Archive for October, 2012

The War of Lanka by Sahibdin. It depicts the monkey army of the protagonist Rama (top left, blue figure) fighting the demon-king of the king of Lanka, Ravana in order to save Rama’s kidnapped wife Sita. The painting depicts multiple events in the battle against the three-headed demon general Trisiras, in bottom left–Trisiras is beheaded by the monkey-companion of Rama-–Hanuman.

The holiday season has begun for many. The ritual of story telling can be engaging, entertaining, and a very effective learning tool in every culture and religion. The stories may have a clear and practical message for a peaceful mind. Mental turmoil is clearly not just a contemporary affliction!

The mythical tale of the popular Indian festival of Dussehra also known as Vijaya Dashmi, like other major world holy days, is seen as a metaphor of mental reflection and clarification of our own minds. Swami Satyananda wrote in Yoga Magazine, October 2008:

“In the present day, the demons that we need to deal with are ignorance, corruption and terrorism that are rampant in the entire world. They are the Ravanas of today. Therefore, the destruction of Ravana should not be seen as a mere symbol. Ravana or Mahisasura should not be simply relegated to Puranic tales or history; their annihilation should be real for us. That is the significance of this festival. It denotes that you will remove ignorance and lack of awareness from your mind. That is when you will be truly able to say that Ravana or Mahisasura has died.”

The aim is to get rid of attitudes, thinking, behaviors that become obstructions to a peaceful, harmonious, and joyful life. These are universal concepts and the stories help bring them to life.

There are many stories of Dussehra.  All Indians know the story of Rama and Ravana. For our readers who do not know the story, we give a very brief summary. Rama was the king of Ayodhya who had been sent into exile (accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshman).  Ravana was the king of Lanka who abducts Sita.  Rama is the symbol of light and harmony, or sattwa. Ravana is darkness and disharmony, or tamas. They battle at Lanka when Rama goes to rescue Sita.  Ravana has ten heads and is finally vanquished. The day of conquest is celebrated as Dussehra (destruction of ten heads–dass/ten,  hara/ cut or destroy).

Here is a part of the explanation from Dasara–An Exposition from Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba:

Symbolism Of Ravana

“Ravana is depicted as the king of Raakshasas [demons]. He is said to have ten heads. He was not born with ten heads. Who is this Ravana and what are his ten heads? Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Moha (delusion), Lobha (greed), Mada (pride), Maatsyasya (envy), Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Chitta (will) and Ahamkara (the ego) -all these ten constitute the ten heads. Ravana is of all the ten qualities. Each one can decide for himself whether he is a Ravana or Rama according to his qualities.” Sai Baba, SS. SS. 11/91. p. 285

Symbolism Of Rama

“Rama is the destroyer of the bad qualities. When engaged in this act of destruction of bad qualities, He manifests his Rajo-guna [action, motion, energy]. But his Rajasic quality is associated with his Satvic [light, purity, harmony, clearing, sentience] quality. Even in cutting off Ravana’s ten heads, Rama showed his love. This was the only way that Ravana could be redeemed.” Sai Baba, SS, 11/91. p. 285

The redemption suggested in yoga is abhyasa (practice) and vairagya (non-attachment) as explained by Swami Satyananda in Satsang at Rikhiapeeth, Yoga Magazine, October 2008 issue:

“Vairagya…. is the ability to disconnect the present from the past. Past events disturb one’s present life. All that you ever see or hear accumulates in your mind. Your grandfather may have died five years ago, but you still think of him. The connection of the past with the present needs to be determined by every individual for himself. We are not able to do this, and therefore our minds remain disturbed.”

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The Ridgewood, NJ, Whole Body Whole Foods has fully endorsed and backed the guided meditation CD, Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus. It is available in the yoga section of Whole Body. All profits go to Sivananda Math, the charitable trust associated with the Bihar School of Yoga. The trust feeds, educates, and provides medical care to some of the poorest and most neglected children in the world. It also has many outreach programs for several villages.

Here are some of the ways in which the CD has been helpful to people who have used the meditations:

Benefits to Creativity

Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of meditation in terms of fostering creativity; a group of Dutch researchers, for instance, found that the practice promoted “divergent thinking”, in which many new ideas are generated. After listening to this CD, I definitely agree: while my mind often feels freighted with clutter, these tracks have brought a sense of calm and awareness, which in turn bring about heightened perception and creative abilities. I can see why Disney’s creative team has hired a meditation teacher! 

