Tag: Yoga and Meditation

Gee! You are You

Gee! You are You

The contribution of teachers is perhaps greater than the contribution of anyone else. Indians have acknowledged this for ages and that’s why we celebrate Gurupournima, also known as Vyasa Poornima. The term guru means ‘dispeller of darkness’.

The original Vedic texts were monolithic in nature and it was almost impossible for any individual to study them in a single lifetime. To make the wisdom of the Vedas more accessible, the great sage Vyasa, who is considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is said to have divided the Vedas into four parts: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. It is this event that gave him the name Veda Vyasa or the compiler of the Vedas. Vyasa later composed the great epic, Mahabharata, which captures all the lessons of Vedas in the form of a story.

Considering his epic contribution to the history of humankind, the birth anniversary of Mahamuni Veda Vyasa is celebrated as Gurupournima. On the occasion, various institutions and its students across the country pay homage to their teachers, past and present.

Like every year, Thane-based Sri Tara Ma Mission, which runs ashrams, schools, colleges, and academies, observed Gurupournima with enthusiasm and reverence. On July 11, 2006, the devotees worshipped the founder of mission, Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda. Spiritual aspirants seeking guidance received the Guru mantra from them for spiritual progress through its chanting. The programme at the Sri Ma Vanasthali Ashram began early in the morning at 5 am with the chanting of Omkar followed by bhajans, kirtans, meditation and stotra recitation, and lasted for more than an hour. A number of devotees received their Guru mantra from Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda after the morning programme.

Later, the Vishwa Shanti Havan or the sacrificial ceremony for universal peace was performed at Sri Ma Vidyalaya from 8.30 am to 11.30 am. Many students from Std VI to X received Mantra Diksha from Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda. As part of the diksha, Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda also gifted them with a japa-mala (chanting beads) and taught them the method of chanting, using the same.

Children too displayed an enquiring mind with questions on the correct way of living and conducting oneself. Questions such as ‘When my mind and my heart presents conflicting solutions, what should I do?’ and ‘Since I have received the Guru mantra, does it mean that from now onwards I should stop the consumption of non-vegetarian food?’ All questions were answered in simple language so that children could understand.

Sri Tara Ma and Swami Omkarananda explained the children the effectiveness of chanting Guru mantra in developing concentration and a clear mind for improved performance in studies, at work in the future and ultimately in making better world citizens of them.
This was followed by Sri Tara Ma’s and Swami Omkarananda’s message on Gurupournima. Sri Tara Ma said, ‘In most spiritual or religious functions, people come late and leave early. But I am happy that all people came here much before the Havan began and stayed on till the consummation. I am happy that they have taken in the air purified by the Agni arising from this Havan. May peace be to all.’

Swami Omkarananda then added, ‘Mental and environmental peace is missing. People are running after sensory objects in their quest for happiness. No one is happy with their lot. After a particular object is attained, the mind craves for something else. So much is the vagary of the mind that it is not at peace even with a particular Guru and forces the individual to go from one Guru to another.’ He added, ‘Do Japam (chanting), Dhyanam (meditation) and cultivate favourable qualities to attain peace of mind, which is the true wealth.’

The students and others who received spiritual wisdom came away feeling calmer and at peace with themselves. And why not – the real purpose of Guru is to get us to know ourselves. Little wonder then that the word Guru is spelt G-U-R-U, which, when pronounced a letter at a time, reads ‘Gee! You are You.’

Spreading the Wisdom of Yoga

Spreading the Wisdom of Yoga

Ghantali Mitra Mandal (GMM) is known for helping people relax through Yoga. On January 26 however, the GMM members and their friends, families and associates found themselves relaxing. And causing them to relax was 72-year-old veteran TV anchor-cum-writer Mohini Nimkar. Nimkar, who is remembered for her long career as an anchor with Doordarshan from 1973 to 1993, was invited by GMM to stage her solo-act play Hasya Dindi, a light Marathi comedy that everyone present thoroughly enjoyed. "What a nice, relaxed evening. The play helped us forget all our worries," was sentiment echoed by the many who attended, among them prominent Thaneites.

