilet paper to names of Bollywood films. Her WhatsApp group is in giggles. Nina Daruwalla, the realtor who has been collecting shoe covers to donate to Santa Clara nurses and staff, joins in, “Gumnam Toilet Paper”.

The entries come in fast and furious: Mein Toilet Paper Tere Angan Ke; Dilwale Toilet Paper Le Jayenge; Kagaz Ke Toilet Paper; Maine Toilet Paper Se Pyaar Kiya; Hum Toilet Paper De Chuke Sanam; Jis Desh Main Toilet Paper Bhathi Hai; Pati Patni Aur Toilet Paper.

Toilet Paper Hunting, Toilet Paper Wars, the gaffes continue. It is like a valve has been released and the overstressed brain has come up for air.

Masks made by Bay Area women. Image courtesy Hema Raja.

The nurses of Santa Clara have requested for some supplies. The ladies used to receiving wishlists from teachers at the start of every school year are now pooling resources to meet this request. Tailoring of masks is starting in earnest. Patterns and sewing instructions are exchanged, sewing machines borrowed and the ladies are off to a running start. All hands on deck. It is when stress creates a yoyo of emotions and whatsapp messages roller coaster through the phones that equanimity is most desired.

Salil Jain, a Cupertino resident unrolls his mat. He has been doing yoga at home with his own private yoga teacher out of India. myYogaTeacher, a Silicon Valley based fitness startup, offers its customers private 1-on-1 yoga sessions online. “For a fixed sum I can do unlimited hours. I plan to do two hour sessions three times a week,” says Salil as he shutters himself in his office. He is signing up for a session by selecting a teacher from their profile and their introduction videos.

Rajiv brews his fourth cup of tea for the day and clicks on the website. In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, myYogaTeacher has launched live online group classes to help those practicing social distancing. To support our communities and our health these classes are completely free says the CEO Jitendra Gupta.

“For others not so motivated myYogaTeacher not only guides but more importantly will make sure that you are showing up and practicing,” says Rajiv to his wife Ritu. He decides to sign her up. She purrs and pours herself a gin and tonic and heads to the study to join a zoom book club meeting. Reading soothes her nerves.

In homes across the Bay, members of her book club are downloading zoom for the first time. They struggle with getting their audio and videos working and soon their first zoom book club meeting is off to a good start albeit minus two members who couldn’t join in despite their best efforts. As they munch on ideas and thoughts the ladies who usually lunch together discuss Amitav Ghosh’s latest book The Gun Island while sipping their gin and tonics. After all Chloroquine the malaria drug of the colonists is being bandied about as the new cure for Corona.

A Bay Area group comprising of 6 couples has decided to have dinner together via a Facebook meeting on Saturday at 7pm. Everyone will join in virtually for Gupshup and Quaratini or now Chat and Gin-chloroquine.

The Krishna Balram temple has set up a 10 minute chanting call for 6pm ending to end the day on a calm note.

Long walks are becoming part of the new routine. Like students on a silence meditation course the walkers avert their eyes as they pass each other in the park.

Brown yanks at his leash. His routine has not been disrupted by Corona. After finishing his breakfast of poached eggs and dog food he is ready for his walk. With a jaunty step he heads out of the closed door out towards McClellan Park where other dogs are walking their owners. It is business as usual for him. He passes the CEO of myYogaTeacher, a bay area resident and gives him a wag of his tail. No sniffing of the butts in the days of social distancing thinks Brown as he dutifully averts his eyes from his buddy Froddo.

Building mental immunity is as important as building immunity of the body to deal with stress.

Ritu Marwah is washing her hands hourly. She agrees with “Better Saaf than Sorry”. Her husband and dog feel she could do better on the walking and yoga fronts.

