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Archive for the tag “yoga”

Lockdown-day 29: YogicJogging

Yogic Jogging an effective way to energize and vitalize your whole body into action.

In this video Swami Ramdev shows how 10-12 minutes of Yogic Jogging consisting of 12 simple poses gives full exercise to the body, you’ll feel calm, relaxed and rejuvenated. Plus, yoga provides an array of health benefits that improve your daily life. Like; Yoga reduces inflammation and oxidative stress (which helps minimize signs of aging), boosts “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, strengthen immunity, improves posture, combats depression, and increases energy levels.

Yogic jogging is my vacation and travel yoga routine and looks like its my lockdown routine as well. Just after just 10 minutes of yoga, I have more energy, my concentration improves, overall I feel lighter and most importantly guilt free that I didn’t skip yoga.

Lockdown-day 17: Smile Yoga

“Smile Yoga” does it sound funny and ridiculous? It does but it is one of the simple yet profound technique of meditation in which you sit in a meditation pose and generate a feeling of natural happiness and smile. Just smile 🙂

As Ketut from Eat, Pray, Love says smile from face, smile from eyes and even smile from your liver 🙂

Think about it!!!

Stay Safe and Stay Home!!!

The Kumbh Mela – Amavasya and the Mystics

“Surrender in spite of freedom – is the way of wisemen” – Swami Chinmayananda

I woke up startled with bells ringing in my head. The first thought – “Why am I sleeping, I planned to come here 6 months ago to witness the splendors of the Mela?” I jumped out of bed in a cold Feb morning at 4AM got ready and found myself in front of one of the platoon bridges. That is when it dawned on me that my marathon walk for today has started.

People kept pouring in day and night

I was walking like a white walker but that didn’t stop me. I have to see whatever is left of those processions which started at midnight and have my dip.

These processions are called “Peshvai of the Akhadas”.

Peshvai means presenting. All the saints arrive here in huge groups and a procession is carried out in honor of this occasion.

Akhadas\Akharas are monastic places of practise with facilities of boarding, lodging and training. They follow a Guru-Shishya(teacher-disciple) tradition. In the 8th century Adi Shankaracharya divided these ascetics into two groups: Shastra-dhari – scripture bearers\intelligentia; and Astra-dhari – weapon bearers\warriors.

Witnessing the huge crowds I got into thinking – Why taking a dip during Mouni Amavasya is so important? Let me note down all the reasons which surfaced after my intense research, YES I ended up reading lots of online sources and half of a book to understand this.

— A dip in the river on Mouni Amavasya eternally blesses the soul. The soul is cleansed of all sins and also gives the person mystical powers as it helps them get detached from the infinite cycle of life and death.

— It is believed that a space opens up between our world and the spiritual world at the point of the confluence and taking the dip helps the soul step out of the human body and attain a deeper meaning in life.

— It is also believed that the universe was created on this day, when the Sun and Moon enters the Capricorn sign. A vow of silence (Maun Vrat hence “Mouni”) on this day is assumed to control our senses. Practicing austerities is believed to purify the individual existence and observing a vow of silence (Maun Vrat) is the simplest way to do it.

— This all made sense to me but why would lakhs of ash cladden sadhus from the Himalayas come down for just a dip? The Sadhus or the holy men perform austerities\penance to attain a higher self and this takes a lot of years of practise and discipline. To make the body live long (longer than 100years) they turn to alchemy which is one way but they end up utilizing a lot of their energy in this process. The other easier way is to take a holy dip on Mouni Amavasya when the Sangam water itself turns into Amrit – nectar of immortality. This way they get to retain their energy for a higher purpose.

View of the Sangam from ghats

Moving on to the Mystics I met in Kumbh. This was the only trip for which I didn’t know what to expect, the only planning I did was to book a funny room for 4 days, apart from that I had no idea what we were going to do but everyone I met there had contributed somehow to my soul searching.

The boatman (resembled Modi-our Prime Minister) who knew so much about the history of Prayagraj and remembered the names of every ruler. The 1 hr boat ride was filled with stories.

The boatman on Yamuna river

Bob Miller and Golu – We met Bob Miller fondly known as Baba Miller, in the camp where we were staying. I met him over breakfast one day and we got into talking about meditation and how it helped in his evolution. Till now I had only read about all these techniques and experiences and here he was – the one who had gone through those processes and experienced it all. It felt as if the Universe was conspiring against me and asking me to resume my meditation practise which I did – taking Bob’s advice and started doing the 20 mins of Cat and Mouse Hole Meditation. It definitely helps in overcoming the distractions and in keeping the monkey mind at rest.

