Week 2 – Tapasyalam Ashram, Uttarkashi

Our second week started with a trek up the mountain near our ashram.It was a 6km up and down hike, giving us breathtaking views of Ganga flowing in the valley. By now, we have quite settled with the the routine at the ashram. We are living the vegan experience – this week, we explored interesting snacks – oil free Batata Vada, Chappatti Ladoos, Apple Jam olls, Chickpea Hummus, tea with cashew milk, fresh sandroasted popcorn and what not! It is very interesting to see how apples are used in everyday cooking here including chutney, given the abundance in which they are grown here

Many of the participants have started losing weight and feeling more energetic and no complains as such of tea withdrawl symptoms from those who couldn’t start their day with a cup of regular milk chai! Our taste buds seem to have adjusted to oil-free, sugar-free food and we have started enjoying the actual taste of veggies and fruits.

Yoga Anatomy and Philosophy lectures have started on in full swing. Participants have started practising to learn and instruct. Suryanamaskars and Vinyasa flow sequences. Philosophy sessions are as usual open ended, we quickly seem to flow from one debate to another.

TRATAKA – A quiet evening was spent on yogic visual concentration practice of Trataka and gazing at a candle flame. Try it and be blown away!

YIN YOGA – A Yin Yoga practice led with soft music playing in the background was a perfect way to end our day – a perfect compliment to the vinyasa session we usually have. A round of claps for the teacher just proved how much we loved just sitting within ourselves, being still and feeling the sense of calmness.

SHATKARMA DAY – It was a day of full detoxification with three-fold
cleansing as we practiced laghushankhaprakshalan (deep colon cleanse), kunjal (forcefully vomitting out salt water to clean stomach and upper digestive track) and jala neti (nasal cleansing with salt water) practices. A light day (literally!) as we were feeling light within and the constant banter of lighthearted jokes about how each ones’s kunjal and toilet experience was!

MAHA MRITYUNJAY MANTRA CHANTING – Maha Mrityunjay Mantra is a life giving mantra. We had an evening of chanting the mantra 108 times in a constant fixed rhythm. Chanting it with sincerity and faith sure did leave us with a positive and energised state of mind. It was also a pranayama practice with the mantra being chanted in 2 parts with a breath in between for ease of chanting. With the blessings of Lord Shiva, may the mantra uplift our life and help us to overcome difficulties that lie ahead in our journey of becoming good yoga teachers!

One of the evenings was an impromptu session of songs sung by the local ashram boys. It was such a joy to hear their rustic voices singing local Garhwali songs, Bhajans and Bollywood numbers as well. We have many talented participants who sportingly came forward to sing too. Adding charm to the whole musical evening was a Bharatnatyam piece on Shiva performed by one of the participants who is a trained dancer and of course, a few rounds of Antakshri to close it all!

Some of us not keeping well has been a slight bummer with energy levels taking a dip. Walks up the hill slopes to explore the small shops near our ashram at the end of our day is a welcome change. They are no less than a mini supermarket considering how small this village is! Walks along the stony banks of the river flowing next, star gazing at the clear skies with the silvery moonlight on the flowing waters of Ganga. Many jokes and light moments shared, with some of us constantly locking in our room mates. With course midway, participants have started putting in self study sessions late into the  night.

As the week draws to a close, thoughts of getting back to our homes and usual lives are making us look forward to it, at the same time a bit low that this programme and experience is shortly going to come to an end. And as they say…life goes on, but memories last forever – what we take back from this programme will last forever.

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Week 3 Of TTC At Uttarkashi – Final thoughts

The course was not only about learning to be a yoga teacher and transform health through a whole food plant based diet, but also about forming bonds and being a part of the ever growing ‘yoga family’. For every intense discussion there were more funny and happy moments. The list of memorable moments that almost had us in splits is a mile long!

The last week was marked with wrapping off the last few sessions of anatomy, philosophy, adjusting and alignment during asana practice, yoga nidra and meditation. With theory exams and practicals around the corner, a frenzy of late night revisions, discussion and studies seemed to be the order of the night! It was heartening to see the participants becoming clear with their instructions and watch them grow as teachers. The glow of happiness and confidence as they mastered instructing SuryaNamaskars and Vinyasa flows was quite visible, despite the challenge of keeping the rights and lefts straight!

We are through with our residential 200 Hr TTC at Uttarkashi and the back-to-reality feeling is sinking in slow and deep.

The last week started off with a trip to the Himalayan temple town of Gangotri – home to the holy Ganga – on our off day. It was truly a humbling experience. The highlight of the trip was seeing apple laden tree orchards en route and the natural hot water spring baths at Gangnani. We also got an opportunity to visit Swami Sundaranandji at his beautiful cottage decorated lovingly with driftwood and stones collected over the years. Popularly know was ‘Photo Baba’ or ‘Clicking Swami’, it was a visual treat browsing through the pictures of Ganga and the Himalayan region captured through the lens of this mountaineer sadhu.

