Oct '08 Front Page

Living Mysore Magazine
October 2008/Issue #11

"A tribute to our beloved Bek, who tirelessly served us thousands of coconuts over the years near the Mysore shala both in Laxmipuram and in Gokulum. We will miss him dearly. These photos were taken the month before he passed away of a heart attack." --Govinda Kai

This project is humbly dedicated to our Guru, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, without whom, none of this would be possible. Thank you!

In this issue:

Practice "Practice" By Jeff and Harmony Lichty
Go Green "Healing Waters in the Home" By Elissa Scott
Interview "Saraswati Rangaswamy: Yoga and Women" By Lisa Laler and Bill Brundell
Practice "Pop Yoga: When Joints Pop" By Russell Case
Practice "Positively Ashtanga" By Silvia
Health "Relieve Aches, Pains, and Stiffness with Oil Baths" By Kimberly Flynn Williams
Food "The Importance of Fall Cleansing" By Stacey Plaske
Mysore Highlight "Where Did All the Kings Go?" By Philippa Asher
Seva "Yoga in Rwanda" By Lara Lauchheimer


From Peter Jones, UK
Thank you for publishing the article and the You Tube links by Anne Nuotio. I found her words very inspirational, and her practice very lovely to watch.

From Oliver Pooler, Portugal
I read the article by Annie Gurton about eating meat and I was quite shocked. When I took up Ashtanga the first thing I was told to do was give up meat eating and I have been strictly vegetarian for ten years. I don't understand how she can do yoga and eat meat. Apart from the ethical considerations, eating meat heats up the body too much and is not good for the joints, let alone the planet. I think she is wrong.

From Sandra Fernandes Cortes from Goa
I read 'Free to be Green' by Elissa Scott in your last issue, and I wonder if she has any more down-to-earth advice that every one can follow to improve the planet ? We all want to do our bit, but we are not all in the position to make decisions about air condition and house heating.

Hi Annie,
Just read your article about diet and your visit to mysore.
After trying various forms of vegetarian diet, including raw foods, I discovered that I needed to eat right for my blood type, which is O+. There is a body of research on the subject which you may be interested in.
All the best.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your email, and for taking the trouble to write.

I have investigated the blood group / food link, but found that the foods recommended for my group (AB Rh+) are not particularly relevant.
I need to eat cooked foods with occasional steak - raw foods are not good for me at all unless I eat them occasionally at lunch-time.
It's a very interesting topic, though, and thanks for your feedback.
Best regards, Annie

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for your interesting reply.

I don't know - perhaps there is something in the blood type connection, but I think my group is recommended to eat raw foods and they certainly do not suit me (insomnia and flatulence and general feeling of not-quite-right are the result if I eat lots of raw and not enough cooked).

Thanks also for your comments about my therapy. Far be it from me to interfere with the work of other therapists, but if I was working with someone for 20 years and they still needed counselling, I would think whatever I was doing wasn't working ! I see that you say you have worked with a spectrum of treatments, but I wonder if you have tried Human Givens ? I'm not sure where you are located, but if you go to www.hgi.org you will find a list of Registered Therapists. There is also an explanation of Human Givens, and I recommend that you watch the video, and perhaps read the article called 'Imagine' (at the bottom right of the home page).

I wholly agree that a regular Ashtanga practice is terrific for mental as well as physical well-being. If you felt like it, you could perhaps interest the Editor of Living Mysore, Elise, in a feature about your experiences. You can email her at livingmysore@gmail.com and she is most open to all kinds of features which will interest other Ashtanga practitioners, and novices. She would probably want a piece from about 500 to 1K words.

With best regards,

Hi Annie,

Thanks for your response. It was interesting to hear your experience with the blood type diet and that it doesn't work for you. No need to reply to this but I did want to share with you that at the time I was following it, the raw food diet was also not recommended as the right diet for my type "O". After several months of raw foods (no animal products) I was emaciated and suffering from malnutrition from not eating meat and other cooked foods. Realizing something was wrong I was lucky to find a nutritionist who guided me back to a healthy diet using the blood type diet as a map. I was trying to avoid non violence by not eating animal products but in doing so was slowly killing myself. Fifteen years later now my diet is balanced with a variety of animal protein sources, cooked and raw foods.

On another note, your therapy practice looks very interesting and seems to offer a good guide to a balanced diet for the mind and spirit. I have been in counseling (usually once a week) for over 20 years in a spectrum of psychological treatment modalities. This along with a daily ashtanga practice has enabled me to expanded my self knowledge and find a place of peace with more balance in daily life and with interaction with the world.

Thanks again for sharing.



Oct '08 Practice

By Jeff and Harmony Lichty

(Originally published on Livingbreathingyoga July 12, 2008.)

What do you so when your teacher is away? How do you practice when left on your own? These are questions on the minds of many students, it seems, but the answer is simple. It was asked during our last conference with Guruji and Sharath at the beginning of June when Sharath took a two-week break from teaching at the Yoga Shala here in Mysore. Students had the option to practice with Saraswathi or on their own at home. During this time Guruji came down to lead a couple of led-primary classes, and to chant the invocation, which was a real treat for all of us practicing in the Shala.

So it seems that these are questions was on the minds of many people, and answer is simple: You continue to practice as your teacher has taught you.

Yoga is a personal practice that when practiced correctly has positive effects on the whole of humanity. Finding a teacher to guide and instruct is an essential component of the Path, as is being surrounded by a sangha (community) to help motivate and encourage each of us along the way.

However, there will be many times in our lives when we will find ourselves far from any teacher, and without a community of practitioners around us. In fact, it may be the case that most of our
lives we will practice alone, without the direct presence of a teacher. This being the case, it is important to figure out some ways to keep our minds focused on our practices and to stay motivated so we can continue to grow.

