[ Known forms of meditation : Trance dancing, drumming, ritual body postures, yoga asanas, yoga breathing, yoga meditation, mantra, yantra, vipassana, zazen, zen in action, Haiku, brush painting, tai chi, quigong, prayer, sufi dancing, candle meditation, prayer beads, needle crafts, journaling, gardening, ….. ]
My chosen method of meditation is yoga. I am a beginner.
My yoga. It is an ever evolving relationship. It’s special. It’s personal. It’s free from capitalism. It’s free from cults that requires you to follow without asking questions. It’s ever evolving. It’s mine. I am no one to talk about the asanas or the philosophy. The masters should do the talking and I will listen. My teachers deserve to be put on a pedestal and worshipped for their way of life. Allow me :
As children, we would see my mother sleeps on the stone floor next to the bed in the night. No, it’s not some form of patriarchy at play. She meditates in shavasana and falls into deep sleep. She wakes up, does pranayama and a yoga routine that she has been doing for decades. She doesn’t show off. She wont preach. It’s personal. I understood the extent of it’s importance to her when she was battling cancer. It was stage 3. Chemo destroyed her body. Took the life out of her. Made her bed ridden. She would throw up a dozen times and faint from lack of energy by the end of the day. Given what’s been going, she refused to surrender to the disease. She would wake up in the morning and do yoga. 5 minutes on some days. 10 minutes on a good day. 30 minutes after a few months. She wasn’t going to give it up to cancer. Not her yoga. It gave her strength to face life during a rather dark period in her life.
I used to practice one-on-one with him in the studio where he taught. One breath, one movement and instrumental music. It was a dance. We would move in sync. You can move from pose a to pose b like a drill. You can dance into it with grace and rhythm. He made yoga a joy to practice. We became great friends. On one fine day, he bought a 1000$ motorbike and travelled around Arizona. The Canyons got to him. He got the travel bug. That next week, he packed his bags and moved to Asia. I never saw him again.
( His Instagram )
“Dont recoil from the pain. Imagine you are a coma patient. This is the first time in years that you are feeling your legs. When you move them, it’s extremely painful. Do you quit the first opportunity to feel your legs in years and let them be limp ? Or move ? ”
I can be lazy and not go all the way. He showed me that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. “No negative thoughts”, he would yell from across the room at me in his booming voice. I still hear it in the back of my head.
He designed a routine for me and said ‘do this for the next 6 months. We will add more later’. I was baffled. I was expecting a lot of hand holding. “This is not gymnastics. I am not going to teach you how to jump from pose A to pose B”, he said. He is a Zen practitioner and it reflected in his teaching methods. I am very thankful to him for giving me the freedom to discover my own path. Yoga can be a from of moving meditation.
The father of modern yoga. This book changed my life. (I got interested in minimalism because of him). Sometimes, the tradition can be blindly followed while the underlaying intention/principles lost. He taught yoga like a doctor prescribes medicine – for healing. He personalized it based on the individual body type and the desired result. His way of life and thought process has a lot to teach.
Know your body
I experimented on myself in my 20s. I tried every kind of exercise class I could get myself into. What are the weak links in my body ? What do sprints do for me ? What does long distance running do for me? What should I do to become lean ? What should I do to put on muscle tone ? What should I do to increase my upper body strength ? What should I do to build stronger legs ? What should I do to get the roundest backside ? What is the quickest way to disperse stress without the exercise tiring me out ? What can I do to slip into a thinking zone as I exercise ? What can I sneak in, during the day to refresh the mind ? If I had 5 minutes per day to exercise, what should I do? I have kept an exercise journal for the last 7 years. I have experimented with various ratios and proportions of diet. What does raw food do for me ? Whats the least amount of meat I can eat ? How does my body process gluten ? What sort of vegan food is satisfying to eat ? How much caffeine can I handle ? What does alcohol do to me ? What is my detox strategy ? What’s my ideal plant based diet ? Should I be spending the money on macro nutrients and exotic super foods ? How do I know what’s true from what I want to be true ? Because placebo effect is strong in this field. I think I have “some” understanding of what works for me.
