This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
[ "Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory." --- Pattabhi Jois ]
practised by millions of people both in the east
and in the west. According to one estimate, nearly 12 million Americans learn this form of physical and mental exercise. As one writer puts it: Yoga has taken the world by storm. A little bit of my bio! [I love yoga and has been practising for well over 60 years--from the age of twelve. I have tried different methods, but I would strongly recommend "Iyengar style of yoga" ,after B K S Iyengar. By the way, I am also an Iyengar from India and I had watched T Krishnamacharya taking a yoga class in the late 1950's. I learned Yoga from my "uncle" -my father's nephew in Chennai. I learned later various meditation techniques, including 'Kriya Yoga' from SRF/YSS , with initiation from a monk of YSS,Ranchi. I consider the Vinyasa method and the Ashtanga methods (Pattabhi Jois) more difficult ,though they may suit
certain yoga students.]
What is the essence of hatha yoga ? Yoga as a spiritual discipline was developed in India from ancient times---as given in various Sanskrit texts. This method or discipline includes strengthening body and mind and then tune into spiritual realms. We are concerned here only with the physical and mental well being of individuals and the "use" of Yoga for this purpose. This part of yoga is included in what is commonly called "Hatha Yoga". HATHA YOGA is largely physical and includes asanas
[postures or poses], pranayama [breath regulation], bandhas [physical locks] and mudras [gestures]. A Yoga teacher near you may teach mostly the asanas and a bit of pranayama and perhaps give a small introductory
lesson of bandhas and mudras. Please note that bandhas and mudras are more important for tantra yoga and for spiritual seekers or sadhaks. Yoga system involves two essential principles: 1 Breathing is to be regulated for proper functioning and healthy organs. 2 The spine is to be kept healthy and strong and properly aligned.
Much of the work in yoga is towards your breath cycle and spinal manipulation. You may hear the word "prana" in yoga circles. "Prana" is the life force, triggered and stored by breathing system.Thus prana is a more intricate entity than the breath, but breath becomes an easy way of controlling and directing this prana. Prana is also identified with nerve currents which are regulated by body movements or postures and directed to specific organs of the body.Thus prana is the current or energy coursing through our nervous system. For instance prana can be directed to our digestive system where it would create the ' gastric fire' for digesting the food properly. [Those interested to learn more should study the chakra concepts. Chakras are nerve nodes which are activated by yoga methods and body.] influence the various glands in the
Pioneers in Modern Yoga To place the development of modern yoga in proper perspective, I have to mention the works of pioneers in this field in India. It is a fascinating story how yoga spread to the west from India in the past few decades.
Thirumalai Krishnamacharya,[T K] often called the "Father of Modern Yoga", taught yoga in a systematic manner in a yoga school or yoga shale in Mysore, India, under the patronage of the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raje Wadeyar [from 1936 onwards.]He trained some of the greatest teachers of yoga who established the teaching schools and traditions that we find today. The important students of TK include: B K S Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, TKV Desikachar (his son) , A G Mohan , Srivatsa Ramaswami and Indra Devi. I mention Indra Devi for a specific reason. She was a Russian aristocrat who came to India and learned music, dance and finally yoga under T K. TK acknowledged her proficiency after a year and sent her to teach in the West. [The legend says that at first TK refused to teach her because she was a woman and the Maharaja had to intervene to convince TK to accept her. Contrast it with the scene a generation later. TK's student ,B K S Iyengar was teaching several women in London and elsewhere, both housewives and rich aristocrats, free of charge.] Indra Devi came to the USA and popularised yoga ; she several celebrities and movie stars in L A
taught yoga to
and also wrote books "Yoga for Americans", "Yoga for You" . She later moved to Argentina and taught for 12 years and
died at the age of 102 years. The other students mentioned are so well known that I need not write about them here. [I had the good fortune to witness TK's yoga classes in 1950's in Chennai, though I had not formally studied under him.] Another great pioneer in Yoga was Swami Sivananda who founded "Divine Life Society", in Rishikesh. A doctor by profession, a great yogi and jnani, he was largely responsible for wider dissemination of yoga knowledge in India through his inexpensive books and around the world with his students. The list of his renunciate students
(monks)is a long one and reads almost like a "Who is Who " of modern yoga: Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Vishnudevananda, Swami Satyananda , Swami Satchitananda and Swamini Sivananda Radha. Swami Vishnudevananda established several Sivananda Yoga Centers in USA and Canada. Swamini Sivananda Radha , his first female disciple , hailed from Germany but settled in Canada and
built the Yashodara Ashram. Paramahansa Madhavdasji was a great saint-yogi in Gujarat. He settled after wandering upto the age of eighty and taught yoga. His two illustrious students were Yogendra and Swami Kuvalaynanda. Madhavadasji lived upto 123 years.
[Incidentally Sri Aurobindo Madhavadasji.]
was also inspired by
Yogendra, a yoga teacher who experimented
therapy established the "Yoga Institute" in Mumbai and trained many yoga teachers like Hans Raj Yadhav and his son Jayadeva. Swami Kuvalayananda set up another yoga institution in Lovala near Mumbai in 1924 ; he also developed the
healing methods of yoga for thousands of patients.
Raja of Aundh,[Aundh-- a small princely state in Maharashtra] was an avid sportsman and a yoga enthusiast. He taught 'surya namaskar' or sun salutations to school children. This work was carried on by his able son Apa Pant. While he was the Indian Ambassador in Egypt, Apa
Pant taught sun salutations to local Arabs and at their request wrote a book on Sun Salutations in Arabic and English, which was also published in India. [An American pioneer was Theos Bernard, who wrote great books and taught yoga, but had early death.] The Siddha tradition in Tamil Nadu had many adepts in Yoga who taught many students. They were to be found near Palani hills near Madurai and in Chidambaram/Thiruvannamalai. They also practiced native
medicines. I had read several of the old texts in Tamil. There were several other teachers who were pioneers in India; they not only taught hundreds of students, but did serious 'experiments' and extended the scope and knowledge of Hatha Yoga. I have written this section on "pioneers" only to emphasize that the yoga as practised today is the fruit of labors of these pioneers in India, often working under
very trying circumstances. There is a long and well established tradition behind modern yoga, which is often ignored or made slight of by some academic writers [ mostly Ph D scholars] with limited, bookish history and traditions of yoga. knowledge of
Modern Yoga in the West The practice of yoga came to the west mostly due to two teachers or yogis in the early 1940's and 1950's:
Yesudian Selvarajan and B K S Iyengar. Yesudian Selvarajan [YS] was a doctor from Chennai, India. He grew up as a sickly boy but became strong through Yoga. So he committed himself to propagate yoga. Yesudian came
to Hungary to study graduate school in medicine at a wrong time---the year was 1938 and the world war II was brewing up. After some struggle, he began to teach yoga to a few
persons in Budapest. With the outbreak of war, he was about to leave Europe when some friends invited him teach yoga in Switzerland. He moved to Zurich to
the help of Elizabeth Haitch founded the first yoga school in Europe .His book " Yoga and health" became immensely popular in Europe.
B K S Iyengar came to Switzerland
in 1954 to teach yoga
to Yehudi Menuhin, the famous violinist and then received devoted students like Vanda Scaravelli and Dona Hollemann. He later taught a few students in London including Diana Clifton. He authorized Diana Clifton to teach on his behalf and thus she became the first 'certified" teacher of " Iyengar Yoga". She also taught in Los Angeles the
Iyengar style of Yoga. Thus the yoga movement got started in the west, around the time of World War II.
Yoga as therapy The present scenario is mainly yoga as a means for physical health and mental calmness for persons with various ailments. Yoga as a cure had been used in India for several decades, especially for chronic diseases. I recall how one of my aunts used to practise yoga every day to avoid asthma
attacks.I had seen several persons practising yoga for cure in Chennai , along with native 'ayurvedic" medicines. Thus yoga therapy is not a recent development. As I had mentioned, Yogendra and Kuvalayananda have been treating several persons in Mumbai under controlled observation and care. T K had been treating several
persons in Chennai where he moved from Mysore in 1955. B K S Iyengar started treating patients over the years.
