Yoga for Fun and Profit

Stress levels around the world are on the rise. In order to deal with this, relaxation and stress reduction therapies have sprung up from everywhere. Yoga instruction is no longer just a fringe population idea. It is now a mainstream fitness methodology. Yoga certifications are now available from many places in North America. As a result of this, yoga instructors are now available everywhere. Each gym now offers yoga classes from certified yoga instructors. It's time we understood what this is all about and where we are going with respect to the fitness industry.

The word yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning joining or union. What are we joining? The human being consists of several entities commonly referred to as body-mind-spirit. An integrated human being is the goal of yoga. We are joining the different pieces of the human being to make an integrated, holistic being that is attuned to one goal. The body, mind and spirit are all integrated with a common attitude and viewpoint. This is different from the state of being where the body wants to satisfy one need and the mind another and the spirit yet a third. This is the state during which mental storms occur and the body responds in turn with a manifestation of that mental vortex.

Yoga seeks to align the human being using its own tool of breathing. When we breathe rhythmically, our body is more in tune with itself. We function better as an integrated being in a holistic way. Yoga was invented in India, about 5000 years ago, precisely to achieve the goal of integration. When our being is aligned our interaction with the world will be more efficient. We perform better at work and in our home life. Rela-tionships become easier. This is what yoga achieves.

In India, yoga is taught and researched as a science at a place in Bangalore called the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusamdhana Samsthan (SVYASA). This means Yoga Research Institute. One can obtain intensive instruction in yoga and therapy techniques using yoga. Recently, I completed a month long certificate course for yoga instructors at this institute. The yoga that is taught here is not just about the physical poses. The idea of yoga from the original meaning is to really integrate the whole human being. This involves all of our activities in life. We must be aligned and integrated during all of our tasks during the day. All of our activies can be divided into several broad categories. All actions like going to work, eating breakfast are classified as Karma yoga. All philosophical discussions are classified under Jnana yoga. Any devotional activities such as the singing of hymns or prayers are considered part of Bhakti yoga. The physical poses of Western ideas of yoga are a part of Raja yoga, which includes other methods for gaining mastery over the physical body. This is the original concept of yoga from India and is taught in that form at the SVYASA Institute.

The institute is named after Swami Vivekananda who was a monk and scholar of Indian philosophy. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda was invited to speak at the Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago, on the topic of Hinduism. His speech became famous for explaining the unity of religions as many paths to God, and that Hinduism in its original sense encompassed that view. Swami Vivekananda wanted the Western world to understand Indian spirituality in the correct view, as a synthesis of the four types of yoga, which ultimately leads to the goal of spiritual evolution. SVYASA is dedicated to the education and research of yoga in this context. The school retains strict attention to the original sources of yoga from Sanskrit scripture.

The teaching styles of the school and environmental factors do not cater to the Western lifestyle. Those who come from abroad must acclimatize themselves to the pure Indian way. Meals are served on the floor and must be eaten using the hands. Vegetarian Indian food is served. No cutlery is provided. Footwear must be left outside of all classes. Be prepared to literally be on your feet for long amounts of time. While the majority of the students are comfortably able to sit on the floor during the long lecture sessions, chairs are available for those who will not be able to survive in that position. The philosophy of discipline is everywhere, starting from the boot camp like nature of the roll call before each session. Students who miss a portion of the attendance will not receive their certificate. Attendance is considered a very important factor of the study. In addition, a strict code of uniforms is enforced. Women must wear the Indian dress of salwaar kameez, which is a tunic, and pant set made of 100% cotton. This dress could be modified to be more forgiving for yoga poses. Men must wear loose fitting track pants and t-shirt. This is more conducive to rigorous physical activity. It must be noted that everywhere the students of the yoga instructors course can be identified by their uniform.

As attendance is strict, so is the keeping of students on the grounds. While exceptions can be made for justifiable reasons, students cannot usually leave the campus for any reason after the start of the course. The campus is 32 km north of the major city of Bangalore. Fortunately, Bangalore boasts many amenities including an international airport. The city of Bangalore itself is very multicultural. One can find the modern world mixed with the original flavour of India everywhere. The SVYASA institute has a city office in Bangalore from where a bus is arranged to take travellers to its campus outside the city in a place called Geddallahalli. The name of the campus is Prashanti Kutiram, which means abode of peace. While the name is very amenable to yoga studies, I found that one needs to practice yoga in sincerity to find the true peace, which is only inside the human being.

For further questions on yoga or SVYASA Institute, please email Shanti Consulting at speaksamskrit@yahoo.ca.

A variety of personal interests and professional paths have led the author to her current role as a personal trainer and lifestyle consultant with over 20 years experience. Siva is an author, lecturer and Can-Fit-Pro certified personal trainer who specializes in body-mind-spirit consulting and training women. Currently she is writing a book entitled Body, Mind, and Spirit Fitness, which discusses her particular style of training the complete being, rather than just the physical body.

Siva is a yoga instructor, an expert on East Indian Philosophy and teacher of Sanskrit. She holds a doctorate in engineering from the University of Toronto and has balanced her time between personal training and engineering for over 20 years. In February 2005, Siva spent an intensive month studying a course for Yoga Instructors, at the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Institute in Bangalore, India to further her interest in yoga as a science of holistic living and not merely as yoga postures.

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