Category Archives: Festivals & Events

Plucking petals off flowers at the American Swami's Mumbai Flower Festival

An American Swami: And My Journey to His Home

temple deities in India

There may be a thousand people crammed in a large temple hall. If this were the U.S., it would likely be against fire code. But we are in Mumbai, India. With 26,000 people per square kilometer. This is an oasis of spirituality. A temple filled with love, gratitude, and flowers. A golden altar houses glorious deities, whose dressings and adornments change, daily. Lavish paintings and tapestries line the walls and ceilings. Many correlate to passages in the ancient scriptures. Gold-plated carvings, as intricate as the Italian renaissance palaces, grace the room. All eyes turn to the swami. An American Swami.

An Oasis of Peace and Love Built by an American Swami

ceiling at ISKCON Chowpatty Mumbai temple

This is a Krishna temple, filled with Indian men. Most are dressed in white. There are some tangerine-robed brahmacharyas. Every now and then, you spot someone in Western dress. One middle-aged gentleman sports an H&M bag. 

Despite the many men here, this is definitely a safe place for women of all ages. From grannies to toddlers. Most wear saris. To a lesser extent, younger women wear traditional long dress shirts over baggy pants, or leggings. The salwar kameez.

Radhanath Swami, an American swami in India

Three video cameras point at the American Swami. When he enters, many prostrate themselves in front of him as a sign of respect. Obeisances. The humble swami begins with Sanskrit chants. Then, he gives a lecture on the “Srimad Bhagavatan,” in the lingua franca of English. He drops in Sanskrit words frequently. But, his English reflects his American mid-western roots. The packed room of devotees applauds the swami generously when he’s done.  

It’s a bit incongruous.

At first glance, the man in charge here appears to be an Indian man, in his element. Indeed, he’s in his element. But, he hails from the suburbs of Chicago (like me). Furthermore, the American Swami is of Jewish ancestry (as am I). Thousands of devotees lovingly call this man Radhanath Swami.

Not unlike many of his Vietnam-war generation, he was disenchanted. At age 18, he hitchhiked throughout Europe and Asia. With little more than a harmonica in his pocket. His mission: find truth. Destination: India. He met many a guru before he found the real deal. Srila Prabhupada. That was almost 50 years ago. Now, Radhanath Swami is the sharer of truth. He has written a best-selling book, turned into a screenplay. More importantly, the American Swami has made an indelible mark in India. In the spiritual community and beyond.  

The American Swami’s Wide Reaching Charitable Endeavors

Plucking petals off flowers at the American Swami's Mumbai Flower Festival

This American Swami fostered a long list of charitable initiatives. There’s the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Vrindavan. Sandipani Muni school for 1,500 underprivileged girls in Vrindavan. Mobile eye and dental clinics. Plus, a program serving 1.3 million lunches a day in India. Additionally, he established an award winning eco-village. That initiative includes a rural women’s empowerment program, and systems to boost agricultural outcomes for 900 previously near-starving farmers. 

Today, in Mumbai, however, the attention is all focused on the beauty of the temple adorned in flowers of all different hues. In the morning, women sit on the floor in a large room. They form small group surrounding baskets. We pluck petals off the flowers.  One group is working on marigold-colored flowers. Another, crimson. Others, garden-fresh white blossoms. In my group, I am the only foreigner. We are young, and old. Of diverse socio-economic strata. We have many different mother tongues (there are 22 “constitutional” languages in India).

One ton of flowers are strewn like confetti at the Iskcon Mumbai Flower Festival, the brainchild of the American Swami in India

In the main sanctuary, there is more diversity. The room is about the size of a basketball court, including the sidelines. Here, are the men. Children and some women, too. All are one. All focus on the same repetitive task. Plucking petals. Periodically, a few men with tilak on their foreheads bring out bushels of new, intact, flowers, and they pick up the color-separated baskets of soft feathery petals.

The plucking, in itself, is a bit of a meditation. But, the reason behind this is not revealed until Radhanath Swami returns to his microphone in the evening. In the meantime, we all dutifully perform the petal plucking. 

Our senses are satiated. We are surrounded by the sweet aroma of the flowers. The touch of the soft petals, and sturdier stems, against our fingers. And, a radiant array of colors surrounds us.   In all, more than 2,300 pounds of flowers. Marigolds. Chrysanthemums. Roses from Vrindavan. Jasmines from Coimbatore.

A Ton of Flowers in a Sanctuary

flower garlands fill the sanctuary at the Mumbai Chowpatty Iskcon temple for the Flower Festival

This is the Mumbai Flower Festival. Also the brainchild of the American-born swami.

In the evening ceremony, devotees squeeze into the sanctuary. We line up at least an hour in advance to get prime spots on the floor, eye to eye with Radhanath Swami. Everyone sits knee to knee and shoulder to shoulder. We are the lucky ones. The overflow watches from a large screen in the patio, below. Around the world, others tune in on a live stream.

The evening includes chanting led by Radhanath Swami. Behind me, are recording artists Gaura Vani and Jahnavi Harrison. They provide beautiful subtle background instrumentation and vocals.  Periodically, we all join in the chanting.  

Then, it’s time for the reveal. What, in fact, are we all doing here?

flower garlands fill the sanctuary at the Mumbai Chowpatty Iskcon temple for the Flower Festival

Radhanath Swami explains that we, humans, are like the flowers. All different colors.  Some from Mumbai. Others from Southern India. Still others, from the U.S., Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. We are different sizes, scents, and senses.  Alone, or with our own, we are beautiful. But, when we are all together, mixed like potpourri, it’s an amazing sight. And feeling. Incredible touch on our hair…arms…clothing. There is, perhaps, nothing more beautiful than this. Unity in diversity. Beauty in diversity. Power in diversity. 

A Sea of Multi-colored Petals — The American Swami’s Analogy for Beauty in Diversity

At this point, from the altar, men overturn the individual oversized baskets of petals onto the deities. First, they are bathed in white petals. Then, yellow petals. Next, purple. One color, after another, we see the layers floating on top of the deities. After about two or three dozen huge baskets of uni-colored petals raining onto the deities, we see a slight meshing of colors. Subtle dark red peaking through the oranges. Flecks of white or yellow, underneath or between.

The crowd is in ecstasy. But, the high point is yet to come. 

One ton of flowers are strewn like confetti at the Iskcon Mumbai Flower Festival

Soon, we see a confetti of multi-colored petals. The deities themselves are completely hidden by all the beautiful colored flower parts. Petals form mountains atop the deities. Mountains keep growing, like layers of snow. A landslide is pending. There are so many layers upon layers of different colored flowers. Gold upon orange. Scarlet upon vermillion.  Color-less among the vivid. 

When there are no more petals to pour onto the Mount Everest looking deities, the fun begins. Think Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. Petals. Not beads. Devotion and spirituality. Not spirits.   

One ton of flowers are strewn like confetti at the Iskcon Mumbai Flower Festival

The mounds of delicate flowers are strewn upon the gazers. We are covered with orange. Pink. White. So many beautiful colors. All together. The confetti of petals. The diversity of our world. Of individuals. When all the petals make their way into the central area, atop the hundreds of fellow worshipers, all become kids. Spry folks bend down and scoop up the piles of petals by our feet. We let the petals fall like rain on those around us. Friends toss handfuls on each others’ heads. Or lightly spray their faces with the multi-colored blessed petals.

