May 30, 2023

Book Review: Yoga Chakra by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati


Who is the founder of Yoga? How did Yoga evolve? How did the different forms of Yoga come into existence? How are they interlinked with each other?

The answers to these questions can be found in this book. The author takes us on a journey to help the reader understand how Yoga evolved into what it is today through three important periods.

The key revelation for me is the fact that Sage Patanjali is not the founder or creator of Yoga. References to Yoga date back to Satya Yuga, which predates the times of Lord Rama and Krishna.

The three periods, the key contributors and the role of Yoga in each period are well explained.

The purpose of Yoga in the early period was to help people alleviate suffering.

The middle period is the time of Patanjali, Gheranda and Swatmarama when hatha yoga and raja yoga were codified. The objective of Yoga during this period was to balance the pranic and mental behavior. It was quite insightful to learn the difference in the interpretation of asana in hatha yoga and raja yoga.

The present age of Yoga emergence began in the 19th century. The book conveys so beautifully the role of different people involved and their contributions.

The author gives a brief description of the three progressive stages of Yoga. He also recommends certain practices to follow to adopt a Yogic lifestyle. It was a key takeaway for me to learn that the sequence in which Yamas and Niyamas are to be followed matters.

The final chapter talks about the wheel of Yoga - the 3 types of Yoga that one experiences internally (hatha yoga, raja yoga, kriya yoga) and the 3 types of Yoga that one expresses externally (karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga).

If you are interested in yoga philosophy, you'd love this book - simple, easy to read and a quick understanding of the evolution of Yoga.

May 29, 2023

Indigestion of Life experiences

 This happened a couple of months back. We (K, D and myself) had gone out shopping. D spotted a cafe (not CCD!) and insisted that we go and have some snacks. Though this cafe has multiple branches and  is creating waves in Bengaluru, we hadn't been there before.

It was a super hot afternoon and the place was crowded. D and I picked a table and sat down, while K went to the bill counter and placed the order.

I was in no mood for a hot beverage and decided to have passion fruit iced tea. D and K ordered a mango milkshake and a slice of an apple pie.

When our order arrived, I took a sip of the tea. It tasted neither passion fruit nor tea. D took a sip and said, "Mummy, this tastes like ice water". Yes, exactly!

The milkshakes were made with mango-flavored essence, and loads of sugar and didn't have a taste of any real mango (although mangoes are in season!).

The apple pie tasted okayish.

Overall, we weren't so happy with the quality of the food.

The bill arrived and it was around Rs.1200. I was super shocked!

I didn't see the menu options (and prices) while placing the order.

I couldn't digest the fact that we ended up paying so much for such low-quality food. On the way back, I expressed my disappointment to K. He replied, "Let it go, we didn't know that the quality would be this bad. We will not go to this chain of cafe outlets".

But my mind wasn't willing to let go and it kept ruminating on the experience.

The fact that I couldn't digest this experience ended up creating severe indigestion later in the evening, followed by a severe migraine.

This could have been triggered by the food or by the harsh summer heat.

Nevertheless, the mind and its inability to digest and accept the situation also played a pivotal role in the reaction that manifested in the body.

This quote shared in the pic sums up the experience.

Whenever you feel indigestion, acidity or heartburn, apart from looking into your food choices, it is also worthwhile to check for any experiences/incidents in your life that you find difficult to digest.

May 26, 2023

Are you a curious cat?

 Having been a cat parent for the last 8 years, I have had the chance to observe how cats are curious by nature. A new object, a new sound, or even a new smell is all it takes for them to raise their ears and start to wonder what it is.

Curiosity is what keeps humans alive. 

We may have lost connection to our inherent curiosity due to childhood conditioning, the nature of our education system, or even our environment, but it is within our reach.

Yes, curiosity is a skill that can be developed over time.

Elizabeth Gilbert in her book "Big Magic" states that one needs to invest in curiosity rather than passion.

"Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living......Curiosity is accessible to everyone".

She urges her readers to go on a scavenger hunt of curiosity. I couldn't agree more on this.

A simple question - "Is there anything you're interested in now?" can break the spell of boredom and lack of inspiration.

When I look back on the past 10 years, the areas I have explored are all answers to this question.

Curiosity is a seed inherent in all of us. All we need to do is to nurture it every day by listening to its cues and feeding what it needs.

The manure could be new information, knowledge, experience, conversations, actionable behavior, learning, fine-tuning, following the dots, breaking the familiar patterns, synthesizing, unlearning, and most importantly, constant questioning.

Curiosity may or may not lead to discovering your passion.

It may or may not lead to building a career.

