What is the meaning of Union of Body and Mind in Yoga?

Namaste Friends!

The very word Yoga is meaning a connection, a linking process. Very often, we are not in the state of connection. We are actually disconnected. What we feel we don’t do what we say and there is a disconnection between what we say, what we do and what we feel and this creates our energy to dissipate in different directions.

The same with our body senses and mind. E.g. I want to wake up early in  the morning and go for a walk in the nature. But my body is not co-operating. It is very Tamasic. It wants to sleep back and not allowing me to wake up or do what I intended to do. So there is a disconnection between body and mind.

In other cases, for example, people when they are relating with family members or the people in the job or in their society, they feel something, but  they are not able to say htat to the people; they are not able to act in coherence with what they feel. All these causes disturbances in our system. Yoga defines truth as “Yan manasadhyayati tat vacha vadati tat karmana karothi”. A synergy between what you feel and what you say and what you act – there has to be a coherence. People don’t do that and that’s why we are exhausted because its like nourishing three different entities and our Prana is depleted because we are not focusing all the Prana into the same direction. If we could actually act how we feel and speak how we feel there will be an efficiency of Prana. But instead of that what we do is different things, so we divide our energy in different directions and that is why we suffer from lack of energy, lack of vitality, chronic fatigue, burn out, etc., and all these are common modern day problems.

In Yoga we are asked to reeducate our system so that the body, breath and mind can go together and there is efficiency and honesty in our  system.  So when we are doing Asanas we are not doing physical exercise, we are doing it with breathing, with intention so that  the body breath and mind can go together.

When we are doing it with Pranayama, we are combining it with visualization and mantras so that the breath can go together and our voice as well. There are different ways in which Yoga is teaching us to bring together different aspects of our system and once we do that in our Yoga sadhana it will become much more easier and to take that into our life. That is what is meant in Yoga as the union of the body, breath and mind.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Therapy Teacher

Can Yoga be taught in groups?

Today most Yoga classes are taught in groups and there is a very big debate about whether this is appropriate or not because classically Yoga was taught one to one between a teacher and a student. Group classes certainly can be a very good introduction for the people who want to try Yoga. It is certainly much more safer for people who have anxiety for doing Yoga alone. It is certainly social because people can have friendly conversation and share mutual experiences and reassure each other.

Also, most importantly in today’s time most people feel very lonely. Therefore this could be a very good way for people where they feel may teach people each other in a group and can make connection with each other. So group classes provide a very good and important role in modern society.

However, when group classes become competitive and group classes become repetitive, then it really does not take the Yoga practitioner deeper in their own journey. That is when perhaps a good time for individual practitioner start to think about one to one teaching where they can approach the teacher who can teach them and guide them in an individual capacity and explore their Yoga much deeper into their other dimensions as well. But definitely it is a very good way to start Yoga in a group context especially in modern environment.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

What are the Yogic Tools for calming the Mind?

Yoga definitely is about influencing the mind to become more and more calm. Calm mind is able to achieve much more than a distracted or an agitated mind.  You can observe this in your daily life.  When you are actually calm you are able to do much more than when you are disturbed or agitated. This is for many reasons. First of all, a calm mind needs less energy than a distracted energy or an agitated mind. When we use the calm mind, we have much more energy at our disposal, whereas when the mind is agitated or distracted the energy is lost unnecessarily and therefore we cannot do much more.

There is also another reason. When we are having a calm mind, we are able to reflect much more peacefully and therefore come to a much more appropriate solution rather than when we are agitated or distracted. That is why Yoga is emphasizing on calming the mind.

There are many tools that are presented for calming the mind in Yoga practices. A key among them is the technique of Pranayama. Pranayama is considered one of the best tools and the simplest tools to calm the mind. The longer our breathing becomes the more calm the mind also becomes.  Pranayama is considered as one of the best tools because it directly influences the mind and it can be done everywhere. I remember when I used to travel with my teacher, my father, sometimes we would be on the flight, he will just put the blanket around his head and do Pranayama under it because he didn’t want the people to be disturbed or get distracted from what they are doing. That is the flexibility of Pranayama. You can do it anywhere you want including the plane – as a passenger not as a pilot hopefully, as a passenger in a car you can do it in your house or yoga studio, you could do in a park or wherever you want.  This is why it is one of the most efficient and effective tools because it’s very practical.

But there are also other tools like visualization, meditation, mantra practices which are also very effective in calming the mind. What would be ideal is to check with our teachers what would be the best practice to be ideal for each of us to calm the mind in a most efficient and effective manner. This is because each of us are very different, we have different responsibilities in our life, we are in different stages of our life, and therefore what may appeal to us at this moment will be different from what will appeal to another person in the same moment. Its also possible that what will appeal to us at one point in our own life may be different from what will appeal to us at a different point of time.

