Tuesday, October 27, 2015


The mudra (not sure what that is? take a look at the previous post!) we were looking at last week is called VAYU MUDRA. It's great to aid the digestion process. It's used in yoga therapy when we are feeling heavy and bloated. That "post wedding lunch" effect. When we have problems with our digestion we (or I at least) become sluggish, find it hard to concentrate, become (more) impatient - we only have a certain amount of energy within the body to spend - if a great part of this energy is directed towards our digestive process there is less to direct  towards  other more pleasurable or important pass-times, our emotional/social/sexual/spiritual (yes, that too)  lives for example. When our digestion is easy, we become mentally lucid - a priority for a yogi. 

Vayu Mudra - push the index finger down with the thumb so the circular gap between finger and thumb is smaller.

And here is where Agni comes in. Our digestive fire according to yogis. And as a fire, it doesn't do too well when we:
 -  drown it in icy liquid. So perhaps the cold glass of water, Coke or beer with our meal  is not doing us all that good.
 - throw on large amounts  of oversized "logs". Consider reasonable (!) portions and chewing food well so we don't suffocate that fire.
- when we don't eat. Don't put enough logs on the fire? Enough said. 
- nor eat at the right time. Our body follows a 24 hour cycle - this includes our organs and physical bio-chemical processes. 

According to the ayurveda tradition in order to make the most of this cycle we should be eating:

BREAKFAST - between 07.00 .- 09.00 ( a light breakfast is suggested)
LUNCH - between 12.00 - 14.00 (the "heaviest" most important meal of the day)
DINNER - between 17.00 and 19.00 (light meal)

In order to reap the benefits of (most) mudra, as I said in the previous post,  it's necessary to hold it for very minimum of 30 seconds (5 minutes would be great for most mudras) in the morning, afternoon and evening, to keep that effect  like an echo,  strong and constant from one mudra to another during the entire day. 

Give it a go if you fancy it, tweak your eating habits  and try vayu mudra throughout the day when you've gone over the top and see if your mood lightens as well as your stomach. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

MUDRAS WON'T SAVE YOU (and neither will veg)

As a writer (as in: "I'm working on a novel")  I have a passion for short stories. I have just had the fortune to read Grace Paley's "My Father Addresses me on the Facts of old Age" (actually I heard it on the New Yorker Fiction podcast - wonderful for insomniacs).

It's a wonderful story of an aging father passing on  advice to his daughter whilst he still can. He's a retired doctor and he's egocentric. He's full of himself and he's lovable despite this. 

He recounts how one morning his wife came up to show him a spot over her left breast. He knows what it is. It's cancer. 
"…but I know in a minute, in one minute everything is finished - finished, happiness, pleasure…finished.

The advice to his daughter that follows is thus:

"..you should take care of yourself, I don't mean eat vegetables, I mean go to the doctor on time, now days a woman as sick as your mamma could have lived many years…"

And it struck me, hearing this. How often we fret and give excess importance to eating our greens, doing yoga, eating organic, drinking water, herbal tea, breathing properly, meditation, getting fresh air, sleep, fruit, friends. We become convinced that a "banana a day" (alla Grace Paley) or vegetarianism or Asprin  will save us from no manner of physical tragedies. It won't. All this may help. May even be a big help. But if you really want to invest in your physical future? For God's sake go and see your doctor. Go and get check-ups. Prevention is better than cure, doctors better than mudras.

In the meantime: Mudras

"MU"- means "light" and "DRA" means "drawing out". The indication being that by practicing mudras (which are gestures - like small yogic asana for the hands) we draw out our light, our joy and remain within it. The hippy in me wants to say "basking in it". 

In yoga therapy mudras are used for all matter of ills. Do they work? I don't know, but I'm optimistic. And I'm trying them.  They are free, they are easy and  this helps. They have to do with touch and contact and that has to be a good thing right? Think of a hug or making love (sorry - it's the hippy in me again) - two "full body" mudras full of potency and even yes, medicinal properties. Think of falling on your face and grazing your knee. What do we do? We rub the sore spot. It's automatic, is it not? Touch. It seems to give us respite from the pain, it seems to make things better. 

