Sivasana Is A Personal Pose

Funky car on a walk downtown Toronto.
Funky car on a walk downtown Toronto.

Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel. – Kevin Trudeau

I have started going to a yoga studio in downtown Toronto in the past week. Changing yoga studios is always a heart-breaking experience – you get attached to the way one studio does or doesn’t do things, and then you have to get used to a completely new studio.

I  have written previously about how Sivasana (corpse pose) is a really important personal experience for me. I go into each class at least 15 minutes early, and spend those delicious 15 minutes laying in Sivasana, relaxing my mind, and body, moving away from my to-do lists, and from the rest of the harried day. And at the end of each class, I spend about 10-15 minutes in my own personal paradise, by laying in Sivasana, absolutely corpse-like, to let the juices of the class flow into every pore of my body.

For me, Sivasana is the most important part of my yoga experience. It helps ground me and bring me back to centre in the beginning of the class. And it helps me accumulate all of the goodness of all the poses at the end of the class. If I have a disturbed Sivasana due to someone dropping their mat suddenly on the ground, or someone whispering to another about their gynaecology exam, I feel like the whole class was a waste of time.

In this new studio, they have the class times packed in so tightly that they don’t have the time to let people linger after each class. They need to get the previous class takers out of the practice room as soon as possible, so the next class can come in and the practice can begin at the appropriate time. This is one of the side-effects of taking yoga at a downtown studio – they are so busy that they can’t really spare any time for after-class Sivasana.

Thus, the teacher lets each class rest in Sivasana for 3 minutes or so, and then she guides them back to reality by making them wiggle their toes, and fingers. The first time that happened, I went along with the process, thinking that this is a new way to do Sivasana (a more active version perhaps). But when I realized the intent behind the quick Sivasana, I resisted. I refused to partake.

Now, I lie in Sivasana even as the teacher guides everyone else back to the real world. I lay there soaking in the goodness of all the poses I attempted in the past hour for an extra few minutes.

Those extra few minutes are important to me. As I say in the title, Sivasana is a very personal pose. It means different things to different people. Different people are using their Sivasana to connect to different aspects of themselves. One might connect to their heart through their emotions. Another might connect to their third eye by focusing on their forehead. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as you feel comfortable and right doing it.

I feel no shame taking those extra minutes by defying the yoga teacher’s instructions. Remember the teacher is there to guide you – she doesn’t know what you need from the class. You can do what she tells you to do, or you can do whatever feels right in your body at that time. I choose to stay in Sivasana as long as I can, as it makes me feel the best that I can feel after a yoga class.

The Number On The Scale Doesn’t Matter

Random pictures from my neighbourhood, Toronto.
Random pictures from my neighbourhood, Toronto.

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. – John F. Kennedy

I was speaking to a friend recently about fitness goals and weight loss. She was telling me how she does a weekly weigh-in and she has realized no matter how hard she worked out in the past few weeks, the number on the weighing scale hasn’t budged. It reminded me of my own predicament a few weeks ago.

After giving up wheat, and doing yoga 4-5 times a week, I started noticing that all of my pants were sliding off my bum, and all of my clothes were hanging looser on me. But when I went to check my weight on the scale (that is inconveniently placed in the women’s change room), it is exactly the same as it was when I first started losing inches off my body.

I was confused at first. How could I be the same exact weight, but obviously have lost a few dress sizes (went down from a size 8 to a size 2 and still losing)? I then read somewhere that even though muscle weighs the same as fat, it is much more compact. Therefore, if you gain muscle, and lose fat, you will weigh the same, but you will be much smaller and toned.

Obviously, the level of fat in my body was going down, which is the most important thing in getting fitter. But my focus on the number on the scale was making me feel like I was making no progress. The same thing happened to my girlfriend. She was working out hard, eating healthier, and doing everything else necessary to get fitter. But as the number on the scale hadn’t changed, she felt like she was making no progress. It made her lose her motivation to work out.

This is what happens to most of us when we work out (or engage in any other activity). We get focused on the wrong item, and when that doesn’t work out, we give up! We might have been successful in our endeavour, but because we weren’t paying attention to the right number or item, we felt like we were losing out.

I only focused on weight in this post, because it is one of the easiest things to work on, when working on personal development. The fitter you are, the stronger you feel both mentally and physically. Somehow strength of body translates to strength of mind. 

I hope this article convinced you to focus less on the number on the scale and more on how your clothes fit you or how you feel or how you look in the mirror naked. 

