Jul 1, 2022

Book Review: Choosing a Path by Swami Rama



 From the book "Practical Yoga psychology" that I read a year ago, I learned the basics about the different paths of Yoga - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga.

I picked up this book "Choosing a Path" to understand these paths in depth. It was quite a dense and theoretical read. Each path is explained in detail - the principles and practices to be followed in the journey.

It was an informative read with good examples to relate to. There were many inspiring and thought-provoking phrases/passages throughout the book.

The chapters on Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga were super interesting and they seem to be the paths that I'm able to connect and relate to easily.

"In the path of knowledge, blind faith is completely shunned. Know, analyze, and then realize. By realizing the Truth, faith comes itself. Such a faith can never mislead one."

I have heard from multiple sources that the Universe / Supreme cosmic power is always guiding us in the right direction. Once I understood and experienced it myself, I started to believe in this truth firmly.

It's certainly not a light read to skim through in one sitting. It requires time to read and digest the information. I was able to follow the author until the 4 paths of Yoga, after which the chapters on Laya Yoga and Kundalini Yoga were so complex. They went over my head and I couldn't understand them completely.

Key takeaways for me:

The preparatory stage is crucial before choosing a specific path. In this stage, we consciously move toward our inner world. We relook at our habits - food, sleep, breath, mindfulness, concentration.

Raja Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are the same. The first 4 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga come under the category of Hatha Yoga.

The first 2 limbs - Yamas and Niyamas need to be incorporated consciously into our daily lives, and only then the 3rd limb - Asanas will be effective on our body.

Deeper practices of Pranayama, especially Kumbhaka (retention) are advanced stages and should be performed with caution or with the guidance of a Guru.

A few favorite passages:

"Negative thoughts convert the nutrients of food into poison. Thus the body builds up toxins. Inhalation and exhalation are like two caretakers whose duties are regulated by our mental life."

"Only by studying the present portion of one's own manuscript, of one's own life, is it possible to know life."

"Without knowing oneself on all dimensions, knowing the world or others is of no use."

"Self-condemnation leads to guilt feelings, and guilt feelings create psychosomatic disorders."

"Expectation is the mother of all problems. Expectation mingled with attachment brings all the miseries of the world."

"One has to learn to discipline himself so that his senses do not dissipate his energy and his mind."

"Creating love for one's duty will give freedom from stress."

"Studying one's own thoughts, emotions, deeds, and actions is the real study."

Jun 30, 2022

Reflection



 There were years when many aspects of my external life were progressing so well - career, higher education, relationship, financial growth, and stability. Not once, did I question or think about why things are going smoothly?

But in the past 1.5 years, when one challenge after another kept hitting, I have questioned every single time - "Why me? What did I do wrong? Why do I need to face this? Why is life being unfair to me?".

For a brief time, I searched for answers in astrology and thought a lot about karma and past decisions.

After a certain point, I realized that questioning, analyzing, or overthinking aren't helping and in fact, making things worse.

It is better to give rest to the intellectual, logical mind in such situations and accept and surrender to the Universe.

Every experience is a teacher who has come to teach us something.

Every challenge is a torch that shows us light on areas that need our attention.

Every interaction or information that comes our way is guiding us in a certain direction.

Reading philosophy / spiritual books helped me gain perspectives that I needed the most. 

Grateful to these books (and their authors) that came into my life in the last 6 months. Loved reading them all - totally immersed, feeling awed whenever a deeper question gets answered and when a shift in perspective happened effortlessly.

Which of these books did you find most intriguing, after reading my book reviews?

Jun 29, 2022

Let's build our strength



 "namakkum vellakkaarangalukkum enna thatha vithiyaasam coloura thavira?" ("What's the difference between us Indians and the Westerners, apart from our skin color?"), I remember asking my grandfather this question 30 years back. He was helping me with an essay on the freedom struggle.

His response - "Avanga physically strong, naama mentally strong" ("They are physically strong, we are mentally strong")


I didn't probe further, but his answer got strongly etched in my memory.


I'd request you to not take this statement literally and start an argument here. The point is not about whether this statement is true or not.


The body is flexible when we are born and it slowly deteriorates as we age. Whereas, the mind is fragile when we are kids and slowly builds strength through life experiences. 


Physical health across the world has been deteriorating over the past 3 decades because of food habits, sedentary lifestyle, various ailments, lack of sleep, etc.


Mental strength / mental stamina / resilience of our mind - let's ponder over this for a few seconds. 


Think about your grandparents and how they responded to stressful situations. 

With each passing generation, our mental resilience seems to be reducing. 


The practices to build our mental strength are no longer prioritized - deep friendships, a sense of community, disciplined life, delayed gratification, concentration/focus on a certain activity, work/life harmony, and the strong support of an extended family.


The practices that affect our mental health have become common parlance - instant gratification, excess sensory inputs, constant stimulations, unwillingness to accept and open up our vulnerabilities to a close friend/family member, increased work pressure, individualistic mindset, and the ever-increasing aspiration towards reaching the goals set by the society.


It's a double whammy when our physical health also gets impacted by the low priority given to our mental health.


A few recent observations:

  • Wanna eat chocolate? There is a 10-min delivery option provided by 5-6 apps that will gratify your desire instantly.
  • Continuous honking from cars as soon as the signal turns green or about to turn green
  • Movies have become more violent and gory these days
  • Reels/Shorts have reduced our attention span so much. Mindless scrolling of these short videos is considered a relaxation activity and yet we feel more drained after 20 minutes 
  • Came across a job description on LinkedIn with this tag - "Very full time, Remote". What does this mean? Earlier, you were taking restroom breaks and now you don't get those too?


If the same question was asked today, my grandfather's response would have been - "oru vithiyaasamum illa, ellarum namma strengthsa ezhandhu nikkurom" ("No difference now, all of us have lost our strengths").


Let's gain back our strength - both physical and mental. Our conscious efforts will help us to choose the right path instead of the easy one.

Jun 28, 2022

9 steps to simplify life in 40s



 Aging is like that dreaded, inevitable board exam.

Some choose to go unprepared and wing it at the last minute, hoping that luck would favor them.

Some end up facing out-of-syllabus questions in the form of sudden, unexpected ailments.

Some might know that the exam questions will be tough and yet they wouldn't be willing to prepare for it.

Only a few start their preparation many years in advance.

"What if I go unprepared? What's the worst that could happen?", I hear your question!

Our entrenched habits, routines, rituals, beliefs, and character can either be life-serving or life-crippling. If these belong to the latter, then facing aging unprepared will end up causing complications not only for us but also for our loved ones (spouse, children, and grandchildren).

For boarding an international flight, we reach the airport 3-4 hours earlier. There are multiple steps and procedures before we set foot on the flight. Do we directly enter the flight at the last minute? Not possible.

For the journey into the next stage of our lives, don't we need to start our preparations at least a few years earlier?

I believe the 40s is the right age to start the process when we have the physical strength and mental willpower to take action.

How does one prepare for aging?

Introspect and Simplify ALL aspects of our lives

Here are 9 steps that I have learned through observation and experiences in the past couple of years. For ease of reading, I'm writing them in a YOU tone.

(1) Reduce or Eliminate dependency on lifelong medications

If you are diagnosed with health ailments and need to be under medication for a lifetime, look into the prescriptions. Understand the dosage and need for every single pill. Correct your lifestyle habits (food, exercise, sleep) and reduce the medications as much as possible. Without lifestyle changes, the dosage will keep increasing, causing numerous side effects and reducing the quality of life in your senile years.

(2) Reduce the number of things needed to live a day in your life

Make a list of things you use every single day. Understand the need for each one of them. Try and experiment to live off a single suitcase for a few months and see what are those absolute essentials you need.

(3) Reduce the number of possessions you own

Get rid of items you no longer need. Declutter your home and digital storage. Don't put that arduous task of clearing out your hoarded items on top of your loved ones' heads after you move on.

(4) Reduce the number of tasks you do in your daily routine

If you reach a stage in your life where you no longer have the physical/mental ability to pursue a task, learn to let go of them. There is no point dumping those tasks on your loved ones, just because you consider them to be important. Your beliefs and values may not resonate with your children. Forcing them to perform such tasks will only lead to conflict.

