can't beat doing yoga with the Himalayas in the background

Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit and has eight different elements of which hatha yoga (physical or active yoga), which Westerners most often use, is just one. In India, the practice of yoga is based on a comprehensive philosophy of man striving for harmony with himself and the world and encompasses breathing, meditation and exercise. In Western countries, it is associated most with the practice of asanas (postures). The sun salutation, or “surya namaskar” as it is known in Sanskrit, is a common yoga exercise in India.

In India, yoga has been incorporated into schools, hospitals, prisons and police academies. The Indian government has endorsed an effort to create a library of videos documenting the “correct” ways to strike more than 1,500 poses. [Source: Tanya Basu, The Atlantic Ocean, January 12, 2015]

Annie Gowen wrote in the Washington Post: “Although yoga has been a part of India’s heritage for centuries and Westerners flock to the country’s ashrams for enlightenment, it was only in the past two decades or so that yoga became trendy in India, with studios opening and Bollywood celebrities making fitness videos. Some of the credit goes to Baba Ramdev, the saffron-robed guru who popularized yoga and what he says are its health effects — he claims it can reverse homosexuality and cure cancer and swine flu — on a morning TV program watched by millions. Baba Ramdev also is a close ally of” Prime Minister Modi. [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, December 2, 2014]

Websites and Resources: Yoga National Institutes of Health, US government, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), ; Encyclopædia Britannica ; Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development, Indian government ; Different Types of Yoga - Yoga Journal ; Wikipedia article on yoga Wikipedia ; Medical News Today ; Yoga and modern philosophy, Mircea Eliade ; India's 10 most renowned yoga gurus ; Wikipedia article on yoga philosophy Wikipedia ; Yoga Poses Handbook ; George Feuerstein, Yoga and Meditation (Dhyana)

Short History of Yoga

Historians are not sure when the idea or practice of yoga originated first appeared and debate on the topic is ongoing. Indus Valley stone carvings suggest that yoga was practiced as early as 3300 B.C. The term “yoga” is found in the Vedas, ancient India’s earliest known texts whose oldest parts date to around 1500 B.C.. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the Vedas are the oldest writings of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature.The term “yoga” in the Vedas refers mostly to a yoke, as in the yoke used to control animals. At times it refers to a chariot in the midst of battle and a warrior dying and transcending into heaven, being carried by his chariot to reach the gods and higher powers of being. During the Vedic period, ascetic Vedic priests carried out sacrifices, or yajna, in positions that some researchers argue are precursors to the yoga poses, or asanas, we know today. [Source: Lecia Bushak, Medical Daily, October 21, 2015 \^]

Jogapradipka 16 Mayurasana, 1830

During the medieval era (A.D. 500-1500), different schools of yoga emerged. Bhakti yoga developed in Hinduism as a spiritual pathway that focused on living through love and devotion toward God. Tantrism (Tantra) emerged and began to influence medieval Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu traditions around the A.D. 5th century. According to White, new goals also emerged: “No longer is the practitioner’s ultimate goal liberation from suffering existence, but rather self-deification: one becomes the deity that has ben one’s object of meditation.” \^\

In the mid-19th century became intrigued with Indian culture in part because of the work by Theosophical Society. Yoga came to the attention of Westerners primarily through the efforts of Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk who toured Europe and the U.S. in the 1890s to spread knowledge about Hinduism among intellectuals. Vivekananda did much to bring attention to the Yoga Sutras, attributed to Patanjali and written sometime around A.D. 400, described what he believed were the main yoga traditions of his time. The Yoga Sutras focused mainly on removing all excess thought from the mind and focusing on a singular thing; but they were later incorporated more heavily than any other ancient yoga writings in modern, “corporate” yoga. \^\

Krishnamacharya is the guru of the three hatha yoga masters most responsible for popularizing postural yoga throughout the world in the late twentieth century. Beginning in the 1950s, his three leading disciples—B. K. S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar introduced their variations on his techniques that defined the postural yoga that has became so popular in Europe, the United States and many parts of the world since the 1960s. [Source: David Gordon White, “Yoga, Brief History of an Idea”]

Indian Prime Minister Modi’s Enthusiasm for Yoga

Narendra Modi, who became India’s prime minister in 2014, is an enthusiastic practitioner of yoga and has used his power to promote it. He is a vegetarian and practices yoga on a daily basis. He pushed the United Nations to establish an international yoga day and discussed the ancient Indian discipline with President Barack Obama during their dinner at the White House during visit to the United States. [Source: AFP, November 10, 2014]

Modi with his buddy Baba Ramdev

In 2014, not long after Modi took office, Annie Gowen wrote in the Washington Post: “The 64-year-old premier rises at 5 a.m. daily for yoga stretches and deep breathing, and he credits this regimen with his ability to sleep just a few hours each night. “I am equally energetic from morning till night,” Modi told fans during a Google Hangout. “I guess the secret behind it is yoga and [breathing exercises]. Whenever I feel tired, I just practice deep breathing and that refreshes me again.” [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, December 2, 2014 -]

“Modi’s devotion to the practice is so heartfelt that during his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly as prime minister in September, he discussed peace, global development — and International Yoga Day. This disappointed some of his followers, who had hoped that he would use the grand occasion to say something more significant; also, there already was a World Yoga Day. But more than 130 countries have signed on to Modi’s proposal.” -

In a speech in June 2017, Modi said that yoga in life was as important as salt in food. "Salt not just makes food tasty but also adds nourishment value to it. It is cheap and is used in very small quantity but none can deny its significance. More than fitness, more than being healthy, people now yearn for wellness. And there is no better way to attain wellness than yoga.” [Source: ANS, June 21, 2017]

Modi Does Asanas with 45,000 People on International Yoga Day

In June 2017, did yoga exercises in the rain for more than 15 minutes in Lucknow with the third International Yoga Day, Modi said yoga was a path to attain wellness and was akin to a free life insurance. "There was a time when yoga was confined to sages meditating in the Himalayan caves. But now yoga is becoming a part of people's daily life not just in India but across the world," the prime minister said. [Source: ANS, June 21, 2017 /=/]

Modi on on International Yoga Day

ANS reported: “The crowd was estimated to be 45,000 strong, slightly less than the 51,000 which was expected, due to heavy rains that lashed Lucknow since morning. "There are many countries which don't know our language, are not aware about Indian culture or traditions but they too are practising yoga. Much like it connects the mind with the soul, yoga is playing an important role in connecting the world," said Modi, dressed in a white track suit.

“Modi said since the United Nations declared 21 June as the International Day for Yoga, awareness about yoga had been rising the world over leading to creation of a new job market. "Today, there is hardly any country where there is no attraction or awareness for yoga. In the last three years, new yoga training institutes have developed, demand for yoga trainers and training institutes have been rising. Youths are now steadily adopting yoga as a profession. "In countries across the globe the demand for yoga teachers is rising, creating a new job market. Indians are the most preferred choice," he said. He also said efforts were on to standardise yoga practices in India as also the world. /=/

“After addressing the gathering, which cheered him from time to time, the prime minister joined the gathering in the open air venue, amid heavy rains, and practised yoga for more than 15 minutes. Surrounded by heavy security, Modi walked to the mat reserved for him and waved to the crowd. Many tried to shake hands with him. The Prime Minister did yogic exercises and 'pranayam' as demonstrated by a group of yoga teachers on the stage...Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik, chief minster Yogi Adityanath and deputy chief ministers Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dinesh Sharma were among those present at the event.” Modi “left after 15 minutes even as Naik, Adityanath and others continued to do yoga. Earlier, addressing the gathering, Adityanath said yoga helps to unite people. "Yoga is an ancient Indian practice and all ancient scriptures including the Vedas have accepted the importance of yoga. Yoga is a way of life and helps to unite people," Adityanath said.” /=/

India Creates a Ministry of Yoga

In November 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi created a separate ministry for yoga, headed by a Minister of Yoga. Annie Gowen wrote in the Washington Post: Shripad Yesso Naik, India’s new yoga minister, dreams of a day when sun salutations and downward-facing dog pose will be as popular in their homeland as they are around the world. Yes, India now has a minister of yoga — and he and his government want their cultural bliss back. [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, December 2, 2014]

PTI reported: “After making a strong pitch in the United Nations to observe an International Yoga Day... Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a separate ministry — AAYUSH, which will have Department of Ayurveda and Yoga, among others. Modi, who is known to start his day with a yoga session, expanded his council of ministers by inducting 21 ministers and appointed Shripad Yesso Naik as Minister of State (Independent Charge) for AAYUSH to look after Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. Earlier, AAYUSH was a department under the health ministry. [Source: PTI, November 10, 2014 ^\^]

AFP reported: “As part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed a yoga minister in a major revamp of his government after storming to power in May, in a bid to promote the ancient practice. Yoga-loving Modi beefed up his right-wing government by appointing 21 new ministers, with the aim of speeding up reforms to revive the faltering economy.Among the portfolios designated was that of Aayush, whose minister will be charged with promoting the traditional medicines and practices of Ayurveda, yoga, naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homeopathy. [Source: AFP, November 10, 2014 ==]

“Modi added four new ministers to his cabinet, and 17 junior ministers for a 66-member strong government including the premier. Aayush was previously part of the health minister’s responsibility, but has become a separate portfolio after the reshuffle, with former tourism minister Shripad Yesso Naik taking charge.” ==

India’s Effort to Promote and Reclaim Yoga

In December 2014, Annie Gowen wrote in the Washington Post, “ Indian officials have begun efforts to reclaim yoga for the home team, making plans for a broad expansion of the wellness practice into all facets of civic life — including more than 600,000 schools, and thousands of hospitals and police training centers. They are spearheading efforts to promote and protect India’s most famous export, even quietly weighing a “geographical indication” for yoga, a trade protection normally given to region-specific goods such as Champagne from France or oranges from Florida. “There is little doubt about yoga being an Indian art form,” Naik said. “We’re trying to establish to the world that it’s ours. The saints and gurus practiced in the Himalayas but never took it to the general public. Only Baba Ramdev knew how to take it to the people. Now it’s our turn to promote it more vigorously.” [Source: Annie Gowen, Washington Post, December 2, 2014 -]

Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman leading as yoga session

“Bikram Choudhury, the Indian-born founder of hot yoga who practices in Los Angeles, tried to copyright his yoga series. He was not successful, but Indians learned a lesson. For more than a decade, they’ve been building a vast compendium of age-old medicines and practices, the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which is now available to patent offices worldwide. They are documenting 1,500 yoga poses, some by videotape, which will be added online next year to help prevent the “misappropriation” of yoga by commercial enterprises, said Archana Sharma, the project’s leader. Sheetal Shah, a senior director of HAF, which spearheaded the “Take Back Yoga” campaign, said: “Nobody owns yoga. Our idea was not to claim ownership; it was just to acknowledge that the philosophy behind yoga is based in Hinduism.” -

“Meanwhile, Modi, has started a “Make in India” campaign to boost manufacturing and attract foreign investors to opportunities in the country, including its $8 billion wellness industry. Modi said the country had missed the opportunity to market its industry of yoga and herbal medicine globally. In recent days, a new energy enlivened the normally quiet halls of New Delhi’s Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, the government’s premier yoga academy, which is helping implement the regimen’s expansion throughout India’s public sphere. -

“Students and office workers gathered for lunchtime sessions at the institute, which is named after an Indian prime minister who once told Dan Rather on “60 Minutes” that he drank his own urine for medicinal purposes. The practice rooms were decidedly sparse — not a candle or top-brand yoga mat in sight — and near a library holding volumes of ancient Vedic texts. In one room, several students in their 20s who are studying to be instructors went through a series of asanas, or poses, and breathing exercises. They said they were happy that India had begun to promote yoga. “The West has manipulated yoga for their own benefits. It’s more like exercise. But traditional yoga is much more than that; it’s ultimately about achieving enlightenment for the soul,” said Tarosh Rao, 25. “It is making us aware of something that is ours, part of our heritage.”“ -

Does India’s Own Yoga?

India wants to claim to ownership of yoga. For this to happen Tanya Basu wrote in The Atlantic, the Indian government “would need to secure what’s called a “geographical indication.” A geographical indication is a formal acknowledgement of location’s importance to a specific product—in the European Union, it’s what protects a fizzy beverage made in the Champagne region of France from imitators produced elsewhere. Geographical indications are bestowed by a country's government trade office, but there isn’t a U.N.-like body to resolve international disputes. The U.S. Patent and Trade Office acknowledges this vagueness, and as a result there’s a lot of champagne sold in the U.S. that’s not from Champagne, and there’s nothing that France can do about it. Similarly, the E.U. has squabbled with the U.S. for selling cheeses labeled “Rocquefort” and “Mozzarella" without verifying their origins. [Source: Tanya Basu, The Atlantic, January 12, 2015 ^|^]

who owns the patent --- if anybody --- to this yoga posture: one-legged king pigeon

“What’s working against Modi, in the case of yoga, is that it’d be difficult to establish a concrete geographical connection. Unlike champagne—which is made from grapes grown in a particular region with distinct weather conditions and soil content—yoga can’t be held in your hand. Practically speaking, securing a geographical indication for yoga would be nearly impossible. “While yoga certainly originated in India,” says Sonia Katyal, a law professor at Fordham University who specializes in intellectual property, “its widespread adoption in the West—including the hundreds of types of yogas created by enterprising westerners like mommy-and-me yoga, nude yoga, dog yoga—makes it a little harder to explain how its Indian origins are always essential the practice or characteristics of yoga today.” On top of that, enforcement would be a logistical nightmare. “India can protect [a geographical indication] within the country easily,” says May T. Yeung of the Estey Centre for Law and Economics and International Trade. “But what about country to country? You have to watch every yoga studio in the world.”^|^

“That said, a geographical indication may not be entirely out of the question. “What’s working on India’s side is the government wants to do this,” Yeung says. “The government is providing significant resources and they have clout.” Still, even with governmental might, Yeung says, forming an effective bureaucracy to regulate yoga most likely won’t happen. With all that money and cultural influence at stake, it’s not surprising that there’s a debate about where yoga owes its origins, and who, if anyone, it "belongs" to.” ^|^

“But for many, apparently, there’s a very different angle from which to approach the issues of cultural ownership and geographical origins: As May Yeung asks with respect to obtaining a geographical indication, “For India, the question really is, 'How much money are you willing to throw at it?'” So, ultimately, it looks like little will change anytime soon for the U.S. yoga industry and its 20 million customers. But it’s easy to understand why Modi would explore the possibility: Yoga classes and the accompanying products (think retreats and Lululemon pants) are a $10 billion-a-year industry.” ^|^

India Moves to Patent Yoga Poses

In February 2008, India set up a team of Hindu gurus and 200 scientists to identify all ancient yoga positions or asanas and register each one to stop "patent pirates" from stealing its "traditional knowledge". Dean Nelson wrote in The Telegraph, “So far, they have added 600 asanas to India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library to stop so-called gurus in the United States and Europe patenting established poses as their own. India has been angered at attempts by mostly American yoga teachers to patent moves from their classes as their own originals. [Source: Dean Nelson, The Telegraph, February 23, 2009 /^]

“As the number of Western yoga teachers has grown, there has been a steady increase in patent applications claiming each pose in their class is not part of the ancient discipline of mind and body, but their own unique invention. In the United States alone, there have been more than 130 yoga-related patents, 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks. Now India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is being made available to patents offices throughout the world so they can establish whether the claim is a genuine innovation or "prior art" from Indian systems of medicine. /^\

“So far a team of yoga gurus from nine schools have worked with government officials and 200 scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to scan 35 ancient texts including the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita, and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to register each native pose. The attempt by US teachers to patent traditional poses has caused disbelief and anger in India, where it has been practiced for around 6,000 years. "Copyrights over yoga postures and trademarks on yoga tools have become rampant in the West. Till now, we have traced 130 yoga-related patents in the US. We hope to finish putting on record at least 1500 yoga postures by the end of 2009," said Dr V.P Gupta, of the CSIR, who created the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library.” /^\

yoga in school in India

Yoga a Compulsory Subject in Indian Schools?

In June 2015, the Indian government announced that yoga who be taught as a compulsory subject not only in grades 6th to 190h but also as a training module in teacher education programmes. Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani released the syllabus and course material for the students at a two-day National Yoga teacher conference attended by 500 yoga teachers from across the country, [Source: First Post, PTI, June, 23 2015 /]

Irani said the training module on yoga for teacher education programme would aim to produce a pool of trained teachers in yoga who meet the upcoming demands: 1) 80 marks reserved for practicals: (“I want an assurance from students that they will perform the practicals with full devotion," Irani said); 2) Yoga syllabus for teachers ("We have prepared syllabus for teachers as well. One is diploma in yoga education, bachelors in yoga education and masters in yoga education") Irani said; 3) National Yoga Competition, a national-level competition on yoga, where the best performing student would get a cash prize of Rs five lakh. /

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the Delhi state Government was currently working on a project in which it will reduce main syllabus by 25 percent and replace it with "most essential subjects of living life" like yoga, music, sports, theatre, etc. he said, "If you give me liberty, I will reduce main curriculum by 50 percent. But to begin with, we have set up a team to work on this to reduce main curriculum by 25 percent. If not all schools, we will do it in some schools as a pilot project.” /

Yoga in Schools: Part of a Hindu Nationalist Agenda?

On the topic of studying yoga in schools in one Indian state, Somini Sengupta wrote in the New York Times, “At issue is a measure by the Hindu nationalist-led government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in central India, that required public school students to practice the sun salutation and recite certain chants in Sanskrit during a statewide function. The state government, controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., said that it complied with a central government policy to encourage yoga in schools and that it was inspired by a recent visit from a popular Hindu spiritual leader. [Source: Somini Sengupta, New York Timesm February , 2007 /+]

yoga at a school in Chinawal

“Muslim and Christian groups in the state took issue not so much with the yoga exercise, but with the chants, which they said were essentially Hindu and in worship of the sun. They argued in court that it violated the Indian constitutional provision to separate religion and state. A state court ruled earlier that neither the chants nor the sun salutation could be forced on students. A state education official said by telephone that five million children in Madhya Pradesh voluntarily took part in the program when the state government also announced that it would incorporate lessons on the importance of yoga into textbooks. /+\

“In a country that contains all of the world’s major religions (and several minor ones), questions over the divide between state and religion have come up from time to time, and just as frequently have been obfuscated or at least delicately massaged. The official list of Indian holidays reflects a careful balance of holy days of all the major religious groups; there are 15 religious holidays in all, along with 28 others that Indians can opt to take, depending on their faith. /+\

“Whether yoga is religious practice is, like everything in this country, a matter of debate. Some people note that its recitations sometimes invoke Hindu gods, but others argue that its physical exercises have nothing to do with Hindu ritual. It is hardly uncommon for non-Hindus to practice yoga. The Indian health minister, Ambubani Ramadoss, last month floated the idea of compulsory yoga in all government schools, as one among several measures to combat childhood obesity. /+\

“Some Indian social scientists saw the Madhya Pradesh measure “” and particularly the proposal to chant “” as an effort by the B.J.P. to inject Hindu nationalist ideology into public education and, in turn, provoke public opinion for and against the measure. “This is the way they can keep the pot boiling “” create public sentiments on issues such as these,” said Ashis Nandy, one of India’s most prominent sociologists.” /+\

Yoga Class with Sri K. Pattabhi in India

Describing a class by the then 84-year-old Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, Rebecca Mead wrote in The New Yorker, “Jois doesn't teach in the manner of a Western aerobics class, by standing in the front of the room and yelling instructions. Instead each student shows up at an appointed time and works through the series of postures at his or her own place, while Jois, barrel-stomached in black Calvin Klein briefs and, and bare-chested except for his Brahmin stings performs what are known in the yoga business as adjustments---winching a leg into place or leaning heavily on a student's back to stretch him or her further." [Source: Rebecca Mead The New Yorker, August 14, 2000 \=/]

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois teaching

“All the men are stripped to the waist, the women are in spandex, and all of them are slick with sweat as they twist their bodies in unimaginable knots or deep into breathtaking backbends, seeming to hang suspended in the air they jump from one position to the next...The room is silent but for the subtle chorus of long, repetitive, nasal hisses, and occasional pigeon English command from Jois, who barks, “Nooooo! You go down!...It is a serenity born of concentration and pain---torture meets bliss." \=/

On her first 5:00am lesson Mead said that Jois “had alarmed me while I was attempting a forward bend by coming up behind me, grabbing my hips, and tipping me over so that my head hovered inches above the ground and my feet almost slipped out from under me: it's hard to think about meditating when the only thing preventing your head from crashing on the concrete floor is the physical strength of an octogenarian." Initiates often have castor oil smeared all their head an body, a process that is supposed make them more supple but often makes them physically sick. \=/

“At Jois's daily afternoon conference...students are invited to sit with him and ask questions about yoga theory and about his life...The atmosphere is more one of companionable comfort than pedagogical rigor: on many afternoons, Jois, who is known as Gurji, will settle in his chair in his tank top and dhoti...and immerse himself in the newspaper, while his students sit cross-legged in beatific silence at his feet." Most of the participants in Jois's classes are Westerners who engage in normal backbacker activities when they are not in the classes. Local Indians often have little time or little interest in yoga. Those that are interested in it are often in to it as way to make money from Westerners. \=/

Attending a Yoga Retreat in India

Reporting from Puducherry, Kyle Jarrard wrote in the New York Times, “The first sound in the morning is crows, right at 5. Then we hear waves off the Bay of Bengal slapping the shore. In the garden, a man meditates while walking quickly over the lawn of the ashram guest house in the dark. Along the shore, other men pace the beach in the silver jetty light. Fishing boat lanterns like stars ride the black sea south to north. My wife and I have come to this old French comptoir (formerly Pondichéry) in southeast India mostly for the yoga. The classes used to be held in one of the many parcels of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram scattered across the colonial city. But for this retreat, there's a new venue. [Source: Kyle Jarrard, New York Times, August 19, 2008 ~~]

tourists practicing yoga at Chos-Khor Monastery in Himachal Pradesh

“Ajit, in his 70s now, grew up in this famous ashram with his parents, who went into the retreat founded and inspired by the yogi and guru Sri Aurobindo and his vision of universal consciousness and peace. In this idyllic world, Ajit learned everything from ballet to track to gymnastics, but especially yoga, a skill he has taught with acclaim for decades both in India and in France. ~~

“We take our yoga classes on the roof of the new school, under a tall thatched structure with open sides. Most of the people in the assembly know their Hatha-style yoga; others stumble a lot - but soon everyone gets into the flow, despite the great sensual distractions: banana groves to the north wavering in the gold sunlight; rice paddies to the east where a few dozen women bend weeding at daybreak; thick coconut trees to the west that invite the eye to enter and roam; and to the south, the village, overlain with teak, drumstick and casuarina trees, where cooking-fire smoke rises and every dog yaps at everything...Classes in Indian culture, taught by Ajit or his wife, Selvi, guide us through the thickets of marriage, life in the Aurobindo ashram, techniques of meditation and the Hindu pantheon... There's a blessed break around 9 to boat a couple of kilometers down a green stream, which takes us to the sea for an hour's swim in view of a towering blue Hindu temple.

Our afternoons spent at Vellai Thamarai wind down through exercises to relax the body and mind, and then a regimental workout until 6, with Ajit pushing us all to the tips of our muscles. The school teachers and nurse come up and join us, which makes for a lot of laughter as Ajit tacks between French and English to keep everybody on their toes. But it's the tricky headstands that truly challenge us all, despite Ajit's reverent description of the ease with which Nehru practiced this healthy habit.

Trying to Chill at a Yoga-Ayurvedic Spa in India

Reporting from Ananda Spa in Narendra Nagar in northern India, Amanda Jones wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “I am a dharma disaster, a chakra calamity. I cannot meditate. My inner hamster is a maniac, and my legs refuse to cross for that long. So when the saried woman with the serene kohled eyes tells me that I have a private meditation session scheduled, I inform her that I would prefer another herbal bundle massage — my third for the week. She laughs. "You are a vata dosha," she says in her lilting Indian accent. "We know you do not like sitting still. This is a lying-down meditation. Your job is only to be guided by the instructor's voice and remain in the state between sleep and wakefulness." This I think I can do. [Source: Amanda Jones, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2013 ^^^]

“I am in the foothills of the Himalayas in India's northern Uttarakhand state at the remote Ananda Spa. Ananda is a retreat based on ayurvedic medicine, therapies and cuisine, as well as various styles of meditation and yoga. It has been voted the world's best destination spa several times by readers of Condé Nast Traveler and won favor with the celeb set the world over. But I'm the least likely person to come here, which is why I need it, according to my friend Susan Burks, who decades ago lived in ashrams and consulted gurus and has accompanied me here. ^^^

“Ananda is perched 11 miles above the holy town of Rishikesh, apparently the birthplace of yoga and the town in which the Beatles famously spent time dressed in kurta pajamas studying transcendental meditation and writing music. After a 45-minute plane ride from Delhi and a one-hour drive from the Dehradun airport, through Rishikesh, over the rushing waters of the Ganges River and up through the forests, we arrived at the 4,500-foot elevation and Ananda in the Himalayas. Outside, a phalanx of beautifully turbaned staff greeted us with namaskar. ^^^

“I'll admit to a flash of disappointment when we pulled into the driveway. The Narendra Palace, the grounds of which host the spa, looked dilapidated and abandoned. The spa's reception area, in the viceroy's mansion behind the palace, was a throwback to 1930s Raj, almost shabby when my expectation was the wow of the world's best spa. My room in the guest building down the hill, although comfortable and elegant with a 180-degree view of the Ganges, was simple by design. (There are, however, five luxury suites and three private multiroom villas available.) A week later I was ashamed of my superficial original impressions. Ananda is not about materialism. It is a spiritual and physical retreat, a place to be nurtured and reminded that balance, gratitude and wellness are tantamount. It's not about the design of the sofa but about how at peace you are while sitting on it. ^^^

Treatment at a Yoga-Ayurvedic Spa in India

On her regimen at Ananda Spa, Jones wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Ananda has some sort of crazy magic like no other place I've been. Before arriving, I received a questionnaire with program options: ayurvedic rejuvenation, weight management, detox, yogic or stress management. I chose the ayurvedic, imagining it would involve prone positions and warm oil treatments. Before the warm oil flowed, however, I was required to consult the resident ayurvedic doctor, trained in the many-thousand-year-old art of Indian natural medicine using herbal compounds, oils, special diets, meditation and exercise suited specifically to a body type. [Source: Amanda Jones, Los Angeles Times, November 3, 2013 ^^^]

one ayuvedic treatment

“Half an hour later, I left with my world rocked, categorized as a vata dosha, which dictated my physical and behavioral self. Reading the vata characteristics was uncanny — typically thin, not much muscle, dry skin, creative, cold hands and feet, restless, active, quick learner but forgets easily, insomniac tendencies, variable appetite, thrives on irregular routines, speaks quickly and gesticulates, becomes "spaced-out" frequently — and on it went, describing, well, me. ^^^

“Drifting through the marigold-decorated hallways of the calming 24,000-square-foot Ananda Spa, I was greeted by a glowing woman who handed me my daily schedule of treatments, sessions and optional classes. One of the beautiful things about Ananda is that the price (less than most American high-end spas) includes at least three treatments a day, and you can always add from the menu of more than 80 Eastern- and Western-style healings. They put together a spa program that they think is best for you and your dosha — vata, pitta or kapha — and recommend you stick to it, although you can switch. This is not a place of privation or austerity. If you really must eat the dessert, OK, eat it. If you really need that glass of wine, you can order it (go ahead, pollute your body, no judgment), and if you really don't want liquid ghee poured in your eyes, well, they won't make you.” ^^^

Indian Inmates Take Yoga Classes to Reduce Jail Time

At some prisons in India, inmates can take yoga classes to reduce jail time. In 2010, Dean Nelson wrote in The Telegraph, “ Prison officials in Madhya Pradesh, in central India, have launched a new scheme which will grant inmates reductions on their sentences if they complete a three-month course. For every three months each prisoner spends performing sun salutations, down dog stretches, pranayam heavy breathing exercises and chanting "Om", his or her release date will be brought forward by 36 days. [Source: Dean Nelson, The Telegraph, January 20, 2010 /||]

“According to prison officials at Gwalior Jail, 400 prisoners are now taking part in the scheme, and 68 inmates are already set to have their sentences reduced. The prison authorities believe yoga will not only improve their fitness, but make them calmer, less violent and more positive when they are finally released. One prisoner said his anger had subsided since he began practicing yoga, and that he planned to teach the discipline after his release. "We are running yoga classes in many jails. The basic objective to practice yoga in jails is to help the inmates to master the art, bust the stress, anger management and to keep them fit. We offer remission of sentence to prisoners who admit themselves for educational courses and yoga will be covered in the remission," said Sanjay Mani, Inspector-General of Prisons, Madhya Pradesh. For those thinking of scaling the walls or tunneling to freedom, the fastest escape will now be from the lotus position./||\

practicing yoga at a prison

In 2015, Andrew Marszal wrote in The Telegraph, “An Indian jail is to release prisoners early if they earn top marks in yoga exams at the end of a course. The scheme involves inmates at the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, where Mahatma Gandhi was twice imprisoned, and prisoners will be eligible for release three months early as an incentive to do well. “Yoga has been proved scientifically to improve the mental and physical condition,” said Bhushankumar Upadhyay, the prison director responsible for the programme. “It improves our overall behaviour and calms down our violent tendencies. Remission has been given by the government for good conduct. So as an incentive we are going to give remission to those who excel at yoga." [Source: Andrew Marszal, The Telegraph, November 30, 2015 ||/||]

“Inmates who began the new programme last Saturday will sit a practical and a written exam after six months. Dr Upadhyay, 51, said he hopes the scheme, in which around 1,500 prisoners will initially participate, could spread across India and even to other countries. Inmates taking the course will also be encouraged to teach yoga to their fellow prisoners at other jails around Maharashtra state. Early release will also depend on other aspects of prisoners’ conduct, including their involvement in employment schemes such as the prison’s carpentry shop. Yerwada jail has a history of innovative rehabilitation programmes, having instigated an optional education course teaching Gandhian principles to inmates in 2002. |/||

“According to the Sahayog Trust, which devised the year-long course, upon completing their studies, two-thirds of inmates believed their former activities were wrong and wished to ask for forgiveness from their victims’ families. Officials also claimed the number of violent incidents within the prison dropped as a result of the course. “Gandhi and Gandhian concepts have been very popular among the inmates,” confirmed Dr Upadhyay.” |/||

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Indian History Sourcebook “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World's Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures: Volume 3 South Asia” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); “The Creators” by Daniel Boorstin; “A Guide to Angkor: an Introduction to the Temples” by Dawn Rooney (Asia Book) for Information on temples and architecture. National Geographic, the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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