How to Preserve Your Energy

This is not a discussion on conserving energy resources given by Nature like oil and gas. This is a discussion on conserving the energy we human beings possess at the individual level so that we can make the optimum use of the resources that are given to us: the body and the mind. It is too common to miss the obvious and concentrate on things that sound glorious, all the while ignoring that which is nearer to us and that which can be accomplished easily. It is a fad today to speak of conserving energy, of mapping non-conventional energy sources, and of decreasing our use of non-renewable energy sources. In the momentum and intensity of such discussions, most of which do not find practical solutions, we forget that each one of us has been blessed with tremendous sources of energy in the mechanisms of our body and mind. We need to focus on how to harness these sources that we possess to excel in our endeavours.

Our body is a storehouse of energy but unfortunately, we not only do not know how to use it, but often times we waste its energy without bringing any good. Most people use their limbs for purposeless actions. Abusing physical energy is so common that some people think it is the natural course to take. It is really ironical that most of the times people put their bodies to severe stress and misuse its energy in the name of recreation or leisure. In the pretext of resting their bodies, most people just torture it. The ancient sages of India were very particular about the energy of the human body and acknowledged even the minutest expenditure of energy like that which is expended while we blink our eyes. The first step in preserving our energy is to preserve our physical energy, the energy that is produced by and contained in the body. It is surprising how much physical energy can be saved by just doing a rapid mental calculation about the work and motion involved in any action.Yoga begins with the taming of the physical body. Only a body tethered in silence and moving only on purpose is fit for yoga. Needless swaying of heads and moving of limbs creates a strong disturbance that percolates to the deeper recesses of the mind.

Just like a camera consumes energy even if it is just switched on, similarly our sense organs consume energy even if they just stay put on a particular object. The best way to conserve the energy of the sense organs is to restrain from taking in any sensory input that one does not need. Then, the eyes would see only what has to be seen, the ears would hear only what has to be heard, the tongue would taste only what is to be tasted, the skin would touch only what has to be touched, and the nose would smell only what has to be smelled. Trained in such a fashion, not only would the distraction caused by the senses be reduced to a bare minimum, the sensory experience of such trained senses would be accentuated and superfine with a remarkable intensity.

We constantly blame the mind for distractions and for losing focus. Our complaint is that the mind is wandering all the time. Imagine a person who is served several plates of mouth-watering dishes at the same time, all dishes exuding mind-blowing scents, and served with royal dressings. How can that person concentrate on only one dish then? Such is the predicament of our mind. It is constantly being simultaneously fed several sensory inputs. When the eyes see, all the other four senses do not shut down and so is the case with the other sense-organs. Much like a person,who is aware of the usage of electricity,would switch off the electrical appliances that are not needed; we should switch off our sense-organs that we are not using at that momentThat would lead to an enormous energy surplus in our body.

In preserving the physical energy the importance of sleep cannot be overemphasized. Numerous present-day ailments can be cured by a regular and full dose of sleep. Conservation of individual energy has to be done at the level of breathing also. Long and sustained breathing cycles help the body to be calm andand have better reflexes. It is not for nothing that all traditions of martial arts give tremendous importance to the control of breath. This also shows the importance of living in pure and unpolluted environments.To produce a good breathing cycle, we need to also eat nutritious and wholesome food. It is quite common to have one’s body spend lot of energy on digesting unwanted or improper food that was supposed to give energy in the first place!

Human beings possess an exceptional intellectual capacity. Most of it is squandered in unnecessary ruminations on things that are of no use either at the individual or the collective level. To focus our thinking and analysis is an art that has to be perfected in order to get the most of our brains. Precision of thought and a daring to do intellectually daunting tasks preserves and also invigorates our intellectual energy. A thorough grounding in logic helps one to eventually transcend all linear thought. A trained intellect can ably rein the mind.

