It is a personal choice to perform yoga or not

Awkward stance? 37,000 yoga enthusiasts joined PM Modi on the International Yoga Day celebrations at Rajpath, New Delhi. Photo: PIB
Awkward stance? 37,000 yoga enthusiasts joined PM Modi on the International Yoga Day celebrations at Rajpath, New Delhi. Photo: PIB

Traditional knowledge identifies all the states of mind that help to attain stability and comfort as asanas. Though yoga has been called Puranic, Vedic and Indian, none of the three adjectives match its true essence. Yoga doesn’t exist in the Vedas. It descends from the tantric doctrine of Vedic knowledge, and surpasses the asanas, which form just one of the eight branches of systemic Ashtanga yoga, formulated by Patanjali, the author of the famous text Yogasutra. The text includes a few references to asanas and none of the modern exercise systems has found a place in it.

The Buddhists and the Jains practised yoga. There are myriad sculptures featuring Mahavir and Buddha in yogasana postures. The argument that yoga is very much a tantric practice system has been raised by Buddhist tantrics like Lama Yeshe and Hindu tantrics like Swami Satyananda.

The asanas Kundalini (release of latent female energy believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine), chakras (seven life force energy centres), pranayama (breathing exercise) and mantras have been developed by tantric priests. Patanjali’s Ashtanga yoga (or Raja yoga) is strongly based on numeric and tantric foundations. Mind and body are said to have attained unity once Hatha yoga and Raja yoga combine. Shiva Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, texts written around 16th and 17th centuries, also contain references of around 20 asanas.

Lord Shiva is considered the king of yoga. Granthham Samhita, a 17th century text, is the first authentic text on Hatha Yoga. The book contains in its introduction references to the 84 yogasanas formulated by Lord Shiva. Swami Vivekananda introduced Raja yoga and started propagating them abroad. Not only did he reject Hatha Yoga, as it does not help in spiritual development, but he also did not comment on any of its asanas. He disagreed with the concept of physical exercises in yoga.

Eugene Sandow (1867 – 1925), a Prussian bodybuilder, is the proponent of most of the asanas we follow today. His disciple, the raja of Aundh, was the one to start surya namaskara in 20th century India. By the end of 19th century, Indian yogis had publicly started exhibiting asana performances. Thus, the modern asana system is less than one and a half century old. The roots of modern yoga go back to the physical performances done by T Krishnamachari in the royal venue before Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the king of Mysore, to entertain the audience. All these attempts exceed the traditional practice systems of yoga. The authentic text on modern yoga is Light On Yoga (1966), written by BKS Iyengar, a student of Krishnamachari. This book discusses more than 200 asanas now in vogue. So, the present system of the yoga package is more Western than Indian and Hatha yoga is a vivid combination of modern scout drill and gymnastics.

There are people who view yoga as a system of light exercise. All exercises such as cycling, running and swimming are good for our body. The hard asanas like shirshasana are even harmful for the human body. The arguments that yoga provides mental awakening and neutrality are intrinsically hollow. Look at the practitioners of yoga — you can find them to be short tempered, immature, moronic, intolerant and superstitious. If a person is stable, yoga practice sessions will leave him unaffected. Beware of the change seen in others, it is just a superficial pretence. Do not ever associate with them.

According to the Puranas, Viswamitra and Durvasa, who are universally famous for being short tempered, Vasishta, who appears as selfish in many Puranic stories, squabbler Vibhandaka who denies his son of sexual interactions and sage Jamabhagni who asks Parasurama to behead his own wife, should have been great yogis in light of this context. Coming to the modern age, Baba Ramdev, who ran off in a woman’s attire from the venue of his hunger strike in Delhi because he couldn’t control his hunger, Asaram Bapu who was put behind bars for his purging “yoga practice” and the swamis of Sivagiri in Tamil Nadu who broke each others’ head with sticks and bars in the fight to grab the seat of power at the ashram are in the front row among those who are said to have attained eternal peace and mental stability through yoga.

What makes yoga a weapon of religious fascists is its inclination towards the propagation and preservation of a religion. In comparison, the physical flexibility and exertion demanded by the circus stunts from their artists are much more. Whatever be the exercise, the resting phase after its practice is the pleasure. It is often a great joy associated with the exercise. For instance, play football for half an hour and then lie down on the grass, setting your eyes at the wide blue sky — you can feel an unexplainable pleasure. You may even slip into a nap. So is the case with swimming.

Concentrating on a particular issue or an object is the essence of meditation. The subject is quite optional. Human brain engages several topics at the same time in a clear order of priority. The matter which comes in first will constantly occupy the mind. Others that follow are easily ignored or forgotten. Mental stress can be controlled if the matter is sent down in the priority list and that is how the time heals wounds.

For instance, when you are famished and about to eat your meal, and suddenly you see a shadow behind the curtains. You get scared. The chemical equilibrium within your body changes and you frantically begin to look for a weapon to strike at the shadow. You do not feel the hunger pangs at this point. This is because the feeling of hunger rolls down in your priority list and a sense of self-defence takes up its place in the mind. But, once you realise that the shadow was nothing, your body will resume with the hunger pangs which you had temporarily forgotten. Same is the case with those who practise yoga and meditation. The concentration and stability they claim to have attained are mere masks that cover the true face of their state of mind.

Mental stability and maturity should be attained through objective wisdom based on a sense of reality. Doing this will help you to overcome exasperation and pressure. Neither meditation nor yogasanas help in this regard as none of them is able to uproot the real issue from our minds.

The belief that yoga heals diseases is just like the Potta (Christian religious convention centre) superstition that believe prayers can heal ailments. The argument that yoga can heal the ailments like schizophrenia, cancer, cardiac arrests and diabetes are not backed by any proven scientific studies or researches.

It’s true that lighter ailments get healed through physical exercises. But yoga merchants who put patients suffering from severe diseases into danger by denying them proper treatment stand guilty before the law. Its promotion as a religious exercise is the only factor which increases the relevance of yoga in the modern age. The very reason why certain religious groups vehemently reject the truth.

Surya namaskara and Uranus worship are not to be brought under exercises. The belief that moon stays in the head of humans and in the stomach of the sun, that the elixir moon showers over the sun is the reason for old age, and that you can overcome death if you avoid this elixir, is no different from any black magic beliefs. Yoga has created several multimillionaires. But the fact of Yama (never receiving rewards for propagation), the basis of the yoga doctrine, is never to be forgotten. It is a personal choice to perform yoga or not. But the exaggerated propaganda especially regarding the healing powers of yoga and impersonal enforcements should be strongly opposed.

Translated from Malayalam by Anagha Jayan E


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