In the last few decades, ever since the West discovered it, Yoga has been resurrected from an almost forgotten thing of remote mountain retreats to stuff that’s become the global mantra of superstars, models, movie and pop stars and corporate moguls.
But in all this hype, there is a question that perhaps a lot of us are asking : “what is in it for me?” It’s all very well to gasp and look at Christy Turlington’s exquisite yoga – whittled posterior or read about how Mira Nair insisted that each day of the making of her award winning film ‘ Monsoon Wedding’ begin with the entire unit doing Yoga. But the question still remains: “ how would Yoga help me?”
This then is the answer to some of your questions about Yoga…
A 1 . Actually, nobody needs to do Yoga. That is if – and this is a big if – if you have the ability to be or do some thing 100% without being attached to the result of being or doing that thing. For example, if you can play a game of tennis or make a business presentation or cook a pot of Biriyani to 100% of your ability and commitment and without being attached to the result, you are already a Yogi.
But, in fact, almost none of us can do this. Because we are all driven by one thing. DESIRE. Desire is the super glue of attachment. Attachment to success and failure; craving for one and avoiding the other, often at any cost. That is why, desire makes sure that most of the time, we are either in the future, wondering about the result, or in the past reliving past failure and success. And desire, especially when its unfulfilled, is the foundation stone of stress. Stress is the mother of most diseases, increasingly acknowledged as such by modern medical research. When you do Yoga, you gradually learn to empty your mind of everything, leaving only the here and now, forcing you to concentrate completely on doing whatever you are doing. In other words, Yoga makes you do or be with passionate detachment, free of the agony of desiring this or that out of it. And that’s just for starters…
Q 2. How? How can contorting my body into some asana give me peace of mind?
A 2. It’s quite simple actually. In order to get any Yoga asana right, you have to do two things. One, focus on your breathing because the movement from one position to another is always synchronized with your breath. Two, concentrate on getting each position right. So, by the time you position that arm, at the same time make your hips or waist do something else, at the same time breathe correctly, you realize that 15 minutes have passed and there has been no space inside your head for any other thoughts but getting this asana right.
So, no space for worries, plans, tomorrows, yesterdays, hopes, fears, phobias sometimes even physical pains. Just you, your breath and that asana. With practice, you learn to do this not just with an asana but also with almost anything. The process is not easy because the mind used to wandering on the wings of desire, fights back. But the important lesson that you learn in the early stages of doing Yoga is that the reason why you missed that part of your husband’s conversation or missed that important turning in the road is the same reason why you botched up an asana. You weren’t here, but somewhere else, past or present. That realization is itself the starting point to inner well-being.
Q 3. If you say so… apparently Yehudi Menuhin has said that practicing Yoga made him a better violinist but I cant understand how that can happen.
A 3. It all comes back to one thing. How many times have you looked at a maestro perform – be it MS Subbulakshmi or Sachin Tendulkar and marveled at the effortlessness of their performance. Effortlessness comes with concentration. When you are concentrating your entire being in the present, in doing whatever you are doing, you will do that thing wonderfully well.
Be it playing a violin or making an omelet. Concentration and the focus on the present moment is the basis for all excellence – it is all the basis of the simplest to the most complicated asanas in the Yoga. Actually, in Yoga, the simplest is the most complicated and vice-versa. What makes it one or another is the way you do it. It’s the same with playing the violin, making an omelet….or with life.
Q 4. I don’t want any heavy spiritual stuff out of Yoga, just help for my chronic bad back.
A 4. That’s fine. You can begin Yoga for almost any reason. But just remember that the source of all illness and disease is created by you, with things like stress and fear. Things which break down your immune system making you susceptible to disease and switching on pain – your being’s most important way of telling you that something’s wrong and that your aching back is only a part of it. So as you fix that back, you will also end up fixing a lot of other things inside you that brought on that bad back in the first place. Which may not just be a bad posture but also a negative attitude to something in your life, a fear, an unresolved relationship….
Q 5. If I practice Yoga, does it also mean that I have to become an ascetic – give up smoking and drinking and eating non – vegetarian food.
A 5. There are two important words in that question. ‘ Give up’, they imply addiction, that you are doing things not because you choose to but because you cant help yourself.
When you practice yoga and as your mind stills and becomes at peace, it begins to understand things- like why you need a drink after a hard, rough day at work, why a smoke eases stress or even what a good steak can do to your body. The minute you understand why something is- or isn’t- you then have the power of choice to continue to have it around in your life or not. Oh, but there is one thing, even if you choose to continue to smoke, drink alcohol and or eat non-vegetarian food while practicing Yoga, the impact of Yoga in countering the effects of doing these things will continue.