It is hard for me to share this in a blog. But it is necessary for me to share this. I was woken up from my sleep to write this, so I am in trust of the energy that sees this work as necessary for me, and perhaps for you. This is my first guru Poornima after feeling devastated.
Allow me to share and be compassionate as you listen…..
In December 2019, I was hit with the worst and most unexpected news of my spiritual life. There were allegations that Swami Vishnudevandanda who had brought the Sivananda Lineage of which I am a part to the west, had sexual relationships with several students.
For the first time, I could not sleep at night. I couldn’t process what my child was saying to me, I could not meditate. I went through the stages of grief… disbelief (how could that even be possible), recognition of spiritual pride (but my lineage was the only pure one left standing, so how to swallow this), deep disappointment (how could he, how could the board), silence (watching all the unfolding of information and anger and even abusive language from fellow teachers) and sadhana (bringing my grief, my disbelief, my pain) to the sanctuary that is my sadhana. Placing them at the altar of the Anja chakra and practicing pratipaksha bhavana. Sadhana ALWAYS brings clarity. So, I got off the ballistic Facebook groups, intensified japa (mantra chanting with mala beads), and dedicated my malas to myself, the perpetrator, the victims and all victims of abuse of any kind anywhere.
It still wasn’t easy. I had never believed in gurus. I was raised catholic and to think that placing one’s faith in anyone but God was foolish. But I didn’t understand what guru can be. A series of external and internal events, including some kind of longing for God I’ve felt since I was a little girl, changed that experience… I’ll share later, but back to that moment…..
On a practical level, personally and as a yoga teacher, I had decisions to make. Should I tear the picture of Swami Vishnu from my altar, from my wallet? Should I tell the students that have done Sivananda Yoga teacher training because of me? Should I give thanks to Swami Vishnu at the end of each class as part of the guru parampara? Would my students notice? Would they ask? What would I say? Should I change my social media handles? Should I go to the ashram for Christmas given the stance of the board? How do I communicate with the 2 swamis who are my mentors? What must be their pain if my heart felt ripped? And what was I really even feeling, cos it seemed to change constantly.
It was really the worst news I ever had!
It took me a few days. I spoke to most of the students who trained as yoga teachers. There were tears, lots of them, from all of us. That idea of having a “role model” had been lost and along with it the hope of such a possibility existing. I stopped using Swami Vishnu’s name in class, but I have been for over a decade, so I was still thinking of it. So, I chose to use that thought to silently pray for his soul while remembering that doesn’t make me holier than thou. Through grace in sadhana, I found a space of compassion for both victims and perpetrator. This is real compassion, through grace, not silent spiritual bypassing though it may appear that way.
It took me a few months, but I finally immersed the pictures of Swami Vishnu in the ocean with prayers too personal to share. I spoke to one of my mentors and it was so human and beautiful. I emailed the other wishing him “viveka (right discrimination) and isvara pranidhana (surrender to the divine will)”. There is great beauty in respecting the journey of our teachers. It is a silent connection where not much is said but energy is felt, and no verbal communication is required.
I decided not to change my social media handles, that if people were not going to come to my class because it said Sivananda Yoga (though Swami Sivananda had nothing to do with this scandal) it was not for them. The teachings I had received and still receive from swamis in this lineage have revolutionized my life. They have come through the teacher and yet are beyond them. Could one not have a “direct revelation” of this in meditation? Perhaps, yes, but not me, my soul needed igniting and the guru ignites.
One of the experiences I have consistently had is the presence of my guru Swami Sivananda. He left his body in 1963 but he’s still here. I had read of such things many years ago, in the autobiography of a yogi, but wasn’t sure it was possible. The closest anyone I knew had experienced anything like this was 2 friends a few years older than I, seeing Jesus on a wall. We were just kids, but those girls had a conviction and a look in their eyes that was unreal!
