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In Focus

Posted at: Jun 18, 2018, 12:07 AM; last updated: Jun 18, 2018, 12:07 AM (IST)

Mind, body and soul

People often misconstrue yoga as a set of limb-twisting asanas by isolating it from its spiritual framework. A whimsical approach is adopted, unmindful of the meaning and purpose of the great ancient tradition, says Yogacharya Kundan Kumar

The complete merger of a 'jivatma' with the 'paramatma' is called yoga.  This thorough blending of the two brings an end to all grief and suffering, the highest goal of human life. Yoga is believed to be in vogue since eternity as it is the science of God, who is without a beginning and an end. The Gita states that Lord Krishna had revealed the knowledge of the immortal yoga to the Sun-God (Vivasvan) who conveyed it to his son Manu. Thus it was transmitted in succession. This is the story of one kalpa (one cycle of creation); and such endless kalpas have passed and will come forth in future. It would be too simplistic and misconstrued to understand yoga to be a set of limb-twisting asanas. It becomes easily comprehensible if seen in a spiritual framework - a way of life in a broad sense, much different from the narrow interpretations of religious frameworks.

The popularity

Yoga bestows on its practitioners immense physical and mental health, spiritual power, material sufficiency and brings an end to all sufferings in this life and beyond. It is an art that is practised all over the world. The most beautiful part of this art is its universality. It can be practised by people of all age, caste, creed and nationalities. Even a dying person can use its immortal tools to help oneself in every possible way. The reason for its worldwide popularity is that it suits the needs of varying temperaments of people. Those who aspire for physical fitness, receive 1that. Those who want mental peace also gets that. Similarly, the spiritual aspirants and seekers of worldly wealth fulfil their needs.

The erosion

Yoga, as the meaning of the word itself suggests, is a process of union between divinity and its creation. It is, therefore,  essentially a spiritual art. All practices--  yamas, niyamas (rules of conduct), asanas  (postures), pranayama (control of prana), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absolute mergence in God) -- are all very clearly meant for the maintenance of good holistic health with the basic purpose of direct spiritual uplift, which is the only means for a person's liberation  from all sorrows and afflictions. 

At many places, this basic aim of yoga is forgotten and whimsical new ways are adopted without keeping in mind the meaning and purpose of as pristine an art as yoga. For example, we hear of hot yoga and even dog yoga (where people are practicing yoga with their pet dogs). Yoga should be practised in temperatures, which is normally suitable to human beings instead of raising the temperature beyond the normal level. Such efforts unnecessarily deplete human energy and bring undesired results. Yoga practice, if done sincerely, enables its practitioners to rise above heat and cold. Similarly, the original teachings of God and God-realised siddha saints, must be kept in mind for attaining true happiness and being established in real anandam, the true happiness. It is a state beyond enjoyment and suffering, it transcends the both.      

The right way

If you have a guide, you are very fortunate or else make God your guru whose special dwelling is in your heart. Thereafter, one must connect one's consciousness with the consciousness of the istam (chief deity or one's object of meditation). Great stress is to be laid on the positive continuous presence of your istam. Then you feel an inner peace. The istam is not a mental illusion. It is something real and will help you in all conflicts and weaknesses. This will give you infinite strength, calm, stillness, a deep inner sense of peace and you will be unruffled by anything which comes in your way.

Giving up spiritual practice amid conflicts and temptations is suicidal. The person may experience an immediate fall from which one may not be able to recover for a long time. So, instead of giving up spiritual practice during moments of weakness and crises, one must cling to it all the more, make it more intense, effective and full-proof by plugging in all loopholes. There should be a calm, steady, one pointed nididhyasana (continuous remembrance of divinity) coupled with strict compliance of ethical culture. Then the seeker is established in peace and fulfilment. He becomes free from all sorrows forever and experiences inexhaustible bliss beyond description of words.

For the elderly

In old age, one needs to be extra careful regarding the usage of time. The routine (ahar/vihar) should be in time with holistic wisdom. Yoga practices like jalneti, pawanmuktasana, series of bodily moments starting from toe to head, deep yogic breathing, and in-take of yogic food in right amount and being regular in prayer habits are very beneficial. For common health issues, one should first go for time-tested home remedies while simultaneously practising yamas and niyams as they give solid backup support and the seeker also receives the blessing of the divinity. Finally, one should always keep himself busy in some useful positive work. It is very healthy for the body and mind to remember divinity deeply when one is breathing his or her last in this world. Idea is to live a yogic life, full of meaning and positivity. This energy will enable a person in the end to merge one's self with the almighty and the nature in a harmonious way where the jivatma meets the paramatma.

International Yoga Day

The timeline

  • September 27, 2014: PM Modi proposed it at the 69th UN General Assembly
  • December 11, 2014, the 193-member General Assembly approved it 
  • Assembly decided to observe June 21 as "International Day of Yoga"
  • The draft resolution, proposed by India, was endorsed by a record 175 member states
The UN Resolution

  • … Noting the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health, 
  • Underscoring the fact that global health is a long-term development objective that requires closer international cooperation through the exchange of best practices aimed at building better individual lifestyles devoid of excesses of all kinds, 
  • Recognising that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being, 
  • Recognising also that wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practising yoga would be beneficial for the health of the world population,
  • Decides to proclaim 21 June the International Day of Yoga …

Source: un.org

YOGA

The tradition 

  • Yoga has a Sanskrit root yuj meaning to join or to unite
  • It leads to the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness 
  • Dates back to 2700 BC, as per fossil remains of Indus Saraswati Valley Civilisation
  • Maharishi Patanjali codified the then existing Yogic practices
The benefit

  • Yoga is essentially a path to liberation from all bondage
  • Beneficial for physical fitness, musculoskeletal functioning, cardio-vascular health
  • It helps in managing diabetes, respiratory disorders, lifestyle-related disorders
  • Depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and stress are reduced
Interesting facts

  • India-China College of Yoga has been established in the Yunnan Minzu University, China
  • Total number of registered yoga professionals are 37,938 (as of March 2018)
Padma Shri Nouf Marwaai 

  • Played an instrumental role in legalising yoga in Saudi Arabia
  • Used yoga to overcome an auto-immune disease by birth
  • Born on May 21, 1980, she has set up the Arab Yoga Foundation
Padma Shri V Nanammal 

  • India's oldest yoga teacher from Tamil Nadu
  • Practising yoga since she was 8
  • Continues to teach yoga at the age of 98
  • Has trained more than 10 lakh students in 45 years.

Source: GoI

 — The writer is Course Director at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New Delhi

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