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Ancient remedy for modern maladies

Swami Devaprasad: Advocates holistic approach

Swami Devaprasad: Advocates holistic approach  

Yoga is not a short cut to lose all that lard. Instead, it is a way of life, its practitioners insist.

IN THE present day there are many so called yogis, and there are many so-called associations of yogis, but they are actually blind in the matter of self-realisation. They are simply addicted to some sort of gymnastic exercise and are satisfied if the body is well built and healthy (Ch. 15, text 11, Bhagwad Gita, as explained by Swami Prabhupada).

One of the most redeeming features of the Kali Yuga, it has been said, is that more and more people will turn towards the spiritual. Locked in a world filled with senseless personal achievements, people will perforce look for answers within. And, because it is the Kali Yuga, there will be peddlers of this elusive merchandise called "peace".

Bangalore has its share of peace searchers. And peace givers. Pranik healing, magnified healing, Reiki, transcendental meditation and so on that teach you to breathe effectively and live well. And there is yoga. Varieties of it. There are yoga trainers such as those who teach yoga "at your place, at your convenience," but at their price! And there are institutions that offer degrees/ diplomas to train you to becoming a trainer.

The Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA) supports and purports yoga for purely scientific reasons. This is perhaps the first institution that collects data, encourages research, and brings out scientific publications in this area. Dr. R. Nagaratna, a yoga therapy consultant in this organisation, has treated patients suffering from anxiety and depression to those suffering from asthma and cancer.

The patients who are referred to her come with some previous allopathic medicines. Her business is to taper off their dependence on these drugs. There is, she says, "no ayurveda, no baths, no fasting — just a complete awareness of the mind and body". Attached to VYASA is VYOMA — the Vivekanada Yoga Mahavidyapeetha — a deemed university offering a variety of day and residential courses spread over a week to a year. Located at Jigani, some 32 km. from the City, this organisation is home to Prashaanti Kutiram, a yoga centre with 150 beds for patients. Built in the shape of the symbol "Om", this centre conducts regular courses and attracts research scholars from all over the world. "But how can one be taught yoga?" argues 28-year-old Rajesh Jain. One can teach a few asanas, but there is more to yoga than just exercise. "There is a bliss, a mysticism associated with yoga and that cannot be taught." And that is why he refuses to entertain people who wish to learn yoga to lose weight, or improve memory. That would be a gross underutilisation of the powers of yoga, feels Rajesh.

His clientele includes celebrities, models, software professionals, and housewives. A yoga trainer at Infosys and GE, Rajesh maintains that yoga practitioners are not necessarily yogis, and only a yogi has a right to teach yoga. A yogi, he explains, is a seer, a visionary, and one does not become that with advanced age. Most neurological developments happen before the age of seven and by that time one can know whether one is a yogi or not.

Ancient remedy for modern maladies

This is a point of view shared by 43-year-old Swami Devaprasad who runs a yoga school called Chaitanyadhaara. A year ago, he trained 40 juvenile inmates of the Central Jail. Trained for 23 years and having practised as a master for 14 years, he sees yoga as a holistic approach — an approach that integrates the physical, the psychological, and the spiritual. "Mere absence of sickness is not good health. For the mind and body and spirit to be healthy, one must be able to understand the union between God, Nature, Humanity, and the Universe," he says.

Sixty per cent of our illnesses are psychosomatic, and yoga helps in building resistance and increasing one's stamina, says Swami Devaprasad. It is also the best method of relaxation. Yogic postures arrest the movements of the body and the mind and lead one on to a slow and gentle awareness.

The operative words are slow and gentle. Says Rajesh: "There is nothing called dynamic yoga or yogercise." Usually trainers combine aerobics with yoga to suit the fast-paced needs of their clients. But classical yoga believes in slow postures and gentle breath control.

Stemming the argument on the right form of yoga is Swami Raghavendra Shenoy of the Rashtrotthana Shareerika Shiksha Kendra. "There's a temple on a hill and there are different ways of reaching that temple," he says. This school follows the famed steps of Yogacharya Sri B.K.S. Iyengar. Set up in Jayanagar in 1972, this Kendra has trained over 20,000 people in various skills in the last three decades. The bottom line is simple: "A sound mind constitutes the foundation for a sound body."

A look at all the names mentioned above might create the impression that yoga is Hindu in tenor. Added to this is the fact that yoga masters are usually called swamijis and several of them greet you with a "Hari Om". Yoga classes start with the chanting of "Om".

"But," Swami Anandmangal of the Atma Darshan Yoga Ashram says: "This is a misconception". Mantras are vibrations and "Om" is a powerful sound. Tansen, could make diyas light up spontaneously with the raga Deep, and douse the flames with his Malhar. Sopranos could shatter a wineglass at high pitch. That is the power of sound.

"If you place a sheet of paper and sand on a stringed instrument," explains Swami Anandmangal, "and you start playing the instrument, the sounds will rearrange the grains of sand placed on the paper." Similarly, sounds can rearrange your consciousness. They are profound and work successfully with sensitive people.

Refuting the argument that yoga is bound to a religion is Asif Usman Teekay. He and several of his friends have been trained in yoga for long years. "The Bishop Cotton School," he points out, "teaches yoga to its students."

Whatever be the need that drives people to seek anchors, the truth remains that a number of answers to modern dilemmas perhaps lie in the 4,000-year-old wisdom of the fountainhead of yoga, sage Patanjali.

MEENAKSHI SHIVRAM

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