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My shoulder update – surgery January 2017

If you have attended my yoga classes in recent months, you would have noticed that I have been dealing with a nagging problem in my right shoulder for some time now. In a previous update on my shoulder, I wrote about the re-tear of the rotator cuff muscles after the surgery in October 2013. As a result of that tear, I have had a limited range of motion (ROM) as well as limited strength in the right arm/shoulder. However, despite the tear and some limitations, for almost three years after the surgery I was able to raise my arm to a full vertical position without any significant pain. That level of ROM allowed me to practice sequences like Surya Namaskar and asanas like up/down dog etc. without much problem. I was, in fact, able to practice almost 75-80% of all the asanas in my usual routine. You can view a sample of the movements in this video on the Sun Salutation sequence which is from August, 2016. I was perfectly happy with this level of functionality in my shoulder and had no desire or intention to get any further treatment done to the shoulder. Of course, I have vivid memories of the painful experience after all three previous shoulder surgeries. For those who are not aware of it, I had my first shoulder surgery on the right shoulder back in 2002. That surgery was quite successful and I was back to normal functionality. Soon after, in 2005, I had to have the same surgery on my left shoulder as well.

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Sun Salutation with Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana) and Intense Side Stretch (Parshvottanasana)

warrior 1
Virabhadrasana (Warrior 1)

If you’ve attended a yoga class with me, you would have noted that Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is an integral part of the routine that we practice. Typically, we practice three rounds of Surya Namaskar. In the first round, we go through the basic sequence which has the classic 12 movements. In the second and third round, we add some variations to many of the movements. For example, in the second round some of the common poses that we practice include warrior 1, warrior 2, triangle pose, pigeon pose etc. In the third round, we usually practice the upward facing dog and also occasionally some twisting variations from the lunge position.

In today’s post, I am presenting the sequence of three rounds of Sun Salutation with warrior 1 and the Intense Side Stretch integrated into the second round. My friend Neha has graciously agreed to bring you the video presentation.

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Nine Obstacles to Wellness

With the New Year approaching, you are likely to exchange a large number of greeting messages with friends, relatives and well-wishers. Majority of the messages have phrases like "wishing you another year of health, peace, happiness and prosperity", or something similar. Health, peace and happiness etc. are all required for us to function in our daily life at our most optimum level. Without these, our work efficiency and productivity will drop, and we can fall prey to mental ailments like stress and depression. Another term that includes many of these attributes and is gaining acceptance is "wellness". If you search the Internet you will find multiple definitions of the term wellness. Two of these definitions are given below:

The World Health Organization defines wellness as:

"a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as:

"a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential."

Wellness can be thought of both as a process and a state of being. When you follow the guidelines for the process of wellness, you will achieve a state of wellness.

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Five levels of awareness – the Five Koshas

Being aware means being in the present moment. Being in the present moment implies that we observe a situation without interpretation, a situation in its "as is" state. Having observed the situation, we can now intelligently analyze it and respond to it appropriately. In the absence of this level of awareness, we tend to offer a "knee-jerk" reaction which is driven entirely by the ego based on past experiences and impressions called "samskaras". Through awareness or mindfulness, we learn how to "respond" intelligently to a situation rather than "react" mindlessly. If we look closely at most of our life experiences, we will realize that reacting mindlessly is usually the cause of much suffering in the end. A "response" on the other hand is driven by our pure innate wisdom, our intuitive wisdom and thus results in a positive outcome and a peaceful mind.

How do we develop this awareness? Our ancient yogis have given us tools to develop our awareness at multiple levels. In the ancient text, the Taittiriya Upanishad (defined in section Brahmananda Valli with further elaboration in the section Bhriguvalli), it states that we can think our being as a composite of five layers, sheaths or enclosures, called "koshas". These are:

  • Annamaya Kosha (the physical sheath, sustained by food) (the word "anna" means food and "maya" means compose of or full of)
  • Pranaymaya Kosha (the energy layer sustained by prana or vital life force)
  • Manomaya Kosha (the mental ("manas") layer, primarily the cognitive mind, ego, memory and the lower intellect)
  • Vijnanamaya Kosha (the layer of intuitive wisdom ("vijnana"), the higher intellect)
  • Anandamaya Kosha (the layer of total "ananda" or bliss)

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14-day Meditation Intensive, Dec 5-18

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

I am pleased to announce the next Meditation Intensive. In this program, I plan to discuss the basic concepts of meditation and practice several of the meditation techniques. Most of the information that I will be sharing is based on the concepts discussed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and related classical yoga texts.

No prior asana, pranayama or meditation experience is required.

