When a Yogi Falls Sick…

English: Praveen Gurukkal from Kalarickal Ayur...
English: Praveen Gurukkal from Kalarickal Ayurveda shows the use of Yoga in Kalari practise. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…Everyone would think one of these:

1. “Look at him. In spite of being thin, he would never listen to me. Eat a lot, for God’s sake! What is going through his mind? Does starving himself really pay? So eccentricly addicted to healthy life style. What’s the point of that? Now he’s sick and ..oh…poor wretched petite bony boy.”

2. “What is wrong with him? He’s been so fit so far and just as suddenly he declares he gets sick. That must have to do with the changing seasons.”

3. “If yoga can heal people, he should be able to cure himself. Well, he is supposed to be… Let him be.”

4. “He must have bent too much, twisted his body too often. ”

5. “He’s a human. That happens. It’s not like he gets sick every week or month. His sickness is once in an entire year. Why worry?”

6. “If that usually healthy and agile man can fall sick, how about me?? With all these abundant daily consumption of fried foods, sugary bread, greasy carnivore diets… Ah, leave it to God, and my insurance company. The world keeps spinning.”

7. “He needs bear hugs and intimate chats, I suppose. Let see if I can be of help.”

8. “He must’ve cheated on the diet plan too often.”

9. “His chakras may be clogged. He needs to fix them all.”

10. “He ought to a physician nearby.  He can heal on his own with Ayurveda but that’ll take much longer time. ”

 

How Integrity May Mean The Entire World to Yogis and Writers

The debacle of a genius: In some way, I can relate to Jonah Lehrer’s journalism faux pas (or misdeeds?). I know how it feels when people around you want more new things to read or listen from you every single day. The lesson learned? Humans’ creativity, even geniuses’, is limited. Admit that you’re tired, exhausted at all. Maybe that is much better than running ragged and settle for mediocrity. Or not? You be the judge.

Like most young people, I have been listening to an elderly tycoon who keeps repeating the significance of integrity in every step taken in this life. Truthfully, I got sick of that. Who doesn’t? It sounds like a broken old tape to my ears. But that was before I realize that the absence of integrity , or even a meager amount of integrity violation, means the end of the world to some people.

Because I also work in journalism world, let me  take Jonah Lehrer as an example. This 31-year-young author and public speaker has triggered massive outrage in the past few months. He is said and proven to have committed two big sins : fabrication of Bob Dylan’s quotes and (self?) plagiarism (source: slate.com).

And because I also love doing yoga, let me scrutinize also what John Friend has done to his integrity affairs. I am not a staunch fan of anusara yoga yet it is one of yoga schools, though it originated partially from the ancient yoga in India. Friend is accused of committing intimate sexual rituals related to the modern pagan religion of Wicca.

Both cases offer invaluable lessons to learn. I find it easy to relate to these two heroes-turn-zeroes disasters. I am not saying I am as successful or widely known as mr. Friend and mr. Lehrer but I just want to emphasize the fact that anyone – whether or not s/he is famous or talented or intelligent – cannot be immune to the peril of lust, which is part of being a human being, and lie resulted from indolence.

It’s completely irrational to see other people who seem to possess everything you want without warning and sound reason excuses making the same mistake repeatedly, which at last strip them off what they previously earned for years with so much hard work. It’s tragic on one hand, and fair on the other hand.

And suddenly it dawns on me, once someone finds out and can exploits your list of sins for the sake of anything (some say for the sake of scientific objectivity or moral purity, but really how many of us can figure it out that way?), your life so to speak is over as a member of a certain society. It’s an utter disgrace that time cannot seem to heal rapidly.

Nevertheless, in the era of instant gratification and self indulgence instead of essence and real substance, it proves to be much easier for people to forget and forgive.

New Entrepreneurial Success Formula: "Yoga + Startup + Geeks = Productive Business"

I don’t work for startups but I know how it feels to be part of the startup grind. Your daily routines would include typing all day long, eyes being glued to the screen of your laptop or smartphone, and sitting for hours from dawn till dusk. All you can eat is anything tasty that can be served fast. You may forget drinking for hours because of the low temperature of the room you’re working in. At the end of the day you feel like your body is aching from head to toes. And to add more to the severity of the unhealthy life style, you work till the early morning and wake up after 10 or 11 am. Caffeine is your best friend. The pattern goes on and on until you find yourself badly near-sighted, feeble both physically and mentally. You then may realize you start lacking the power to perform physically demanding tasks, lacking physical strength and energy. Some people oddly enough can endure such a life style for years, and verily regret later.