The occasion was the celebration of the foundation day of GMM. 39 years ago, on January 26, 1965, Yogacharya Shri Krishna Vyavhare set up the Ghantali Mitra Mandal, a non-profit institute, with the sole objective of creating awareness about the benefits of Yoga Sadhana.

GMM has certainly come a long way since it humble beginning when Vyavahare Guruji, without neither money nor resources, decided to impart Yoga training. The task seemed uphill. But he was empowered with the knowledge he had gained under the guidance of Yogacharya Kaba Sahasrabudhe. So, much against the wishes of his wife, he sold his home furniture and began his first Yoga classes at home. Today, the institute has established itself firmly in the field of Yoga training. It has played an important role in promoting awareness and inculcating practise of Yoga among hundreds of Thane residents. Every morning, from 6 to 7 am, classes for a government recognised one-year comprehensive training course are held. Its teachers’ course for Yoga has initiated thousands of Yoga Teachers in and around the city since 1971.  

In 1988 GMM found a permanent place for its operations at the Sahyog Mandir. Since then it has become even more active in spreading the ancient knowledge of Yoga through workshops and seminars. Focused programmes for obesity, asthma, blood pressure mentally challenged children, senior citizens and other stress related health problems are regularly held. About 200 odd volunteers and 50 teachers attached to GMM conduct various short and long courses throughout the year at various places in Thane and also in Ghatkopar where GMM has a centre. 16 permanent members of the management work with dedication so that the benefits of Yoga reach out to as many people as possible.

Sujata Bhide, who is the secretary of GMM and also the editor of their publishing division, says, "We regularly organise Yoga camps to teach Mantra Sadhana, Swara Yoga (music therapy through Yoga) and other techniques. Our aim is to set up a research centre for the benefit of Thane residents."

GMM also has a culture division which Culture Division which organises cultural programmes to spread the knowledge of the Upanishads, karma yoga and so on. Their children’s division teaches how to use Yoga to improve memory and to develop a well-rounded personality.

Worldwide, Yoga has become synonymous with stress reduction and healing. But it’s expensive to learn this ancient wisdom in countries like the US.   Thanks to institutes like GMM, you need not worry about going bankrupt if you wish to learn Yoga. Simply call 25361349.

Eyesore!

Eyesore!

It is a known fact that computers are the number one cause of eyestrain. But why only eyestrain, computers have been guilty of various other health issues. Over a period of time, excessive computer use can have cumulative negative effects on the user including the worsening of eyesight, astigmatism, eye-focusing disorders and poor eye coordination. In addition, constant working from a set position can cause neck and shoulder stiffness, as well as stress headaches, which can then cause pain in the jaw.

Some studies estimate that 90 per cent of all individuals using computers for more than 3 hours per day experience Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) in some form.

But it is also a fact that these hi-tech processing machines have become indispensable. So, given that we cannot escape computers, we must learn to live with them. And helping residents of Thane city in this learning process is the Ghantali Mitra Mandal (GMM), a city-based group that organises workshops and seminars for the benefit of the residents. GMM also runs a yoga institute. Under the guidance of Yogacharya ShriKrishna Vyavahare, the GMM Yoga Institute recently conducted a two-week long workshop on CVS.
Sujata Bhide, one of the guides in the programme says, "In just two weeks, the participants showed such a marked improvement in their quality of vision. Blurriness and strain had reduced – so had headaches and backaches." The measure of success was based on the assessment by two city-based ophthalmologists, Dr. Vavikar and Dr. Gadgil, who examined the participants both before and after the workshop.

The response was so good that it prompted GMM to organise another episode of the workshop which began on July 14, earlier this week. At the workshop, five guides Dr. Ulka Natu, Sujata Bhide, Vidya Kunte, Sunanda Joshi and Arvind Bhave coach the participants in the yoga methods including meditation techniques that directly address the specific problems associated with computer fatigue.