One thing that will help is to take a close look at the how and why we practice. If we are truly practicing in a correct way, and for the right reasons, we cannot help but experience the positive effects of the practice in our daily lives. The more self-awareness we can develop, the more we will observe the benefits of the practice, and we will find ourselves encouraged to continue making a strong effort in our daily practice.

It can also be helpful to find time once or twice a year to devote a period of time to just practicing and studying yoga. This can be done by going on a specific "yoga retreat," or by just taking some time off from the demands of your job and the obligations of daily life to focus on your practice and reconnecting with yourself and if possible, your teacher. These periods of intense study and concentrated practice can help to revive your practice, create inspiration, and rekindling your passion for the practice of yoga.

Sometimes students ask: "What should I practice and how can I progress while you are not here?"

Sharath and Guruji have said: "practice what you've been taught, as you've been taught." When you practice the postures your teacher has given you with earnest devotion you will certainly "progress."

In the modern world we tend to associate this notion of "progress" with the idea that "more is better" and we get caught up in the idea that if we are doing more it means we are getting better and "progressing."

Contrarily, progress along the path of Yoga doesn't amount to "more." We don't progress by doing "more postures" or "more difficult postures" or "more practices" or "longer practices." Progress on the path of Yoga is determined by the internal condition of our mind and attitude.

When we can be completely satisfied with exactly what we have and who we are at any given moment then we are starting to walk along the path of santosha (contentment) the second niyama, and that is the sign of real progress. We will be happy to practice less with more awareness, instead of more with less satisfaction.

As Sharath reminded us in conference, doing advanced asana doesn't mean you are a more "advanced practitioner." It doesn't guarantee more "self-knowledge" or "enlightenment." A student practicing primary series can be learning more, and growing more by focusing on the internal form and starting to "still the fluctuations of the mind," then a student who may be practicing an advanced series but who is still fixated on the external form without developing any kind of control over the mind.

The "inner asana" is what we must strive to perfect. When we can humbly surrender to a practice, and commit ourselves to following one method and one teacher, this "inner asana" the "seat of God within" gets perfected. Gratitude grows when we can accept what we have been given instead of always acting from that deeply ingrained pattern (samskara) of asking and wanting and taking more and more. As Sri O.P Tiwari has reminded us time and time again, we should strive to be a "person of the needs, and not the wants."

Jeff and Harmony are originally from Canada. Now they are "wandering yogis" currently living in Mysore, Southern India and will be teaching at Purple Valley Retreat, Goa, from November.

Oct '08 Go Green

Healing Waters in the Home
By Elissa Scott

If you are looking for ways to make your home a spa-ritual retreat, be sure to add water as a part of your decorative elements. Healing water can be visually, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually relaxing. It has no fixed shape yet adapts itself into whatever conditions it flows into. Water is the very essence of life and a part of everything, while connecting us all…without it we would die!

The significance of water is symbolic in religious practices. In baptism, water is for cleansing, rebirth and protection with the sprinkling of holy water. The elixir of water is also a symbol of abundance and prosperity in Feng Shui. Water in the form of tears represents cleansing and emotional release.

At home, add a water filter for drinking, cooking and even bathing, to clean your water of any toxins. With the skin being the largest organ, it absorbs many pollutants from regular tap water. In the bathtub, add therapeutic mineral salts for rejuvenation, a time-honoured tradition of the 'Kur baths', a centuries old ritual from Europe, of 'taking to the waters'. Epsom salts and a natural essential oil like a lavender or citrus can also be invigorating in your tub. Modern soaking trends include 'chromo-therapy', or coloured lights, which can elevate the spirit. Ruby red rose petals peppered in the bathtub add fragrance, visual appeal and a touch of romance! Experience the sound of soft music and crystals to enhance the mood; whatever resonates with you.

Float beeswax or soy candles in the bathtub, an urn style vase or bowl, during a party.

Bring indoors the natural calm of a cleansing downpour of water, with a rain shower head in the bathroom. This large sunflower head is available in the trendiest colour; oil rubbed bronze. For eco-friendliness, low flow shower heads and toilets help on the water bill and the planet.

Soothing decorative water fountains are good for the soul to hear calming water, an oasis, fading out the outside world's noise. Just be sure not to place fountains in the bedroom as they can increase worry, according to Feng Shui. Do include pictures and photographs of water that represent nature or favourite vacations you've experienced. Images of water can bring us back to that calming mental place we would rather be in. Include colours of water through paint or accessories, reminiscent of lakes and rivers.

Similar to fire, watching water moving is mesmerizing, magical and transformative. Whether you love the intensity of icy water rushing down a mountain waterfall, the rhythmic rolling of ocean waves rocking us to sleep or a quiet pond without a ripple, water affects our spirit. Include that feeling into the surroundings of your home.

Elissa Scott is a Home Design expert specializing in eco- chic alternatives.

Oct '08 Interview

Saraswathi Rangaswamy
Yoga and Women:
An interview with
the Guru’s daughter - a yoga revolutionary
By Lisa Lalér & Bill Brundell

When we were in Mysore, India in 2007 we had the great opportunity to conduct an interview with Saraswathi Rangaswamy - the daughter of ashtanga yoga´s Guru, Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Saraswathi has been practicing and teaching ashtanga yoga for many years, together with her father and son, Sharath Rangaswamy. She teaches classes at Pattabhi Jois´ yoga shala in Gokulum six days a week in a room that takes around 70 students at a time. At the same time she is also responsible for her father’s household.

Saraswathi created a little yoga-revolution in Mysore when she became the first female yoga teacher to teach both men and women together. She was criticized in the local community for breaking the Indian tradition of keeping men and women separate. She also became the first female student to study at the Mysore Sanskrit College, where she studied Sanskrit and yoga.