Bob Miller and Golu

Coming to Golu, the kid in the picture. Golu and his family are the caretakers of this Someshwar Temple to which Bob visited one day and made friends with Golu. Golu showed Bob an old American dollar coin. Bob thought it was an antique coin which could help Golu get some money so he took some pictures of the coin and sent it to his friend in US. Turned out it was an imitation coin. By this time Bob had grown fond of Golu so wanted to give him some money but Golu and his family didn’t understand Bob’s New York English and neither did he understand Hindi. So this is when he came to me so that I can be the translator for him and make them understand why he wanted to give the boy $50. We went to Golu’s home and sorted out everything and came out all smiles.

This got me thinking about the karmic debt we all had – that one person had to fly all the way from US to give this boy some money and I had to be the witness for this transaction. Everything is connected – all we have to do is meditate to gain that higher conscious to understand the connection.

Naga sadhu of Juna Akhada

The Naga sadhu who signalled and called me and told me not to be afraid. He blessed me with Vibhoti. I wondered if he saw through my inner fears?

The hippie sadhus, I wondered what the symbol on his chest represent. Did some digging on internet to find out that the symbol was used to represent alchemy mainly the philosopher’s stone. Philosopher’s stone was one of the sought after stone in ancient times, believed to turn any ordinary substance to shining gold. However as per the esoteric science Pholosopher’s stone represents the golden light of the soul which slowly transforms the lower self into a purified instrument of divinity. Circles often represent the spiritual because they have no end. The triangle is a representation of the union of body, mind and soul. And the four corners means to see equally in four directions – up, down, in and out – and to be whole, complete and free.

And there I was thinking it was the sign of “Deathly Hallows” from Harry Potter … 🙂

And then there was Swami Sarvamukhanandaji from Belur Math who said that all the austerities mean nothing if we again got into the race of achieving something in this material world because all we should strive for is to free ourselves from them.

Swami Sarvamukhanandji

I never thought I would exchange numbers with a Swamiji but that is what apparently happens @ The Kumbh 🙂

Rudrabhishekam @Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram

For a glimpse of Rudrabhishekam Mantra chanting @Maharishi Mahesh Ashram: click here & here

Time to get back to the material world and try to implement whatever I have learnt\gained here.

Beautiful paintings @Prayagraj railway station

Some more ….

I am definitely coming back after 6 years but in the meantime I am also looking forward to the Kumbh Mela – also regarded as “world’s greatest theological symposium”, only this time @Haridwar in 2022.

Om Namah Shivay !!!

The Kumbh Mela – Yoga and Akharas

” It feels good to be lost in the right direction”- Anonymous

The Kumbh Mela @Prayagraj, the biggest congregation of spiritual pilgrims. Prayagraj hosted the 2019 Kumbh Mela from 14th Jan 2019 till 4th March 2019 at the Triveni Sangam – the confluence of Maa Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.

The legend behind the Kumbh Mela dates back to medieval Hindu era when due to a curse by sage Dhurvasa the Devas(gods) had lost their powers. They went to Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva who directed them to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu then instructed them to churn the Ksher-sagar(ocean of milk) and obtain  Amrit(nectar of immortality). Thus advised by Lord Vishnu the Devas made peace with Asuras(demons) and started churning Ksher-sagar. Mount Mandara was used as a churning rod and Mahadev’s serpent Vasuki offered to serve as the rope for churning. Lord Vishnu himself had to take an avatar of the Kurma(tortoise) to help in the process. At first came the halahal(poison) which was consumed by Lord Shiva. Subsequently whatever came was divided between Devas and Asuras as per agreement. Finally came the Amrit in a kumbh(pot). Devtas didn’t want to share Amrit with Asuras hence Garuda took the pot and flew away. Meanwhile Devas and Asuras fought for 12 days. (12 day of Devas = 12 year for humans) During this war Amrit spills on earth in 4 places – Prayag, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The story ends with the Devas drinking the Amrit and defeating the Asuras. According to the legends during the Kumbh mela time due to the planetary positions of Jupiter, Sun and Moon the water in the respective rivers acquire certain mystical powers. It is believed the waters of these rivers turn into Amrit during this time.

The Sanskriti Gram entrance @Prayag Kumbh Mela depicting the Samudra Manthan

Millions of people come here to Triveni to take dip in these holy waters – to wash off their sins, to attain moksha or for a healthy and long life – and I was one of them…

We reached Prayagraj on the Feb 2nd and were greeted by a colourful and artistic town with clean roads. We had a smooth traffic free ride from the airport to the camp which we had booked for the next 4 days. And I thought all this talk about traffic jams and millions of people on the roads was just a hype but boy… was I wrong!!!

A casual stroll to the ghats as it was already evening. The Ghats were reverberating with sounds of drums and mantras from the opposite side of the river – where the Kumbh Mela was set up.

The view of Sangam from Arail Ghat

Braving the cold weather people had already started taking their holy dips.

Day 2

While strolling yesterday evening we came across a signboard which said Swami Ramdev would be conducting free yoga camp. So we decided to go there first. We reached by 7AM for some early morning yoga with Baba Ramdev.

It is so exhilarating to listen to anything he has to say. He even managed to get some follower to join him.

After a refreshing yoga, some hot tea and a light breakfast it was time to start the kumbh journey 🙂 We walked till the ghats in the quest of finding the Mahatma’s. Took a boat from Arail Ghat which dropped us at the Triveni ghat.

Boat ride on the Yamuna river

Prayagraj Red Fort in the backdrop

Triveni Ghat is where our marathon started. We went in search for the Akharas, Naga babas, Sanyasis or popularly known as The Mahapurushas. One true thing about India – ask atleast 5 people for the route but still make your own decision. Google maps is also not a bad idea but in places like the Kumbh Mela not sure how much it will help. After wondering for about an hour in the hot sun we got to the Triveni Marg platoon bridge.

Platoon Bridge

It was not only the humans who had flocked to Prayagraj but also the Siberian Seagulls who had travelled all the way from Siberia flying over Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet and over the Himalayas. Their presence in the Ganga basin was mesmerizing.

Finally we were near the Akharas…. to finally get some blessings from the Mahapurush themselves.

You could see pilgrims approaching the babas and sharing their life troubles or ask for health remedies or seek spiritual guidance or simply seek their blessings. The four major categories of sadhus that come to the mela are: Nagas, Vairagi, Udasi and the Nirmala. They are further organized into different “Akharas”. All the babas had a name, only if I had knowledge enough and a notebook to note their names down. There were many babas who had a strong aura – I dared not take their pics, I did take some just from the side. Some of these head crown weigh upto 45 kilograms.

Naga Sanyasi – Barfani Baba

This baba has kept his hand at 90 degrees since 15 years

Naga Sadhus – the baba in the middle has his hand in air since 3 years

Display of arms at one of the Akharas

Snake charmers entertaining the naga sadhus inside the Akharas

To read more about the Naga Sadhus – Click here

The plan was to stay the night and see the Naga Sadhus take their dip at the sangam but my body had already reached its limits. After much contemplation we decided to head back to the camp and try our luck the next day. We had walked almost 15 kms by now and it was just another 12kms ahead of us to reach the camp… 😐

Pilgrims taking a dip at the designated bathing ghats

Airavat Entrance of the Kumbh Mela

We dragged our self to the camp – ate and called it a day. Again with no plan of when we want to start the next day. Tomorrow is “Mouni Amavasya” – one of the main bathing dates. The sadhus are here for that, the sanyasis are here for that, crores of people are here for that and me too. But I had to rest this body for today.

Chalo Kumbh Chale …

Om Namah Shivaya!!!  

Himalayas – Badrinath

So, where was I in my Himalayan tour Part 1 – we reached Haridwar, took a cab to Sonprayag, took the back breaking horse ride to Kedarnath and trekked back. I was exhausted way over my limits, but the plan was to cross those limits and to push those limits and extend them 🙂

Triyuginarayan Mandir

Triyuginarayan Mandir

This is Triyuginarayan Mandir, with Sumeru Parvat(mountain) in its backdrop.

Story : It is said that Lord Shiva’s marriage to Sati was solemnized here in the presence of Lord Vishnu. Legend has it that the eternal fire which burns inside the temple never extinguishes. This place is way off the track some 14kms trek from Sonprayag but you get a very beautiful view of the valley and the step farmings, the girls of this area were exquisitely beautiful – I had to mention them 🙂

Sonprayag-sangam

View from the top – Sonprayag

Sonprayag lies at the confluence of the rivers Basuki and Mandakini. Somewhere there is also the hotel that we stayed in. Now we are headed towards Badrinath, fully determined to reach there by nightfall.

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Ohh… the scenic and beautiful valleys and step farms, as “Winter is coming” there were almost no tourists in the area which made our journey even more beautiful and relaxing, but there were no restaurants open too !!! YAY

Orange orchard

So we resorted to stealing some oranges from someones backyard, when they saw us – we begged for some oranges and finally they let us borrow some. Hmmm….. now I know what beg-borrow-steal actually means 🙂

I was very adamant about getting to Badrinath on the same day, had no idea we would lose day light by 5:15 PM itself and the route would be scary -scary-scary. Somehow we reached … Thank God. The town looked deserted, everyone had left the town and moved down for the winter. We got a room, some hot water and hot food and finally called it  a day.