 

But some others come to understanding that the typical sedentary life style commonly found in startups DOES kill them sooner or later. Of course everyone will die eventually but the thing is whether you can fully function or not while you’re alive. What can a huge startup success mean to its founders and team members when they’re diagnosed with degenerative, terminal diseases owing to the ignorance of healthy life style? The cost is not worth it all.  Suddenly, it dawns on them. Everyone, entrepreneurs and startups workers as no exception, needs to find balance in life.

 

And I have to admit that the best workout I have known so far for 21st century digital workers so far is YOGA. How so?? You may think I’m exaggerating. “Just because you like yoga, you certainly endorse it,” you may think so, but think this way. If you really want practical workout that can ease the stresses , improve physical fitness and mental acuity at the same time without having to hit any gym or sign up for a pricey class, yoga is definitely for you!

 

I once heard my friend with his new routines as a freshman at a local university. He has  been somewhat a gym rat for like years and then suddenly he couldn’t find any gym nearby. He misses the dumbells and all the equipments he used to use.

This is much different from yoga enthusiasts. All we need is only our mind, body and some space. You can even do yoga at literally anywhere, without performing challenging poses (let’s debunk this myth). Breathing more deeply and slowly is even already part of doing yoga. It naturally lowers the tension level your body is experiencing. It’s called pranayama.

 

Geeks usually sit very long in their chairs. This downward facing dog pose (asana) would energize them back by stretching the hamstring and inverting the head (which means a lot more oxygen running to the brain).

I should say it is such a surprise to read some startup workers in another part of the globe really put this healthy and balanced life style concept awareness into practice by means of yoga (Read “Startups Kick Asana with Nerd Yoga in Amsterdam”). The reportage published on VentureBeat.com itself was written by Ciara Byrne, a startup mentor who happens to be a yogini and voluntarily provided a free weekly yoga session for these Dutch geeks. Along with her is Dave Sevenoaks, a key figure of Nerd Yoga (a weekly yoga class in Volkskrantsgebouw, an area full of startup offices in East Amsterdam). The yogi commented, ” We try to focus on the upper body and back in Nerd Yoga. People who sit in front of computers all day tend to have really bad posture.” Well, I guess he did make a great point here.

 

Another geek named James Bryan Graves told Byrne that startup life style is very much identical to unhealthy one. He mentioned how people he had been working with in a startup in the US were embracing junk foods as their main diets and doing literally no workout. “One guy had back surgery because his back had gotten so weak from doing development for 10 years that he literally couldn’t walk one day. Every time I go to yoga, I think about this particular individual and how I don’t want to end up like that,” Mr. Graves added. Enough said. He decided to choose different path.

Sedentary life style and ignorance of healthy diets worsen the life quality of our brainy startup workers.

But again, even though some startup workers are fully aware of the fact that they have been living in a wrong life style, they still have to conquer stereotypes in their minds: “Yoga is ONLY for my moms and chicks. Real men don’t do yoga.” I wonder what Sting and Adam Levine would say about this.

And considering how male-dominated tech world and startups environment are, the effeminate image of yoga lingers in the minds of our startup workers (who, correct me if I’m wrong, mostly too are young males).

But really if you want to do yoga without being intimidated by the image of flexible females or feeling emasculated when mingling with girls and middle-aged women, you can try broga (a manly version of yoga) or simply invite a yoga teacher to your startup ‘fraternity’.

At the end, it all comes down to one thing: building a successful business is not a sprint. Instead, it’s a marathon. Startup workers should never feel guilty for taking a rest from the routines to do some yoga because it eventually rewards them even more.

Yoga is Likely to Enhance How Our Lungs Work

A new scientific study confirmed another health benefit which a yogi and yogini can reap from their regular practice of yoga. This time, our respiratory system thank you for doing yoga.

One can start seeing the improvement of their lungs functions after practicing approximately 10 weeks. Pranayama exercise (which requires you to breathe at a slower pace and deeper)  no doubt contribute to healthier lungs. Not only are lungs’ functions significantly improved by doing yoga, but the daily practice of it also boosts overall fitness and endurance, needless to say. Yoga also is known to be a great workout to lower heart rate and blood pressure due to the deep breaths taken throughout a session. That said, another yoga’s  benefit is of course controlling our body weight, something people long for.

The secondary study conducted by a group of researchers* examining data obtained by 10 other previosu studies indicated that yoga does make our lungs work better. The 10 studies examined showed the impact of yoga on lung function.

 

*Sources:

  1. Abel, AN, Lloyd LK, Williams JS. The Effects of Regular Yoga Practice on Pulmonary Function in Healthy Individuals: A Literature Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0516.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com

5 Types of Yogis/Yoginis You Need To Know

Devi Asmarani, a yoga practitioner I look up to, wrote this piece titled “The Changing Path” on her blog containing her journey stories in India. In her mind, the yoga arena (especially outside of the classical Indian scene) is a packed one with practitioners who can be divided into these major groups:

1. The blind followers of gurus or traditions, who – like in the movie “The Guru” – would drink tea from the neti pot poured through the nostrils of their teachers, or would continue to do extremely deep poses even when their bodies have been broken (meaning injured) in many different places, or who would blame themselves instead of seeking accountability when the teachers’ strong adjustments cause them injuries.

