By a seeker, for the seekers. A friend, philosopher and guide to all who embark on this inner journey called yoga. We engage with yoga enthusiasts through yoga classes, blogs, videos, workshops and more.. This is where I share my adventures on the 8-fold path of classical yoga with the connected world. Join us in your journey within.
A woman, endowed with the ability to see through human needs, is known to be sensitive and caring. She nurtures the world, facilitates growth and wellbeing, multitasks and is generally a rockstar. But sometimes, obligations make her neglect her own self, because there is always a possibility that she may be putting others before herself in priority. But how long can one go without recharging one’s own battery, without catering to one’s own source of fuel…not far, certainly. That’s where yoga comes in. It is a woman’s best friend in times when she needs to attend to herself.
So, when this assignment came, to conduct a few yoga classes for an NGO – Rangoonwala Foundation (India) Trust – I knew it would be special for two reasons – (1) It was an all women show and (2) The women belonged to the not so privileged strata of the city of Mumbai.
About Rangoonwala Foundation: Rangoonwala Foundation (India) Trust [RF(I)T ] ; is a Mumbai based, non-political, not-for-profit development organization committed to sustainable people-centered inclusive development. Rangoonwala Foundation (India) Trust was registered as a Public Charitable Trust in Mumbai in February 2003. RF(I)T has been inspired by the late Mr. M.A. Rangoonwala – Philanthropist, Educationist, Believer in Equal Opportunities for All. He founded the Rangoonwala Foundation, headquartered in the United Kingdom. The Rangoonwala family continues his legacy through development programmes in different countries, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Asif Rangoonwala.
When I went there to conduct the sessions (2 hours on each of the five days allotted to me), I was ready for some learning experiences. So here’s recounting them:
It works, for everyone, indeed
It is easy to classify yoga as something only a few people can appreciate or practice. But it is utterly incorrect a statement. No matter who it is, yoga works for everyone. It has something to offer to each aspect of our existence – the physiological, the emotional and the spiritual. And one doesn’t have to be a weirdo or a renunciate to feel the serenity and peace that yogic techniques bring.
Weight loss is on the universal bucket list
Obesity is a big worry all across. It affects the quality of life, because one is not able to do things they were earlier able to do with ease – like climbing stars, running or simply talking brisk walks. It increases medical expenses, because one is more prone to chronic health issues because of obesity. The greatest expectation from yoga for everyone in the group was “weight loss”. So I focused on the importance of holistic yoga practice, not just a few hours on the mat.
English wins over Hindi for specific instructions!
I went all prepared, saying “dayan-bayan” instead of right-left, and the women were all confused! For the first hour or so, they bore with my flawless Hindi vocabulary, and then very bluntly asked me, “Dayan matlab”? I laughed at my silliness! In my mind, I had suddenly switched on a translator when I entered, but the audience definitely was more at ease with what came naturally – simple English words for day to day use.
Shavasana is the best time off ever
Tired of whole day’s affairs, handling temperamental neighbours, rising living costs and fighting a hundred sensory attractions from clothes to food to serials, the women may have ‘wanted’ to lose weight, but what they really ‘longed for’ was some time off. The moment we drifted into Shavasana, they would go into a world of carefree sleep, some often snoring comfortably, knowing well that no doorbell or child’s call will disturb their relaxation session here.
That’s all from us for now, but in passing, here are some pictures :
Dr. Jayadeva, fondly called as Dr. Sahab, is the only great soul I have seen, with my bare eyes, breathing and living amongst us. By the time my association with The Yoga Institute began, in 2015, Dr. Sahab had already retired from active involvement in day to day administration and teaching. Being one of the newbies at the now 100 year old ‘The Yoga Institute’, however, I did get to hear various anecdotes about Dr. Jayadeva. Even today, every single anecdote, no matter how oft-repeated, seems ever new, brimming with profound wisdom and wit. Even though many of us never interacted with the great soul in person, we always felt his presence like the warmth of the soft winter sun, always comforting and calling us out from our shells.
Today, he chose to leave his body.
But what he really left for us is something to be immensely thankful for….
For showing us how to live yoga.
For exemplifying perfect balance of spiritual living in a material world.
For giving us invaluable gems in the form of spare but wise words.
For mentoring and guiding so many wonderful teachers who we are now so lucky to study under.
Thank you, Dr. Jayadeva, for lighting our path on the yoga mile…
As with every profession, the desk job too comes with pros and cons. Years of sitting hunched over keyboards takes a toll on our neck and issues like cervical spondylosis, cervical spondylitis gradually develop over time due to lack of self care and self awareness. In traditional history of cervical issues, age related wear and tear was considered as the major cause, but today we are seeing the incidence of the problem among people as young as 23 years. No wonder, our necks are under undue pressure and most of us tend to pay attention to it after it is too late.
UNDERSTANDING THE ORIGIN OF CERVICAL CURVE
Our vertebral column is a flexible structure and the cervical curve is one of the post-birth developments, i.e. it is not present at the time of the birth. It gradually develops as we learn to raise our heads in sitting, standing and crouching positions. That ‘raising’ of the head is what cervical makes possible, and thus, this crucial curvature helps us hold our head high and also keeps us level-headed – taking the weight of the head in various positions, preventing the weight from directly impacting the lower portions of the vertebral curvature.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN A NORMAL CERVICAL CURVE
Prevents pressure on mid and lower back: The normal cervical curvature protects the rest of the vertebrae from added weight of the head. Thus, changes to the same lead to abnormal pressure on the lower spinal muscles and skeletal structures, thereby increasing the probability of developing spinal arthritis and spinal disc related disorders.
Allows cosy room for cranial nerves and vessels: The natural position of the arteries and nerves passing through and/or around the cervical vertebrae gets compromised, thereby increasing the probability of reduced or insufficient flow of signals and vital nutrients to the brain.
Is connected to Vishuddhi Chakra and confidence levels: We all have read enough about body language and the importance of holding the chest broad, the shoulders back and down and the head high. But we hardly go deeper into how aligning the body’s geometry in a perfect manner is connected to psychology. That is where ‘pranamayakosha’ or the energy aspect of our existence comes in. The energy flow in our body has certain fixed pathways and bending the spine in an abnormal manner creates blockages in that flow. The cervical curvature is connected to the Vishuddhi Chakra which helps among other things, in building expressive confidence levels, unleashing creative energy and communicating impactfully. Habitually holding the head down affects all these aspects of our personality!
HOW CERVICAL PROBLEMS DEVELOP
Every skeleto-muscular problem arises from continued neglect and carelessness. These problems do not crop up ‘one fine day’. They have a long gestation period during which we keep entertaining the problem, despite suffering from it. And a time comes, when the problem gets bigger than all that we have been busy with. Yes, work related stress and hyper-competitive world, where a sense of ever going rat race keeps forcing us on, despite our depleting batteries, is one of the key socio-economic triggers. Every time stress overpowers us, our shoulders subconsciously get raised and rounded forward in order to deal with an invisible but in-our-minds-very-real pressure! This creates contraction in the muscles and adds to the postural damage which is caused by long hours of using the desk-top technology.
CLASSICAL YOGA WAYS TO PREVENT AND MANAGE CERVICAL PROBLEMS
Yoga offers safe and cost-effective ways of preventing and managing cervical pain and cervical spondylosis. It works using a combination of physical rituals which strengthen the muscles, re-develop the normal curvature; relaxation rituals which improve the ability to deal with stress triggers and lifestyle habits which work towards bringing homeostasis at all levels – physiological, mental and emotional.
1. Greeva Sanchalan: It is a must-do for all modern human beings, because gadgets are not going away, let’s accept it. Nor can we escape from the need to use them. So one of the yogic solutions to prevent and manage cervical issues is the regular and ritualistic practice of Greeva Sanchalan. “Greeva” in Sanskrit indicates “neck” and “Sanchalan” relates to “movement”. Thus, simply put, Greeva Sanchalan is a movement of the neck in different ways: upward and downward bends, sideward bends, sideward turns and full rotations. For those with severe cervical issues, forward bending is contraindicated and semi circular rotations (minus the downward curve) are suggested.
2. Skandha Sanchalan: Skandha Sanchalan is yet another physical yogic ritual that is a must-include for those prone to or suffering from cervical problems – which sort of includes all of us! “Skandha” in Sanskrit relates to “shoulder-joint”. Thus Skandha Sanchalan is a movement of the shoulder joints. The most common type of movement practiced and suggested here is the holding of the shoulder joins with respect hands and circularly moving the hands thus alternatively bringing the elbows or the shoulder blades together in the process. Yet another movement practiced is one with hands normally hanging on either sides and shoulders being moved circularly (raise-being forward-press down-take backward) in each direction.