My Current Routine
I have taken yoga classes for years from various institutes in India, Arizona, Texas, Lousiana and California. I no longer do the style of yoga where a teacher tells you when to move from pose A to pose B. I want to move to my own breath. I don’t want to be rushed into it and out of it. I want it to be moving meditation. I have a routine that works for me. It’s a derivative of Tony Horton’s P90x yoga & Ashtanga primary series. On somedays, I move to it with delicious instrumental music in the background. On somedays, I need the quiet.
An ideal weekly schedule (never happens) :
p90x yoga inspired routine – 2 days
30 surya namaskar – 3 days
HIIT / hike – 1 day
If I get a 5/7, I consider it a success. Usually, HIIT days become rest days because I dread it. I either should plough through or find something more pleasurable to do. On an average, it’s a 4/7 and one day of house cleaning. I do a little gardening everyday.
Exercise, Not an option
I don’t feel good if I dont exercise in the morning. The day is less productive. I have less energy. I have no appetite. It’s a life lived with a veil put on.
The day one of my period is awful. I empty my menstrual cup 3-4 times. It drains me. It makes me want to stay in bed and never get out. When I exercise regularly, menstruation is a non-event and slips into the background. If I don’t exercise enough during the month, it takes a center stage and I become dependent on people around me.
I see the stats on sexual assault and it horrifies me. What can we women do in self defense ? Men are physically stronger by default. I won’t be able to over power and fight back given my lack of upper body strength. Taking a self defense class has been on my list for a long time. ( Being fit is a life skill for us women, in my opinion. )
White noise :
I found every form of exercise I did in the past, meditative after I reached a certain proficiency. But with yoga, I think you can tap into that mind space right away.
I watched the Twilight movie and came out inspired. I somehow saw it as a running movie. I was impressed by the agility of the vampires on screen. ( I downloaded the background score from the film and used it as exercise music. ) I don’t remember much else from the film. When I was running, I found inspiration everywhere. I now find inspiration for yoga when I see someone dance, when I see a child do cartwheels in the park, when my cat cleans his tail, when I see beautiful empty spaces, …. I see it everywhere.
On game day for Phoenix Suns, I used to watch basket ball games from the thread mill while wearing my Nash sports jersey. I would stay on the machine for as long as they are playing. It’s my way of showing support to my team. I know how hard it is to go through a game. It’s easier to scream at them and show disappointment from a couch/bar while snacking. Move with your team, is my motto.
I adore people who exercise/dance/climb/hike/move/…. I want an athletic dog. Cinco, my cat, thinks he is an athletic dog. My partner plays soccer, football, volleyball, badminton, racquetball and bikes.
The women in my family exercise. Lot of them are kick ass athletes. When we meet, we always schedule an exercise class that we can attend together. Some relationships are strengthened over sweat and play. Put us all on a couch and we get restless.
“You learn a lot about a person as a teammate in a sport. The camaraderie between players, the healthy competitiveness, the humor when lady luck ignores you, the gentlemanly conduct on the court, sportsmanship in defeat, magnanimity in victory.” I fell in love with my partner on a badminton court.
He is way fitter than I. When we go on hikes, he is like a rabbit running in the front while I play catch up. I exercise harder so that I won’t become the weak link in our team slowing us down. I get to take part in sporting activities because I tag along with him and his friends. He inspires me.
I once cried on a volleyball court. Not because we were loosing. I was the only woman on the court. The men in my team made a silent pact to cover me and didn’t let me play. After the game ended, an opponent came up to me and said “next time, choose a team who has more trust in you”. And the tears came tumbling down. [ Puts Serena’s incident in perspective. ]
My mother’s solution to every ailment is exercise. You can go to her with a problem and she will ask if you have been exercising lately, to begin her diagnosis.
