Thursday, November 08, 2012

Knee health with Yoga

"Phut", the sound of a twig breaking, which I heard when I was 18, changed my life to a large extent. This was the sound of my ligaments in the left knee breaking/stretching, while I executed a twisting kick during my Tae Kwon Do practice. This injury left me with an unstable and painful knee which couldn't support me on lateral movements. I consulted several orthopedics and also a sports medicine specialist, who suggested arthroscopy to repair these ligaments to bring this back to normal. For all those who don't know, ligaments are like rubber bands, once they break or stretch beyond their normal range, it cannot be reversed.

One doctor suggested that I live with it and change my life preferences (read stop practicing TKD) and live a regular less active life (read couch potato). Not for me. I decided to try PT and see how much it helped me regain my normal strength in the knee (i understood that to support a weak body part, I would need to strengthen the muscles around it). Since then I have been regularly gymming with an emphasis on leg extensions and curls and also progressed onto weight bearing squats. This enabled me to feel a lot better and I could go back to my active ways of walking, cycling, swimming and trekking, feeling the occasional pain. Of course I cannot run for long and cannot practice TKD anymore.

Last 2 years however have seen another major turn point. I took to very long distance cycling, which involved hundreds of kilometers at a stretch for days on end. This put an all new burden on my knees and here is where I was lucky to try Yoga at Param Yoga. Its amazing how holding the poses builds strength in the entire body and it happens "invisibly". Means the body doesn't grow or may not shape up, but internally the organs, the musculature and joints become very strong. "Magically" due to the consistent practice, my lower back soreness (due to long sits in the saddle) is gone, my nagging knee is much better and allows me to pedal more than 100 kms a day, my trap muscles between my shoulders have relaxed a lot, and overall I saw a major shift in my capacity to endure the rides and normal ADL (activities of daily living).

As a side note: I am not recommending one form of exercise over another. Instead I am recommending the right proportion of multiple forms of exercise to achieve a balance in mind-body fitness. The proportions depend on your goals...E.g. if you want to be a swimmer, the proportions will be biased towards endurance and strength, if you want to be a runner, it may be biased towards cardio and weight management, and so on.

As of today, while I am biased towards Yoga, I also add in one day a week of specific gym work and also 1-2 days a week of hill climbing (besides the long rides). The cross training actually gives an "active rest" to the overused muscles. The combination of the 3 prepares me for my long rides.

Heres an article written by Dr. Renu Mahtani, founder of Param Yoga, on the health of knees and yoga.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is your lifes purpose on earth over?

Richard Bach says that a simple test for this is "If you are still alive, its not over" :-).

But what happens when a person dies, can we say that their life's purpose is over?

The corollary to Richard Bach's test is that if you are reborn the purpose is not over :-). But who knows about this!!!

I can say for sure that Mr. Subir Das's purpose on earth is not over. He (passed away this morning) and his late wife Mrs Sunanda Das, both of whom nurtured the Blue Cross Society Pune so selflessly and by giving up all that they had, are what we all must aspire to be as human beings.

Their love and care for animals was exemplary.

We (animal lovers, animal care volunteers, animal charity funders, etc)  must build solidarity to continue the work that these two lovely human beings started so that our furry friends have a wonderful life on this planet.

May Mr. Das's soul rest in peace

We already miss you

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sounds of Yoga !

Slide your head back and align it with your back in a straight line
Left thigh parallel to the floor, right heel going back, right leg straight, pulling upwards
Right leg straight, right knee unlocked, right hand behind right leg dangling, left hand reaching for the sky, look at left hand
Wrist, elbow, shoulder in one line, head in line with your spine, heels pushing back, belly not on a sunday, pull up the naval, no cavity between the shoulder blades, fingers spread, press with the mounds of you palms.
Press the pinky toe of your left foot into the mat.
Let your head hang loose, look at your thighs, now lift your heart up, look upward at something on the opposite wall, broaden your shoulders... teachers are quite talkative :-)

If Yoga is about silencing the mind through the use of the body, then is all this sound in the class really helping?

I have observed this about myself, that if I don't listen carefully to these instructions, the pose doesn't happen as expected. In fact its even more confusing to use the eyes to get instructed (watch the teacher), since the directions typically vary and the small nuances (angles, toe positions, head positions, etc) which make a big difference may be missed.

These instructions from the teachers carry a lot of significance to activate and make alive all the necessary muscle groups in the body, during each movement.

Our teacher always says, "don't watch and do, listen and do"

Listening to these instructions carefully and observing your body simultaneously actually silences the mind, as it stops creating thoughts, while waiting for the next instruction.

You don't need quietness in the surrounding to achieve inner thoughtless silence.

This is one sound, which leads to silence

Go Yoga
Best wishes

Thursday, March 15, 2012

4 limbs and a mat

All my life I have been fairly active and have experimented with all forms of exercise. Right from running in school, martial arts in college, gym during my graduation college and work years, long distance cycling last few years, I thought I had been there and done them all.

For some odd reason I had stayed away from Yoga. The extent of my yoga exposure or practice during those years was pranayam when I enrolled for SSY training.

I used to hold this notion that Yoga is only to stretch, wont help weight loss, or cant help me with my athletic performance, and can be taken up when I grow older :-). Essentially I didn't think it was challenging enough for my "fit" body to take on.

However last year before I went on a very long ride, I overcame my resistance and enrolled for Power Yoga, at Param Yoga in Aundh ( At this time I was in the peak of my fitness having a lot of training under my belt. However I was quite taken aback by the intensity of the class. After a year of doing this, I still feel challenged during a class. Every new asana introduced into the flow (vinayasa), is a new challenge altogether. Of course my teachers in Param Yoga are very good.

I observe the following key benefits (the three pillars of fitness) from the yoga training
1. It increases heart rate big time to provide cardio benefits.
2. The earth facing poses which are held isometrically provide strength gains.
3. The stretches provide the flexibility gains.
4. Holding the poses, creates a very still mind.
5. The pranayam helps to increase the metabolism and heal.

All with four limbs and a mat
(no running around, no equipment)

I recommend Yoga to people of all age groups, as a holistic health practice form.