10 things yoga did for me in a month

crop1_240x240_4thoct14Two weeks after I enrolled for a yoga course, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for an International Yoga Day – in his address to the UN General Assembly on 27 September.

Nothing connected Modi and me except coincidence of thoughts around yoga. I sensed a return of perfectionism and anger that began to affect my work negatively. I needed yoga to heal. I don’t know what made Modi suggest an international day for yoga.

Yoga is one of the greatest gifts of India to mankind. It is an intensely personal journey that seeks to uplift humans so their energies are fused with the energy of the universe. That is the supreme purpose.

In daily life, most people feel enhanced and energised by practice of postures based on mammals, reptiles, birds, trees and even geometry. There is protocol of breath when a person holds the postures, called yogasanas.

This coordination of breath and posture changes the levels of oxygen in the body. It also improves mental and physical awareness and fitness. This is what most people experience.

I registered for a month-long Foundation Course in Yoga Sciences for Wellness at India’s National Institute of Yoga, named after former Prime Minister Morarji Desai [the MDNIY].

Modi probably figured the world was taking ownership of yoga without accurately sourcing it to India. There are moral, legal and ethical elements to this desire to own yoga. Some of these might have prompted Modi to remind the world where yoga comes from.

Anyway, I decided to complete the course I enrolled in and share what happens. This is what it is like after – and during – four weeks of a yoga starter course conducted by experts.

  1. I have become more grateful, humble and reverent. For lengthy periods I am silent. I sense the nano scale of individual existence. I dwell inward and am able to stay serene and still a long while. This makes me respond more intelligently to life.
  2. My daily schedule has improved. I rise at 4am and sleep by 10pm. This is because yoga is best begun before dawn and timed to end a little after sunrise. My body clock has begun to adjust and I don’t need to be woken. Such a schedule sharpens focus. Time gains value.
  3. My mind has got fitter and stronger. I seem to register everything sharper. Essentially, this mean a person is more cognizant. My mental balance has improved. Recall is easy and decisive. Face expression is peaceful and consistent. My mind processes faster.
  4. I have become calmer. My breathing has slowed. This makes me respond better to people, and they to me. Yoga, I was taught, reduces the respiratory rate. This, apparently, is a sign of good health. Alongside, a sense of harmony makes me know myself better.
  5. I eat lesser. I have virtually stopped eating dinner as I don’t feel the need to. Substantial meals geared to pleasure have stopped. I can make do with a cup of tea and a few biscuits around 7pm. This offers more time for digestion. Also, improved food habits make people glow.
  6. I don’t fume about others as much as I did. This makes me less judgmental, less angry and more tolerant. People around me feel better as they don’t live under the microscope all the time. I am more understanding of human failings.
  7. I focus on myself because there is so much to learn and do. This I did previously as well but it has gotten better now. The to-do lists have disappeared and in their place is a short mental list of top three things I’ll do for the day. Simpler. Doable. Better for self-esteem.
  8. I feel purer after shatkarma with which I begin the day. The MDNIY specializes in shatkarma, a routine of six cleansing [or purifying] techniques of varying complexity. These are amazing and they set up the rest of the day magnificently. I recommend that everyone experience them at least once in life, in the sequence recommended.
  9. I am able to breathe better and this has energised me even more. My nasal area is much cleaner because of the vaman dhauti, sutra neti, jala neti and kapalabhati routine. They are four of the six shatkarma sequence. There is far lesser mucous concentration and I feel doubly alive.
  10. I am developing physical tirelessness. I am able to perform three times the manual labour for the same amount of sweat. This is because of the shukshma vyayama and sthula vyayama routines, which are again a specialty of the MDNIY. There is better biological oneness. Body temperature and degree of comfort is uniform.

These are some of the key improvements from yoga in my life. Yoga is about what happens to you. Not where it came from. That comes in only if you wish a career in yoga and need to master the theory and history of yoga.

Most people merely wish to be better – physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Quality of life depends on these four factors. Yoga works at all these levels.

This is not to say that life will stay miraculous with just a taste of yoga. It needs practice over time. It needs devotion. It needs integrity.

Yoga, as far as I know, is the most effective and inexpensive life-enhancement science known to man. It can be practiced well into old age. And, it is not religious.

In the batch I was part of, there were Muslims, Sikhs and a person born of parents from different religions. Routinely, non-Indians, who are definitely not Hindus, embrace yoga because they see it for what it is. They have no confusion.

A word of caution now. There are many who claim to be yoga teachers. Not everyone in a classroom is a student. Not every student is a teacher. Not every teacher is a guru.

Be careful in choosing whom to learn yoga from. Life is all we have. Give it a good shot.

The MDNIY has mastery over shatkarma and are excellent with shukshma vyayama and sthula vyayama, which set you up perfectly for the yogasanas.

They are good people to learn with. They practice yoga the way it was meant to be. There are eight or ten other experts as well to learn yoga from in India.

Fifty nations have already endorsed Modi’s call for an International Yoga Day. It’s a good time for a life-boost.


More from the author

How India’s National Institute of Yoga needs to smarten up

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The scary BJP work ethic Modi should change

Modi beware: All Indian politicians end in failure

10 things I support Narendra Modi on

The descent of Arvind Kejriwal

What the new Lok Sabha would look like with proportional representation

Sonia’s time is up, not Rahul’s

Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at vijsimha@gmail.com.


Image: Getty Images