Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review > Why Everyone Needs to Have the Bihar Yoga App

There are plenty of yoga apps out there. Some are free while others come at a nominal cost. You can take your pick from guided yoga routines to detailed instructions for specific poses, relaxing meditations and even asana based workouts for weight loss, strength training, core building et al. But my affinity to the traditional teachings of the Bihar School of Yoga led me to their app: Bihar Yoga.

The seemingly simple interface includes a wealth of information in print as well as guided practices, chants and meditations. Most of the printed text is from the bestselling book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. Even if you possess the book it is just very convenient to have it on your phone/tab for a quick reference. But what I love most about the Bihar Yoga app are the guided practices of Satyananda Yoga Nidra and Meditation. These are crystal clear recordings in the voices of Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati. Available in English as well as Hindi I really think these are priceless!

Satyananda Yoga Nidra was devised by Swami Satyananda Saraswati as a deep relaxation technique. This simple practice has a profound transformative effect on practitioners, inducing complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Available in different variants for Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced practitioners I would highly recommend everyone to take the time out to just lie back and follow the guided talk. Especially in today’s times when most lifestyle diseases stem from stress and inadequate sleep, Satyananda Yoga Nidra proves to be a very powerful antidote. Even if you feel that kicking back with a book or watching television with the family are relaxing activities, they are mere sensory distractions. In Yoga Nidra, the state of relaxation is reached by turning inwards, away from outer experiences.

For more details about this powerful technique you may buy the book, Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. But for now let me suffice by saying that enough research has gone into proving the therapeutic effects of sleep. Yet, unless you are free from muscular, mental and emotional tensions you can never truly relax. The practice of Yoga Nidra is the scientific method of removing these tensions. During the practice of Yoga Nidra, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness, leading you to the state of dynamic sleep. It is thus a more efficient and effective form of psychic and physiological rest and rejuvenation than conventional sleep.

I could go on and on about the benefits of this fantastic practice, but I hope you are already inspired to experience its wonderful effects on yourself.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Yoga > Shreyas Yoga Retreat: My Journey back on to the Yogic Path

Open on all sides and nestled amidst gorgeous trees, this Yogashala has
a beautiful, positive vibe.  
“Hamsa Soham, Soham Ham Saha”, these simple yet extremely powerful words mean “I Am That, That I Am”. Even if this mantra was the only gift that I took back with me from this yoga retreat, it would make the three days spent here on my own totally worth it. But my time at Shreyas gave me a lot more. It simply reminded me of what yoga means to me and how good it makes me feel. Yet, this mantra has stayed with me; and whenever I need to centre myself, at times before going to sleep, at others before the start of a frenetic day, just repeating it mentally on a loop has a magical effect on my being.

First Glance
When I was invited to Shreyas, a yoga retreat on the outskirts of Bengaluru, I was, both, excited and anxious. Excited because I am extremely passionate about yoga and when I was told that the entire philosophy of Shreyas is centred around yoga I couldn’t wait to experience it. Anxious because for the last few months with soaring professional and personal demands I had not been able to make the time to get on to my yoga mat. My joints had literally been creaking every morning when I got out of bed and I wondered how I’d cope with the routine of the retreat. But almost as soon as I reached Shreyas I am taken in by its relaxed, tranquil and positive vibe. These are not just random adjectives that I have thrown together; I mean each one of them describe the space that Shreyas is.

After a brief introduction, I am asked to fill a detailed form to highlight the purpose of my visit, my expectations whether spiritual, therapeutic or simply relaxing, my current state of health, dietary preferences and so on. As I get up to check in to my room, I am informed about the routine of the day followed with a wonderful question: “would you like a reminder for each event?” No, I replied as reminders, like alarms, irk me. I like to keep track of time and pace myself to reach a class or therapy session on time.

The Surroundings
As I walk past the inviting swimming pool, surrounded with the lush foliage that Bengaluru is known for, I am impressed with the wonderful upkeep of the landscape. Shreyas is not a new property, it has been around for more than fourteen years, yet everything looks so fresh and as if it has been lovingly tended to. My garden tented cottage has a canopied roof with a private sit-out, a spacious bedroom, and bathroom with a private walled courtyard. Simply luxurious, I could say.

Spread across 25 acres of coconut plantation, gardens and vegetable fields, it is surprising that there are only 14 rooms, accommodating a maximum of 25 people at a time. I am informed later that the staff outnumbers the guests by more than three times. That is what enables Shreyas to excel in the subtle art of refined hospitality. The service is very warm and attentive, and unobtrusive. To give you an endearing example, all indoor spaces require us to leave our footwear outside before entering, and each time when we leave the room our shoes and slippers are turned around for us to simply step into them and walk.

