Archive for April, 2013

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{{own}} |Date = 2012-05-05 |Author = Mn.armani }}

Registration is now open for the July 16 two-hour fundraiser program “Yoga for Anxiety and Fear“. Mahasri Yoga is holding this for Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI). The Hackensack-based charity provides free primary and preventative care to the working poor. All proceeds will be donated to BVMI along with a corporate match.

Please contact me through info@mahasriyoga.com for details. Prior registration is required as our space is limited, and in the past these spots have been taken very quickly.

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Chaikhana, Bolo Hauz, Bukhara

Source: http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/uzbekistan/

In my experience, those who meditate regularly over a long period of time develop a different perspective. There is less boxed-in thinking because the process of meditation breaks down conditioned thinking. Spiritual poetry goes beyond culture and religion to a universal space that we all share, if we have the vision to realize this.

So when I stumbled upon Poetry Chaikhana, it was sheer joy to “meet” someone who read the poems in a different light, well beyond the conventional light.  And Ivan Granger has built a cyber treasure trove of poems with his special commentary to help trigger one’s own internal vision. But first a word about chaikhana. Feel free to make yourself a cup of steaming tea, settle comfortably, and read on. We are the most receptive and open when we are relaxed.

A chaikhana is a tea house in Central Asia. These typically lined the overland Silk Route (that connected Europe to China) and were resting places for caravans and weary travelers. But they were not like the places we have along highways where we eat, fill gas, and run. Chaikhanas served more like the local English pubs which provide a place for a community to come together. There is food, often shelter, and always a place to be with others. Entertainment was provided through story telling and poems. This also created a space for a tremendous exchange of ideas across cultures.

Poetry Chaikhana’s home page states:

Poetry Chaikhana joyfully shares the sacred poetry of cultures, religions, and spiritual traditions from around the world…..As you explore the Poetry Chaikhana, notice the similarity of experience and unity of heart described by Christian saints, Sufi shaikhs, and Hindu mahatmas. While we must cherish the differences within each tradition, those who believe that there is something fundamentally irreconcilable between the spiritual traditions of the world are trapped in misunderstanding and have not yet touched the heart of their own tradition.

It takes a special vision, often obtained through years of training in meditation to see what Ivan sees. Curious to know more, I reached out to him via e-mail.  What was his background?

It was no surprise to read that Ivan has been intensely interested in questions of spirituality and the deeper meaning of life since early childhood.  He did not follow a single path or teacher  although he studied with a few over the years–primarily in the traditions of yoga and esoteric Christianity.  Books, teachers, and saints from many traditions have also been great sources of inspiration.

A little over ten years ago, life with his wife in Maui became a period of intense spiritual practice. Ivan meditated extensively in the forests of Maui and fasted.  But in many ways he was lost.  He felt he had no real life direction, no sense of career, and wasn’t sure where the spiritual practice was leading him.  Fortuitously, he purchased a copy of sayings by Ramana Maharshi,  read the first page and — POW!  All sense of himself just disappeared.  All thoughts stopped.  His entire awareness was permeated with a sense of bliss and expanding love.  Everything seemed insubstantial, unreal, but permeated with a living, flowing light.  Ivan felt as if he was drinking the most sweet and subtle drink that was  flowing down the back of his throat, something he had never heard of before.
In his own words:
I began to keep a private journal, but I was frustrated with the inability of descriptive language to express what I was witness to, so I started to write poetry.  I also started to read poetry, the works of the great Sufi and Hindu poets, the poems of Medieval Christian mystics, and Buddhist masters.  I realized that there was a rich language in these poems that was not being widely discussed by the academics and translators who made them available in English.  All over the world, mystics write poems of wine and honey, of a death that is also life, of a scintillating light like the full moon that permeates all of creation.  And this poetry was wonderfully free from dogma and sectarianism.  That’s when I decided to create the Poetry Chaikhana, as a way to help people understand that there is more to the poetry of mystics than pretty imagery, that something very real is being described, and that something is a universal, not unique to one religion or spiritual tradition.
And so here we are today….
I hope that Poetry Chaikhana will be a frequent place of rest, inspiration, and wisdom for the readers of this blog.

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  Irises by Vincent van Gogh

 Source: Google Images

It is that time of the year! Time to renew and refresh the body and mind and reset both. Clearing them both out creates space for the birth of positive, virtuous cycles as we discard negative ones.