2. The trendy bourgeois bohemians and the urban warrior(esses) type with their lithe, super flexible bodies; their cute Lulus outfits that accentuate strong arms toned by the thousands of chaturanga they’ve executed; and their strings of yoga jewelries.

3. The fitness buff gym yogis who glorify handstands and arm balances.

4. A combination of any two or more of the above.

5.  The recovering yogis who love yoga, believe wholly in its physical and mental benefits, and can’t live without it, but who feel a little out of place in the scene.

Into which category do I fall?

Umm, that’s hard. Assessing oneself objectively  is not easy. But if I had to pick one, I’d choose none of the 5 mentioned above. I’m a poser. I love pleasing my constantly hungry ego. I feed it continually by going deeper in the backbend asanas I practice. I even once admitted, “I’m no yogi. I’m a gymnast. I fold and bend, yet it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a yogi”.

Namaste!

A Bit of Yogic Essence in Ramadan (An Excerpt from Yudhi Widdyantoro's Speech)

Yudhi in action!

In the broader sense, ‘yoga’ itself can be defined as ‘a controlled mind’, ‘a harmonious bond between individual soul and the universe soul. It’s an effective method to calm and ease the troubled, anxious mind, which in turns can channel the energy in the right, constructive manner.

The highest purpose of yoga is to reach unity with the Divine in order to create a inner peace of mind and soul. Both physical and mental aspect are equally honed while doing yoga. This will eventually enable us to gain a fuller, more well-rounded perspective of life.  The unity here may also be interpreted as  how mind, body and soul complete with each other.

On “the Pursuit of HappYness”

Human beings are destined to continuously pursue happiness. We, unhappily, tend to seek bliss from the outside (read: material, earthly) world, some of which are the greed for financial satisfaction (money we spend extravagantly during Ramadan), the urge to impress others (that BlackBerry),  social status, and so forth. We’re inclined to forget that happiness lies within ourselves by getting to know ‘inner conflicts’ . As told earlier, yoga is a synthesis of body, mind, and soul.

When it comes to the needs of body, yoga provides what the body exactly needs. Performing yoga poses  (asanas) gives health benefits as each of the poses may give different body therapeutic effects. Bhujangasana, for instance, is good for digestive system health in general when done properly.

As for the needs of mind, yoga can train us to control or ‘tame’ our unmanagable mind as well so that our ability to focus upon the present improves. More often than not, most of us are usually distracted by what happened or what we experienced in the past or what will occur in the future. Both types of attachments (to the bygone past and the uncertain future) prevent us from enjoying what matters to us most, that is living to the fullest in the present.

So what should we do to dismantle these attachments? By meditation, concentration, and proper rhythmic breathing exercise (pranayama), we’ll find it much more easily to focus on what is happening in our inner ‘self’. Listen to how our lungs work, observe the way the fresh air comes in and out of our respiratory system.

The most important thing for yogis and yoginis, which is related to fasting and the spirit of abstinence in Ramadan, is to get to know ourselves by doing good deeds that we think we don’t have to do or we can otherwise ignore. For example, while performing a yogic pose, one is supposed to hold it for some time although it feels a bit painful or uncomfortable. We may release the pose and give up to the pain at once but that way we fail to know who we really are, what fear we have to conquer, which affliction we have to overcome.

This is analogous to fasting in Ramadan. We try to hold ourselves in torturing hunger and agonizing thirst while consciously learning about how we feel about an external or internal stimulus and thus how we react to it. It’s part of the undertake of knowing who we are, which at last enables us to know the Almighty.

My Yoga Class at Taman Suropati

This man is my fellow yogi, Budi. As you can see, I bet he wants to drop some pounds by doing yoga. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vasisthasana (side plank pose) is a bit hard to hold perfectly, even for me. It does need strength and balance at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No offense, but Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose) is a piece of cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, Anyone can Do Yoga (Devi Asmarani's Book Launch)

Devi Asmarani in the book signage session. She inscribed "Dear Akhlis! Stay healthy and joyful". But I was literally moved as like no one else, she spelled my name correctly!

Yoga is indeed meant to be practiced by all. Regardless of  how skinny or obese you can be, how rigid or plastic your body is, how young or old you are, yoga keeps benefiting anyone doing it.

As for me, yoga caught my attention by accident. It looks like gymnastics, a kind of sport I was excelled at in high school. But it’s different. I can’t tell you what the differences I’m talking about are. I’m a novice myself, who has started practicing as recent as less than a year (around 8 months). The bottomline may be I nearly always feel better after each class.

