By Sreekumar Raghavan
Yesterday, I chanced to read an article on Yoga by Shanaz Hussein, the leading doyen of beauty industry. It described a simple breathing exercise anyone can do at any time of the day- close your right nostrils with your ring finger, inhale slowly through left nose, quickly use the thumb to close left nose and exhale through right nose. This can be done 10-12 times at a time and then reverse- inhale through right nose and exhale through left nose. I tried it a couple of times and found it a great stress reliever. And now I am telling as many people to try it out.
Pranayama or breath control is only one of the eight limbs of Yoga which includes Yama (moral restraints), Niyama (spiritual practices), Asana (seat posture with spine erect), Prathyahara (with drawl from the organs of sense and organs of action, Dharana (deep state of concentration), Dhyana (directing attention to the subject of meditation) and Samadhi (complete absorption in super consciousness or divine mind).
Origins of Yoga
Yoga is widely believed to have been originated in India – Shiva is considered the first yogi or Adi Yogi/Adi Guru. He transferred the knowledge to seven sages or saptarishis who carried it to different parts of the world. There is also a theory that Yoga originated in Egypt and was brought to India by people who settled here and came to be known as Dravidians. This view is yet to get wider acceptance.
Excavations have revealed the presence of yogic motifs dating backing to 2700 BC- suggestive of its popularity in the times of Indus Valley Civilisation. References to yoga are also seen in epics of Mahabharatha, Ramayam, Upanishads and Jain traditions. Patanjali is believed to have codified and documented existing yoga practices that helped in spreading yoga to a global audience.
International Day of Yoga
The credit for the UN declaration of June 21 as International Day of Yoga goes to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his September 27 ,2014 address to UN General Assembly, he underlined the importance of yoga for health, mental development, fitness ,prevention of diseases and ailments. Following this, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution on December 11, 2014 with 177 nations co-sponsoring the proposal in the 193 member assembly.
Yoga symbolizes the union of individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. It is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning to join or unite.
With more than 170 nations approving India’s proposal to declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga, several events have been planned across the globe on that day- more details in http://idayofyoga.org/index.php?route=events/event
In India national level events and state level events are planned according to Ministry of Ayush:
-Mass Yoga demonstration of Common Yoga Protocol from 7 AM to 7.45 AM on 21/6/2016 at Captial Complex , Chandigarh – approx. 90,000 sq mtr and performance by 30,000 people. It is organized by Union Territory administration in association with Punjab and Haryana. A two-day international conference is being organized at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi -22nd, 23rd June, 2016. Yoga experts from India and abroad to participate in the event.
Some do’s and don’ts with Yoga
1) Get trained under a yoga master: There are books, CD’s, several videos on YouTube and articles written about yogic practices but some asanas and pranayamas have to be learnt under expert guidance as it involves breath control in different ranges, inhaling and exhaling and holding differs from asanas to pranyamas. There are a few breathing excercises which can be done anywhere and at any time such as the one spelt out in the beginning of the article.
2) Yoga for weight loss, acrobatic yoga, slim yoga… are these real? Several new forms of Yoga have come up devised by various people but it is better to check out the instructors basic qualifications and competency in yoga. The various asanas and pranayama and meditation can provide multiple benefits including fitness, muscle building, helpful in sports, athletics etc. There is no harm in pursuing certain asanas or stretches that help in stretching or easing muscles for a particular sport or game.
3) Is yoga better done in the morning or evening? Best time to do yoga is before breakfast in the morning when your mind is clear and fresh with empty bowels and shower bath. Yogic asanas may be practiced at any time of the day except within two-three hours of taking food.
4) Can Yoga be done at home? Yes, Yoga can be done at home after learning and practicing under a certified Yoga trainer. Select a flat surface, use yoga mats and the room should be airy, clean and quiet.
5) What are the different types of Yoga? They are broadly classified into Karma Yoga (utilization of body), Jnana Yoga (utilization of mind), Bhakti Yoga (emotion) and Kriya Yoga (utilization of energy). Only a trained guru can guide a learner into the four paths in an appropriate manner.
6)What is Common Yoga Protocol (CYP)? CYP refers to a set of procedures to be done before a yoga session, the diet recommended, different ways to do asanas, sadhanas, diet and how to end the session. Every yoga session should begin with a prayer and it should be practiced on an empty bowel. Mind, body and surroundings should be clean. Each session should end with a sankalpa- “ I commit, to make myself into a healthy, peaceful, joyful and loving human being. Through every action of mine, I will strive to create a peaceful and loving atmosphere around me. I strive to break the limitations of who I am right now and include the entire world as my own. I recognize the kinship of my own life with every other life. I recognize the unity of all there is.
7) Is there any place where I can understand Yoga practices and then start learning in Kochi? Yes, Beats ‘n’ Steps in South Kalamassery has a regular programme in Patanjali Yoga. On June 21, there is a free workshop from 7 am to 10 pm wherein a renowned yoga master will be addressing the queries and creating awareness about this ancient art and science of living.
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Niramayah, Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu, Maa Kascit Duhkha Bhaghbavet, Shantih Shantih Shantih. ( May all become Happy, May all be Free from Illness,May all see what is Auspicous , May no one suffer, Peace, Peace., Peace.
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient India tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature. By changing our life style and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change…”-Narendra Modi.