New Delhi: “Yoga is a skill in action”-The Bhagavad Gita. “Yoga is a mirror to look at ourselves from within”-B K S Iyengar. “Yoga means union. Yoga unites our hearts, mind, body, and spirit. It unites us and the people around us”- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Yoga is India’s gift to the world. It is an Indian tradition, embraced by the world, that has gained unprecedented popularity across the globe. Over the years, yoga practices have changed significantly with mass globalization; from focusing solely on getting that perfect body, today yoga is more about releasing stress, mental wellbeing, breathing correctly and increasing immunity.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had proposed at the United Nations, in 2014, the idea of celebrating June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. Today this day is celebrated worldwide.
We begin with Hatha Yoga, which is the oldest classical form of Yoga that originated in India; also said to be the Mother of all Yoga Practices. It is the origin of many yoga styles like vinyasa, ashtanga, iyengar, power yoga.
Yatendra Sharma, Yog Guru shared with us the history of hatha yoga. He said,
Lord Shiva imparted the knowledge to the goddess Parvati. When this was happening, there was a fish in a nearby pond who was also listening to them. It passed from there to Matsyendranath & Gorakshanath, who were both gurus. And from there, the knowledge was passed down from one generation to the next. Hatha Yoga is referred to as the umbrella of all yoga because it has 84 lakh yoga asanas. The transformation of these asanas led to the development of other forms like Ashtanga yoga. If we talk about physical strength and developing the body, Ashtanga yoga took some of the asanas from Hatha yoga and then developed them for that purpose.
Hatha yog teaches eight limbs of yoga that form a moral or ethical code to help us live happier, more meaningful lives. The sage Patanjali classified yoga as Ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga means eight limbs. Mr. Yatendra explains,
The first of these is Yama, or abstinences, which has 5 further elements – Satya, Ahimsa, Asteya, Aparigraha, and Brahmacharya. Then comes Niyama, habits or observances. That too has 5 basic elements. Then comes the practice of Asana, after which we do Pranayama followed by Pratyahara or withdrawal, Dharana or concentration, Dhyana or meditation, and Samadhi or absorption. Then comes Pranayama that is the control of the life energy within the body, it means expanding and spreading that energy through the body. Pratyahara means introversion, where you withdraw yourself from the outer world and turn your senses inward. Then comes Dharana, which means concentration. Dhyana means meditation. Then Samadhi is the state, where you attain knowledge, the realization of the divine
Mr. Yatendra added,
People do yoga for all sorts of reasons today – to stay fit, to get the perfect body, for mental wellbeing, to deal with stress, to breathe correctly, improve immunity. Yoga is therapeutic in many ways. It is also highly beneficial in overcoming injuries & chronic health conditions – almost like medicine. Yatendra started teaching yoga once he realized that it had helped. I have faced health issues related to my liver. So, I went to a doctor, but I didn’t find a satisfactory solution. That’s when I turned towards yoga. I witnessed a transformation within my body. Following that, I left behind everything that I had been doing and immersed myself in the practice of yoga
Ruhi Rajput is a nutritionist whose expertise is in ayurveda, gut reset and hormone balance. She has been doing yoga for over a decade, and believes that yoga and ayurveda are both part of the Indian traditional medicine system that helps in holistic healing. Ruhi Rajput, Nutritionist & founder, Naturecure said,
Yoga has helped my body pains, neck, stiffness, and most importantly keeps me calm all day. I also feel a combination of both the practices-Yoga and Ayurveda go hand in hand and it’s a complete holistic approach
Moving to the next form is Ashtanga vinyasa; it is one of the oldest forms of Yoga, also most popular forms of Hatha Yoga, and is suitable for beginners, experienced practitioners, and people looking for a dynamic practice that feels like a workout. This style of Yoga is practiced in a set sequence which begins as a moving meditation based on breath work and drishti. Sharan Khanna, Multi-disciplinary Yoga teacher, Ashtanga & Hatha Yoga Specialist, Founder of Sharankhannayoga explains us,
Asthanga in sanskit means limbs which is the path to achieve state of yoga. I want to emphasize all practices- set sequencing, alignment, holding postures; all have stemmed from shri Krishnaacharya- he pioneered in 1930s, he pioneered the set sequence then started vinyasa practice .. movement by count by the gaze- asthangaga practice was a dynamic form to build physical strength. Mind gets stability and the practice is therapeutic. The term of vinyasa is movement that is coordinated and ashthanga vinyasa is an intergral part of ashthaga. In fact my own practice is based on ashtanga vinyasa. It’s a threupeutic practice that’s why I teach and its has a great impact on my students
Sharan Khanna was part of the corporate world. And it was the corporate lifestyle that drove her to yoga. Ms. Sharan added,
My journey in yoga started 8 years back. I have done my MBA and was in the corporate sector for a couple of years. Yoga happened as my tool to cope with corporate life, it gave me a tool to deal with physical and mental stress and yoga empowered me to do well in my career as well. Teaching yoga just happened but I guess that was my purpose in life
Yoga is described as the practice that connects mind, body and soul. It has enormous benefits for one’s health, not least the effect on the physical body. And that is why this ancient practice is often described as a modern miracle for those suffering from all manner of physical conditions & chronic illnesses. Sharan Khanna adds,
Yoga is beneficial, therapeutic but specific about vinyasa when movement is by breath.. its need of the hour to cope with our lifestyle –its calming- control your breath, gaze it calms your nervous system- heartrate, blood pressure. Secondly, it promotes wellbeing, reduces depression, builds self esteem. Burns excess fat- it empowers you, it promotes mindfulness so it impacts how you eat food so instinctive about your food habits and lastly its therapeutic- it works on multiple layers so I believe in the power of yoga
Karishma Jhalani, Filmmaker & Art Director, Janavi India discovered Sharan about 1.5 years ago and since then there has been no looking back. Karishma added,
I joined asthanga yoga classes and as soon as I got into my first class I realized it is not a regular yoga class it is about a practice, it’s learning about yourself. Again it is not just stretching and flexibility but a lot is about breath work and I feel like a sense of nurturing myself, giving my brain a hug and that how you carry it for the rest of the day. Yoga helps connect one with oneself. It connects the body and soul. Yoga has really been a joy for me and I don’t think yoga is one off just to lose weight or become flexible, it is more of peace of mind and one with your body but you have to keep practicing as it has to become a part of your life
Iyengar yoga was founded by BKS Iyengar in the 1960s, and is a very precise style of yoga, with the emphasis on precision and alignment; a form of yoga for everyone- of any age or skill level. Props like wooden blocks, belts, chairs, ropes and blankets help yoga practitioners in making every pose accessible to everyone. Amina Sarkar Bharat Ram, Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Iyengar Yogamandala shared with us,
Iyengar yoga is started as a therapy as yoga guru felt its for everyone- he developed props that are available at home so that everyone can do it at home- he focused on alignment so if you are incorrect then you don’t get the benefit. Also sequencing is important and it definitely is an addiction. Yoga helps not just to stay Physically fit but mental well-being, to stay happy and many different doors you can connect to. The mind is made of chemicals in the brain and your mood depends on them hence what we do is we approach the mind from the body. Also each sequencing of pose will give you different permutations so we approach the mind and you have to stay in the pose for long so props come in
For Amina Sarkar Bharatram, yoga has been the process of completely devoting herself to her practice, which in turn has helped her in her journey of healing. Amina added that,
I had a slip disc in early 2000s and I was in bedridden which is when I was suggested a surgery. But then I started iyengar yoga, which is so scientific and my journey began. It’s a way of life like you brush your teeth, though it’s a slow dose, it takes time to heal. I never left it and then started teaching this form of yoga
Research has shown the benefits of yoga on mental health. More and more therapists are using yoga almost as a prescription for mental health problems. Priya had a similar experience. Priya Gupta, shared with NDTV on the aspect of how Iyengar Yoga has played an important role in her mental wellbeing. Priya gupta,
I lost my son in 2013, I was shattered, depressed, couldn’t handle life but after attending a workshop with Amina my life changed completely. I realized how much better I felt after doing pranayama and postures. I would cry, feel anxious as I lost a child but now I know how to take care of my life. Besides healing Priya emotionally, Iyengar yoga has helped her in dealing with many physical issues as well. I suffer from a tailbone injury and doctors said surgery is the only option but yoga has kept me going, I am fine, sorted but ofcourse there are many challenges but I know how to deal challenges with posture and breath
