Today on the day of summer solstice i.e. 21 June 2015, the first International Day of Yoga (IDY) is being celebrated worldwide. A record 175 nations co-sponsored the resolution to mark the day as IDY every year. Every country is celebrating the IDY in ‘union’ devoid of culture and race, which is the true meaning of yoga or yoke (union).
On the eve of first IDY, I had an opportunity to talk to few of the most renowned yoga teachers across Bangalore in an exclusive interview with Polka Cafe.
Meet the yogis:
Dr. S.N.Omkar, the founder of Yoga Mandir is a disciple of world renowned Yogacharya Padhmabushana Dr. B.K.S. Iyengar. Dr. Omkar is an engineer by profession with B.E (Mechanical), M.Sc. (Engineering), PhD in Aerospace Engineering. Currently Dr. S N Omkar is working as Chief Research Scientist at Indian Institute of Science, Dept of Aerospace Engineering. He has appeared in many TV shows and was appointed as yoga coach for Karnataka cricket team. One of his areas of interests being, teaching yoga for cricketers, you’ll find testimonials from none other than ace cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and MS Doni. His association with sports players continues as Sri. Anil Kumble is one of the trustee members of Yoga Mandir.
Gowrisha Hosakere is the founder of is Samyama Academy Of Yoga. He is a part-time coach/mentor/consultant with National Instruments (NI) India R&D and a full-time Yoga teacher. Previously, he was Head for NI India R&D (one of the Top 10 Best Places to Work For Globally). He has a Bachelor's degree in Engineering in Computer Science and a Masters in Business Administration from Texas, USA. His passion for yoga led him to start the journey of Samyama, a yoga teacher’s training academy. What you really shouldn’t miss on the Samyama website is the gallery that showcases the grace of asanas. He also shares his experiences through answering questions on Quora and through his blog.
Bhaswati Seal, the founder of Srimoyi Yoga is a certified Yoga teacher and a practicing Wellness Coach with over 9 years of experience teaching Yoga. Her focus is on therapeutic Yoga for various ailments, Prenatal Yoga for pregnant women and Postnatal Yoga for new mothers. With an MBA in Human Resources and post graduate studies in International HR practices from the US, Bhaswati has been passionately working to incorporate wellness practices into the urban workforce.
Without any further ado, let’s hear from the gurus themselves on why’s and how’s of yoga.
What does IDY mean to these yogis?
“It is a good move. It should help people to get motivated towards the practice of Yoga. Novice should be cautious enough not to be overpowered by over enthusiasm and invite problems while practicing in groups on the occasion of the Yoga day”- says Dr. Omkar.
Yogini Bhaswati says- “It is heartening to see Yoga get this kind of recognition on a world platform – to have a day marked to honour this wonderful tradition that has developed in India! I truly hope the buzz generated by the first “International Yoga Day” will spill over to the rest of the year, and more people will get curious and incorporate Yoga into their daily routine.”
For yogi Gourisha, IDY means- “In several ways, the International Day of Yoga socializes and formalizes the concept of yoga globally and creates a platform for sharing and practicing yoga, even to those that have not been exposed to yoga earlier. To me personally, it is another day, another opportunity to practice, another opportunity to share.”
Here’s what you want to know about the true benefits of yoga from the experts themselves:
Yoga as a preventive and/or curative
Here is an interesting thought from Gowrisha who has managed to overcome health issues like acute asthma and knee pain by practicing yoga- “Yoga can prevent, and yoga can cure as well. However, Yoga is neither preventative nor a curing aid. It is meant for an internal journey, for directing the mind and body inward, for allowing moments of peace and joy to enter you. When you turn in and look at yourself with awareness and intent, you tend to start solving things that are bothering you, things that you haven’t had the time to look at.”
