Didn't find it?
RSS feed from Feedburner

 Subscribe to this Blog ?


Sundar Narayanan's Travelog

↑ Grab this Headline Animator


Just another spider on the web
Powered by Squarespace
Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Entries in bikram choudhury (19)


Enna Vechchu comedy kemedy pannaliye ?! (Not making me a comedy piece right?!)

That is a popular punch line of Tamil comedian Vadivelu (one of my favorites).  That seems to have already happened to me.. have become a comedy piece, literally!

Many of my friends and family who watch Vijay TV, have told me that they have a program called Comedy Starz where they used my picture as a "prop".. 

Got the whole thing on video here..

There is some good and lot of bad in this.

Good : Yoga gets some more popularity

Bad : Yoga is still seen as some kind of magic, illusion or rope trick (you see the way the compere ends it? that is the way illusions and rope tricks are presented by street performers).

Also, there is a way to get in and out of a yoga pose. When Jim Kallet was at BYSJ to teach a special class he told the teachers "never get into the pose in the beginner class using an advanced way. I saw this teacher do it in the front row. A football player was behind her in the second row. He was new. He copied her and we literally heard his knees go pop .. pop. He permanently damaged his knee. You can mess with the gods, but you can never mess with your knees".  People do things the wrong way and Yoga gets a bad name. 

Someday will post a video of doing this toe stand, or if BYSJ has one, will link it here. 

There is another bad side to this. Everytime a photo from the blog gets used somewhere (remember 80 feet cut outs of Junior bursting fire crackers in Chennai?), the family is up in arms and wants to shut down all my social media accounts from Facebook, to the blog to twitter, etc. Some will comment and say "get some money out of those guys" to which my response is "the day Indian media companies actually pay anything to take stuff.. that day will never come". Others just go to all out fear mongering "now every terrorist knows about you and your family" to which my reponse is "so the terrorists are all going to start doing yoga? That would actually be a good thing because there won't be any terrorism after they start yoga and do it for a few months!".

If anything, Yoga helps you let go and move on.. so AaaaaUuuuuuuuMmmmmmmmm ! 

This too shall pass!


Walking the walk, talking the talk

Before we begin, this is a yoga post.  Not the usual experience in hot room post but rather a perspective on how the world is reacting to Yoga today based on latest media reports.

Three things sparked this post and I will list them in chronological order:

1. A friend of mine who knew I do Bikram Yoga but not much about the Yoga or Bikram recently told me "dude, I saw in the news that the guy who came up with this yoga you do is accused of a lot of bad things. So be careful with the yoga you do!"

2. Indian media reports in last month have a flurry of articles on Shri Shri (Art of Living), his recent event near Delhi and his tweets on cricket matches and articles on Baba Ramdev, another popular Yoga teacher/activist for his statements on what constitutes patriotism and the follow up internet memes about "does yoga help grow a brain?"

3. An article in YogaInternational which claims to debunk Bikram Yoga

Here is my perspective from personal experience.

Bikram Yoga worked for me. It continues to do the job for me. It has been nothing short of a miracle for me. By extension, I can say "Hatha yoga worked for me" and "the heat worked for me". Now what do I mean by "worked"?

Walked into the hot room for the first time, five years ago,  being 18-20 lbs over weight, depressed and having a range of other health issues after an accident in what can only be described as a downward spiral at work and home. Within a month I was back at my normal weight and feeling positive. With a fresh energy that made me a better person, it helped me through even tougher times at home and work over the next few years. Bikram Yoga turned that downward spiral into an upward spiral with positivity reinforcing more positive things. 

Could this be just me? The answer is No. It was definitely the Yoga. It is true that I work my ass off in the hot room and give it everything I got,  but still, it was the Yoga that made a difference. There is something magical about the way this sequence is put together that it worked, for me.

Does this work for everyone? The answer again is No. I happened to be at the right place at the right time in the right mindset. Had nothing to lose by walking into the room and everything to gain. The visual and non visual changes made me go back into the room, over and over and over again. More than 20 people have joined or tried Bikram Yoga after seeing me change over the last five years, but only 4 are still doing it. They all have their reasons for dropping out. Don't like the sweat, the smell, don't like to wash my hair so often, it is too long a time commitment, I am already flexible enough, etc. etc. None of them told me they stopped coming, because they injured themselves or they were afraid of their image because of what they hear in the news about Bikram or any of the other prominent Yoga teachers. 

Does it have to work for everyone? Hell, NO! If you are not serious about making a change and cannot take an opportunity to turn your life around, no yoga is going to work for you. The folks who have issues with the heat have tried other yoga and it works for them. The folks who have issues with 90 minutes have tried other forms of yoga for shorter times and some of them are very happy with the improvements. 

Does Bikram Yoga work? The answer is Yes! Have seen many miracles like me out there over the years. The folks who see the benefit come repeatedly. It seems to be a hit or miss thing. Based on the stats I collect, chances are, if you are a type A personality, Bikram Yoga has a higher chance of working for you. 

If you want to get results from Yoga you need the following basic ingredients:

- Right Teacher :There are tons of youtube videos on the poses and how to do them, but there is no substitute for a teacher who goes over the nuances. The devil is in the details. It is very easy to hurt yourself by doing the wrong thing in a yoga class (I am told it is easier to injure oneself in normal temperature classes compared to hot room classes) and blame the yoga for your injuries. A teacher who is qualified and has been through this learning experience first hand works better than a Youtube video. 

- Right method : Know what you are doing.  Not based on what you think the right thing is from your mind or just from your bodies feedback. If I only listented to the voice in my head that told me what my body was capable of doing, should have quit yoga after day 2. Listen to the teacher.

- Right commitment : Consistency and sincerity in any practice will help move it in the right direction. That goes for any learning. Practice makes perfect and in this case it is an asymptotic relationship towards perfection. 

- Right mindset : Keeping an open mind to learning new things first hand as opposed to infering from other people's experience definitely helps. 

I have only done Bikram Yoga in the last five years but the things above are generic enough for learning anything new, be it a musical instrument or a new language and chances are, with any type of Yoga, a right teacher, technique, dedication and mindset will go a long way. 

All that said, all three of those things that prompted me to write this post go towards three things.

Do not link the Yoga to the Yogi:

Yoga has not changed over the years. Pretty much every posture that you can do with the hardware a human being has, is out there in all its variants and documented extensively in stone to paper to 0's and 1's.

Over time, folks have come up with routines that are optimized towards different results. The most popular ones seem to take a "greatest benefit for the average person" approach. They are like Children's Tylenol. Works great for most kids for most ailments. Then of course you cannot expect to cure cancer with it. 

Do all Yoga teachers who have created a successful routine or a successful franchise or following, required to be perfect human beings? It is a fallacy of human kind to venerate and elevate humans to god status and then see their gods go down in their own eyes. Goes for politicians, sportstars, movie stars and definitely Yoga gurus! People may be fallible and not perfect all the time. That does not mean the works they create are bad. It is very much possible that someday I will lose my mind as an older person, but that does not take away everything I do till I reach that age. 

Before you decide to believe others on Yoga's efficacy, try it yourself : 

Yoga in this context is like religion. There has to be faith first. Then there is the way. Then again, there is no "one way". The way you want is the one that works for you and that doesn't have to work for everyone. 

The difference between Yoga and religion is that in Yoga, a set of physical exercies and breathing has the ability to transform minds even though nothing is being said about the mental transformation in the class. You come in day and and day out and do the exercises, but it changes the way you think, about yourself and your relationship to everything around you. You know it is the exercise because, you get these brilliant moments of clarity in the middle of struggling through the exercises.

You have to try Yoga with the right pre-requisites. If someone else got injured doing yoga, died during yoga training (first time I heard that was in this Yogainternational article) etc. etc. one of those pre-requisites was not there. If you are not the type who is good at taking instructions from a teacher, chances are you are likely to injure yourself. Same goes for the other pre-requisites.. right teacher, right method, right commitment. 

Don't take my word for it : 

We live in a world where the lines between opinion and fact are being blurred by Like buttons and 140 characters at a time, a world where it is difficult to differentiate between a genuinely researched news article and an infomercial. It is also a world where people with responsibility, following, power and money are the ones most likely to abuse it.

I can request you go to find a Bikram Yoga studio and try a class with a teacher who went to teacher training with Bikram himself, to ensure you are not going to injure yourself and come out with a positive learning experience. Chances are you might end up in one of the 1000's of studios that claim to be Bikram Yoga but have teachers who teach whatever they want for however long they want. It is like buying coffee at the Starfucks store, where the lady on the cup looks very similar, but you drink at your own risk!

