By Aparna Jacob March 2003 Corporate whizkids relax with yoga. Patients recoup with it. Weight watchers slim down with it. Worriers chill with it. Sages find God with it. The age-old Hatha Yoga system has found new popularity A complete routineIf you cannot find time to do yogasanas, Surya Namaskar is a good substitute, as it takes a few minutes only. Surya, the sun, is the central source of energy in our solar system. Its warmth, brilliance and purity takes the form of vital life energy on Earth. Surya Namaskar, or Salutation to the Sun, is a sequence of 12 asanas, to draw in peace, harmony and strength in the body. In the initial stages, try to coordinate the steps with breathing. Once you are comfortable with the flow of the asanas, awareness of the chakras and mantra recitation can be incorporated. You may start with three rounds and gradually build up the stamina for 10 to 12 rounds. Practise at the pace you feel omfortable with. If you feel tired at any stage, rest. Gradually your system will gain strength and you will be able to perform these exercises almost effortlessly. Ideally, these exercises should be performed early in the morning, exposing your body to the sun’s rays. Surya Namaskar helps fight ageing and rejuvenates the entire body. Its practice also nurtures the higher emotions of love, peace and compassion. The practice of Surya Namaskar 1. Exhale and fold your hands in front of your chest. 2. Inhale deeply and raise your hands up and stretch backwards with your eyes open. Hold for a few seconds and gently move into the next step. 3. Exhale and bend down completely to touch the floor with the palms of your hands. 4. Inhale and bend the left leg while stretching the right leg backward with your toes and knees touching the ground. Look up. 5. Retain the breath, move the other leg back and lift both knees off the ground. The heels, hips, head move in one line, in a push up position. 6. Exhale and bring your body to the ground. Only eight parts of the body—two feet, two knees, two hands, chest and forehead—touch the ground. The abdominal region is raised. 7. Inhale while slowly raising your trunk, straighten the arms and bend your head backwards. 8. Exhale and form an inverted ‘V’ as in step 5. 9. Inhale and come down into the posture at step 4, bending the right leg and stretching the left. 10. Exhale and raise your body into the bending position as in step 3. 11. Inhale and raise yourself completely, stretching backwards as in step 2. 12. Exhale and bring your hands down. This concludes one round of Surya Namaskar. Asanas for beginnersPractise on an empty stomach. Wear loose clothing. Spread a yoga mat on the floor. Begin with any warm-up routine. Vajrasana: Knees on the ground, heels apart, sit on the upturned soles of the feet, keeping the body erect and hands on the knees. Paschimotanasana: Sitting with legs together but stretched, bend the trunk forward, trying to touch the knees with the forehead and the feet with hands. Sarvangasana (shoulder stand): Lying down, raise the legs and the waist up straight, balancing the entire body on the neck and the shoulders with hands supporting the small of the back. Halasana (plough posture): In Sarvangasana, bend the legs backward so that eventually the toes of the feet touch the floor behind. Bhujangasana (cobra): Lying face downward, keep the hands on the ground, and raise the trunk as much as you can. Shalabhasana (locust): Lying face downward, keep the chin on the ground and raise the legs, with thighs supported by hands. Ardhamatsyendrasana (twist): While sitting, with left leg folded on the ground, move the right foot next to the knee and twist the trunk and head to the left. Then, reverse the legs. Padahastasana:While standing, bend forward without bending the knees, moving the head towards the knees, and hands trying to touch the floor. Shavasana: Always end with this relaxing position. Lying prone on the floor, keep the legs apart, a foot between the two feet, and arms a little away from the body. Keep eyes closed. While doing asanas, keep the movements slow and flowing. Never overdo beyond your capacity. Stay in a posture as much as you can before returning to the rest position. A T-shirt legend popular in the West goes thus: ‘‘Whatever the question, the answer is… more yoga.