What is Yoga?

This article first appeared on – https://www.rohitghai.com/21-day-sadhana-challenge-day-15/

This seemingly simple question is quite difficult to answer actually. Answers differ – it depends on who is asking the question, and who is being asked. 

Put this question to a traditionalist…and he would surely mention the ‘union’, the melting of consciousness, and a lot more. As a Neo-teacher of yoga, and the most likely answer would involve a lot of ‘posturing’, with a bit of pop spirituality in between. But ask Google, and that’s when it hits the pits. Beer yoga, wine yoga, rage yoga, lamb(??) yoga…the list of quirks is endless. 

So what is yoga?

Is it Hatha yoga, which by some is interpreted as a symphony of asanas, strung together so as to deliver the tunes of fine health (sometimes, in 20 days, or your money back). Of course, there exist many serious practitioners of Hatha Yoga, but most of them are lost in the cacophony of downward dogs and fire breaths. 

Then there is Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and many many more. 

The last one (yes, Kundalini) has been abused to almost comical proportions, with ‘masters’ claiming to ‘raise your kundalini’ in six days, and articles written on ’15 ways to raise your kundalini today’. Well, its a pity that the sages of yore were blissfully (yes, pun intended) unaware of these superquick and failsafe methods; they must have been pretty stupid to spend years and years trying to achieve what is now ‘guaranteed in 6 days flat’. Ancient inefficiency?

And yes, do throw a liberal dash of chakra mumbo-jumbo into the mix. Phrases such as ‘chakra balancing’ are popular, probably among auto-enthusiasts who must surely see this as a logical and organic extension of wheel-balancing their Mustang Shelbys. 

There are claims of activating, correcting and aligning these mystical chakras, processes that can solve all your problems and take you from the mundane sufferings of this world, to transcendental experiences…all in 432 Hz on You Tube. After all, the Universe does send you back gifts, based on your karma and now enraged kundalinis. Satisfied? Satiated? Enlightened?


I have been asked on how my yoga is different from what’s being offered by existing yoga studios – do I have a new set of āsanās, or a new `vinyāsā flow sequence’, or new breathing techniques? My answer is simple:

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Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga, or अष्टाङ्ग (Ashtanga Yoga), is an 8-fold path followed as a discipline in Yoga. Ashta is eight, and anga means limbs.

The eight limbs of yoga are: yamaniyamaāsanaprānāyāma, pratyāharā, dhāranā, dhyāna, and samādhi.

Yama and niyama are codes of ethical behaviour and restraint. Yama is ethical behaviour, and niyama is the self-discipline that follows our ethical behaviour. For example, to practice ahimsā, or non-violence (yama), one has to practice santoshā, or contentment. The desire to harm usually comes from discontent, doesn’t it? Without going into too much detail at present, let me just say that as good conduct and restraint are the foundations of any moral society, the practice of yamas and niyamas gives a foundation to the journey of yoga.

Āsanā is the third limb of yoga, one that is the ‘most popular’ and has off late become the face of yoga practice. While āsanās are important, over-reliance on postures without understanding (or working towards) the larger goal merely reduces this powerful practice to a sequence of twists and stretches.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness. 

A new mantra in the West, but a concept ingrained in all Eastern traditions, mindfulness is the new yoga. There are books been written on mindfulness, seminars and convocations conducted, and larger corporates are warming up to the fact that mindfulness does make a difference to employee happiness and more importantly(in their eyes), productivity. 

So what is mindfulness?

Here is a small exercise that you can try out. For today, observe yourself while you go about your day – from when you are in the shower, to when you eat, to even when you read this blog. Observe what you are thinking about as you perform these tasks. if you drive, then be conscious of what you are thinking when you drive, when you see a program on TV – observe again…

Most of us live on auto-mode. We wake up, check our phones, freshen up, have breakfast, work, eat, phone, exercise (hopefully), and sleep. But did you notice how you go about it? When in the shower – we end up thinking about some task at work that needs to be completed, when having breakfast, our eyes are on our phone – checking the news, twitter (and these days, the death count) and social media. When we drive to work, our minds are on that important meeting that is going to happen in a few hours. Oddly enough, if that meeting goes on for long, your mind has already reached home and made plans for the evening..and at that movie – its back to the phone checking news and email, and WhatsApp. 