“The flower festival is like being on drugs in the 60s. But you’re not,” says Gaura Vani, the musician. In fact, Gaura Vani left the Hollywood scene to re-dedicate his life to Radhanath Swami and the teachings of Srila Prabhupada.

The Petals Remain with us Forever

One ton of flowers are strewn like confetti at the Iskcon Mumbai Flower Festival, the brainchild of the American Swami in India

Five months later, Mark, who works in the financial industry in Chicago, says the petals are still with him. “The pockets of my kurta have an unlimited supply of potpourri. It’s magical.” Lauren, a comedian living in Los Angeles, too, carries the remnants with her nearly half a year later. “Just found ANOTHER flower petal from Mumbai in my purse,” she notes with a laugh.

Just as Mardi Gras may be unforgettable to many, the Mumbai Flower Festival, concepted by a Jewish-turned-Vaishnava man who threw away his blue jeans in favor of an orange robe, is like nothing else. We are all in a state of light-headedness. Bliss. Devotion. Awe. Despite our countries of origin, race, religion, we are flying high. Equal. Respecting one another. And, as is the norm for followers of the ISKCON traditions, drug- and alcohol-free.         

India is a land of spirituality. Siddharta Gautama, the buddha, left India for Asia where he was (and is) considered a Supreme Being. Likewise, many yogis left India to create large followings in the West. Srila Prabhupada, left India, with only a few dollars in his pocket, and created an enormous legacy for spirituality, around the world. But, sometimes it needs a boon in the west to gain more momentum in the homeland. Srila Prabhupada’s work in other lands has only strengthened the following in India. Likewise, it took a kid from Chicago to bring back, replant and nourish the 5000-year-old learnings from India. 

And, thanks to modern-day technology, everyone can connect in the learnings and experiences.

varanasi-sunrise-Ganges

Spiritual Varanasi, India

In my last article, I spoke about finding thousands of Ganeshas in Varanasi. Unexpectedly. Beyond the Ganeshas, almost everywhere in Varanasi spirituality was overflowing.

Pre-dawn puja on the Ganges at Varanasi

“It is the headquarters of the Brahmin faith, and one-eighth of the population are priests of that church.*”

varanasi-sunrise-Ganges

Just as I relished morning arati in Vrindavan, I woke up early each day in Varanasi. Here, mangala arati was on the holy Ganges.

“The Ganges itself and every individual drop of water in it are temples.*” 

Bathing in the Ganges in Varanasi, India

Before arati started, I strolled along the sand. In the pre-dawn hours, people carefully disrobed and blessed themselves by bathing in the river. Despite the fact that people, especially men, took dips into the Ganges under daylight, it seemed more sanctified prior to the first morning rays.

“All India flocks thither on pilgrimage…*”

The mangala prayer services in the two ever-so-holy towns of Vrindavan and Varanasi were very different. In Vrindavan, it was at ISKCON temple. Prayer was filled with music and devotion to the deities. It appeared as if the vast majority of Vrindavan attendees were local residents. Both Indian and non-Indian.

Morning arati at Ganges in Varanasi, India

Varanasi arati, however, attracted visitors. Albeit primarily visitors of Indian ancestry. Second, prayers in Varanasi didn’t begin at 4:15 a.m. like Vrindavan’s arati. It was much closer to the actual sunrise in Varanasi. Around 6:30 a.m. Furthermore, I didn’t notice deities in Varanasi. It was more of a fire ceremony.

Morning arati at the Ganges in Varanasi, India

In Vrindavan, after the main prayers, women and men formed different circles to circumambulate around a tulsi plant. In Varanasi, many stayed to listen to ragas, live, on stage. Next, it was yoga time. Men sat on lines of red carpet. The women clustered together under a canopy. The practice included 30 minutes of pranayama. Then, 20 minutes of asanas. Rather than closing with savasana, each session ended with laughter yoga.

Varanasi-sunset arati on the Ganges

Evening arati was just as magical as the morning’s in Varanasi. I opted out of the touristy river boat barge views of the ceremony, to sit alongside hundreds, or thousands, of Indians at the waterfront. The white smoke, set against the black night sky was beautiful. So was chanting among the enormous crowd of worshippers.

“Where this eternal light intersects the earth, it is known as Kashi.”**

Evening arati on the Ganges in Varanasi, India

In Varanasi, morning and evening arati were like bookeends. In between, I strolled around the innumerable sacred temples. Some, were in a near state of ruins. Others, were hiding behind buildings, or tunnels. Surprisingly, the most visited, Kashi Vishwanath, was hiding behind untold heaps of construction. And, a maze of visitors in queue. Most likely, waiting at least an hour to approach the sacred space. The endless string of people inched toward the temple, barefoot, as slow as turtles.

Once past the security guards and magnetometers, we were rushed through the ancient golden temple. Certainly to ensure that as many people as possible could pass through this holiest of sites dedicated to Lord Shiva.

“Benares is the sacredest of sacred cities. The moment you step across the sharply-defined line which separates it from the rest of the globe, you stand upon ineffably and unspeakably holy ground.*”

Being herded through the masses to catch a mini-darshan didn’t exactly get me to a state of blissful spirituality. Being one of just a handful of people at an ancient temple in Varanasi, did. Set amid grey rubble was a pristine orange pagoda-like temple.

“The journey to sacred places is the most common way that people travel in India.”**

Near Lalita ghat was a Nepali temple

Near Lalita ghat was a Nepali temple. According to one local guide, “This is one of the oldest and unique temple of Varanasi as it is made up of woods. It is also called as the replica of Pasupatinath temple (Kathmandu, Nepal).” Constructed by a former King of Nepal, it is a most peaceful spiritual place.

All in all, Varanasi made an impact on me. Definitely a place I’d like to return.

*excerpts from Mark Twain’s “Following the Equator,”  Chapter 50

** quotes from Diana L. Eck, author of “Bananas: City of Light”

abhyanga: auto masaje ayurvedico

El Masaje Ayurvédico para Protejer tus Huesos

La Salud Ósea y el Masaje Ayurvédico

El cuidado de los huesos, y prevención de la osteoporosis no sólo se trata de levantar pesas u otros ejercicios en los que se carga el peso del cuerpo.  Hay un método ayurvédico que es sencillo, y una forma de mimarse o cuidarte de ti mismo. Se lo puede llamar champi, sneha o abhyanga. Son costumbres tradicionales de masaje a la cabeza, articulaciones o todo el cuerpo. Próximamente, impartiré un taller con una práctica del auto masaje ayurvédico, abhyanga.  Se llevará a cabo a las 13h el 24 de noviembre en Sueños de Maya, San José, Costa Rica.

Tres formas de masaje ayurvédico

abhyanga: auto masaje ayurvedico con aceitesNo importa la palabra, champi, sneha o abhyanga, cada uno es un tratamiento de la medicina tradicional de la India.

  • La palabra champi significa frote o fricción. El libro “Masaje Champi” explica que “este masaje ha evolucionado a partir de las costumbres ancestrales que forman parte de los rituales del cuidado integral en la vida familiar de la India, siendo una de las tradiciones más arraigadas dentro de esta cultura.” Si la palabra sánscrito champi  te suena, es por que la referencia al masaje a la cabeza dio paso a la palabra champú. 
  • Sneha, significa ambos aceite, y amor, en sánscrito. Laura Plumb, autora de un libro de cocina ayurvédica, y anfitriona de un programa de televisión acerca de los vedas explica, “después de los años 40, es oleación, oleación y oleación.” 
  • Abhyanga refiere al auto masaje al cuerpo, especialmente a las articulaciones. La práctica de abhyanga normalmente utiliza aceite de coco o ajonjolí, a menos que tu constitución (dosha) indica un masaje con pólvora como trífala.  Según Laura Plumb, el ajonjolí es alto en antioxidantes y es un anti-inflamatorio. También es recomendable para los de la dosha vata, o en el invierno.

La relación entre el masaje ayurvédico y los huesos

abhyanga: auto masaje ayurvedico para la salud ósea“Masaje Champi” nota que el masaje limpia el sistema linfático para así deshacerse de las toxinas presentes en nuestro organismo. Además:

  • “Estimula el sistema parasimpático: facilitando el descanso corporal e incentivando la relajación y el sueño. 
  • Aumenta el flujo sanguíneo de la cabeza, el cuello y los hombros: favoreciendo la nutrición de los tejidos y la oxigenación a través de la circulación arterial, y contribuyendo a la eliminación de toxinas por vía venosa.
  • Libera los espasmos y las adhesiones en las fibras musculares: calmando las molestias y mejorando la capacidad de movilidad articular.
  • Disminuye la inflamación de los tejidos: aliviando el dolor y reduciendo la sobrecarga en huesos y articulaciones.”

Hay otro beneficio del champi. 

La terapia que yo ejerzo combina mucho la medicina tradicional china y el Ayurveda. Conociendo los puntos claves de la acupresión (estilo chino) se puede hacer un roce o presión suave con los dígitos o las yemas en los puntos apropiados para estimular los meridianos (canales energéticos o nadis en sánscrito) y sus órganos conectados. Por ejemplo, en mi estilo de yin yoga, miramos a los meridianos del riñón y la vesícula para tratar desequilibrios que puedan contribuir a la artritis o la ciática, entre otras enfermedades.   

Contrarrestando la vejez—empezando con los huesos

abhyanga: auto masaje ayurvedico El reconocido médico Deepak Chopra, en su libro “Grow Younger, Live Longer,” hace énfasis de lo dañino de las toxinas ambientales. “Puedes revertir tu edad biológica eliminando las toxinas de tu vida.”

Chopra, quien aprecia ambos la medicina alopática como el Ayurveda, informa: “Cada impulso de la vida se puede considerar en términos de si trae alimento o toxicidad. Los científicos ahora entienden que el daño tóxico a las células y tejidos es la consecuencia de los radicales libres que se forman cada vez que se metaboliza el oxígeno. Estos químicos hambrientos son indiscriminados sobre cómo reemplazan su electrón de misión, y eliminarán uno de cualquier fuente cercana, incluidas las proteínas, las grasas o las moléculas de ADN.

Explica Chopra que entre las enfermedades más comunes que se puede atribuir, en alguna parte, a las toxinas radicales libres son: el cáncer, enfermedades cardíacas, la diabetes, la artritis y la osteoporosis. Para minimizar el contacto con los radicales libres y así proteger los huesos y articulaciones, hay que evitar el tabaco, alcohol, comidas fermentadas o los productos añejos, las carnes ahumadas o cocinadas al carbón, demasiados aceites saturados o hidrogenados, y el estrés. Otras toxinas fuertes, dice Chopra, son la quimioterapia y la radiación. 

De igual manera, se puede hacer una limpiecita de las toxinas agregando antioxidantes a tu dieta. Por ejemplo: comidas con alto contenido de las vitaminas A, C y E, mas frutas y legumbres frescos, granos, legumes y nueces. Además, como se sugiere la medicina Ayurveda, hay que agregar muchas especias a su comida. Las que contienen más antioxidantes son la menta, jengibre, ajo, eneldo, semillas de cilantro, el tomillo, hinojo y la hierba salvia. Finalmente, Chopra recomienda la meditación pare reducir el estrés, y se entiende que el masaje brinde el mismo efecto. 

Algunas técnicas del masaje ayurvédico

kidney massageConsta que hay diferentes formas del masaje ayurvédico. En la mía, fijamos mucha atención a las articulaciones.  El libro “Masaje Champi” detalla algunas técnicas para los hombros y escapulares en particular.

  • Fricción palmar circular en los hombros: hazlo vigorosamente y con ritmo, ejerciendo una presión suave
  • Presión dígito-pulgar en los brazos: En cada una de las presiones, suelta el aire y libera la tensión; mantén cada una de las presiones entre 5-10 segundos
  • Fricción palmar en los brazos
  • Presión dígito-pulgar en los hombros
  • Roce palmar desde hombros hacia las manos
  • Fricción palmar desde hombros hacia los codos
  • Presión con antebrazos en los hombros
  • Presión con pulgares en los hombros
  • Percusión cubital sobre la cima de los trapecios
  • Presión con pulgares sobre los puntos sensibles en el trapecio
  • Deslizamiento palmo-digital en el trapecio
  • Presión con pulgar en el reborde inter-escapular
  • Presión con canto de la mano inter-escapular 
  • Deslizamiento palmo-digital inter-escapular, y en la escápula: 10 veces, subiendo y bajando, o en moción horizontal

Lee acerca del yoga y la artritis. Para participar en el próximo taller, o para concertar uno en tu comunidad, comunícate con The Namaste Counsel.   

Esther Vexler, San Antonio's Yoga Godmother

Yogaterapia para Huesos Saludables

En una publicación anterior compartí una experiencia personal que me llevó a una exploración sin fin: Yogaterapia para Huesos Saludables y la fuente de la juventud. Mi brújula me apuntó a un sinfín de libros, talleres y charlas. Entonces, ahora les paso mis trucos favoritos a mis estudiantes a través de una serie de talleres de Yogaterapia para Huesos Saludables. Es decir, la osteoporosis, la osteoartritis y la salud ósea en general. Lo llamo Dem Bones (Esos Huesos Saludables). La serie no se basa en las afirmaciones imposibles, sino en la investigación y el conocimiento de muchos terapeutas de yoga, muchos de los cuales son médicos.

Mi primera sesión de Esos Huesos Saludables fue en México, hace unos años. Mi próxima sesión sobre los huesos saludables es el 24 de noviembre en Sueños de Maya en San José, Costa Rica. Para registrarte en la sesión de noviembre, o para reservar sesiones privadas o talleres grupales, conéctate conmigo.

mantenerse joven con el movimiento y el yogaDem Bones (Esos Huesos Saludables)

Tendemos a pensar que es normal que nuestros huesos soporten el impacto del tiempo. Casi todos hemos visto los efectos de los años avanzados en los huesos. Una joroba de viuda. O, el abuelo que ya no es tan alto como solía ser. Dios no lo quiera que una persona mayor resbale y se caiga, ya que las articulaciones frágiles no pueden manejar lo que solían ser choques o golpes normales. Los reemplazos de cadera y rodilla le costaron a Medicare USD$7 mil millones en 2013. Con nuestras poblaciones envejeciendo, una dieta y un estilo de vida pobres, los costos para nuestra sociedad se dispararán si no somos proactivos en la protección de la salud ósea.