There are a couple of features that set this CD apart from the other meditation offerings. For one, the narrator has a wonderfully soothing voice that allows me to instantly relax and achieve the desired mental calmness. With other meditation tracks, I feel that this relaxation often spirals into a deep stupor and leads me to eventually fall asleep; here, however, the relaxation does indeed promote Insight into Problems and convert Stress to Rest.

Furthermore, each track has clearly been carefully considered, with a clear and logical progression guiding the individual through the practice. I have given this CD to a couple of friends, who have similarly spoken of a clear mind and enhanced creativity after going through the tracks. There is something very peaceful, almost addictive, about the ability to redirect your mind away from endless distractions and toward a more useful goal.

Barry J.

Improve productivity

When I first read about flow in a paper by the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the idea of complete immersion in a single, well-defined task sounded great. I had even experienced being in flow at times — it felt like the distinction between a task and my performing that task completely disappeared. The only problem was that I couldn’t get myself into this state whenever I wanted: sometimes I happened to fall into it, but most of the time I didn’t and wasted a lot of time trying to force it.

This CD actually helps me get into flow whenever I want. Different tracks work well for different types of tasks. For example, if I’m about to practice the piano, I will listen to Still Body Clear Mind, whereas if I’m about to work on a math problem, I will listen to Insight into Problems. Now, I’m finding that I don’t always need to listen to those two tracks whenever I want to get into flow since the CD effectively trained me to get into flow on my own. So while I do continue to listen to both of those tracks, now I’m listening more to Stress to Rest and Sound of Silence to get into flow for tasks that are less well-defined than music practice or math problem sets.

If you’re looking for something that’s relaxing, this CD works very well, but its real benefit comes from improving productivity. Once you’re in that state of flow in which you get things done so much faster than before, stress goes away on its own.

Max W.

The CD is also available from:
select Whole Foods Whole Body stores on the East Coast
select yoga studios in New York
Namaste Books (Union Square, NY)

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As I look around my friends, so many women I know have had breast cancer. Almost all have had successful treatments. As they share their experiences, journeys, and resources, women are unfailing in their support toward each other. That support is so important for emotional well being. To support all women in their struggle with breast cancer, I am posting again some of this blog’s previous writing on breast cancer.

February 17, 2012

Pooling together the recommendations of readers of this blog (thank you for sharing!) and my own suggestions for outstanding websites on research information regarding complementary therapies, here is a list of seven:

1. www.berniesiegelmd.com (support, positive spirit-based approach)

As a physician who has cared for and counseled innumerable people whose mortality has been threatened by illness, Bernie embraces a philosophy of living and dying that stands at the forefront of the medical ethics and spiritual issues our Society grapples with today. In May 2011, Bernie was honored by the Watkins Review of London, England, as one of the Top 20 Spiritually Influential Living People on the Planet. He continues to break new ground in the field of healing, supporting changes in medical education to “humanize” medical practice.

Source: http://www.berniesiegelmd.com

This is a commercial website that offers support as well. We normally do not recommend commercial websites/products. However, many readers have found Dr. Siegel’s books helpful in developing a positive attitude toward cancer and mortality. His books are widely available at many public libraries and so our readers do not have to purchase anything.

2. www.eckharttolle.com (support, positive spirit-based approach, free online videos of Tolle’s talks, online courses, interviews, newsletter)

Eckhart is a spiritual teacher and author who was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey. Later, he began to work in London with individuals and small groups as a counselor and spiritual teacher. Since 1995 he has lived in Vancouver, Canada. Eckhart Tolle is the author of the #1 New York Timesbestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.

This is a commercial website. Again, this blog does not normally recommend commercial sites. However, Tolle is a best-selling author whose books are widely available at most public libraries and readers do not have to purchase them. In addition, the site does offer a considerable amount of free, helpful content.


3. www.insightmeditationcenter.org (meditation instruction based onvipassana, audio and printed transcripts)

The Insight Meditation Center (IMC) is a community-based urban meditation center for the practice of vipassana or insight meditation guided by Gil Fronsdal and Andrea Fella.

The site offers support and some free online transcripts and beginner’s classes on insight meditation.

Source: http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org

4. www.mahasriyoga. com (meditation and breathing instructions; numerous Yoga Nidras, guided meditations, breathing/pranayama online audio tracks)

This non-commercial website has numerous online Yoga Nidras, guided meditations, breathing, and pranayama tracks (including Gujarati tracks). It also features in-depth yoga and meditation book reviews. There is a good selection of  vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, and gluten-free recipes.