Why are we living in fast forward??

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You have an hour more…everyday

A lot of people seem lost right now. Being confined to their homes is not something that they had factored into their schedules, and so it is quite uncharted territory. From sending in instagram videos of them performing daily chores like sweeping and cleaning, to ‘workout-from-home’ videos, people seem to be struggling to prove that they are filling up their time, and not wasting it. It’s ok to take a step back, and relax for a while. By relax, I don’t mean wasting time. At home, for three weeks, with the power to be in control of your time, your routine, and also the savings in travel time (at least an hour for most people), this does not seem to be as bad as it looks, does it?

Here is something that you can try to do with that one extra hour. 30 minutes of exercise, and 30 minutes of learning.

7-day Sādhanā challenge – Day 1

Photo by Moodywalk on Unsplash

Being at home for an extended period of time usually gets us into vacation mode. This time, it’s different. Circumstances are not pleasant, and the immediate future doesn’t look very bright. Being self-quarantined means less or no access to some of the basics that form our routine – the neighbourhood gym, your favourite coffee hangout, and the biggest of all – your workplace. 

While we may have experimented with working from home before, this time around, it isn’t business as usual. We feel that our lives have been disrupted, we may be struggling to get our short-term routines right. 

Is this a crisis? Yes. Is this an opportunity – yes too. Depends on how you adapt to it.

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Love in the times of Corona

This is not the best of times, for sure. The year hasn’t started very well (understatement), and the past two months have brought mostly bad news. First the virus, now the stock market crash, and uncertainty all around. The after-effects of travel bans across many countries will reverberate for many months, possibly even years. Businesses may struggle, jobs may be lost, and we are staring at a possible recession. In these times, how does one stay positive? 

Here are a few thoughts penned down, in no particular order. Consider them to be musings of a fellow traveler, in the journey called life.

https://www.rohitghai.com/love-in-the-times-of-corona/ 

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What is yoga?

This seemingly simple question is quite difficult to answer actually. Answers differ – it depends in who is asking the question, and who is being asked. 

Yogasana

Put this question to a traditionalist…and he would surely mention the ‘union’, the melting of consciousness, and a lot more. As a Neo-teacher of yoga, and the most likely answer would involve a lot of ‘posturing’, with a bit of pop spirituality in between. But ask Google, and that’s when it hits the pits. Beer yoga, wine yoga, rage yoga, lamb(??) yoga…the list of quirks is endless.

So, what is yoga?

Read all about it at: https://www.rohitghai.com/what-is-yoga/ 

Vakrasana

Vakra means twisted, and hence Vakrasana is called the twisted pose. 

The Vakrasana yoga posture helps to tone the nerves around the spinal cord, strengthen our abdomen and stimulate the internal organs.

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This yoga asana helps reduce belly fat and lose weight –  a major factor in helping diabetics control their blood sugar and lead an active life.

Read more here: https://www.rohitghai.com/vakrasana/

Suryanamaskara

21st June is celebrated as International Yoga Day. Today we look at Suryanamaskara.

The name Surya Namaskar is from the Sanskrit सूर्य Sūrya, “Sun” and नमस्कार Namaskār, “Greeting” or “Salute”.[4] The name identifies the sun as the soul and source of all life.

Surya-Namaskar-sequence 2Surya Namaskar is a sequence of around twelve asanas connected by jumping or stretching movements, varying somewhat between schools. In Iyengar Yoga, the basic sequence is Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Uttanasana, Uttanasana with head up, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Chaturanga Dandasana, and then reversing the sequence to return to Tadasana; other poses can be inserted into the sequence.

suryanamaskara airport

Suryanamaskara sculpture at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi India

The suryanamaskara is a relatively modern rendering of ancient sun salutations, and also a derivative of Surya Kriya, a way of aligning yourself with the sun and a much more refined process which needs enormous attention in terms of the geometry of the body. It involves a certain level of breath and powerful activation of energy.

Read more at: https://www.rohitghai.com/suryanamaskara/