Los Huesos Son Preciados

Como una hebra de perlas o cuentas mala conectadas entre sí por hilos finos pero fuertes.

La enfermedad ósea degenerativa no suena tan aterradora como una fractura de cadera. Pero, eche un vistazo a las estadísticas.

  • Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades de los Estados Unidos informan que entre los estadounidenses de 65 años o más, a la mitad se le ha diagnosticado artritis. Y, dos de cada tres personas que son obesas son propensas a desarrollar artritis en una o ambas rodillas.
  • Según la Fundación Internacional de Osteoporosis, desde 1990 hasta las proyecciones en 2050, el número de fracturas de cadera en mujeres y hombres de 50 a 64 años en América Latina aumentará en un 400%. Para grupos de edad mayores de 65 años, el aumento será de un asombroso 700%. Además, un estudio en Bogotá, Colombia, informó que entre un grupo de mujeres mayores de 50 años, casi la mitad tenía osteopenia (densidad ósea inferior a la normal) en la columna vertebral y la cadera.

“El yoga es útil para abordar los problemas agudos de la hinchazón y el dolor, y los problemas a largo plazo para mejorar la movilidad, la fuerza y la estabilidad de las articulaciones de la rodilla”, dice el Dr. Bell, refiriéndose a la artritis.

Yoga y Envejecimiento Saludable

Bell dirigió un taller sobre Yoga y Envejecimiento Saludable en un simposio al que asistí de la Asociación Internacional de Terapeutas de Yoga (IAYT, por su acrónimo en Inglés). Sin embargo, no es tu médico típico. Renunció a una exitosa práctica médica familiar en Ohio para convertirse en un terapeuta de yoga. Hoy en día, integra las aplicaciones terapéuticas del yoga con la medicina occidental y da conferencias a profesionales de la salud en todo el país.

Bell comparó al yoga como “herramientas para fomentar una vida saludable más larga”, y salud física mejorada. Dijo que el yoga fomenta la ecuanimidad, la agilidad, la coordinación y es ampliamente reconocido que reduce el estrés. El estrés no se puede ignorar, ya que es un disparador importante de las enfermedades del corazón, la presión arterial alta e incluso la artritis.

Cuando somos jóvenes, casi todos nosotros damos por supuesto el hecho de tender cuerpos saludables. Podemos estirarnos para alcanzar un estante alto, o agacharnos para sacar algo de debajo de la cama. Podemos dar vueltas en nuestro auto para revisar a los niños, y no tener problemas para levantar a los bebés y cargarlos a cuestas. No solo podemos pasear al perro, sino jugar con él. En resumen, la mayoría tienen una excelente movilidad.

A medida que envejecemos, si no nos mantenemos al día con estilos de vida saludables, nuestros cuerpos parecen traicionarnos. Nuestros músculos se encogen y pierden masa, lo que afecta la flexibilidad. Nuestros tejidos blandos se secan y se ponen rígidos. Los cojines de cartílago se descomponen dando lugar a articulaciones artríticas. Es como un círculo vicioso. Entonces, perdemos fuerza, flexibilidad, equilibrio y movilidad. Todos estos están interrelacionados.

“Necesitamos fuerza para mantenernos activos”, dice. Da ejemplos de cómo algunos medicamentos administrados habitualmente para pacientes con osteoporosis traen inconvenientes.

Practica Yoga Para Huesos Saludables

yoga para huesos saludables

El programa de Guardia de la Salud de las Mujeres de Harvard informa que existen varios peligros asociados con el uso prolongado de productos farmacéuticos. Recomiendan, “no tome Fosamax a menos que esté seguro de que lo necesita. Continúe con todas las otras medidas que ayudan a proteger y mantener la densidad ósea”, incluidos el calcio, la vitamina D y el ejercicio con pesas.

Presentando, el yoga. Y mi forma favorita, afuera, al sol. Tomando el prana (incluyendo la vitamina D).

Una vez que la galleta se desmorona, es demasiado tarde. Es por eso que el yoga es una excelente medicina preventiva. Baxter Bell, MD, recomienda “una práctica de yoga equilibrada (que) incluye desafíos de estiramiento, fortalecimiento, equilibrio y agilidad, y posturas y prácticas anti estrés.

Bell también habló sobre la sarcopenia, una pérdida gradual de la fuerza muscular que se observa con mayor frecuencia entre las personas mayores de 50 años. Según WebMD, “las personas que están físicamente inactivas pueden perder entre un 3 y un 5 por ciento de su masa muscular por década después de los 30 años de edad ”. Además de que el yoga mantiene tu cuerpo en movimiento, la salud de tus músculos está directamente relacionada con la salud de tus huesos. Bell habla sobre cómo podemos influir en nuestro bienestar futuro mediante la recuperación de la fuerza muscular.

Bell explica por qué el yoga construye los huesos. Durante el yoga, el fortalecimiento de los huesos comienza en solo 10 segundos de mantener una posición. Cuanto más fuertes son los músculos alrededor de las articulaciones, más los protege su cuerpo.

Los músculos comienzan a construirse después de sólo 90 segundos en muchas posturas de yoga, explica Bell. Toma las poses del guerrero por ejemplo. Mantener la postura durante al menos seis respiraciones largas, puede ser agotador, pero vale la pena, tanto para los músculos como para los huesos. Algunos maestros de yoga alientan a los estudiantes a juntar los muslos con energía, la barriga a la columna, o activar los bandhas. Esos son ejemplos de contracciones isométricas que contribuyen a construir más fuerza y, en última instancia, nutrir los huesos. Sin ellos, perdemos nuestra independencia, y luego nuestro orgullo, alegría e incluso el cuidado personal y la depresión. Es una bola de nieve.

Asanas para Huesos Saludables

viparita karani supported legs up wallBell dice que algunas de las herramientas de salud físicas tanto para el cuerpo como el cerebro son poses de fortalecimiento como el perro para abajo o el guerrero 2. Las prácticas que se enfocan en la flexibilidad como el gomukhasana (cara de vaca) también son esenciales para una fórmula saludable de envejecimiento.

Otra herramienta es una rutina de ejercicios que promuevan la circulación. Acostarse con las piernas sobre la pared es siempre un favorito, y el trabajo de respiración es una adición importante a esa caja de herramientas. Sabemos que a medida que las personas envejecen, tienen más dificultades con el equilibrio, por lo que las posturas como el árbol pueden, en última instancia, ayudar a prevenir caídas que, a su vez, pueden dar lugar a fracturas.

Las fracturas conducen al dolor crónico, pueden ser debilitantes, causar angustia emocional y una mayor degeneración muscular. Finalmente, Bell apunta a estudios de personas que han vivido hasta una edad avanzada que muestran que la comunidad es un factor importante en el envejecimiento saludable. “Practicar yoga juntos ayuda a crear una comunidad”, dice Bell.