In the shadow of a male-dominated family shines a petite, but powerful woman, with a twinkle in her eye, full of knowledge, compassion and humor. With an open mind and a firm hand she passes on the tradition to the next generation of ashtanga yoga practitioners and teachers. Saraswathi walks with steady steps - in her father’s footprints, determined to continue to share her passion for yoga, from India to the rest of the world.

Lisa: You grew up with Guruji as a father – can you tell us something about what it was like to grow up in a yogic family?

Saraswati: Yes, my upbringing was very good. The family was very poor but very affectionate. I started to practice yoga when I was five years old but at that age it was just for fun. My father helped me to do handstands and backbends - I was playing with the asanas. Just like my grandchild Shradda is doing now. I started to do asanas regularly when I was ten and I continued to practice until I was 22. After that, I practiced less regularly. But in total I practiced intensively for maybe sixteen or seventeen years. When my mother got sick I took care of her and I had a lot of things to take care of at home. When my mother died I became responsible for my father’s household.

L: How old are you today?

S: I’m 65 years old.

L: When did you start to teach yoga?

S: I started to teach 35 years ago. Before I got married I assisted Guruji and then I got married when I was 26 years old and I moved with my husband to his home near Calcutta. I got pregnant and had two children and I was very busy taking care of them and my husband’s family, but when I moved back to Mysore I started to assist Guruji again.

L: When did you start to teach your own classes?

S: I started to teach my own classes when my son, Sharath was 4 years old (1975).

L: From what I understand, you were the first female yoga teacher in Mysore to start to teach both men and women together. Can you talk about how that happened?

S: I started to teach men and women together more than ten years back. Before that I was only teaching women. Traditionally in India men and women are practicing separately - even though it has started to change a little bit now. Many people asked me if I couldn’t start to teach men as well so I thought, "why not?" Male teachers have been teaching men and women together for many years, so why couldn’t I, as a woman, do that?

L: In the beginning, did Guruji approve of that?

S: Yes... or no, no not at first. I think both Guruji and Sharath were not so happy about it in the beginning. They thought that the boys and men that would come to my class would be a bit shy because I’m a woman. But I was determined; this was something I wanted to do. So I did it! The decision was all mine.

L: You work many hours every day. Can you describe what a normal day is like?

S: I wake up between 3.30am and 4am every morning. I assist Guruji from 5 o’clock in the morning and then I teach my own class until 10.30am. Then I teach again between 4 and 6 in the evening. I rest for maybe 30 minutes during the day, not more because there are so many things to do and the telephone is ringing all the time. There is a lot of work with the family as well. After 6 o’clock in the evening I like to just do nothing! I watch some TV and have dinner. I try to be in bed by 10.30 pm.

L: Do you believe that the asana-practice is or should be very different for men and women?

S: No, not really, but we are different physically. The ladies have their menstruations every month and have the ability to become pregnant and give birth. There are some asanas that are not so good for women to do, but not so many. It is important to have a regular practice but also to rest. Especially for women who often work all-day and then take care of the home and the family. Men can more often focus on their work and then rest. I think for most of the women who work a lot and then take care of their homes and their families it is enough to do Primary series. After having a regular practice for a long time they can do Intermediate as well. Some women can do advanced as well but I don’t think that is so necessary. Primary makes us grounded and strong!

L: Why is it that women should not practice ashtanga yoga during the first three days of their period?

S: For some women it is very difficult to practice during these days, because of pain or that they bleed a lot. Most women work a lot and need to rest and to take it easy three days every month - it is very important! It is not good for the body to practice hard during the days when you bleed the most and during the period women should not do Salamba Sarvangasana or Sirsasana. Here, in India according to the Brahman tradition the woman rest these days, she does not cook and does not even go into the kitchen. Other women cook for her and she eats and sleeps a lot!

L: What is, according to you, the most important thing for women that practice ashtanga yoga to consider?

S: That is to let the body rest the three first days of the period so that the menstruation cycle is not disturbed. For some women, who do not rest from the practice those days, the period may disappear or becomes irregular and it can be difficult for them to become pregnant. The organs in the body are purified through the asanas and that is very good, but not during these days. It is also important to eat properly. Many women say that they do not want to eat dairy products, but women who practice yoga need milk and ghee twice a day. Especially ghee is important because it cools the body. In the yoga practice the body becomes very hot and you sweat a lot. It is not good to eat too much ghee, though, and the ghee should be pure and of good quality. One teaspoon in the morning and in the evening is enough. If you eat pure ghee you do not have to be worried about getting too much cholesterol. My father likes ghee a lot and he used to have maybe a little bit too much of it in his food - I had to tell him not to, ha ha ha! After giving birth, the woman should also eat ghee and drink milk to recover.

L: Why is it that women should not do asanas during the three first months of the pregnancy?S: All women are different and react differently with the pregnancy in the beginning. Some are very tired and feel nauseous, and vomit, others are feeling well. It is best to not do the practice during the three first months to see how the pregnancy is going. Even if you feel strong and healthy it is good to let the body rest because so many things are changing in the body during this time. For some it might take a little "will-power" to slow down though...

L: For some western women it is very hard to give up the practice for three month, what would you like to say to them?

S: Will power! They have to use their will power and rest anyway! With a strong mind you will not lose anything just because you do not do asanas for three months. Yoga is so much more than just asanas.

L: How do you think the pregnant woman should practice after the first three months?