Your body is a temple, a ‘sacred’ laboratory

Touche! Just a great quote from Devi. Unlike some people who think like John Mayer (“Your body is a wonderland”, where everyone and anything can enter, have fun with no apparent limit, binge, get drunk, litter and go away), I am absolutely in line with the proposition that our body IS obviously a temple, a shrine.

Feeling a bit curious because of my own natural and genetic propensity of having slightly-above-average  flexibility and underweight issue, I decided to cast a question. So basically I just wanted to know what yoga can give people with these ‘enviable’ issues (as I asked the question, a middle-aged lady ‘offered’ me to be her fats donor *floored*).

Devi explained people with issues (or ‘blessings’ as she put it)  like mine, are supposed to be aware of the possibility of injuring him/herself. Doing several challenging poses quite effortlessly doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ‘the man’!  So this is why yoga also teaches us to be humble. Humility applies both for ‘freshmen’ or ‘professors’.

Also, Devi mentioned one thing I can relate to:

Flexibility and strength rarely come in the same package”

But further on Twitter, she assured me that strength, fortunately, is trainable.

After the launch, I ran into Iwan Setyawan, the author of “9 Autumns 10 Summers”. Because we already knew each other on Twitter (Rhein Mahatma mocked us as he found out our Twitter avatars show me doing scorpion pose and Iwan peacock pose at the same time). The universe works in an unexpected way…

Namaste…(The divine in me honors the divine in you)

Devi's "Yoga untuk Semua" (Yoga for All)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came 50 minutes late and got a rear seat thanks to Meta who would rather stand up to chat with her fellow yoginis.

Yoga 101 : The Basics Everyone Needs to Know

A dancer of Sri Devi Nrithyalaya performing on...
Image via Wikipedia

There are some basic issues that every yoga practitioner needs to know and implement. So here is a simple list of the most frequently asked questions regarding yoga.

Where should I do yoga?

Practice in a clean, quiet, well-ventilated, and peaceful place. A sticky mat, carpet, or any other soft but non-skid surface would do. Don’t practice in extreme temperatures (either too hot or too frigid), direct daylight sun, and drafts.

What should I wear?

Wear  non-binding/ loose clothes such as tee shirt and sweatpants, tights, or shorts. Bare foot is better so take off your footwear, that includes your socks. Cotton or any other natural fabrics allow the skin to breathe easily. If we can do without our glasses or contact lenses, take them off before practice.

Is there any specific apparatus?

Yoga needs refreshingly little in the way of extra apparatus, although many props and aids for practice are sold out there. We’ll need a thin cushion (for relaxation and meditation) and a blanket or shawl to cover our body on cold days. We may also need a canvas strap (to help with postures that are beyond our range), a non-skid mat (to keep the footing solid) and an eye pillow (to darken daytime light during relaxation).

Continue reading “Yoga 101 : The Basics Everyone Needs to Know”

How to Integrate Yoga into Our Life Style

Yoga Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs
Image via Wikipedia

“To know the truth we have to deepen ourselves and not merely widen the surface” – Sarvepatti Radhakrishnan

Don’t be fooled by the title. It is not as philosophical as it sounds.

Yes, lately I’ve been doing yoga. And it really works for me, to relieve stress and get fit.

These are what I’ve been trying to do to integrate yoga into life style:

  • Taking time to practice every day. I try my best to make it regular. Once I stopped doing yoga for a longer time, things felt wrong. It did occur to me just this week. I stopped practicing a while (3-4 days) and my body seemed to lose its flexibility. And it takes some time to regain the fitness and flexibility level I achieved before. So whether it’s a brief stretching session before going to work or during lunch break, I find it good for my body and mind.
  • Practicing at the same time and place. This could be the hardest challenge if we’re mobile people. Finding a suitable place to practice yoga in an undistracted manner proves to be frustrating.
  • Getting to know the basic preparations. The preparation includes waiting at least 3 hours after eating before practice, wearing loose and comfortable clothes and bare feet. One ought to have a sticky mat, but I myself have not purchased one. So my safe bet is practicing on soft material like mattress, or at least anything that feels comfortable to prevent injuries.
  • Practicing at our comfort level. My body is not an enemy to conquer. I’m not competing against anybody here. Pushing my body too far or too fast could result in injuries. In short, yoga makes us understand our body better. It takes some time especially for those who love competing sports to adapt to yoga practice style.
  • Honoring ourselves. Acknowledge our limitations without accepting them as our fate. Don’t forget, practice is about exploring our possibilities. This may begin with becoming aware of our tendency to chase perfection. Letting go of that will help our practice now and in the years to come.

Don’t know how to start? This video may be a guidance for you to do some basic yoga poses. Enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XQ1WNGUxRg]