"Computing is not about computers any more. It is about living," claims Nicholas Negroponte, Professor of Media Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA. The professor should know – after all, he lives with these machines.

Fact File
Here are a few tips from experts that may help you reduce computer-related fatigue:

  • Set up your computer correctly. The proper viewing distance is 20-24 inches. The correct viewing angle is 10 to 20 degrees from the mid-screen to the top of the screen.
  • Use a good monitor – usually the higher the resolution, the better.
  • Do eye exercises every 30 minutes.
  • Use proper posture – a straight upper back with feet flat on the ground.
  • Ensure appropriate illumination. The room should not be more than three times brighter than the screen.
  • Adjust screen brightness and contrast properly.
  • Keep your wrists relatively straight while typing. Wrist support pads can be very helpful. Support your elbows too, to prevent shoulder tension.
  • And finally, take frequent five-minute breaks to stretch your back, neck, hands and legs.
Freedom from Stress

Freedom from Stress

A recent survey showed that 70-90% of us feel stressed at work and outside. Today’s fast paced lifestyle is putting a toll on us. Unless we learn to manage stress, we will get sick. Stress and tension impact our entire being; our body, mind, and spirit.

But popping pills is hardly the solution. Ours is a chemically dependent society, perpetually drugging itself to relieve stress. What we fail to realise that painkillers, anti-depressants and other substances may provide temporary respite, but only at the cost of causing long-term, sometimes irreversible, damage to our physical and mental selves.

There is a safer remedy for our overmedicated, overstressed society: Yoga. We can overcome the effects of stress and manage them by utilizing the beneficial breathing techniques and postures that yoga provides. These techniques can not only alleviate the problems we encounter daily, but can revitalize and nourish the mind, body, and spirit over a prolonged period of time, enabling all of us to have long and healthy lives. The popularity of Yoga can be assessed from its followers who range from world renowned physicians to Hollywood superstars. Clearly, interest in yoga is surging throughout the world.

Now, overstressed individuals in Thane too have an opportunity to free themselves from the constant worries and anxieties accompanying them. Thane based Gogate’s Personality Development Center is introducing a one-month stress management programme for working executives. From September 01, 2002, Rashmi Bapat, a qualified Yoga teacher, will conduct early morning sessions on Yoga.

Bapat, who has a Post Graduate Diploma in Yoga & Naturopathy from Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Research Foundation (Bangalore) explains, "Yoga is a proven and powerful transformative practice that integrates body, mind and spirit. Participants will learn yoga asanas, pranayam breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques."

Each morning session will last approximately ninety minutes and will address the issues of stress. In the first half, the participants will be taught the physiology of stress and its management with yoga. The second half will comprise of a lecture on diet and relaxation. The session will conclude with half an hour dedicated to personal counseling to address individual needs. This last part is worthy of note as each individual has a unique physical and mental constitution. Therefore a generalised course may leave finer aspects of an individual’s problem unattended. To enable this personal attention, a maximum of eight persons will be allowed per batch.

Vasant Gogate, the founder of the center, is himself an avid student of Yoga. Having learnt about the benefits of Yoga early in his life, he wants to make this ancient wisdom available to the residents of this city. His programme is specially designed for the modern day executive who deals with various forms of social and personal pressures which in turn causes his/her health to deteriorate.

Blood pressure, cardiac problems and depression are some of the common derivatives of stress. So if you suffer from stress or simply want to give a new lease of life to your self, you may want to consider participating in this programme.