S: After the first three months it is very good to practice ashtanga yoga, but the pregnant woman should not do all the asanas. She should not do twists, like Marichyasana B and D and she should not do Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana. Baddha Konasana and Uphavista Konasana are very good asanas and so is backbendings. To practice during the rest of the pregnancy makes the woman stronger and the delivery easier. I appreciate the western women who practice yoga because they want to practice and become strong! The Indian ladies are so afraid that something will go wrong with the pregnancy so they don’t do anything. They don’t work and spend most of the time in bed and that is not so good for the pregnant body. Maybe the Indian ladies are a little bit lazy and you cannot be lazy if you want to practice yoga, ha ha! Don’t be lazy! I meet many pregnant women when I travel with Guruji to teach in the west. Many of them come to practice even though they are at the end of their pregnancy. That is very good because you need to be strong and flexible in your body to give birth. The breath is very important, both for the pregnant woman and for the baby who gets more oxygen. I have had many students who have been practicing until it’s time to give birth and they say that they think that the delivery went easier thanks to the yoga practice. Many years back I had a Canadian lady in class who practiced until the day before the delivery started. Her husband came to me when it was time to go to the hospital and I took her there. The doctor who took care of her was upset when he heard that she had been practicing during the whole pregnancy and he asked what teacher approved of that. "She is standing right outside the door, so you can speak to her directly", the Canadian woman said. I had to explain to the doctor that yoga is very good for pregnant ladies and the delivery went very well! A pregnant woman should think about moving her body and to eat more - but not of everything! She should avoid papaya and not eat so many mangos. These fruits heat the body and when you are pregnant, you should not become to hot.

L: What about postures like Salamba Sarvangasana and Sirsasana, is it good to do them if you are pregnant?

S: Yes, no problem!

L: Did you practice when you where pregnant?

S: Yes, yes I did.

L: If a pregnant women, who has never practiced yoga comes to you to learn yoga, how do you teach her?

S: Slowly, slowly. She can start with just a few postures - Surya Namaskar and the first standing postures. She can do Paschimottanasana with her feet apart to leave space for the belly. Baddha Konasana and Uphavista Konasana are very good and important asanas for pregnant women.

L: After delivery, when is it good to start the yoga practice again?

S: After about three months she can start again. In India, the woman stays a lot in bed the first three months after giving birth and she takes an oil bath everyday. The baby should also have oil bath and massage, every day for three or four month. Caster - oil is the best oil to use - both for the baby and the mother.

L: What did it mean to you to become a mother and how is it to be a grandmother?

S: Ah, ha, ha! To become a mother meant a lot of responsibility! My husband worked a lot and was often out of station and sometimes it was a little bit hard to raise the children all by myself, but there was a lot of happiness too! To have children and become a mother is very good yoga - the mind becomes very strong. To be a grandmother means so much happiness to me. I’m very fond of my first grandson, my daughter’s first child - but all my grandchildren make me very happy and give me a lot of joy in life.

L: Why do you think that ashtanga yoga has become so popular among western women?

S: I think it is because ashtanga yoga is a correct method, with vinyasa and counterposes and it belongs to an old tradition. For example, you should always do Uphavista Konasana after Baddha Konasana. Not the other way around. Many people are teaching yoga asanas without vinyasa and they do asanas without a system. That is not correct yoga. Many students who start ashtanga yoga say that their lives change in a very positive way - and I think that that is the main reason for its popularity.

L: What is the best advice you, as the worlds most experienced female ashtanga yoga teacher, would like to give to all the western women who practice the method?

S: Practice regularly and learn the correct method from a knowledgeable teacher. To teach is important and a part of yoga but it is also very difficult and many students start to teach too early. Don’t hurry. It’s not enough to practice this method for three months and then start to teach - then it will become a moneymaking system. That is not a good way of teaching. First you learn the practice correctly and then you can learn how to teach. You should learn how to teach from an experienced teacher. My father showed me how to adjust the asanas. At first I only watched him and then, slowly, I started to adjust one asana at the time. Sometimes I made mistakes, and then I had to try again until I felt more secure. Nobody is perfect, ha ha ha! You learn little by little, one thing at the time. It’s much more difficult to teach then to practice. Something that is very important is to learn one method, from one teacher and not to learn many methods at the same time with many different teachers. That will be confusing. Try until you find a method and a teacher that you like and stay. If you like B K S Iyengar then practice his method. If you would like to learn ashtanga yoga, go to Pattabhi Jois and so on. Chose one method and one Guru. That is my best advise.

L: Do you still practice asanas?

S: I don’t practice asanas regularly anymore - but sure, I practice every now and then. Three years ago I broke my ankle and since then it has been difficult for me to do asanas. Right now the most important thing for me is to be with my family - especially with my father since he got sick. During the last three months I have been taking care of everything here at home. Guruji is now getting stronger again but he still needs a lot of help with his daily routines - after all he his 92 years old! To take care of my father is something that I really like to do and I do it with love. When he was strong and healthy he was the one who took care of the family and I - now it is my turn to look after him. To take care of my family has been my best yoga practice and to teach and adjust as much as I do today is a big part of my own asana practice today.

L: So finally, Saraswathi, what is yoga to you?

S: Mind, a strong mind. What ever happens in life, it does not matter. That I, through yoga, have gotten a strong mind and a strong body has been such a big help in my life. Now, when I’m 65 years old, my back is straight and my body is strong and healthy. I’m very strong, ha, ha, ha! And I do accept everything that comes to me in life, both good and bad things. Yoga is also will power. My father is so fantastic, he knows so much and he has read so many books. He has got a very strong will and a powerful mind. I have not read so many books. The knowledge I have, I have gotten along with the experience I’ve had over the years, and even though I have been teaching for 35 years there are still so many things I want to learn. There is always more to learn about yoga...

L: Saraswathi, thank you so very much.

S: Yes, yes, thank you very much.

Lisa and Bill met each other in Mysore at Guruji's birthday party in 2004 and now live together with Lisa's two sons in Stockholm, Sweden. Both are regular, dedicated students at the AYRI. For more information, please visit their website www.planetashtangayoga.com.

Oct '08 Practice

Pop Yoga: When joints pop
by Russell Case

Sally and I went to Tokyo to celebrate our anniversary. We knew Ken Harukama and he’d very generously asked us to teach at his shala with him. It was a pretty exciting gig. We walked, in handed him Taiwanese Oolong tea, and paid our respects. (His father is from Taiwan) He announced us to the class as his peers. The students (fifty of them) all clapped and we bowed. Then we proceeded to torture them.

