Masters of the mind

Yoga expert A.G. Mohan and his family will be feted at the European convention opening on August 21. Geetha Venkataramanan has the details.

Updated - August 19, 2016 05:57 pm IST

Published - August 19, 2016 05:36 pm IST

A.G. Mohan and Indra Mohan. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

A.G. Mohan and Indra Mohan. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

The link between mind and body is stressed several times during the conversation with A.G. Mohan, yoga expert, direct disciple of centenarian T. Krishnamacharya. Mohan’s reverence for his guru reveals itself as he quotes the master and recalls anecdotes. Naturally, for Mohan spent nearly two decades with the scholar, a period that shaped this engineer’s personality and life.

“Yes, the day I listened to his lecture way back in 1971 became the turning point. I resigned my position as an engineer and went to him, not to learn yoga but to seek his guidance for my spiritual pursuit,” says Mohan. But he went on to learn the science of yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta. In 1976, Venkata Desikachar and Mohan founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, where along with wife Indra, he taught for two decades.

“Krishnamacharya is the father of modern yoga, who followed the principles of Pathanjali,” says Mohan, who has preserved the scholar’s Vedic chanting at the age of 96. “Look at that intonation... what clarity in the enunciation!” he marvels. I was fortunate to sit at his feet and drink from the fount of his knowledge,” reminisces Mohan.

Yoga has never been more popular than now, it seems. Mohan agrees. It is promoted as panacea for all ills, taught and learnt everywhere. “Why, internet dishes out asanas and there are so many styles,” laughs Mohan and continues on a serious note. “The awareness is good, from the health point of view. But well-trained teachers are important and the bottom-line is individual requirement.”

Mohan is quick to point out that yoga should not be confused with Enlightenment. In other words, not all yoga practitioners are enlightened souls. “Although it is closely allied to the spiritual path, yogam does not lead to enlightenment,” he clarifies.

“Just as yoga is not mere asanas,” chimes in wife Indra. Also a student of Krishnamacharya and one of the few to have received a post-graduate diploma in the subject from him, she has been a pillar of support in Mohan’s extraordinary journey spanning nearly five decades. She specialises in the practice of yoga for women. “Each body is different, more so in the case of women. There can never be a template within which the moves can be confined. Practice of unsuitable asanas can lead to problems, even interfere with the menstrual cycle,” she cautions.

The why and the who are at the base of yoga teaching, says Mohan. “What kind of a person is the learner and why does he want to learn. The lessons depend on the answers to these simple questions,” he expands. Yoga may be learnt for three purposes - for fitness, as therapy and spiritual, all of which he will explore at the congress.

Yoga is not all about fantastic postures and slim physique.

What then is yoga?

Mohan and Indra stress on Breath. “Relaxed breathing is key to sound mind and healthy body. Long exhalations are vital for a calm mind. But these are stress-filled times. You feel the heart racing, leaving you short of breath, the base for all maladies,” they explain.

The Krishnamacharya school lays stress on breathing and mind control. Slowly postures are introduced. “Group learning is fine, may be to children. It is individual teaching with the focus on the requirement and capacity that will deliver results,” says Indra. Patience and dedication on the part of the teacher and the learner are important.

“Mental problem is going to be the biggest challenge of the years to come,” says A.G. Mohan, quoting a renowned psychologist. “Did you hear of so many cases of depressions, say ten years ago? Young adults seek counselling and psychiatric help to tackle depression. Regular practice of yoga that pivots on mind-body alignment will address this issue,” he asserts.

Mohan and Indra have engaged with yoga, teaching one of the treasures of this country to learners across the globe, conducting workshops and retreats. Their son Ganesh and daughter Nitya have inherited their parents’ passion.

Yoga figures in the treatment regimen of Ganesh, a medical practitioner, also an expert in Ayurveda. Nitya, a trained musician teaches yoga.

The quiet contribution of this family has not gone unnoticed. The European Union Yoga Convention that opens on Sunday in Zinal, Switzerland, is honouring the quartet by inviting them over as Guests of Honour.

Berlin and Munich are two of the places on the itinerary of the couple, on their way to Zinal. Globetrotters indeed, an irony considering their low key life in Chennai, where their spacious and well-lit house in Palavakkam exudes Spartan simplicity. Imagine a home without television!

“We decided to stay away from the bustle 20 years ago and considered TV an unnecessary distraction. And we have managed very well,” says Mohan cheerfully and Indra nods her endorsement.

Expert sessions

The 43rd European Yoga Congress opens at Zinal, Switzerland on Sunday. The theme of the six-day (August 21-26) conference is Svastha - Yoga and Health. Incidentally, Mohan played a vital role in drafting the framework of the European Congress four decades ago. “Much water has flowed under the bridge and changes have taken place but for me it is like life coming a full circle,” says Mohan.

In his lecture and workshops, Mohan will focus on the concept of svastha, complete well-being. He will be assisted by his family in these presentations.

In his lectures, Ganesh Mohan will speak on classical yoga.

Nitya Mohan, well-versed in Vedic chanting, will deal with sound in her sessions, bringing into play chants and mantras.

Follow the European convention on

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