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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Musings: The law of Least effort – Part 2/2


This is part 2/2 of the blog. Part 1 of this blog here…Part 1

Argument 5: This is the Prativada (Counter argument) from my end.

I keep asking my friends “Tell me the difference between Yoga and Aerobics / running or more broadly Internal Arts and External arts. If you are coming across some of the following concepts for the first time, then you are doing a favor to yourself by reading this further. This is not stated with an air of arrogance, but my conviction in the following concepts are so deep that these basics are lost in the din of our materialistic and fast paced life. This blog may just point you in the right direction as something like this acted as a pointer to me few years back.

  • The fundamental difference from a metabolic and fitness angle between Internal and external arts is that Internal arts are ANABOLIC and the external arts are CATABOLIC. In one angle they both represent two sides of the same coin but their effect on our physiology and psychology are different. Some of the other characteristics of the Internal arts as understood by me are as follows:
    • Internal arts believes that the everything evolved from a single source and in this universe everything is a manifestation of energy from that source and this energy can be cultivated and nourished for the well being of the society / individual. As Tamil poet Bharathiyar said, “Engu kaaninum Shakthiyada”. Internal arts takes you closer to nature and merges you with it over time.
    • Internal arts refers to Yoga, advanced forms of martial arts like Tai Chi, in my opinion even Indian classical dances like Bharatnatyam…
    • Indian scriptures emphasizes that there are many ways to achieve Nirvana / Samadhi. Apart from Bhakthi Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga it highlights that disciplines like Ashtanga Yoga, Music (nada Brahman) and more interestingly Bharatnatyam and Wrestling (Mal Yudh) are also means to the ends.
    • How do we nurture this energy for vitality or to perform miracles? My understanding is that its a 4 step process.
      • Step 1 - Preparation of our mind using techniques like Yama and Niyama as stated by the Ashtanga Yoga. These are observances and abstinences that cultivates a pure energy within us which is cultivated with qualities like love, kindness, compassion and mercy. Every religious, spiritual or arts school insist on this as the first step at different depths.
      • Step 2 - Preparing the body so that its fit and aligned with the force of gravity. If you have been wondering why i have been harping on the concept of gravity so much in the earlier part of the blog is explained here. The fundamental requirement for any development for fitness or for meditation or even for performing miracles is to understand where your center of gravity is and align yourself perfectly to that.

If your Yoga master has not talked about the importance of gravity and the need to align your body with it, then I strongly recommend that you quit the class NOW. The ultimate objective of all the Asanas is to train the body in such a way that the body is perfectly in shape and alignment with gravity.

Sage Patanjali defined Asanas in just 2 words “Sukham Sthiram Asanam”. It requires extreme levels of wisdom to be so concise and stingy with words yet it conveys the entire meaning.

Sukham means that which is comfortable. Sthiram means that which is stable. Any posture that meets these 2 criteria qualifies to be an Asana. Yet both the qualities can be fulfilled only when our body weight is aligned and distributed along the center of gravity. All instructions to sit like a bell in lotus posture (Padmasana) that keep your back straight, align your neck blah blah are only to align your center of gravity perfectly.

This is not just in Yoga, if you see the stance, forms and movements in Bharatnatyam or in Tai Chi it is the same concept. You just need to be sensitive to this and you would find every thing like Sumo, Wrestling, Judo are all not about brutal force being applied but use techniques and understand the force leverage points so that one can take opponent’s alignment out of place.

Hence fundamental to any fitness program is the alignment of our weight to gravity. This is not the end but necessary condition as a starting point. Alas, we have been living a life that is so gross that subtle force of gravity which has been acting on us since we are born is either ignored or absolutely strange to us that we blink and scratch our heads when some one asks us to find our center of gravity.

There is an higher concept called “rooting” which we will avoid in this discussion. Lets go to the 3rd step in the 4 step process.