‘‘ Yeah, man! From an esoteric science practised in secluded ashrams among a handpicked group of gurus and their acolytes to being brandished on a T-shirt in California is a pretty good gauge of the distance yoga has travelled in the last century. Today, statistics reveal that yoga is the most widely practised exercise system in the world. One out of eight Americans practises yoga and three lakh people in the UK do likewise. Hollywood stars like Madonna and Kate Winslet are dedicated yoginis, and it is one of the few terms in the Indian spiritual lexicon that MS Word passes without drawing a red line under. In the West, yoga and meditation are virtually treated as panaceas to a whole host of physical ailments, including heart conditions ever since Dr Dean Ornish proved that a regimen of yoga, meditation, group therapy and a change in diet could reverse heart conditions. Books and CDs on the subject abound and websites on yoga are legion. In India, statistics are hard to come by, but every yoga teacher confirms that more and more people, particularly among the younger generation, are turning to yoga. Collegiate Phiroza Jamula is learning a one-month teacher‘s training course at the Yoga Institute, Mumbai. She probably speaks for her generation when she says: ‘‘College life is very stressful because of the pressure to do well, and to handle relationships at home. Through yoga I have learnt how to balance my life.‘‘ Bhumi Trivedi is in her last year of college and simultaneously doing a 7-month teacher‘s training course in the same institute and is even more emphatic about its benefits in her life: ‘‘Yoga has made me realize that there is much more to life than to eat, drink and be merry. I used to enjoy going out and eating good food. Now, I prefer spending time with my family. Yoga brought more awareness and clarity in me, and my asthma cleared up.‘‘ At the other end of the scale is nonagenarian Sitadevi Yogendra, wife of Shri Yogendra, founder of the Yoga Institute. At 91, she is slim, spry and full of life, all of which she attributes to a regimen of yoga and a simple diet. Says she: ‘‘I have no complaints. Even my memory is quite good. People should do yoga instead of waiting until they fall sick.‘‘ Institutionalization Yoga is being taught in schools and colleges. At the Yoga Institute, a hundred school students from the Arya Vidya Mandir were listening attentively to a discourse by the institute‘s attractive and dynamic Dean, Hansa Jayadeva. In addition to spending a day at the Yoga Institute, these students learn yoga regularly at their school. Hansaben, as she is called, shows me a sheaf of grateful letters by principals of other schools, acknowledging workshops conducted by the institute and asking for more. The Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) in Munger is doing sterling work in introducing yoga to children. The Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal is an organization run under their auspices in which children teach other children the intricacies of yoga. Initially, the children are trained in yoga in their respective schools. Then a select few are trained at BSY as teachers. They return to their schools and conduct classes of their own! Yoga is an elective subject in all ICSE schools, and Bombay University offers a diploma in yoga. Spiffy corporate training programmes on stress management revolve around yoga in such companies as Essar and L&T, while Crisil and Infosys have introduced yoga to their in-house fitness programmes. Clubs, gyms and spas now routinely have yoga in their menu. Jetking Infotrain Ltd., a company that runs technical courses, particularly on computer education, sends all their students for a sponsored two-day workshop at the Yoga Institute, while faculty members are required to attend a seven-day workshop at the same place. Its CMD, Suresh Bharwani, is an ardent yogi who attributes his focus and concentration to the discipline. Says he: ‘‘In 1979, my father died suddenly. I went to Jayadeva Yogendra, the head of the Yoga Institute, and asked him, ‘Yesterday, he was wearing nice clothes, and today, where has he gone?‘‘‘ Since then a philosophical understanding of death has gone hand-in hand with a robust zest for life. The yogic training has increased the effectiveness of his staff members. Says he: ‘‘When they return from the workshop many are so grateful that they fall at my feet.‘‘ Jetking, the Rs 39-crore company, with 60 centres across India, takes a 10-minute break every day, across the board, in which everyone chants Om. ‘‘I link our prosperity to the cultivation of right values,‘‘ says Bharwani. Hospitals are using yoga as a way of helping patients recover not just physical well-being but also to inculcate a positive attitude. I visit the Indian Cancer Society in Parel. Here, cancer patients are rehabilitated not just in terms of coming to terms with their condition but given livelihood opportunities. They are also taught yoga by teachers from the Ambika Yog Kutir. It is a moving spectacle to see these patients, some emaciated, others visibly scarred, closing their eyes and folding their hands reverentially for the opening prayer. Dr Satish Pathak, a surgeon and the moving spirit behind the initiative, says: ‘‘Many of the patients are healthier and more energetic since we started the programme four months ago.‘‘ This is an a
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