Finally, Yoga is getting a bad rap either because of some Yogi's words and actions, mistakes by the press or people like you and me believing blindly in what others say or do. The fact that Yoga has survivied for thousands of years is a testament to its ability to prevent ailments and enable faster healing, not to mention its ability to open minds for a lot of people. There are some who say it will work for everyone. I am not going that far. It might work for you. 

I for one, am happy that it works for me!  


Hathayoga Mathayoga…

2015 is almost done. Today I updated the excel spreadsheet again to review how this year went compared to previous years, as far as Yoga goes..

This year it was 209 so far. That is the best in the last three years! This year also saw 87 travel days. Very happy with this years push to do more Yoga personally and with the way my family pushed me to keep going. 


4 days a week should count as "regular" attendance..

and finally the weight tracking... something seems to be off.. I still track my weight after class every day but the weight is now stabilzing around 148 instead of 142. Either I have a new normal or the weighing machine that is ten plus years old has an issue and we need to buy a new one. The wife and kids are thrilled at the prospect of the new machine theory.  

Well, Jr. was supposed to take videos of me doing standing bow and toe stand.. which are two of my favorite poses, but she took pictures instead of videos.

Chin to dimple in shoulder contact works magic compared to cheek in dimple of shoulder, but when you take pictures, the truth always shows! 

The leg seems to be up a lot more now. Calling that as a response to "get your body parallel to the ground" is an insult to my 8th Grade geometry teacher! 

This one though, I like. Can lift off 3 to 4 inches off the heel now and have also managed to have the thighs parallel to the ground and the spine straight. Working on doing this on the right side to match the left.

The one thing that no graph will tell? Kicked out my leg (only left leg) to go from step 1 to step 2 in the "standing head to knee" pose a total of three times this year. Locked the knee for a full 60 seconds only ten or so times.

2016 resolution is to "Lock the knee" for a full 60 seconds and kick that leg out! 

Have become a true believer in the concept of "eventually"!

There are a lot of things that happen in the hot room that were really "not me" five years ago. Based on that, have realized that things happen if one keeps making incremental progress. So there is confidence on locking that knee... even if it doesn't happen in 2016, it will happen...




ps. Jr. and the little one would actually like to see me do a standing split. Even that can happen.. eventually!



When we do Bikram Yoga, the teachers sometimes say "Take a large step sideways.. at least 4 feet.. don't worry about slipping on the carpet. If you do this right, and use your inner thighs, Bikram says you can do this pose on ICE!"

Most teachers laugh when they say that knowing that it is difficult enough not to slip on a sweaty flotex carpet. 

We visited Lassen Volcanic National park for the long weekend. We knew there was going to be lots of snow there from the live webcam that the park service provides! 

While the kids were dreaming of snowball fights I was planning to do Triangle pose on ice. Wanted to give it a shot.. why not?! 

When we went there the first evening, it took some time getting used to 8000 feet elevation. On the second day though, did give it a try. There were jokes from the group about Daddy Narayanan getting arrested for indecent exposure on the mountain tops wearing only his yoga short shorts. 

It was not exactly a slab of ice.. it was still snow. Given that I had already walked barefoot in that snow for some time and my feet had lost communication with my brain, it was easy to do. Not my best triangle.. but first one on snow. 

Now I know why the teachers laugh.. 

Did try to do a bow pose with the same level of success. 

Doing Yoga in a hot room on a flat mat is sooo much more easier than doing anything in freezing snow or ice. They say that the sages in the Himalayas sit through these conditions for days. The monks in Tibet go sit with just a loin cloth for hours. There must be some trick I am missing..

In any case, have increased respect for those monks and sages who can actually sit there for hours. I spent at the most 30 minutes barefoot walking to some locations and posing a few times. 

Will post pictures from the trip soon..


One man's wisdom is another man's gibberish!

There has been a noticeable silence on the blog. Work was hectic. So was Yoga.

Did the "60 day challenge" again at BYSJ. 60 classes in 60 days. It was a lot easier than last year and I did all the classes without missing a single pose. Also learned a lot during this challenge as the teachers picked on me in class knowing that I appreciated their feedback!

On one of those classes the studio owner/ teacher who knew of my dancing days mentioned something in the middle of the triangle pose. This pose is called a "master pose" because it an all body workout on its own. Used to do the pose like the one below.. (that was my best attempt at understanding the dialogue for the pose)

In the middle of it she looked at me and said "stretch the crown of your head towards the wall, like you strech your head while ballroom dancing" . I knew she was talking to me and stretched my head! Then she went "keep going, keep going, tilt your head some more so it is perpendicular to your shoulders again" and in a magical moment, my body nicely aligned itself in one straight line from shoulder to toe.

It also sent my heart racing at a ridiculous speed and it felt like my lungs just could not cope with the sudden demand from the heart. Have never felt a rush like that before.  Tried to capture the change with some help with the Little one who took both the pictures.

This is still not perfect. The idea is to get the profile of your face visible in the front mirror, which means I should tilt even more and also lock my knee a lot more. This is a decent change though to the original way I used to do this pose.

For the last three weeks, have been doing it the right way or close to the right way.

When that miracle class was over and we were all walking out, this lady comes to the teacher and goes "What was that gibberish about the dancing?" and the teacher looks at me and goes "See Sundar, you got it. It changed your pose 300%.. but only because you knew what I was talking about. To anyone else the concept of stretching the crown of your head perpendicular to your shoulders to look taller would not make any sense! This is why the dialogue is generic enough for everyone.”

My original thought was "I have been doing this wrong for 3 years!" ... Actually it used to be worse as my hip would rise up and I would do a Pentagon instead of a triangle for almost a year. Then Jim Kallet fixed it and made it more like a trianlge in an all day special class. By the time I drove home the thought was different.. "I can do it right for the next 30 years!". Yoga is definitely helping me see the positive side of things!

There was a lot more learning during this 60 day challenge. There were a lot of new people who came to class at the beginning of the year. New year resolution to try exercise? So the classes were a mix of 60 day challengers and new comers. Some of the new comers have great difficulty in adjusting to the heat and to the learning process. In one class a guy in the last row decided go lie down 10 minutes into the class. The teacher requested he sit kneeling down instead of lying down at that stage of the class and to keep his head above his heart. He burst out shouting "No one tells me what the F to do. No one!" The whole class was frozen for a few seconds. Then the guy suddenly took his mat and bolted out the door.

There were many thoughts going through my mind from teaching, learning, why come to a class if you cannot listen to a teacher, Sandy Hook, the fact that no one had a phone inside the yoga room in case this escalated to something else.. etc. etc. All these thoughts in the middle of the yoga class, where we were supposed to "still the mind". The teacher expertly ignored this and went on with the class and everyone picked up where we left off and finished the class. It turned out to be a great and unforgettable class.  Have no idea what everyone was going through in their mind, but I learned something. My mind races to find the nearest escape route when it thinks there is trouble and I have to work on that. Maybe the sages of yore were standing on ice and fire to do their penance for a reason?!

There are also other lessons learned with respect to encouraging others before and after class and receiving encouragment back from people whose names we do not know! It is truly a touching experience. Sometimes folks inspire you in the class. Was this close to sitting down one day for a pose when the guy next to me gave me a "You better not sit down" look and I pushed myself to keep going. On another instance, I was losing my balance over and over again in the bow pose and was frustrated. Looked at the mirror and saw a lady who had only one leg hold on to the ballet bar and do the pose. After that there was no frustration. I still fell out, but was okay with it.

In another class a couple decided to move their mats perpendicular to everyone else while doing the triangle pose. The teacher politley requested that they do it the same way as the rest of the class. The couple decided to ignore the teacher and rearrange their mats anyways, inconveniencing all the folks around them (it kind of breaks the symmetry in the room and creates a logistics issue for the everyone around them). My first thought at the end of that class was "Yoga is not for everyone".. but then again, it is not a Yoga issue. Maybe learning is not for everyone. If you are closed to what the teacher is saying, you are not going to learn anything. If you want to do things your way, why bother to come to a group class?! So far, I have listened to the instructions from the teachers and have only improved! It is easier said than done in a culture where folks treat teachers as service providers! For my part when someone tells me before or after class that the teachers are too rigid and inflexible, I tell them it is for their own good. Only if you "attempt" to do things the right way, you can improve!

Was also lucky to be able to do this challenge given my travel got postponed multiple times. Originally I had no hopes of finishing it given the travel schedule. San and the kids pushed me this year to go and keep going. They were rooting and cheering for me every day. Reminded me of days when I would push my Muslim friends to keep their Ramadan fast and not give up! Next year's challenge will have new internal goals!

In the meantime, Jr. has agreed to give Bikram Yoga a try. I am thrilled!

ps. The towel in the photos is not in the right direction.. Had to keep the towel that way at home so I didn't drip sweat on the hardwood floor! It was just after a class and was still sweating! Apparently one should be able to do this pose on a block of ice without slipping, if you use your inner thighs properly!