His main contribution is the use of props and supports for elderly and the sick to perform yoga. His use of chairs have led to his nickname "furniture yogi' in some
circles! He founded the "Ramamani Iyengar Institute" in Pune where treatments are regularly given, assisted by his daughter Geeta Iyengar and son Prashant Iyengar. Dr Swami Gitananda Bhavnani , a practising doctor in UK , born to Indian father and Irish mother, returned to India and set up ' Ananda Ashram' in Puducherry , a coastal town and former French colony near Chennai and developed yoga
programs and yoga treatment. [I had met him a few times.] Dr Phulgendra Sinha taught yoga for treating many patients and had an institute in New York.His book "Yoga cure for common ailments" was widely popular.
Bihar School of Yoga ,founded by Swami Satyananda , a
disciple of Swami Sivananda, has been teaching advanced methods of classical yoga. H R Nagendra developed a Yoga center in the style of a regular decades. Several masters have taught yoga in various towns using native languages. Many yoga institutes and yoga treatments have been established throughout India. university near Bangalore in the last three
Easy yoga, gentle yoga and yoga therapy The recent trend in the west is to teach yoga to seniors with easy,gentle and simple poses, with the liberal use of props,chairs , belts and bricks for support. Many senior centers and enrichment programs offer such courses for better health and to improve mobility and flexibility at little or no cost. Another important and significant trend is the yoga treatment of back pain, joint pains, arthritis and other serious degenerative diseases. These are backed by doctors who have studied yoga in India or in the west and who had been willing to do extensive study and research in yoga therapy. While the methods have been known in India for many decades, these are validated by modern methods and attested by western doctors. It may be noted that these
diseases have reached almost epidemic proportions in industrialized countries, especially among the young , professional age-groups. The rich harvest of this cross-cultivation between Indian yoga and western medicine is that valid and reliable treatments are possible for these diseases now at very little cost and without surgery. This trend has been growing in the past 10 years of so. A number of practical books have appeared to help those in need. Such treatment can be alternative therapies to expensive and painful
surgeries and provide better quality of life for millions of persons . Methods from yoga , with a qualified and
experienced teacher, can be safe and simple. What is more, certified yoga teachers [with 200 hours or 500 hours of training] are readily available in most towns in the USA, Europe , Russia and China. Yoga for Longevity Yoga is credited with conferring longevity in many practitioners. TK lived for 101 years ; Indra Devi lived for 102 years; Pattabhi Jois lived upto 94 years in good health. Swami Madhavdasji, guru of Yogendra and Kuvalayananda, lived for a pretty long time--1798 to 1921 --that is 123 years. B K S Iyengar and his student Diana Clifton are in
nineties.Such instances are many.
[We cannot ,however, conclude that yoga alone confers longevity. These masters were vegetarians. I had known many vegetarians, not doing yoga, living upto 90 years or longer in good health.Therefore diet also may play a large part.] Can Yoga reverse aging ? Serious investigations are required to answer this question, but many yogis will attest to the youthful looks that can be attained.
Yoga and Hinduism There had been several cynical remarks that Yoga is a Hindu based system and is used to propagate Hindu faith or Hindu forms of worship in the West. In the first place, Hinduism is not a proselytizing religion. Hindus have no religious creed to convert others to their faith [ as in
the case of Christianity or Islam.](In fact one should be born a Hindu to practise this religion.) If a student is keen, he/she can learn Yoga and Hindu philosophy and
adopt Hindu lifestyle---that is all.. Yoga is universal and not confined to Hinduism ,though its roots stem from Hindu religion.
Several teachers have modified the yoga system to suit
their milieu and their group of
students. For instance,
hard-pronouncing Sanskrit names and terms can be easily replaced by common English words---thus 'adho mukha svanasana" is termed easily as "downward facing dog pose" or simply "downward dog" pose. The preliminary Sanskrit chants can be replaced with Christian or Jewish hymns or dispensed with. Thus the spirit of doing yoga is more important than the styles used . [In fact a "Christian
Yoga movement" has been promoted by some teachers and yoga classes are held in some churches in USA. I welcome this trend.] Practices such as burning incense , using
classical music and chanting are less important , though seen as mood creating actions in Indian style. Whether
one should have them or not would depend on the teaching environment.Thus a yoga teacher in a corporate setting
may not like them, but such things may lend an aura of peace in a countryside yoga retreat .
