A rejuvenating exercise for total health. Many claim cure from illness after attending yoga sessions.
Dating back more than 5,000 years, yoga is one of the oldest and most complex of exercise systems. The system, Indian in origin, is accepted in many parts of the world as a mechanism for physical fitness and mental discipline. The system has of late found popularity in the UAE too.
The beauty of yoga is that you can dip as far as you like into the pond and still receive some benefits. The deeper you go, the more profound the changes it brings about in you Yoga has several paths, branches, styles, traditions and schools, knowledge of which is essential to understanding what the system is like.
The four main 'paths' in yoga are: those of physical and mental control, of action, of devotion and of knowledge or wisdom. The first one is considered the most important because it focuses on controlling both the mind and body.
Yoga has no religion, caste or creed. It is a rejuvenating exercise and ultimately, it "benefits health, the total health," says K.B Madhavan, a yoga teacher based in Dubai. Madhavan has been giving lessons in yoga for the past nine years in several parts of the UAE.
This "secret" of total health was kept away from the common public until some 100 years ago by yoga practicing sages in India. Patanjali is the one who is first known to have chronicled yoga. Now it is accessible to all through hundreds of books and periodicals available throughout the world.
Modern lifestyle makes people unhealthy. More money, a more lavish lifestyle and less of activity result in tension, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart problems, ulcer, cancer and a lot of other related illnesses. Food is another cause of concern. Artificial and adulterated food which we get in the market is gradually taking the life out of the people. Yoga takes one back to nature. "It is the science of holistic living through self-awareness to realise the ultimate reality," said Suneja. It is the technique of maintaining sound physical health, controlled and calm mind, pure heart and spirit.
Posture (Aasana in the yoga terminology) is recognised as the primal requisite for the development of the physical, moral and mental aspects of man's personality, say yoga experts. In recent times, medical science also underlines the need for correct posture as an aid to physical as well as mental well-being. The varied influence of postures on individuals were scrutinised in the ancient time by analytical comparisons and might have later formulated a complete course of posture training. Early meditative postures passed through a series of modifications before the whole system of physical education was finally perfected by the early students of scientific yoga. According to practitioners and books, the influence of Asanas on many vital physiologic functions has been tested on thousands of students and patients for a very long period and then perfected.
Exercises and Yoga|
Most of the techniques in exercises involve repeated muscular movements directed more to the skeletal muscles than to the overall organic system. According to Yoga Mass Drill, a book by Swami Kuvalayananda (1936), there is really no significant advantage in these exercises beyond their health value. The benefits of physical exercises have been in contention since those training exercises benefit only some area of the body at the cost of others. There are claims and counter claims of the superiority of one system on the other - aerobics over isometrics, isotonic over callisthenics etc.
Aerobics vs yoga
Aerobics is criticised for not strengthening other parts of the body than heart. The harsh criticism on isometric is that it impaired the flow of blood to the heart and brain. Isotonic exercises done with weights are criticized for not lending to flexibility and not providing oxygen when most needed.
Gymnastics vs yoga
Gymnastic exercises have no responsible part to play in physical education, they argued.
The contribution of light gymnastics to the external and internal growth of the human body, hardened against all possible interactions in health as well as in disease, is limited. The real training requires calculated movements of the body, capable of maximum internal reactions. The light and playful movements of exercises like callisthenics cannot provide this type of training.
Swimming and cycling
Different fitness techniques have their advantages and disadvantages. Swimming reduces heart diseases and increases stamina, but it cannot reduce tension or build strength. Cycling strengthens the muscles and improves blood flow but does not lead to crest load. Jogging, the most favoured exercise of the West reduces overweight, cholesterol and dissolves blood clot but cannot reduce tension and fails to build strength. Likewise, callisthenics helps in flexibility but are too simple.