3. Stress relieving techniques: Yogendra Pranayama IV or gentle abdominal breathing is a great tool to relieve physical, physiological and emotional stress. So is Shavasana or the corpse-pose which helps us let go of our whole being to mother Earth’s welcoming force of gravity and rejuvenates us like we just woke up fresh from a good few hours of sleep! Nishpanda-bhaav is yet another technique which destresses beautifully, by creating in us, a feeling of stillness despite external environmental disturbances and stimuli. All of these train the mind to be at peace, no matter what.
4. Backward bending postures: A lot of yogasanas help build incremental strength in the cervical region Yogendra Chakrasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana are some examples of such postures. Here, while flexibility may already exist, the added focus is strength building, so that the normal curvatures are reinstated and retained by way of the muscles becoming strong again.
5. Sun-bathing: Letting the sun warm us up during the morning or late noon hours is a great way to replenish depleting Vitamin D, which is not just great for skeleto-muscular strength but also great as a happiness vitamin! We tend to underestimate the importance of sun in energizing not just the greens on the Earth but also the immunity of the various other living creatures.
6. Timely sleeping and waking cycles: Sleeping early, latest by 10 pm in today’s lifestyle and waking up early (before 6:00 am) helps in keeping muscular stiffness away and allows body the rest and drift into sleep more peacefully. Sleeping early is linked to better resting ability of the body and better repair-work of the physiological aspects of the body.
Yoga people are morning people! We enjoy being up with the sun, so that we can be alive and awake to absorb all that morning has to offer – the chirping of the birds, the gentle warmth of the rising sun, the calm of the city and the company of other early risers!
I have always felt that two early risers have a lot in common, and somewhere deep, they share a bond. When we rise early, it is as if, we share that bond with so many other creatures on the planet as well! Not to mention, the fresh oxygen that the greenery around us blesses us with, at that hour of the day, and how our lungs eager to use it all, work to their optimum capacity . Yes, the body clock gets revived and the natural rhythm of the body gets reinforced.
So, when Ashish, our batchmate from the 2 year TTC course, The Yoga Institute, planned an early morning yoga outing. for 31st December 2017, with other yoga friends from the batch, and I happened to be available with no prior commitments, I immediately jumped at it! And it was definitely a pleasurable experience. Here’s a snapshot of what he had planned:
Gathering at the Juhu beach at 7 am
Walk towards the Isckon beach area by 7:20 am
Complete yoga practices with conditioning, sahaj vyayam, asanas, pranayamas, and meditative practices
Watching the waves ascend and descend
Singing soulful songs together
Play time with games like 1-2-3 hahaha, Doubling Kho-kho, names memory game
Breakfast buffet at Isckon temple’s Govinda’s restaurant
There’s so much to write about each of these, but I will stick to what touched me the most. I especially want to mention the wave watching activity because that was something I consciously did for the first time ever! As we sat facing the horizon, with our backs to the rising sun, it almost felt like the waves were saying something very important by simply coming and going. Everything in life comes and goes, the breath, life, people, situations, and so on. It was such a fitting message that the waves were giving, on the morning of 31st of December – telling us probably – that an year is about to go, and another one to come! So here’s a loving goodbye to 2017 and a warm welcome to the year 2018. Let’s live more, awaken ourselves some more, and make this planet a slightly better place to call our home, in this vast universe.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole of the morning, and so did others who came! It was evident from the fact that even though we stuck to the schedule, we remained lingering with each other much longer! Here are some of the lovely pictures!
Obesity is much more than just a change in the size of clothes we buy. It is a life-threatening condition, and it is surely not an exaggeration. Unchecked obesity can lead to various multiple health problems. It is important to be aware of the risks of obesity because it will help us that much more in being careful with out diet, being regular with our exercise routines and not letting complacency or a sense of ‘I am like this only’ to set in and limit our self-growth.