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This is the first thing I see when I removed the drapes in the morning, I had no idea we were in the middle of the great Himalayan range. Badrinath is 10270 ft above sea level.

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Our Hotel Yoga, Badrinath

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I gazed at the wrinkled and rough hewn nirvana quiet mountains with a sense of awe.

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Badrinath Dham

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Ohhh… I forgot to mention about the early morning not so pleasant experience, I got up – got amazed by the view – got back to reality – went into the bathroom – turned on the tap – no water – called the reception only to be told that the water may have frozen in the taps because of the low temperatures. Now I understand why people migrate to the hills during this season. We got two buckets of hot water to do what we had to do. This is the first temple in my life to which I went without taking a bath… hmmm

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Now look at this – is this a joke!!! A hot spring right outside the temple and the taps in the hotel are choking.

Badrinath

By the time we came out my feet and hands were numb. I hope God is watching me and will reward me appropriately, and he did – the shack cafe – the only place open for breakfast, and the only thing on the menu was Maggi. Steaming Maggie with hot tea – that’s all I need for now 🙂

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Mana Village – the last village on the on the Indian side of the Indo-China border.

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Vyas Panthi – This is where the great epic of Mahabharata was written

Saraswati-

Can you see the small stream, that’s the Saraswati River, it is still thought to be a mythical river – which no longer exists. Maybe it no longer exists in its full glory but hey!! its still there.

There are two versions of why Saraswati exists only in the Himalayas

The Story: According to the Brahma-vaivarta Purana: When Ganga-devi cursed Saraswati-devi to become a river here on Mrtyuloka(earth), one of the conditions was that she would only remain on earth as long as rishis and other great sages performed tapasya on her banks. Since we are now in Kali-yuga, there are no longer these great souls performing austerities, so she vanished.

The tour guide’s version: In the above picture we saw Vyasa Panthi – it is the place where Ved Vyasa was reciting Mahabharata and Ganesha was writing it down, Vyasa got disturbed by the gurgling sounds of Saraswati’s water and asked her to slow down. But she wouldn’t listen so he cursed her to go obscure. So today you can see Saraswati only here in the Himalayan region of Mana Village where she originates and after that she goes underground only to emerge at the Triveni Sangam in Illahabad where Khumba Mela takes place.

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Keshav Prayag – Confluence of Saraswati and Alaknanda

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Now it was time to leave the abode of gods and return to lower grounds where the devilish minds are at work.

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Karna Prayag – Confluence of Alaknanda and Pindar Rivers and the last of the panch prayags.

I was supposed to take a dip in these Panch Prayag’s to attain Moksha but given the temperature of 8 degrees Celsius I’ll have to find other ways of attaining Moksha.

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On our way back to Rushikesh we could see villages and towns preparing for Diwali – the festival of lights

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Rushikesh – situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, besides Ganga river. It is famously known as the place for studying yoga, meditation and for temples and ashrams. To me it looked like the whole town’s having a hippie party.

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River Ganga – view from Lakshman Jhula

Haridwar Rushikesh

Evening Ganga aarti at Haridwar – the mesmerizing chanting of the mantras during the beginning of the aarti was the best way of concluding this trip.

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Haridwar market place

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A short visit to the Patanjali Yog Peeth on our way back.

Next time I go to Himalayas, I don’t want to be time bound and just let my instincts guide me.

Om Namah Shivay!!!

Shortcuts

Mt Batur, Bali Indonesia

How do you guys feel about taking short-cuts? Be it while crossing the road, accomplishing a task or for bigger things in life.

I take short-cuts every now&then – only to realize again and again they are beneficial in the short run and are short-sighted too.

A few months back when I had booked my trip to Bali, I also decided to climb my first volcanic mountain. As I had no experience and thought I needed stamina, I abandoned my time taking and slow yoga asanas (but still I did my pranayamas religiously) and replaced it with the quick resulting cardio. I don’t know where it all went wrong – I have gained a few pounds, my body is all stiff, I had severe muscle aches, my craving for food increased and I get easily tired.

I have done enough trekking and climbing hills without any preparation like this and I was fine. But this short-cut called cardio didn’t work that well for me and now I am back to my yoga, no more short-cuts for a while 🙂

On the brighter side – I pampered myself with too many massages during that time 🙂 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Self Realization

“One must deliver himself with the help of his mind, and not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” – Bhagavat Gita

Oil Pastels on A4 paper

Oil Pastels on A4 paper

I have been practising yoga for a while now, it not only keep your body well but helps you control your  senses and mind. It made me see things differently and helped me face my innermost fears.

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