Monthly Archives: October 2012

Yoga: Invert Yourself – It’s Good For You

I’ve talked a lot about Surya Namaskars but another yoga pose that rocks is one called Vipreet Karni.  “Vipreet” means inverted or reversed and “Karni” means action.

Vipreet Karni is classified as a “Mudra”, which also means posture (like Asana).  A Mudra’s goal is to bring stability to the body and mind by focusing the mind on prana – life force, control – with a specific posture. It brings stability to the body through stability of the mind. In that, it differs from Asana whose primary purpose is to make the body stronger and healthier.

Beginning

Here’s a picture of the beginner’s version of Vipreet Karni. Lie flat on your back, arms spread wide for support, lift your legs straight up (and I mean, 90 degrees up) and hold. When you can see your toes, that means your head and chin are in the right position too.

It sounds easier than it is so I recommend that when it is first tried, you do it with your legs supported against a wall.

Before I had learned how to do the more advanced version of this posture, I remember practicing this wall-supported beginner’s version in some very interesting circumstances.

We were six women on our Roman holiday last year. After miles of walking and playing tourist all day in that beautiful city, our bodies were exhausted, our legs and feet aching like crazy. One friend suggested getting into this posture to calm those aching limbs.

So, at the end of a hard day’s work and before our daily wine and dinner “meetings”, we would get ready with Vipreet Karni, the beginner’s kind. That meant assuming this pose on our respective beds, limbs against the closest walls and staying that way for 5-10-15 minutes. And, boy did it help!  

So what if there were six females in weird positions looking a bit loopy?  It was just for a few minutes. And it was so worth it. Thanks B!

That was my first taste of it, and it really was quite straightforward and simple.

Going Beyond The Beginning

Well, a few weeks ago, my yoga instructor introduced the much more advanced version of this posture to me during our regular class.  

No more simply lying on your back and relaxing, oh no. Now, it was time to get your torso up, up and away. 

An attempt at that is pictured above, except you will notice that it’s not quite there yet (it’s from a couple of weeks ago). Legs are not aligned straight with the torso and achieving a 90 degrees angle with the floor is but a gleam in someone’s eye. 

How to get there

Step 1 to get to this version of Vipreet Karni is to start out with the Halasana (Plow Pose) – pictured below:

From here, slowly lift just your legs, straight up, with unbent knees and without moving your hips from the Halasana position.

Ensure that the torso is also up straight (lengthen it!) so that it is at 90 degrees with the floor. It’s not quite there in the 2 week old picture above – simply not straight enough.

All the weight of the body must be on your supporting elbows, forearms and nape. Thankfully, you are allowed to support your body with your arms!  

Once you are there, try to hold that posture for some time. This is one place where your ‘mind over body‘ definitely comes into play.

We hold this position for a count of 80 now – and that will soon increase, I’m sure.  

Would you believe me if I said it was extremely tough and then some, at first? Honestly, 90 degrees seemed an impossible feat for me to achieve (no kidding!). 

But like with anything to do with yoga – you must try, try and then try again.  Here’s a picture that is more recent. 

See, it didn’t take that long for it to improve, and there’s room to continue to hone it with practice. My instructor says – you can do it for one minute, two, five or ten minutes – it can’t help but benefit you.

Vipreet Karni has become one of my favorites. One reason could very well be that I was so sure I would fail at it. Instead! I have been able to achieve it (or nearly there, anyway) and can actually own up to some bragging rights. The other (real) reason  is that it make me feel great. Body and mind.

What are its benefits?

This posture works everything in your body from the legs to the nape, especially the back and the abdomen. Strengthening, lengthening and increasing flexibility. And, let’s not forget, the real intent is to strengthen the mind! To develop control and focus.

Modern teachers believe that Vipreet Karni is good for virtually anything that ails you – Anxiety, Digestive issues, Headaches, Eye Sight, Insomnia, Depression, Arthritis, and on and on and on. What an awesome range that is!

In fact, yogis from ancient times claimed that after six months of Vipreet Karni, “grey hairs and wrinkles become inconspicuous“, and that it “destroys” old age and death.  🙂

Do you need any more inspiration to try it out?  I mean, really?

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The Journey That I Can Never Forget

Last weekend was an important anniversary for me. 

October 13.

That date, in all of its bittersweet glory,  is indelibly marked on my brain.

