The Sanskrit word, “Yoga” has its roots from the word “Yuj”, which means: “to be in union with”. Yoga is the process of exploration, to identify the “I” in each of us – the enabler of everything we do; everything we experience – and its union or association with its field of activities: the body, mind the intellect.*
The practice of Yoga can be the exploration of the physical body, through a series of moves that deliberately and progressively stress each part of the body. In this process, we become consciously aware of each and every part of our body and how to engage them into motion or action on demand or at will. This is the form of Yoga – process of self-control – that we are taught, when you go to the Yoga Classes, which are getting increasingly popular these days. I have started attending the Yoga classes in a Gym, nearby. I am a member at this Gym. So why not take advantage of the free weekly Yoga classes ? This is my simple motivation behind this venture! May be there will be more benefits to be gained in the future!
In all Yoga classes, there are the veterans, who have been attending these sessions for a long time. These experts are a great resource for novices like me! The Yoga teacher speaks in a hush voice, probably to instill a sense of quietness and possibly for quieting the mind as well. In a large room with more than forty students, it is difficult to hear the instructor in her hush voice. The instructor is not easy to spot either, in the dimly lighted class room. So, novices like me have to truly rely on the “experts” nearby and follow their every move. I have to surrender my usual ego and the “know it all” attitude and follow sheepishly one or the few next to me. I have to learn to trust these neighbors, who are total strangers! May be that is the beginning of the process of Yoga – in which you have to let go, trust and follow the path and explore as you go along! You are not attached to the path, the process or the leader, but simply a faith and belief that you will learn something for yourself about yourself!
As the Yoga session went along, there was a segment where every one was lying flat on their stomach, eyes closed and in a state of near deep sleep. As the seconds became minutes – at least that was my perception – I was getting restless! I was beginning to wonder! Am I being left behind, while others are doing more serious moves to stretch and tone up their various muscles? I could not get up to see what was going on, since every one was lying still. The best I could was to move my head from side to side, to get a ground level view, literally. Even that, I had to be discrete, since I did not dare to create much commotion and raise any one’s attention to myself. Suddenly it dawned on me, “Aha, the essence of Yoga is not to be captured and imprisoned by your suspicions, anxiety and pre-conceived notions. Instead, it is to let go of yourself and observe everything including yourself. “Focus on the breathing process – the inhaling and the exhaling”, came the instruction from the teacher. “Stretch every part of your body”, the teacher continued.
As the session went along, it was getting harder and harder for me to keep up with the class. I was about to quit. Then came the instruction from the far corner of the room, “It is OK to change the pose as it suits your needs. If you feel the strain, do not push too hard. Modify the pose that feels natural to you”. This instruction was perfect and timely. How did the teacher know of my needs, while being far away, I wondered? Then it dawned on me: “May be I am not the only novice in this class?” She may be closer to another person, struggling to keep up with the rigor and pace, just as myself! ** You see, we take ourselves too seriously, either for good or for bad, such as “I am better than others, or worse than some one else”. Why not think, “I am just like some one else or there are many others in the same boat just like me!” May be coming to terms with such natural order, that we are all parts of the same and not unique, isolated and individual, is part of the Yoga process?
At the end of the class, the teacher complimented all the new comers for their fine effort and encouraged every one to attend the classes regularly! I felt that pride of the freshman, who made it through the first class, successfully. I thanked the teacher for her instructions. I did not dare to tell her, that some how I did not let go of my thoughts! My mind was fully engaged on the many thoughts, while I followed all the motions to stretch and control every part of my body!*** I will try to work on it, in the future classes. Till I succeed, it will be my best kept secret!
* The Practice of Yoga: performing activities with body, mind and intellect/reasoning and even if it was only through body functions or organs, without attachment and solely for the sake of self-control (being consciously aware of the “I” within and its association with its field of action: the body, mind and intellect) – B.G. 5. 11
** The person focused on actions and their results on his/her own self, believes that he/she is the “person” responsible for all such actions and their effects! – B.G. 3. 27
*** Mere restraint of organs or body functions does not constitute inaction (total self-control). Alas! In such a person the mind is active and agile. – B.G. 3.6.
See this article by Elizabeth Gilbert on a similar experience.
Nice essay and good reference.
Nice essay on your personal experience. I have had similar experiences till I met two exponents who set me on track.
1. Dr. Praveen Kapdia of the Gandhi Gyan Mandir in Hyderabad (http://www.yogasimplified.com/) who with his Yoga Made Simple techniques showed that you do not need to go through complicated contortions to benefit from yoga
2. Salil Ganeriwal of yogajyohti (http://www.yogajyoti.org/) whose philosophy is to guide you to practice yoga on your own, and use this time to introspect, reach inside and create your own experiences.
I could identify with this article.
My last Yoga teacher who lives in India showed me a book by a Dutch author – Tillie Mia on Yoga.
I believe it is available through Amazon as well. It is a marvelously written book for beginners where she teaches you to laughs at yourself and not take yourself too seriously if you fail the first time. She also talks about how she struggled with weight and how people equated being plump with being healthy. In a way she was advocating detachment from body image issues. Its a great book if you get a chance with beautiful pictures as well.
Three or four times a week and 30 minutes each time ought to do it, is the usual advice to the gym novice. I watch The Daily Show in almost exactly this frequency. http://www.thedailyshow.com has full episodes one may watch, in case there is no reception of this on the home television.
Thanks for that explanation of Yoga. I had not given it much analytical thought as you had done: “The practice of Yoga can be the exploration of the physical body, through a series of moves that deliberately and progressively stress each part of the body. In this process, we become consciously aware of each and every part of our body and how to engage them into motion or action on demand or at will.” A certain kind of yoga is all in the news since Christine O’donnell got past the Deleware Republican primary election enroute to her contest for the US Senate. She had said that one ought not to willy nilly go about contorting oneself for pleasure. Earlier, Ms. Oprah Winfrey had encouraged everyone to engage in just the kind of yoga that Christine objects to. And then there was Martha, who can never discuss that kind of yoga in her Connecticut Kitchen. She had invited someone to explain something called “Iyengar Yoga”. The wiki explains this as using props (such as rubber belts and urethane blocks etc..) to do the various things. That explanation naturally took me to the recollection of Oprah’s guest, owner of a discrete shop in midtown Manhanttan who sells such props and aids.
For these kinds of trains of thought, I blame Jon Stewart mostly and a little bit each of Steven Colbert and the Huffington Post.
Nice post and good links.
It is a challenge!!! -how do we overcome the awkwardness of the posture, endless chatter of the mind, the mindless breathing, attempt at concentrating, trying to meditate the “right” way. Somewhere along you realize that this can be done by surrendering to the moment-and going with the flow. Subbu, you have realized and captured the essence in your first class. Enjoy the rest of the sessions!!!
It is similar to meditation- we can be present when we are actively involved in an activity but its a challenge to simply “be” when we are not actively engaged in a physical or mental activity.
B.K. S Iyengar equates yoga to music.
It is the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul.