If there’s one thing that caught people’s imagination during the pandemic, it was yoga. The fact that it could be practiced within the home and required no special equipment, was a big plus. It was also backed by ancient Indian scriptures as an immunity building tool and culturally we trusted it. So when the world went into lockdown, online yoga classes mushroomed, thanks to technology.
How completely we understand yoga though is a moot point, since most people tend to equate it with asanas and view it primarily as a physical activity to be blocked in their calendars, rather than an all encompassing process that brings about radical inner transformation.
A typical conversation between a mechanical asana practitioner and a mindful practitioner of yoga could go something like this….
Yoga vs. Yoga.
I am in my Fifties, I said.
But you look much younger! They exclaimed.
Do you colour your hair ?
Well, Yes! But I also do yoga, I ventured.
Ah! So do we, they tossed back.
They think it is just the hair colour. Tell us more about that. They urge.
I stop colouring my hair. Now I am in my sixties. Mostly gray.
But you don’t look that old! They again exclaimed.
I do yoga. I repeated.
For how long do you practice ? They ask now.
One hour on the mat, twenty three hours off it.
Goofy sense of humour, they laugh.
Just thank your genes.
And we move on.
They, to their world of bhoga (yoga asana practice simply for the physical benefits and enjoyment, rather than as a path to enlightenment)
I, to my world of yoga.
A classic case of how poorly explained yoga often is.
Essentially an experiential science, yoga is best understood when practiced in its eight limbed entirety - Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
The first four limbs are its external aspect or the Bahiranga yoga as it is referred to. Here our choices and actions are governed by a set of observances and restraints that are universal in nature. It keeps us on an enlightened, life affirming path, powered by asanas and pranayams that provide us with the required physical strength and mental fortitude. The fifth limb is the point of transition from the external to the internal, where non-essential external fluff or distractions are blocked out. We are now better equipped to attend to our tasks with concentration, clarity and deep insight. This is what the internal aspect or Antaranga yoga mentioned in the last three limbs, is all about.
What the outside world finally gets to see at the end of it is a centred, focused, individual with clear vision and rare brilliance - essentially the difference between a stressed out CXO and an inspiring leader.
The choice is ours, on who we want to be.