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How Yoga Changed My Life

Hmmmm…that sounds rather dramatic.  After all, how can some single activity change one’s life?

In honor of this being National Yoga Month (didn’t know that, did ya?), I thought it would be nice to pay a special homage to yoga – and to do that I have had to get up close and personal to really ponder the how, what and why.

Before I get there, I must admit I only just found out that September is officially National Yoga Month. In the United States, this is now a national observance – designated by the Department of Health & Human Services, no less. I’m not sure how it came about but its goal is all about educating people about the health benefits of yoga and thus inspiring a healthy lifestyle. That’s awesome!

According to the scant but useful information on wikipedia:

“In 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services designated September as National Yoga Month, one of a select number of national health observances. That same year, thousands of yoga and health enthusiasts participated in a 10 City Yoga Health Festival Tour featuring yoga classes, lectures, music, entertainment, exhibits. Since then, the initiative has taken root as a global awareness campaign, educating, inspiring and motivating people to achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

After some of my usual digging, I found out that the organization behind the scenes, the one that got this to happen by the Department of HHS appears to be a non-profit organization called Yoga Health Foundation. Based in Fairhope, Alabama, of all places. Good for you, Alabama…I would have guessed California for sure!

CAMP BUNDELA, India- (Oct. 11, 2009) – Soldiers assigned to Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, “Strykehorse,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division listen to a yoga instructor during their yoga session at Camp Bundela in Babina, India, Oct. 11. The instruction was part of a cultural exchange between the Indian Army and the U.S. Army.

During this special yoga month this year, some 2200 yoga institutes in the U.S. are participating in offering a free week of yoga to interested patrons. That’s a super way to spread the word and spread the love of yoga. Another fantastic initiative is Yoga-Recess in Schools, a national campaign coordinated by the Yoga Health Foundation to bring yoga-based health education into classrooms. I think this will be even more instrumental – getting them started and hooked when they are young.

Does India have a National Yoga Month, Week or Day?  I couldn’t find any. I guess you really don’t need one when you were the cradle of yoga, so to speak?  

But I do think it’s totally neat that the United States government thinks it’s important enough for people to understand and adopt yoga that an awareness month has been specially designated for it. To top it off, I have found that there are programs backing it up so that there is meat to this notion.

Now, getting back to me.

Why am I so fascinated by yoga? I never imagined I would reach such a stage, but I am well on the way to becoming a borderline fanatic on the topic.

Trust me, there really is only one fundamental reason for that to happen and it’s really very simple and logical. Obviously, I must have reaped something rich and sizable from the practice of yoga.  

To reach this stage of becoming fanatical about it, it is also clear to me that those benefits had to be more than just of the physical variety.

So, what are they?

I can list a whole slew of benefits that I have received – physical, mental and spiritual. And I would be right. Wait, but I already have!  Here and here.

In addition to these (and so you don’t just have to go by my word for it), the Yoga Health Foundation has these great resources:

But giving you another laundry list of benefits derived from yoga is not what this is about.  It’s more special and specific then that.  

Above all of those benefits, there is one that stands out for me, one that is not mentioned anywhere – it is that magical thing that I learned from yoga, up close and personal. I’m not even sure I can express it well but try I will.

In a nutshell, here it is –

You think that something is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve.

But – you focus, you practice and you persist.

Then, one fine day you realize that your mind (first always, your mind!) and later your body have conspired to prove you wrong. You CAN achieve it after all!

What a grand feeling that is…

You think this is about yoga?  Or your physical self?  Think again.

I find I can apply this principle to any number of things in life and therein lies the magic. Yoga simply showed me the way.

And really, that’s all there is to it – the story of how yoga opened my mind and changed my life.

How about you?

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Photo Credits:

Yoga in California By Tia Tran [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Yoga in the US Army: By Master Sgt. Christina Bhatti (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yoga Just Do It: By lululemon athletica (SSC Yoga with Eoin Finn) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s Your Sunday Like?