(5) Reduce attachment towards any rituals or routines, though they might have helped you in the past. Do not be rigid about the exact procedures or steps. Go easy on yourself and your loved ones. 

(6) Change habits that are not life-serving

It is first our DUTY to take care of our health before we put the DUTY guilt on top of our spouse/children's heads. It is unfair that we let our loved ones face the consequences of our poor health choices. Let's analyze those habits that spoil our health and try to stop them as early as possible.

(7) Become self-reliant in basic tasks 

If you are a man, learn these in your 40s if you haven't done so earlier - making coffee/tea for yourself, cooking basic meals, serving your food, using a washing machine, washing the cups/plates that you use, etc.

If you are a woman, learn these in your 40s if you haven't done so earlier - handling finances, visiting banks, understanding expenses, investments, making online bill payments, etc.

Ensure there is shared knowledge among family members on where important documents are organized in the home and the digital world.

(8) Understand common mental patterns and habitual reactions through self-awareness and observation. If our patterns point to entitlement, worry, anxiety, fear, egoistic attitude, or demand energies, then these end up becoming a huge bottleneck in our 60s/70s, when our physical body isn't at its full potential and our mental faculties are slowing down. 

Keep in mind, that our spouse will also be going through similar changes, both physically and mentally. Our children will be in their 30s, working full time and raising their young children. Such habitual patterns will only cause more mental agony to others in the family.

(9) Reduce desires as you age

Our health situation might be limiting us on multiple fronts - be it a restriction of physical movement, diet restrictions, slowing down digestion, etc. Yes, we might have eaten 12 pooris in one go in our 40s, but our digestive fire in our 70s may not be able to take this load. Reduce the quantity of food intake and number of meals if possible.

The 40s is considered the ideal time to build our retirement corpus. Agree with this thought, but unless we prioritize the above-mentioned areas of life, the retirement corpus will lose its value in no time.


Jun 27, 2022

2 issues with Don



 "Why should a person always become a doctor or an engineer? What if that person doesn't want to be either?"- D asked me this question while we were watching the Tamil movie "Don". She had earlier watched Nanban/3 idiots as well. I told her that it isn't that way these days and there are various career options available.

Though we both had fun while watching the movie (especially the scenes where SJ Surya aced it with superb voice modulation and body language), there are multiple aspects of the storytelling which I don't agree to.


(1) Talent doesn't arrive overnight in a parcel

In the movie, the hero realizes his talent one fine evening. He is not shown as someone who consciously works towards identifying his talent. Rather, he is shown as someone having fun, with a wish that he would identify his talent in those 4 years of Engineering.


It creates a false hope in the minds of youngsters. Talent doesn't dawn on you overnight, without putting any effort. None of us are born with a preset talent unless we are child prodigy.


As we progress on a particular skill, we eventually identify that we are good at it and then it becomes our talent. I have experienced this multiple times in my life so far.


I was never good at writing in English in my own words. Though I understood the concepts in school, I used to struggle to write on my own. I ended up mugging the text, to avoid this writing challenge. Many of us who think in our native language face this struggle. When I started blogging in 2004, I faced multiple issues - the words were not flowing freely, there were multiple grammatical errors, sentence structuring wasn't clear, and many more. Because of my consistent writing habit over the past 17 years, my writing skill has improved and has now become one of my talents. I see the same pattern, repeating for other skills such as reading, public speaking, and cooking.


A skill becomes your talent ONLY after you have invested conscious time and effort into it. Love what you do until it becomes your talent. Then you will do what you love.


(2) Hitting a child is not an expression of parental LOVE

Many people liked Don because of the emotional short story in the end - "Untold love". For me, that was the most problematic part of the whole movie.


The father character is portrayed as someone who yells at the child, slaps him, hits him violently in his college, pushes him to get 90% and above, doesn't encourage him for anything. He is depicted as a villain throughout the movie. I don't agree with the ending where child violence is justified in the name of love.