Yoga for children, adolescent and differently abled kids
Dr. Omkar whose flagship activity is to promote yoga for school children says- “How does yoga benefit children? Adolescent stage is very crucial and is very important to channelize the abundant energy in the adolescents. One of the safe and beneficial path for this is Yoga. In this direction, Yoga Mandir Trust has developed a unique program called SURYA (Student Upliftment and Rejuvenation through Yoga). Under this students are taught a holistic sequence of postures called Suryanamaskar. The postures and the associated breathing techniques helps a great deal in uplifting their physical and mental health. Along with each posture moral values as enunciated by sage Patanjali is also taught to the students using a story-based model. Book (available in English, Kannada, Telugu, Braille) has been published containing these aspects. These books are distributed free of cost to the students. So far, we have reached nearly 1,25,000 children through this program.”
Further Dr. Omkar adds–“The special children need to be taught on one-on-one basis. Performing yoga postures in the conventional sense may be difficult, however by using props, postures can be taught to them effectively. Proper postures help them to keep the body in good shape so that many of the musculo-skeletal problems could be prevented. In general regular practice enhances the feel-good factor in them.”
The great debate of therapeutic yoga vs. modern medications
Here’s what Bhaswati, who specializes in therapeutic yoga has to say- “I don’t see it as Yoga vs. anything else. When a person needs to feel better and get healthy they need all the help they can get - be it from Ayurvedic or Allopathic medicines, Yoga, Reflexology, Naturopathy, etc.
However, symptomatic treatments can only go so far - ultimately one needs to bring in healthier lifestyle changes to keep their body and mind healthy. In my years of teaching Yoga I have also found that for many health issues like back pain, PCOD, nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis), etc. practicing Yoga, in conjunction with holistic medical treatment from Ayurveda yields excellent results.”
Flexibility through yoga or masculine with modern training
According to Gowrisha- “Each routine has its own purpose and associated benefits. The purpose of Yoga is to arrest the turnings of thought (Patanjali’s immortal definition ‘ChitthaVritthiNirodha’) and create opportunities to experience peace, amidst all the chaos in the world of our senses. As far as yoga is concerned, the premise is that we carry five bodies with us, of which the physical part of our organism is just one. Yoga goes beyond the physical form, works with our breath body, our mind body and our core intelligence systems, thus providing holistic peace, allowing each person’s physicality to be unique to his organisms’ needs.”
Yoga to restore peace in today’s world of uncertainties where stress and fast-paced life is a norm
Gawrisha is one of those few yogis who practice meditation for hours. He says, “Before talking about meditation, I will start with the concept of contemplation – which can be commonly practiced. Contemplation has tremendous benefits. Like asanas, that direct the body inward, contemplation practices direct the body and mind inward. As you sift through your life and your day with greater awareness, you allow your consciousness to come alive and direct your life more actively, rather than work like a robot creating stress for yourself and people around you. Contemplation allows your personality to undergo subtle conscious shifts aligning your energies to help explore your potential. Contemplation has the power to heal long-term illnesses and compulsive disorders. Meditation is subtler than contemplation and ‘happens’ to a person with practice of asana (poses), pranayama (breath patterns), pratyahara (sense withdrawal) and dharana (concentration, contemplation). Meditation is rarely taught or learnt. With intense practice of the other arms of yoga, meditation starts to happen and you experience moments of peace/joy with no underlying reason.”
But according to Dr. Omkar’s beliefs- “Meditation is a state of mind and should not be limited to half an hour or one hour practice. If we can be totally present in anything that we do, that state of mind is supposed to be in meditation. Stress and anxiety result from the worries of the past and the fears of the future. Meditation helps one to be in the present and naturally leading to be pleasant.”
Yoga for the well-being of mothers to be
Bhaswati feels- “Yoga practiced during pregnancy has a profound effect on the mother. They are happier, calmer, more at ease with their body once they start practicing Yoga. With regular practice pregnancy related discomforts like back pain, hip pain, indigestion, tiredness can reduce significantly and even disappear completely.
As many busy urban women do not get adequate exercise in their daily routine, it becomes imperative to consciously build up one’s strength and stamina for the birth process – this need is specifically addressed in our Prenatal Yoga class.”
