Yoga & I : Musings, Thoughts…ever evolving, ever expanding

I was 10 when Maa put me and Bhai in a gymkhana near our apartment. I was not a very physically active kid and Maa was determined to change that. Here, I had my first tryst with Yogasanas and Surya Namaskars. It was fun, I could show off some back bends and splits,but was too young to think more of it. Then studies took over and began the struggle for scores, universities, grades and placements.

After a gap of over 15 years , Yoga found its way back into my life, at a time when I was going through a tough year professionally and personally. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. I was away from home, in a town that I didn’t like, with few friends around and a lady boss I never want to have to remember. My confidence was at an all time low. I cribbed, complained and wallowed in self pity all day long. Things around were not the greatest and I was only making them worse.

Maa has always been a great proponent of Yoga. Approaching 60, she is healthier and fitter than many 30 year olds I know. She told me time and again to spend only 30 minutes doing Asanas and Pranayam every morning. But I resisted. It was slow, and boring and so uncool (or so I thought). I preferred my Cardio. But thanks to a combination of long hours at work and my own messed up mental frame,  I failed to get off my butt and go to the gym that entire year.

Then another stroke of (mis)fortune struck. Trying to jump off a ledge en route to office, I fell and sprained my back real bad. (Why jump you ask? I know not, blame that Murphy and the laws he gave) . So gymming and running were out of question. The only way to get any exercise was through Asanas, something I had to do if I had to get up and going. Thus began my second tryst with Yoga. Little did I know, this affair had no exit clause.

In just a few months, my back fell so much in love with Asanas that if I missed practicing for more than 2-3 days, she’d protest in pain. Eventually, I too fell helplessly in love with what I then associated with Yoga – Asanas.  Subsequently, at Maa’s  prodding, I also took to flirting with Pranayaam.

With time I realized, it wasn’t just some physical/muscular improvement, something amazing was happening within me. Not as if I had won some accolades or managed to get back at my boss. But I was generally happier. My reactions were more balanced. I was brooding less. I was sleeping well.  I had a little more control on binging pangs (the stress eating kinds would know what a bane that is, especially if metabolism ain’t your best friend :|). Gradually, things started falling into perspective about what mattered and what not; that every moment spent on self-pity was a moment wasted.I was reclaiming myself and was comfortable with what I saw. Slowly things improved at work too. Not sure, if it was the change in my approach that improved things at work or changes at work place impacted my approach and my mood. I’d say, it was a bit of both. Slowly and surely, I was finding my footing back. And in that, Yoga played not a trivial role.

Today, Yoga is an inseparable part of my life. It has a way of making space for itself in our lives. We don’t have to make time for eating or sleeping.. Same happens with Yoga. Because I slept well, I needed less sleeping time to rejuvenate, and this carved out time for Yoga without my having to do much else, apart from the initial push to start and continue.

Yoga is not a “flat tummy in five days” fix. Nor is it about vairagya and vanvaas. Yoga works on the body, on the mind, on the glands and on the heart. It works on the sthul (gross) and the sukshma (subtle). Taittriya Upanishad speaks about 5 sheaths that make up a human entity – Annamay  kosha (The gross physical body), Praanamay kosha (The respiratory/energy system). Manomay kosha (The nervous/emotional system),Vigyanamay kosha (Subtle Intellect) and Anandamay kosha (the sublime happy soul). Yoga works on all these five sheaths. It loosens up the rigidity of the muscles, streamlines blood and energy flow, balances hormonal secretion and relaxes the nervous system. Improved concentration is only a by product which comes with perfecting postures and breathing, and with more control on previous two comes further improvement in focus. I have observed that whenever I am emotionally or mentally disturbed or distracted, my body fails to achieve the balance needed in doing the asanas. All of us have experienced the impacts of such disconnected-ness in our routine lives. A bad mood, impacts decision making, further impacting actions and performance. Yoga works on the systems and the interfaces of these systems to establish connected-ness, what in modern lingo is called “holistic well being”. Frankly, if you think of it, this is no magic, Yoga enhances intake of oxygen. Not for nothing oxygen is called “The Life Force”.

On the whole, Yoga helps live a more fulfilling life. It calms the nerves and cleanses the head. It clears our perception of things and enhances the decision making process. It is about living in the NOW, about developing equanimity towards both successes and failures, because neither success nor failure happens in solitude, the role we play is a necessary condition, yes, but not sufficient. We are nimitta karan for sure and an important one at that. But just that. For the rest let the prakritic anugrah happen.

There are 2 shlokas in Gita, where Krishna beautifully explains the gist of Yoga:

योगस्थः कुरु कर्माणि संग त्यक्त्वा धनंजय ।
सिद्धयसिद्धयोः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते ॥ (BG 2.48)

बुद्धियुक्तो जहातीह उभे सुकृतदुष्कृते ।
तस्माद्योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम्‌ ॥ (BG 2.50)

Give up false attachment to results and do what you should do. Do not be too exhilarated by victory nor get saddened by failure. Develop a sense of balance – that indeed is Yog.

The wise ones do not get carried away with successes and failures (or results of their efforts). So get ready to perform your duties to the best of your abilities. Yoga is but the skill and excellence in our actions.

Easier said eh? Yes, but not impossible. Have I achieved that state of being? No, not a tad bit :)). Too many distractions, too many attachments, too many expectations and inconsistencies I continue to have. I am nowhere close to perfection in asanas, or in life, let alone dhyan or samadhi.

But I have caught a glimpse of what yogis may have called “sacchidananda”. That experience of ecstasy, of inexplicable Bliss, of undefinable connection with the panch mahabhuta (within the limits of my perception). It is fleeting, it comes unannounced and disappears before I can make sense of it. Sometimes the surge of emotions, of joy, is so strong that I feel I’ll burst wide open and dissolve into the beauty around. And then the surge swells up and flows out as tears of joy, of love, of gratitude – gratitude for this existence, for the present and the past and the future yet to come.

Once upon a time I prided myself in being a girl who’d never cry. Such a meek girlie thing, I’d think. Those who know me would agree, I am not easily intimidated. But today, I cry easily, not out of self pity, but out of joy, out of empathy – not because I want to, but tears come easily and I don’t hold them back. (Yes, now even movies make me cry :p ). I have learnt to live with the flow of emotion. I am learning to just Be.

That indeed is the beauty of Yoga. It is beneficial to all who may make an effort to practice – from worldly mortals like us to those seeking spiritual enlightenment. All one has to give is commitment to practice and bring in a little bit of faith.

But beyond Yoga, life has taught one more important lesson

माँ का अगर मानोगे कहना
रहोगे सुखी, न पड़ेगा दुःख सहना 🙂

ॐ शान्ति |

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