1. Damage to the skeleto-muscular structure
Obesity is different from gigantism. In gigantism, the whole human body increases in size, everything more or less in proportion to each other. In obesity, however, the skeleton-muscular structure remains as is, only the fat in the body increases beyond healthy limits. In such a scenario, the weight born by the skeleton-muscular structure increases greatly, beyond what the structure is designed to handle and thus the structure starts getting deformed. One example of this is exaggerated curvature in spine, others being overworked knees and ankles.
2. Suffocation of internal organs
As we saw in previous blogs on this series, obesity is not weight deposited mere superficially, but throughout the inner linings of he organs. This makes the inner walls of the various glands, intestines, and other visceral organs hugely suffocated and reduces their optimum performance simply because there is no space for them to do their jobs well!
3. Inefficient absorption and elimination
Too much fat in the body also indicates presence of cholesterol, blood that is viscous rather than of normal flowy consistency and organs that are lined with excess fat. For example, obesity increases the chances of developing fatty liver which hugely affects the processing of the nutrients and the elimination of harmful substances from blood.
4. Greater pressure on the heart
The pressure on the heart increases manifold with obesity as arteries become narrow with cholesterol deposits and the total area to be supplied with blood increases disproportionately to the natural capacity of the circulatory system. This leads to high blood pressure and increases risk of heart attacks and episodes of angina.
5. Shallow breathing and thus poor cellular respiration
Excess weight on the chest and the relevant breathing muscles makes the inhalation and exhalation process somewhat burdensome and affects the total quantity of oxygen taken in and the carbon di oxide expelled (hypo-ventilation). This leads to poor utilization of energy, poor oxygenation, repair and rejuvenation of the cells throughout the body.
6. Reduced span and quality of life
Obesity creates an inviting environment for various lifestyle diseases to sprout – such as diabetes, liver disorders and thyroid disturbances. These affect the body’s immunity to various other diseases and create various limitations on the person suffering from the same due to the metabolic processes being highly constrained and badly impacted.
The Yoga and Weight Management series is focused towards bringing greater awareness among health conscious people about the nature, causes and cures for obesity so that they can take adequate steps to arrest it in time and live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Stay tuned!
If weight correction is on your mind, STOP measuring your body mass index (BMI)! We are not made up of kilograms and inches! Instead read our latest blog series on yoga and weight management. This blog series from The Yoga Mile will give you deeper insights into healthy weight management concepts and techniques based on yogic principles.
It is said that nature has no copies. And that’s true! We all have different finger prints, different DNAs, different voices and so how can there be a strict standard on body weight! So indeed, there’s none. That said, nature does strive for order in some way. That yearning for completeness and fulfilment can be seen in the way nature manages to ensure unity in diversity. For example, though every banana leaf is different, each banana leaf is similar to the other. One of the ways nature manages to do this is probably through its magical ratios. We all know of the popular ‘Golden ratio’ or ‘Fibonacci sequence’ that operates in nature. In fact the German psychologist Adolf Zeising wrote about ‘Golden ratio’ as a universal law which governs all forms organic and inorganic and finds its fullest realization in the human form!
So yes, while there is no ideal body weight, we can all still go by certain ratios to arrive at that figure on the weighing machine which helps us live life in vigour, keeps us light in head and body and also offers some graceful weight to our gait!
First of all: What makes up the human body?
Physics talks to us in the language of atoms and molecules, so let’s give that a shot. If we look at atoms, 90% of our weight consists of Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen. In terms of molecular forms, water, protein and lipids make up 90% of our weight. This still doesn’t help too much as we cannot practically go about measuring these values in our body! But as we start seeing our body in the form of tissues and organs, we get a more holistic picture in the form of mass contributed by muscle, fat, bones and various organs.
Human body as seen from the lens of Ayurveda
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of health views human body as made up of seven interconnected sheaths.
Rasa or Juice – Hormones, enzymes, plasma, inter and intra-cellular fluids etc.
Rakta or Reddened – Red blood cells, bile etc.
Mamsa or Flesh – Muscles, ligaments, skin etc.
Medas or Concentrated water – Fat, sebum etc.
Asthi or Bones – Bones, teeth etc.
Majja or Marrow – Bone marrow, nerves etc.
Shukra or Luster – Semen, glow etc.
The genius of this perspective is that it looks at body in a more holistic fashion whereby various biological functions and systems are intrinsically connected to the lifestyle concepts related to food, sleep and metabolism. As you see, right at the middle of this spectrum, lies ‘Medas’ or the ‘fat’ – the critical factor in weight management. Now let’s look at the ratios that can help us not only measure our “Medas” but also help us to figure out our idea weight!