Source: www. mahasriyoga.com

5. www.nccam.nih.gov (research)

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

Source: http://www.nccam.nih.gov

This is perhaps the best website for research and evaluations of different therapies.

6. www.pedcam.ca (research and support)

I realize that this is not a breast cancer resource. It has been left in place as it is part of the original post and in case any finds it a useful.

Created in 2004, the Pediatric Complementary and Alternative Medicine Research and Education (PedCAM) Network is a Canadian network that aims at disseminating a wide range of CAM information and building collaborative relationships between researchers, educators, clinicians, and policy-makers, both nationally and internationally. PedCAM is an academic, non-commercial organization, housed within the Complementary and Alternative Research and Education program, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta.

Source: http://www.pedcam.ca

7. www.rccm.org.uk

The Research Council for Complementary Medicine (RCCM) is a UK-based charity founded in 1983, dedicated to developing high quality research in CAM. 

Source: http://www.rccm.org.uk

The site provides links to many research journals.

This selection covers research, support and positive approach, as well as free online mind-body therapy audio tracks. Readers do not have to spend hundreds of dollars to have access to excellent guided and mindfulness meditations. Our selection also reflects the global readership of this blog and how patients and families are able to access the best information from around the world.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, which yoga is the fairest of all? Look at some links below in addition to those on the blog roll. We often seek what is in our own image.

Do Yoga With Me offers hundreds of free, streaming videos on asana, pranayama, and meditation. You have a selection of several teachers.

YogaClass.com offers Yoga-TV.net with numerous free videos on asana and meditation.

Sadie Nardini hosts Rock Your Yoga on Veria TV,  and is a popular yoga teacher. She offers 150 free You Tube videos.

The accompanying website to this blog, www.mahasriyoga.com, also offers 20 free audio tracks on guided breathing/pranayama and meditation.

Let us know what you see and like!

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Adaptation to seasons, external circumstances, as well as situations is integral to yoga philosophy. As the season changes, this post is a reminder to begin the adaptation phase. Holidays become markers to remind us to clean our house–homes, bodies, minds. Here are some suggestions to start the process.

Shatkarma: These are cleansing kriyas or practices. See the blog post Yoga Spring Cleaning: Digestive System (March 20, 2011). Cleaning the digestive system can be gentle or moderate through varied detoxification methods.  From partial fasts, to high-fiber diets, to shankhprakshalan, there are many ways.

Asana: A gradual switch to more active routines from the relatively passive summer asanas is now appropriate. Active routines counter the slowing winter metabolism and help keep the body warmer.  As the digestive system becomes more sluggish, a practice of surya namaskar/sun salutations can invigorate and improve the digestive process by toning and stimulating peristalsis.

Pranayama: The cooling summer breaths of sitali and sitakari give way to kapalbhati and bhastrika. The active breaths gently pump the belly and stimulate the heat-generating manipura chakra. The abdominal organs get a work-out. The respiratory system is flushed and strengthened.

Meditation: These practices remain steady. A greater inner focus begins.

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A pilot study conducted in New Jersey tested the safety and feasibility of modified chair-yoga on functional outcome among elderly at risk for falls. Eligible participants, over 65, were from an assisted living community. All had a fall in the past six months. The staff identified them as having an increased fear of falling and therefore an increased risk of falls.

The authors conclude that yoga is a “feasible and safe intervention for elderly seniors who may be at risk in their ninth and tenth decades of life.” However, more research with extended programs is needed.

The study published in the International Journal of Yoga, Volume 5, Issue 2, 2012, pages 146-150, states:

“Falls are among the most common problems affecting older adults. At least 50% of those over 80 fall annually. The goal of this pilot study was to assess the safety and feasibility of structured yoga in an elderly population with fall risk…A chair-based yoga program was provided twice a week for 8 weeks.”

Table 1: Yoga class structure and componentsTable 1: Yoga class structure and components

Sedentary life style, a lack of physical activity, is a significant factor in loss of balance and increased risk of falls. Participating in safe physical activities that increase confidence in mobility will likely decrease fear of falling and improve balance, thereby reducing the risk of falling.


Galantino ML, Green L, DeCesari JA, MacKain NA, Rinaldi SM, Stevens ME, Wurst VR, Marsico R, Nell M, Mao JJ. Safety and feasibility of modified chair-yoga on functional outcome among elderly at risk for falls. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2012 [cited 2012 Oct 1];5:146-50. Available from: http://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2012/5/2/146/98242

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