A Habit Develops Fast (Good Or Bad)

I love old brick buildings, Toronto, Canada.
I love old brick buildings, Toronto, Canada.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. – Aristotle

I was given a gold ring by my mother to wear on my fingers as she felt my hands looked a bit empty without any adornment. I wore it for a couple of days. I had to remove it to do some physical work. I left it on my table and forgot that I had it. Even though, I wasn’t wearing the ring, I noticed myself fingering the spot where the ring was supposed to be days after I had removed the ring. The habit of wearing the ring and touching it occasionally had developed for me in just two days. That is how quickly a habit can form.

Another time I noticed that I had taken to eating junk food during the day due to boredom or whatever it might be. Instead of that, I started cutting up an apple early in the day and putting it on my desk where I sat all day applying to jobs, and reading motivational books. In a week, I had replaced my habit of eating junk food during the day with the apple or two that I would cut up in the morning. By the end of the day, inadvertently I had eaten an apple or two. Sometimes my hand would go to the piece of apple and pop it into my mouth, without even thinking about it. This is how mindlessly I would eat the junk food during the day. At least now it is the goodness of apples that is going into my body. 

I was telling a friend about these habits and how I replaced the junk food with apples, and how easy it was, once I put those cut up apples within easy reach all day. She recommended the book, ‘The Power Of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. I got the book and as it is an easy read, devoured it in one day.

If you are surprised by some of the habits in your life and you are looking to figure out why and how they developed, I recommend this book as a starting point. Some of the research in the book surprised me to no end. How neural patterns get set in the brain and once a habit is set up in those neural patterns, you can never get rid of those patterns, you can only replace part of that habit with something else. How every habit has a cue, an action and a reward. 

He spoke about keystone habits, and how exercise is one of those keystone habits – if you are able to set up exercise in your habit repertoire as a major habit, then it will have a ripple effect to the rest of your life and the rest of your habits.

I recommend borrowing this book from the library and giving it a go. It is easy to read, and it is full of useful, applicable information.

Wobbling Is Opportunity

Park bench with yellow flowers, Toronto.
Park bench with yellow flowers, Toronto.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill

I went to a yoga class recently by one of my favourite male teachers, Elliott Bettencourt. He said something really interesting in class. ‘Wobbling is opportunity.’ Every time, you wobble, it is an opportunity. An opportunity to observe yourself. An opportunity to test yourself. An opportunity to come out stronger. An opportunity to get better.

This reminded me of so many times in my own life when wobbling has become a major opportunity. When I got rejected from medical school three times, and I was able to work full-time and then get an MBA from a prestigious university. When I was going through an existential crisis at 25 and was able to go on a 9 month trip through Australia, Asia, and India. 

And most recently, when I was let go losing my source of income, and soon thereafter, lost a best friend. It was a major chance for wobbling and opportunity. I have to say that I love these chances for wobbling and opportunity – even though they hurt like hell, when you come out on top on the other side, it feels so good. You feel so strong.

I am on the other side right now, and I know that 2015 is going to be an amazing year for me with lots of growth, lots of abundance, lots of prosperity, and lots of great, new relationships with other like-minded individuals.

Wobbling is opportunity. It is hard at first to look at adversity as moments of opportunity, but that’s exactly how you have to start looking at these hard times that will inevitably hit you after the peaks. The cyclical nature of life will prevail.

In conclusion, I am writing down my goals at the moment to prepare for this new year, and I hope you are doing the same. 

The Yoga Gods Tested Me Today

Garbage on the streets, Toronto.
Garbage on the streets, Toronto.

For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. – Rainer Maria Rilke

I went to yoga today, and I wanted you to tell you the story of my experience. Like I said in the title, the Yoga Gods tested me from the beginning of class. As always, I laid down for Sivasana (corpse pose) in the beginning of class. I was excited for class as I was looking forward to squeeze any and all toxins out of my body through twists, lunges, and back-bends. As soon as I close my eyes, and get relaxed on my mat, I smell sweat.

I realize that a man who is not doing well with the heat had laid down right next to me. As class started, the man, who was a bit older, was having a hard time with the heat and the poses. The harder he sweated, the more I could smell it.

I realized that this is a ultimate test in a yoga class. To ignore all of what is going on around you. Fumbling, falling, showing-off, stinking, or whatever and concentrate on your pose and where you are in the pose. Of course, that is easier said than done.

I’m sure I don’t smell like a bucket of roses when I am sweating like a pig, so I couldn’t really judge this individual who was obviously making an effort to be fit. But it was extremely hard to get used to the odour emanating from him, and even harder to ignore the heavy breathing.