When you hold a mudra (bringing certain fingers together) it forms (according to Indu Arora, author of the book "Mudra: The sacred secret" -  which I can't get a copy of as I don't live in America - lament over and done with) an electrical circuit. This you can actually feel - it's like a little pulse in the place where your finger tips join - try it. It takes 30 seconds to kick start  and causes a ripple effect in the body. This lasts from 4 to 6 hours so most mudras are best done three times a day in order to keep that ripple strong and constant (so morning, afternoon and evening) . As Arora goes on to say,  yoga causes a ripple too  and the effect  lasts all day - hence with yoga a once-a-day practice is advised and is enough.   

The mudra I will be writing about in my next post is called VAYU MUDRA. It aids in the digestion process - often feel bloated, heavy and sluggish? I invite you to read next week's post.

In the mean time...yogic homework for the lasses this week:
How about booking that smear test and/or mammogram?   

Thursday, October 1, 2015


"Rugby". This was the response I got to the beginning of term question: "so what extra curricular activity would you like to do this year?"

Nothing inherently wrong with rugby. It's just that My Eldest daughter happens to be 12, she's one of those elf like creatures, Japanese feet, (size 34)  and fine beautiful features (the later of which I'd like to stay that way). She's about the same height as My Youngest  daughter who is three years her junior. My Eldest is tiny.

My other daughter  hearing the conversation joins in "and I want to do drawing classes". This may seem far more reasonable than rugby. But one has to consider that if you approach My Youngest with a request which borders on the creative, imaginative or artistic, she freezes - like a deer in the dark  halted by the headlights of a car.
"Draw a tree!" is greeted with horror and slight trembling. She is an emotive  type - ask "how are you?" and she'll present you with a thesis on her feelings of the day off the top of her hat.  Just don't ask her to draw or invent anything.

Ok, each to their own Dharma - I wouldn't want to bludgeon a blossoming carrier in ball games or anything. However....

The reason My Eldest went for  Rugby is because it's "different"  (therefore cool) and the reason why My Youngest chose drawing  is because her sister does it (and therefore it's cool too),  the latter failing to realize  that her request to spend free-time painting is fueled by wishing to live another person's  Dharma: her sister's. A recipe for disaster. 

Neither of them were recognizing (nor respecting) their true nature (in buddhist terms this would be: MOHA - which means delusion - or "ignorance" not as in stupidity but a kind of blindness or blind-spot keeping us from following our path). 

All this made me remember my own devastating dose of Moha -  when, after my secondary school education, I decided to study Business and Finance. Why? to get out of the poverty hole my mother had fallen into. I wanted to get away and I wanted to make money. I was deluded. I was not facing reality nor the nature of my self. 

Stephen Cope in the very cool interview he gave on The Yoga Hour, gives  some great  suggestions on how to find  our Dharma and how to follow it. As "yogis" this is our main task in life (it's not given much importance these days - finding and living ones vocation  is thought of as being unusual and unnecessary, a little eccentric and indulgent and plainly a path towards poverty)  but in order to live our life to its full potential, in order for our lives to be deeply satisfying and happy we need to start digging inward for that gold. As "yogis", following our Dharma should be pretty high up on our list of priorities. 

There are three things that Stephen Cope says about Dharma which were eye-openers for me: 

1. Often we have an inflated and therefore unreasonable idea of what our Dharma is (which makes it seem totally out of reach) -  he says: "we don't have to give up our job selling insurance to go off and paint in Paris."  Our path is probably far less "blingy".

and even better he states:
2. Our Dharma is very probably already in  our lives somewhere, it's CLOSE. It's just a case of identifying it and directing our energy there to enable it to grow. 

3. The universe has an uncanny way of directing us towards our Dharma - certain doors will start to open when we are heading in the right direction, whereas we may find that other doors shut when we're about to take up rugby. 

Yogic homework:

If you are like me you are probably not very good at judging your own talents and gifts,  ask someone who is preferably emotionally in sync to do that job for us:  husband/wife/best friend/neighbor/father/teacher etc. Someone we esteem and who knows us well.  What does he/she think our gifts and talents are? Then marvel and reflect. 
In doing so you've taken an important step towards (identifying) your Dharma.