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Small epiphanies in Yoga

I recently taught a workshop on hip openers for a group of enthusiastic yoga teachers in Helsinki, Finland. As the hips are said to be the trash bin of ignored and trapped emotions, I decided to start the workshop with a short (that turned out to be rather long, really) talk about the issue.

All out past traumas cause a kind of a residue that settles in the hips and get stuck if we don’t learn to release and let them go. Asanas that work on opening and softening our hips can help release the residue , resulting in a rather emotional experience for the practitioner.

When I first started yoga I kept hearing people tell me they’ve experienced sudden onsets of emotions during a completely ordinary, routine yoga session. I, in all honesty, never really believed them. I must’ve be one of the most cynical aspiring yogis in the world! But to be honest, my practice was very superficial for many many years. Only about four years ago when I started deepening my practice, I understood what a deep connection there is between body and mind. I mean I always knew it in a sense that I had heard stories and read yoga books that talk about this unity, but I never felt it. My body never knew it.

So there I am, talking about hips and emotions, when I suddenly realise that the only way we can let the emotions out and release them in a healthy way, is to surrender. It hits me like a ton of pricks. I thought I was the teacher in this workshop and here I am having a little epiphany. Just surrender! That is the key. Just let go of the horrendous need to be in (unhealthy) control all the time. Surrender in an asana instead of forcing your body go any further than it needs to. Surrender in life, in a sense that learn to go with a flow instead of mapping and planning every turn. Give it a try and see where it takes you.

I am not saying it is simple or easy. Surrendering and letting go take a huge amount of courage and willingness to walk the path that opens up to you. We tend to think that surrendering means being a push over, but by surrendering we actually can empower ourselves much better that if we constantly fight to be in control. Blend in with the universe! It will take care of you, if you let it.

So my little talk about hips and emotions turns into an excited yapping about all of the above. And a studio full of fellow practitioners nod in equally exited agreement. So we surrender to our hip opening, water element focused asana practice and afterwards we fully succumb to platefuls of delicious aloo gobi in a near by restaurant.

– Anna Olkinuora

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Charity (and everything good) begins at home

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 10.17.49 AM“What are we doing to this planet?”
“How can we continue to live like this?”
“How can we bring more children into this situation?”
And similar questions always echoed in the mind. I tried to make small changes for the moment, but continued with the flow, postponing anything more impactful. Until my 1 year old child showed me how it is natural instinct to want to live with nature even if it goes against the ‘flow’ we humans have created. She grabbed her salads (without any dressing) and fruits, and was moody about (read turned up her nose at) cooked or packaged baby food. It is then that the details of pesticide content in our raw food, where they are grown, who are the distributors and all the rest of the theories really started bothering me. The ‘organic’ way began to feel heavy on the purse, but priorities were clear and I cut other excesses.
The terrace vegetable garden was not far behind. The little patches and pots of greens sprouting involved patience and hands on work. Setting out to learn the organic methods, I remembered the good old days of default kitchen gardens of my grand mother and mother, and their no fuss, no chemical methods of gardening.
Composting was another initiative to cut the gardening costs and use the resource rich kitchen waste. Once you start collecting organic waste resources you understand the pain of waste segregation at a mammoth level. Law or no law, waste segregation at source is as essential as charging your mobile phone  (just in case brushing teeth has gone out of fashion)!
And once I started earnest segregation and began analysing the trash, I learnt so much about our lifestyles. I put into action all the small things I have been thinking of, mostly by refusing to take/buy more than necessary. They add up to a different way of thinking, a different way of life. And what is “necessary” keeps reducing….

I have now become sensitive to everything that was happening to someone else – landfills, climate changes, smoky images, news of extinction of species, natural calamities, viral/bacterial mutations, you name it!
So do we live in paranoia spelling doom? Do we go back to the stone age? No. But we can live with awareness and do the little things that we CAN DO one step at a time.


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Beyond the classroom?


As a mother of a 14 month old, I enter the dreaded world of planning schooling. Having discovered the joys of creative learning, I go through a lot of attrition when I picture my little one in a ‘class’ in the traditional sense of the word. Of course most of us went through it and we apparently turned out all right. Or did we?

I began to understand myself somewhere in my late twenties (I am still figuring out the ups and downs of being ‘me’). There were so many things I was more suited to do and probably excel, compared to what my formal education had taken me through. It was too late to start many things at a practical level, but I went ahead thanks to the belief of it being never too late. It has gotten me this far and there are no regrets whatsoever. But there are many times that I wonder “what if…”.

I have had the privilege of meeting some brilliant young children in my line of creative work . By brilliant, I mean children who are grounded, secure in themselves, but still retain their childlike wonder. These are definitely few and far between, but its heartening to know that their tribe is increasing. Despite the commercialisation of education, this attitude of letting children be natural learners, allows them to trust and hone their instincts rather than replace it with the worldly ideas that industrial revolution has discovered.

We need more such citizens of the world. We need them for a better tomorrow, for a better earth. Coincidentally almost all these children have one thing in common. They do not ‘study’ in a conventional system taught to them. They teach themselves to study in modern systems, but with original ideas. Many a times, they are just allowed to “study themselves”.

But like all things that “catch up”, there are the me-too’s too. So the make-a-fast-buck-while-saying-jargon ones are mushrooming too. It takes some discretion to differentiate.

More power to the original thinkers. After all, we only apply what we learn beyond the classroom in real life. Many a times, we learn as we live life. So why cant formal education also be encouraged be experiential?

PS: Pic – How I teach my daughter the centripetal force!! 😀

– Shridevi

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The Dance in my life’s journey – A reminiscence

A story from the archives of Archana’s blog – http://unexploredrandomscriblings.blogspot.sg/2012/06/cluster-of-fun-and-activities-navarasa.html from Friday, 15 June 2012.


