I often meet people in other countries who describe themselves as “yoginis”, which seems a bit much to an ordinary Indian like me who has been exposed to Yoga from kindergarten but never met someone who called themselves a “yogin” or a “yogini” growing up. Yoga is now a global phenomenon, not just that “period” in school where you were forced to do Yoga.
I actually liked Yoga in school and even thought was a “pro” until I went to an interschool competition and the kids there were outstanding and flexible as a rubber band. I came back wanting to become better.
When I think about how yoga became such a global phenomena, I have a feeling that along with Swami Vivekananda who was the initial proponent of Yoga, the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda probably had something to do with the revolution. The fact that Steve Jobs had just this book on his iPad and that the Beatles were influenced by this book adds to the glamour. I remember reading this book as a child and was amazed by it.
Growing up with Yoga was easy for me as I was naturally endowed with “flexible genes” for which I can thank my parents and the formal training in the school that made it easier to practise it every day.
Somewhere during my college days, yoga was kept in a dark corner of my mind and other activities and sports occupied my time. This continued until my return from the US in 2000. Since I moved back to India, different forms of Yoga have become part of my daily routine. The hope is that I become more regular.
These experience range from “Power Yoga”, “Bikram Yoga” to “Hatha Yoga” etc. to simply “Yoga” on an iPad and otherwise. In the case of “Power Yoga” which now I think was overkill and not really yoga, I overextended myself to doing about 165 Suryanamaskars in a day at a stretch, which essentially left my neck unusable for a week or so. “Bikram Yoga” that is done at a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity is an interesting form but did not seem like it could get me the most benefit. Since then I have had a few teachers including my iPad that has several yoga classes. I think after all these experiences, I have found my own set of postures that I do fairly regularly. Of these, I think breathing exercises have found a way in most of my exercises.
I have noticed that for many friends who never took yoga seriously earlier, flexibility can be an issue but with practise that changes. I also think it is very important for an individual to get to a self-realization about its benefits to take to Yoga seriously. So while giving this exposure to little kids is a great idea, we cannot force them unless they want to actually do it themselves.
While we know that Yoga originated from India thousands of years ago, today there are several forms practised today including the Hatha Yoga, Iyengar, Kundalini, Hot, Ashtanga and Vinyasa and many more. I had had some interesting experiences along the way.
As per Yogic scriptures, the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature. Clearly, those who don’t understand Climate Change and its consequences do not have a yoga background.
The other misconception is that Yoga is only an exercise system for fitness and health, but that is only one aspect of Yoga. The other elements are the breath, the mind, and the inner self. Those elements I think have a huge impact on the overall well-being of an individual. One of the most important is Breath. Breathing can have so much impact on our mental and physical health. At Mapmygenome, we collaborated with a Brain Sciences company to create a stress reduction technique based on the principles of a “Calm beat” that is personal to each individual. I liked to call it “Urban Pranayam” based on Yoga techniques of Pranayam.
Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been a staunch supporter and practises it every day even amidst his hectic schedule. Yoga, therefore, energizes him for a job that can be mentally and physically grueling.
While I enjoy the breathing and meditation and several postures, my favorite yoga asana is the Surya Namaskar or the Sun Salutation that combines so much in those 12 steps. But as my previous experiences remind me- don’t overdo it. Do it as it was intended to be done.
Wishing everyone a Happy #InternationalYogaDay and I hope that you will incorporate Yoga into your daily schedule.