Should Yoga Therapy align itself with the medical field?

Namaste my friends!

Yoga as a Therapeutic system is becoming popular and many Yoga institutions are scrambling to legitimize its practice. One part of this legitimization process is that these Yoga institutions are running to align themselves with the medical community. This is not really necessary because Yoga as a practice of Therapy has been in existence for more than 2000 years and that itself is its testimony to its validity as a Therapeutic school.

It doesn’t mean that the medical community has to be rejected. Yoga can function hand in hand with the medical practice and there can be areas where it can support each other and there can be areas where there can be some differences in the way things are seen and applied. That is the beauty that we have in this world today that we have a choice of more than one practice health paradigm to help us in healing process.

There are certain obstacles for medical science to understand Yoga because medical science is first of all reductionist in its approach, whereas Yoga is a very holistic system. In medicine we divide the body into smaller parts and we try to take this approach of finding the cause in minute details. Whereas in Yoga everything is looked at in a holistic way where everything is a part of a large continuum in a huge container where different things are collaborating with each other sometimes and not collaborating with each other at another times which is what leads to illness. The paradigm of how health is looked at by medicine and Yoga differs in this area.

An another thing where Yoga is different from medicine is that Yoga is non-invasive approach and self -empowering approach. Whereas, medicine is not necessarily always self- empowering because the patients give away their power to the doctors and health practitioners and don’t really empower themselves. Also, Yoga is non-invasive in the sense Yoga is using body’s its own resources whereas medicine is using external intervention to bring about change in the body. It is not that it is wrong. It is just that these are two systems.

Most important difference is that the western medicine is very much measuring tangible. But Yoga takes into consideration intangible concepts like Prana, for example, which is the basis for all the Yoga practices is a very intangible concept that modern science will not understand atleast at the moment.

So, it is very difficult for Yoga to be completely aligned with the medical system, but they can be at arm’s distance and work together in areas of agreement so that the person’s health is improved not just with one system but together hand in hand. I think a collaborative partnership is possible but not necessarily a system itself where they both align as a system itself. We can still help people eventhough we may not necessarily have an alignment in philosophy. That is where we need to keep our hearts open in the healing of ourselves and our patients.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar
Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation

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

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

Can I practice Yoga without giving up my religion?

Yoga is Universal. This is one of the reasons why Yoga is embraced by people around the world, because Yoga does not actually emphasize on the religious belief. Yoga certainly emphasizes on a spiritual attitude where we are concerned with how we relate with each other and how we relate with oneself and most importantly how we relate with the Universe. But Yoga does not ever insist on a religious faith and say that only those who are religious must practice Yoga.

In Patanjali’s Yogasutra, patanjali gracefully says, “Iswarapranidanat vah” He gives us choice. For those who believe in the divine, those who have a chosen faith, that can be used as one of the means or tools of Yoga. For those who do not have a religious faith or religious orientation, it is still okay to practice Yoga. This means Yoga is non-dogmatic, not insisting on a religious belief or religious path. So, whoever wants to practice Yoga can embrace Yoga irrespective of their religious faith or religious orientation. In this way Yoga is very non-discriminatory.

What is important is that we practice Yoga with an open heart with faith in our hearts and an all-embracing attitude so that we don’t bring the tenates of our religion into Yoga practice. We don’t become fundamentalistic Yogis, but rather embrace the message of Patanjali that Yoga is universal and therefore we must become universal in our orientation as well. We must be non-discriminatory towards the genuine system that are guiding humanity in their path in their own methods as long as they are not harming the people.

In a nutshell, Yoga is for everyone as long as they are open to receive the benefits of Yoga. That is the most important thing.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation

Can Yoga help me liberate myself from my subconscious patterns?

Human beings are animals of patterns. We all have habits or patterns that Yoga philosophy refers as samskaras. These are patterns not only which are external but also which are internal. For example, our body not only has a pattern of behavior to body language and communication, but also our perceptions, our thought processes to view the world etc. All these are what is called conscious or subconscious samskaras or patterns. These come not only from cultural and educational learning but also from the impressions that we arry from our past i.e. the collective impressions that we carry from our past. This is called Vasana-s. Vasana-s are basically impressions that we have accumulated from the past in our life as well as from our ancestors through whom we have been born, we have been created and we carry their impressions as well through what is called blood. 

 

All of these shape our reality and the way we interact with our reality, the way we perceive our reality, the way we respond to our reality. So reality is a very subjective concept for our existence. That is why sometimes we are in trouble because the way we perceive something may not be actually consistent with the reality of what is existing. For example, somebody may perceive this room as warm, somebody may perceive this room as cold, but the fact is that the room is at a particular temperature. The reality of the experience is the subjective one and the way we respond to it is subjective as well. Somebody may feel warm and take the sweater off and the person who is feeling cold may like to wear a sweater. 

 

The same happens in our reality and its manifestations in different parts of our life. What we see as danger may not be seen as danger by somebody else, what we see as pleasure may not be seen as pleasure by somebody else. That is why Patanjali reminds us that reality is a subjective experience. 

 

Sometimes based on this subjective experience we get trapped by these patterns and we start to suffer. We  repeat our patterns because it is taking less energy because the patterns are already programmed in us and to follow that pattern is much more easier. Sometimes we repeat these patterns and falling once again in our suffering trap. That is why Patanjali says we have to replace the old patterns with new ones. We have to replace the patterns which are inappropriate with patterns which are appropriate. 

 

Tajya Samskaraha anya samskara pratibandhi: Tasya prashanta vahita samskarath

 

There are many references that Patanjali gives which are telling us that we have to replace the old and more inappropriate patterns with new appropriate patterns. This is the path of Yoga where we are replacing disturbed patterns what is called “Udhdhana Samskara” with patterns of stability called “nirodha samskara”. 

 

Achieving this through Yoga is not a simple and direct way. Yoga offers in a very holistic manner.  For some people, we may have to use body exercises through Asanas, diet changes, through certain gestures like Nyasa-s etc where we are changing the pattern through physical medium because sometimes these patterns are imprinted on the physiological construct.  

 

For some other people, we will have to use certain energetic practices such as Pranayama, Mudra-s & Bandha-s etc. For certain others, we have to practice through meditative practices or mantra practices so that the imprints that are in the mental psychological structure change as well. 

 

So Yoga is essentially the way where we are changing unconscious and inappropriate patterns into conscious and appropriate patterns. That is precisely the role of Yoga in mankind. This is precisely why Yoga was presented many many years ago because if we get taken over by unconscious patterns we become victims of the patterns and we fall in sufferings again and again. To become free from these patterns we use the holistic tools of Yoga. 

Namaste!

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

Do I need special clothes to practice Yoga?

A big market for Yogis today is the Yoga clothing market where many people are told to buy special Yogic clothes like yoga pants, Yoga shorts, Yoga underwear etc., which have become a very essential part of all Yoga conferences and seminars. But actually, when we go back to the history we see that Yogis were practicing Yoga in their normal clothes of that time.

The normal clothes of those times were dhotis which were very traditional Indian cloth and that is what they were wearing. This was like pants for us now. Yogis were not actually going shopping to buy some special pants for Yoga or special clothes for Yoga, but they practiced with what they had.

In the 1950s Acarya T. Krishnamacharya wrote an article on this topic of why Yoga is in fact the most accessible ways for practicing for the main public.  In this he describes that one of the reasons is that it is very economical, no need to buy extra clothing, no need to by extra equipment etc.  In fact references on this can also be found in his first book the “Yogamakaranta” which he wrote in 1934.

If you look at all this Yoga actually does not require not just extra clothing but extra equipment like crops and all those kinds of things. The Yogis were very practical and used what was available. There is no need to buy anything additional to practice Yoga. The only investment that we need to practice is “time”.

Dr.Kausthub DesikacharViniyoga® Teacher

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

Meditation is among the most important tools in Yoga practice. Patanjali dedicates an entire chapter – Chapter 3 for meditative practices. Meditation is the process of staying linked with an object of focus without any distraction which includes not only distractions from the outside but also distractions from the inside.

What does it mean? It means that many times we get distracted based on the memories we have of the object, imaginations we have of the object and even past experiences  we have of the object. When we relate with an object in thatway, when we are staying with that object in that way, we are no more in the present connection.

So meditation is a process of staying present or staying connected to an object of focus without judgements, without pre-conceived ideas, without any memories or imaginations. This can happen only when we make sure that the connection happens from our heart. So meditation is the process of opening our heart. Making a connection to the object of focus and the heart. Staying sustained with that object of focus within the heart so that we internalize the object of focus and eventually we achieve the qualities of these object of focus.

Presenting a more simple definition of meditation is my own teacher Sri TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar defines Yoga as a meditation and as a relationship. What happens in a relationship? When we are really in a Relationship in a deep way it is a heart to heart relationship. That is what is meditation. Meditation is the relationship from our heart to the heart of the object of focus. This is Yoga. This is meditation.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

What is the difference between Yoga and Vedanta?

India has a very rich cultural heritage. Many wonderful philosophies have originated from this land. Six of these philosophies are considered extremely important and together they are called as the “Shat Vaidika Darshanas”, the six Vedic Philosophical schools. The role of all these philosophical schools was very simple.  They wanted to eleminate our sufferings. But the methods they chose to eliminate the sufferings were slightly different. Among these six philosophical schools are Yoga and Vedanta. So in an effort they are of these six philosophical schools.

While Yoga understands that our sufferings come from our mind based on to see the world and therefore he prescribes a path of understanding the mind, training the mind and utilizing the mind to its full potential.  Vedanta takes a slightly different approach where the Vedanta says that the reason we are suffering is because of the disconnection we have from the divine. Yoga is more like a psychological school. It asks us to look into our self to understand and explore the mind and find solutions to problems in the world. Vedanta is asking us to look at the entire world as a part of the world with grand divinity. This is the fundamental difference between the two systems. Yoga system authored by Patanjali is presenting all the different ways in understanding the human system and gives connection to the divine as a choice.

Whereas in the Vedanta school the connection to the divine is not a choice, but a necessity. This is the very fundamental difference between the two schools. Yoga is also saying that the liberation is freedom from suffering. The school of Vedanta says that liberation is freedom from birth and rebirth, the cycle of life.  So there are certain fundamental differences between the two tradition. What is common is that both of them are meant to reduce human sufferings.

What is very unique about the Vedanta tradition is that while the Vedanta tradition rejects the idea of Yoga’s presentation of the divine, it still says that the method to meditate on the divine must be taken from the Yoga school. In a sense, the Vedanta accepts the meditation and other practice aspects of Yoga however the difference is that the Vedanta Schools says that we must choose to meditate only on the divine. Patanjali’s Yoga school says that we can choose to meditate any on the objects in this world which is includes the divine.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

Why Yoga is about a Heart Connection?

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO RECONNECT WITH THE HEART WHEN EVERYONE SAYS YOGA IS ABOUT THE MIND?

Patanjali defines Yoga as “Chitavrutti Nirodha”. It is a beautiful Sutra. Why is Patanjali genius is that he not only was an expert in Sanskrit language but also he was an expert in understanding the Hymns. Patanjali uses the word Chitta to represent yoga in the Sutra “Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”. He is not using any other word for the mind such as “manas”, or “bhudhi” etc.

This is because there are different kinds of minds that we have which get activated in different instances. For example, the ‘manas’ mind is a mind that is connected to the senses. What the senses would like to follow is governed by the manas mind, because our senses do not perceive all that are in front of our eyes, the manas mind is driving the sense to see what it wants to see. That is what is called the manas – the sensory mind.   Then comes what is called “ahankara” the identification mind. Patanjali calls it “asmita”, Sankya calls it “ahankara”. We also identify this mind to identify things. This  is my house, this is my camera, this is my dog, this is my cat, I am a male, I am a Hindu, I am an Indian, I am Christian etc. All these kind of identities are part of what is called the ‘asmita’ mind. That is also lying at some times.

When I was watching a cricket match my mother wants to identify with the Indian team. That is the ‘asmita’ mind predominant at that time. Then comes what is called the “Bhudhi” mind, which is the analytical mind. What is right, what is wrong, what will happen if I do this, what will happen if I don’t do this? This is what we call as analysis. Why somebody spoke to me like that, why should I speak to somebody like that, etc. This is the mind that is having the capacity to  analyse. That is also an important part of the day to day functions. That is the mind that is functioning at the time which is called “Bhudhi”. These three minds are called “Vichitha” the external minds. These three are capable for being in the Yoga state. Deeper than that is what is called the subtle mind – “Antarchitta” the internal mind. That is where the mind called “Chitta” comes. “Chittha” mind is that which is close to the consciousness. “Chtiobhava Chittam ”.   Because the consciousness is in the heart the “Chittha” mind is the mind that is close to the consciousness which must also be in the heart.

That is why my father, TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga®, often used to call it “the heart of the mind”. That is the mind that is capable of making a connection to something and Yoga is a connection itself.  That is why Patanjali uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodha” – that is the mind that can make the connection. That is why it is very important to remember that Yoga is more coming from the heart. When we say ‘heart’ it is not the emotion but the light in the heart.  This is what is the preciseness of Patanjali when he uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodhaha”. That’s where Dharana, Dyanam, Samadhi etc., all start.

Deeper than the Chitta mind is what is called the “Pratya” mind. The “Pratya” mind is the mind that is in state of meditation. Dyanam and Samadhi happens in the “Pratya” mind. Dharanaj happens in the chitta mind.  Most deep is what is called as the “Satva” mind – reflective mind. The mind that is silent. That is the mind that is dominant when we are in a state of kaivalyam (Liberation). When you analyse the Sutras very carefully you will see that Patanjali uses these different words when he is defining these different concepts. For example, “Deshabandhaha Chittasya Dharaha, Yogaha Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”.

These sutras used the word Chitta. Before meditation, “Yantra, pratya eka Dharaka Gnanam. Thadeva ardhamathra nirupam swarupa Shunyamiva samadihi. Dyanam and Samadhi he uses the word pratya. Kaivalyam – Satyapurushayoho nisamye kaivalyam . If you follow the Sutras you will see that Patanjali is a generous where using very precise words such experiences. It is not by randomness. It is because it is very well thought of and only such kind of minds can be in such kind of states. That’s why Yoga is about the heart empowering the mind which is connected to the consciousness which is called chitta and that is in our heart.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

WHO IS SIR TKV DESIKACHAR?

Sir TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga® (a term from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali),is the son and successor of Acarya T. Krishnamacharya.  What Madhurakavi Azhwar was in the Vaishnavism in the discovery of Nammazhwar Sir TKV Desikachar is in the field of yoga for the public know the entire range of Acarya T Krishnamacharya’s teachings.

Before Sir TKV Desikachar came into the field of Yoga Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was a legend already, but not very well known, especially his teaching was not very well known.  The spectrum of teaching was not very well known.  It was TKV Desikachar the second son of T. Krishnamacharya who really brought out the multitude of  Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teachings and built bridges between the traditional Acarya T. Krishnamacharya and the modern world.

If today Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teaching is well known the most important credit goes to Sir TKV Desikachar. But Sir TKV Desikachar was not just a postman or a messenger in the field of Yoga. He was a very great established Yogi in his own right and his contribution to the field of Yoga are made. He was very generous in his contributions and many of us we use them today without even knowing that these came from Sir TKV Desikachar.

One of the greatest gifts he gave to the field of Yoga is stick drawings. Today most of the people use stick drawings to represent asanas and pranayama. This was conceived and created by Sir TKV Desikachar way back in the 60s and 70s using his background in engineering and brought it as a good way and an unique way and in a simple way to communicate the teachings of Yoga  to the people so that they could write down their practices in a small piece of paper which can be taken back home to use it as reference to practice. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the one who brought greater light to the field of Yogasutra in modern Yoga circumstance.

Of course, Yogasutra has remained thousands of years. There is no doubt about it. But the modern world – the Western world did not know much about Yogasutra philosophy.  When Yoga was practiced in the 50s and the 60s few people knew about Yogasutra philosophy. When Yoga was practiced in the 60s and 70s, very few people knew about Yogasutra Philosophy.

It was Sir TKV Desikachar who opened the Doors of Yogasutra philosophy also to the public in a conference in Zynal in the early 70s. Eventually he wrote the commentary on the Yogasutra as well which became a part in the  legendary book of “The Heart of Yoga”. “The Heart of Yoga” is another major contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar which in a very simple way describes the entire teaching of Yoga in a very simple and very crisp manner. Since being published in the 90s this book has become one of the greatest references of yoga irrespective of what tradition people follow. This was one of the greatest contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar, one of the best books he ever brought. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the link between traditional Yoga and modern medical science.

He built bridges between Yoga and modern science especially medicines, inviting doctors, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and many projects heads,  so that people would understand the Yoga Therapy functions. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was one of the most important Yoga Therapist of his time, but very few people could understand what he was doing and how he was doing. It was Sir TKV Desikachar who built these bridges to help the Western world understand about Yoga as a Therapy function. This is another credit to Sir TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar also helped Yoaga system and the Eastern system to many of the spiritual traditions in the world.

For example, he met with Dalai Lama, he met with the Catholic monks, the Carmelite monks, etc., to help bridges and to communicate to them that the yoga is a universal tradition that can be practiced by people irrespective of their original faith.  This was very significant because the evolution of yoga especially in the 80 s and 90s  here were some resistances where people were not open to Yoga because they thought that Yoga was cult or another religion and they have to give up their own faith to practice Yoga. Sir TKV Desikachar removed all these by engaging a wonderful conversation with all these spiritual teachers.

One of the greatest contributions of Sir TKV Desikachar to open the doors of Chanting to everybody. Prior to 80s only very few people were allowed to practice the chanting of Mantras. Women were not allowed. Western people were not allowed. This was due to the very strict rule followed by the traditional Indian Brahmins. But Sir TKV Desikachar understood how important the chanting of mantras in the field of Yoga and he opened the doors of Chanting. It is because of Sir TKV Desikachar today that the Mantra and chanting have become such an integral part of Yoga especially to women and Western audiences. These are some of his important and very profound contributions which are very practically used by people on the day to day basis.

There is also another important contribution Sir TKV Desikachar has done but not yet known to the public but drawing the process of revealing to the public which is his transalation of many of the important works of Acharya T. Krishnamacharya. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya had a very peculiar habit of using Telugu script by Sanskrit language. This promise he has made to his teacher. Very few people would interpret this because they needed to know both Telugu and Sanskrit languages to find easy relatively. The more important of all is that these are all technical manual.  So, it is necessary that somebody should know not only these languages but also its technical aspect.

Thus, Sir TKV Desikachar has translated many of these documents which we are slowly in the process art drawing,interpreting and eventual publication. Sir TKV Desikachar had been a very silent giant in the field of Yoga amazing an extraordinary that the world decided to celebrate the International Yoga Day on Sir TKV Desikachar’s birthday. That is the greatest respect that we can offer him or we have to thank him for his contributions.

Namaste! Sir TKV Desikachar.

By: Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher