Hip! Hip! Hooray for Yoga!

From my various experiences, Hatha Yoga teachers rarely tell their students to repeat mantras.

Over the past 46 years since taking my first series of Hatha Yoga classes, during my senior year of high school in 1969, in the basement of the Episcopal church in Abilene, Texas, I have attended various classes led by at least half a dozen different Yoga instructors. At times, I’ve had the good fortune of having a few Yoga buddies with whom I practiced regularly. I’ve studied several informative and well illustrated “How-To Books’ about Hatha Yoga, and of course, watched and rewatched and rewound numerous YouTube presentations demonstrating a particular asana or a series of asanas, or explaining the breathing pattern that goes with certain movements.

yogaAfter almost five decades of admittedly less than diligent practice, sometimes sporadically and other times quite dedicatedly, I am still a novice. Though a well-informed novice, who deeply respects the impact that Hatha Yoga can have on the physical body, including balance, power, and stamina. A gradual increase in mental acuity also results from the regular practice of Yogic breathing techniques, which clear the mind of random thoughts while learning to focus one-pointedly on your breath and simultaneously be aware of your bodily postures.

There are benefits that arise from Yoga, which may not even be noticed initially as Yoga begins to subtly affect our physical bodies. Our balance, response time, and flexibility gradually improve after just a few weeks of regular Yoga practice. We may start feeling younger and more agile. After serious accidents and head injuries Yoga helps many patients regain their equilibrium.

Yoga is good for the body and the mind. It links them together, and hence, as is often mentioned, the word Yoga is etymologically related to the word Yoke. When the body moves in tandem with the mind’s attention, the results of total mental awareness of the subtleties of the physical form is an experience of internal union that can have exponential effects on the consciousness of the Yogi. Much like learning a language or even painting a room, if you concentrate and pay attention, engage each step at the proper time, and if the going gets difficult, take your time, study and focus… you will be successful, no matter what the hurdles. “Keep on Keeping on…. eventually you will arrive,” -the basic law of Yoga.

Some nay-sayers have unapologetically condemned the spiritual roots of Yoga, looking out at Hinduism through personally or socially erected prison bars or blinders that disguise or hide the positive, psychologically integrated-individualistically empowering nature of Sanatana Dharma that also embraces social-duty oriented perspectives. Freedom of thought is inherent at the very core of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism). Mullahs, Priests, and Popes may be unaware of Hinduism’s inherent link to the scientific method. Perhaps Hinduism’s physiologically and psychologically verifiable methodologies frighten the critics even more. Afraid of the competition!

saganYoga works, no matter what country you happen to be living in. It has to do with nerves and muscles and ligaments, which are universal to all human beings. When discussing Hinduism, we are reminded what Dr. Carl Sagan wrote in his book ‘Cosmos’: “The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of the modern scientific cosmology.”

 

Yoga emerged from the teachings of Sanatana Dharma (aka Hinduism). In addition to a multiplicity of approaches such as Advaitya Vedanta, Mimamsa, and various Monistic philosophical traditions, Hinduism identifies six basic schools of Yogic practices, one of which is Hatha Yoga or physical Yoga.

Hatha Yoga has become very popular across the world. Hatha Yoga is the repetitive practice of various highly effective, physiological and anatomically specified sets of asanas or bodily positions that have a beneficial impact on particular areas of the human anatomy. Hatha Yoga is a series of deliberate, mindful exercises coordinated with the breath. Evolving from ancient Yogic texts, numerous schools of Yoga have emerged through the centuries. Different traditions of Hatha Yoga offer volumes that carefully explain the form and sequence of movements of a particular asana, including such details as facial expression, position that the toes are pointing, also when to breathe in and when and how to exhale for each particular asana. The combinations of possible moves are vast and you can pick and choose depending on what part of your body aches or needs attention.

In the USA, Yoga studios can be found in most neighborhoods. There are even daily television shows devoted to explaining Yogic practices; similar Yoga shows are also aired on Indian TV. In the US, Gym teachers are teaching Yoga to students as part of the Physical Education program in the schools. Some forward thinking companies actually give Yoga breaks during the workday, when employees are shown how to stretch and breathe and exercise. Then get back to work more invigorated. The huge Civil Services branch of the Indian Government is working on a similar measure that would give all employees the opportunity to take Hatha Yoga weekly.

Yoga studiosIn America, Yoga teachers usually end their classes, after an hour of instruction, with their hands in prayer position, while they smile and say, “Namaste… See you next week.” I’ve often asked the teachers if they know what the Sanskrit word “Namaste” means. Most mentioned the basic idea of honoring all that is sacred, “I honor you,” “I honor all creation.” Assumed inferences included “Peace be with you,” or “Go in peace.” Most Yoga teachers thought it meant something like honoring the sacred which is very close to its meaning in Sanskrit.

 

June 21, 2015 is the first International Yoga Day, as declared by a near unanimous vote in the United Nations. However there has been some unnecessary controversy regarding this first annual International Yoga Day. Unfortunately, in India organizations such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind have spoken up against Muslims practicing Yoga because it is supposedly unIslamic and could lead to apostasy.

Some conservative members the Abrahamic faiths tell their followers not to practice Yoga; to beware or they will be tainted by, or attracted to a polytheistic pagan cult, such as Hinduism. These misguided critics claim that doing an exercise such as “Surya Namaskar” / “Salute to the Sun” is worshipping the sun, which is against both Christianity and Islam, whose followers are only allowed to worship the one true form of God.

However, in every Yoga class I have ever taken, worshipping the sun was never mentioned. ‘Salute to the Sun’ is simply described as a good overall workout with which to start your day. The teachers rarely bother to face their classes in an easterly direction. Many Yoga studios have ceiling to floor mirrors so instead of some hypothetical Sun God, the students usually are checking their athletic form or looking at their thighs to see if all the Yoga classes were making a difference in their physique!

But many Christians believe that “Yoga originated with a blatantly anti-Christian philosophy … [that] teaches one to focus on oneself instead of on the one true God. It encourages its participants to seek the answers to life’s difficult questions within their own consciousness instead of in the Word of God.”  See: http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-yoga.html#ixzz3dQUK3CvF

omShortsighted, orthodox critics have complained that if their followers repeatedly say the Sanskrit word “AUM”, their faith in Jesus Christ or Allah will be negatively impacted. To nullify that fear, Muslims yoga students could exhale, releasing a soft breath while forming the word Aaalaaahhh… or Allaah-hooo. Or a Christian could breathe the word Aahhmenn…. (Amen) or maybe Yaaawehhh. The idea is to release a sound that can be made while holding your mouth in an open position letting the air blow through the partly opened mouth forming a vowel sound, like AAA (Ah) or OOO (Oh) UUU … followed by a humming sound to clear yourself out.

From my various experiences, Hatha Yoga teachers rarely tell their students to repeat mantras. One young teacher sometimes started her classes with the students standing tall, with feet firmly planted, then slowly begin gently swinging the arms from side to side with the hands hanging limp, as the breath escapes with a sound that releases all tension. Some people said “Aum”, others “Hum-Ahhh”. Some just sighed “Aahhhhh” while breathing out, as they swung their arms. Why not Aalaahaa? If that simple trick of enunciation can offer the benefits of Hatha Yoga to the broader Muslim world, it is not outside Yogic traditions to make personal modifications in asanans or practices to suit the individual physical or mental needs of the practitioner.

 On June 21st SALUTE THE SUN!

June 21, 2015, the first annual International Day of Yoga: Salute the Sun from every country; be grateful the sun rose again another day. On the longest day of the year, salute the sun from all nations. From everywhere in all directions, the Sun is always somewhere above us. The whole world can spend a moment of breathing deeply, remembering grace with gratitude… thanking the Sun for rising, or thanking God for helping the Sunrise.

Shared internationally: A few moments full of breath and life, awareness and gratitude.

——

So many good Yoga websites! See this International Day of Yoga website: http://idayofyoga.org

The following amusing yet familiar sounding article by a Pakistani speaks from the other side of that society’s divide, with the voice of the real people. I feel like I know this lady. Her article could have been written by a friend in Islamabad or Lahore.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/yoga-in-pakistan-suryanamaskar-in-schools-modi-yoga-day-dar-uloom-deoband/story/1/4346.html

Yoga integral part of Aligarh Muslim University culture: Vice-Chancellor

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/yoga-integral-part-of-aligarh-muslim-university-culture-vice-chancellor/

‘How Can Anyone Have a Problem With Yoga’ Say Muslim Practitioners at Ramdev’s Patanjali Institute

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/how-can-anyone-have-a-problem-with-yoga-say-muslim-practitioners-at-ramdevs-patanjali-institute-770583?ndtv_related

This article quotes the objections of Islamic leaders, then in usual India media style blames the situation on the BJP: (I’ve often said that the mainstream media in India is to the BJP what FOX news in the USA is to the Democrats… everything bad is their fault, quoted out of context and misrepresented in the media.)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-33153506