When I teach class, he’s there. Sometimes his presence is peripheral, like something from the corner of my eye. Sometimes he’s like a large protective presence around the room. Sometimes, he’s behind a student, seemingly placing his hands on their shoulders. Sometimes he’s in my meditation, with a reassuring hand on my shoulders. Most of the time I can’t sense his presence.
Yet those sometimes……. And it’s real, because after the class the student he was behind will come and tell me stuff….their experience so profound, even they hardly realize it. And I say, “you are taken care of, or you are protected” and I don’t say what really happened, though sometimes I do.
Can I explain this? No. Do I need to make cognitive sense of it? No.
There is a line in Hamlet, that a theatre director, Salim Ghouse who I acted and trained with for many years said to the self-righteous teenager that I was “There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I was mad when he said that to me. But it was a great gift. I remember even now ….there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in my philosophy.
Maybe because I’m Indian, I have this culture of respecting teachers that is very sacred. If the lineage has a “tainted” guru, I accept that too. Like the families, we are born into with their own scandals. Not everyone is perfect, neither are we and yet we are whole and complete as we are…we suffer together, we heal together and as the famous song goes….we are family.
The ancient Yogis appear to me as very advanced. In this short yet potent blog post, I am here to share yogic techniques that i am using to guard myself and my family from the Corona Virus (and all other viruses) and sharing the science behind them.
These practices have kept my immunity super even though i engage in them for the very selfish purpose of preparing my body and respiratory passage for yogic breath and life force expansion techniques or pranayama.
Please note that this does not constitute medical advice.
a.k.a sinus rinse.
Yoga has 6 kriyas or cleansing techniques to keep the internal body clean. I think of jala neti as bathing my sinuses.
It involves pouring lukewarm salt water into one nostril while tilting teh head and allowing it to flow out of the other nostril. It sounds really weird, but you have to do it to feel teh incredible feeling after. It has been around since ancient times in India and got introduced to the western world and is now recommended by ENT drs worldwide.
How to practice:
1. Purchase a good quality neti pot. (Do not buy anything besides a neti pot). If you have sinus, inflamed adenoids or other chronic issues, this neti pot will work better.
2. fill the neti pot with lukewarm water. Add kosher/ non iodised sea salt (2.5 gms per 500 ml of water). Variations must be made for people with a dry nose etc. Check with a qualified practicing yoga teacher for guidance.
3. Tilt your head to one side. Keep the chin down to prevent water from going to the head.
4. Opening your mouth, begin to breathe through the mouth.
5. Put the spout of the neti pot to the upper nostril and seal with gentle pressure.
6. Allow the saline water to pass through the nose and out through the other nostril till the pot is empty.
7. keep the head tilted for a while to allow for the excess water to drain.
8. Blow your nose so excess water an mucous can drain.
9. Repeat with other nostril.
10. Complete with a brisk 40-60 pumpkings of kapal bhati to dry up any residual water.
For the benfits of jala neti, Im quoting the Journal of Ayurdeva and Integrative Medicine.
Neti cleanses cranium, gives clear sight and alleviates diseases which manifest above the root of the neck (Hatha Yoga Pradipika verse 30). Neti removes foreign bodies like allergens, dust and enhances the drainage of sinuses by preventing stasis of mucus. It also increases blood circulation and functional efficiency of the nasal mucosa. Neti provides a relaxing and irrigating effect upon the eyes by stimulating the tear ducts and glands. It has a positive effect on cognitive faculties like memory, concentration and is beneficial in reducing anxiety and depression. By the systematic practice of neti, secretory and drainage mechanisms of the entire ear, nose and throat area are well maintained. This helps to keep at bay conditions like sinusitis, cold, cough, allergic rhinitis and insensitivity to smell .
From our review, we have found that neti can effectively be applied in conditions like sinusitis, rhinitis, rhinosinusitis and allergic rhinitis
As for my own experience, my chronic sinusitis disappeared and its an INCREDIBLE feeling!