Para huesos saludables, recuérdate que al igual que el hueso del tobillo está conectado al hueso de la rodilla, los músculos se conectan a los huesos, a través de la fascia y los ligamentos. La salud de nuestros huesos está relacionada con la salud de nuestros músculos, y también nuestras emociones, el corazón y otros órganos principales.

 

 

Girish and heart rate variability

Heart Rate Variability: Chant From the Heart, For the Heart

Bhakti Fest is considered the ultimate playground for yogis. In particular, for bhaktas (devotional yogis). While Bhakti Fest 2018’s Joshua Tree desert playground may span 385 acres, this year I was attracted to a tiny outdoor classroom next to a small artificial pond. Sitting on the sandy ground, or perched at the rim of the pond, a variety of singers, drummers and musicians shared knowledge and tips about their practices. Of note, chanting improves heart rate variability. in other words, chant from your heart, and you’ll be chanting  FOR your heart, and general well being. 

Bhakti Fest’s Kirtan School spanned only four days, with two two-hour sessions daily. Each class had a different lead teacher for a great potpourri of kirtan key take aways. 

As Gina Salá, one of the teachers said, “So many mantras. So much wisdom.” I’d add, So many artists.  So much devotion. For the culmination of so much sangha (association/unity) of sound. 

Your Divine Voice  

Gina Sala at Bhakti Fest

Gina Sala at Bhakti Fest 2018

In a previous article of mine, Gina Salá spoke about music and devotion. A take away was that every voice is divine. Perfect.

Similiarly, in Girish’s Kirtan Class at Bhakti Fest 2018, he said, “There’s never been another voice like yours. The voice is expressing who we are. Free the voice. Free the person. Your personal growth and evolution is inseparable from your voice.”

To me, Gina and Girish have incredible voices. They hit a sweet spot in my heart. Yet, Girish considers himself a drummer. And, most drummers don’t sing. He focused on chanting during his five years as a monk living in an ashram.  “It’s not about the artistry of music. It doesn’t matter how it sounds.” He emphasized, “It’s your call to your creator.”

Most noteworthy, Girish spoke of the science behind chanting. There is clear data to attest to the benefits of singing kirtan or chanting in groups, in particular. 

Chanting for the Heart: About Heart Rate Variability  

In fact, a recent study completed by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden noted that those who sang together had synchronized heartbeats. The head researcher explained that singing is a form of controlled breathing, not unlike yogic breathwork which leads to many benefits, including lung capacity and heart health.  

Furthermore, Girish said, “When we sing in a group, our brain waves start to sync up. And heart beats too.” He talks about the phenomena called heart brain coherence, which has been investigated by the HeartMath Institute in California, and heart rate variability (HRV).  

Girish at Kirtan Class, Bhakti Fest, speaks on heart rate variability

Girish at Kirtan Class, Bhakti Fest 2018

Harvard Health Blog contributor, Marcelo Campos, MD, explains the importance of heart rate variability. “HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. It is fascinating to see how HRV changes as you incorporate more mindfulness, meditation, sleep, and especially physical activity into your life.”

“We want a more adaptable heart rhythm,” added Girish, “as HRV is a biomarker of human health. One fantastic way to increase our HRV levels — and thus our overall health and resiliency — is to sing. And, in fact, chanting mantras increases HRV levels better than any other types of singing.”  Again, Girish has scientific research to back this up. He explains that when you chant mantras, you follow a particular breathing pattern as referenced in the Swedish study. Clearly, the breathwork associated with Tibetan monks is far from that of acid rock. 

However, Girish pointed to research comparing traditional chants from diverse religions and cultures such as Ave Maria and Om Mani Padme Om.  “All have the same breathing patterns. It’s an amazing effect. These practices activate the parasympathetic system.”

Chanting in Any Language, From the Heart

So, you don’t have to be a bhakta yogi.  As Girish jokingly said, believe it or not, “There are people out there who have never done kirtan … or yoga … or worn Lululemon.  It’s not just the yogis. All the world’s spiritual traditions are doing some kind of mantra.  So that tells me that it works.” 

While there’s plenty of evidence-based insights as to why it works, when you look at a toddler or child singing a nursery rhyme, it’s pretty obvious. Singing, especially repetitive sounds, makes us feel good.

“The primal human instrument is the voice. You don’t have to go to a music school to find out where a middle C is,” said Girish. 

Shiva Rae at Bhakti Fest

Shiva Rae at Bhakti Fest 2018

Shiva Rae, also at Bhakti Fest 2018, told an intimate gathering of women there, “Your first mantra was in your mother’s womb (her hearbeat).” And, in many cultures, the drum represents the heart beat. 

For the Mayapuris, the drum represents the sacred, too. In their Kirtan Class, the close-knit bhaktas from Florida explained the essence of the primal beats and their beloved mridanga. 

“The drum is a manifestation of Balaram (Krishna’s brother). Sound vibration itself represents the lord. When we use our instruments in Kirtan we are dressing (up) the holy name, and the instruments are the decoration to attract us. The more that we offer our love, the more we will feel the syncopation,” they said.  

“Something that runs through every culture is rhythm. Every tradition in every era on every continent has some form of collective singing, because it just pierces so clearly. These instruments are a vehicle.”

Chant the Holy Name

Mayapuris at Bhakti Fest 2018

Mayapuris at Bhakti Fest 2018

However, the Mayapuris aren’t saying you can chant mumbo jumbo. “If you were to repeat Coca Cola or water water it’s not going to quench your thirst. When we repeat the names (of the lord) it’s ever-present. It just gets sweeter and sweeter, and more ecstatic. Kirtan is the absolute platform.”

The Mayapuris are Vaishnavas. For them, the names of Krishna and Radhe, among others, are supreme. “In our tradition, we say the name of the Lord until our voice chokes up. Spiritual life starts at the mode of goodness. With that vision, it’s easier to attain that realization. Kirtan is like a shortcut. We’re not worrying about someone’s culture, politics or religion. Kirtan, and in particular collective sangha. You get a little shortcut, like a machete cutting through. And, it’s accessible to everybody.” 

“The first thing the chanting does is dust the mirror of maya (illusion). We just get so consumed and then we’re trapped. The things that get in our way, in our material brains, get pushed aside (with chanting). For this modern age, the scriptures say Kirtan is the dharma.” 

In other words, just as Gina Salá and Girish say that everyone’s voice is divine, the Mayapuris say, “Anyone can take part and start to feel divinity.” 

Bhagavan Das and his ektar at Bhakti Fest 2018

Bhagavan Das: From High Desert to Dallas — on the 33rd parallel

No Ordinary Senior Citizen

Bhagavan Das and his ektar at Bhakti Fest 2018Bhagavan Das left the United States in 1968. At the age of 18, he headed east. To India. Tibet. Nepal. With no money. He adhered to the customs of the elder yogis. A renunciate. An ascetic, or sadhu. After seven years, he returned to the States. But not to the lifestyle of the ordinary American.  