Dr. Yvette Claire Rosser, was given the name RamRani by her Guru Neem Karoli Baba. She is an American writer and scholar, who self-identifies as Hindu. Dr. Rosser has investigated the ubiquitous Indo-phobic bias that is found in secondary level social studies textbooks used in American classrooms. She had taught Westerners, especially teachers, the basics of Hinduism. See her research at: YvetteRosser.com

Her Ph.D. dissertation, “Curriculum as Destiny: Forging National Identities in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” is a study of the politics of history in South Asia. The book, “Islamization of Pakistani Social Studies Textbooks”, (RUPA, New Delhi, 2003) grew out of her dissertation study. (See this review: http://ic-edu.blogspot.com/2009/03/book-review-islamisation-of-pakistani.html) Rosser is currently working on her next book titled, “The Politicisation of India’s Historiography”

  • International Yogaday
  • Kishore Chandra Das

    Wonderful! Grateful to Dr Yvette Rosser (Ram Rani Ji), for this informative piece on Yoga & Hinduism(Sanatana Dharma). Many Indians and, worse still, many Hindus do not know or understand such things. Hope the International Yoga Day will lead many to know, understand and appreciate Yoga and the philosophy behind it(Yoga Darsana)!

  • Jishnu

    Celebrate yoga all the way. Celebrate it as one of the greatest contributions of yindoos to mankind. Celebrate the worldview it espouses, the unparalleled insights into nature and nature of knowledge it gives. Celebrate its pervasiveness in traditions of the east. But:

    The Hindu craving to render Hindu knowledge ready-to-digest for predators preying on Hindus is amazing. Let Hindus practice yoga and see it for what it is. There is absolutely no need to do apAtra-dAna. Yoga-balam disproportionately and unduly empowers faith practitioners (read abrahamic anti-semitic ones). If yoga’s goal is samAdhi that allows one gain the discriminatory knowledge between matter and consciousness (enlightenment), it is definitely in opposition to the faith practitioners (read abrahamic cults that are enlightenment-proof). So their objection should not matter and should be fine. Question is why is their objection a matter of concern for non-minority institutions when minorities have autonomous institutions which are meant to protect the enlightenment-proof dogmas?

  • Dr. MS

    Thanks for the article Shrimathi. Ram Rani. Yes…Yip, Yip Hooray for Yoga!

    I have heard amazing stories, and witnessed some pretty amazing people, who have benefitted from the healing outcomes, curative effects, preventative impact and/or strengthening and evolutionary consequences of Yoga. Those who have practiced it well, with the right values and with the right meditation and energy rituals suited to their genetics, biology, physiology, psychology, sociology and neurology, have achieved the impossible, the amazing and the extraordinary…and their abilities, skills, goodness and capabilities are wonderful for the community as well.

    And yes…thanks to Hinduism for this amazing paradigm, philosophy and practice.

    Best wishes…and happy Yoga Day to you too.

    We are receiving commends and compliments from leaders all around the world. Australian PM has commended PM Modi for the Yoga Day, and it was celebrated wonderfully in Australia. We look forward to knowing how it was celebrated around the world.

    Happy Yoga Day to all the writers, readers and commentators too.

  • Brabantian

    Maybe it’s not honest to argue yoga is no threat to the harsh & cruel ‘Desert Bloc’ of Abrahamic religions … even when not explicitly ‘spiritual’, hatha yoga practices do tend to create wisdom & spiritual advancement … leading people away from the MidEast-origin faiths that do not – and in fact cannot – offer dharmic pathways of liberation.

    The real truth is that when yoga is a threat to your religion, your religion cannot be true. Yoga is by its nature a turning away from the ugly world of the Bible, Talmud & Qur’an ‘holy books’ with their slavery & conquest ideology; their ‘God-ordered’ genocides & killings of women & children; their terrorisation of people with ‘eternal hell’; their ‘one way is the only way’ fanaticism; & their permanent mutilation of baby boys (circumcision), which Yank Americans practice along with Muslims & Jews – likely feeding the aggression so visible in those 3 cultures. Yoga inspires people to leave all that ugliness in the rubbish bin … and so Muslim, Christian & Jewish leaders are rightfully afraid.

    • Krispy K

      Agreed. In a way, the desert cults impose a kind of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome on their victims. Even in the knowledge that those cults are a mental prison, the thoroughly enslaved are reluctant to leave. It’s all they know.

  • Shubhangi Raykar

    Thank you Yvette for writing this article. I think that om cannot be replaced with any other sound, nor can it be separated from its dharmik connotations. But by uttering Om you do not become a Hindu. So why are people scared of it? Is it the closeted minds vs the open minds?

