I was invited to Stefan Pusca’s show “Dialogues between the Heart and Soul” on the Romanian TV6 channel – and as I was talking about yoga and kaoshikii, the format of the show is to always include a video clip – so I did a re-edit of the “Kaoshikii around the world” video to fit the 4 minute requirement, and so that we could have some Romanian representation within it! My yoga students loved the video – but were disappointed that they hadn’t had the chance to participate in the project – so now was the opportunity! Hopefully we can redo it in the summer in some more scenic areas of the country – I would like to do it the mountain villages….
1. Yoga improves our respiratory system
2. Yogic self-massage for the lymphatic system
The regular practice of even a short 15 minute routine of yoga asanas provides multiple levels of benefit to all of the systems of our body. This two part article will cover ten benefits of yoga:
1. Strengthening yoga postures increase bone density
Many yoga exercises, or asanas are considered excellent weight bearing exercises. Our bones reach their maximum density at around 30 years old, and all of us will naturally begins to lose some bone mass with aging. However, especially in women, this loss can be as dramatic as 20% in the first 5-7 years after menopause,* (1) leading eventually to the painful, degenerative condition of osteoporosis.
Integrating weight bearing exercises into your daily routine is important to prevent bone loss. Yoga postures that support the body’s weight and are held isometrically, such as the plank pose, cakrasana (wheel), sahajasana (chair pose) not only strengthen the muscular system, but also increase bone density. Asanas increase the pressure on bones without stressing the joints as movements are slow, deliberate and careful attention is given to proper alignment.
2. Yoga benefits the heart and circulation
On my recent trip to India, I also visited the Ananda Marga Wellness Center in the rural countryside of Ananda Nagar. Dada Dharmavedananda, who runs the project, discovered on the last day of our brief stay that I had video equipment with me – and so we quickly organized a documentation of this new center. It was quite an adventure and the whole team worked very efficiently together.
It was such a heavenly relaxing treat to spend time exercising in nature, taking yogic sun bath treatments, fasting and eating simply as well as doing yoga and meditation together. It is definitely quite far off the beaten track, but worth the visit.
In the autumn of 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to India. I revisited a project that I deeply appreciate and admire – the Abha Seva Sadan Multitherapy Clinic, which serves a very neglected rural area in Jharkhand state, near to the city of Bokaro. I made a short video documentation of one of their most impressive projects, the Cerebral Palsy program for children:
The multidisciplinary team of doctors at the clinic use a combination of acupuncture, physiotherapy, herbal medicine and homeopathy to treat children with cerebral palsy. The results are quite breathtaking. In Romania, one of our kindergartens integrates children with cerebral palsy and over the years, I have seen how their incredibly dedicated parents were always trying out new therapies in the hopes of improvement, which was often quite slight and difficult to determine.
However, in many cases, if the child is treated early enough before the onset of contractures and the resulting physiological deformations, the results are quite visible, as you will observe in the video.
2 large parsnips, peeled and grated
2 cups arborio rice
4 T butter
1/4 t asafoetida
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 cups vegetable stock (I made it homemade by boiling the leafy celery tops, a carrot, some peppers and straining)
1/2 kg spinach (two medium sizes bunches) washed and with stems removed
zest from one lemon
6 T mascarpone
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. When hot and sizzling, add 1/4 t asafoetida and then the grated parsnips. Stir and let them brown slightly. Add the uncooked rice and stir until even coated in butter and slightly golden. Add the vinegar and stir as it evaporates. Then start adding the vegetable broth, one or two ladles at a time. Add 1/2 t salt. Keep stirring. Allow the liquid to absorb, but do not let the pot become dry – there should always still be some bubbling of broth at the bottom. Keep adding the liquid and allowing the rice to absorb it gradually. When the rice is nearly done, add the spinach and lemon zest. Salt to taste (approximately 1/2 teaspoon more). When the rice is soft and creamy – add the parmesan and mascarpone as well as ground pepper.
I just made this video documentation of the WWD Golden Jubilee held in Ananda Nagar. My master, Shrii Shrii Anandamurtii founded a special section of Ananda Marga “WWD” standing for the Women’s Welfare Department in 1965 with the mission of promoting the all-round upliftment of women as key to societal transformation. A bird cannot fly with only one wing was a metaphor he often used to encourage women to strengthen themselves, and to encourage men to give appropriate importance to the upliftment of women.
It was memorable and inspiring to join together with so many fellow “Didis” (yogic nuns) and sisters from around the world for this three day program. I attended with two sisters from Romania, and we briefly toured a few places in India before and after the conference.
Beyond “Us” and “Them”
In its essence, the Neohumanist philosophy is about continually expanding the radius of our circle of love to include the entire universe. Human love is nurtured from birth by forming attachments to those closest to us, but often, beginning in early childhood, those outside of our circle of love, are part of an unknown “Other”. We then begin to experience the duality of “us” and “them” – those that are part of our world and thus familiar, safe and approachable, while those that are not, and are unfamiliar, alien and often thus perceived as threatening on some level due to our basic fear of the unknown.
I just made a playlist on SoundCloud of some of my favorite recordings of live kiirtans, that I made during gatherings with hundreds of Ananda Marga meditators. Kiirtan is the chanting of sanskrit mantras that create a deep resonance with Divine Love. There are many mantras in the tradition of kiirtan – but the one that I love best is “Baba Nam Kevalam” which means “I am only calling out to my Beloved”. It focuses and aligns the whole heart and mind to that core of unconditional, Divine Love that vibrates the essence of the entire universe.
Singing kiirtan is such an amazing simple way to experience pure spiritual bliss. These recordings give a taste of how that bliss intensifies when many people gather together to sing, creating a powerful flow of minds all moving towards that same Divine Nucleus.