Didi Ananda Devapriya's Meditation and Yoga Blog

Kaoshikii – Romanian remix

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….

Kaoshikii in toata lumea (si in Romania!!) from Didi Devapriya on Vimeo.

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5 Subtler Benefits of Yoga Asanas

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1. Yoga improves our respiratory system

Deep breathing is the foundation of all yoga practices. By activating the diaphragm and breathing from the abdomen, the capacity of the lungs is increased and oxygenation of the blood improves. Most importantly, deep breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, known as the “relaxation response”. This deactivates and neutralizes stress, which has often become so chronic that it seems like our normal state of being.

2. Yogic self-massage for the lymphatic system

Unlike blood, which is pumped through our body by the heart, lymph only circulates with movement. Lymph has the important function of purifying our system of wastes and is closely interconnected with our immune system. In ancient texts, yogis referred to lymph as pranarasa –  one of the stages of “shukra”, which is considered to be the final and most refined substance that is produced out of our food. It is compared to ghee (clarified butter),   which is the most refined essence of milk.  In yoga, lymph is considered the precursor to hormones. According to yogic understanding, when the lymph enters into contact with glands, it is converted into various hormones.  Thus great importance is given in yogic lifestyle to increasing and improving the quality and quantity of lymph through specific dietary guidelines and lifestyle practices.  In particular, foods high in cholorphyll (leafy green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and kale) are said to increase the production and quality of lymph and are thus favored by yogis.

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5 Important Health Benefits of Yoga

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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

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Visit to Ananda Marga Wellness Center in India

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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.

 

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Amazing acupuncture clinic treats cerebral palsy in India

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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.

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Tangy Parsnip and Spinach Risotto

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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
salt

 

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.

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WWD Golden Jubilee video

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.

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Song: What if We Made a Circle

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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.

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My live kiirtan recordings

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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.

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Kaoshiiki: The Most Complete Exercise Ever!

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Kaoshiiki – a yoga dance!

I believe that Kaoshikii dance is one of the most complete, all-round workouts ever invented.  It is a rhythmic yogic dance, that uniquely combines a stretching of the spine in all directions while at the same time giving an aerobic workout to the heart.  The cross-lateral movements of the feet, which tap a toe behind the heel of the opposite foot, this crossing over the body’s center line,  are considered by authors such as Eric Jenson, who wrote “Brain Based Learning” to be connected to improved brain coordination and increased mental acuity.  At the same time, the arms are gracefully bending to the sides, forwards and backwards, open up the major meridians of the body, increasing circulation and energy flow. The forward bends are calming, while the backward bends are invigorating and energizing.

 

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