It was the day that I set off on a very long journey, embarking on a fresh, new life to a different continent – with fear and confusion uppermost on my mind.

Picture an unsophisticated, super-naive just-turned seventeen year old girl from quite a few years ago in India. 

It was an India that was before economic reforms, its first “shining”/”rising” periods and before we had the emancipated Indian youth of today. Oh yeah, it was also definitely before personal computers, the internet and global connectivity had made their arrival on the scene. I know, I know, that’s tough for some of you young ones to imagine.

And social media meant tea and a newspaper with your neighbor. It was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. (Hint: Mark Zukerberg – born: May 14, 1984 – had not been conceived. In fact, had his parents even met yet?).

In case you didn’t get it, I’m giving you just enough information so you can guess at the general time frame and visualize that environment.  Got it?

So, this girl was a typical teenager but one who had led a fairly sheltered life with a loving and protective family, and therefore you could say that she was not quite grown-up and certainly not worldly yet, especially when compared to similar aged kids of now. Or then.

Before she knew it or could absorb its impact on her future, she found herself engaged to be married to a person that her parents had picked out for her. He happened to live and work in the United States of America, an Indian immigrant in that too-faraway land of dreams. 

When she got engaged, she had completed her tenth grade and done a few months of “Pre-University-PUC” in college, essentially the beginning of what would have been her junior (11th) year of high school.

A few months after the engagement and right before the wedding, lo and behold, for the very first time, she actually met the guy who would be her husband. [I know, I know – its simply mind-boggling how this sequence of events unfolded, like it was the dark ages – which it most certainly wasn’t. Even I’m bewildered whenever I think about it! ] 

And then, before she knew what hit her, the wedding festivities came and went.

She was left in a complete daze, this teenage bride.

The process to get a green card when you marry a legal immigrant living in the United States takes a protracted amount of time today – a couple of years. If you’re lucky.  I have met many people in this situation, always, always complaining about this delay.

That year, however, it took only a few weeks.  That young bride, she just wanted to weep in frustration at the speed! 

I still remember how she prayed that this milestone would be delayed, wishing that it would take much longer – so she would not have to leave behind her parents, her friends, her family, her country so soon –  everything that she was familiar with in her life.

At that point in time, the very last thing she wanted to do was to abandon her comfort zone and race off to that distant and mysterious country and a brand new life.

To make matters worse, an entire army of family members came to the airport in Madras to wish her Bon Voyage. I mean, she was actually leaving all of them! And everyone and their mother (literally!) were weeping away to glory.  😦

How could this have happened?

As she sobbed and boarded her maiden flight (fumbling with her seat belt, not knowing what that contraption was there for, or how to unobtrusively figure out how the darned thing opened and closed…), there was no hope, no joy and very little expectation

Uppermost in her mind were fear, uncertainty and confusion – about what turns her life was about to take.

Landing amid the ocean of chaos that was JFK airport at the other end of the journey was  not designed to calm her either. Pure culture shock!

The feelings of that journey are all so strongly etched, that no matter what happened afterwards, the heavy-duty emotions of October 13th endure still. Even more surprising – smaller memories such as the smell of that Air India aircraft when I first entered – even these have not faded away!

Fast forward and retrospect.

Yet, without that unwanted journey many years ago, there’s so much in life that she would have missed out on. (Yes, it’s so easy to say. Now).

Little did the young girl of that time realize that this journey would be one of the best things to happen to her!

That she would reach adulthood away from India and all that she was familiar with, but that everything would work out just fine. That she would survive. And that she would embrace (practically inhale!) each and every break that the land of opportunity would throw her way. And even some that it didn’t.

And that her most precious coup would be creating and nurturing a family, together with that long-ago stranger. 

Little did she know.

[Hmmmmmmm…I guess my parents knew what they were doing after all.  😉 ]

Emotionally, that was one heck of a wrenching experience.

Which is why October 13 is such a red-letter day for me. It’s one that I will never forget.  

Leaving her ties to India was truly heart-breaking for that green girl.  Yet what wonderful cards life dealt her after the fact – with so many ways in which to learn and grow. Not all ups, mind you, but ups and downs.

The yin and yang.  

What did I tell you? That’s what this life of ours is all about!

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P.S.  And who ever imagined that I would be back as an expat for any period of time? To experience and savor the yin and the yang of (a new) India…I’m soaking it up like a sponge! Lucky me.

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