Yoga: A Critical Review
Historically, India has been known as a seat of yoga & spiritual learning since thousands of years. Therefore, U.N. adoption of June 21 as a World Yoga Day is a milestone achievement for India
Today we notice a fresh surge for yoga in the entire world. Over a period of time, efforts put by numerous yoga teachers, yoga schools, organisations engaged in the training & mass publicity of yoga have created immense personal, professional, social and political consciousness about yoga and its benefits for the individuals, vocations & all sections of the society. Latest thrust for the yoga awakening has come from our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His address in UN has created fresh echo about Yoga and UN General assembly has accepted 21st June as the World Yoga Day. Historically, India has been known as a seat of yoga & spiritual learning, since thousands of years. Therefore U.N. adoption of 21st June as a World Yoga Day, is a milestone achievement for India. This fresh awakening about Yoga will pave the way for more aggressive research, information sharing and learning opportunities in this direction.
In this background, it is relevant to refresh our approach towards yoga, so that we do not mishandle this very vital and useful tool and are able to integrate its practice for synergistic and purposeful growth of our personal, professional and social lives, across the world.
Philosophically, yoga means â€œto uniteâ€. Philosophers and spiritual scientists propound that every creation has a life force or consciousness (soul), which is a part of Universal consciousness. Yoga is a process of uniting this soul-consciousness with the universal consciousness, to achieve integration/ salvation (completeness). In ancient times (about 5000 years ago), Maharshi Patanjali of India, reve-aled the Yoga Philosophy and its complete integrated mechanism, popularly known as â€œAshtaang-yogaâ€. He described eight steps for spiritual perfection, under this approach of yoga philosophy and elaborated further components of each step, with their specific contribution in attaining human elevation, through yoga practice, which culminates in the union of â€œsoul consciousnessâ€ with the â€œuniversal consciousnessâ€. It is on account of logical and systemic approach, of Ashtaang-yoga, that it was universally accepted and practiced by other researchers and learners of yoga. In ancient times it resulted into the evolution & growth of spiritually elevated individuals & societies, on this globe. All such civilisations and societies were culturally conscious about the rational use of their potentials and capabilities to ensure peaceful, complimentary and cohesive co-existence of mankind, irrespective of nationalities and religions. It also ensured rational use of natural resources (milking of resources), for the integrated, peaceful and purposeful growth of people, on this globe.
Today, majority people consider yoga as an effective approach for physical fitness and mental peace only, which also affects personal growth. It is on account of this incomplete understanding that in place of eight well defined components, only Asanas, Pranayama and mental concentration/ meditation approaches (jointly or singly) are termed as yoga. Other 3-4 components are neither considered nor practiced for complete benefit and attainment of required virtues. It has resulted into limited and subjective benefit of yoga to the practicing individuals. Human suffering on account of anger, greed, jealous, lack of vision for life-goals & value system, confrontations for selfish motives, neurological & mental problems, has resulted into limited use of yoga. Most of the yoga schools and their followers have considered yoga as a physical fitness tool and at the most, an effective approach for much sought mental peace & inner happiness.
Many sects and religious faiths, have also erroneously labelled Yoga as an integral part of Hindu religion, thereby advising people of other faiths & religions to distant themselves from it. Such an unfounded propaganda and misunderstanding has also limited the spread of Yoga-learning, across cultures and civilizations, through all continents. Incomplete understanding of Yoga has also projected it as a personal approach to life rather than an integrated approach for self realisation, value system development, social harmony, service attitude, cohesiveness, volunteerism, world peace and environment-friendliness for the entire humanity. Yoga approach is beyond one being theist or atheist and beyond religious faiths of people, across the world.
Therefore, when entire world is ready to brace yoga afresh, it is not out of place to review present conventional approach towards yoga, by all the experts, institutions, organizations and governments, interested in the universal and rapid spread of yoga. Today, it will help us in its integration with the road map for positive, peaceful and purposeful human growth.
By Dr. Dipak Shukla
Yoga And Namaz
In America, when a woman complained to the Judge that her husband was losing his temper and had slapped her, the Judge ordered yoga therapy for the husband and asked him to enrol in a yoga class for six months. While the benefits of yoga have been recognized abroad at home, it has stirred a needless controversy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s proposal to introduce yoga in schools and educational institutions on June 21 to mark the International Yoga Day has evoked mixed reactions among Muslims. While hardliners are claiming that yoga is un-Islamic and have threatened to go to court if the Government makes yoga and surya namaskar compulsory in schools, it is said that Muslims in Middle East have been practicing yoga since the mid 1990â€™s. Yoga is quite popular in Iran. There are many Muslims who feel that Yoga is not incompatible with Islam. According to Dr. Sajid Sheikh, the ENT Specialist of Saifee Hospital Mumbai, â€œYoga has definitely health benefits, but it has to be done properly and a learned scholar has to be the guide to teach yogaâ€. When asked if yoga was un-islamic, he said he had no idea. According to Eknath Khadse the Minister for Minority affairs in Maharashtra, â€œthere is not much difference between yoga and namazâ€. â€œNamazâ€ said Khadse, is a form of yoga.
It is said that the five prayer positions during namaz are similar to yoga positions and the positions together activate all the seven chakaras or energy points in the body. The bending and stretching poses in namazÂ Â correspond closely with the poses in yoga. The Takbir and Qiyyam together are very similar to the Mountain pose in Yoga. It improves posture and balance, normalizes blood pressure and benefits heart patients. The placing of hands on the chest during the Qiyyam position is said to activate the nerve pathways.
Ruku, is similar to the forward bend position in Yoga, it stretches the muscles of the lower back, thighs and legs and also tones the muscles of the stomach.
Sujudâ€”(prostration) is related to a personâ€™s spiritual connectivity with the universe. The position improves the health of the brain and nervous system. It is said that the Quran has mentioned the word Sujud no less than 90 times.
Julusâ€”the position of Julus is similar to the thunder bolt pose in yoga and firms the toes, knees and thighs. The position also helps in the detoxification of the liver. The physical positions in namaz and yoga are the prescription for holistic health and fitness and surpass religion and politics.