Monday, August 30, 2021

What is Yoga

Slowing down the breath ,

Increasing exhalation:inhation to 2:1 when not exerting yourself,

Letting go of thoughts, being a witness to your thoughts, silencing that voice in the head,

Relaxing, letting go, un-tensing all muscles,

All of this is Yoga, and all of this is a pre-requisite to Yoga.
Keeping the mind in a non agitated state, by giving up negative attitudes like envy, lust and greed, and cultivating positive attitudes like compassion, love, and forgiveness is Yoga. This is not something you can ever be perfect in, it should rather be seen as the direction in which one should take the mind. 

The above is not something you just "do" and forget about, it is something you do to integrate into your life, that is Yoga.

Putting the body in certain  positions, asanas, that increase the flow of Prana, vital energy, in a constant state of relaxation ( except the specific muscles being tensed in the pose) , is  Hatha Yoga, which people refer to as Yoga nowadays.

People divorce  the practice of asana from the mind and the beareth,  and don't bother  about the pre-requisites. In that case, it merely becomes another form of physical exercise , not without benefit, but it will not enable the practitioner to progress further.

Asana is merely the third step in the eight step Ashtanga Yoga outlined by Patanjali. Its side effect is good health and vitality but that is not the goal. 

 Any person of any age can do Yoga. 

The goal of Yoga is much loftier than mere attainment of bodily health, which is an almost guaranteed outcome of regular asana practice.  The goal of Yoga is to attain union of the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness, and asanas are  practised to make the body ready for more advanced practices.

Once the body has  been rendered free of ailments, and has been made flexible and pliant with asana practise, is when one goes to the next step, Pranayama. In case one jumps into advanced  Pranayama practice without laying the foundations, it may result in more harm than good. Basic breathing exercises are fine, but advanced practices are ruled out. Most of us do not even know how to breathe, and we talk of Pranayama, it is necessary for most people nowadays to attend classes to learn how to breathe.

Where the breath goes, energy follows. The practice of Pranayama is actually the practice of "yama, control" of the "prana, energy" , which is the vital energy that flows through our nadis, invisible channels or pathways that carry energy through the body.

That takes care of the Annamaya Kosha and the Pranamaya Kosha, the Gross Body sheath and the next higher sheath of the Energy Body. 

Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, are the first four steps of the eight steps of Patanjali, and it is Bahiranga Yoga, the outwardly focused Yoga 

Then starts Antaranga Yoga, Internally focused Yoga, the process of bringing the mind under control. Meditation is not truly possible unless one puts the gross body and energy body in a state to be ready for it. Meditation is also not possible unless one learns to be truly, truly, relaxed. 

For a person who is truly relaxed, ideas and inspiration strike the mind effortlessly, said Cicero, the ancient Roman philosopher. Relaxation is essential for true well being.

Antaranga Yoga has four steps, starting with Pratyahara, withdrawal of the mind from sense objects. 

Then follows Dharana, concentration , where the mind is steadily focused on one single thought, to the exclusion of all else, just like oil poured from one  jug to another, flows in a continuous stream. It is almost impossible for the mind to be brought under such control even for a few minutes, and the meditation practices are all aimed at focusing the mind on a single thought.

From "single thought" to thoughtlessness or meditation, or silence,  is a process that automatically has to happen, just like sleep automatically happens, you can never "do" sleep. Dhyan is the seventh step of Patanjali's eight steps.

Then comes Samadhi , union with the Supreme, a state which is difficult to reach. A few in every age, the Sages, manage to reach such a state. Patanjali even goes on to describe different types of Samadhi!

The above is the path of Raja Yoga. The Gita mentions other Yogas as well, which can serve equally well for attaining the same state of Union. They are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Depending on individual temperament, it is for us to choose which path to take.

The paths are not mutually exclusive. Working  without worrying about the results as in Karma yoga, having an attitude of Bhakti as in Bhakti Yoga, and sifting the real from the unreal as in Jnana Yoga, are all necessary things to do, to a greater or lesser degree.

As the Masters have stated,  the aim is the Mountaintop,  and many paths lead to the same place. Once you reach the top it does not matter which path you took. 

Reaching the top of the Mountain is Yoga, and  travelling up any of the paths is also Yoga. Union of the body, mind and spirit is Yoga.


Show me what or who you love,
And I know your true nature,
What your life revolves around,
Is what you truly experience!

The beloved casts a shadow,
That lights up all things around,
Everything takes on a glow,
An intensity newfound!

What we experience as life,
Is what we turn the mind towards,
Where the mind is turned defines,
Each by each, our entire life!

