India has given a lot of things to the world. Yoga is just one of the many. The west has taken to Yoga as an alternative way to keep healthy. This women's day Aparna Mudi from Zee News Online speaks to Kamlesh Barwal, a senior faculty with Art of Living foundation about the health benefits of Yoga specially for women. She specializes in training teachers in Sri Sri Yoga and other courses for the foundation.
How were you introduced to Yoga, and why did you start practising it?
It came to me very early in my life. I was still in my college and I took to yoga purely for health reasons. Back then it wasn't really cool to go to a yoga class, so I hid the fact from my friends and also told my mother not to tell . I was forced by my doctor and my family after somebody told me that Sudarshan Kriya might help. I read a little bit about its health benefits. That's how I started with any yoga class. Then at the art of living workshop I discovered that yoga was much more than just physical well being and it helped me focus on my studies. I met many like-minded people at the Art of Living workshops, people who had taken to spirituality, who asked themselves questions about life and tried to look for life's happiness.
What are the health benefits of Yoga? Why should people chose Yoga over gym or other heavy exercises?
Now the whole world is realising that alternative ways of healthcare are much more beneficial than heavy exercises. I would not discount the benefits of running, jogging and gymming but Yoga is much more than physical well being. That is just a little part of our existence. People who practice yoga consider the body to be a temple that houses the Prana - life source. The healthy body is a by-product of yoga.
Yoga uplifts your spirit and brings all the aspects of your life in balance. The outer appearance is automatically benefited because your body functions will be bettered because of it and your life is in harmony.
Now that women have taken up so many roles in their lives, can you suggest some Yoga postures and meditation techniques specifically for them to keep away from the stress of a high paced lifestyle?
I feel that more than physical stress, women face more mental fatigue. A woman's life has diversified. More than a man, a woman takes the responsibility of creating a balance at work and at home. Of course this takes a physical toll on their body, but it affects the mind more. Times have also changed and the demand on your mind has also become more.
Every woman today needs to take out 15 minutes just for herself. Which I call meditation. People who don't know how to meditate and what meditation is should not worry. Just shut down everything and sit by yourself. These 15 minutes should be just for yourself, do nothing and contemplate. This time is more important than anything else that you can do through the day.
And of course for physical well being – you can do some simple 10 to 15 minutes of asanas. Every woman should take a beginner's yoga class to learn the simple asanas. And add 7 to 10 minutes of breathing exercises. No matter what time you do it. You can just sit down in a corner and relax any time of the day. That will bring a lot of harmony to your life.
Women face a lot of hormonal changes during the different stages of their life. Whether it is adolescence , pre natal phase, post natal phase or the menopausal age women face a lot of emotional and physical upheaval. What would you suggest for them?
There are specific asanas, meditation techniques and mudras to face these stages of life. It is a specific science. Coupled with ayurveda the effect is miraculous. I guide a lot of women to do simple yoga stretches and Sukshma Vyayam at work to relax your tired muscles. Do some basic asanas and take guidance for specific problem. The Art of Living course too has some special modules especially for pre-natal and post-natal Yoga.
Women, especially young urban women are looking to lose weight with a holistic approach. Is their a simple way to help in the process?
Along with going on a yogic diet – find out what your body type is from an expert. You should go for guidance from an expert.
If you don't have access to these you can start with 20 minutes of brisk walking along with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar. You can learn this from tutorials and videos online. This should be coupled with a few rounds of Kapal Bhati starting with 60 to 90 times in the beginning. You can also do Bhastrika pranayam.
You can also start with specific asanas like Pawan Muktasana, Natarajasana and some side twisting asanas like the triangle.
The yoga sutras say 'Heyam dukham anagatam' meaning 'The purpose of Yoga is to avoid the misery that is yet to come'. As a yoga teacher I try to say to my students that it doesn't matter what age you are, you should start doing yoga as young as possible. So you never face problems later in your life.
As you said before, doing Yoga and meditation was not cool a few years ago, but have things changed now?
Because of all the invasions on our culture, we Indians have lost self respect. But things have changed now, as many people are returning back to their roots as more and more companies are selling our home remedies as commercial products. So is the case with Yoga and meditation, after a few masters took them to the western countries, more people in India too have started accepting and appreciating the art and the benefits of Yoga.
The only tragedy is that the westerners don't respect the roots of a culture. They don't acknowledge the founders – the rishis who have researched and put in their knowledge about yoga. But slowly that will change too. We need to stay connected to the roots and Rishi parampara.
What about the present generation?
I am happy that this generation of India has a different mindset. They are more aware, open minded and are not blindly following anything. They are also strong thinkers and have taken to learn Yoga and meditation to change their lives.
How do you make Yoga fun?
Yoga is fun. Yoga means uniting with your nature – and nature is fun. A baby is always peaceful, we are all happy around a baby. Yoga means going back to nature and being happy and peaceful. We in India need to get over our prejudices. The whole world is looking towards us. And we need to start living up to the expectations of the world.
Maybe, with more and more people discussing Yoga and having special days for Yoga and meditation, things will change for the perception.