In the pursuit of the preservation of individual energy the biggest challenge is preserving the energy of the mind, mental energy. Thoughts consume the mind. To preserve the mental energy and also to preserve the mind itself, one needs to constantly question the need for a particular thought to arise in the mind. Brooding on the past and worrying about the future are the most common leaks of the mental energy. When our mind is drained of its energy, it goes into ill-health commonly known as psychological ailments that could range from a minor bout of depression to an acute incidence of schizophrenia. Daydreaming and fantasising also rapidly consume the mental energy. To train the mind from abstaining from activities that needlessly consume its energy, one should root it on a theme of focus that the mind would hold on to when it does not have any purposeful activity to do. Too many attachments clutter the mind. A minimalist lifestyle and a detached attitude help the mind to focus its energy and prioritise its goals. Strong attachments are like forgotten anchors that do not allow the ship of the mind to move forward. Uncluttering one’s mind from attachments and unrealistic expectations helps the mind to behave in a trained and disciplined manner. With less and less of garbage the mind would not have to suffer its stench!

If one can preserve the mental energy, then it leads to the preservation of the intellectual and physical energy as well. Such conserving of energy is one of the first steps towards a spiritual life.

Swamiji is Editor of Prabuddha Bharata.This article was first published in the Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. 


To read same article in Hindi.

To read same article in English.

Yoga for the Young

Ankita Jain, a senior at Cupertino High School, attributes her stress free high school life and her success in getting good grades to her yoga family and her yogic upbringing. Both of her parents have taken Yoga Teacher Training with Yoga Bharati more for their own self-growth than to become teachers.

Ankita grew up doing yoga since she was 5 years old. She says that this has taught her the discipline to sleep by 10:30pm on most nights, even as a high school student. She believes yoga has taught her to focus and be aware of her priorities. She says that students in her age group spend a lot of time on social life, both online and in-person. This is because high school creates so much stress that they need to de-stress by socializing. But Ankita says that she herself is under relatively less stress because she has developed a sense of acceptance towards how things will turn out in the future: be it her grades or acceptance into her dream school for her undergraduate studies.

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Chinmay Surpur is now a high honors graduate with a Bachelors of Science from UC Santa Barbara in Biopsychology (Neuroscience). He attributes his success to yoga and the yogic nurturing he received as a child from his parents who are both yoga teachers. He wants to pursue a Ph.D. to conduct research in clinical psychology and yoga.

He decided to work at Yoga Bharati during his gap year to develop education courses and to bring research projects in collaboration with UC Santa Barbara, his alma mater. He says yoga has helped him build a strong work ethic, undying discipline, and a toolbox of practices to help him work through any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual difficulty he faces. He believes that yoga is the ideal form of holistic health care and that humanity should be moving towards a preventative model of healthcare using yoga as the primary method of self-improvement. He is hoping to empower communities across the world to maintain positive health through utilizing the ancient practice of yoga.

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Gregory is a student at a juvenile-recovery charter school in Los Angeles. He is now completing his high school diploma. He wants to be a yoga teacher but did not have the support to pay for the training, so Yoga Bharati offered him to train him for free. He said this training was transformational. The lecture on Karma Yoga, as explained in the Bhagavad Gita, was inspiring and changed his view on life. Two weeks after listening to the lecture, he said he forgot what anger and frustration was; whereas before that, a day would not go by without getting angry and ruining his day.

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Swami Vivekananda said “Education is a man making, life making, character building assimilation of ideas.” The Yoga Bharati courses are designed to systematically train students in the techniques of yoga and to help increase self-awareness as they begin their own journey of self-development. Yoga Bharati believes in practicing before preaching.

There are many benefits of taking this course: you will develop the ability to integrate your body, mind, and soul through yoga techniques; stress management and the prevention of stress-related ailments; improved memory, creativity, and calmness through the use of pranayama and meditation; empowerment to serve society through teaching others.

Join Yoga Bharati’s Yoga Teacher Training or Yoga Foundation Course. For details visit: www.yogabharati.org T

 

Five Reasons to do Yoga this Holiday Season

Holidays can be a busy time to say the least; in spite of the joy surrounding it, you are pulled in different directions physically, emotionally and financially. For me, every year when the holidays come around, I resort to yoga. Yoga has been a constant thread in my life, one that I seek especially when my cup is overflowing.