      • Step 3 - This is the classical Pranayama or Chi development program (Chi Kung, Qigong as called in Chinese). One can start this only when they have mastered the art of alignment with gravity. Today we see people offering meditation and Pranayama classes on the fly which is at best would not offer any result and at worst may do some irreversible damage to the students.

Its difficult to explain the power of Chi / prana.. I am sharing few links below. These videos changed my perception about life and have had a great impact on me. You would realize that the “Miracles are the science of subtlety subject to the laws of nature which we don’t understand and nothing more”.

Bubble Energy demonstration:

Discourse on Heart Sutra: This is a 4 part series, try watching all the 4 parts in Youtube.

Ask some one to run for life and demonstrate anything that remotely resembles this capability.

      • The 4th step in the process is to enhance our consciousness, mindfulness and awareness through Dhyana and meditation. Even for Chi gung exercises the importance of applying our mind and mentally being there in the exercise is very very critical.

Without mentally being there you cannot achieve anything. If you agree to this then tell me how someone running with an iPOD hanging out of their hips listening to music, oblivious of where and how one is running can generate any useful energy within our body?

  • Its generally accepted that Internal arts are superior to external arts for the above mentioned reasons and the point i was trying to make was there are more evolved forms of exercises available to improve our fitness levels and enhance our consciousness than the mindless running.

Now let me spend some time to highlight the “Law of Least Effort”.

  • You would agree Prana / Chi management is more evolved than the Asanas and meditation is more evolved than Pranayama. If this is the case you would notice that from movement this evolution leads to stillness. In Asanas body moves and aligns itself. In Pranayama breath moves and body is more or less fixed. In meditation movement of both the body and breath are minimal. So more evolved your efforts are the lesser the outward / physical movements. By the same logic walking is more evolved than running and Asanas more evolved than walking.
  • Notice people doing Tai Chi the movements – they are so slow and it is called as Moving Meditation.
  • The law of least effort is fantastically highlighted by Lao Tzu: “Sit still and do nothing, the spring comes and the grass grows!”. We need many life times to understand and appreciate the wisdom in this quote.
  • As Deepak Chopra puts it “In Vedic Science, the age-old philosophy of India, this principle is known as the principle of economy of effort, or "do less and accomplish more." Ultimately you come to the state where you do nothing and accomplish everything. This means that there is just a faint idea, and then the manifestation of the idea comes about effortlessly. What is commonly called a "miracle" is actually an expression of the Law of Least Effort.
  • Nature's intelligence and actions are effortless, frictionless, spontaneous. The earth rotates around its axis and revolves around the sun effortlessly. It is non-linear; it is intuitive, holistic, and nourishing. And when you are in harmony with nature, when you are established in the knowledge of your true Self, you can make use of the Law of Least Effort.

To sum up, the current day mindless marathon / running is not the best form of keeping fitness and there are more evolved forms available and known to mankind. As our consciousness grows and ignorance reduces we tend to become more evolved and in the process we engage our mind in everything we do and give a new meaning to the word “BEing”. Once the awareness is full and mind is in the present moment then physical movements become superfluous as vitality and wisdom dawns on us without any great effort. This is what many call “The law of least effort”.

More evolved forms (aka) lazy beings like me practice Sukhasana or Shavasana for better levels of fitment :). A bean bag may help you in the process to attain Nirvana. This takes you closer to the ultimate level of “DO NOTHING and ACCOMPLISH EVERYTHING”.

If you agree with come join the club and promote the concept and philosophy The law of Least effort as a way of life :)…

As I am completing this blog, my kids are getting impatient and I am “running” now to play with them.


Yours Runningly,

Happy Reading!