There are many ways to do this and readers are referred to the detailed past posts.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: Digestive System

This post gives specific ways for gentle and moderate cleansing of the digestive system. Accompanied by a moderate reduction (15 to 20 percent) of calories for a week, if medically suitable, may help the body feel lighter, more energetic, and put a bounce in your step.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: Respiratory System

An efficient and healthy respiratory system helps create vitality in the body and mind. Lethargy is removed and the body also feels light and free. Gentle pranayamas described here will help flush out the respiratory system.

Yoga Spring Cleaning: The Mind

Having a clean digestive system and an efficiently flushed respiratory system helps clean out the mind. In this post readers are lead to specific, detailed practices to reset the mind.

Happy Spring!

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Historically, there is a long religious tradition of periodic reduction of calorie intake. In yoga many practices require a reduction of calories, avoidance of certain foods, or fasting. Research studies on calorie reduction (CR) and intermittent fasting (IF) suggest that there are numerous benefits to these traditions, particularly in reducing oxidative damage and aging of the brain.

However, readers must be cautioned that before undertaking anything it is imperative to seek professional medical advice. The studies indicate promise in animals but sufficient data has not been compiled for humans.

  • What is a fast? 

Growing up in India, fasting was something almost all adults did. The word has different meanings and people made their own variations. The Hindu fast allows tea, coffee, milk, or juice once or twice a day. Some fruit maybe fine perhaps as a meal, or tapioca, or potatoes. Some do a salt-free, grain-free fast. A dinner is permissible. And some fast on Mondays, some Tuesdays, some Saturdays. There is the Muslim Ramadan when no food or water is allowed from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. The Jain fast permits no food for about 36 hours, nothing but water. Those who cannot do that, especially during the eight days of Paryushan, may eat just one simple meal, usually lunch, and only water is allowed during the day–no fruit, tea, coffee, milk, juice. During Lent, many give up a favorite food item and on Fridays they may not eat meat.

  • What is calorie restriction?

Calorie restriction is defined as undernutrition without malnutrition. In experimental studies, this means reducing animal diets by a certain percent of calories as compared to ad libitum but keeping the diet approximately unchanged in total protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Source: Nutritional Modulation of Aging: Effect of Caloric Restriction

Some studies state calorie restriction to be a reduction of 25 to 30 percent.

  • What is intermittent fasting?

Generally, this means fasting for 24 hours–water and low-calorie fluids are allowed–followed by normal eating for the next 24 hours. This is alternate day fasting. There are some suggestions that this type of fasting has the same effect as calorie restriction.

  • Nongenetic Calorie Restriction Increases Lifespan

Age-related accumulation of cellular damage and death has been linked to oxidative stress. Calorie restriction (CR) is the most robust, nongenetic intervention that increases lifespan and reduces the rate of aging in a variety of species. Mechanisms responsible for the antiaging effects of CR remain uncertain, but reduction of oxidative stress within mitochondria remains a major focus of research.

Source: Caloric restriction induces mitochondrial biogenesis and bioenergetic efficiency 

  • Calorie Reduction Effect on Blood Pressure, Stroke, and Insulin

Intermittent fasting Intermittent fasting (IF; reduced meal frequency) and caloric restriction (CR) extend lifespan and increase resistance to age-related diseases in rodents and monkeys and improve the health of overweight humans. Both IF and CR enhance cardiovascular and brain functions and improve several risk factors for coronary artery disease and stroke including a reduction in blood pressure and increased insulin sensitivity.

Source: Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems

  • Life-span and health-span extension by caloric restriction and intermittent fasting

Health-span is the time of our lives that are free of disease. Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting “are the most effective way of extending the life-span of mammals without genetically altering them.” They also indicate beneficial health effects.

Source: Life-span and health-span extension by caloric restriction and intermittent fasting

  • Caution

The above source, a National Institute of Health study, also makes it clear that this is a complex subject with no clear answers–there is still much to learn about aging. The article states that to date, there are no well-controlled studies to determine the long-term effects of CR and IF on humans. A 30 percent calorie reduction in rhesus monkeys, so far, looks promising.

The most beneficial effects of IF and CR that have been noted have been in overweight or obese animals. Results are unclear for animals with a healthy weight who exercise and also have some form of mental stimulation.

Females in particular must be cautious of excessive loss of body fat which can lead to menstrual irregularities, amenorrhea (absence of periods), bone thinning, and osteoporosis.

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