A Holistic Experience
As I mentioned earlier, the entire philosophy of Shreyas is centered around yoga. And as we know, yoga is not limited to just asana and pranayama. It is a holistic science of living and has an eight-limbed path impacting our panchakoshas. With equal importance to raising one’s energy, partaking a nutritious balanced diet, and indulging in activities that integrate the mind, body and soul, Shreyas truly offers a holistic retreat. The sound meditation, for instance, is a highly energising experience with equal importance given to all steps of meditation – pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (focus) and dhyana (meditation). It is normally conducted in pillared hall that is open on all sides, bringing in the freshness of the environ, sounds of birds and insects while they go about doing their business amidst the hum of a gentle breeze blowing through the trees, literally getting you in tune with nature. The same hall is also used for morning and evening asana sessions though there are a few other indoor and outdoor spaces where hatha and ashtanga yoga classes are held.

Rejuvenation of the mind-body-soul is hardly ever possible without the right diet. Whether your purpose of being here is to ‘detox’ or not, you will be served delicious, vegetarian fare. During the few days that I spent here, I had fabulous local, north Indian, Italian and Mexican meals, all made with mostly organic produce and healthy grains. The cooking classes, therefore, are hugely popular, enabling guests to take back a bank of recipes and a wealth of knowledge.

Snapshots from Shreyas Yoga Retreat

Integrative Therpaies
Yoga is known for its therapeutic benefits as well as prevention of diseases. In this sense, it is closely linked with Ayurveda. The recent addition to Shreyas has been the Anaha spa which offers a wonderful mix of age-old Ayurvedic as well as modern therapies. Although it is a new construction, it is aesthetically designed to showcase an interplay of the elements. As with most things, what lies within is most important - in this case, a specialised team to assess your physical condition, advise appropriate treatments and execute them skillfully.

I am advised a range of treatments that are cleansing as well as nourishing.
-       Netra Tarpana therapy that involves a gentle oleation of the eyes to soothe them is particularly refreshing and a great antidote to constant visual stimulation from brightly lit gadgets.
-       Mud therapy involves the application of processed, powdered mud onto the body for therapeutic benefits. The open air room is ideal for this as one lies gazing at the swaying palms overhead while waiting for the mud to dry. 
-       In a similar space, Athapa Snana involves a gentle, oil massage, after which the body is wrapped in banana leaves and left to bask in the sun, expelling toxins through sweat.  Banana leaves are also known for their healing properties, and can correct various skin problems.  
-       The underwater massage turns out to be a high-tech procedure where the body is immersed in a water tub, and the water pressure applied is controlled by multiple jet valves, enhancing blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.
-       And finally, a synchronized massage known as the Choorna Pinda Sweda, also known as the Podikizhi. It is a fomentation procedure involving the use of herbal powders and poultices after a quick oil massage. Two therapists working simultaneously on the left and ride sides of the body has an inimitable centering effect.
Most scrubs and concoctions are prepared in-house in keeping with instructions from classic Ayurvedic texts. But beyond Ayurvedic treatments, the team is equipped and trained for international therapies as well including Swedish, Balinese and Thai.

I, of course, made the most of my time here and also realized the importance of going on such a yoga retreat – it gives you time to unwind and get a break from the rat race that most of us have inadvertently become a part of; experience the importance of taking care of one’s self; spend time with like-minded people; and, carry that motivation back home with you: to stay consistent with yoga!

This article was first published in Hong Kong based Asana Journal, September 2017 issue. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Positive Living > Motivational Mondays

I LOVE Mondays!

After an invariably fun and busy weekend I look forward to Monday mornings. While everyone in my family gets back to their routine {work or school} it leaves me free for some nourishing detox and de-cluttering. Yes, it is one of the many advantages of working from home. This also means no #MondayBlues for me! 

Over the last six months or so I have found myself buoyant with happy energy on Mondays. Only recently I realised that I inadvertently follow some rituals to start the week on a positive note. Here are some of the activities that I enjoy indulging in, especially on Mondays:

  •     Expressing Gratitude

I am blessed with a beautiful family and wonderful friends with whom we love hanging out. As a result my weekends turn out to be rather hectic between spending time with the kids, cooking fun meals, going out for meals with friends or family, a couple of late nights or maybe catch a movie.. you get the drift? My husband and I believe in maximizing funfilled moments, especially on weekends. And since I don't take anyone or anything for granted, when I switch on my laptop on Monday morning I invariably open my Gratitude journal and express thankfulness for all the wonderful people and happenings in my life.