As a post script I am adding this beautiful interpretation of Einstein’s theory of relativity supporting the expressions on this blog, which i read today from OSHO’s book “Emotional Wellness”. I am quoting from the book…

…” When you sit in the lotus posture (Padmasana) the gravitation has the least effect on you…. your spine is absolutely straight and the whole body relaxed. And it is the gravitation that kills you; the more you are affected by gravitation, the more you are pulled towards the grave. It became perfectly clear when Einstein declared that if we can create vehicles that move at the speed of light, then people who travel in those vehicles will not age – not at all….. His idea was that at the speed of light, aging stops…. But Einstein was not aware of the yoga explanation. The yoga explanation is that the person would come back to the earth - the same age because he was out of the field of gravitation …. thousands of yogis have lived longer than anybody else, just sitting in that posture, gravitation has the least effect on them…..”

The key message in this blog is,  “As a nation with rich tradition, culture and phenomenal science & metaphysical knowledge we do have most of the things which are better / superior than what we have imported few decades back… more so in the world of fitness and good living. Let realize it.

Musings: The law of Least effort – Part 1/2


Disclaimer 1: I am naturally lazy. I am proud to be so.

Disclaimer 2: If you don’t agree with D1, then you need to talk to people who know me well. They can help you with adjectives like Congenially, Incorrigibly, hopelessly etc.. to describe my laziness.

Disclaimer 3: You have 2 options after reading this blog.

  • Option 1: Agree with the opinions expressed in this blog partially or fully … NOW or
  • Option 2: Agree with the opinions at a later point in life as you evolve. :)

Disclaimer 4: Deciding to stick to my natural self and dumping my artificial humility, I claim to write this blog from a position of authority that i have conferred upon myself…. :)

Disclaimer 5: Understanding the contents of this blog, you may exhibit symptoms of  radical change in thinking, behavioral patterns that are different from normal, recognition and kindness to your body especially knees, altered perception to life and at times you may sound little eccentric among the general public. The author can be held responsible for these +ve changes.


This article is triggered by few good friends of mine who happen to be marathon runners and they are very passionate about it. Though there are some weak moments that you get psyched or over whelmed by such friends, disclaimer 1 has always been cheering me up during such weak moments and my single pack abdomen would vouch for the continued reluctance that i have been developing for running.

As a wise man said, “A lazy body with a rational mind is a very dangerous mix.” I believe that most of us are part of the “dangerous” club only varying in the depth of laziness and width of the rationality.

While I have been pretty obedient to the calls of my body to bask in laziness and agree to instant gratification without postponing (aka laziness), my rational mind has been working for the last few years to justify this natural tendency and has come up with this concept of Law of least effort and with a conclusion that human beings are not born to run and the more we run the more we are running away from our nature.

I can hear the sound of disapproval in all frequencies. But you have to hold on and read this fully and then decide on the option you would take on Disclaimer 3. :). I am going to take some popular arguments on benefits of running and argue against it and finally would place my side of the argument as Prativada (counter argument).

Argument 1: Scientifically its proved that running is good

As a wise man said “Life is a progressive discovery of our ignorance”. When we are ignorant we shall have myths like “Running is good for health”. Modern day science has been pretty consistent in jumping from one myth to another before it finally lands on the truth. This is because it follows a principle of moving from “Particularity” to “Generality” which is the reverse of what the sages and wise men do. I have not found a more supportive alibi to my argument than modern day science.

If sages and mystics were dismissive of everything that its “Mithya / Myth” and emphasized on the ever changing, impermanent nature of life, modern day science has proved to be a living example of that concept. While we have managed many significant discoveries / inventions most of them in accidental manner the newer concepts we discover / invent challenges our older thinking / assumptions / laws / concepts. It is agreed that as we evolve it is natural to discover higher levels of truth and hence we need to accept that what is put forth by science today as “good for health” can be altered tomorrow. There are many living examples about usage of antibiotics, pain killers, concept about space-time, concepts in the field of genetics, nuclear science, the impact of cellular frequencies on our health and the list can go on.