We could feel how the harder we pushed the more they appreciated us. That’s a dangerous place to practice from. You can get hurt pretty quickly. We had to make sure not to get caught up in it. Though one student I did tick-tocks with maybe nine or ten times. He was totally crushed with exhaustion. I finished and he got on his knees and prayed “Will you be here next week?!?” I assured him we wouldn’t.

That must be Japanese style. I was watching a video of Sumo practice on Youtube.

One guy was trying to do the splits. The assistant teacher was pushing him down. He bobbed a few times and then came back up. The head teacher came over and hit him with his bamboo pole. He was supposed to lie his chest down and then the other students would sit on his back. He wasn’t having it. More students got involved. All his limbs were held down. The assistant started slapping his head repeatedly. There is an audible crack in the video. I figure it must be his femur head ‘cavitating’. That’s actually helpful, as I’ll explain in a minute.

My first year in Mysore, India Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was still very active. He still brought my hands to my ankles in Kapotasana, and one day he stood on me in Baddha Konasana. He slapped my head and yelled at me “Relax!” My right hip popped enthusiastically and my legs let go. Guruji giggled. From that moment on my hips relaxed more and more every day. Soon I was pulling my feet up into my chest in Kandapidasana.

This sort of thing can go badly too. B.K.S Iyengar talks about doing a demo for his teacher in the book “First there is a Mountain” by Elizabeth Kadetsky. Krishnamacharya had invited Paramahamsa Yogananda to visit. Krishnaji told Iyengar to do the splits for him. He wasn’t really doing it well at this point and when he went down his hamstring split from his pelvis and the femur dislocated. There is was a huge cracking sound. Krishnamacharya said to do the other side, “you do.”

I did the same thing in Korea ten years ago. It took two years before I could sit in a car and six before I could practice without pain. It still hurts if I demo cold. It’s important to listen to these sounds in your body. You must distinguish between good and bad sound.

What is that sound that we crave? I asked an osteopathic chiropractor in Brighton, England and he informed me of what it was. When joints pop the golgi reflex in the nerve ball sends a message to the surrounding muscle tissue. The muscle ball is rebooted like a computer. And often when a muscle is in spasm this will start to release congested tissue.

Well... what about the joint? We understand what the sound does, but what is it itself? Katherine Neer explains:

‘Joints are the meeting points of two separate bones, held together and in place by connective tissues and ligaments. All of the joints in our bodies are surrounded by synovial fluid, a thick, clear liquid. When joints pop, you're causing the bones of the joint to pull apart. As they do, the connective tissue capsule that surrounds the joint is stretched. By stretching this capsule, you increase its volume.

With an increase in volume comes a decrease in pressure. So as the pressure of the synovial fluid drops, gases dissolved in the fluid become less soluble, forming bubbles through a process called cavitation. When the joint is stretched far enough, the pressure in the capsule drops so low that these bubbles burst, producing the pop that we associate with knuckle cracking.’

Cavitation is used here as a word because scientists dislike the word bubbles. They prefer cavity. An empty space is created like a cave. The cave is created by vacuum. Inside the cave are gases. Gas is a collection of elements that when arriving to the melting point become lighter than air. If frozen, any gas can become a solid form. So it is heat we are talking about here. The little cave bursts with energy.

And then it rests again. The sound continues. The cilia fibres wave in your ears with a pattern that your brain understands immediately. It is a pop. And what is that? What is sound?

Sound itself is energy. It is a vibration of air molecules. Molecules themselves are tightly bound packets of energy. So sound is an energy transfer. Judeo Christian mythology claims that sound creates form. God says let light be created and it is the sound of God’s word that creates light. Often in religious and philosophical inquiry we see parallels to science. Perhaps if we take all religious writing and substitute the word God with “we don’t know yet” or “energy” then we have a very close parallel indeed.

Sound is our access to consciousness. Our teacher will often start a yoga class with Aum. In Sanskrit Aum is the generative vowel that creates the universe. (Aum is the origin of the word amen) So too in our yoga practice Aum is the key to awakening our consciousness. I mean that in a very practical sense. Be conscious of your body! Listen to the little cavities in your inner workings.

Reference: Neer, Katherine. "What makes your knuckles pop?." 03 August 2000. HowStuffWorks.com. 11 June 2008.

Russell Case learned Ashtanga Yoga from Suddha Wiexler while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1993. While finishing his graduate degree in painting in NY he met Guy Donahaye. Due to the idiosyncrasies of that relationship he married an English woman and was there after forced to work in Asia as an economic migrant. He continues to write on the Jewish history of yoga today in Taipei, Taiwan.

Oct '08 Practice

Positively Ashtanga

By Silvia

As you all know, Ashtanga yoga is a highly dynamic form of yoga requiring a good dose of stamina, strength and sweat. So why do I: a middle age woman living with two life-threatening viruses (hepatitis C and HIV) and taking a heavy cocktail of anti-retrovirals, practice ashtanga yoga? Why am I attracted to and greatly benefiting from such a demanding and strenuous form of yoga?

Let me tell you: When I was diagnosed with HIV, my life felt completely broken. I thought all I had ahead of me was disease and death. I had never felt so lonely and disconnected from myself and the world. Looking at death as a reality and not just as a remote possibility made me feel an urgency to act and do something with my life that was meaningful. All of a sudden, all I had was the present. The future looked too uncertain. The diagnosis gave me such an intense shock that the only way was to find a new way: change. HIV was going to be my first yoga teacher.

My life was quite a mess before HIV's arrival. I had been working on and off as an independent film/documentary writer since I left college, but at the moment of my diagnosis I didn't have job. I had also been suffering from depression and chronic low self-esteem since my teens: taking drugs, being wild, and getting involved in harmful and impossible relationships.

