Friday, May 18, 2012

Autism, Ayurveda and Ignorance

Recently I came across a photo on Facebook that depicted the incredible changes to vaccines for kids in the past decades.  When I saw this picture, I clicked "Share" because I found the picture informative, and I think it is important to be informed.  Much like "meat eaters" do not always like to be informed of the topic of factory farming, the topic of vaccines can easily stir up an emotional reaction in people, in parents, and health care professionals.  On FB people can click "Like" or "Share" or "comment" and it allows people to be respectful and share, since it is an open forum.

Usually I post motivational quotes, comics, or upcoming yoga events of my fellow yogis or myself, but this particular post was different.  I was very proud of my beautiful cousin, who immediately wrote an eloquent response, which in my view takes more courage than speaking behind someone's back.  If only we take the time to calmly communicate, to respect and listen to each other, then and only then, can we learn and grow together.  Being that she is studying to be a health care professional, she was very quick to point out the endless hours of research, medical studies, and medical articles on this topic. 

While I agree that there may be no evidence linking infant mortality rates to vaccines, I also believe that their is no substantial evidence linking the incredibly high doses of vaccines that are administered by mandate today, for better health and disease prevention of kids.  If a new vaccine is administered nearly every year, how much sufficient testing has truly been done?

WHAT does this have to do with yoga?  Well it has to do with our body, our sense of unity, and Ayurveda.  For those who study Ayurveda, an ancient science, that inspired modern day medicine, they will understand how each unique body is diagnosed by it's individual prakriti or constitution.  When the individual is out of balance it is treated according to its dosha type.  For me, this makes me question the concept of mandating tremendous doses of vaccines in every child, when every child is different, unique and therefore has the propensity to react differently.  Much like various people react different to different antibiotics, Much like in Yoga certain dosha types resonate better with certain styles of yoga, because each of us are unique.....if we are in fact unique, why should we assume that it is appropriate to administer 3 times the amount of vaccines in 2012 as opposed to a few decades ago?

I did share a story of two of my yoga students in NYC who had healthy, vibrant children and immediately after they had their vaccination, their children reacted and had a form of autism.  There are a growing number of cases like this that spark the debate today about vaccines, and concern in parents.  Does this mean that Autism is caused by vaccines? I am no one to say so, but from an Ayurveda perspective, it is possible that not every child will react the same to each vaccine.  I also shared the story of my Godmother/aunt who took the flu shot and is now slowly becoming paralyzed.  Every vaccine comes with a disclaimer of potential harm to a small percentage of people, in her case potential paralysis, she is now that 2%, and yet we administer these shots & promote them.  These are not in medical journals, these are personal stories of people close to me.

Today a lovely fellow yogi and former student posted a brilliant post, "Autism is not a Tragedy, Ignorance is"...This is true.  It is sad when people would look at autism as a tragedy, but then again everyone reacts to situations different, and for some parents of Autistic children, they may view it different, especially depending on the place on the spectrum that the child is on.  I have been blessed to share yoga & work with Kids with Autism, Aspergers, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Willams Syndrome in India, NYC and Canada extensively, and they teach me more about JOY and Yoga than anyone I have encountered in my life.  The only tragedy is when people fail to realize how AMAZING these kids are!  Ignorance is a tragedy, so stay informed....Ask Questions.

It doesn't matter if Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Jenny McCarthy, Popular Medical Journals, Famous Yogis, Brand New Yogis, myself, my cousin or anyone online says a perspective about something, it DOES matter if we as individuals inform ourselves, educate ourselves, especially if the topic is of debate and affects our health and the health of the future generations.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kalaripayattu - Indian Martial Arts

During my visit to India, I was fortunate to experience the beautiful ancient art of Kalaripayattu.  In my daddy's hometown of Kudduthuruthy, I walked to the Kalari Payattu center to watch, learn, and discover this incredible art form.  This is the oldest known form of martial arts that is said to have derived from ancient Vedic Times, and has its base in Kerala, India.  Tracing back over 3,000 years the name translates into "field of battle". The style if martial art is said to have inspired Kung Fu and most every other style of battle.

Students are required to find the raw power from majestic animals like the lion, tiger, elephant, wild boar, snake and crocodile, in the art of Kalari payattu.  The entrance of every Kalari establishment faces the East, the South West area is the "poothara", is a 7 their platform meant to house the guardian deity, and be an place of worship and prayer before every lesson.  Students touch the ground, the poothara, and the Guru's feet to symbolize respect and submission to their Guru.  The Teacher is also known as the Asan guides the students to develop the 4 powers of the practice.

· Meikaruthu: power of the body.
· Manakaruthu: power of the mind.
· Ankakaruthu: power to combat.
· Ayudhakaruthu: power to wield weapons.

The four stages of learning are meipayattu or maithari (body), kolthari (sticks), angathari (metal weapons)verumkai (without weapon or empty hand).  Students learn how to wield over 13 different types of weaponry.  Though the movements require committed practice and determination, I quickly realized I need more time to study this art, and I was teaching and studying yoga at the time, so it was not going to happen.  It was amazing to watch how this discipline is still being taught my my fathers local hometown.  

