By Parveen Chopra
Originating from vedic military arts, vyayam yoga has inspired many martial arts and energetic gymnastics. learning it from an indian guru, javier plazas has started promoting vyayam
For a Spaniard to get steeped in the Indian wisdom and praxis and promote an obscure Indian system is interesting. But Javier Plazas has led a very interesting life. Born in Granada, Spain, in 1959, he grew up during the regime of General Franco, a strong Catholic with a distaste for ‘cults’. Yet he learnt yoga, became a monk at age 14 and met his master, Swami Tilak, who was visiting Granada. Serving the army, he fled in 1978 to the hermitage of Swami Tilak, in a place between Bhopal and Indore. Tilak taught him Vedic dharma, advaita, vyayam, ayurveda, etc.
Plazas’ interest in vyayam grew after it saved him from certain death from malaria in West Bengal. He recalls, “Vyayam practice gave me the healthy energy, miraculously made me strong and showed me what the Master told me so many times: ‘The secret of life and death is very near, in your breath’.”
In 1994, he started teaching vyayam yoga methodically and set up The Traditional School of Vyayam. New Age Books/MLBD is now publishing his book titled Vyayam Yoga: The Art of Dynamic Breathing.
But what is vyayam or ‘bee-ah-yam’ as it is pronounced? Today it has come to mean merely exercise. Plazas defines it as taming the energy that comes from air through breathing. One of its basic principles is that all movement has its origin in breathing. It also coordinates breathing that helps in best utilisation of body energy that comes from nutrients and, directly, from breathing. There is an intimate connection between body, mind and energy, the alteration of one influences the other two. Through vyayam we learn to control breathing and, in turn, the movement of our mind.
Vyayam is the oldest healthy-energetic gymnastics in the world, which inspired other gymnastics and martial arts. Its origins are in the Vedic military science, known as dhanur vidya (archery). In vyayam there was an emphasis on ‘shakti vikasakas’, practices that provide physical preparation of muscular strength and knowledge about the projection of energy in each and every part of the body, and outside it.
Bodhidharma, who took Buddhism to China in the fifth century, also took this art there. Residents of the Shaolin temple learnt it to defend themselves against the bandits and to strengthen their bodies. Afterwards, Chinese energetic and martial arts developed, followed by the Japanese: tai-chi, qi-gong, kung-fu, shorinji-kempo, aikido.
What are the benefits of practising vyayam? Writes Plazas in his book:
• A vyayam student is an enthusiastic person, manifesting great vital capacity and mental balance. His body, whether thick or thin, appears healthy, strong and compact.
• All movements, postures and gestures change. Vyayam makes us more conscious of our physical, mental, and energetic movements. We produce them with the appropriate attitude, as per our needs.
• It brings harmony to body and mind, strength to muscles and tendons. The backbone is freed from unnecessary tensions so the back obtains the adequate elasticity. It unblocks joints, preventing arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. It gives vigour to the skeletal system, body tissues and inner organs due to increased oxygenation of the cells.
Plazas has detailed various vyayam series with photographs in the book. The five general principles to be observed are:
• Body movement should follow the breathing: Unlike other gymnastics, vyayam teaches how to tame the energy that comes from air through breathing. Any movement is preceded by an inhalation or exhalation, and breathing and body movement are always coordinated.
• Mind observes body movement and breathing: To be able to do it, our mind needs to be focused. There is always movement in the vyayam practice, either internal or external. The mind is focused, like in meditation, but on the breathing, which is projected through the movement of the body.
• Breathing is sonorous and expansive: The sound mixed with breathing allows us to specifically concentrate energy in different parts of the organism. It is good for the lungs because we use all of our lung capacity, alternating diaphragmatic, thoracic and clavicle breathing.
• The end of one movement is the beginning of the next: The connection between breathing and body movement is never broken.
• Every movement is circular and harmonious: By chain breathing and body movements, a feeling of ‘roundness’ and harmony between mind, breathing and body is produced.
Vyayam is a healthy gymnastics that can complement yoga, belly dance, aerobic gymnastics, rehabilitation therapies, massage, psyche-dynamic and psyche-energetic therapies, passive gymnastics for the elderly, pre- and postpartum therapies, etc.
There are two types of vyayam: i) similar to yoga exercises, with deep stretches, called yogasthya, and ii) similar to combat or martial art exercises, called kangasthya. Kangasthya is the original Vyayam, which can be practised either with metal or wooden sword or with the hands. It helps us to project the energy.
Plazas says that the late controversial yogi Dhirendra Brahmachari also taught a basic form of energetic vyayam and wrote a book titled Yogic Sukshma Vyayama, published in 1975.
Plazas himself has gone on to write many books, travelling the world, attending conferences, and organising his own courses and seminars. He frequently visits India with his students, and is a member of the World Executive Council of the VHP. He also has a business selling Mac computers. An interesting Indophile.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.vyayam.org
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