As I was watching the initial few scenes, all it reminded me of was the Senthamarai character in the movie "Adhisaya Piravi" and the dialogue he tells Rajnikanth - "Nee ozhukkam ullavanaa varanum nu dhaan onna adikkaren".


Will the audience agree that Senthamarai had untold love for Rajni? Or is it because in Don, the father character is played by Samuthirakani that we wouldn't mind the shift from villain to hero in the end?


Jun 24, 2022

Tune into this channel



 Which is your favorite channel?

When I was a kid, there was only Doordarshan, for a few hours in a day. Then came DD Metro, Sun TV, and 100 other channels. The 90s and 2000s saw more and more channels getting added to DTH. After the penetration of smartphones, many OTT platforms added more to our list of things to watch. Since 2016-17, Youtube channels also got added to our list - it is no longer 100 channels on TV, we have now 10000+ channels on our smartphone.

We now have access to some fantastic, useful, and inspirational content. My cooking skills have improved over the past decade, thanks to food bloggers and YouTubers.

When Youtube was getting popular in India, many of the channels were focused on a particular topic - recipes, home decor, fitness, programming, personal finance, etc. But in the last few years, vlogging has become a trend - some of them create vlogs daily, sharing every single detail of their day, garnering millions of subscribers. I'm clueless why would a "Bathroom tour" video gain a million views!

As our Agila Ulaga Superstar Shiva says, "marakkaama surprise pannunga", Youtube channels keep giving us surprises for the sake of "content". TV serial makers and ad creators can take inspiration from vloggers.

I used to follow a few such vloggers, back in 2017-18. When I asked myself what did I gain by watching such daily vlogs, the answers that came up were - menu planning, home organization, positivity, inspiration, travel ideas etc. Some of them were for just time pass.

These vlogs are carefully curated, edited and made to look pretty. No doubt, they take a lot of effort. But it doesn't convey the complete picture of his/her life. Moreover, someone leading their lives a certain way can inspire us to an extent, but when the intention changes to copying or imitating a certain vlogger's life template, that's when it becomes an issue for us.

Such an intention (consciously or unconsciously) leads us to desire the material objects they use, places they travel to, restaurants they visit and more. One might argue that such vlogs help us in discovering new objects or experiences. But they also inadvertently increase our desire for things we don't need.

More than the above reasons, what's more concerning is this fact -

The more we spend time looking into other people's lives for inspiration, the less time we spend looking into our own lives.

Sometimes, I wonder if we are consciously using these distractions to avoid watching our "inner channel" with a Subscriber count of 1.

Why do we avoid or ignore our channel?

Is it the fear of facing our thoughts?

Is it boring or uneventful?

Is it the fear of facing uncomfortable questions from our conscious mind?

Is it because of the perceived effort that seems daunting?

When we start tuning into our inner channel, we start to understand ourselves better - our needs, our feelings, our emotions, and our body's signals. Our intuition starts to get sharpened. We feel comfortable being who we are. Our self-esteem improves. We feel confident to take on new challenges.

The benefits are plenty. But to experience them, we need to go within - every single day. How?

By "doing nothing" - Just sit for a few minutes, preferably with eyes closed and just observe.

By consciously reducing distractions and cutting down the external channels we tune into every day.

Techniques like meditation, self-inquiry, journaling, self-expression through art, being in solitude, going for a walk outside, and being amidst nature - prioritize these activities and schedule time for them.

Tune into your inner channel. It will "surprise you" :)

Jun 23, 2022

7 reasons why we feel overwhelmed

Many ailments manifest because of imbalances in our bodies. One of the important reasons for such imbalances is the impact of our thoughts on our nervous and circulatory systems.

Given the busy lifestyles we lead, there is always a sense of overwhelm, that keeps our sympathetic nervous system on active mode for most of the day.

Many of us start our mornings with a 10-min meditation or Pranayama practice, but as the demands of the day take over, the relaxation we experienced in the morning vanishes, and our todo lists and appointments keep us on our toes, leaving behind a sense of overwhelm at the end of the day.

Why do we feel overwhelmed? What causes this feeling? Only when we understand this deeper, we will be able to figure out sustainable ways to come out of it. Here are 7 reasons behind it. There could be more as well.