Sutra Neti is designed to clear the nasal passage to get rid of mucous, bacteria and to ease allergies and asthmas (by helping desensitize the sensitive inner tissue)
Sutra Neti requires the insertion of a thread or a special type of rubber tube into the nostril in a way that it comes out of the mouth. This thread then dislodges mucous and debris and helps clear the nasal passages. It is also dislodges nasal polyps. Regular practice of sutra neti alleviates symptoms caused by a deviated nasal septum. An advanced version of this practice can completely reverse a deviated septum.
How to practice:
1. Relax the entire body using deep slow breathing.
2. lubricate a 4mm rubber catheter with unrefined sesame oil or clarified butter/ghee.
3. Tilting the head backwards, gently insert the narrow end of the catheter into one nostril.
4. Keep the mouth open, head tilted back and gently ease the catheter down the nose. eventually it will come out at the mouth.
5. When this happens, it is possible to experience a momentary gag reflex or feeling of retching. Reach for the end of the catheter and gently draw it out of the mouth.
6. now gently floss the passage of the nose and mouth with slow gentle movements.
7. gently remove. Wash all dislodged mucous off.
8. Wash the catheter and repeat on the other side.
Note: While this is not at all painful, it is likely to have the secretion of tears from the eyes. Please practice sutra neti under supervision of a trained yoga teacher well versed in this practice.
Nasya is a gift from Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga. Of all of the technqiues, its the easiest to do, but definietly more efficient if practiced with jala neti.
Nasya is the nasal inhalation of herbalized oils into the sinuses, which has many benefits. The most unique benefit is supporting cleansing of lymphatic vessels in the brain called the sagittal sinus or tarpaka kapha. The saggital sinus is just under the skull on the top of the head in the pattern of a mohawk haircut.
While this technique has been practiced for thousands of years, it hasn’t been long since Western medicine discovered lymphatic vessels in the sagittal sinus that literally drain some three pounds of toxic chemicals and plaque out of the brain each year while we sleep.
Until this recent research, Western medicine thought both the brain and central nervous system were completely devoid of lymphatic vessels.
New research has confirmed the Ayurvedic take on brain lymphatics, which suggests that they are related to mood stability and, when congested, can cause a host of brain, mental, and emotional concerns.
1.Lie on bed with head hanging off side. Try to get the head back far enough that nostrils are parallel to floor.
2. The take a couple deep nasal breaths.
3. After a large exhale, using an eye dropper, place two or three drops of the Nasya Oil directly into both nostrils.
4. Then, with one big inhale, sniff oil quickly and deeply into sinus cavity: hold both nostrils closed, release, and breathe in through the nose while rapidly closing and opening the nostrils.
5. Continue to sniff deeply and spit if needed
6. Repeat sniffing procedure with nasya oil three times.
My own experience and that of my 8 year old and husband with neti and nasya has been incredible.
And of course, proper sleep, proper diet, asana pranayama and meditation are all necessary compliments to these practices.
(Click here to read Part 1 Guzz guzz Gruzz the anxious buzz)
Years later…..I sat on her couch in Mumbai, this complete stranger (Effath Yasmin), with my 9 day old baby in my arms, helpless, tear filled feeling like a complete failure of a mother. My baby was unable to nurse. The buzz was devouring me, it was loud, it was bold, it was taunting, my body was overwhelmed with shivers of volcanic proportions, my fascia were stretched to tearing point, and were yet being played upon by porcupine quills.
To add to this I could feel the buzz in my infant….this could not be happening…..it was beyond surreal, beyond a divine joke. Imagine feeling my own guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz and then feeling as palpably as labor surges, the buzz in my child. My husband was my only solace.
This stranger was the messenger, nay the midwife of my release, but we both didn’t know it. After a long and tedious journey, we discovered the little angel had a tongue tie. A path breaking first time in India on an infant with laser, she had a frenotomy, a small surgical procedure that is quite painless and bloodless. This was preceded and followed by Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, that made the buzz go away from our baby. Read more about the procedure hereThat meant the buzz in me went back to my normal average. I didn’t think much of it, but was elated and on top of the world that she could nurse and nurse she did for a long time to come and what grace that one act of being a mother cow can bring, is journey that I wrote about in another note.