For every argument that science has that “running is good” there is equally vehement argument about hazards of running. If you have not heard about Runner's knee, patellofemoral pain syndrome, Shin splint, Plantar fasciitis, anterior cruciate ligament tear, Iliotibial band syndrome, risks of myocardial infraction or hormonal imbalance in women and its associated issues when the testosterone levels increase are pretty well documented. Before you jump on me, i also agree that most of the issues are due to abuse or over use and the high testosterone levels in women have other reasons other than running and gymming.

If you are still adamant, check this out.,32068,652007320001_2028032,00.html

While i agree that there are certainly “some” benefits in running, i want to highlight that we are not naturally designed for it and there are better ways to be fit, which is explained below.

Argument 2: I am very unique, i listened to my body and i feel good after running.

Everyone and every organism in our nature is unique. Uniqueness is so common, that every one can claim it. Nature does not produce carbon copies. I respect the fact that you are listening to your body and you feel good after running. My argument is just that your listening need to be deeper and you need to be exposed to be higher aspects in fitness and the truth about the nature of your body. I am trying hard to give a glimpse of them to you in this blog. Be patient and read on. :).

Argument 3: We have been running for ages and we are designed to run.

I beg to disagree. We just have to look around and see as to how nature has endowed qualities and physical form. We seemed to have missed this correlation between physical form and qualities, not just to human beings but to all the species in this world. As one wise man had put it, “Plants defy gravity and carry water from roots to the flowers without any effort, fishes swim without any effort, birds fly without any effort, grass grows, flower blossoms without any effort, a flower attracts bees with its color and fragrance without any effort. Nature has endowed each and every being with uniqueness”. What if “We just ask a pig to blossom like a flower or a flower to prick like a thorn”. We agree that is not natural.

When we run our center of gravity tends to fall in front of us (outside our physical circumference) and to enable running nature has endowed species with 4 legs so that the gravity always is within the physical circumference. The most important part of our evolution is our ability to grow from a 4 legged species to a 2 legged species which enabled vertical growth and hence the brain. Running is naturally endowed to a 4 legged being and its not an natural endowment to a 2 legged being, unless the biped wants to retrofit itself with the qualities of a quadruped :).

Running is one more animal quality (among other qualities) which we are not willing to leave behind post our transformation to human being. You may want to agree that this is the residue / hangover from our past life.

Ok. What do you call an elephant or tiger walking in 2 legs?

Circus…. You can extend the same analogy to all activities where we unnaturally struggle to balance ourselves with the gravity.

My take is “Running is all about gravity management. Its the management of our mass against the ever present downward force and making the mass move laterally… in a bouncy manner.” All for the sake of fitness!

Metaphorically here “A bicycle is trying to be a car for the sake of fitness and behaves like a Poclain excavator machine”.

Think about this argument and be kind to your knees. As Baz Luhrmann puts it, “You may miss them when they are gone….” :). If you still disagree with me, why don’t you listen to one of my favorite numbers and then continue… 

Argument 4: Run-asana is better than all other asanas. (Running is better than Yoga)

I have been student of Yoga for more 10 years now but i have not heard any one teaching me “Run-asana” yet. :).

If the primordial texts of Yoga and Ayurveda did not prescribe, even remotely, running as a way to develop fitness, vitality and “Run-asana” did not figure as one among the 84000 asanas, then why are we obsessed with running.

Sages who designed Yoga techniques not only knew about “gravity” (they did not need an apple to  bump off their head to understand gravity), but also knew how to utilize it our benefits. Otherwise how will you define the benefits of postures like “Sirasasana” which reverses the movement of blood from the lower limbs to heads using just gravity.

How does Yoga prescribe for vitality and increased physical strength? It suggests that for physical vitality do “Surya Namaskar” at twice the speed and for spiritual development, do it slowly.

I shall continue my counter argument in Part 2….


Happy reading!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Musings on fear: Lets stop stringing and start playing !

While we call claim to be unique and special in our own ways, we are all the same in our pursuit for happiness. One key factor that always stands between us and our "Happiness" is fear. 

