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Archive for June, 2011

Two new pranayama (breathing) audio tracks have been added to www.mahasriyoga.com: Samavritti Pranayama (equal inhalation and exhalation) and Deepening Body Awareness in Gujarati. Both breathing practices are calming and clear mental space. In 10-15 minutes of meditative breathing, they make the mind stop racing with thoughts and give a much-needed break from the constant mental treadmill. They are suggested for stress and anxiety as well as insomnia or difficulty in sleeping.

New recipes added are: Apricot Peach Crumble and Hira’s Kadhi ( a yogurt-based traditional Gujarati recipe) eaten with rice or khitchdi (rice and mung porridge).

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According to a June 24, 2011 article “Yoga Protects the Brain from Depression” in the British newspaper The Telegraph, those who practice hatha yoga three times a week have higher levels of the amino acid GABA. This amino acid is essential for a calm state of mind and helps ward off depression, according to the article.

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What is the mind? Are we a manifestation or a projection of the mind? How do we deal with the constant river of thoughts?

The practice of antar mouna (inner silence) helps unlock the mind. In the article Know Thyself in Yoga International, you will find the basis and steps of the practice of inner silence:

“The mind is an energy field. It is the finest manifestation of nature….It has the capacity to create anything it wishes. It has enormous space to store its unlimited experiences and keep them as long as it likes….

Your thoughts are not mere thoughts; they are people—identities within you. You are a world in yourself. You are a universe, and all your thoughts are people. Just as people are born and die, so too, thoughts are born and die.”

It is an interesting and helpful article that is surely worth reading.

For the actual practice of antar mouna, contact www.yogavision.net or www.satyananda.net for the CD.

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Here are some recipes for gluten-free vegetarian soups that offer a diversity of vegetables and flavors.  Everyone can enjoy them!

Cauliflower Cheese Soup: If you like cheese fondue, you will enjoy this soup. It is good without the cheese as well. You can easily make it with broccoli also.

Celery Parsley Soup: We used to make this soup with just celery. Then one day, there was some parsley in the fridge that needed to be used. It ended up in the soup and we really enjoyed it.

Corn Tortilla Soup: This is the most popular soup with our Indian families and friends. The Mexican flavors are close to Indian flavors, yet different.

Curried Squash Soup: A quick easy soup, it is creamy and light with Thai flavors. Just make sure the curried powder is gluten-free.

Gazpacho: During the hot summer months, most of us enjoy a bowl of chilled gazpacho that requires no cooking.

Agashiye’s Winter Squash Soup: This light, subtly flavored soup from the outstanding restaurant in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is soothing and comforting.

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An  asana practice can help deal with the effects of anxiety and stress and improve coping skills. But it is important to look at factors/triggers that cause anxiety and stress in the first place. That means simplifying life; getting rid of wants and focusing on needs; changing stubborn inflexible thinking; and reducing the negative-ego that creates an inflated sense of I. Less is more in every way for a peaceful existence.

Taking a good, objective look at one’s life is the first step. Declutter life (that is what spring cleaning is all about). What is really essential and what is not? Sometimes we have to rethink what is essential. What relationships give joy and are positive and which ones are not? What is going on in the mind? What thoughts occupy the mind?

It may be helpful to change perspective on certain issues that cause tremendous anxiety but just have to be dealt with–aging parents, a sick child, a loss of job, divorce, chronic illness, etc. Where a situation cannot change, we can try changing our perspective and reactions to it. What bothers us the most is often our thoughts and reactions regarding the situation more than the situation.

Just as we build physical strength and immunity, we can build emotional and mental strength and immunity.

The breathing techniques of pranayama (done after asanas) can be quite effective. The mind learns to calm down. reactions become less intense and less frequent.

Candle flame trataka is another calming practice (can be done after pranayama or on its own). Seeing the light within is a powerful symbol of a peaceful strength.

Meditation, both mindfulness and yoga meditation, can be enormously helpful. Over the years, nothing in my experience has been more loved and effective than the Yoga Nidras based on the Satyananda method. There are four available to help sort out and declutter the mental space, examine relationships, observe the content of the mind, and learning to shed an enormous amount of unnecessary baggage we all carry. More will be added in the future for specific issues.

Meditation gives an objective view. The mind learns not to react. It stays balanced through ups and downs, unaffected by both. That is peace beyond any understanding.

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Don’t do yoga meditation–no trataka, no Yoga Nidra. All meditations, of any kind, must be done under expert supervision. Meditation makes the mind more introverted and it can worsen depression. That is the advise of some traditional yoga gurus.

Do asanas, bhastrika, kapalbhati, nadi shodhana, if you can. There are suggested asanas in the previous two blogs.

Don’t read depressing things.

Do read cheerful, upbeat, funny things.

Don’t see depressing things.

Do see beautiful, colorful things and keep a cheerful environment.

Don’t hear depressing things and news. Stay away from negative shows and music.

Do hear positive things and uplifting music.

Don’t hang out with negative people. Keep away from those who pull you down.

Do hang out with positive people who see goodness in you. Cultivate those who bring out the best in you.

What we surround ourselves with does matter as we absorb via mental osmosis what is around us. Through our senses we feed our mind and emotions. So feed the mind wholesome, uplifting material. We mimick and reflect our surroundings to some extent. The don’ts and do’s follow many of the yamas and niyamas.

Do seek medical help!

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For people who are unrestricted in their movements, the following combination of dynamic and passive may be helpful for anxiety and stress:

Asana: surya namaskar (sun salutations), shavasana (corpse), vipareeta karni (inverted pose) or sarvangasana (shoulder stand), shavasana, matsyasana (fish), bhujangasana (cobra), ardha shalabhasana (half locust), shalabhasana (locust), dhanurasana (bow), ardha matsyendra (half spinal twist), janu sirshasana (head- to-knee), paschimottanasana (west-facing or back-stretching), balasana is also known as shashankhasana (child/hare) or yoga mudra (scaling pose or psychic pose), shavasana, done in this order

Pranayamabreath awareness, deepening body awareness, whole body breath, belly breath or abdominal breath, full yogic breath, bhramari (buzzing bee or bumble bee breath), bhastrika (bellows breath), kapalbhati (skull shining breath), sama vritti (equal inhalation and exhalation breath), and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breath)

Meditation: candle flame trataka, all the Yoga Nidras on the website www.mahasriyoga.com.

Seniors and those with health issues should be fine with the breathing practices from the website. Refer to the simple movements described  on www.mahasriyoga.com/asana for a sample class to relieve stress and anxiety. Bhastrika, kapalbhati, sama vritti, and nadi shodhana should be done under supervision, if at all, and after consultation with medical doctors.

The next blog will be on yoga dont’s and do’s for depression.

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