The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yujir which means ‘to yoke.’ The Bhagavad Gita says, “Yoga is said to be equanimity” (2.48); “Yoga is skill in action” (2.50). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali say, “Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.” An asana practice helps us achieve the higher goal of yoga. For me, asanas create equanimity which furthers my intention and understanding of utilizing that skill in all action that Lord Krishna is talking about. Asanas help calm the mind to take on the world a little better everyday. So if you are overwhelmed with love, joy, stress, foodlists, shopping lists or just too much on your plate, consider yoga this holiday season. 

Here are five reasons to give yoga a chance.

Stillness

What I crave most is silence when I’m consistently going to holiday parties and hosting guests. Carving out a few minutes for silence can really reset the body and mind’s rhythm and re-center me so I can face life’s busy-ness again.

Poses I love: Balasana ( Child’s pose), Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall), Shavasana(Corpse Pose), Surya Bhedana (Sun-Piercing Breath) and Chandra Bhedana (Moon-Piercing Breath).

Detox

Who does not need a mind and body detox after the holidays? Inversion poses are really helpful for blood circulation and thus promoting detoxification and moving fluid to the lymph nodes.

Poses I love: Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downdog), Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (One leg dog), Salamba Sirsasana(Headstand), Dolphin pose

Digestion

All that turkey and stuffing along with endless gingerbread men keeping you bloated all holiday season? I find that my digestion is sluggish, especially paired with the colder temperatures. A few simple poses that aid digestion can go a long way. 

Poses I love: Bharadvajasana (Seated twist), Pavanmuktasana (Wind Relieving Pose), Salabhasana (Locust) and Agni Sara.

Gratitude

The economic commercialization of the holidays makes us forget the true reason for their existence. Yoga makes me stop to give thanks for the opportunity to have and love family, community and God in my life. Giving thanks makes the chaos of my life worthwhile.

Poses I love: Apanasana (Knees to chest), Malasana( Yogic Squat), Ustarasana (Camel Pose), Balasana (Child’s pose), Padmasana (Lotus Pose).

Burning Calories

Okay let’s get real, everyone puts on those extra pounds during the holidays and everyone is seeking to burn calories. No time to go to gym? Yes yoga can help burn calories too! A vinyasa flow including the following poses can help tone and strengthen.

Poses I love: Plank pose, Utkanasana (Chair pose), Surya Namskar (Sun Salutation), Chattaranga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff Pose), Navasana (Boat pose), and Agni Sara.

Preeti Hay has been a lifelong student of yoga. She has written for Yoga International, Yogi Times, India Currents and Khabar Magazine among others.

Yoga Mythology: 64 Asanas by Devdutt Pattanaik and Matthew Rulli

Bestselling Indian author (53 books and counting), celebrity, media personality and self-styled mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik has partnered with American yoga teacher Matthew Rulli to produce his latest book. The book opens with an Authors’ Note containing the disclaimers: “This is not a book on the practice of yoga. This is about the mythology that nurtured the idea of yoga” and “This is not a manual for asanas.” Reading on, we are told: “This book uses various yoga postures as inspiration to leap into the world of Hindu mythology with occasional detours into Jain and Buddhst mythology.” (17)

The book is organized in four sections, dedicated to the Devi, Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu, with 64 asanas and related stories distributed among them. (The number sixty-four, we are told, indicates infinity). Stories are drawn from Buddhist and Jain sources, though those from Hindu culture, not surprisingly, predominate.

Clearly, the authors have done their research. They include some poses familiar to the average yoga student, several that are probably unfamiliar to all but advanced practitioners, a handful (crocodile, vajrasana, dandasana) that sound familiar but are presented in unusual and challenging versions, and poses largely named for sages. A good number in this last category, known as “party poses” in some yoga circles for their flashy “Look at this!” quality, involve bearing weight through the arms while doing something complicated with the legs, such as wrapping one leg behind the head. As a yoga teacher, I know that arm balances come more easily to men than to women, due to the superior upper-body strength and higher center of gravity of the average male body. I think of these as these definitely “guy poses” even though they can be and are also performed by women. I also know that the majority of students in most classes are women. So the inclusion of all those arm balances made me go “Hmm,” and I found myself wondering just who the intended audience was. Given American yoga’s emphasis on asana, and the challenging nature of the “party poses,” will this selection really inspire readers to “leap into the world of Hindu mythology”?

