One round of sadhana or practice

You start your day on a beautiful note, you are already happy because this is your time and not anyone else’s. Everyone can wait because it is 4.30 in the morning and the whole world around you is asleep. Nobody is likely to wake up, you know that for sure. For a yogi, it is very important that you are on your own, just for some time, so that you can enjoy the time with everyone around you later. You don’t want to be alone all the time!

So what do we do and how does it start? You take the yoga mat and get ready. You stand on the mat and you are thinking, what do I do? Do I do the Surya Namaskar today or a full stretch or do I do my own personal sequence? That confusion is going on in the mind and you are debating and enjoying the debate and finally you decide. And as you are doing it, you are moving your body, you are doing your warm up. Once the warm up is over, the body is naturally flowing into a comfortable rhythm of stretches. The hands automatically go up, the shoulders go up, the feet are firm on the ground and your attention is on your breath, eyes are closed and you decide- today you decide that the plan is to stay in the asanas- so you start with the Surya Namaskar.

Everyday you can decide to do something. You can do a lot of asanas one day or you decide to focus on the breath or you only move the body slowly. You will decide sometimes that to go deep into the posture or sometimes you may not be well, and have a pain or a catch somewhere and you decide to focus on that for a few minutes, dwell on that and see where it goes. Each day is a new decision on the yoga mat. The unfolding of the mat is a new story and what the body does, the mind helps out- it is far from a rote mechanism.

You start breathing, you start listening to the silent sounds around you. Actually, there are no sounds at this time in the morning, apart from one or two stray vehicles moving on the road. Your practice is going on and it’s almost like 10-15 minutes of asanas, stretches with deepening them and enjoying on the mat.

From far away, you start hearing a familiar sound which says it is that time. It is almost a quarter to five now because the birds wake up at this time. This is your company every morning, these are all familiar people to you, you are aware of these sounds. You are aware of your breath, aware of your body. You take deep breaths and continue into your asanas, continue into the movement. Something makes you continue in the asanas, you recall how you saw this person do this complicated stretch and say let me give it a try. Let me get into this complicated version of the pigeon pose and you try to get into it, you get it right on the right side of the body and not on the left side of the body- it is okay to do that. It probably needs a little more practice- it will happen eventually.

With that in mind, some happiness is swelling over within you already, some peace is turning within you and you are enjoying that. You are enjoying that your breath is becoming easier, body is becoming lighter. Now you want to sit and do the pranayam, the breathing excercises. You sit, absorb the effect of the asanas and allow the body to meditate for a few minutes, maybe 4-5 minutes then start the pranayams. You get into vajrasana, and do the first stage of pranayam with the awareness of the Ujjayi breath, slow and sure. You remind yourself that you will be doing the pranayams like a warrior. The pranayams, one by one, make you more calm and soft in the mind. Now you are done with the pranayam, you do the Sudarshan Kriya. You take a decision that you will do the Kriya like it is the first time you are doing it.

You become aware of the sohums, the in-breaths and the out-breaths. The patterns, the counts and you are lost in them and then you have reached the last round and you close your eyes and just sit. So many thoughts would have been going on all the time, so much planning going on all the time in the mind since the moment you started to climb on the mat. Now it has all vanished, it is just silent. You are aware of the birds chirping but something in the mind is silent. Very silent and calm. You don’t know how much time you spent sitting after the Kriya and meditation, but you know for sure there is no rush, nothing to rush about. There is plenty of time. Everything will be rushed during the day but this cannot be rushed. Slowly you get up, you open your eyes. A chant is forming on the lips- what is that? You say the chants, and again for a minute or two, you absorb the sounds of the chants and feel a burst of energy inside you. As if you can conquer anything, the assurance that nothing is impossible. And that calm is going to see you through the day, is going to see you through many days to come. And that is nothing but the high energy that the pranayam brings, the warm up and yoga brings. You feel the energy- it is a strange feeling but people who do this everyday, feel this. You feel new again. And this is the one round of sadhana or practice.

by Meena Waghray is a yoga teacher but she says, it was not easy to adapt it in her lifestyle. She started out being a pessimist about yoga and has gone on to become a teacher and her journey of fitness in body and mind continues. For her, yoga is not just the daily practice on the mat, rather, the losing and finding of the mind and breath to come back to harmony.