It may or may not lead to a monetizable opportunity.

It may or may not lead to rewards and recognition.

But it can certainly make you feel alive and engaged. 

Our life's journey gets more interesting when we follow where curiosity takes us.

May 25, 2023

Book Review: Raja Yoga Yatra I by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

 I asked myself, "When was the last time you started and finished a book as soon as it arrived? When was the last time you couldn't contain your excitement that you had to read a book cover to cover immediately?".

The answer I got was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" back in 2007.

After 16 years, I felt a similar excitement when this book "Raja Yoga Yatra I: Understanding Asana and Pratyahara" arrived a couple of days back.

As I wrote in a book review earlier, I'm curious to learn more about Pratyahara, the 5th limb of Raja Yoga. While searching for books that cover this topic, I stumbled upon this title on Amazon, a booklet of 80 pages.

The author starts by explaining the wheel of yoga called the Yoga chakra with the six spokes.

Hatha yoga, raja yoga and kriya yoga represent the experiential aspect of Yoga, whereas karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga represent the expressive aspect of Yoga.

We experience internal change and transformation first and using the awakened faculties, we express ourselves in the outer dimension.

Hatha yoga helps one towards purification and detoxification of the body. The annamaya kosha (physical body) and pranamaya kosha (energy body) are brought to balance through the practices of Hatha yoga. One proceeds to Raja yoga after a certain balance is reached through Hatha yoga.

The purpose of Raja Yoga is conveyed as chitta vritti nirodhah - managing the disturbances of the mind. Raja yoga helps to rule over the mind and it deals with manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas. Yamas and Niyamas are important practices for the mind, without which reaching the states of dharana or dhyana is impossible.

The distinction brought up concerning asana practice in Hatha yoga vs Raja yoga was eye-opening. In Raja yoga, asanas are primarily focused on stability and comfort to deepen one's mental experience.

Our consciousness is built through our cognition and perception of the past, retained in chitta. This storehouse becomes the cause for our present disturbances. These impressions (Pratyayas) are brought out and cleared through pratyahara. The three practices of Yoga Nidra, Antar Mouna and Ajapa Japa are briefly summarized.

So many aha moments in the book that gave new perspectives:

The explanation - Prati+ahara => reverse consumption - where the mind feeds the senses

The interactions of the three gunas on ahamkara, chitta and manas

The four attitudes that help to keep the chitta happy

The active drashta state - active observation as a witness and modifying

Difference between compassion and empathy

Why yoga doesn't recommend being a world reformist

Doership and its connection to freewill and destiny

These booklets are helping me realize that my journey into learning Yoga philosophy has just begun and there is a long way to go. Feeling excited and curious!

May 18, 2023

Book Review: The Courage to be Happy by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

 Last year, I read "The Courage to be Disliked" - a powerful book that left a lasting impact. The same authors have come up with a sequel of sorts with the title "The Courage to be Happy". 

As I read through it, I can't help but wonder how it draws on the conversations that the philosopher and the youth engaged in the first book. Highly recommend that you read both books in the same sequence to gain maximum benefit.

Coming to the sequel, the philosopher and the youth meet after 3 years. The youth seems frustrated with the challenges he faced in applying Adlerian psychology and is looking for answers. The conversation begins with really harsh questions (to the point it gets nasty sometimes) by the youth and patient, assertive answers by the philosopher.

Their ensuing long conversation shares nuggets of wisdom and new perspectives, especially for people who play the role of educators or parents. The book is divided into 5 sections, each having 2-3 key takeaways buried deep inside.

It starts by declaring that the objective of education is self-reliance. To meet this objective, one needs to start with respect - accept the person (student) as is without setting any conditions. Respect is contagious and eventually leads to developing "social feeling" - having concern for other people's concerns.

The triangular representation of our psyche with the two angles "that bad person" and "poor me" is an eye-opener that showcases how we end up in one of the two angles whenever there is a challenge. The author suggests we look at our challenge from a third angle (not revealing it!).

As the conversation progresses, they revisit why reward and punishment are problematic. The 5 stages of problem behavior are quite relatable.

The chapter on moving from competition to cooperation is another gem. I was nodding big time as I had been raised to be a competitive person.

We choose our lifestyle at a very early age based on the objective of "how I can be loved". It is rooted in the survival strategies of our childhood, which continues into adulthood and determines the lifestyle we adopt now. This point was such an eye-opener for me.

I'd rather name this book "The Courage to Believe" as trust/having confidence/believing in yourself and others seem to be the essence of this book.

Lots of valuable takeaways in the sequel too. You'll enjoy this one if you have read and liked "The Courage to be Disliked".

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