Two foolproof ratios which can help us find our ideal weight
1. Body Fat Percentage
Fat happens to be the most defining factor when we compare normal weight, under-weight and over-weight conditions of the human body. Any change in lifestyle directly impacts the fat mass percentage in the body and quite rapidly so! Advanced Human Nutrition by Denis Medeiros, Robert Wildman depicts how between a lean body and an obese body, fat happens to be the most differentiating factor as in the given figure.
Graph from Advanced Human Nutrition by Denis Medeiros, Robert Wildman
When we say body fat – we are talking about adipose tissues in general. However, there’s more to fat as we get into the thick of the matter! Body fat includes essential body fat and storage body fat. Essential body fat is required to maintain normal bodily functions as it provides the necessary lubrication to all internal organs and the necessary cushioning to the structures of our bones and muscles. Storage body fat provides reserve energy for emergencies, and provides the necessary margin for safety and balance through ups and downs in life.
Essential fat requirement for men is 2% to 5% of body weight and for women, it is 10% to 13% of body weight (source: Acefitness.org). Storage fat requirement for both men and women suffices at about 10% to 15% of the body weight.
Together, the essential body fat and ideal storage body fat give us the ratio of body fat considered healthy in men and women. When fat percentage increases beyond healthy levels, it starts interfering with the normal functioning of organs throughout the body – imagine an organ inside the body cavity with walls closing in on it – yes! because when we gain fat, we gain it on the insides rather than the outsides, so basically, too much fat leads to suffocation of the intricate biology inside of us as the lining of body tissues get thicker; thereby hampering the normal process of effective consumption, digestion, absorption and elimination. To add to this, too much body fat also burdens and pressurizes the skeletomuscular structure – especially of the back and the legs.
Thus, for women, 20% to 30% fat in body is considered healthy, with younger women ideally on the lower end of the range. Similarly, for men, 10% to 20% fat in body in considered healthy with younger men ideally on the lower end of the range (Source: Article in Healthstatus).
Body Fat Percentage - A Quick Look
How to know your ideal body weight to adhere to using body fat percentage?
Your ideal body weight will be that which lets you remain in the safe range of body fat percentage for your gender i.e. 20%-30% for women and 10%-20% for men.
How to calculate your body fat percentage right now!
Healthstatus.com provides an interesting body fat percentage calculator on their site, which I happened to try and found quite reliable as a quick reference. They say on their site that this body fat calculator is based on the body fat algorithms developed by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corp and the YMCA.
Why body fat percentage measurement is better than body mass index (BMI).
The body fat percentage is a critical measure of the fitness level of a person as it directly looks at the body composition without being coloured by variations in height and weight.
2. Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)
Keeping the stereotypes of beauty and fashion industry aside, and looking strictly from a health perspective, waist-to-hip ratio is not only a great indicator of overweight/underweight conditions, but also of one’s life span!
Think of it. All the vital organs are situated in our abdominal region – kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, small and large intestine, excretory and reproductive organs. These are organs that are directly involved in digestion, absorption and elimination of the nutrients we feed ourselves. Nature being a great architect, has designed terrestrial mammals is such a way that hips are larger than the abdomen – hips are natures safe way to store fat (where it doesn’t interfere with any organ’s functioning) which also doubles up as a counter balance to weight of the head and the shoulders for a smoother carriage in various sitting, moving, lying down or standing postures – not to mention the natural cushion it provides when we sit!
When body fat percentage goes above healthy levels, body begins to store it in areas other than the hips, especially the abdomen – body’s visual indicator for us to correct our lifestyle and prevent our intricate inner biology from the suffocation impending upon it. Similarly, when body fat percentage goes below healthy levels, the result starts to show in the form of hips losing their padding, which means that the storage body fat is on its way out – body’s visual indicator for us correct our lifestyle and prevent essential body fat from following suit.
Thus, in a way, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a direct visual indicator – a ‘dashboard’ of sorts of our body’s software – for us to check our health in the blink of an eye!
According to WHO, abdominal obesity is defined as a waist–hip ratio above 0.90 for males and above 0.85 for females.
Waist-to-Hip Ratio - A Quick Look
How to know your ideal body weight to adhere to using WHR?