I can’t do a single pull up. It’s been on my list for years. A few years ago, I couldn’t do a singe push up. I checked myself into a bootcamp and could do 7 at the end of 3 months in camp. It’s amazing as to how our bodies obey.
With style, in my opinion : 1/3rd of it is in the way you think. 1/3rd of it is in the clothing. 1/3rd of it is body language and body confidence. Exercise, diet and sleep should get more coverage on this personal style blog. The way you stand can change the silhouette. Limbs look longer when they are toned. The way you slouch can change the whole demeanor and make the clothes look limp. I don’t wear a section of my closet when I am not feeling my personal best. If I don’t exercise, my calf muscle atrophies and I dislike how stick like my legs look in proportion to rest of my body. ( It’s all in the ratios and proportions. ) The organs that visibly put on weight when I do, is my bust and thighs. Shirts that gape and jeans that are constricting are no fun to wear. Hence the choice of boyfriend shirting and denim with stretch. I did the math and built my closet accordingly.
Zero-waste Exercise :
With yoga, I don’t have to travel some place or own equipment that needs electricity or need special facilities to get my workout. I also don’t think I need certain kind of clothes to do my routine. It’s a low waste activity. Since this is a style blog, I will list what I wear. I do yoga at home in my living room and we have our privacy. It’s him and I + an outdoor cat. I usually practice in a sports bra and running shorts. Unfortunately, they are made of synthetic fabrics that contribute to the micro-fiber pollution of our water bodies. In the future, I plan to look into cotton undergarments. If I go to a yoga studio, I wear running shorts and a tshirt. When I have guests over, I wear tights and a t-shirt. I try not to wear the polyester / technical clothing unless it’s really required. Every time you wash your polyester, you contribute to the micro fiber pollution of our water bodies. Hiking a mile or two, car camping, going for a walk, … etc does not require special clothing in my opinion. I reserve my exercise clothes for the harder/longer workouts.
Inventory of my active wear closet
Short sleeve tshirt X 2
Long sleeve tshirt X 2
Tank top X 1
Cropped legging X 1
Full length legging X 1
Sports bra X 5
Running shorts with built in underwear X 3
This is the right amount for me.
This is all of my athletic clothing. I haven’t purchased anything new in the last 5 years except for the yearly replacement of sports bras. Lululemon, during its nascent years was Made in Canada and had exceptional quality. I was gifted some of these clothes by Maanasa & my aunt. At university, i once had my laundry stolen, lost most of my clothes and was very upset. My sister bought me some exercise clothes to cheer me up. The women in my life exercise and love the clothes like I do. At the height of it’s popularity, Lululemon were selling out their fresh stock in less than an hour on a weekly basis. I saw it as a sign and bought some stock. I sold it when it doubled and bought myself some exercise clothes with the profit. It’s the same clothes I wear today. I don’t think of clothes as investment purchases but this is a zero-loss purchase.
Notice all the color in my active wear closet ? I used to run on the street at 7pm and safety was a concern. I solo hike and I want to be visible. I don’t want neutral exercise clothing. It’s alright to not have it match. It’s alright for it to be too bright. I like my hot pinks and periwinkles when I sweat.
Mat, by Jade Yoga.
“Jade mats are eco-friendly as they are made with a renewable, sustainable resource – natural rubber, tapped from rubber trees. Jade mats contain no PVC or other synthetic rubbers. Perhaps most importantly, Jade yoga mats are made in the United States in compliance with all US environmental and labor laws. Finally, through its partnership with Trees for the Future, JadeYoga plants a tree for every yoga mat you buy.”
My mat was purchased from Yoga to the People, a donation based studio. They take orders on mats and get them in bulk on a monthly basis. Do check out your fav local studios for packaging free mats.
If you own any yoga mat, this article might be useful : how to recycle your mat at the end of it’s life.
Fav books on yoga
Left : A 101 on meditation.
Right : Krishnamacharya, the mothership.
[ Disclaimer : This post is by no means meant to be a prescriptive on yoga or exercise clothing or meditation or life. ]
To end this post, a parody video.