Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Vrindavan Heat, Yoga and Breath

There has been a heat wave in most of Northern India with new record temperatures being set for May. The papers announced 46C the other day and two deaths attributed to the weather in Mathura district.

I will be honest and tell you that other than buying fruit and vegetables in the evening, I have not been out of the house at all. I am enjoying my bhajan and writing so much that I find it hard to leave my station.

Just now I was thinking, though, that Vikram yoga probably has it wrong with their heat it up and sweat it up yoga. I won't criticize because I really don't know who it's for or what it is attempting to accomplish. But as the heat sinks deeper and deeper into the days, it comes to me that Vikram is right about this: yoga was indeed born in the heat.

Most of the Western people who come to India come in the cool season and run away when the weather starts to bear down. Those who stay are hiding behind fans and coolers and A/C if you can afford it or get it. And that is all perhaps a big mistake.

I do jala neti every day. Yesterday for some reason I missed. Most of the day I was lethargic and unproductive, even in terms of bhajan. But as soon as I did it a few minutes ago, it had an immediate and incredibly beneficial cooling effect on my mind and body.

Your sinuses are cleared, which is really important because it seems the heat makes it a bit harder to breathe fully. And all that is very invigorating, in a sattvika way.

When your sinuses and entire face have cooled and slowed down, your head has cleared, you relax and feel like meditating, doing light stretching exercise, being in the pleasure of self-existence. And that is in fact what the heat does to you when you are adapted to it.

You reduce your calorie intake, increase hydration through drinking water and sorbet. [In this heat, you drink a couple of liters of water before bedtime and you wake up and produce only a few milliliters of urine -- if any at all!]

And then you sit and chant japa and meditate. This is not weather for running around changing the world. You go inward and the heat becomes an oven to bake your introspection and calm.

Maybe if the world gets hotter and hotter and hotter, people will start slowing down a bit. Maybe it's getting hotter because people are just moving too damn fast. Maybe global warming is Gaia's way of saying, "Time to slow down!"

Just slow your breathe, sit down and relax. Chant the Holy Names and reflect on the beauty of the Divine Couple.


***

A few days ago I did the Vrindavan 5-kos parikrama in the mid-afternoon, probably the hottest part of the day. I think I got a little bit of sunstroke, even though I kept my head covered. Even so, I am OK today. 

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. But I didn’t see any dogs. The ones I did see were lying in the open gutters trying to get a little moisture. Most of the dogs in town -- all street dogs, a real curse in fact -- have legs and bellies black from lying in the muck. I don’t know what relief they get from the heat, since that gutter water must be pretty darn close to boiling itself.

The town has changed so much, but in the heat you can feel the old Vrindavan still there, radiating in the sunshine. By Indian standards, the paved road is pretty nice. Still many trees line the road, some were even left standing in the middle of the road, as tree cutting has become verboten. The government is trying to make Vrindavan a tourist spot and so they really do want it to look nice, though God knows, making India look nice is not always easy.

Here and there you see village India, slum India, neglected India, falling into piles of rubble even before it has been built. But walking past the ruined temples that were abandoned when the princely states came to a sudden end in 1947, which someone has painted pink in an effort to put back a little bit of shine on the exposed brick, past all the ashrams and shrines, the Yamuna River, this special thing known as Vrindavan comes glowing through, exposed. 

Near the end of my walk, I started to realize that even after all these years, my breathing was not proper. I have always had the tendency to hunch forward a little, stooped, rounded shoulders, which I suppose goes well with my white-haired, bespectacled, absent-minded professor look. But what I began noticing is that after walking for a couple of hours in the heat, I was starting to get short of breath.

I noticed that the forward stoop actually caused my ribs to make pressure on my abdomen, which did not allow it to expand fully when inhaling. Although I have been practicing abdominal breathing for years, it was being blocked and I hadn't noticed it. Perhaps it had been aggravated due to the walk and being tired, what to speak of the unsightly bulge of superfluous fat, but I countered by deepening the abdominal breathing, which in turn allowed my chest and lungs to draw in the breath naturally, more fully.

Now I realize that proper abdominal breathing improves posture also. I think that finally I have found the key to countering the stoop, which no amount of backward stretches seemed able to do. By deep abdominal breathing, the vertebral column seems to straighten naturally, but it will in all likelihood require a period of great attentiveness to get full results.


Nevertheless, it feels like new steps forward are still being made.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Jagadananda Das,

As well as jala neti, the daily routine of Shivambu will greatly help your practice (drink only the mid-stream urine from the first urination each morning).

Send an e-mail, should one wish an Adobe Pdf copy of the 107 verses of the "Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi" - The auspicious pure water of Śiva: According to the rules and regulative principles used to regenerate the life-giving force.

Kind regards,

M.N.

Jagadananda Das said...

Yes, I already do this. I do not know the Shivambu-kalpa-vidhi, though.

Anonymous said...

The original Devanagari text of the Shivambu Kalpa Vidhi was found by Professor Pandurang Vaijnath Shastri Athavale in the extensive collection of the Shankaracharya of Dvaraka Pitha (Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopananda Saraswati Maharaj).

Anonymous said...

Have uploaded a copy of the Shivambu-kalpa-vidhi, which can be directly downloaded from here:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2dpSk929Q8nRWlpQWNBd2lkOU0/view?usp=sharing

Let me know when you have it, and (I) will remove the download.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jagadananda Das,

A private message has just been sent to you via Google Hangouts.

Kind regards,

M.N.