After the initial paralysis and despair, I set myself on a healing path. My first step was to act upon my external world. I made a short-term plan. I decided that I wanted a socially valuable job, which would make me feel I was living a worthwhile life, something that was of service to others. Because of my extensive travel both in Africa and India, I knew that even as an HIV positive person I was in a privileged position having access to high quality health care. After not much thought, I decided that my aim was to work for an NGO that supported people living with HIV in Africa and I found a postgraduate course in Development Studies, which would give me the qualifications to do such a job.

I started to work harder at improving my relationship with my family. Since my mother had died when I was 20, there was only my father – who was very ill with Alzheimer's – and my brother who I had a very difficult relationship with. It took me a long time and also a lot of counselling, but this was definitely an essential part of becoming a healthier me!

Fast-forward a few years and in 2001 my dream of working for a voluntary organisation supporting people with HIV had finally come true. I started working in the case work team here at Positively Women. It wasn't an NGO in Africa, as per my initial plan, but I realised that there were a lot of needy HIV positive people on my door-step.

Starting work full-time was a real challenge. The job was emotionally demanding: providing support to other positive women, including women in prison and drug-users. It was my first 9 to 5 job ever and I had been through some difficult years struggling to pay for my degree and moving to London. I was also bereaved by the death of my father. On top of all of this I had started antiviral therapy in 1998: my first regime included nearly 20 tablets a day and some pretty weird side effects! It has improved a lot over the years and nowadays I am 'only' taking 7 pills a day.

It's not a surprise that my energy levels were getting lower and lower. I was often so fatigued I didn't even want to talk to my friends on the phone. My doctors thought that the culprit was the hepatitis C virus which I had also been living with for several years. At the time of my HIV diagnosis, I had been told not to worry about it, because hepatitis C would have not had the time to affect me. Generally it takes 20 or 30 years for the liver to be severely damaged by this virus. I was told that HIV would kill me first.

With the advent of successful anti-retroviral therapy my liver had fast become my most important organ. It was my liver which processed my HIV medication and stored energy and nutrients from my food. Research was showing that the leading cause of death for HIV positive people in the West had become liver-related disease. Fatigue and lack of energy are typical symptoms of a poor liver.

My doctors started suggesting that I considered treatment for hepatitis C. One year on Pegylated Interferon. I knew that this treatment could potentially clear the hepatitis C virus. I also knew that it had some awful side effects (including severe depression) and because of my personal struggles with mental health I was terrified by the idea.

It was at this time that I started Ashtanga Yoga. I am not sure it was love at first sight. Initially I just thought that most of the postures were out of my reach. I couldn't touch my toes without bending my knees (unlike most people in my class). I would look around and think: I will never in a million years be able to do any of this! The initial sun salutations were so hard for me that by the end of them I was in a pool of sweat and catching my breath, thinking of a way of leaving the class without being noticed, but I always felt so much better after a class than before.

Something kept me going back to the classes: the sound of the breath; my body awakening. My body that had been under the shadow of imminent illness and death since my diagnosis but now was getting stronger and more supple.

I started attending self-practice sessions. I had to wake up before 6 in order to fit my yoga practice before work. My morning practice has become very special to me. It is a moment of freedom in which I try to totally focus in the present, experience my internal world. It connects me to the 'source'. My practice is a moving prayer for health and stability. It starts my day with a positive intention.

A side effect of yoga has also been that my diet started changing. If I eat too much heavy food or drink too much alcohol, I feel it immediately while I practice: I am heavier and sluggish. So eating, fresh nutritious foods and not over-indulging supports my yoga practice and makes me feel more energetic. Though I still fall for chocolate and a glass of wine now and then, overall my good diet has also really supports my health.

Six years have passed and I am now practicing Ashtanga yoga 6 days a week. I am amazed at how healthy and strong I feel. I cannot believe that, in spite of all the viruses I have, all the tablets I swallow, I have never felt so healthy in my life. I feel healthier then when I was HIV and HCV negative, and I can do things with my body now at 41 then I didn't dream of doing in my 20's. Most of the time I am full of energy. Sometimes I am also knackered, but who isn't in London?!

I have been refusing treatment for HCV. Few weeks ago I went for a liver check up at my hospital. The woman doing the liver scan was surprised – knowing my diagnosis – how good my liver was: 'Very good shape and size … excellent blood supply' she kept saying with her eyebrows raised. My liver exams have been getting better and better. Even my doctor – who has been trying to convince me to go on Interferon for the past 6 years – told me: 'Whatever you are doing, keep doing it!'

The moral of my story is that to live healthily with HIV it is vital to have a deep connection with the internal and external world. I express my connection to the external, especially in the work I do. My work now focuses on healing our society: aiming to make it more accepting of people living with HIV. On the other side my practice heals me and strengthens my 'Inner World', therefore allowing me to do my work with passion. Ashtanga yoga allows me to experience – maybe only for a few moments – that no matter what happens in the 'Outer World' deep within me there is a place of peace where I can just 'be', where HIV, pain, disappointment and the limitations and conditioning I daily experience can all disappear.

Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute
Ashtanga Yoga London

Silvia is an Italian HIV+ woman and activist. She has been involved with Positively Women, a UK based, national charity offering support to women with HIV by women living with HIV since 2000 and she is also a member of the International Community of Women Living with HIV. She is committed to challenge stigma and discrimination directed towards women living with HIV and has contributed by speaking at national and international conferences. Silvia's work and health have been supported by a committed Ashtanga practice since 2001.


Silvia would really love to meet other HIV positive people who practice Ashtanga. Thunderlightnow at yahoo dot co dot uk.