Meena is a lawyer by profession and a mediation expert, trained with the ADR Group London. Mediation according to her is the best way to resolve disputes, even before they reach the courts. Meena loves teaching and has been teaching legal studies for classes 11th and 12th at Army Public School, Bangalore.

She says, “I have two similar goals and similar sounding ones too, separated by a “t”, meditation and mediation. One is spiritual and the other is legal. The end result of both is harmony”. Meena is a volunteer/
faculty with the Art of Living Foundation facilitating Art of Living Yoga and Happiness Programs.


Read

“And no- writers do not have to be visionaries.”

Doris Lessing

“We forget that novels continuously are introducing errors of life we haven’t thought of before; that haven’t really been in the public consciousness.”

When one loves to read, some values get imbibed by default. For example, being true to ones-self and knowing who we are and working hard to be the best one can be. By this analogy, to also know that when we read, we find interesting spaces to explore, to find insightful answers to questions we have struggled with and given up on.

We explore this aspect of reading and to be able to find a flaw or a misconception in our thinking, clarifying it with the world around us, is something that we are enabling on this platform. Share here what you have read and how it has shaped your person.

Literature and Art


Now, the use of culture is that it helps us, by means of its spiritual standard of perfection, to regard wealth as but machinery, and not only to say as a matter of words that we regard wealth as but machinery, but really to perceive and feel that it is so. If it were not for this purging effect wrought upon our minds by culture, the whole world, the future, as well as the present, would inevitably belong to the Philistines. The people who believe most that our greatness and welfare are proved by our being very rich, and who most give their lives and thoughts to becoming rich, are just the people whom we call the Philistines. Culture says: “Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voices; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come forth out of their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it?”

Matthew Arnold,  Culture and Anarchy (1869)

Food rules

We all love to change the traditional ways of making food but what we don’t expect is that we are introducing new elements in the game of cooking. Food is chemistry and what we do to it has repercussions to the end product and hence to our health. It is however a lot of fun to experiment and to explore creative foods and ideas. The problem is that traditional recipes come to us with rules and restrictions and we need to know when and why to make changes to them. Or not. Like cooking spinach with a fat and an acid to make sure the iron is absorbed in the body- something that I did on a regular basis due to tradition but this changed when I put spinach in a smoothie with a banana and yogurt. There was no fat or acid added. Spinach, a green micro-nutrient was a total loss to my system and to the process of setting up a new routine.

And consider dal or lentils.

A nutritionist I follow on instagram Sangeetha Khanna gave me some details on lentils. She posted about the lentil cheela with lots of vegetables and that got me thinking to a time when my father suffered with kidney and liver problems and the doctor suggested eating less toor dal or any dal (lentil). He was a mid-life teetotaler, so alcohol was not the reason for his liver problems. The nutritionist said this about the dal intake- “…Ayurveda has already prescribed ways to prevent the ill effects of lentils. Think about our dal ka tadka (seasoning) with asfoetida, garlic, cumin and chillies or sambar (lentil soup) that is made with tamarind and a tadka or the various fermented lentil preparations. The oxalates and purines in lentils are associated with oxalate type stones in kidney but if lentils are cooked according to Ayurveda prescribed ways and one consumes enough water, there is no need to worry.”

Thank you Sangeetha Khanna for this, and I would suggest you follow her blog and posts for more interesting information on food and nutrition guidance.

Malini Waghray is the founder, editor, immersive researcher and developer at Choosing Wellness.

Memory and nostalgia

Memory, nostalgia are a part of food.

A part of the socio-psychological infrastructure of a community is it’s food practices and rituals. The rituals, mores related to it, have a binding quality. At the same time these are the reason for oppression in many ways. But how are they oppressive? Let’s break it down in a way where one can dissect and examine it.