Exactly 4 years later I sat on her couch again. We were friends now, Yasmin and I having journeyed like only soul sisters from a universal mother can. Our daughters were having a sleepover and we were up chatting into the night. I am about to move to the Cayman Islands, so we are making the best of whatever time we have with our dearest friends. Yasmin and I often talk about tongue ties, it is her area of expertise and deeply interests me. I have since counseled many mothers whose babies have tongue ties, I have friends whose babies and older children have tongue ties but do not have it resolved, mostly due to unsupportive fathers. I can diagnose simple tongue ties physically and definitely know many of the symptoms behaviorally. I can see that I have several.
I request Yasmin to check me. This also coincides with her understanding and her investigation that while my body would respond to improved function after every Biodynamic Craniosacral treatment sessions over the past year, it would recoil into some unknown buzz again. Its almost like my body cannot sustain the better function. Her investigation was the restricted structure must be the cause. It comes as no surprise that I have a tongue tie. There is not a flicker of doubt that this must be resolved before I leave. I have 6 weeks. We get to work with Biodynamic Craniosacral sessions, a beautiful nonintrusive way to ease the body into its optimal wholeness and well-being by improving body’s physiological function
I have my frenotomy. It redeems me. It is done under local anesthesia and even through the anesthesia, as soon as the frenum is severed, I feel my jaw relax and I start to feel like a big weight has begun to lift off my neck and shoulder muscles. Apart from that I feel pretty normal. We leave the clinic and Yasmin gives me a ride to the homeopathic chemist, so I can get bio-chemical salts for anti-trauma and pain if needed. I am beginning to feel something peeling off my inner skin, so to speak. I don’t say anything though. As we wait for the remedies, I talk to a close friend that needs a frenotomy and tell her I’m feeling relaxed and pretty normal.
Suddenly the lightness gets larger than life, my inner skin was still feeling like it was peeling. Imagine one of those heavy collagen face masks peeling off various internal layers of your body you never knew existed. I decided to sit down and focus on my Ajna Chakra. I feel a little more focused. I go off to the next store to get a paracetamol, just in case I need it for pain. By now whatever was happening, was escalating. Yet my inner core was still as a lake. The peeling of the inner skin (which I now know was fascia) was progressively relaxing rapidly. It felt like a lot was falling away, like cascading away. Yasmin comes by me and I ask her if she can take me home and then involuntarily collapse into a heap in her arms.
I am completely conscious and feeling fine, except for the physiological happening. My body was saying, hold on I need to take over for a while. My entire body started vibrating. Not like a phone vibrates, but a very subtle yet powerful vibrating. Something more like diffusing, like an essential oil in a vaporizer. It kept on going. I was so high in my head; it felt like I would become one with the universe. I have had this feeling before, during a yoga practice in the Sivananda Ashram and while birthing. I am not alarmed, yet everyone around me is.
In that busy street of Mumbai, a crowd has gathered. I am able to tell Yasmin, who is not panicking at all, that I am well. They give me glucose. I don’t want it. I have eaten a good breakfast and I know something incredible is happening, that just needs allowing and time. Yet I sip. Slowly the vibration reduces to 80% and I am able to volition my body into movement. I receive a message, as I often do, some call it intuition, for me it is so crystal clear I can never doubt it. I must be taken to the doctor who performed the frenotomy because he does this procedure more so from the limited view of a anatomical restriction and not so aware of the depth this small minimally invasive procedure could hold for people like me.
I get home and rest in Savasana. Yasmin offers me a Biodynamic Craniosacral session. I sleep, but I am completely aware. Little tingling sensations are taking place all over my body. This continues and after 8 hours, I have a massive headache. It is the most awful thing ever, I know these sinus headaches, they have made me feel like banging my head on a wall and cracking it open and only go after I throw up, and the change in head position while trying to throw up is another roller coaster all together. I have been taking biochemical salts anti-trauma pills as suggested in my post-operative care by Yasmin and then receive a Biodynamic Craniosacral therapy session. This brings much relief.