The official culmination of our yoga teacher training experience was a memorable evening with soft lights, sharing experiences, certificate distribution and group exchange of views about each other. As the journey of being a student drew to a close, another journey of being a yoga teacher commenced. There was a day detour to Rishikesh on our way back to Bangalore soaking in the world famous Ganga Aarti and wandering through the lanes of the yoga capital of the world!

We celebrated the last week of our stay with mouth watering desserts and snacks! Banana Peanut Icecream, Coconut Lemon Cake, Cold Coffee, Pumpkin Cashew-Cheese Pasta were savoured by one and all. The real surprise came on the last day when we took the measurements.

We have lost many Kgs and almost 40 inches together in the last 3 weeks. “One can lose weight by eating more food” was a revelation for many. A big round of applause to all the participants who could stick to this diet through determination and discipline. At the end of this course, the participants felt more equipped with the tools and techniques of ‘clean’ eating. Its heartening to see them figuring out their meal plans once they got back to their usual routine and some of them already trying and cooking out recipes they tasted during their ashram stay. All in all – Mission Accomplished!

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Practising yoga on the sea shore is a good method

It is a long established fact that a reader will be distracted by the readable content of a page when looking at its layout. The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for ‘lorem ipsum’ will uncover many web sites still in their infancy. Various versions have evolved over the years, sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose (injected humour and the like).At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti quos dolores et quas molestias provident destiny is about voles.

The point of using Lorem Ipsum is that it has a more-or-less normal distribution of letters, as opposed to using ‘Content here, content here’, making it look like readable English. Many desktop publishing packages and web page editors now use Lorem Ipsum as their default model text, and a search for over the purpose (injected humour and the like).

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The Joy of Bending Back

Different states of consciousness (awareness) can be achieved by keeping the spine in different positions. Our spine can bend to the back and front, from side to side and twist. The practitioner of Yoga experiences the whole range of states of consciousness the human body is capable of eliciting.

Flexibility of the spine gets affected as we grow up. In children the spine is very flexible and they can naturally bend back without much strain. If you ask a child to do Poorna Bhujangasana, he/she will do it effortlessly. This is the source unlimited energy and dynamism children have. Here, I will talk about the experience and benefits of practicing backbends, i.e. postures where the spine is kept in extension.

Lifestyles create patterns. The way you think and the way you move your body engrave in your brain particular patterns that define your personality. Specific changes in your personality can be achieved through breaking these patterns and asana practice can help you attain that.

Backbends can facilitate the breaking of patterns related to being shy, feeling uncomfortable in a new group, finding difficulty in expression, feeling hurt easily and lingering to that feeling for long. They can also be useful if you lack confidence, assertiveness, have difficulty in saying no etc. Practice backbends for a few weeks and you will naturally feel a surge of confidence and related changes in your personality.

Moreover, if you lack energy, creativity and feel lazy, you should also find that a regular practice of backbends will help you overcome that.

So how does it work?

When we adopt a backbend, the surface area of the body increases to its maximum. We are bigger than what we normally are. This creates openness in the body and mind, brings about feelings of happiness and openness. Expansion is happiness – we experience happiness when our body or mind expand. E.g. people who live in a warm climate that has a loosening effect on our joints and muscles are less susceptible to depression than those who live in predominantly cold weather. Another example is when we feel happy while reaching out to other people. This is a mental expansion. As social beings, we cannot be happy if we isolate ourselves from others, unless we have chosen to do certain meditative practices.

Anatomically, backbends realign the spine and help in postural correction. The capacity of the lungs increases as backbends stretch the chest and intercostal muscles. Lungs get more space as compared to when you are slouching, which helps you breathe more fully.

Physiologically, backbends stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which leads to better circulation, increased digestion and metabolic rate, better alertness and sensory perception etc. However, if used properly, this stimulation can be used to lead to a deeper relaxation.

At the pranic level, backbends stimulate prana which is responsible for your energy, activities, dynamism and the ability to take initiatives.

As mentioned above, there are amazing psychological benefits of practicing backbends. They can be particularly transformative to introvert personalities, especially if you are shy, take time to feel comfortable with new people, lack confidence, courage or ease of expression, have hard time taking decisions or be spontaneous, often feel gloomy, depressive, like a victim or defeated by negative thoughts, if you have inferiority complex and so on. Regular practice of backbends will help you overcome that.

It is amazing to see how people change positively once they start practicing backbends regularly. They experience a fresh surge of enthusiasm, openness and freedom. In my experience, backbends are especially good for people who suffer from depression. A regular backbends practice combined with a change in outlook on life, took them out of depression completely.

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