Passion colours all we see,
Vividly in passion's hue,
Life is not the same again,
Passion always extracts its due!

A new kind of brain teaser

Adnan, Benjamin and Sameer ( let's call them A,B, and C for short) want to decide which covid vaccine to take. You need to help them to decide.

A has already had covid, and has now tested negative. B has not had covid and has now tested negative. C has not taken a test but has taken the first dose of Covaxin.

They all want to study abroad, in Europe.  A is going to country A which has approved Covishield but not Covaxin, B to Country B which has approved no Indian vaccine, and C to Country C which, according to sources in the Indian Foreign Office, is very likely to approve both, very soon, since they are under threat of all their citizens who are currently in India being sent to Tihar Jail for fourteen days compulsory quarantine, under foreign minister Jaishankar's arm-twisting exercise  India Intimidating Initiative (III for short).

Meanwhile Diksha ( let's call her D) who is A's cousin and  studying medicine at CDEF ( College of Doctors Evengelizing Fear ) and is a member of VV,  Vaccine Vigilantes, has some statistics on vaccines. Covishield is 75 percent effective after 1 dose, 90 percent effective  after 2 doses. Covaxin is 70 and 83 respectively. Taking covishield after taking covaxin , two doses of both, is 97 percent effective, but given shortage of vaccines right now, one may have to wait for six months before that is allowed. Taking annual booster shots of all of them is next on the cards, as per information she has collected from reliable sources. But, Country A has only Pfizer vaccine available, Country B has Pfizer and Moderna, and Country C has only the Chinese vaccine. The students may have to come to India to take their booster shots actually, if they want Covaxin or Covishield.

Meanwhile Pfizer has been given approval for manufacturing  in India, and will take six months to hit the shelves. A is all in favor of Pfizer, B is confused, and C will never touch it since it uses the new unproven mRNA technology which he fears may play havoc with the DNA in his cells.

All three of them have the option of deferring their admissions by one year. 

Meanwhile, the respective colleges where A , B and C are studying have mandated vaccines, whichever available version is fine, or else they cannot go to campus. Not going to campus will result in their project being declared invalid by the foreign universities, so it is essential for them to go to campus to retain their admission.

A is gung ho about the vaccine since all the people in his family have taken it and no one has died, B is sceptical since his uncle who was hale and hearty till then, died of cardiac arrest  exactly three days after taking the vaccine, and C is afraid of injections.

So, you need to decide for A, B, and C, keeping all factors in mind:

1. Should they take admission this year or defer to next year?

2. What should their vaccine strategy be - which vaccine/s , what frequency, and strategy for booster shots

Please send in your answers by evening today.

The Bogeyman

The mere threat of a Bogeyman,
Is 'nough to keep the kids in line,
Makes sure he comes in their nightmares,
And they dream of him noon and night!

Those who have seen him all attest,
He's not so fierce as imagined,
What he can do at his  worst,
Is nowhere close to their  nightmares!

The Bogeyman is merely a ploy,
To control the kids, keep them in line,
That of the  uncertain  unknown,
Of a fearsome drummed up renown!

Won't  let the kids play in the dark,
Fills their minds with grim forebodings,
Won't  let them meet, or go walkabout,
Fills them with fears of threat impending!

Each age and time has its Bogeyman,
From past to now, from child to man,
They make it far easier to rule,
Over those who are running  scared!

The wheels of Time

News item today: Zomato is readying for its IPO, at a valuation that exceeds that of all the listed hotel companies taken together!

Beauty lies solely  in the eye,
Of the stricken beholders,
Lining up, drooling, to buy,
Inflated pieces of paper!

It has already changed hands,
At dubious values in the past,
Getting pumped up each time,
To values, till then, unheard of!

The company excels at burning,
Whatever the investors put,
Seeing the smoke from the chimney,
Makes more of them come hurrying!

Not an asset to its name,
A few youngsters in a garage,
Have soon managed to overtake,
Those who've been around for years!

Each one aims to dominate,
The world as viewed from their prism,
Doing whatever it takes,
To spend their money to success!

What happened to values like thrift,
And patient accumulation?
How long before you deserve it,
Does fortune visit you out of turn?

What happened to values of prudence,
And not throwing money away,
These VC's scatter it in the wind,
Hoping that some of it will land!

What happens to all that I can see,
Brick and mortar  built on sand,
That now shifts beneath their feet,
Will it all come crashing down?

A new world order will rise,
From the rubble of the old,
The rulers of today will die,
And upstarts will storm the hold!

Their turn in turn will come in time,
To go under the wheel of fortune,
Which will crush them as it grinds,
Its way relentlessly on!