The book has much more going for it than the poses. Don’t be put off by the ones you find obscure or too challenging. Let the stories and their values enhance your appreciation of India’s rich culture and yoga’s diverse nature. The stories are engaging and the line drawings are charming, energetic and plentiful. (In fact, I wished for drawings to replace the small black and white photos which don’t always show the poses to best advantage.) The inclusion of Jain and Buddhist tales expands our habitual notion of yoga as “Hindu” while the concluding section, “Metaphors of the Yogini”, forces us to confront the image of the yogi as a male ascetic bent on controlling or escaping the natural world. “Yoginis are the food for the hungry, the power for the frightened, and the knowledge of the ignorant…They are all things uncontrollable that we want to control…The yogi looks within; hence shuthis eyes. The yogini makes him open his eyes, look at the sky…” (322-323)

I’ve been a fan of Devdutt’s since I chanced upon his Shiva: an Introduction (1997) in a Mumbai bookstore. I was eager to see how he would handle yoga mythology.  I find that what I like most in this book is not so much the connection of stories with asana, but his discussions of the feminine, through the figures of the Devi and the yogini. Fan or new reader, I am sure you will find things you like too.

Zo Newell is a writer and certified yoga therapist. Her first book, Downward Dogs and Warriors: Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis was published in 2007 and its sequel, Flying Monkeys, Floating Stones: More Wisdom Tales, is slated for publication in spring 2020. She has written numerous articles for Yoga International exploring the interface of asana and Indian mythology. She holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Vanderbilt University.

Yogathon at Sevathon – Sun Salutation Marathon

We all have heard of Marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks. Yogathon is a Surya Namaskar (SN) Marathon. Each SN is a series of 10 or 12 poses in a seamless flow; synchronized with one’s breath and typically performed at sunrise and sunset every day. It is ideal for people with busy schedules as it provides various physical and mental benefits packaged into a single routine requiring a small duration of time. SNs are performed to give reverence to the internal Sun, the creative force that radiates inside the body, along with the external Sun — the source of all energy. 

Surya Namaskar is a technique that combines both stimulation and relaxation to reduce stress. Yoga has a lesser chance of injury to muscles and joints compared to other forms of exercise due to the continuous variability of muscle length and also due to the emphasis on awareness of breath and body throughout the practice. Yoga also helps one in handling difficult situations of life as yoga builds mental strength and will-power. Many scientific journals have reported physiological benefits of Surya Namaskars. While one research paper suggests that SNs improve muscle strength [Bhutkar, et al, Asian J Sports Med. 2011 Dec; 2(4): 259–266], another paper suggests SN can act as a great cardiovascular exercise [Mody J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2011 Jul;15(3)].

Sevathon is an annual event hosted by the India Community Center. At Sevathon, over 100 nonprofits partner and over 3000 attend each year: Yoga Bharati leads Yogathon at Sevathon where children, adults, and seniors get together to practice 108, or 51, or 24 SNs.  Over 100 people gathered last year in a spectacular show of Surya Namaskars. It is also the annual fund-raising event for the non-profits including Yoga Bharati.

Venue: Arena Green, San Jose

Date: September 8th Sunday, 2019; 6:30 AM to 1:30 PM

Vidya danam, Param danam – Education is the best form of service. Help us give true education — Yoga Vidya! Come together to perform yoga! Collect pledges for your chosen non-profit organization – Yoga Bharati.  

Please send any inquiries to sny@yogabharati.org or visit https://yogabharati.org/sevathon for more information!