Your ideal body weight will be that which lets you remain in the safe range of the ideal wasit-to-hip ratio for your gender i.e. 0.85 for women and 0.90 for men.
How to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio right now (using a measuring tape)!
The World Health Organization (WHO) protocol suggests measuring waist circumference at the approximate midpoint between the lower margin of the last palpable rib and the top of the iliac crest. For hip circumference, the widest portion of the buttocks are to be considered when measuring.
Why waist-to-hip ratio measurement is better than body mass index (BMI).
US National Library of Medicine suggests in an article that considering WHR helps predict cardiovascular diseases much more accurately. (Source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) This must be so because of the intrinsic connection of vascular health to the level of fat deposits around the viscera.
As you may have noticed, the ideal ratios for a woman differs from that for a man because she has been entrusted by nature with the biological capacity to nurture a life inside her, which requires her to carry more storage and essential fat compared to men and also helps during pre-natal carriage though effective postural balance through a lower WHR.
A blog reader Yasmin, posted a set of queries on one of our blogs some time back. Her queries were about her personal struggle with ‘laziness’. In order to answer her queries, The Yoga Mile has begun a small blog series. Part 1 of this blog series brought to light what sage Patanjali had said about “Laziness”. Part 2 looked at what “Alasya” is as per Samkhya Philosophy and at the three factors which I consider as its root causes. In this one – Part 3 – we will look at ways to overcome laziness.
Let’s understand human nature first!
We were food gatherers many millions of centuries ago. The only time we seriously engaged in some work was when we had to find food. But man kept sharpening his skills and today we have created a world where almost everything is within the reach of our fingers…except our own mind!
Our mind has always needed a job to do – something to focus on, and whenever it lacks a specific direction, it starts driving us mad! One of the ways it makes us mad is ‘laziness’. Laziness is a state of mind where it’s been let loose without any sign boards, and then it just squanders all the energy in just about anything – the consequence of which is lethargy – to a level where one is not able to put one’s faculties to use when really needed. So, laziness is a matter of mind management.
Now let’s look at what the master psychologist, sage Patanjali says about laziness!
Sage Patanjali indicates:
Tatpratishedartham ekatattva abhyasah
To beat these (nine obstacles of which laziness is one) there needs to be continuous effort towards a given object.
What does Patanjali mean when he suggests ‘abhyasa’ or ‘continuous effort’?
Here ‘abhyasa’ stands for ‘anchoring’ of mind, or focusing of the mind on a given object. Focusing simply means ensuring constant awareness and attention to the given object or idea.
What kind of object is Patanjali referring to?
Patanjali gives various examples such as:
Constant awareness of maintaining equanimity in dealing with all kinds of people
Focus on the suspension or retention of breath
Attention to sensory perceptions
Effort towards detachment and desirelessness
Awareness of the deep sleep
Or any other object as may appeal to the practitioner
Notice, how Patanjali also suggests alternatives.
Yathabhimata dhyanad va
Or concentration on an object as per one’s liking
How is this connected to traditional yoga paths?
The idea of continued focus has been at the centre of all kinds of authentic yoga practices. In Karma yoga the object of concentration is ‘work’, in Jnana yoga the enquiry is into the ‘nature of the self’, in Bhakti yoga one concentrated upon ‘God’, in Mantra yoga one keeps repeating the ‘mantra’.
How can we apply it in our daily life?
We must have seen how when we are faced with something that requires our full attention, our laziness vanishes – a long-time friend coming to meet us, a trip we have been dreaming about, a new job etc. The idea here is similar, only wider in scope and applicability. We need to choose an object of concentration on which to anchor our minds. Let’s look at what we need to be careful about, when choosing the object.
What not to pick as the object of concentration in the spiritual journey?
The path of yoga requires ‘continuity’ in the practice. Materialistic goals and objects of concentration come with an expiry date. If we want a car or a promotion or certain wealth status, we will aspire to have it and once we get it, we will have to aspire towards something more. We might even undergo circumstances which will force us to change our goals; for example if we want to buy a house, there may be sudden rise in real estate prices or housing loan interest rates, thereby thwarting our consistency in focus and perseverance. Such objects too will no doubt help us in overcoming laziness, but by their very nature they will cause interruption in the practice of yoga. Hence, great care has to be taken in picking an object of concentration.