(1) When we blindly accept success metrics defined by the society and work towards the same

What are those metrics - a few examples below

If you are an employee - pay range, designation/title, material goals, status, lifestyle.

If you are running a software business - valuation, DAUs, WAUs, MAUs, Subscriptions

If you are looking to stay fit - weight, BMI, number of steps, calorie intake, macros

If you are a social media influencer - number of followers/subscribers, likes, comments

Let's question the metrics we value. Does this make sense? How do I validate the same? Am I chasing after this metric, just because someone said so?

(2) When we compare what we don't have with others who have (without realizing that we are comparing apples to oranges)

I read this brilliant insight somewhere - if you are jealous about someone, say ABC because of a single trait and feel, "I wish I had what ABC has", then would you be willing to exchange your life with ABC's life completely? We are not fully aware of what ABC's life is - we only see bits and pieces through social media, hearsay, or our interactions.

(3) When we take up too many responsibilities and put pressure on ourselves 

We don't recognize our limits and end up pushing ourselves to a point of burnout.

When life circumstances change suddenly, we do not want to change our routines and adapt by either taking a break, pausing, or slowing down.

We end up trying to be in 2 places at once, as we don't know which one to prioritize and which one to let go of. 

For eg, I had signed up for the 21-day Satvic Yoga challenge which happens every morning between 6:30-7:45 AM. I also need to get my daughter's tiffin boxes ready. Initially, I had thought that I'd quickly finish cooking and attend the class on time. But I realized that I was putting undue pressure on myself. Since the recordings are made available, I now slowly finish cooking, pack her boxes, get her ready and then start my Yoga practice at 8 AM in a calm state of mind.

(4) When we set an expectation to complete something in a fixed time 

The word "deadline" by itself sounds so scary, isn't it? Either these timelines are set by ourselves or by someone else. Timelines help us to make progress with a goal, but are these realistic? If someone else sets them, are we confidently asserting that these are unrealistic and we need more time? 

(5) When we become so rigid with our values

Values provide a guiding light for our decisions. But when we become too rigid, the same values can hurt us as well. For eg, I usually finish my dinner before 7 PM. Last night, it got delayed and I ended up eating my dinner at 8 PM. I had prepared phulkas, capsicum paneer gravy, and rajma masala. Heavy items, but just because my dinner time got delayed, am I going to skip my meal? I was hungry, and I ate 3 phulkas with the sides. No regrets, no worry over whether the food will get digested or not.

(6) When we want to be in control of other's behaviors

The fact to remember is that we cannot control anyone's behaviors, except ours. If we try to do so, it only causes more stress and disappointments.

I'm sure many parents would be able to understand this feeling in the morning rush hours. If the child takes up more time to get ready OR if he/she hasn't packed the books to be carried to school, we start getting tensed, sometimes yelling at the child too and thinking to ourselves, "I wish he/she is more organized", "I wish he/she becomes more responsible" etc.

(7) When we try to control situations beyond our control

My main reason for getting overwhelmed is this - trying to control and stay on top of all situations. Again, impossible, but hard to accept.

For eg, when D's school started this academic year, her school bus was coming very late. I was getting irritated because of this delay. I was checking my phone constantly to see the current bus location. This continued for 2-3 days, after which I mellowed down and started to accept that this delay isn't under my control - huge traffic, roads dug up for various reasons, inefficient bus routes, etc.

Which of these reasons resonate with you the most?

Jun 22, 2022

Labels on your bottle



 A few days back, I came across a video where I heard this beautiful insight (not able to get the link now)

"Imagine a large ocean full of water. That's universal consciousness. When we fill a bottle with water from the same ocean, the water inside the bottle is our individual consciousness. The bottle is our body that provides space for our individual consciousness to reside. When we eventually depart, the bottle is opened and the water gets released back to the ocean."


As I pondered over this, it made sense to expand on this further. 


Imagine this bottle to be a transparent one made with glass.


As we grow up, we associate with identities or labels. These get stuck on the transparent walls of the bottle, preventing us from seeing the Universal consciousness that we all are part of.


We enter adulthood, adding more and more labels to our bottles. Some of those labels are easy to remove with little effort. But for those identities with which we associate strongly, the glue becomes tighter, making it harder to remove the labels.


When we are unable to remove a label stuck to a new bowl, what do we do? We end up applying heat which loosens the glue. The label comes off easily after a few minutes of heat.


Similarly, for our identity labels that are hard to remove, heat comes in the form of sudden, unexpected challenges and obstacles from the Universe. It is painful to experience this heat but is necessary to remove the label. 


As the label gets removed one after another, the transparency of the bottle brings new sights and fresh perspectives. We start connecting the dots together. We go on a journey within to understand the similarities, although the bottles are in various shapes and sizes.


During this journey, it is imperative that we don't end up adding further new labels that hide our vision. The journey itself can result in new labels being created, with a stronger glue that will be harder to remove. 


We need to be mindful of the fact that every bottle goes through his/her own unique journey to merge with the ocean. No journey is superior or inferior. There is no competition here. It is not a ladder where someone who started this journey many years back considers himself/herself superior. A better comparison would be a maze with multiple doors - someone opens 100 doors to get to the exit whereas another gets to open only 10 doors to get to the exit.


I might be completely wrong in my interpretation here. If you have a different perspective, I'd love to hear.


P.S. It is a strange irony that I wrote about finding your slashes (ensemble of avatars) in Sep 2016. Well, unlearning is a part of everyone's journey. And I accept the perspective that made sense back then and now welcoming this change in perspective as well.


Jun 21, 2022

My Yoga Journey



 My first experience with Yoga was in Jan 2004. With the usual enthusiasm of a New Year, I signed up for a 2-month Yoga class scheduled in a nearby Ganesha temple. The class was between 6-7 AM. Waking up at 5:30 am, getting ready for the class, and walking to the temple which was a km away - with Bengaluru winter, I lasted for 2 weeks 😁 The Yoga teacher was fantastic and he conducted the classes with utmost diligence. The charges were only ₹200 per month (more of a voluntary donation). Yet I didn't continue.

The same session in 2005, continued the practice for around 50 days this time but didn't complete it. 

Signed up yet again for the same Yoga class in 2006, with my husband this time. It was a memorable experience going to classes with him, bunking a few mornings, and making fun of each other while we struggled in balancing poses. The temple atmosphere in the early mornings was so serene, listening to Gan Ganapateye song playing on the speaker and walking back home, feeling fresh and energetic. That year, I lasted for almost 45 days before giving up.

Yoga just kept visiting me now and then after that point - a few days at the Art of Living programme, 2-3 days of practice during holidays in Kerala, and a week-long practice at Swaswara. But I have never been able to consistently follow through in my 20s. 

Often at times, I used to wonder - What if I had been consistent at Yoga from 2004 onwards? What if I never had to go through all the PCOD-related issues?

Pondering over "WHAT IF"s isn't of much help. The important realization for me was this - 

The Universe pulls us in the direction meant for us. We might either end up hearing the call immediately. Or we might be distracted by society's pressures. No matter what, we will pay heed to the call eventually - in weeks, months, or years.

Signed up for a Yoga class in May 2015. Thanks to the Universe and my amazing teacher Arundhati, I understood that Yoga is the path that works for me in improving my physical health. No running, no gymming.

I was mostly consistent until Feb 2020. My strength, flexibility, and stamina slowly improved in these years, because of the guidance of my teacher.

By reading many books on Yoga philosophy, I learned that Yoga is much more than Asanas. I started to experience the positive effects regular Yoga practice was bringing on my body and mind.

Pandemic arrived and I ended up practicing on my own. I managed to keep at it until Apr 2021. And then, a year-long gap (except for a few days of "guilt-driven" practice here and there) came due to family emergencies. Strength, flexibility, and stamina all went for a toss.

Universe brought in the opportunity to sign up for the Satvic movement's 21-day Yoga challenge. It's now been 16 days of daily practice. Yet again, an amazing teacher Radhika - very patient and diligent in guiding us through her online classes. So so grateful to her for rekindling my love for Yoga.