    • Jishnu

      “But by uttering Om you do not become a Hindu”

      But by uttering Om you do cease to be a “true muslim” as that is an expression of faith in a sound that is not of their only god:)

  • Saturnsson

    Ok lets get into whether to chant AUM or not in the the book “Being Different” Rajiv Malhotra mentions about an experiment on Transcendental meditation along with Bhagwat Gita slokas being chanted in Sanskrit and and later on in modern languages published by psychology department.,Mahrishi University of Management,Fairfield,Iowa which claimed reading Bhagwat Gita in Sanskrit had different physiological impact on an individual performing TM for 15 mins as compared to someone reading the Bhagwat Gita in German Spanish or French.The experiment included measuring EEG,Heart rate,breath rate etc skin conductance level significantly decreased n also Alpha power and Coherence were higher while doing TM and recitation of SanskrIt Bhagwat Gita on the other hand the skin conductance level increased and Alpha Power and Coherence did not increase that much while doing TM and recitation of Bhagwat Gita in modern languages.Now what does this prove that unless we do a proper research on AUM we cant outrightly replace it with something else.
    Yes Newtons Gravitational Law is not just for Christians
    where:F=G m1 m2 /r2
    F is the force between the masses;
    G is the gravitational constant (6.673×10−11 N · (m/kg)2);
    m1 is the first mass;
    m2 is the second mass;
    r is the distance between the centers of the masses.

    But if we replace Gravitational Constant value with some other value will it give the same result so how can we afford to remove AUM without enough research of what is the implication of AUM on our Body and mind.Similarly other things like living a Sattvik life etc should also be tested scientifically.Outrightly dismissing or replacing or saying that all are “SAME” will not help.Its like comparing Apples and Oranges.

    • guest

      You are right Om is a vibration and it cannot replaced by a different sound. for the same reason in all languages it is considered bad to swear. all swear words have vibrations that are lower. but of course on hindu mindset has kept that knowledge alive…

    • Krispy K

      Don’t forget, whenever a Christian discovers something it is Christianity that led him to that discovery, whereas if a Hindu discovers something it is “secular” and nothing to do with Hinduism. At least this is the leftist narrative. So according to such people gravity is itself Christian.

      • Saturnsson

        Sorry for replying so late I read C.K.Raju’s books Euclid and Jesus and Is Science Western in Origin?.It exposes how westerners have appropriated,Digested and taken a U-Turn when it comes to giving credit to any of the non White non Christian Civilizations.They dont mind giving credit to the Hellenic Greeks but no credit to the Egyptians,Indians,Chinese,Persians and even Arabs. How can the Dark skinned children of Ham/Kam be given by the superior white race?Thus even philosophers like Kant and Hume and other Westerners justify their domination and appropriation of Non White non christian cultures Knowledge.And these idiot Communists or Brown SAHIB elitest idiots till date try and ape everything their Western Masters would do or say like for them its the Gospel of Truth.

        • Sree Charan R

          Calculus (which was indeed originally discovered in India) is truly at the tip of iceberg.
          Just go to Wikipedia(may be quoting Wikipedia makes it “non-controversial”) and verify:
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jye%E1%B9%A3%E1%B9%ADhadeva
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_logic
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Boole
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Babbage
          QUOTE Indian logic attracted the attention of many Western scholars, and has had an influence on pioneering 19th-century logicians such as Charles Babbage, Augustus De Morgan, and particularly George Boole, as confirmed by his wife Mary Everest Boole in an “open letter to Dr Bose” titled “Indian Thought and Western Science in the Nineteenth Century” written in 1901.
          De Morgan himself wrote in 1860 of the significance of Indian logic.UNQUOTE
          QUOTE Jonar Ganeri, author of Indian Logic, believes Babbage may have been influenced by Indian thought; one possible route would be through Henry Thomas Colebrooke.UNQUOTE

          • Saturnsson

            Thanks shree
            I am fed up of the anti hindu/dharmic rhetoric be it in media or even the credit for any form of knowledge that should be given to us or any of the native cultures somehow never is given.I mean the Hegemony just doesn’t seem to end.And these so called Political parties and the idiotic Ministers are completely clueless about all these things even 30 volumes of History of Science and Tech by Needam made a huge impact the way China’s perceived this would help us so much be it in Make in India or any other.Suddenly the likes of Wife Killer Tharoor too gives lip service to ancient indian knowledge for obvious reasons but the left leaning “Intellectuals” like Irfan Habib still searching for Saraswati river and NDTV and its likes justifying Attrocity Literature Lecture in IIT’s as freedom of speech.The reason y bringing bk our knowledge n taking its credit is relevant is because soon we and when I mean we i m talking about all indians (including Muslims & Christians) too might have to pay for patents on Turmeric.The saddest part is noone i mean no1 from BJP explained in details as to why Yoga should be brought bk I mean we Indians are gonna pay for our Intellectual Property to people who are basically good at stealing.Be it the TRIPS or regarding Carbon Emission or Wests reluctance to share technology some how we don’t have the Intellectual Kshatriyas leading Team Bharat in these matters.If you look at Indian Foreign Service we just have I think total 600 or 900 or so individuals now this is residual effect of Non Alliance Movement.By the way I was reading Radha Rajan’s book Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and His Freedom Struggle (Chapter 6).You can get a free copy on v i g i l o n l i n e under ebooks

            Here’s an extract which says a lot of what pathetic gullible self centred people have been ruling us for past
            “It remains inexplicable to this day why Gandhi and Nehru, who
            supposedly struggled against a colonial regime for freedom,
            placed such extraordinary faith in post-Second World War
            institutions created by failing colonial powers. While India was not
            free at the time of World War I, it is inexplicable that she joined
            both the British Commonwealth and the United Nations. It is
            pertinent that in 1947, probably only The Philippines (1946) and
            India were free among the colonies, so India willfully became
            party to a post-colonial order being set up by European powers
            who realized that their hegemony was sooner or later coming to
            an end. Yet the early decades of the UN saw intense struggles of
            each colony to be free, and European colonial powers probably
            relinquished the last of their possessions only in the mid-1970s!
            Certainly the UN played a poor role in facilitating a free world!
            And South Africa, despite the fraud of sanctions, did not relinquish
            Apartheid until the 1990s, and mysteriously destroyed its nuclear
            arsenal before submitting to a form of Black African rule. In this
            context, the generous Western invitation to the newly freed India
            to join the Security Council deserves deeper scrutiny.”

            This does say onething about how relevant a Dharmic Coalition as in nations Uniting under the umbrella of Dharma is so important these Western setups will always have their Hegemony and eventually just one goal “Kingdom of GOD”
            ·

  • kalpak

    There is lot of ancient knowledge that needs to be saved from the religions.
    Unfortunately, though we had lots of brilliant minds, we did not have a Galileo to stand up to the priests and so sciences like astronomy was swallowed by astrology.
    But luckily yoga due to its direct impact on human well being survived.
    So, did Ayurved, but it has now become fossilized.

    • Shubhangi Raykar

      The kind of controversy that Galileo faced did not exist in the Sanatan dharm. Astronomy was not swallowed by astrology. they were independent of each other. The sages were not modern day priests. Knowledge and philosophy were not politicized. Galileo could not stand up to the hegemony of the priests. He confessed.

      • kalpak

        I wonder why we still do not accept the reasons we lost our scientific temperament.
        Oh, yes, we find it more convenient to blame the invaders rather than retrospect.
        It is this very stubborness that make people come out with statements that hanuman chalisi mentions the exact distance to the sun.
        In my opinion, the nadir was reached when a phenomenal Indian mathematician, one of the most brilliant of modern times, preferred to credit a godess for the mathematical theorems that came his mind and neglected rigorous proofs.
        Saying Galileo failed is like saying Shivaji failed.

        • Shubhangi Raykar

          I did not say Galileo failed. I said he confessed because he , being a human being was afraid of torture. He said to himself in a mumbling sound, the earth still rotates round the Sun.

          • kalpak

            The phrase then you are looking for is “ganimi kaavaa”.
            Not known to many he also nurtured scientific talent like torricelli among other things.

          • Shubhangi Raykar

            Galileo was a scientist by temperament. He was born in times when to the earth is round was anti biblical and therefore heretic. The punishment for such a crime was inquisition and it is in one such trial that he told a lie to save himself.What he uttered in a mumble was not heard by many.

        • Krispy K

          Perhaps your view that we have “lost” our scientific temperament, as well as the “reasons” for this apparent loss, are rooted in your imagination and personal prejudices/arrogance rather than reality.

    • Krispy K

      One simply cannot naively superimpose the science-religion schism characteristic of Western history onto the Indian situation. This is perhaps the single biggest and most common fallacy (amongst many other damaging attempts at forcing square pegs into round holes) of people’s thinking and it needs to be rectified.

      • kalpak

        It is the ” science-religion schism characteristic of Western history” that saved science in Europe. Too many opponents made it impossible for the pope to steamroll the scientists.
        In opponents I include the politicians/ royalty who protected the scientists, the “common” persons who furtively continued to study banned topics of science.

        • Krispy K

          And your point is? It seems you have failed to understand MY point.