I really really tried. I promise you. But in the end, I would have to say I failed. When the individual left at the end of class, I laid down for an extra-long sivasana to indulge myself and to savour an odor-free practice room.

Like I said, the Yoga Gods tested me and I failed. Like so many other areas of my life, I failed. But I am going to keep on trying. We fail, and fall down. We get up and try again. That is what being human is all about. Learn from your mistakes, and go on to try over and over again.

Feel Everything

Random picture from the summer past, Toronto.
Random picture from the summer past, Toronto.

Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. – Jim Morrison

I was in a Moksha Yoga class at Thornhill a few days ago taking a class with a great teacher, Elliott Bettencourt. He says something over and over in his class that I have never heard anyone else to me ever before. He says, ‘Feel Everything.’

This was in relation to the poses at the time. I always avoid feeling uncomfortable in a pose, choosing to come out of it early or go to an easier version. But he was telling me to feel everything – feel the discomfort and the pain and the joy and the suffering. Feel all of it. Feel it to the utmost.

I have started doing that in my practice, but more so, in real life. Whenever I am having a day where I feel sad, I stop myself and feel the sadness as much as possible. I feel it deep inside of me. I feel it in every pore of my body. The minute I do that, the feeling dissipates.

I apply this to the happy and joyful feelings as well as the anxious and unhappy ones. I feel them as much as I can. I want to feel them from the inside out. This has caused me to feel my feelings deeper than I have ever before.

I know this might seem inconsequential to you, but I truly realize now how superficially I experienced some feelings and emotions. I experienced them on the surface, not letting them touch the deeper part of my heart or mind or soul. I pretended that I truly felt these feelings, but I really didn’t.

The really great thing about really feeling the feelings is that it causes you to realize how futile a lot of these feelings really are. For example, if I felt a pang of jealousy, before I would have run away from truly feeling this feeling, as it is a bad emotion to feel. There is stigma associated with this feeling – I would feel like a bad person if I felt jealousy. But this time around, I let myself really feel the jealousy inside of me, and the more I did that, the more the feeling of jealousy wisped away from me into the ether.

It had no power over me. I was free of its influence.

Travel As Therapy

Walking in the sunshine, Toronto.
Walking in the sunshine, Toronto.

I don’t need diamonds or jewellery of any kind. I don’t need accomplishments or goals to feel satisfied. All I need is travel therapy to feel at peace with the world. – Anonymous

I was chatting with a few of my work colleagues and one of them said something really poignant. She said, “I don’t need to go to a therapist’s office and lay on a couch to receive therapy. All I need to do is pack my bags and as soon as I am on the plane leaving for a beautiful new destination, I feel a sense of calm drape over me.” I have never really associated travel to therapy, but her words made sense to me. Continue reading Travel As Therapy

Nothing Is Permanent

My favourite tree, Weeping Willow, Toronto.
My favourite tree, Weeping Willow, Toronto.

That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment.- Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You.

I have been taking this course on Coursera, called Origins – Formation of the Universe, Solar System, Earth and Life. As soon as I began the course, I realized three fundamental things.

Continue reading Nothing Is Permanent

Why Is There So Much Fear In The Work Environment?

Menu Food Truck At Ontario Place, Toronto.
Menu Food Truck At Ontario Place, Toronto.

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. – Thich Nhat Hanh

I recently worked in an environment that was quite unlike any other that I had worked in before. It was an environment pervaded with extreme fear. I walked into the job with high hopes, but I soon realized that there was something a bit off about the workplace. Everyone was fearful of losing their jobs.

Now I had worked in other companies before, where people were afraid of losing their job. But that was during a time of great recession in 2008, where companies were being forced to lay off huge parts of their workforce due to the worsening economy. It wasn’t like the companies wanted to lay off huge chunks of their workforce, but they were forced to, in order to stay lean, mean and profitable. The fear in those environments was tenable – you could tell the reason for it. You knew that people were afraid of losing their job because the company was openly laying off people that they couldn’t afford to keep on anymore. Continue reading Why Is There So Much Fear In The Work Environment?

100 Things That Make Me Happy

Bright yellow car, Toronto.
Bright yellow car, Toronto.

Achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness, not pain or mindless self-indulgence, is the proof of your moral integrity, since it is the proof and the result of your loyalty to the achievement of your values. – Ayn Rand

I was challenged by a friend that I cannot name a 100 things that make me happy. I decided to take it up and write them down. Continue reading 100 Things That Make Me Happy

A blog about travel, yoga, spirituality, personal growth and minimalism.

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