He introduced a friend to one of his gurus, Neem Karoli Baba. That friend is now known as Ram Dass, author of “Be Here Now.” Bhagavan Das authored his own book, “It’s Here Now (Are You?)”, but is better known for his music. In each of his CDs, his chanting is almost spellbinding. Rather drone-like, his concentration on the mantras or prayers is as solid as the Tibetan monks with whom he was guided many years ago.

Today, he doesn’t look like your card carrying AARP man. No Bermuda shorts. He walks barefoot, rather than gym shoes and calf-high socks. Nor does he sport a golf shirt. Rather, he wraps a long white robe around his 6’5” lean body. Yes, he has the grey hairs and receding hairline. But, his white beard reaches almost to his belly. Trailing from the back of his head is  one grayish-brown dreadlock that extends to his upper thighs. Sometimes, he wraps the dread around his head turban-like. 

In his white robe, he looks a bit like what you’d expect an aging Moses to look like. Weathered. Coming down from the mountains. Yes, weathered but wise. 

His music is mesmerizing. Usually, he belts out verse in Sanskrit. At times, he interposes English. One hand is glued to his one-stringed ektara. His deep booming voice resonates well with the sitar, and other instruments from the Indo-Pakistani region.

Ricky Tran, a yogi from Dallas agrees. “There is definitely something different about  Bhagavan Das’ chanting. He enters a trance during his performances, and I can feel the dissolution into the Divine. I have never experienced anything like it.” 

Bhagavan Das at Bhakti Fest’s 10th Anniversary 

Bhagavan Das and his ektar at Bhakti Fest 2018Bhagavan Das’ spoken messages are sparse, but have maximum impact. 

“When the earth had been completely taken over,” he tells a crowded sanctuary room of Bhakti Fest attendees between chants, “… very little dharma was left … Everyone was lost. On the cell phone. Everyone was on e-bay. On YouTube. Lost in the glamour.”  

Next, he continues his story about the sages who formed a circle around the earth. The goddess Durga, who takes away the darkness was coming to the rescue. She was trying to slay the dragon. But alas, every time she struck to whack off the head of the dragon, another head would arise while blood was spurting all over. 

“This is the great ego,” explains Bhagavan Das.  “I. Me. Mine. The self-serving. Self-possessed. Narcissistic.” In the end, fortunately, for mankind, the great goddess, “Maha Kali licked up the blood saving the world from the great ego.”

It had been many years since Bhagavan Das graced the stage there. He was at the first Joshua Tree mega-yoga/music festival, ten years ago. While some kirtan artists live on the road, like vagabond musicians, performing at yoga studios and festivals across the country, and even overseas, that’s not Bhagavan Das’ gig any more. So Bhakti Fest 2018 attendees were in for a real treat this last September as one of the earliest American kirtaneers shared his music, and his wisdom. 

Bhagavan Das at Bhakti Fest

“We live in a dream within a dream,” he said last month in the Joshua Tree desert. “Wake up before you die. Ram (the supreme) is the fire that burns away desire, transforming it into pure love.”

In an interview more than a decade ago with “Time Out New York,” Bhagavan Das explained why people feel so great after sharing kirtan with him. 

“‘Cause when we’re all together in a room and we’re all chanting and we’re all breathing together, it’s like we become this huge deity of breath and now we have a thousand arms and legs and a thousand heads and everyone’s in the same breath.”

Bhagavan Das Heads to Dallas

Now, Texans will be in for a treat as the master Bhakta offers a weekend retreat October 19-21 at Ecstatic Dance Dallas. Ricky Tran will host, and lead yoga workshops. “This is a rare opportunity to study with Bhagavan Das, as he seldomly offers this full weekend retreat,” says Tran. 

Interestingly enough, both Joshua Tree and Dallas are on the mysterious 33rd parallel. Joshua Tree, on the 33rd North Parallel, was once sacred Indian grounds, and still carries much of the sacred feelings. And Dallas? Well, the micro-chip was invented here. But, it’s also Tran’s home, and he’s a wonderful teacher.  So, this weekend in Dallas should be very memorable.

 

Austin Free Day of Yoga

Austin FREE DAY OF YOGA Extends To Wimberley

Austin’s Free Day of Yoga: 20th Anniversary

Austin Free Day of Yoga

For the 20th year, yogis are uniting to bring Austin and neighboring communities free yoga on Labor Day, to heighten awareness of the benefits of yoga. Free Day of Yoga is an outstanding opportunity to meet different instructors, and experience different styles of of mind/body practices. I’ve been headed to Austin for many years to get a yoga recharge on Labor Day. Now, I’m inviting people to my new digs and Hill Country hood. 

This year, as part of Austin’s Free Day of Yoga, two of my fellow mind/body practitioners and I  are offering eight different sessions in Wimberley. Wimberley classes run from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday, September 3. Michael Uzuanis and Brenda Bell are fabulous instructors who will each lead two sessions at Balance Academy, as will I. Balance Academy, on Ranch Road 12, is a spacious zen-like incense-infused studio set on five acres. Additionally, I’ve offer therapeutic Gutsy Yoga, twice, at The Namaste Getaway, less than 10 minutes from Balance Academy.

Our Wimberley Free Day of Yoga selections focus on bringing balance to your body and mind. Choose from Korean Ki meditation, Yoga in Motion combining Tai Chi, Xi Gong and Yoga, Yin Yoga and a Slow Flow gentle vinyasa at Balance Academy. As such, the therapeutic sessions focusing on internal balance for better digestion, metabolism and blood sugar levels.   

Try One, or Fill Your Day

Free day of yoga in WimberleyAustin Free Day of Yoga organizer, Mary Esther Middleton, encourages people to sample.  “Because we offer such a wide variety of yoga teachers, styles and classes on Free Day of Yoga, there is a class for everyone – whether you are tall, short, round, thin, physically active or sedentary.” 

Therefore, browse Free Day of Yoga classes Check out our Wimberley area sessions (see flyer).  Or, better yet, call (512) 436-2048 or (210) 381-1846 to reserve your spot. 

Tips:

  • First, reserve your space at balance.academy to ensure your place. Or, arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Second, bring a yoga mat and/or cushions, blocks or bolsters. If you don’t have any, loaners will be available.
  • Third, while in Wimberley, cool off at The Blue Hole or Jacob’s Well (reservations required).
  • Afterwords, enjoy food and drink at The Junction, just past Balance Academy.

About Free Day of Yoga

A non-profit corporation, Free Day of Yoga Austin is dedicated to providing the gift of yoga to the community. The organization helps to educate the community about the health and wellness benefits of yoga through interactive, participatory and educational events in the Austin area.  As such, Free Day of Yoga Austin offers annual events at no charge to those attending. 

 

BhaktiFest

Bhakti Fest: 10 Years of Woodstock for Spirituality

The Birth of Bhakti Fest: Spirituality at Woodstock  

It was 1969. There were 500,000 gathered in Woodstock as Sri Swami Satchidananda gave opening remarks and prayers. “America is helping everybody in the material field, but the time has come for America to help the whole world with spirituality also.”

spirituality at Bhakti Fest 2018Swami Satchidananda’s inclusion at Woodstock was the brainchild of Sridhar Silberfein, who suggested spirituality was missing from the original Woodstock lineup. He also suggested taking this concept a bit further. Why couldn’t spirituality be the focus for a mass festival? The Swami agreed, and Sridhar recognized he had to make it happen. 

