My Friendship with Yoga | Revathi Raj Iyer | Health & Fitness / Yoga | New Delhi: Winspire: An Imprint of Lifi Publications. 2017 | ISBN 13: 978-93-86191-00-7 | ISBN 10: 93-86191-00-8 | Pages 186 | Rs 240 | With Foreword by Swami Vimalananda, President, The Divine Life Society | Available worldwide: www.amazon.com, www.amazon.in, www.flipkart.com
Before diving headlong into the engaging pages of this highly practical, easy-to-follow, no-frills guide to Yoga by Revathi Raj Iyer, a well-trained practitioner herself, a creative writer, and one who has seen the country and abroad… let’s for a while warm up in a basking foreground.
Recent spurt in Yoga activity
Yoga, a hoary and time tested practical science of holistic health is a unique gift of India to the humanity with virtually no cost involved. Its importance and benefits have been universally acknowledged, and its acceptance has culminated in the International Yoga Day every 21 June – unanimously declared by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec 11, 2014 thanks to the power-packed efforts of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a regular practitioner himself and a human dynamo. Apart from its inexpensive overall health conditioning at the physical-psychic level of the individual, it is at the spiritual level a triune interconnect of the I-We-Divinity, promoting, in the process, universal peace and harmony.
A number of Yoga teachers, exponents, saints and institutes have been operating in the country and abroad, most of them highly educated, articulate and respected. We have many ashrams like those run by the Divine Life Society, Acharya Ramdev Baba, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravishankar and the Vivekananda Kendra, to name a very sporadic few.
Yoga is not merely for the past or the present, it is meant more for the future, if the present developments are an indication, according to Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev who stressed so at the inauguration of the 112-foot tall, 500-ton Adiyogi Shiva statue on the sprawling premises of the Isha Foundation at Coimbatore on Feb 24, 2017 where the indefatigable Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest. The future of the Yoga is being paved by one million people being trained in it in 2017, according to the Sadguru. Shiva is known as the originator of yoga, hence Adiyogi.
More and more universities, organisations and institutions are coming forward to teach and popularise the science and art of Yoga.
Apart from the massive demonstrations of Yoga on the International Yoga day in 2015 and 2016, the 17th International Counter Terrorism Seminar at NSG premises was a witness to its performance in Gurugram on Feb 8, 2017.
The third International Yoga Day due on June 21, 2017 is so highly billed that the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Governor Ram Naik and Acharya Ramdev Baba took to rehearsals on Jun 7, 2017 in Lucknow, two weeks ahead.
When Yoga is a universally beneficial phenomenon, the government of the country of its origin should, without feeling shy, be statesmanlike in its approach and take a clear-cut and promoting stand. Luckily, this is what has been happening with the Narendra Modi led NDA government unlike in the earlier dispensations. The latent and pent-up interest in Yoga has now exuberantly come out to the fore.
The author takes her training in Fiji Islands
Thus Yoga is getting exponentially popular, with an increased realisation of its preventive efficacy that would pre-empt many an ailment and their costly and prolonged therapies. To meet this surging demand, more and more new books on Yoga need to hit the market, and here is one by Revathi Raj Iyer, a regular trained practitioner who had been taught by Syamala Prasad, a disciple of the famous BKS Iyengar when she was living in Fiji Islands in 2004. She was so captivated and resolute that she began to note down the instructions and her observations in a diary without missing the regularity. The fact that the author is also an accomplished creative writer, is associated with the Divine Life Society and is leading a life of contentment and happiness – makes the words in her book resonate with a ring of authenticity. The word ‘friendship’ in the title of the book My Friendship with Yoga is conspicuously significant for it radiates a warm spirit of ‘friendliness.’ Take note that she hasn’t preferred to title her book ‘My tryst/experience with Yoga’ or in a like manner. In fact, if we decide and take to Yoga with all the earnestness and passion that is required, it would serve us not only as a friend, but also as a philosopher and guide for a complete life.
Why this book, when there is a glut?
One would be tempted to ask, why this book when the market is loaded with so many? The answer is simple. When it is the same news, why so many newspapers and so many news channels? When it is the same subject of botany or physics, why so many texts at each level? The style of narration and the way of treatment of the subject have their own personal appeal and target groups. Hence there would be thousands whom Revathi’s My Friendship with Yoga does appeal to.
Written in a “simple and lucid language,” as put by Swami Vimalananda, President of The Divine Life Society in his Foreword, this book has received good reviews and made rounds at the book fairs in India as well as abroad – the New Delhi World Book Fair (Jan 10, 2017); the London Book Fair (March 14-16, 2017); the College & Research Libraries Conference, Baltimore, USA, (March 22-25, 2017); Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (Apr 26-May 2, 2017); Teheran International Book Fair (May 3-13, 2017).
More about Revathi
“The author is a freelance writer, book reviewer, company director, service volunteer and yoga/fitness enthusiast. After her stint in the corporate field over a decade she has now settled and lives in Ahmedabad with her passion for Yoga. As she confesses, she has written this book out of her real experiences, honestly stating how she has entered this beautiful science, how she has sustained it with her relentless practice despite hurdles she has faced and how she has overcome them,” observes K V Raghupathi, a practitioner himself who has authored two books on Yoga (while reviewing the book in the Mar-Apr 2017 issue of Muse India).
What about beginners and those with specific health concerns?
The writer Revathi, without claiming any panacean value of her book, is objective and professional in her approach. She rightly cautions the beginners to perform the Yoga “under a trained instructor in order to fully understand the rudiments and techniques and thereafter follow the instructions as set out in this book. It is good to seek, learn and practise, in that order” (Author’s Note).
Yet there is nothing scary about Yoga for it is “certainly meant for everyone, but those with specific health concerns are advised to first consult their physician before attempting any of the asana (postures)” (Ibid.) There are people like Victoria, one of Revathi’s instructors, who despite their inability “to do active yoga practice due to health reasons (surgery or back pain and the like)” have found a way out in the practice of yin which has helped them a lot. Victoria had met with a terrible road accident yet could successfully run a yoga studio (36).
If you would like to have a “washboard flat tummy” (32), you are prescribed certain bandhas (body-locks), and the writer has listed out and explained many such that would benefit us and correct the aberrations in us.
To “those whose job entails exerting the vocal cords to extreme limits, such as receptionists, call centre employees or telephone operators” (33), the Jalandhara bandha (throat lock) comes to the rescue.
Avoid excessive zeal: Moderation is the key
In your excessive zeal for instant perfection, “Do not ever force yourself into a posture,” for the perfection comes on its own, slowly and steadily, once you are patient and perseverant. Trying a posture itself has its benefit. Here, we can apply the words “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome,” of Arthur Ashe, American tennis player.
Just like any other important activity, Yoga too cannot be mastered in a single session. It has to be a step-by-step approach, over time. But “Once you have embarked on your journey, continue and do not give up” (17).
Doing everything with a relaxed body and mind is essential to yoga, because “anything forced will be counterproductive and may result in agitation of the mind or cause bodily injury” (16).
Excess of anything could be harmful, we all know. Likewise, “Sometimes excessive flow of energy can be counterproductive and it can make a person hyperactive. Therefore it is vital to have a harmony in the flow of energy for our overall well-being” (27).
The book proper
My Friendship with Yoga is divided into three convenient parts – Narrative; Asanas (Postures); Daily Yoga Practice.
Besides giving interesting and illumining information and instructions on step-by-step practice of various asanas, the book takes you on a tour of Surya Namaskars that give a “complete body workout” (10), breath control (pranayama), controlling and calming the mind (13), concentration and meditation (14), and bandhas (body-locks).
As many as 68 asanas – with supine, prone, seated and standing postures – that tone up your entire body – have been explained, with graphic illustrations, with a specification of the asana-wise benefits that accrue. Relevant suggestions and precautions also have been offered. Since it may not be possible for everyone to perform all the 68 on a single day, a weekly regimen with specific sessions for each of the seven days has been offered. A facilitating package, isn’t it?
Just a ten minutes of time in a day of twenty-four hours will have a therapeutic effect and bring about a sea change in your overall system.
Is there any religious injunction?
Coming to concentration, there is no injunction of any religious incantation. There is an eclectic flexibility; not only a mantra or counting beads but even your pet can be your object of focus. Notwithstanding the motivated reservations, resistance or insinuations from certain religiously overconscious quarters, it is a welcome augury that more and more non-Hindus are getting willingly drawn to the practice of Yoga.
Once you fall in the groove of practice, the author recommends that once in a while it is desirable to retreat to ashrams and experience the life there for a couple of days, for it would give us “much bliss, joy, positivity, peace and renewed energy” (45). And it would be a kind of refresher course as well.
Yoga is not running away from the hard realities of life or from the present scenario into the vagueness of a metaphysical world. The author puts it succinctly: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. But if you are content you are indeed living in the present” (20). And Yoga doesn’t discourage you from earning money or material pursuits but only from greed and its harmful effects.
Now that we are sufficiently illumined and activated by the contents of the book, isn’t it time for us to buy our copy of My Friendship with Yoga, read it and channelize its wisdom into our daily life of practice and benefit from it – not only for ourselves, but for everyone around us, and the universe at large?