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Vedic Astrology

On the wave of the recent Super Moon, I am reminded of a really fun experience I had in India with an incredible Vedic Astrologer.  For those who missed the super moon, and or are unaware, it is when the moon is the closest to the Earth's orbit.  This recent Super moon was the biggest in over 20 years, and appears 30% brighter than normal.  The Super moon was in the sign of Scorpio, and the sun was in Taurus, and said to destroy negative patterns to make room for rebirth into the positive.  It is a time for transformation. Traditionally, yogis would adjust their yoga practice according to the sun and moon.  Even today, Ashtanga yogis maintain a practice that faces the sun, and that abstains from practicing on moon days.  Since ancient times Vedic Sadhus would monitor the patterns of the moon, the stars and planets to determine what the future would hold.  The reason why this science cannot be argued with is because for centuries many of these sages could not be proven wrong and prophetic tales have been handed down through the Vedas.  Even today in India, massive undertakings like marriages, building projects, and business ventures consult the planets before any action is taken, due to the accuracy of this ancient practice.

For some, the tradition of reading the stars and planets have been handed down.  According to Vedic Astrology, the planets, moons, stars are all in a specific alignment and help to create a framework of an individuals life path.  The difference between Vedic astrology and western astrology is that it actually focuses more on an individual's moon sign.  The chart analyzes the alignment of planets, moons, stars all at the time of an individuals birth.

For me, I had my chart analyzed by an amazing individual who is famous in India and throughout Europe for reading peoples individual astrological chart.  He enlightened me with his time and wisdom.  While for many years I knew I was born under the Sun Sign of Aquarius, I did not have any awareness of my moon sign, or rising sign, or how the planets lined up at the time of my birth, until now.  It was fascinating to learn how each planet has a specific affect on our journey.  The information in my chart was the most accurate review of my life of up to date. It was amazing to see how things in the past line up with my chart, and I am looking forward to the amazing things in my future.  Thank you Jai Krishna for your time and wisdom.  If anyone is ever interested in finding out the alignment of planets, stars and the moon at the time of their birth, this is the astrologer to go to.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lesson 1: There is no "I" in Yoga

While there were so many highlights to my adventures in India that both deepened my yoga practice and also left me with tremendous gratitude, there is a lot that I have yet to share.  Some experiences that I will keep sacred and refrain from sharing, and some over time will find there way to the blog.  Many people would think I am so lucky to have spent so much time in India, learning with incredible gurus, teaching yoga, volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity, and much more.  While my experience was nothing short of amazing, my expedition did come with some challenges.  Tremendous thanks to my family and friends for taking such good care of me for 4 months, and thank you to blog fans who followed along my journey.  Prior to leaving for my trip, I did have a health condition that only worsened with my travels, leaving me in serious need of medical attention a few times.  Of course I kept this situation to myself while doing Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training, and put my trust in God, and at one point I thought perhaps this trip is so magnificent because this is the end of my journey.  It was not, I am still here, back in North America, slowly adjusting to the time zone difference.

One thing I noticed was the energy of stress that was in the air when I came to the beautiful Toronto Airport. Perhaps that is why Yoga is beneficial for people in this part of the world.  While driving home my father drove in a special lane that is designated to people with two or more passengers, as a way to promote car pooling for a better environment.  The other lanes were filled with back to back vehicles driven by people so anxious to get home.  While India would have the orchestral sounds of honking horns, random chickens and cows that cross streets, motorcycles with entire families riding helmet less, and the occasional giant trucks filled with bales of hay and 9 to 10 people sitting on top,  the air of stress is not as common in India as it is in the Western part of the world.

So it makes me wonder, why and how can this part of the world benefit from the ancient wisdom in India beyond just wearing trendy yoga clothes, mala beads, and flowing through Yoga postures?  How can we learn as a society that it is more than the external clothing.  The practice itself is so deep and creates an essence in an individual, with inspires a Sangha, that only later colors a nation.

In India you can see slums that have a fourth wall as a mansion, you can see extreme poverty with joy filled smiles that no drug could recreate, you can be lost and have every person offer to help direct you to the right place, and yet in North America we hide and avoid the site of poverty, we complain when we have regular meals and a roof over our head, and we rely on our GPS before we dare to strike a conversation with another person.  With our technology of iPod, iPhones, iPads we have the ability to connect with those who we choose to connect with and fail to realize how we are in fact isolating ourselves further, perhaps that is why these products begin with "I".

So after months in India, the thing that I understand more than anything is that there is no "I" in Yoga.  Yoga is a Sanskrit word that translates into union.  So when we search for ways to brand this ancient practice with roots in Vedic History that both myself, and no 200Hr or 500Hr Yogi can begin to understand, when we deny the vedic roots of yoga to alleviate any unnecessary guilt or insecurity we may have related to our own religious beliefs, when we attempt to justify a diet that is both harmful to our bodies, animals, and our environment, when we cling to defining ourselves with updated overpriced Yoga apparel, when we insist on boasting about our asana.....perhaps we should ask how much Ego is inspiring our practice.

I met so many brilliant Gurus who do not rely social media to promote themselves or their teaching.  Many who have devoted their lives to the practice of Yoga, and shine with a light of peace in their eyes that I hardly see in North America.  They have never even heard of Facebook or a Blog, and some requested to not be mentioned because they believe the true practice finds its way to the aspirant without marketing.

Does this mean that we should live in a cave, practice in a dothi, never market our Teacher Trainings and classes, and study Vedanta extensively?  No, because imitation has no authenticity, and in this part of the world social media can be used to share light if we choose.  Instead, perhaps we should just embrace the concept of being a humble student who aims to share love, light and peace by living it......and challenge ourselves to slowly let go of attachments to our past, to our feelings, to our physical practice, and ultimately to the material definitions that we all will one day realize is an illusion, especially for us who practice yoga. ~ Namaste

Photos: Ambria in Kerala Palace and Kangra Fort.