Here are the particulars:

  • What: 14-day Meditation Intensive
  • When: Monday, December 5 – Sunday, December 18, 2016
  • Time: 6:00 – 7:30 AM
  • Location: 4000 Bearcat Way, Suite 102, Morrisville, NC 27560
  • Daily Routine: Light stretching (10-15 minutes), Pranayama (15 min), Relaxation (15 min), Meditation – discussion and practice (45 min)
  • Commitment: A firm commitment to follow this schedule and attend every day
  • Fee: $90
  • To register: fill out the registration form, providing information in all the fields, and submit it online

Strongly recommended

  • Light,’sattvic’, nutritious, VEGETARIAN food
  • No alcohol, drugs, tobacco or any other item of similar nature
  • A personal commitment to continue the practice after the program is over

Please visit here for more details…

Do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I look forward to your participation.

Three attributes of a mantra to deepen your meditation experience

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras, gives the definition and purpose of the practice of yoga as:

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः॥२॥ Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhaH (sutra 1.2)

"Yoga is the ability to still the fluctuations of the mind"

In order for us to attain this objective of yoga, Patanjali gives us the amazingly practical and effective eight-fold path of yoga. The eight limbs of yoga given are:

Yama (five restraints), niyama (five observances), asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathing practices), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (focus), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (total absorption).

The last three, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, are three stages of the practice of meditation. Patanjali uses the term "samyama" to denote the practice in which all these three stages of meditation are merged together as one practice.

Let us briefly look at the definition of these three stages of meditation as given in the sutras:

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Janushirshasana (Head-to-knee pose) Variations

Head-to-knee pose

In a previous article, I wrote about the basic, classical technique of practicing the Janushirshasana (head-to-knee pose). In today’s article, I will be presenting a few variations to the standard pose that you can add to your practice. As always, try to maintain full awareness at the body, breath and the mind level so you don’t overdo any of the poses.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with the video.

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21-day Yoga Immersion, Level 2, Oct 24 – Nov 13

Virabhadrasana (Warrior2)

I am pleased to announce the next 21-day Yoga Immersion program. This will be the introductory Level 2 program. I invite you to join me on this exciting and deeply rewarding 21-day yoga journey.

Please note the class duration will be one hour and 45 minutes.

  • What: 21-day yoga immersion, Level 2
  • When: Monday, Oct 24 – Sunday, Nov 13, 2016
  • Time: 6:00 AM – 7:45 AM
  • Location: 4000 Bearcat Way, Suite 102, Morrisville, NC 27560
  • Commitment:
    • A firm commitment to complete the program without missing a day
    • At the end of the program, continue the same practice at home for another 21 days to make it a life-long habit
  • Fee: $150
  • To register: Fill out the registration form, providing information in all the fields, and submit it online

In this program, we will be practicing some of the intermediate level asanas (physical postures) and pranayama practices that are not covered in the regular 21-day yoga program. These will include:

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The Three Bandhas (locks) (video)

In an earlier blog post, I talked about the concept of Kumbhaka – कुम्भक – (breath retention). As noted therein, breath retention can be done after a full inhalation, or after a full exhalation, or at any time during the breathing cycle. 

A natural extension of Kumbhaka is the concept of the Bandhas – बन्ध – (energy locks). The bandhas are a very important part of the pranayama techniques as they help balance out the prana (the vital life force) in the system. As per the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, bandhas help us cleanse the chakras and allow the Kundalini Shakti (the dormant creative power) to awaken. The kundalini can then start its journey toward its final destination- the Sahasrara Chakra (thousand petal lotus), abode of the supreme consciousness represented by Lord Shiva, situated at the crown of the head. 

There are three bandhas which are practiced as a part of the pranayama routine:

  1. Mula Bandha – मूलबन्ध – (root lock)
  2. Uddiyana Bandha – उड्डियान बन्ध – (navel lock)
  3. Jalandhara Bandha – जालन्धर बन्ध – (chin lock)
  4. Maha bandha – महाबन्ध – (Great lock) – when all the bandhas are applied at the same time after full exhalation

Enjoy the guidelines for the bandha practices as given in the video here.

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Sarvangasana (Shouder Stand) with wall support

Sarvangasana with wall support

In a previous article, I discussed the Sarvangasana – सर्वाङ्गासन –

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(shoulder stand), along with Matsyasana (fish pose) and its variations.The technique discussed therein was appropriate for those who have adequate neck and shoulder strength so they can get into the pose without needing the wall for support. If you are a beginner to yoga practice or don’t have the required strength in the neck and shoulders and the core strength, you may need the support of the wall to help you get into the pose.

In this article, I will first discuss some possible variations to get into the pose while still not using the wall for support. If that doesn’t feel comfortable, then I’ll take you through the steps required for using the wall for support.

I hope you will enjoy practicing with the video sequence given below.

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