Oct '08 Health

Relieve aches, pains and stiffness with oil baths
By Kimberly Flynn Williams

Oil bath is a traditional, weekly Ayurvedic home remedy still practiced widely in South India. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois routinely recommends oil bath to his yoga students especially for the relief of back and knee pain as well as stiffness. Weekly oil bath reduces excess internal heat (pitta in Ayurveda) particularly in the joints, liver, and skin. This heat is generated by poor lifestyle, including consumption of oily, processed, and difficult to digest foods, alcohol and tobacco, in addition to stress, air pollution and inadequate sleep. This imbalance increases with the heat generated by yoga practice and hot climate. Eating an over-sufficiency of healthy foods that are deemed "heating" in Ayurvedic terms, also adds to this imbalance.

Excess heat can be felt in the joints as pain and stiffness and in the back, often in the lower right-hand side and hip, as a nearly debilitating pain. This heat also contributes to a short temper, burning anger, red skin, pinkish acne, and redness in the eyes. When a daily ashtanga yoga practitioner still carries extra weight, especially around the middle, has difficulty with weight loss or with digestion, and has a regularly sluggish bowel, these are all signs of surplus heat.

In India, oil bath is customarily taken with castor oil that is later removed from the skin and hair with a special herbal paste made of equal parts soap nut and green powders mixed with water. Castor oil delivers the best results, but is nearly impossible to remove without these powders. Guruji suggests that, after leaving India, the yoga student can replace castor oil with almond oil, which easily washes off with bath soap.

Daily baths in India are taken by pouring water over the head from a bucket while standing in the bath, a river, or other body of water. It is in reference to this bath that oil bath is so termed. In other words, the student is not soaking in a tub of oil; rather he or she is using oil first on the head. Oil is rubbed into the scalp which draws the heat upward through the body, where it finally exits through the crown of the head.

Pattabhi Jois recommends that a student takes oil bath every Saturday (on his or her day of rest or once per week) at the start of the morning. After oil bath, one should rest for the day and avoid the following: strong sun, cold water, yoga or heavy work of any kind. For men, tradition prescribes that oil bath be taken on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. For women, oil bath is prescribed on Tuesday or Friday; Guruji provides that his female students can take oil bath on the day off, Saturday. A woman should never take oil bath during menstruation, rather, she should take it on the fourth day (following the first three days of menses, during which time she has abstained from yoga practice). If one is not able to take oil bath on a given Saturday, he or she may take it on one of the above appropriately listed days.

Directions for Oil Bath

Note: When using castor oil, first place the bottle in warm water to thin out the oil for easier application.

1. Apply ample amount of oil to your head, rubbing into the scalp and through to the ends of your hair.

2. Leave oil on the head for the allotted time. For your first oil bath, leave the oil on your head for only five minutes. Continue increasing the time weekly by five minute increments until the oil is left on the head for a full two hours (a 6 month process); this is the maximum recommendation. At this juncture, you should practice two hours weekly, not exceeding this time.

Important: Years of accumulated heat should safely be relieved in stages. Therefore, it is essential to carefully follow the time recommendation. Inappropriately increasing the prescribed minutes may lead to a cold, vomiting, chills or diarrhea, all of which are symptoms of too much heat rising too soon.

3. Having completed your allotted time for oil on the head, generously apply oil to the whole body. As you rub oil over your body, take time to rub and massage elbow, knee and shoulder joints, along the spine and into any areas that are chronically sore. You need not apply oil to the face. This step should take an additional five to ten minutes.

4. Take a very hot shower or bucket bath. Let the hot water run over the scalp as you massage the existing oil deeper into the crown. Continue to rub the oily skin focusing on the joints and spine. This is an important step as the hot water opens pores and draws internal heat from the skin and joints. This shower may last five to fifteen minutes.

5. Apply soap and shampoo, or soap nut and green powder mixture to remove oil. After turning off the shower, lather up with soap on the skin and shampoo in the hair to remove almond oil. If castor oil is used, then apply soap nut and green powder mixture rubbing the paste over the whole body and through the hair and scalp. Be careful and avoid getting soap nut powder, dry or wet, in the eyes or nose, as it will cause a burning sensation. As you rub the paste over the skin, it will turn from dark to light green which indicates that the oil is being absorbed.

To make the paste, in a large bowl mix equal parts soap nut powder and green powder with enough water to create a paste with a honey-like consistency. Soap nut is active in absorbing the castor oil and can make the skin feel very dry. Green powder leaves the skin and hair feeling soft and smooth.

6. Take a second shower or bucket bath to remove oil and lather or special paste. Take this shower at a warm, comfortable temperature and use enough soap and shampoo to remove the almond oil. If you are washing off soap nut paste and castor oil, be sure to close your eyes when rinsing your hair; you'll probably want to follow up with shampoo. This shower lasts up to ten minutes.

You have successfully completed oil bath.

7. Wash the shower/bath area. The shower floor will be very slippery and the drain may be clogged a bit. Scrub the shower area well to avoid slipping and pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to keep it open. If you have used soap nut paste, you may be faced with a muddy mess. Clean all surfaces and be sure to pour boiling water down the drain.

8. Rest over the next few hours, avoiding hard work, strong sun and swimming in or drinking cold water. For the daily ashtanga practitioner, it is important to take a full day off, allowing the body and mind to rest and rejuvenate for the coming week of practice, study, work and family life.

If the desired results of oil bath are not felt at first, don't give up. Continue to include this time-honored treatment in your weekly schedule and be confident in the radiant health benefits it bestows.

Since 1995, Kimberly Flynn Williams has traveled yearly to Mysore, India to study Ashtanga Yoga with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and his family at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. She began her studies with Pattabhi Jois in 1993 during his teaching visit to New York City. Inspired by Pattabhi Jois's vast knowledge of Yoga Shastra, she has been a student of Sanskrit Recitation, Yoga Sutras, and Philosophy under Dr. M.A. Jayashree since 1998. Kimberly co-directed and co-founded Ashtanga Yoga Shala in Los Angeles where she taught for 10 years and twice hosted Pattabhi Jois. Kimberly, AYRI Authorized, teaches Ashtanga Yoga and Sutra Chanting in Hawaii, throughout the United States, and Internationally. She began yoga practice in 1982.

