Yoga: What Works, What Doesn’t

From being a traditional practice for physical and spiritual wellbeing to being lauded as a panacea for all ills, yoga today seems to be the recipe for the fitness of body and mind. Everyone is talking about yoga, everyone is doing yoga. This is also the result of good marketing. A practice that was thousands of years old is capturing the imagination of people in India today.

The focus on yoga is certainly welcome, at least for the reason that it has created some kind of health consciousness in people. Sedentary lifestyles, the turbulence of the mind, meaningless running around, obsession with fast food, and an overambitious daily regimen have all made human life miserable. Yoga was very much needed. But there is a need to ensure that the desired benefits accrue to people. More importantly, the objectives of yoga need to be achieved, or else the practice becomes just another fad. It is very important, therefore, to understand what works and what doesn’t. With a growing tribe of quacks getting into almost everything, the seriousness of the practice and its significance is getting lost.

As yoga acquires the characteristics of fast food or of a T-20 match, its essential relevance is being watered down. Lifestyle diseases are taking over a large section of the populace, particularly the young, and pseudo yoga is becoming a fad. With time being a constraint in the 24×7 lifestyle of urban youth, aggressive branding and packaging are blunting the reasoning ability of the large majority, who now look for quick-fix solutions for everything including health and fitness requirements. The situation is tailor-made for those who capitalize on this kind of demand. So neo yoga has emerged in the name and style of chair yoga. And there is beer yoga, too. Like two-minute noodles, chair yoga promises yoga solutions in a jiffy, while beer yoga makes it trendy. There are myriad chair yoga exercises that are claimed to be as effective as traditional yogic practices.

Largely aimed at office goers and other busy sections of the population, these neo yoga practices are anything but yoga. It is very important to understand that chair yoga or beer yoga is the very antithesis of real yoga. Yoga is a serious form of mind-body unifying exercise that has as its primary objective, to achieve purity of mind, reach the purity of soul, and finally attain a higher level of consciousness. Naturally, yogic exercises are much more than stretching, bending, and postural readjustments.

Yoga then is not aerobics. Maybe neo yoga can be away, but to propagate these as a kind of substitute for traditional yoga is something that is both unpalatable and misleading. Yoga has to be understood in all its seriousness if its real benefits are to be achieved. Yoga is a practice that is capable of purifying the mind, body, and spirit. In fact, it can work wonders if practiced sincerely. Yoga needs to be allowed to be the psycho-spiritual discipline that it is. It is a discipline that leads to unity of the conscious with the supra-conscious. Gimmicks should not end up diluting the essence of yoga.

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