Published on New York Spirit
The New In-Thing
Yoga crazily has become a ‘must-try’ item in our to-do list of things. I was hearing about the preparations of my friend who lives in Colorado for her first day in a nearby newly launched yoga studio. A tee that says ‘Namaste’; crotch-tight, extra-flexible, neon-colored pants; a threaded pop designer yoga mat; non-slip yoga socks; a branded sipper; a fruit guard; an extra-soft towel; a duffel bag labeled as ‘yoga junkie’. The list was longer, I could just remember this much. Only the U.S. can make yoga sound and perhaps look so alluring. We, in India, have always gone in our worn-out t-shirts and cotton leggings. A cotton bed-sheet is preferable. Water in any bottle will do. Cropped grass amidst boulevard is always the perfect place to be. Times are changing here, too. The west adopted yoga, India wants to adopt sexiness.
Origins and Commercial Modifications
A selfless, cleansing, freeing, balancing, inspiring, and joyfully performed actions based on a vision in which one experiences peaceful interconnectedness with all life around them. –Bhagvad Gita on Yoga
The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE. Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century. All such dates were necessary to put in here to understand that it is a very old institution which was devised for the human race to benefit physically, mentally, and spiritually. Osho adds an interesting analogy on the author, sage Patanjali that he finished the job of writing on yoga in such a way that there is nothing else which can be written on it. Whatever can be written on yoga has been written. There cannot be more. Both the scientific and spiritual elements have been taken care of. It is complete in itself. It is a bible of yoga. He describes him as a man interested in naked truth and no stories. According to him, he is Einstein plus Buddha–a very rare combination–but he is neither. So his work must be an absolute thing in itself. To probe further, do we have chapters on hot yoga, snowy yoga, power yoga, skydiving yoga and alike? None of these are mentioned in Patanjali Sutras. These are the modifications done by today’s commercial market.
Any traditional yoga teacher who has served his or her life learning and practicing yoga according to such scriptures can assure you that all the asanas and exercises, when done correctly after considering your physical and mental state, will serve you the highest good. We get closely connected with the entire universe and discover our infinite capacity to love.
I am not sure if anyone related to the modified versions of yoga can do that.
Can Yoga be Harmful?
Yoga definitely cannot be learned as a crash course. To understand the deeper realms of yoga, you need years of practice under the right guidance. It can be harmful if not done in the right manner. For instance, if you are not using your core while bending down in Uttanasana or are keeping your knees hyper straight, it surely will make your back ache. You are supposed to ease your knees a little bit and remember this that a perfect angle won’t happen in the first two months. If you are a patient of high blood pressure, some postures are not allowed for you. Who will tell you all this? An aware teacher. I have seen yoga classes here in India since I was a kid. I have seen teachers imparting them for free. It was not a trend here, it was a way to keep our energies balanced–physically and mentally both. The sanctity is still there at certain places. You just need to find that place which tells you the deep spiritual meanings behind each pose, behind each deep breath you take, behind each mindfulness practice you do, and behind each OM you chant. Being a yoga teacher is a work of great responsibility.
Numerous stories of people getting heat stroke and humiliated by so-called teachers in hot yoga class disturb me. Any teacher who is forcing you when you are gasping for breath by statements like “Leaving the studio will affect the energy of the place” is utter nonsense. They are just worried about other people leaving too as everyone wants to! There is no logic in hot yoga. Sure we release toxins by sweat but only when the sweat is allowed in normal temperature, not in the Sahara desert heat. All other kinds of yoga are just a way to lure you with their new product.
Kundalini Awakening scam
Thinking of becoming a yoga expert in few months is futile. It is like saying I have learned the writing system; let me become a Paulo Coelho now. One has to understand that it is like playing with fire or electricity. It has to be done with utmost care and caution. Then, there is a great deal happening over Kundalini awakening. So many myths have been planted about it. Kundalini Yoga is the way to be aware of one and arouse the inactive energy through aligning all chakras. No, kundalini awakening cannot happen so easily. Whatever amazing thing you or your friend felt might be just the energy of trauma leaving your physical and emotional self. You can do meditation and kundalini yoga for years and it won’t happen. You might not do it for years and it might happen just like that. It is more to do with your ‘time’. When it is time for you to get into the purest of state – mentally and spiritually – it will happen; else it might not happen ever in this life. A less experienced teacher might get you in trouble with all the kundalini faff. This can do harm if not done under the guidance of an expert.
Yoga is religion-less
When a church says it is against their religious doctrine and some Islamic leaders ask for a ban on it, I feel a need to tell them that it is not propagating any religion. Yoga is a union of your consciousness with the energy of the universe. It won’t turn you into a Hindu. Yoga has nothing to do with the religion. It is an invention of a prodigy. Will you stop using the bulb because his inventor was a deist which is against your religious beliefs? If chanting a certain syllable (Om) can make your religion weaker, then one need to rethink on the whole basis of foundation. It is just a sound wave which corresponds to your inner and outer universe perfectly.
In no way, I intend to discourage anyone from doing yoga. I am a huge supporter of yoga. It just needs to be done in a manner where it serves your body, mind, and soul. It needs to be performed while understanding the spirituality behind it and under the guidance of an able teacher who maintains the originality of yoga.
May we realize Yoga as a way of our life!