After raising four children, establishing the first natural foods store in the LA area, and making tea tree oil commonplace in the States, Sridhar set out to design a Woodstock for Yogis. He created a spirituality-based festival where the focus was chanting the names of the divine, and bringing higher consciousness to the masses. 

In 2009, Sridhar opened the gates to the Joshua Tree Retreat Center for the first Bhakti Fest. This September 12-17, two of the artists that have graced the festival each year, are once again taking center stage.   

Jai at Bhakti Fest 2018

Jai UttalJai Uttal: 10 years at Bhakti Fest had been leading weeklong Kirtan Camps for six years when Sridhar first told him about his idea for Bhakti Fest. The musician with a traditional rock background, infused with Indian and Brazilian instruments and beats said, “Yes, it’s the perfect time!”

For those unfamiliar with Bhakti (devotion) and kirtan (devotional chanting), Jai tells why it’s such a powerful practice. “These ancient chants contain a transformative power and healing energy. By singing these prayers we join a stream of consciousness and devotion that has been flowing for centuries.”

Jai, who has been singing kirtan for many decades, felt his students were longing for a bigger-scale gathering full of spirituality and sacred chants.  

“The community of ‘devotees’ has grown and expanded like ripples in a lake. The more we toss in our tiny pebbles of love, the greater are the waves of compassion and caring.”

This year, as in all the prior years, Jai will be a prime time performer on the main stage. Additionally, his yogi/dancer wife, Nubia Teixeira, will lead four different workshops including a session to empower women to heal the world. Like Jai, Nubia has been following the path of yoga and spirituality for 30 years. 

Jai always gives a great show, with his high energy, and deep devotion.  Read about one of Jai’s past special events in Austin. 

Spirituality Awakens for Donna De Lory

Donna De Lory’s blend of world music, mantras and electronica has been a favorite at Bhakti Fest, since 2009. She made her way to the first Bhakti celebration, after touring the world for 20 years as a singer and dancer with Madonna.  

Donna De Lory at Bhakti Fest for 10 yearsA Valley girl, her mom died of breast cancer when she was just 16. That event reshaped her life in many ways. She moved south to live with her dad, a Latin band leader who was into health foods and Eastern religions. She took up meditation, and worked at a vegetarian restaurant. She read a book by OSHO, and made gospel music. All in the land of country music. Nashville, Tennessee.

As a young adult, she moved back to LA, and eventually landed what many would have considered the ultimate job. Part of Madonna’s crew.  Throughout those years, the sacred vibes and sounds of devotional music never escaped her. About the time that the west coast yoga culture was taking off, she had two children, left the “Material Girl” circuit, and recorded her first yoga CD, “The Lover and The Beloved.” 

The arrival of her children, and Bhakti Fest, cemented her true desire to do her own style of world/sacred music. 

“I realized I have to do my own music. What am I about, and where’s my devotion?” Her fellow Bhakti musicians, Girish and David Newman, helped to bring her to “a place where all these loose ends came together.  We all felt we were part of a movement…like Woodstock…of people wanting to come together and expand their consciousness and go deeper within.”

Joy-Filled Participatory Fans

Donna said goodbye to the “Material Girl” and hello to “Bliss” and “Sanctuary.”  But they weren’t two completely different worlds.

“It is a community. People were so joy-filled. They never stopped smiling. I felt like I was down with the people,” she says about the Madonna days. “I learned the value of that touring with Madonna. I’d go out in front of the hotels and talk to people.” Same for Bhakti Fest.

Furthermore, the Madonna fans knew all the lyrics of her songs, and would sing along “…to the point that we couldn’t hear ourselves.” Again, same for Bhakti Fest.

Collaboration at Bhakti Fest

spirituality at Bhakti Fest 2018

From that original Bhakti Fest, collaboration abounded, Donna explains. “The artists were all one big tribe.” The musicians are almost like mix-and-match. On stage in many configurations.

“There’a a lot of integration of styles,” explains Donna. “The artists and teachers have been given space to blossom in what they offer.” For example, MC Yogi does hip hop. Sean Johnson’s style is NOLA infused. The Mayapuris perform traditional Indian ragas, samba and spirituals. 

Donna sings in English, Sanskrit, and Spanish. Often mixing one to another, just as she did with Madonna on La Isla Bonita. A professional singer and dancer, everyone who hears her can channel some of that. “No matter how much I may be in an introspective place, it just goes there. You just see it. People want to dance, and sing together. It’s in our DNA. To have this celebration, together.”

spirituality at Bhakti Fest 2018People connect with each other, and with Joshua Tree. “It’s the nature. Community. Expansiveness. Especially in today’s world. It’s a place that allows you to just be who you are, and not be judged,” explains Donna. 

Now, to amp up that collaboration and closeness between artist and attendee, Bhakti Fest 2018  includes a Mantra Dome, for a more intimate gathering to chant sacred mantras.

“Bhakti Fest was so rooted in the devotion. People feel free to let go and show their devotion. These festivals are allowing you that.”

Seva_YogaforSight

Seva Unites Yogis Worldwide for the Gift of Sight

Yoga is a very introspective practice. As such, in my personal practice, I tend to keep my eyes closed. In my group classes, when indoors, I lower the lights.  However, imagine going through life in total darkness. As a young child, I remember visiting a relative. He was completely sightless. He lived alone. Within his studio apartment, he could fend for himself. But, I always wondered how he managed beyond his front door. He had no guide dog. No close family or friends. That lasting impression is why I’m endorsing Seva Foundation’s Fifth Annual Yoga for Sight

Yoga for Sight Unites Yogis Worldwide

Seva_YogaforSightMy childhood memories of one blind man’s challenges remain. They have, in part, spurred me to do my own seva (self-less service) for the Berkeley-based Seva Foundation.  The fundraising promotion takes place in April. Around the world, yoga studios and instructors will encourage students to reflect upon the sense of sight. As such, I will be mentioning this worthy charity during my group classes. Additionally, when you book two private sessions* with me, I will donate the full amount of the second class to Seva.

“We tend to take for granted the things that are always there for us, and sight is one of those things,” said Andy Sharkey, Donor Engagement at Seva. “Through yoga we can open up to seeing people’s struggles and understanding them.”

Seva_YogaforSightYoga guides you to connect your body and your mind. It should also teach you to be more respectful and considerate of others. My yoga foundations teach that seva, or karma yoga, is just as important as our breathwork or sun salutations. I try to practice seva in many ways.

For many years, I’ve recognized Seva’s contributions. Since 1978, Seva has worked with local communities to help people live healthier more productive, happy lives. Vision is a precious gift that Seva has given to across the globe.  In fact, Seva, very cost-effectively, has provided critical eye care to 4 million in underserved communities. 

“Nowhere do I know of another group of people who have come so far in their efforts to deliver high quantity, low cost, conscious and compassionate service to their fellow beings,” said Ram Dass, Seva co-founder and honorary lifetime board member.  

Seva_YogaforSightFor example, Seva’s programs have reduced the cost of cataract surgery to just $50, making eye care available to the global poor. Additionally, Seva services include training, technology and techniques for local doctors and community outreach personnel to provide services regardless of one’s ability to pay.