Once that headache is gone, I sleep without a pillow in savasana for a few days. The re-calibrations continue as tingling and shifting in my body. I continue with the frenum massages, so the frenum doesn’t reattach. These massages make the tissue in my mouth feel more comfortable and help with eating food , which could otherwise have been stiff and painful.else it could make me feel my mouth more stiff. The healing on the physical plane alone was amazing. The pictures will speak for themselves. I was extremely tired for a week. It was like all kinds of toxins were released with that peeling off feeling. But what can I say the guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz had gone away! This time completely.
The so-called normal activities around in our life like the machine that droned spraying mosquito repellent or the tearing noise of the brown tape on the cardboard box didn’t grate on my nerves anymore. You may relate to how it feels when someone scratches their nails on a rough surface or when chalk scrapes on a blackboard
There are some relationships that one has that don’t come with a choice and some of those could really annoy me, because of the buzz in those people. After the frenotomy, could meet the same people where they were, without judging them, just seeing and feeling genuinely at peace that we are all on different paths to the same place. I cannot tell you what a relief that was! Not to want to convert everyone to healthy eating or even to make sure their kids had the frenotomies they needed that were the answer to all their issues. Whatever it was that used to irk me in my body before was gone. The guzz guzz gruzz anxious buzz had really gone!!
I got my first yoga practice in a week after the frenotomy. There is a natural resistance when you do yoga, but there was something like a fight earlier, even with years of practice. The fight was now just gone. Yoga, my absolute love was really “sthiram sukham aasanam” that which is still and in which there is contentment.. I stopped a few minutes into my surya namaskaars. I was crying….so much ease was just too good to be true. I mean this is what the yogi’s meant. It wasn’t about flexibility and strength and how much you can do, or how long you can hold, it was about being at ease and content in a pose/asana and that stillness of mind with the complete natural surrender of the body that is energetic and beyond flexibility is the most incredible continuous bliss ever!
I started to be more at ease with everyone. I was able to be at ease when my daughter went to sleep a little later than her schedule or meals were a little late or occasionally not healthy. The presence of other people’s buzz didn’t affect me. I can still sense it with great clarity, but it does not affect me anymore. This alone has created heaven on earth. All the Biodynamic Craniosacral Sessions over the past year prepared my body to receive the gift of a tongue tie release that would last perhaps a life time.
I am now on the beautiful Grand Cayman islands on the other side of the world from Mumbai. In my 4 months of being here, I have not experienced any headaches that lasted for days ending up in a throwing up and head banging feeling before. I have not experienced any sinus attacks that would cripple my life for days on end before. I managed a massive transition of moving home from India to Cayman Islands with minimal help with ease.
During my short stay here so far I have met many adults and children who have tongue ties. Their parents struggle with discipline and food issues. Not everyone will get this, maybe not everyone is prepared. It took 34 years for me to be liberated, everyone has their own journey. My mother and mother in law are both tongue tied and I can see how their lives have been affected. Even if you look at only the physical impact, it is large. I hope that in time, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy will prepare them to arrive at a space where they can have the frenotomy they need.
I write this thinking of all the mothers I have spoken to, with infants that cannot nurse and are too “colicky”, the mothers who know something is wrong, but have no support from their spouses. I write this for all those that continue to experience the anxious buzz, all day, all night, lifelong.
I write this for the children that have this anxious buzz and cannot express or understand it. Like the little me, I know their trauma.
I write this for the doctors that have been given such a narrow, limiting view of the human body as something that is fixed in form and function.
I write this because most tongue ties are yet undiagnosed and under researched.
I write this because I witness Yasmin going through her journey having selflessly dedicated her life to serve and support people and families who are affected by tongue ties against all odds in her life.
I write this because this kind of liberation from disability is everyone’s birthright.
I write this because I am free!