To enroll in the Stress Management Programme, you may contact Vasant Gogate on Tel. nos. 5400859, 5383486

At a glance – Benefits of Yoga

  • Physical: Through healing, strengthening, stretching and relaxing the skeletal, muscular, digestive, cardio-vascular, glandular and nervous systems.
  • Mental: Through the cultivation of a quite and a peaceful mind, alertness and concentration
  • Spiritual: Through a heightened awareness of self; helps in meditation
Enabling the Disabled

Enabling the Disabled

Imagine restless and fidgety children sitting in one place quietly, with legs crossed and eyes closed, trying to meditate. Difficult? Now, imagine that these children are physically or mentally disabled. This is how the day begins each morning at the Jidd School – a special care set-up for physically and mentally challenged children in Thane.

Enabling the DisabledJidd in Marathi means determination, which is what everyone at the School displays. The principal Shyamshree Bhonsle is a lady whose mission in life is to serve the poor disabled children. And she is helped in her efforts by several likeminded and selfless individuals.

According to Bhonsle, "The practice of meditation has been playing a beneficial role in the rehabilitation of these disadvantaged children. It has benefited mentally handicapped subjects by improving their mental ability, also the motor co-ordination and social skills. Physically handicapped subjects too had a restoration of functional ability to some degree after practicing meditation"

Yet, mediation is just one of the unique training techniques that this special school employs. There are special teachers for music, dance, craft and physical exercises as well. There is an occupational-cum-physiotherapy trainer and a psychologist as well. One can gauge the success of the school’s effort from the way the students have responded. Twice last year, the mentally challenged children staged a dance performance in public; in Little Flower School and at Kalidas Hall – this despite the fact that these children had never attended school before.

Jidd School is a TMC undertaking, which primarily caters to the children of the lower socio-economic strata. When the then TMC commissioner Govind Swarup founded the school in 1985, it was meant only for physically impaired children. In August last year, the school opened its doors to the mentally retarded children. Less than a year and the school’s mentally retarded section now trains eighty students as against thirty-four in the physically impaired section.

A School like Jidd is unlike any other school. It serves only the poorest children and its service does not end at education. In fact for most of its mentally challenged students, education not even possible. A child who has a mental handicap generally tends to learn slowly and may also have a limited ability to learn. The presence of this disability causes great difficulty in coping with the demands of daily life. The parents and teachers of a mentally handicapped child have to cope with all of the usual problems of child rearing as well. Thus, each stage in the retarded child’s development may bring with it a new and unique set of issues. Puberty may trigger issues of sexuality and aggression. Later, adolescence brings with it issues of work and conflict between independence and dependence.

One of the biggest issues that Bhonsle and her team deals with, is the reluctance of the parents in accepting their child’s disability. Says Bhonsle, "Parents of mentally handicapped children initially do not want to face the idea that their child requires special care. They do not want to believe it. This is an extremely sensitive and difficult issue"

The School not only educates and trains the students; it also provides free food, transportation, healthcare and playing facilities. A computer room, a rehabilitation room and special garden for disabled children add to the charm of the school.

The students come from as far as Mumbra, Vitava, Kharegaon, Patlipada and Shastri Nagar and free transportation means a lot to them. Similarly, free food is a blessing for most students. "Many students are so poor that they can’t afford more than some dry, stale bread for lunch. So when the school started providing free breakfast and lunch, there was a marked increase in attendance", reveals Bhonsle.

Fortunately, quite a few compassionate citizens from the city frequently extend some form of help to the school. Many prefer to remain anonymous. Such acts of kindness coupled of the determination of some individuals epitomises the essence of life. As Aesop, an Ancient Greek moralist once said, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."

Yoga for All

Yoga for All

On 9th Sept 2001, a different kind of Yoga workshop was held in Thane East. Shubhada Lele of Yoga Swasthya Kendra, Mahim, conducted the workshop wherein she explained the potential of Yoga in healing many different kinds of health problems. The workshop demonstrated Yoga exercises for individuals with specific health problems.

About 25 people, who have experienced the benefits of these exercises first hand, spoke about and demonstrated how these exercises helped them in dealing with their specific problems. Problems discussed and demonstrated ranged from the more common backaches, arthritis, blood pressure, cardiac-related and diabetes to rare but complicated asthma and paralysis.