Going on the basis of science she says- “Recent scientific studies on Prenatal Yoga show that pregnancy related depression improves when the mother-to-be practices Yoga, and it also creates a bond between the mother and the baby. Since this is such a impressionable time for the baby all manner of positive influences play a hand in shaping the baby’s health and persona – if a young woman is having a healthy pregnancy without medical complications, she would be giving a gift to the baby and herself by practicing Yoga during the 2nd and 3rd trimester of the pregnancy. Happy and healthy pregnancies lead to healthy babies!”
Yoga for sports players
Dr. Omkar, who has been Indian cricket’s yoga coach says- “Sports persons need circulo-respiratory efficiency, strength,balance and stability, agility, flexibility and most importantly emotional balance. Yoga is the only methodology that can safely and effectively cater to the varying needs of the sports persons.”
Yoga as an inspiration to understand yourself better
For Bhaswati, the desire to impart knowledge of yoga was so profound that she gave up her thriving job to start Srimoyi. She says- “I have always loved Yoga. Growing up in Delhi, I was fortunate to have learnt Yoga at my school.I had been practicing Yoga with various teachers in India and in the US and could personally experience how powerful Yoga can be. Somewhere along the way the desire to share Yoga with others arose. Two teachers in particular were instrumental in inspiring me – Shri Hanumantha Rao in Bangalore and Elizabeth Schilling in Seattle. I completed my Yoga Teacher’s Training from SVYASA, Bangalore, and chose to teach Yoga full time.”
Gowrisha upon asking about his decision to give up full time job said- “My life experiences and my need for understanding myself deeper turned me to Yoga. Since early college days, I have had this fairly steady stream of thoughts directing me to go deeper, beyond what I could see/hear/touch. As I entered my 30s, life circumstances left me with hardly any choice. I felt I was piling on more and more meaninglessness into my life hoping that someone somewhere will solve everything for me and that things would get better and more enjoyable. Since I was, in social terms, successful, it helped me maintain and continue to pile on. However, there was this constant need to bring in more meaning. The quintessential ‘Who am I?’ question appeared, pushing me to look inside. I started the journey of yoga (asanas and meditation) at that time, trying to get back to myself, to get back some peace. As I persevered, I started seeing that several of my problems began disappearing and a sense of peace encompassing more and more of my day. Health was a given. I haven’t taken medication for anything for 9 years now. As I continued my practice, I felt the need to share the same. It felt important for me to spend time outside my “personal” life to share my experiences of Yoga with people who might be interested. The result of this yearning was the creation of Samyama Academy of Yoga.”
Should Yoga be included in routine as a preventive aid?
What Bhaswati thinks is yes! Here’s what she has to say- “Most definitely! Yoga cannot only be a preventive aid for ailments, it is also a very powerful curative. Depending on how its practiced, Yoga can provide a vigorous, challenging workout as well as it can be a restorative, calming practice. That’s the true beauty of Yoga – it can be adapted to suit anyone’s ability, needs and stage in life. It is however important to learn Yoga under the guidance of an able teacher as incorrect practices can be ineffective or even lead to injuries. Regular practitioners of Yoga can further deepen their knowledge by continuing to learn from new teachers, even trying out the various styles of Yoga!” All is well that ends well! Yoga has constantly evolved starting from Vedic Yoga to Bikram Yoga.
Here’s what Dr. Omkar says about the future of yoga and IDY- “In this generation we have many branded days. Some of them are fashionable and some of them are non-functional. For example we have Father's Day and Mother's Day on one side and increasing number of old age homes on the other side. We all hope that similar situation is not met by the Yoga day. Lets all pray that the International Day Of Yoga usher a holistic society which is free of corruption and crime.”
You can get tones of information on the benefits of yoga. But getting first hand answers by subject experts makes all the difference. Would you start practising yoga now? Tell us in the comments!
Happy first International Day Of Yoga!