Yoga and Spiritual Progress Spiritual progress may be attained with or without hatha yoga.But hatha yoga would help a great deal as this forms part of "ashtanga yoga"--the eight -part yoga. Asasa and Pranayama are third and fourth part of this sequence. Many jnanis shun the hatha yoga for its emphasis and obsession with human body. Often they become
obese,unhealthy and have a short life. Many swamis,wedded to Jnana or bhakti paths ,without hatha yoga practice , are pot-bellied, fatty and suffer from many ailments. Hatha yoga has its place in the scheme of many yogas. Yoga-- American Style Some would say that yoga has been "americanised" , branded and commercialised, to suit the mental framework of Americans, much like pizza has been converted into an American dish in many ways--no more an authentic Italian item. Such changes are inevitable when yoga has become a
'common commodity' sold in DVD's in malls. That is 'product innovation" American style! There is 'hot yoga', 'power yoga', 'nude yoga','beach yoga'--some with fanciful Sanskrit names. The 'authentic yoga' or classical style would probably be hard to find in a decade or so.
[Yoga has also spawned a "yoga shop" industry, with a multiplicity of products such as books, DVD's, yoga mats, bricks, props and benches sold off line or on-line. The
commercial value could be a few billions of dollars,feeding into American economy--thanks to yoga masters.] Many known to me prefer to go to India to learn yoga in an ashram setting which is a more expensive undertaking and have to be a short course for a few weeks for many
beginners. The learning could be more rigorous and also tough for many students. But there is the added attraction of vacationing or touring in India.This approach is alright for young persons.There are easier 'beach yogas' in Goa too. Even then the 'yoga tourists' should contend with
limited 'comfort zone' and vegetarian food there and would miss Macdonalds and Star Bucks outlets nearby. But if one
intends to become a yoga teacher, I would strongly recommend learning at least a short course in an established ashram or reputed residential institute in India. That training would be invaluable to the individual and for a teaching work later.
Yoga in China B K S Iyengar was invited by the Chinese govt to teach in China in 2011. He gave a lecture at the Yoga Summit ,jointly organized by Indian Embassy and Chinese govt on 16th June 2011. He took a class of 1600 students,standing for nearly 3 hours--he was 93 years!. Later he taught at Beijing with 700 students. Iyengar was stunned at the rapid progress of Yoga in China;all his books have been translated into Chinese languages and there were 75 yoga centers,with about 30,000
students following "Iyengar Yoga", run by one of his former students. The Chinese Post issued a commemorative stamp honoring Iyengar. Iyengar quipped: "China may overtake India in Yoga"! . I am sure yoga would soon be taught in other countries like South Korea and North Korea. Urge to teach yoga There is a subtle mechanism working through yoga learners. Sooner or later, often sooner, they get the urge to share their special knowledge with others--they want to teach yoga to others--either informally in a small group or
they want to open a yoga studio or institute or Indian style ashram for retreats. This inner mechanism is one of
the reasons for fast expansion of yoga activities. When you see that others can acquire good health and cure themselves of many diseases, you want to teach them yoga. As I know very well, there are hundreds of yoga teachers in India and in the West who teach without charging any fees. The Future of Yoga As long as Yoga is useful in healing chronic and debilitating diseases, people will learn to use it, however toned down it might be. yoga is a Therefore the spread of
clear indication of its usefulness in modern
context. The yoga teachers, meanwhile,
imagination, can modify the form to suit their students. Several therapeutic questions and medical issues, however, remain to be explored in the use of yoga.
A time may come, sooner than we may imagine, when yoga will be taught as a regular subject with practice classes in many schools in India and in other countries. This would depend on training of a large number of teachers. Yoga clubs devoted to senior citizens and yoga health centers for healing also would multiply severalfold. Meanwhile research on cure of several diseases by yoga would be undertaken all over the world.
At the same time, yoga is both art and science.As one yoga teacher puts it: it is useful and beautiful! Thus
rhythmic flow and integration with dance forms may see the light of the day. Yoga could be an art form, besides contortions of pretzel like poses. Contact: email@example.com Some references There are literally hundreds of books and DVD's available. Here are a few classics: 1 B K S Iyengar Light on Yoga
2 Swami Vishnudevananda --- The complete Illustrated Book of Yoga 3 T K V Desikachar --- The Heart of Yoga 4 Dr Phulgendra Sinha--Yoga Cure for common diseases ------------------------------------------------------
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.