Food is an integral part of a life as it provides the nutrition needed but also a social fact wherein it is consumed in an environment that has the companions, significant others that participate in the process. If ready food is bought as compared to being cooked in a household, it has an easy albeit a monetary value but is also a matter of affordability and can be seen in two ways. If you can afford to buy optimal, nutritious and good food, then you belong to the high income economic bracket. If you are unable to buy it but instead buy sub-optimal, low on nutrition, cheap food then you belong to the low income category. There are variations to this which can be explained but that is another write-up.

Food when associated with a household kitchen and is cooked for meals each day, interrupts lives on a daily basis and this interruption is something of an ongoing challenge that can be examined closely. It is in a sense oppressive as one is always having to think of food for the self, for the offspring and maybe a partner if that is available. First it is about tastes, likes and dislikes of all the people mentioned; and next, it is about tradition that may or may not be healthy and third, it is about preparation- which is all work with a set agenda. This is an interruption because it keeps one away from engaging in otherwise useful pursuits. (And yes, there is an argument to be made for making this interruption a useful pursuit in and of itself).

Some of the tropes that come to mind while growing up are stories around food, festivals, rituals, ways of life that are still the binding factor for families and communities. Food is about the nostalgia and at the same time a battleground for oppression.

Malini Waghray is the founder, editor, immersive researcher and developer at Choosing Wellness.

How we feed our families…


“…food sits at the intersection of biological or material and symbolic aspects of human life. Food is essential for life because we need its energy and nutrients as biological creatures. But the nature of our humanity lies in our social practices, and thus our ability to sustain ourselves involves more than nutrients. What we eat is a “sign of membership, social status and spiritual worth. Eating the same food as others is a mark of belonging… The practice of feeding a family involves, meeting, what Stone calls “communal needs” which include “community, solidarity, a sense of belonging; dignity, respect, self-esteem, and honor; friendship and love” .

(Stone, 1988)

Food is a social act, in essence, it is about sharing and belonging. The very nature of cooking then starts with pots and plates, meant not just for a singular consumer. Eating alone however, is not an anathema but the process of cooking and eating has come to mean a bit more than sustenance and hence the challenges of sustenance eating. The contradiction is within the logic of food- you have to eat together as humans but you have to eat within your limits.

At this time of thanksgiving in the United States and Diwali in India, the onslaught of food-voices and choices from every possible avenue- it is a nice reminder to put things in perspective and to register this holiday for what it is.

Malini Waghray is the founder, editor, immersive researcher and developer at Choosing Wellness.

The inevitable dawning of common sense

The physical body over the mental- which comes first? Is it the chicken or the egg? Or is it easier than that? I practiced the mental well being for far too long and got hit by the lack of the physical care that was needed. Hence the effort to get to the core of it and understand how both are connected.

The inevitable dawning of common sense

For a number of years, the refining of the thought process to understand a social problem (as a sociologist) was to me a far critical issue to work towards. It has been a default setting for the longest time I could remember. The idea of “seeking help” was not an option to fix this lack of understanding- if at all that came about. I always knew that the most nonsensical of the problems has a solution, if only one reads more about it or finds ways to newer understandings and the truth I might seek would unravel in front of me.

The mind-body connection, or the physical-body problem in the form of high BMI, is a new one that life has dealt in a fashion that now cannot be ignored. This is a warning sign of what’s more to come soon. On the other hand, the lack of a right mind-set that makes you a misfit in a certain circle, like your brilliant class mates in a Sociology class, was a warning sign too. I clarified concepts by reading more and more, to arrive at an understanding that not only made me the wiser but also got the grades I was looking for.

The physical body however, took a while to give me the warning sign and working to fix that is what this dashboard or a thesis is about. Contact our editor to contribute to the dashboard as a writer.

Malini Waghray is the founder, editor, immersive researcher and developer at Choosing Wellness.

What the mandala taught me.