Fear!....a primordial and congenial emotion that can be associated with a whole lot of adjectives like Omnipresent, Omnipresence, Contagious, difficult, parasitic, stressful etc... This is the most important factor which virtually exists between the worlds of possibilities and probabilities, keeps us alive and shapes the individual and society. The fear of uncertainty, change, future, death, failure etc... it comes in 1000s of flavors, hues and tints, despite being absolutely virtual, and non-existent our entire life and the world operates and is centered around the this factor. 

I came across couple of super duper articles on the same and i thought i would share it here! .. 

First this beautiful Shloka probably from Bhagavatham, which explains how EVERYTHING in life is laden with fear.

" bhoge roga-bhayaṁ, 
kule cyuti-bhayaṁ, 
vitte nṛpālāt bhayaṁ, 
māne dainyabhayaṁ,
bale ripu-bhayaṁ, 
rūpe jarāyā bhayam, 
śāstre vādi-bhayaṁ, 
guṇe khala-bhayaṁ, 
kāye kṛtāntāt bhayam. 
nṛṇāṁ bhuvi sarvaṁ 
vastu bhayānvitam.
vairāgyaṁ eva abhayam."

The meaning of this Shloka is as follows:

"In enjoyment, there is fear of disease; in family reputation, there is fear of falling; 
in wealth there is fear of kings (of getting taxed); in prestige/pride there is fear of losing; 
in power, there is fear of enemy or adversary; in beauty, there is fear of old age; 
in scriptural erudition, there is fear of learned opponents; (of defeat)
in virtue, there is fear of wicked vilifying person; in body, there is fear of death. 
For human beings, everything in this world is coupled/associated with fear. 
Vairāgya (dispassion towards worldly enjoyments) alone bestows fearlessness." 

To my understanding, as per Vedic scriptures, the concept of fear is rooted in 2 things, Attachment and Ignorance. As one wise man said "Fear is the lengthened shadow of Ignorance".

Almost all the scriptures talks about Jnana Yoga (which is path of knowledge) to dispel ignorance and Karma Yoga to be involved in worldly activities and still perform it without any attachment. It is also called as "Nishkamya Karma", do your duty without worrying about the fruits.

Now there is a beautiful Thirukural which highlights that there is no pain from anything from which a man is detached.  The beauty of this Kural is that when you read it, your lips shall not touch each other. A poet highlighting detachment ensures that even our lips don't touch each other.

"யாதனின் யாதனின் நீங்கியான் நோதல் அதனின் அதனின் இலன்"
"yAthanin yAthanin nIngiyAn nOthal athanin athanin ilan" (Transliteration)
(Meaning) From what from what a man is free (of attachment), from that, his pains flee.

At one level Bhakti Yoga which asks you to dedicate everything to the supreme being and be attached to him, changes its tack (at the philosophical level) that the attachment to god also has to be snapped.  Very aptly highlighted in the following Thirukural which highlights that the love we have for a personal god is also an attachment but this is only to get detached from the worldly material life.

"பற்றுக பற்றற்றான் பற்றினை; அப்பற்றைப் பற்றுக பற்று விடற்கு."
"Pattruga patratraan pattrinai; appatrai pattruga pattru vidarkku." (Transliteration)

(Meaning) Attach yourself to Him who has conquered all attachments, bind yourself firmly to Him so that your bonds may be broken.

Now the beauty in the above Kural which talks about attachment is, the lips touch each other for every word. This is literary masterpiece and can be appreciated by people who know Tamil.

The important point i want to highlight is that in one way of interpretation, in Hinduism the highest point is actually knowledge (truth / Satyam)  and desire-less state of detachment is a path / catalyst to it instead of a personal god with a carrot and stick.

The other article I liked about fear is here...