So what object of concentration should I pick?
Yogic texts, rich with ages of experience of many yogis, suggest us to pick something which is already available to us as long as we are alive – breath, sensations, attitudes etc. – things which we can always have access to, whenever, wherever, thereby assisting us in a continued focus and alertness of mind and body. Note, however, that until and unless the object really inspires us or intrigues us, it will not help us anchor our mind. And that brings us the basic most eligibility for practice of yoga – a strong urge to know the truth!
Wish you all the very best in zeroing in on your object of concentration!Thus we end this 3-part series. We will be back with many more, so stay tuned!
A blog reader Yasmin, posted a set of queries on one of our blogs some time back. Her queries were about her personal struggle with ‘laziness’. In order to answer her queries, The Yoga Mile has begun a small blog series. Part 1 of this blog series brought to light what sage Patanjali had said about “Laziness”. In this one – Part 2 – we will look at what “Alasya” is as per Samkhya Philosophy and what I consider as the root causes of “Alasya” or “laziness”.
Root Cause of “Alasya” or Laziness from the perspective of Samkhya philosophy
Alasya is a kind of resistance to work which we are supposed to be doing. It can be easily understood through the perspective of guna theory of Yoga-Samkhya school of Indian philosophy. Alasya is predominantly built of ‘tamas’ guna which in Samkhya philosophy stands for ‘inertia’.
Guna theory says that the world we experience is made up of three constituents – Sattva (perceivability), Rajas (change) and Tamas (inertia).
In the physical world we have units such as “Ohm” for ‘resistance’ or concepts such as ‘friction’ which help us understand ‘inertia’ in the material world. Samkhya philosophy, which is much older than we can imagine , had extended these scientific concepts to the subtlest of the subtle matter – the mind stuff, ego and the intellect! So, according to Samkhya, inertia is applicable as much to attitude, mental state and feelings as to grosser matter. Thus, we can understand laziness is a state of mind consumed with “Tamas” or “inertia”.
Why do we feel lazy?
Science aside, “alasya” or laziness is an indication of deeper problems that we have at the subconscious level (deep seated tendencies, also known as ‘samskaras’). Whenever we feel lazy, we need to introspect, what is the reason that in spite of knowing what the right thing to do is, we often don’t do it!
There are three things that I have experienced, as the root causes of laziness in my personal life! Let me go into these one by one:
Often our view finders show too little or too near, and that is often where everything looks pretty sorted and fine, until of course it is too late to take a step! In Samkhya it is said that “being too near” to something can prevent us from knowing that thing better. It is the same with our life and the path it takes. We often keep busy in our daily rut and forget that what we do ‘now’ will eventually define our ‘past’ and as well our ‘future’.
We all have heard of Kabir’s doha, “Kaal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ub; pal main parlaya hoyegi, bahuri karoge kub” – What you intend to do tomorrow, do today. What you intend to do today, do now! It may soon be too late, when will you do it then?
2. Expecting things easy
We often feel we have done enough – got an education, got a job, got married and so on. We go by what successful people seem to be having – degrees, promotions, supportive spouses and lots of fun – but we almost never look deep enough to find out “what they do” and “how they do it” and “what sacrifices they make” in order to build a life of their dreams. The social media almost fools us into thinking that we can have anything we want without much footwork. But life’s got its own rules. You want it, you gotta go after it until you get it. Simple!
Rudyard Kipling says in the poem “If” – “If you can dream and not make dreams your master; If you can think and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same” – it’s one thing to dream, and quite another to work towards realizing it!
3. Attachment to comforts
The rising sun’s peeping through the window, but the bed is cosy and I so want to put the alarm clock off. Yes, that happens to all of us. It’s not just sleep, it’s the job we stick to, the routines we stick to, the eating habits we stick to, and much more! We are too comfortable with a certain way of doing things to bring about a change – so much so, that we would end up making way for health problems, and distances in our relationships, and monotony in our life! Yes, it is difficult to change, but nothing ever happened any other way!
As probably Paulo Coelho said – “One day, or day one, you decide!” – we can either turn to the soft and welcoming pillow or we can take that first step towards wisdom, health and happiness.
In the next blog I will be sharing what I do to overcome these hardwired traits and how that helps me to overcome laziness. So, stay tuned!