After a tough week at work, my Sundays in Bombay are turning out to be well-planned days of sublime perfection.  Let me take you through my “itinerary” and see if I can entice you to do something similar. Of course, you may be on to something even better for your Sundays, in which case, you can just ignore this!

Sunday is normally a day for rest and relaxation.  But before you get to the R&R part, it helps to have accomplished something more. That way, the R&R when you get to it is that much more meaningful and momentous.  You know, the yin and the yang.

For the past several weeks, every Sunday has turned into a time for my yoga marathon session. I’ve made it into one of my healthy habits. 

A couple of months or so ago, I achieved the feat of doing 100 Surya Namaskars during one session. It was a one-off “trial” – after which we were left feeling exhausted but awesome (not to mention earning me some nice bragging rights).

Not to waste this awesomeness on just that one trial, I along with my yoga buddy and teacher have been getting down to doing those 100 Surya Namaskars every Sunday since then. Best decision we made!

For this, we allot roughly two hours and do them in bite-size chunks of 10. That sounds so much easier….just 10 sets of 10.  

Perhaps this is more for the yoga practitioner than the novice. But consider this! Merely a year ago, my experience with yoga was non-existent. I had the stiffest body in the universe. And no real (working) knowledge of yoga.

100 Surya Namaskars – is it tough to do, you ask?  DUH.

But, what is that feeling you get at the count of 100, while sweaty and achy all over? Total over-the-top exhilaration!  

I want YOU to feel this way too. Very little compares to this fabulous feeling of accomplishment. And because it is an expanded workout, so too our gains in all these areas are expanded (greatly):

  • Physical stamina, check.
  • Flexibility, check.
  • Toned arms, legs, abs, everything. Check.
  • Mental peace of mind, check.
  • Emotional strength and well-being, check.
  • A test of will power and determination, check.
  • A sense of accomplishment. Oh, yes!

Here’s a one minute video that shows the Surya Namaskar variation we perform. It’s not the best (like my yoga teacher’s!) but it is good.

The way I feel lately…my body is a temple and these are my Sunday services where I worship at its alter. Yeah!

The best thing to do is to make it a habit. Grab a yoga video (or buddy). Start at 20 Surya Namaskars, or 10.  Or one.  Just start. And then build up.  Sunday works for me for an extended yoga session because I have no set deadlines and nowhere I need to be (well, sort of).  Here’s the thing, notwithstanding the many benefits you gain for body and soul by following this regimen, I would highly recommend that you follow-up the tough work-out by planning to reward yourself well soon after.  🙂

Only then will it truly be a holistic Sunday!

And so… the curious Bombay-Sunday-Personal-Yogathon habit is formed:

  • Stretch-your-limits-yoga from 8 to 10, followed by a refreshing shower.  
  • Then my appointment with Aamir Khan that starts at 11 sharp, at least for the next few weeks. This gets even better when joined by good friends.
  • During this, a cool drink or two (chilled Pinot Grigio if you have it, otherwise a skinny, i.e. homemade, mojito with fresh mint, lemon, soda and rum…yummy!), after which your body is ready for a filling lunch.
  • This is followed by a most welcome afternoon nap, which I float into oh so naturally, barely a page turned of the latest book in my hands.
  • Evening is for a heavenly back rub or a massage if you can get it.  Bliss!
  • Wrap it up with a bit of writing (like now), and it’s time for bed, looking forward (well…) to Monday.  

This is why Sundays were created!

So, can you see how nicely – even easily – such a habit can be cultivated? It’s easy when you know how awesome you are going to feel  each step of the way. By describing the yin and the yang, I am hoping to turn some of you into regular yoga practitioners. I can’t help it…I’m becoming a fanatic about this.

So, what’s your Sunday like?  If you decide to push yourself and give something like this a try, I guarantee you won’t regret it!

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Interested in my yoga journey (and what could be yours)?  Here are some of related posts. You can see how far I have come (and how far you can go), in a little over a year.

Step 1 – Just Starting Out

Step 2 – In Awe

Step 3 – Progress

Step 4 – Stretch Goal

Step 5 – Accomplishment

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Photo Credits:

Yoga Pose by: By Tia Tran [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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