That's been my Yoga journey so far. Wishing all practitioners, teachers, and therapists a very happy International Yoga Day! One day isn't enough to celebrate this profound wisdom.

Jun 20, 2022

Physical Health


 

The mind plays an important role in influencing our body. If that's the case, then why do we focus so much on physical health - food, exercise, movement, and sleep?

According to Yoga philosophy,

When the body stretches, the mind also stretches.

When the body opens up, the mind also opens up.

When the body relaxes, the mind also relaxes.

When the body tenses up, the mind also gets tensed.


Both our body and mind influence each other. Working on both these aspects is essential for good health and vitality.


Starting with improving our physical health makes a lot more sense because

  • Working and correcting our physical body is relatively easier than the mind. There is a physical limit to the quantity we can eat in a meal. There is a physical limit to the point we can push our body. There is a physical limit to the point we can go without sleep. But for our mind, the limit is on the higher side - one can have 10000 thoughts in a day. It is hard to process, analyze or control each one of them.

  • Our choices in our daily lives have a direct and immediate impact on our body. Eat a single wrong meal and immediately, we feel the sensation of bloating, indigestion, and lethargy. Whereas, a single worry has a subtler effect on our mind, though the impression is made in the subconscious.

  • Working on our physical body is also easier to quantify and much more tangible to measure our progress. Of course, the metrics we use should be relevant and meaningful.

  • As the body starts to get in shape, the mind opens up automatically and gets ready for healing.


Our physical body is considered a temple of our soul. As we take up the path to improve our physical health, let's be gentle with our body without putting it through sudden extremes

  • Neither overeating nor undereating
  • Neither overexerting nor being a couch potato
  • Neither oversleeping nor being a night owl

Jun 17, 2022

Book Review: The Effects of Yoga on Hypertension by Dr Swami Shankardevananda



 My ILs were diagnosed with hypertension in their early 40s. As the years progressed, diabetes followed and then a few other ailments got added to their diagnosis.

I have always asked myself this question - "No smoking, no drinking alcohol, no meat. They are vegetarians. Their main meals are mostly home-cooked food. Yes, packaged foods intake was high, central obesity, sedentary life, and lack of exercise. BUT, will these alone contribute to all their ailments? Is it due to the side effects of the progressively increasing dosage of all their medications and health supplements? There has to be something more".

It felt like an important piece of this jigsaw puzzle was missing.

As I started reading up more on the power of our mind and our thoughts and how they influence our body, the missing piece started to show up. And this book "Yoga on hypertension" made it more visible. Hypertension is one of the many psychosomatic diseases of today.

Though the focus is on hypertension, this book is relevant for a general understanding of good health.

The author has first explained the circulatory system in great detail in simple language. After setting the context, he talks about the key topic - the autonomic nervous system and its role in blood pressure. He presents a convincing argument on how excessive sympathetic stimulation is one of the key contributing factors behind hypertension. I couldn't agree more on this, having observed the patterns of my family elders.

He shares the present medical view - causes and treatment protocols. He then presents a Yogic view, where he stresses the role our mind plays in the cause of hypertension. The chapter on the connection between our endocrine glands, Chakras, and our nervous system was so fascinating to read.

As for the Cure, the author suggests a holistic view - eliminating our mental issues (anxiety, worry, guilt) through various strategies, regular practice of Asana, Pranayama, Yoga Nidra, and meditation. Shavasana is beneficial for hypertension through conscious relaxation. Many breathing techniques are also recommended, along with a structured Asana and Pranayama practice plan.

Some of the key takeaways:

"Worry was one of the major factors behind hypertension".

"Both heart and blood vessels respond very readily to fluctuations in the mind and emotions."

"Typical cardiac patients had in common a competitive, aggressive, ambitious, stressful lifestyle."

"The mind is a more subtle component than the physical and subject to faster change. It is impressed or indented, by our internal reaction to external events"

"When we find a place within where we can refresh ourselves, it becomes easier to handle external problems."

Highly recommend this book for all, especially if you are diagnosed with hypertension or if you are on the borderline.


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