  •      Mental Cleansing

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but we all have a non-stop internal dialogue going on within our heads. It is like a commentary about all that is happening around you {and may also drift off on different tangents of the present moment, the past or an imaginary future}. It is usually pressed into the back corners of the mind, but it does exist. I find it very helpful and immensely cleansing to pour these random thoughts on to paper. Well, I started this practice almost two decades ago when I used to write with a free hand on paper but now I just prefer to type non-stop, without conscious thought about all that’s going on in my head. This practice not only frees up space in my mind {much like deleting cache files on your computer} but it also brings to fore some desires and goals as well as some negative thoughts may be holding me down. I feel much lighter and energized after this practice. (If you choose to try it do share with me your experience.)

  •      Physical Cleansing

As you may have noticed, “good food” forms an important part of my weekends (as with most other days). I thus enjoy a bit of physical detox on Monday mornings. I don’t stick to a particular practice for this but simply follow my gut {pun intended :)} I choose between the yogic kunjal kriya, a hot towel scrub, or a sesame oil body massage followed by a cleansing scrub made with natural ingredients. The idea is to remove excess toxins either from the gut or through the skin, which is one of the largest detoxifying organs of our body. {You can read up more about these practices as well as others that I have written about under the “healthy practice” link of “follow your path” on this blog.}

  •      Organising my Surroundings

Although the routine cleaning and dusting of my home is done even on weekends, Monday mornings see me putting most things back into their designated spaces and I do try to de-clutter and get rid of at least a few items that we no longer require. With two kids at home it is mind-blowing how fast stuff accumulates – school papers, party favours, the non-ending list of clothes and accessories according to the seasons and of course games and toys. So be it cleansing the refrigerator or kids’ cupboards or even the accumulated mail of the previous week – I like to declutter, even if it’s only a little.

  •       Goal Setting

After all the cleansing and de-cluttering I am ready to focus on the tasks at hand, set my goals, and even outline my desires. I enjoy writing affirmations and feel that just being clear about exactly what I want makes it possible for me to achieve it! {Read more about Affirmations and how they work here: http://www.eatlivedoyoga.com/2016/01/live-your-greatest-life.html }

So, cheers to the beginning of a brand new week and remember: Today is the First day of the Rest of Your Life! Hope you make the best of it.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spa > A little bit of pampering, a whole lot of healing!

When The Imperial New Delhi won the Best Spa Product for Sufi, their in-house brand of therapeutic products, at the 10th GeoSpa asiaSpa India Awards, little did I know that I was in for a treat.

The award winning Sufi spa products.
I thought twice before accepting the invitation to celebrate this award with dear friends from the hotel, because I was swamped with work during the week. Even so, I decided to go for the high-tea that the email mentioned because that’s what friends are for – to be there to celebrate each other’s successes!

The grand entrance to the spa.
Almost as soon as I reached the Salon on a scorching afternoon, I was asked by Jacqualine Tara Herron, director, The Imperial Spa, Salon, Health & Racquet Club, if I’d like a tour of the salon. I didn’t know then that I was being whisked away for a surprise. Once inside, she asked if I'd like a foot massage, express manicure or face massage. I intuitively opted for the face massage, and it turned out to be the best thing I could have done for myself. 

As soon as I lay down on my back on the massage bed, my therapist, Athea, lightly pressed my shoulders down. It was such a relaxing touch that instantly put me at ease. “You’ve been stressed,” she said, “working too much?” And from that moment till the next 20 minutes or so her magical hand movements completely de-stressed me.  After a quick cleansing regimen, she massaged my face with a cooling rose and aloe vera product. She massaged and opened up the knots in the back of my neck and behind my ears. “This is where you hold stress when you work long hours on the computer,” she explained. And when she pressed deep into my eye sockets, just below the eyebrows, she comforted me by saying that she is a trained therapist and I needn’t worry about the pressure. “Spending too much time staring into the phone or an iPad blocks the sinus points as well,” she shared. At end of the treatment I was left feeling completely relaxed. I could literally feel the energy channels in my face and neck area opened up, leaving me feeling light and refreshed. Her parting words to me were: "drink lots of fluids to flush out the toxins".
The therapeutic oils.
This was followed by the promised high-tea. Spa menu had to include healthy fare and I wasn’t surprised when tabbouleh salad and grilled tofu found pride of place next to salmon sandwiches, scones and tea cake.Over the friendly chit-chat with other guests, Tara shared that this award means a lot to the team because The Imperial as well as Sufi have withstood stiff competition from internationally renowned five-star spa chains, despite being a stand-alone property.
A few dishes from the delectable high tea at the spa. 
The Imperial Spa has yet another gem - an award winning therapist. Rakesh won the award for the Best Therapist at the 10th GeoSpa asiaSpa India Awards. So what are you waiting for? Call right away and book yourself a soulful pampering session!
Ph: 91-11 41116210; 91-11 41116211

Email: theimperialspa@theimperialindia.com