That is why Yoga is not giving us one method but it is giving us many methods to calm our mind.

Keep calm and carry on.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

Why is Asana popularly known as Yoga all over the world?

Asana is indeed the most popular tool of Yoga in the world today. There are a couple of reasons, which I feel, I can attribute these to.

First of all, when Yoga spread outside India, it spread through certain great teachers like Sri. BKS Iyengar and Sri. Pattabhi Jois on the one hand, and certain disciples of Swami Shivananda on the other hand. Disciple of Swami Shivananda took more religious and a monk like approach. That is why you will see many of them engaged in Bhajans, Mantras and all these kind of practices. But students of Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar took on a very physical approach because Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar concentrated mostly on Asana practice. This is also because when Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar studied Yoga with their Yoga Teacher Acarya T. Krishnamacharya when they were teenage boys in the 1930s and Arcarya T. Krishnamacharya taught them only Asana practices. He was of course teaching the king and the ministers in the Mysore palace the other techniques, but these students being young boys were part of the group that practiced mostly the Asanas practices.

Historically Sri BKS Iyengar moved away from Mysore when he was very young and Acarya T. Krishnamacharya also moved away from Mysore in the late 40s, so these students did not continue to have time with their masters to learn other practices of Yoga in detail. So, when their influence in the west increased, Yoga got established very much in the minds of people as Asana practices.

This is also because you could see that people like Sri BKS Iyengarji would give demonstrations to thousands of people showing amazingly and extraordinarily difficult Asanas which would “wowaha” the people and the audiences which got established very strongly in the minds of people as Yoga.

There is another reason I attribute to the popularity of Asanas. In modern society, the physical body is given intense focus. People want to develop the physical body, they want to look good, they want to look good in their profile pictures, Instagram pictures as well as in videos therefore the physical body gets a lot of attention.  Asanas are very physical in nature in the eyes of many Yoga practitioners, eventhough classically Asana is not just a physical practice. This is another reason why the Asanas have become very popular in the minds of public as Yoga practices. That is also why you will see many people who retire from Gymnastics or dance like Bale and other things. they all get attracted to Yoga because it is very easy for them to do the physical postures.

These two are in my opinion the strongest reasons the why Asanas are the most popular tools of Yoga today. However, I sincerely urge every Yoga practitioner to look beyond Asana practice, which means necessarily to give up Asanas, but to transcend the Asanas and embrace the other wonderful, deep practices of Yoga. There are many wonderful benefits to be achieved. This will be a very good motivation for people to engage in the holistic practices of Yoga.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

Do we need more backbends in Asana Classes today to address the Bad posture many have today?

Do we need more backbends in Asana Classes today to address the Bad posture many have today?

Yes. It is true that in today’s world people have developed a very bad posture because of the sedentary lifestyle, the work that we do in front of a computer or an electronic device, even when we are looking at the telephone we are bending forward and looking at it. So the back does take a lot of stress much more than in the past. This is also combined with the fact that we are not really moving a lot. We are mostly seated in today’s times, either in front of our computer or in front of our clients, we are sitting in a car, we are sitting in a table when eating at home.

There is also another problem which is that the pelvic and the sacrum region we are not getting enough movement. So the stress on the lower back is quite intense. It is very simplistic to say that if we do some back arches, the slouching positions will be corrected. It is not so simple. When we are slouching, it is not only the upper back that is getting tensed along the neck and the shoulder but also the lower back which has to carry the lower of the body so that the weight is transferred through the earth. When our posture is erect the weight of the body goes right along through the spine, through the feet and to the earth and there is not too much stress for the lower back. Whereas, when the posture is bit slouched the lower back take lot of tension and this is another reason why we cannot be simplistic in our approach that only back arches will have.

We also have to do certain asanas to extend our lower back as well. That is why certain times, the forward bending asanas are also helpful, squats are also helpful as well as some twists because sometime we are tend to shift the weight of the body more on one side than the other.

Another important thing that we can also reflect about is breathing. Many people think that the breathing is only concerning the respiratory system and not the muscular system. But if you look at it very carefully breath has a very strong influence on the muscular system of the body. The muscles relax when we are extending the exhale. Sometime in some lying positions when we are extending the exhale the lower back is also getting quite a bit of relief as well.

What is important is to look at every individual and see how their lifestyle has caused stress in their backs and to find a solution that is relevant to them and offer it to them in timely and safe manner. This is the approach of the Yoga Therapy to deal with the back posture very common in modern day society.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher