One of the questions I always get when I travel around the world to teach is whether Yoga is Dogmatic. I have not seen a discipline in the world as non-dogmatic as Yoga. Yoga talks about practice and detachment as the fundamental pillars of its success. It does not talk about the idea that we must conform to a particular standardized set of practices or rules.
The beauty of Yoga is the concept of Viniyoga that is presented already in the Yoga Sutras and that was subsequently expounded by Acarya-s like Nathamuni, Yogacarya T Krishnamacharya and more recently Acarya TKV Desikachar. What the principle says is that all Yoga principles must be adapted and applied according to every individual practitioner and not be standardized. The concept of standardization does not exist in Yoga but rather Yoga is talking about applying different principles in a unique manner to every individual because Yoga teaches us to honour every individual as a unique being.
Hence my friends, Yoga is definitely non-dogmatic. You don’t have to be a believer of a particular religion to practice Yoga. You don’t have to be in a particular state of flexibility to practice Yoga. You don’t have to be belong to a particular cult or a sect to practice Yoga. Yoga is non-dogmatic and universal. The only condition that it requires is that you are dedicated in your practice through daily sadhana.
Therefore, my friends please embrace Yoga as a non-dogmatic principle and teach Yoga as a non-dogmatic principle.
A very important part of Yogic practices is in improving the metabolism. Both Yoga and Ayurveda looked human system as a metabolic process going through seven different stages. They said most of the illnesses are arising out of the dysfunction of the metabolic process. This is not only common to Yoga and Ayurveda. Many traditional medicinal system like the Chinese medical system or the Korean medical system, they always say that it is because of a weakened metabolism or a disturbance in metabolism that most diseases arise.
What is important to understand is that how Yoga and Ayurveda understand metabolism is very different from how Western science is trying to understand metabolism. Yoga and Ayurveda talk about metabolism going through the seven stages, through the creation of the seven “Dhatus” and each of the seven Dhatu has what is called the metabolic fire that is called “Dhatu Agni” and in Yogic practices as well as in Ayurvedic practices we are trying to bring about a balance to these metabolic fires. That is one of the basis on which yogic practices and Ayurvedic techniques have actually been evolved.
Most of the Yoga practices have something to do with the stimulation of bringing about the balance in the metabolic process and Yes, therefore Yoga can improve and assist us in our metabolic process.
Surya Namaskara is the technical name that is given to a sequence of practice which is popularly known today as the Sun Salutation. Some people also do a variation and call it as the Candra Namaskara. Many Yoga teachers and students ask me the question of where is the origin of these sequences, what are the effects, especially the differences in the effects between the two.
The origin of these two sequences is relatively unknown. There are many texts that do not talk about these sequences, especially the Yoga texts. It is my understanding that these sequences have been borrowed from what is called as the “Sastanga Namaskara”, the normal prostration done in the Indian tradition.
What makes this sequence as the Sun Salutation or the Moon Salutation is not the sequence itself. In traditional times these sequences were not done as a physical practice but rather as a spiritual practice with the inclusion of Mantra that honour the deity. So, when they chanted the Sun Mantras – the Surya Namaskara Mantras the sequence came to be what is called the Surya Namaskara. When they chanted the Moon Mantras the sequence became known as the Candra Namaskara.
The Sun Salutation or the Surya Namaskara is much more common and popular for many reasons. Firstly because of the importantance of the Gayatri Mantra which is a part of the procedure “Sandyavandanam” that is done three times a day where we are doing the sequence with the Sun Mantras and therefore we are invoking the Sun. That is why the Surya Namaskara is much more popular in today’s context. The effects will depend on the Mantras that are used because the Sun has different sets of Mantras, the Moon also has different sets of Mantras. But normally speaking the Sun Mantras are much more stimulating , heating and energizing than the Moon Mantras. So the difference is not in the sequence or position but the difference is in the Mantras that are used during the practice.
This is the difference between Surya Namaskara and Candra Namaskara.
Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation, Chennai, India.