Aditi Nandy, Aerial Yoga Coach & Founder Levifly explains how the hammock helps do many asanas with ease,
Next is a fun twist to the practice of yoga. Call it anti-gravity, air yoga or flying yoga, whatever you like, officially this is called aerial yoga. It started in New York and is now popular all over the world. Christopher Harrison came to India in 1990s and he was doing Iyengar yoga when he realized that combining traditional yoga with acrobats will be a good fusion and that is how something mind-blowing was developed. Aerial yoga has been in the west for long but in the last 4-5 years it has picked up here in India shares
Aerial Yoga is an interesting style of yoga that combines traditional yoga asanas, acrobats, pilates, and dance moves. Aditi Nandy, Aerial Yoga Coach & Founder Levifly explains how the hammock helps do many asanas with ease,
For many people, yoga postures that are difficult on the ground can be performed more easily and with less strain on the body in mid-air but ofcourse there is technique that needs to be followed. The purpose of the hammock is to help you improve flexibility and build strength, while allowing you to do more challenging poses without added pressure on your shoulder, spine, or head. For example, Sheesh asana is an asana which everyone wants to do and has multiple benefits but it’s a lot of pressure on the neck, shoulder so with the hammock you can do in the first class as well and benefits are the same because inversion helps for so many things
Shiba Mehra is an ACE Certified Master Trainer, a Senior Citizen Fitness Specialist & a running coach. Even though she has been involved with fitness in one form or the other for nearly 30 years, it is aerial yoga that is helping Shiba cope with her own issues. Shiba Mehra, Health & Wellness Instructor told us,
I am going through menopause and everyone knows what happens to the body but this form of yoga has really helped my with flexibility as the hammock helps push ourselves. In 3 months I can see the huge benefits
Ms. Aditi added,
A recently developed form of yoga, Aerial Yoga uses a combination of traditional yoga poses, pilates, and dance with the use of a hammock. The resultant combination looks both exotic and tough at the same time, almost as though one needs to be an acrobat to do it. It is not necessary that only an acrobat can do this but ofcourse there are techniques for beginners and anyone can do this irrespective of age or weight but you need to be consistent. Yoga is there in our roots and specifically if I tell you about aerial yoga it does not compress your spine or shoulder helps in mobility, flexibility as you can push more on the fabric, it develops core strength as you are in the air also develop upper body strength
Yoga is not a one style fits all practice. Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sivananda are some of the more typical styles of yoga. Just as aerial yoga has evolved as a combination of practices, so has Yin Yoga. It is a relatively more slow paced style that incorporates the principles of Chinese medicine, with asanas held for longer periods of time than in other styles. It improves & enhances the flow of energy in the organs.
Jitendra Thapliyal, Lead Yoga teacher & Manager, Utsav Yoga told us,
yoga is from India but went outside and got modified in some countries. Yin yoga is a passive style yoga yet active from china which is about the Chinese energy of chi. In this style of yoga you hold the postures and stretches that deeply lengthen muscles and fascia helping to improve joint mobility and overall flexibility
Power yoga is another dynamic practice, sure to make you sweat.
Prenatal yoga is also very popular these days…it builds strength and endurance, which starts to prepare the body to meet the demands of pregnancy and delivery. Divya Bedi, Pre & Post Natal Yoga Teacher told us,
Pre natal yoga has gained popularity- helps physically, mentally and emotionally and with modified asana practice considering the expectant mothers needs – it is important to rest as well as be active and prenatal helps like certain asanas brings calm, inner peace improve pelvic floor, mobility, flexibility
Yoga can help one to truly connect with oneself. It enables an expansion of our physical and mental abilities and helps us become the best version of ourselves. In India, we are guided by the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam…so here’s hoping that everyone can have access to our age-old wisdom of yoga to lead a happy and healthy life. Find what works best for you …let’s Yoga !
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