The Yoga workshop was organized by Bhartiya Stree Jeevan Vikas Parisad (BSJVP), a woman’s welfare organization located in Thane. The organization, among other activities, runs a hostel for working women and a school for deaf and dumb. Ms. Bakula Tai Devkule, the 80-year old secretary of the organization, says, "I have been associated with this organization since its inception 50 years ago. It has been a wonderful experience as it involves service to the society, especially women. It is very satisfying."

Research proves that yoga helps manage or control many common physical and mental health problems such as anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases

For the benefit of Thaneites, BSJVP has arranged for yoga classes to be held thrice a week by the Yoga Swathya Kendra. For more information, contact 5401184 or 4094415.

Relax – you are meditating.
Talking about yoga, meditation is considered the highest form of yoga. It is being increasingly recognised as a technique for controlling the mind and making it more peaceful, calm and focused.

Meditation is best practiced in a quite spot, away from the pollution of the city. Yeoor Hills in Thane provides many such spots. That’s one reason why it has many privately owned temples such as Parmarth Niketan owned by Phadke family and Ram Mandir owned by Thakur family. But the most prominent among the places of worship is the Vivekanand Balak Ashram, which is frequented by numerous Thaneites, especially on weekends.

The Vivekanand Ashram has in its compound, two meditation rooms or dhyan kutir. These dome shaped structures are in fact huts, made from mud, mixed with cow dung compost. The rooms are a boon to visitors who practice the art of meditation and also for those who are trying to learn it. The location is perfect and the surrounding, tranquil. If you are a meditation enthusiast, it is worth a visit to this place. But even if you do not meditate, you will have an extremely relaxing and unwinding experience of being close to nature and your inner self.

Wise Advice
People from Thane are quite considerate when it comes to returning lost articles to their owners. There are many such instances known to this writer and memories of all of them came back recently when a Thane girl, Shilpa Tansale, who works for the National Stock Exchange in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), demonstrated one such act of consideration.

On Monday, this writer found his cell phone missing. This was after he was returning from an early morning appointment in BKC. On realising that he had lost his mobile, he did the obvious – he called up his own cell, hoping that whoever had found it would be thoughtful enough to answer the call and offer to return it. To his pleasant surprise, Shilpa, who had found the missing cell phone, answered the call and said that she was, in fact, waiting for his call. She gave him her office address, which is located in BKC, and the writer collected his mobile. When they met, he thanked her a lot to which she wisely advised him to be more careful in the future. Advice taken, Ms. Shilpa.

The Fake Terrorist

The Fake Terrorist

Mistrust among the people is growing, as was amply demonstrated in a BEST bus recently. It was about 4:30 pm and the 496 Ltd. had begun its journey from Thane Flyover to Andheri Station. When the bus reached Mulund Check Naka, a passenger noticed an "abandoned" suitcase lying on the front seat. The conductor inquired with the passengers if the suitcase belonged anyone of them. When nobody owned it up, fear began enveloping the passengers.

Soon, everyone was heard discussing what action should be taken. One passenger suggested that the bus be taken to the nearby fire station. Another proposed calling the police. Few passengers even tried to recollect if they had seen the "terrorist" slipping away. Patience was running out and the bus was finally evacuated at the Bhandup Police Chowki stop and the conductor informed the police station. A constable came to investigate but even he refused to take the "risk" of touching the bag.

The "case" was finally solved when a man from the next 496 Ltd. got down and came running to claim the bag. It turned out that he had mistakenly left his suitcase behind as he got off from the bus at the Thane flyover, which was the last stop.

A worthy Successor
Padmashri Padmaja Phenani-Joglekar is a household name amongst music lovers in Maharashtra. Last week, Thaneites had the privilege of listening to some vintage Marathi songs in her inimitable voice. She was at The Gadkari Rangayatan as part of a charity show.

During the show, the compere narrated an interesting anecdote about Padmajaji. Reporters at the New York Airport once asked Lata Mangeshkar which singer in her opinion was fit to be her successor? Lataji replied without hesitation, "There’s only one: Padmaja Phenani".

Recently, at a function in New Delhi, Padmajaji recited a few poems of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The PM was present too. The compere asked Padmajaji if she was nervous and overwhelmed by his presence. Ever humble and witty, she replied that India was indeed lucky to have such a sensitive poet-leader and that his presence and encouragement was re-assuring.

Once she started singing, she closed her eyes, as she usually does, lost in her melody, completely oblivious to her distinguished audience.

Wonder Kid’s Compassion
Amey Gawand’s compassion towards animals is really touching. This physically challenged child from Thane is extremely clever and won numerous competitions. His school friends have nicknamed him "the wonder kid" after Times of India carried a story on him last year with the same title.

When Amey was 6 years old, he created a profound impact on his father. Dr. Gawand, a self-professed, hard-core non-vegetarian, was preparing himself for his regular dish of chicken and meat, when Amey walked up to him and asked him a few straight-from-the-heart questions:

"Dad, can you give life to anybody?" "No", replied his father. "Then what right do you have, to take anyone’s life?"

"Fish, chicken… did they come and trouble you?" "No", said the doctor. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"Dad, I have seen small chicks gather under the hen for protection. This shows that they have a family. Would you like it, if someone troubles your family?" "Of course not, son" replied his father. "Then why do you trouble them?"

"If you really crave eating flesh, try eating tigers and lions. Why do you go after the helpless ones?" Dr. Gawand did not have an answer to this one.

Soon afterwards, he voluntarily left eating non-vegetarian food. His son’s questions had hit him real hard.

A hope for nature lovers
Of its many drawbacks, urbanisation’s toll on environmental balance is perhaps the biggest. But nature-lovers in Thane still have HOPE. Instituted by the Rotary Club of Thane, Here On Project Environment or HOPE, as its popularly known, is an active club of nature loving beings.

Don’t be too surprised if you see people of all ages, enthusiastically planting mangroves near the Kalwa Bridge. HOPE regularly organises such plantations, which go a long way in restoring and maintaining an ecological balance

A club dedicated to the environment, HOPE holds meetings every Saturday, between 7 and 9 in the evening. Environment experts, forest officers and HOPE members talk about their experiences and discuss future projects to deal with pollution, global warming, tiger conservation, illegal forest trade and more. These meetings are open for all and HOPE encourages nature-conscious Thane citizens to attend these meetings.

From time to time, HOPE also organises Nature treks and Workshops to teach new skills such as nature photography and garbage recycling.

The ever-increasing amounts of work in such fields require more dedicated members and HOPE invites collegians, housewives, retirees, and others with some free time to spare to come forth and join the organization. For more information, contact Shyam Ghate at 5422493.

"Good Health for Thane"
Yoga, which is enjoying growing popularity in the western countries, is also gripping Thane-ites. This can be gauged from the success of the Teachers’ course for Yoga conducted by Ghantali Mitra Mandal. This certificate course has initiated thousands of Yoga Teachers around the city since 1971. Young and old, from all walks of life, attend this course and then go on to spread the knowledge elsewhere.

The 10-week covers all the major aspects of Yoga, including history of Yoga, meditation, diet, the various asanas and pranayama etc. The organisation also holds focused programs on obesity, asthma, blood pressure and other stress related health problems.

Based on the tremendous success of these programs, the organization extended them new centres such as Gadkari Rangayatan, Sahyog Mandir and Shiv Malti Sabahgruh. The objective of the organization is to make the course and the programs available to as many people as possible.

Yoga is synonymous with stress reduction, and if practiced regularly, it is a very powerful healing and transformational tool. For those who wish to take the course or attend any of the programs conducted by the organisation, they may contact Ghantali Mitra Mandal at 5361349.