"A woman who took her debauched son to meet Buddha. On seeing the youth, Buddha told him that he had just one more day to live. The youngster was shocked, but knew there was little that he could do about Buddha’s prediction. Having realized that time was so short, he clung to his mother’s sari, and broke down. He wanted to meet all his family members, friends and neighbors before the end came. With six hours left for his death, he found himself lying on a cot, distraught and disillusioned.

When just three hours were left, Buddha paid him a visit. The youth did not wish to speak to Buddha, but the latter smiled at him and inquired if in the last 24 hours he had lied or cheated. The youth replied in the negative. Buddha then asked him if he had stolen from or hurt anybody. The youth got irritated and replied that how could he possibly think of doing such things when all he was thinking of was death.

Buddha gently patted his head and said: “Son, I don’t know who has to die and who has to live, but understanding the ultimate truth can be very enlightening. While you became aware of death only in the last 24 hours, I have been aware of it for the last 24 years.”

Fear of death stems from our fear of seeing it all end, losing our possessions and being catapulted into endless darkness. Most people find it difficult to come to terms with their mortality; they prefer to believe that there is life even after death. But those who are in constant touch with their inner spirit seldom fear the inevitable. They believe in neither heaven nor hell; they also don’t believe in the theory of incarnation.

Our stipulated lifespan is a mere ‘blip’ in this ostensibly vast eternity spanning billions of years. We must therefore learn to value each day of our life and savor it, moment by moment."

All those who believe in hoarding their energy and resources for the future to mitigate one fear or the other could take a cue from the insatiable musician who eventually rued: “I spent so much time in stringing my instruments that there was no time left for me to perform...”

Being firmly rooted in the adobe of fearfulness, we are all stringing the instruments without playing it. I don't know how but may we be less possessive and rise up to the realm of fearlessness and freedom.

Lets stop stringing and start playing!...

Yours fearfully,

Happy reading!...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jai Mata di!

Jai Mata di!...

They say, there are few shrines where you cannot plan & visit at your will but we need to await for the higher call.  I was lucky to have got that call and undertook a very memorable trip between Feb 10 - 12, 2011 to Vaishno Devi and the slideshow below gives you a peek of them same.

It was a well anticipated first visit to Vaishno Devi,… had a lovely Darshan & hopeful of associated blessings from mata di,… great trekking & health package testing your fitness levels and trimming couple of Kgs,… quality time spent with old friends, meeting few of them accidentally in the same group after about a decade, making new acquaintances, regrets that could not spend enough time to get to know all which makes you to look forward to the next trip and more importantly no new muscles discovered in your legs as you are fit for the Monday morning…… What else you can ask for!

It took about 3 hours 45 minutes to walk up from Katra (Altitude about 2500 ft) to Bhawan (alt 5200 ft) which is ~ 14 kms. The most memorable activity was the 15 second bath in the near freezing (at least it felt like that) temperature at 4pm in the evening at Bhawan.

We walked up after darshan and dinner to Bhaironnath temple and reached there by 10.30pm. Spending some time at the top of the hill which was cool and heavenly we walked back starting at 12 midnight and reached the hotel at 4am in the morning. I ran out of steam by 2am and found it very difficult after that. 

Agreeing with the Turkish Proverb that "No road is long with good company", i was thankful for the overall organization by Sukhpal Batti & co. The group's camaraderie and passion stood out and made it was for first timers like me. 

Special thanks to Ajay Sharma for pulling me into the group.

I have heard people saying that we shall start visiting such placed after 50 yrs or so. But my sincere suggestion would be to review that opinion, since the beauty of such places can't be grasped with a chopper ride (which is an option) but every aspect of the nature needs to be felt and absorbed and a trek though arduous helps you in that process.

I was also told that you can't stop with visiting this shrine just once and Mata di would call you again and again. I wish that is true and am looking forward to it.

As a wise man said, "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page..". May we be blessed to read all the best pages of this book!...

Jai Mata di!.

Happy reading!

PS: You can check out this site for more details