The Tibetan monks who came from Hubli, Karnataka had this to teach today at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health. How to do a job well, to focus on one item at any time and breathe in with it, taking it all in. They are mindful of creating the mandala- they focus on the process. The process consists of first making a draft of the mandala with the outline on the surface. Then using colored sand, pouring it into the cones with holes at the ends. Then you inhale and exhale lightly, settle down by bending into a comfortable position and start tapping the sand onto the design. You orchestrate your hands to move the cone a few millimeters a second to create the pattern- and all this while continuously breathing. This is an ongoing process for 6-8 days to create a beautiful mandala.

The whole point of this activity then is to do a job well and wait for the beauty to come through (or not). This is an example for how any piece of work needs to be done. The end result may not be a visible product like the mandala here. It could be a small task taken to it’s end, accomplished well.

After creating the mandala, there is a ceremony done to celebrate its beauty and the aspect of working and accomplishing something together. The monks then let go of the beauty in the mandala by sweeping the sand up- the work is done and done well. The essence of it is gathered while creating it -it is this essence which we find common in the doctrine of mindfulness. It is knowing that what needs to be done is a “do-now”. It is the “do-now” that one needs to focus upon, this moment. The rest will follow through.

Malini Waghray is the founder, editor, immersive researcher and developer at Choosing Wellness.

(Picture Credits: Commons.Wikimedia)

about cholesterol

Target Numbers for Asian Indians to Prevent Heart Disease
Non HDL Cholesterol less than 130 mg/dl [152]
(Total Cholesterol-HDL= Non HDL Cholesterol)

LDL-Cholesterol less than 100 mg/dl [126]

HDL-Cholesterol greater than 40 mg/dl for males and greater than 50 mg/dl for females [45]

Blood pressure: less than 140/80 mm
Waist Circumference: less than 35″ for men and less than 31″ for women

What is HDL cholesterol
High-density lipoprotein is a part of the total cholesterol measurement. It is often referred to as “good” cholesterol. The recommended level for men with diabetes is greater than 40mg/dl and for women with diabetes is greater than 50 mg/dl.

What is LDL cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein is a part of the total cholesterol in the blood. It is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. LDL should be less than 70mg/dl for those with diabetes and/or heart disease.

Dietary Recommendations to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol level
The National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III recommends:
1. Adjust caloric intake to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight gain raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
2. Choose a diet low in saturated fat (less than 7% of caloric intake), trans-fat (less than 1 % of caloric intake) and dietary cholesterol (less than 200 mg/day) by consuming a diet high in fish (especially fatty fish), non-fat dairy products, small amounts of lean meat and/or lean meat alternatives e.g. dry beans e.g. rajma, channa, soybeans (like edamame), lentils (daal) and tofu.
3. Include food sources of plant sterols & stanols. At the recommended dosage of 2 gm per day, plant sterols reduce cholesterol absorption in the intestine by up to 30% and reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol by 10%. Plant sterols have the same chemical structure as animal cholesterol which blocks the absorption of cholesterol eaten in the diet as well as
cholesterol manufactured by the liver.
4. Increase intake of viscous (soluble) fiber to 7-13g daily e.g. oats, fruits such as strawberries, apples, vegetables such as okra, eggplant, brussel sprouts and legumes such as lentils. Soluble fiber can lower LDL cholesterol 3-5%.  It is recommended that adults eat 21 to 38 grams of total fiber daily.

Source: Indian Foods: AAPI’s Guide to Nutrition, Health and Diabetes
Edited by RANJITA MISRA Professor & Research Director, Texas A&M University

Movement

fluids

As one sits through the day at a screen without movement (like I have for the last two hours, looking at the clock) and wonder at the amazing technology- I also lock up the circulatory system in a set route and obstruct energy movement. A physical movement keeps the body fluids in motion and at the same time registers the food energy to the remotest parts of the body if one were to think of the gut as the center.

The idea of movement, be it with yoga or with cardio, strength training or zumba, the rhythm of the body changes and takes on the form of the activity. The lymphatic fluid or blood- need to circulate and that is of essence.