Not for all age group
Vigorous gymnastics are unsuited for all ages and for those in poor health. They are aided at bodily perfection and a vigorous physique and militant spirit. Athletics, games and acrobatic methods involve considerable amount of strain and even violence. "Their vigorous and war-like display is intrinsically unsuited to positive health. Further, they are likely to lead to abnormalities through specialisation in set muscular movements and higher nervous co-ordination," said Madhavan. Mass drills, by constant usage, tend to create a submissive psyche and breed automatism, both are derogatory to an individual's initiative and harmony "Life would be tedious and mechanised if we were to be moulded by a mass psychology," he quoted All About Asanas.
What happens in yoga
In yoga, the human body becomes elastic, the glands secrete their juices in regular manner, the entire waste matter is excreted by the arteries, breathing activity becomes harmonious, internal organs are toned up, in addition to the physical body the astral body is also influenced, all parts of the body are developed in a balanced manner, Suneja said.
He also said that none of the physical exercises provide any kind of seminal control. Only yoga exercises result in the preservation of semen and upward movement. All kinds of ailments are prevented; remember, prevention is better than cure. Exercises lack concentration and proper judgement in practical life, but yogis can concentrate and focus the mind on problems. Last, but not least, you do not feel exhausted by practising yoga like the fatigue after prolonged physical exercises, D'Zouza said.
Friends of Yoga
Madhavan and his group, The Friends of Yoga, has four centres in the UAE, Dubai, Bur Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, with hundreds of disciples who regularly practice in the open in the sprawling grass turf of the parks in each city. The group thanked the authorities in the UAE for letting these total health enthusiasts to publicly practice yoga Lest, it would not have been possible for hundreds of expatriate workers to enjoy the present state of mental, physical and spiritual ease, they said. Hundreds of people got the benefit of practising yoga since the group was formed nine years back by Guruji K.B Rai, a retired principal from Delhi who visits the group yearly for three months He is expected by the end of April this year.
Usman Abdullah from Karachi, Pakistan, was carried by two of his sons to the park one day when Madhavan and a couple of others were practising on the turf. He was totally paralysed down from the neck and was not able to walk. "In Usman's case, it was a miracle that he could walk in just one-and-a-half month's of yoga training It was all his will power," Madhavan said as Usman Abdullah nodded smilingly and added accolade for his guru's dedication to this exercise system for total health.
The group did not fail a single day in the nine years to come and lead the way for the new practitioners, now number around 85 men, women and children in Deira, 65 in Bur Dubai, 30 in Sharjah and 30 or so in Abu Dhabi. Rajinder Kaur said yoga helped her to control her obesity and thus, save herself from several other problems. Jimmy of Andhra Pradesh had acute acidity problems and after yoga he can eat even chilly, he said.
Monica, a Filipina, had problems with chronic common cold and in 17 months of yoga lessons, she said she is physically fit now "I have no cold or constipation now," she added. Ganesh Kumar, also from Kerala, a partner of Mastermind Technologies, said the group is planning a web site for more interaction and on-line lesions. There are already several existing web-sites on yoga, which is a much-talked about topic in the East and the West.
Our service is absolutely free. All you need is a mat," said Madhavan sitting in Padmasana, a usual yoga posture. Suneja also invited people to join the group which is conducting a desert safari on Friday. "We have added laughing also to improve the effect of yoga," Madhavan said introducing Chunnilal Chaudhari of Bombay, their laughing master. "When you laugh you concentrate on laughter only and the brain releases some enzyme which is good for body," he said guiding the group to stage-show a group laughter with and without making noise.
D'Zouza, who works for the International School of Choucifat, Sharjah, is the master of laughing exercise in Sharjah. He said he is practising yoga since 2 1/2 years and giving lessons to others. The Sharjah group does the exercises everyday at 530am in the Corniche opposite Burger King On Fridays they start at 630am.
Madhavan is the managing director of Astic General Trading LLC who keeps away some time from his busy schedule for his fellowmen to have the taste of good health through yoga and meditation .
Text and images: courtesy Gulf Today