What Does Yoga Mean to You?
Is perfecting yoga postures an end to itself? Is yoga also a set of tools to be used in life? Why was yoga traditionally only practiced by men? Is yoga now primarily for women? Is authentic yoga only practiced by Brahmins? Does one have to become Hindu to practice yoga? Can you be a good Muslim and practice yoga ? A good Christian? Do you have to be celibate to be an authentic yogi? Do you have to disengage from society to do good yoga? Do you have to be vegetarian?
Confusion abounds about yoga, an ancient practice which has been intermingled with Hindu practices. Historically it is difficult to disentangle yoga from the caste system, from male-female inequalities, from beliefs in Hindu dieties and their powers, from stories of Ramayan(1) and Mahabharath(2).
Yoga offers an optimized system, i.e., best practices, for taking life’s journeys. It is a way to take a journey with the least amount of resources and least amount of negative residue. Examined from this point of view yoga becomes extremely valuable for an individual and a society. Yoga is a complex system of practices with many interpretations. Not only is the physical part of yoga diverse, the interpretations of potential benefits are very diverse.
Yoga was primarily developed for the enlightenment of an individual with the goal of acceptance of whatever life brings. Its focus was on changing the mind in a way that one could be accepting of essentially all situations. Thus, yoga promises the ability to be comfortable in heat or cold, in abundance or deprivation. A major part of yoga was to withdraw from relationships and society. This meant leaving the familiar, those closest to you, for the unknown, for isolation. This left a vast majority of people for whom relationships, careers, children, and physical health were integral to their lives, unable or unwilling to take the journey of an ascetic. This also left out women, who were, for the most part, taking primary responsibility in rasing children.
Yoga has evolved.
The RussaYog® style of yoga has been developed with the intent to be fully engaged in life and yet function in a state of wellness. In its physical form RussaYog® introduces muscular styles of pranayam, kriyas and asans. Many of the postures are done with an anchored rope (russa) or a piece of fabric called dora. These tools allow one to use muscles to pull, in addition to the normal pushing done in traditional yoga. The rope and the dora represent vehicles for making connections to others.
The term yog, or yoga in English, comes from the Sanskrit language meaning “union.” Yoga is a philosophy and a practice central to which is the use of breath. Although an involuntary process, breathing can be controlled. The use of breath by itself or in conjunction with various body trajectories and specific thoughts create a state of mindfulness. With practice, this mindfulness not only exists during the yoga session, but becomes part of one’s persona. Yoga primarily relies on the belief that by changing your inner self you can make yourself well (i.e., in harmony) in any situation. According to yogic thinking, heat, cold, dirt, hunger, and other deprivations can be mastered by employing the inner mind. It is not that the yogi doesn’t feel heat or cold or the bite of hunger. What is developed is the ability to accept and deal with situations thereby greatly enhancing one’s tolerance to difficulties. The goal of yoga is not to force acceptance of hunger and deprivation. Nor is it to accept all sorts of pain and illnesses and human cultural bindings. In fact, the tools provided by yoga, and by RussaYog® are for people who want to help remove hunger and sickness, to eradicate artificial barriers of a caste/class/racial system and of gender disparities. These karma wealth tools are for the mindfully engaged warrior who values himself and others and wants to create wellness for all.
Ramayan(1) and Mahabharath(2) are two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and contain much philosophical and devotional material, and discusses “goals of life”
Excerpt from “Karma Wealth: Mindfulness Tools for the Age of Science and Technology,” by Prof. Jasprit Singh