Archive for August, 2011

Puja Season

Monday, August 22nd, 2011


Bangalore, India: Thousands, nay millions, of Muslims in the city are celebrating Ramadan. Meanwhile, the Hindu Puja Season has begun with Varalakshmi Puja and Raksha Bandhan last weekend. This weekend is Krishna Janamastami.

All of these festivals have one thing in common: food, and lots of it. Most of it isn’t very healthy either. Ramadan comes with lots of fried foods being sold on the streets.

Krishna Janamastami is a celebration of Krishna’s birth. One of the most vivid avatars of Vishnu, Krishna was a lover of (amongst other things and people) BUTTER!
So on this festival, devout Hindus eat fresh, homemade butter, and savory snacks also favored by the little Blue Boy.

Then, on September 1, Hindus across the nation will toast to Ganesh, the God who removes all obstacles. Ganesh, who has the head of an elephant, holds a plate of ladoos, sweets made of lentils and sugar. So naturally, the people enjoy feasting on these as well.

Later, it is Durga Puja and Divali, time to exchange tons and tons of sweets with everyone you meet!

How can we enjoy these festivals while practicing yogic values?  In Modern-day India, it is important to take all these sweets with a pinch of salt!

Eating all these fried foods and sugary sweets can be overwhelming, causing our bodies to reject them in harsh manners. Knowing this, it is useful to turn to the yamas and niyamas to see how they guide us.
Santosh is contentment and aparigraha is non-greed. Yoga thus teaches us to not to be greedy– just eat your share and be content. The next time you’re out on the streets, munching away, remember this!

Smiles :) , Sowmya

Fasting and Yoga

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

India is the country with the 3rd largest population of Muslims, after only Indonesia and neighbor Pakistan (with whom relations might just get a little better thanks to Pakistan’s brand new Foreign Minister).

There are a number of Muslims right here in my area, many wearing full-burqas, and some a little less orthodox in attire. So I am not at all surprised that my Muslim student (the one I’ve mentioned before on this blog) is unable to attend classes due to her devotion to her religion. Starting today, Muslims all over the world are observing Ramadan, a month-long fasting during daylight hours.
How does yoga view fasting? Actually yoga and ayurveda have forms of fasting which help to cleanse the body, making it ready for higher spiritual practices such as meditation. In such fasting, the devotee eats or drinks certain foods which help this process.

In Islam, the fasting of Ramadan is different. It lasts for a month and it’s from dawn to dusk. Designed to bring one closer to God, Ramadan cultivates characteristics such as patience, humility, and surrender to God. In several of my previous posts, I have discuss how yoga can also help develop patience and humility. Ramadan does the same, because a follower must endure the hardship of fasting and wait for the feast. It also develops humility and forgiveness, because during the hardship of the fasting, the follower realizes that he/ she is no greater than anyone else. And in fact, one must surrender to God to achieve anything.

Surrender to God is the last niyama, Iswara Pranidhana. These two traditions are similar in this, because ultimately, in order to fast, and in order to have a feast, it is not upto you, but upto God. Your body, regardless of how you train it, is up to God. God makes the final decisions, and we are required to surrender to the will of God in either yogic customs or during Ramadan.

To all the Muslim readers out there, Ramadan Kareem! Ramadan Mubarak!

by Sowmya Ayyar