Photo: Govinda Kai

Oct '08 Food

The importance of fall cleansing
...and a good cleansing recipe

By Stacy Plaske

From ice cream and alcohol to processed and refined foods, autumn is an ideal time to cleanse the body and mind of the residue left from summer's many indulgences.

According to the 5 Element Theory, fall is associated with the metal element, which is in turn affiliated with the lung and large intestine. The lung and large intestine energies are peak during this time, acting to take in vital energy and release what is not needed. Imbalances in the metal element can result in excess mucus, allergies, cough, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, asthma, skin problems, headaches, fatigue, gas, constipation and, diarrhea.

As the body slows down during autumn, any excess toxins that have accumulated in the system over the more active summer months will now attempt to make their way out through the eliminative channels of the colon, lungs and skin. Cleansing will help the body flush out the excess toxins and smooth the transition of the change of seasons. Our "braised red cabbage with currants, apples, and plum vinegar" recipe is a delicious way to start or refresh your food cleanse...

Braised red cabbage with currants, apples, and plum vinegar

½ head red cabbage, chopped
2 tbsp currants
½ apple of your choice, sliced thin
2 tbsp umeboshi plum vinegar
¼ cup filtered water

Braise the red cabbage in water and vinegar in sauté pan until tender. Add the apples and currants at the end and let all ingredients simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Stacy Plaske is an authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher and the owner of Balance Yoga & Healing Arts Center in Huntington, New York. She is a Holistic Health Counselor and co-creator of The Ultimate Energy Cleanse; a 7-day, whole body, vegan alkalizing cleansing program that uses delicious vegan foods, organic herbal formulas, juices, teas, and baths to cleanse the entire body.

Oct '08 Mysore Highlight

Where did all the kings go? A look at India's past
By Philippa Asher

Known as "The City of Kings", palaces in Mysore abound. But what of the kings who once did reside in these palaces?

The beginning of foreign rule in India commenced in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey (although the East India Company had made its presence known since 1600) when many local Indian rulers gave up power in hopes of securing independence.

In 1784, the British government took political control of India from the East India Company. They established several "Princely States" of Hindu maharajas and Muslim nawabs that were overseen by the central government of British India under the Viceroy, while the remaining states were dependents of the provincial governments of British India under a Governor.

The last independent ruler in South India, Tipu Sahib, was Sultan of Mysore from 1782 until 1799 when he was defeated and killed by the British during the Anglo-Mysore Wars (1766-1799). With Sahib's defeat, Mysore became a Princely State and much of the territory was handed over by the British to the Wodeyar royal family.

In 1920, Mohandas Gandhi (Mahatma), re-organised the Indian Congress Party and worked to free India from British Rule. The last British Viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, administered the partition of the British Indian Empire from India in 1947. "Independence" saw the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan (and now Bangladesh) and the Hindu state of (now) the Republic of India. Partition also included the division the British Indian Army, the Indian Civil Service, the railways and the central treasury.

The next few years saw a wave of colonial migration to Britain. (Currently, the largest ethnic groups in Britain are of Indian and Pakistani descent at about 8% of the population).

On the eve of Independence, two thirds of India was directly ruled by the British. The rest was under indirect rule by the maharajas and nawabs. However, in 1971, the government of Indira Gandhi abolished the princely titles of the former Indian rulers.

Mysore Palace is now a museum. Other remains of Sahib's territory may be seen down the road at Srirangapatnam.

Certified to teach by Sri K Pattabhi Jois, Philippa teaches daily Mysore-style classes in Soho, London.

Oct '08 Seva

Yoga in Rwanda
By Lara Lauchheimer

WE-ACTx's Ashtanga in Rwanda (AIR) project is the first NGO which emphasizes yoga as one of its main initiatives by providing free yoga classes to HIV-positive women and children. (Please see the program website for more information.)

In 1994, one million people were senselessly killed in Rwanda. Conflict had been present between the two major ethnic groups (the Tutsis and the Hutus) for decades with smaller violent episodes occurring and a mass relocation of Tutsi citizens around 1960. The Tutsis who were forced to leave Rwanda were never formally accepted in the surrounding countries and lived in extreme poverty whereas in their home country they had lived quite well. In the early 90's, a group of them formed an army and began to put pressure on the Rwandan government to allow
their return.

Hutu extremists used this as an excuse for one of the biggest acts of violence our world has ever seen. They took over the airwaves and inspired hate across the nation by convincing Hutus that their Tutsi neighbors were out to get them. They used and possibly orchestrated the assassination of the Rwandan president as a catalyst to convince regular citizens to take up machetes and hack to death Tutsi friends and sometimes even relatives. Any Hutu who did not take up arms was considered a Tutsi accomplice and was terminated.

Through the WE-ACTx AIR program, I will have the opportunity to offer yoga instruction to women and children touched by this tragedy. Support this great cause by sending even the smallest of donations to:

Rwanda Yoga Program
584 Castro St. #416
San Francisco, CA 94114

Read more about the cause and my mission:

Sep '08 Front Page

Living Mysore Magazine
September 2008/Issue #10

In this issue:

Food "One Diet for All?" By Annie Gurton
Interview "An Interview with Anne Nuotio" By Kimmo and Ulla
Yoga Sutras "Truth" By Lara Lauchheimer
Go Green "Free to be Green" By Elissa Scott
Painting "Traditional Mysore Painting" By Elise Espat
Mysore Highlight "Melting into Mother India" By Anne Nuotio
Thoughts "Pop Yoga: When Doggs (and Pigs) Fly" By Russell Case
Mysore "Spa Review: Mysore's Windflower Emerge Spa" By Laura Olson

Photo Courtesy Jay and Roddy