It has been almost a year since I was absorbed into this swarm of art and activity enthusiasts. Little did I know when I joined that it is going to be a part of me through out my journey.

I was looking for a place which can help me take my fervor towards Kathak to a serious note when I chanced upon this place NaVaRaSa. I didn’t hesitate for a moment and called up the number given on the website. A petite voice answered all my queries and said that she is on a break and not conducting the classes and I can join them when they resume again.

Curious as I was, I located this place to be on my way from office to home. I walked up to its door to find it locked with a notebook and a pen hung to it with a note saying that they are closed for a few days and to leave the contact details on which they could revert.

When they did call back it was to tell me that I can join them on the following Monday for a test. A group of girls dancing gracefully welcomed me to NaVaRaSa for the very first time and sitting in one corner with a plaster on her leg was my guru – Shridevi Mahadevan.

A ligament tear in her ankle few days back explained her state. I wondered at her commitment towards NaVaRaSa that made her come even in a difficult time such as this but she had more her in disposition to surprise me.

People came in and went away from NaVaRaSa but the enthusiasm of Shri never faded for once. She keeps on going and going and imparting new things. Coming from a background of software industry its remarkable to see how Shri has immersed herself into art and creativity. She is always on her toes to try something new, to do something different and her enthusiasm with little kids in her creative cocoon requires acclamation.

In my journey with NaVaRaSa, there was never an instance where I felt monotony of routine. NaVaRaSa was a stress-breaker for me. That one hour I spent everyday in NaVaRaSa bought with it new amounts of energy every time. There was no pressure to out do your peers, never the pressure to achieve something unreachable to you, it was always fun and learning.

Before I knew, I was one among the friendly, graceful and dedicated group of girls planning for the Second Annual Day of NaVaRaSa.

IMG_5887Oh, what a time that was. For the new enthusiasts of NaVaRaSa it was the thrill of performing on stage for the first time and for the leading set of NaVaRaSa it was to better their performance this time. It was bigger and better with many forms of art coming together at one place.

It unquestionably was a mammoth successful event and the effort put in by everyone is commendable. But my partiality lies with my teacher who did almost everything from choreographing the Kathak sequences to coordinating, with people in charge of the premise, tailors for our costumes, selecting the theme for the event poster, getting the invites done, recording videos,  practicing her own performance and to top it manage small kids and most importantly their parents. It was an event which has sketched itself in my memory to be there for a long time.

– Archana Moro

Archana is a software professional in Bangalore. She is an avid traveler, voracious reader and loves to capture the most precious moments of her life and her thoughts through her blog and pictures. She is a creative individual who apart from having practiced Kathak, is also trained in Carnatic classical music vocals. You can find her blogs at unexploredrandomscriblings.blogspot.sg

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Art Traumas


When I was about thirteen or so, I vividly remember sitting in ‘art class’ with a huge sheet in front of me covered in what looked like watercolour vomit. The instructions for the class was to paint a feeling or a memory. I happened to feel the early teenage turmoil of my secret crush not noticing me at lunch and decided to throw paint on paper to look as confused cocktail of colours as my thoughts were. My art ‘teacher’ walked by, looked at my colourful self-expression on a big sheet of paper and actually said ‘well you’ll never be an artist’. Apparently I was supposed to do a ‘real painting’ not just make a mess. I was supposed to be creative and not make a mockery of the assignment. She then proceeded to lift up another piece of work, a very realistic, and very good may I add, painting of a girl’s face close up. ‘This is what I want you all to achieve’ was her advice to all of us. ‘But we were meant to paint what comes from within!’ I whispered to myself and then proceeded to strengthen the idea in my head that I am, as it were, a talented artist after all.

Cut to twenty years later and I’m still working through that block of fear I have towards visual arts. As soon as I take a pencil or a paint brush in my hand, there is a tiny voice reminding me not to bother. Stick to movement and theatre, leave the paints to someone who can appreciate them. But now, being a tad bit more confident, I go ‘hell no!’ I need that paint brush! I have the right to own it.

Art and creativity belongs to everyone. Creativity is inherent in all humans, it is our inheritance. To tell someone they are not creative or artistic is a big pile of bs. And for a teacher to do so, it is just criminal. Without creativity we wouldn’t have modern technology, medicine, let alone art. Scientists, teachers, you name it, need creativity as much as artists do. And as an artist I believe art can support creative thinking in all fields of work, study and more importantly it simply just helps us to be and feel. There are plenty of studies to suggest that participating in arts encourages children (and adults alike) to take risks and develop a sense of innovation. In addition there is a correlation between participating in arts and improved academic performance.

One day lost online I came across this brilliant point made on earlychildhoodnews.com: If children grow up believing they are creative, they will have a better chance of finding constructive outlets for creative energy in later years. A child’s creativity will not be just a memory; it will be a valuable, personal resource to use every day.

To sum it up? To kill the creativity and freedom of self expression in children is extremely damaging. And may I add, to kill it in adults can be disastrous.

Kurt Vonnegut famously said in a letter to a class: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.” 

I’m taking his advice. I’ve started to keep a visual diary in which I doodle and paint my thoughts and feelings. And I love it! I love it so much that I have started using forms of visual art in my workshops and as a stimulus to create movement. I have not only found a new way of expressing myself, but also a new depth in my work.

What to do to tap into our creative sources though? If there are anyone out there working through their art teacher traumas, just go ‘do art’. Even if there is no bad memories of art classes, ‘do art’ anyway. Do anything. Write poetry, draw daily, dance for while every morning. The only thing that matters is that whatever you do, you do it to be true to yourself. Let it come from within.

Anna Olkinuora

Painting Credit : ‘Sirpaleita’ (‘Fragments’) By Jukka-Pekka Uusikyla

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