International Yoga Day

On September 27, 2014, the Indian Prime minister, Shri Narendra Modi put forth his suggestion before the UN General Assembly for celebrating the ‘International Yoga Day’. This was endorsed by 177 member states. From then on, 21st June is being celebrated as International Yoga day. The theme for this year is “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family. This is because of the prevailing Covid19 conditions.

Yoga is the most invaluable gift of India to the world. It is a panachea and a solution for many human problems.

In simplest terms, Yoga is the control of one’s own mind. ‘Yogah Chitta Vritthi Nirodhah’ says, the great master Patanjali in Yoga sutra 1.2.

Mind can be our greatest friend if it is under our control. It can be our worst enemy if it is out of our control, says Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Geeta.

Our Minds are extremely habit-bound. They are a slave to habits. You can feed your mind on Good habits and be always joyful and prosperous. Or, you can feed it on bad habits and suffer. Mind not only forms habits; but turns some of them into addictions.

Yoga enables you to master your mind and turn it into your greatest friend. The technique for this is simple. Observe your mind consciously. As you observe it, it starts obeying you and becomes your most faithful servant and friend. But, if you fail to observe your mind, it becomes wayward and drags you along into wrong paths. Whether you want to be its Master or its servant is entirely your choice.

In Viveka Choodamani, Sloka 368, Adi Sankaracharya says, “yogasya prathamam dvaaram vaak-nirodhah’, meaning, your entry into Yoga starts with control over your speech. Your words can please you and others. Or, they can hurt you and others. They are entirely your choice. Control over other sensory outputs also comes later.

Whether you are a beggar or a king, you can be happy only if your mind permits you. If Mind is wayward, you will be highly miserable, even if you are the richest and the most powerful person in the world. History has a whole lot of examples to prove this.

Your outside world can be turbulent. Your inside world  can still be calm and joyful. If you are practicing Yoga.

Start Yoga from this moment – says Patanjali. No time to lose!
So, how do we learn yoga?
Undoubtedly, learning Yoga directly from a good Guru is the best way.
But, suppose, your time, location and circumstances do not permit you to go to a good Guru and learn directly from him.

These are also Corona times. Stressful and risky. Stay home. Stay safe. So, how do you learn and practice Yoga now. Some Great Yoga Gurus of India have put up wonderful videos of their own practices with elaborate description, on YouTube. You can learn the easiest of Asanas and Pranayamas by observing these videos and start practicing them.

Do not practice tough Pranayamas and tough Asanas. Start with the easiest ones which you can. Do them, for a comfortable length of time. Do not over extend beyond your capabilities.

These are basic warnings and they apply to the learning of any skill including Yoga.
Stay within your capabilities initially. You can extend them very gradually.

Are Pranayamas and Asanas the only aspects of Yoga?
No. Actually, there are 8 parts of Yoga. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Yama is the first step and is self purification in Nature. You need to practice (i) non violence – in thought, word and deed (ii) Truthfulness (iii) non-stealing (iv) Brahmacharyam and (v) non-greed.  I won’t explain the details beyond this. But, mind comes into your control when you start practicing these purification steps. Be practical in following these. But, make reasonable efforts.

Niyama, the second part, comprises – cleanliness, contentment, persistence, self study and contemplating on the divine. These are methods of living and prepare the mind for Yoga.

Asana is the Posture or the way of sitting for yoga practice.

Pranayama is the way of regulating your breath. Both these, you can learn from YouTube videos of Great Gurus.

You don’t need to practice elaborate ways of bending the body for Asanas. Sit comfortably with spine erect and easy in Sahajasana, or Padmasana. You can even sit on a chair and practice, if you can’t sit at all sit on the floor.

Likewise, Avoid intricate Pranayamas. Practice Anulom-Vilom, Kapal bhati, Bhramari and Bhastrika. Do them in simple ways. Enough.

Pratyahara involves turning the mind inwards and away from external world. Pratyahara follows after Asana and Pranayama are practiced for some time.

Dharana – is focusing the mind on some worthy goal and follows Pratyahara.

Dhyana – is remaining calm with the mind focused on a specific Goal, for specified time limits set by you.

Samadhi – is the deepest stage of Dhyana. There are different stages in Samadhi.

Do simple Asanas and Pranayamas now. Sit still in Dhyana, focusing on yourself or your goals  for some time. These are enough and great starters for the present

As you practice more and more, your mind starts refining and refining and acquires powers which you never thought that it was capable of.

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga gives you peace. Yoga gives you happiness. Yoga gives you clarity of thought. Yoga gives you clarity of life. Yoga gives you enormous control on yourself. Yoga gives you great physical and emotional health. Yoga gives you wonderful relationships and keeps you away from problematic relationships.

These are the initial advantages of Yoga. Not the final ones. The final ones are infinite. Don’t bother about them now.

As Patanjali says, get into Yoga right now. You will achieve lots of joy and happiness.
I wish you all progress in Yoga.

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