This past year, alone, Seva provided vital eye care services to 1.3 million people in 21 countries. Nearly 70,000 had their eyesight restored, more than 118,000 received medical treatments, and 106,00 received eye glasses.

I invite you to participate in Yoga for Sight with me. Or donate directly. Here are more reasons why your dollar will go so far with Seva.

Seva’s Vision: a World Free of Blindness

  • 36 million people in the world are blind. That number is projected to triple by 2050. Given access to appropriate eye care, 75 percent of them could see again. 
  • Globally, 19 million children are visually impaired or blind. Lack of vision often blocks them from an adequate education and prevents them from escaping poverty. 
  • More than half of sight-impaired people are women and girls. Seva seeks to provide outreach and education, community screenings, transportation, and affordable care to women and girls.
  • Restoring sight is one of the most effective ways to relieve suffering and reduce poverty.
  • The World Bank ranked a 15-minute cataract surgery as one of the most cost-effective health interventions for low and middle income countries.
  • Most eye care treatments change lives right away. 
  • Medication for eye infections prevents decades of blindness and suffering. 
  • Moreover, high-quality eye care creates an immediate and lasting impact.
  • Seva’s long-time partner in India, the Aravind Eye Care System, exemplifies how cost recovery can be turned into financial self-sufficiency. That model is being used around the globe.

seva foundationThere are multiple ways you can contribute.

1) Register for a Yoga for Sight charitable session*, before April 15, with The Namaste Counsel.

2) Find a studio conducting special events for Seva.

3) Donate directly.

Sacred images of Krishna at Blanton Museum of Art

Stories and Images of Krishna for Janmashtami

Krishna’s Birth and Janmashtami 

Images of Krishna and RadhaJanmashtami is an important Vaishnava holiday commemorating the birth of Krishna. A two-day celebration takes place this weekend at Austin’s Radha Madhav Dham temple and gardens. In San Antonio, Krishna communities host events, Sunday. In all, images of Krishna will be venerated. That’s because, according to the ancient texts, Lord Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu. In fact, the name Krishna, means all attractive. 

Swami Sivananda, in “Bliss Divine” writes, “Vishnu incarnated with lotus eyes, with four hands armed with conch, disc, mace and lotus, with the mark of Srivatsa adorning the chest. Vasudeva (his birth mother) saw this marvel of a divine child.”

“He was the world-teacher,” says Sivananda of Krishna. “Sri Krishna was a perfect Master.  He was a Karma Yogi, Bhakta, Raja Yogi and Jnana Yogi. He preached Karma, Upasana (worship), Yoga and Jnana. The four Yogas are blended in His Gita or the Immortal Song. He was the one Lord of love. His enchanting form, with flute in hand, holds the heart of India captive in chains, even today.”

The Times of India says Lord Krishna was born 5,200 years ago and his birthplace is lit up on Janmashtami. The newspaper refers to the “Bhagavad Gita” to further describe this day.  “…whenever there will be a predominance of evil and decline of religion, Lord Vishnu will reincarnate and save the earth from all that is evil. The main purpose behind the celebration of Janmashtami along with Lord Krishna’s birthday is the prevalence of goodwill and this is what unites people from different regions together on the auspicious occasion.”

Stories Come to Life

images of krishna and garudaThese tales, and more, are depicted in illustrations from a San Diego collection.

Most are based on epics like the Ramayana or Bhagavata Purana.

One area, however, is devoted to Persian-language literature like the Shahnama. Yet another area, is musical illustrations. These are known as Ragamala. Typically, these were sets of 36 paintings, thus, creating a garland (mala) of images pertaining to the music (ragas)

The exhibit is at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art through October 1.  Epic Tales from Ancient India features stories and images of Krishna. Traditional Indian music is piped into the gallery space. 

There are dozens and dozens of illustrations of Krishna and others from the ancient scriptures in the Blanton exhibit. Images of Krishna, Yashoda, Radha, Balaram are mostly from the 1600s. They tend to be very detailed, tiny stories on paper.

Here are a few examples.

Images of Krishna in Art

birth of KrishnaTo protect Krishna against a terrible prophesy, his birth parents entrusted him to Yashoda and Nanda. Krishna’s birth, and escape from the jail where he was born, are expressed in a watercolor circa 1560.

The exhibit description explains several of the scenes in this piece. 

“When Devaki gives birth to her eight son, Krishna, no ordinary infant, but rather an incarnation of the god Vishnu, a carefully conceived plan ensures the child’s safety.  In this image, the blue-skinned Krishna sits on a lotus throne…At the center, the prison door is left unchained. Its two guards and their dogs have fallen fast asleep, enabling Vasudeva and Krishna’s midnight escape to the distant land where Krishna will be raised.” 

Krishna overcomes BakasuraKamsa sends demons out to harm baby Krishna. One of those demons is disguised as a crane, Bakasura.  

“Bakasura attacked from behind a tree, capturing Krishna in his beak, In the story, the crane swallows Krishna but is forced to expel him when his palate begins to burn…Krishna seizes the two halves of Bakasura’s beak to rip the crane into two pieces as his brother, Balarama, and another cowherd boy wield their sticks to assist in subduing the demon.” 

In another tale, Krishna overcomes a forest fire. After defeating a serpent, Krishna and his father return home. Tired, the fall asleep at the Yamuna river.  

“At this point, a massive forest fire starts, and Krishna must rescue his people again. In the illustration, the fire that encircles the group looks like a garland of yellow flowers, within which Krishna is depicted twice…On the left, he sleeps alongside his brother Balarama and foster father Nanda…On the right, he drinks up the flames…”  

images of krishna and gopisAn opaque watercolor, from the mid 1700s shows Krishna explaining worship. There are multiple stories within the painting, representing how worship is passed on, from one to another. The eye is drawn to a colorful flower. At the yellow center of the flower, are Vishnu and Garuda. His attendants and other deities are pictured on each of the eight pink petals. 

A gallery text explains one of the pieces from around 1690.

“A telling of the story in the vernacular language of Brajbasha on the verso describes Krishna as sitting among the gopis as they together form a circle and enact the rasalila performance. Krishna multiplies himself and dances between the women. Witnessing this wonderful spectacle, gods gather while heavenly musicians and dancers join in the revelry.”

Krishna was ever popular among the gopis (cow herder girls).

“The love that the Gopis bore towards Krishna was a divine love. It was the union of souls,” says Sivananda. He adds that his flute attracted them. “It produced God-intoxication in all beings and infused life even in insentient objects. The sweetness of the music was unsurpassed.”

Epic Tales from Ancient India in Austin

Epic Tales from Ancient IndiaAs part of the Blanton show, there will be a sarod and tabla concert on September 21. Then, on September 22, there will be a lecture. Additionally, each Thursday, Saturday and Sunday will be storytelling and dance. A UT grad student, with then years of Indian classical dance experience, will perform.

The Blanton was founded in 1963 as UT’s Art Museum. Therefore, admission is free to current UT staff and students. Likewise, admission is free for teachers and active military. Typically, the museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays until 5 p.m. However, the third Thursday of every month, the museum is open until 9 p.m.