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“IT’s in our blood,” said a man at the airport in Delhi as I waited to check my bag in for a flight to Pune (pronounced poona).
I had just taken part in the International Day of Yoga in the birthplace of yoga and wondered: “Does everyone else?”
“Is the day a big ‘thing’ here?”
But yoga, as the man suggested, isn’t big in the sense that it’s not popular in India (it definitely is), it’s just a normal, in fact, an “integral part of life”.
Which became obvious as I watched the calm of yoga, ashrams and higher consciousness, weave through the chaos of bright colours, car horns, traffic and people naturally, almost destabilising the contrast associated with calm and chaos.
And I found myself also weaving in and out of these states.
Once in Pune, the second largest city in the Indian state of Maharashtra (after Mumbai), the bus, alongside cars and bikes, impatiently edged forward before turning on to a more “quiet” road.
We were an hour late (“Indian stretched time”) but we were finally in Lonavla, about 60 kilometres west of the city.
There, in amongst the green of draping trees and yellow and red of the buildings, is Kaivalyadham, one of the oldest yoga institutes in the world, which also offers healing programs.
One of its main healing tools used at Kaivalyadham is yoga but unlike much of western yoga incorporating asanas (poses) such as down dog this yoga is not the westernised sweaty transfusion of poses.
Regarded as “pure yoga”, this institute teaches its students how to enter the “highest state of consciousness” or self realisation.
“It’s yoga in its most traditional form mixed with science,” says yoga teacher Anukool Deval.
“We see yoga in various forms in the world but Kaivalyadham teaches a classical form of yoga.”
Looking at the classical texts of yoga, a penniless yogi, Swami Kuvalayananda, started scientific research into yoga in 1924.
He had personally experienced profound transformative effects of yoga, and wished to validate his experiences through the scientific lens of the early twentieth century.
He wanted to prove to the world that the ancient practice of yoga was not just mystical, or simply a belief, but that it really worked.
And he did.
His tireless work over decades generated a lot of interest in the universities of the west.
His work was published in many journals and gradually, over many years, the practices of yoga gained some credibility.
“There’s more of yoga and yoga and yoga, everywhere, but unfortunately not each and every yoga is scientifically identified,” says Anukool.
Through its ongoing research the Kaivalyadham institute continues to look at yoga through a scientific lens and is currently studying areas such as the impact of yoga on children with disabilities.
“Yoga is good for the mind. It’s all about mind through bodies,” he says.
“When we can calm the mind through body, then we can reach a higher self.
“It’s all about being in that state of posture and being aware of body.
“It’s all about the nervous system and brain activity [and] we’re trying our best to keep yoga in its traditional form.”
But no matter what type of yoga is done, “it is a gift to the world”, said a woman who spoke on the International Day of Yoga, and although it was mainly in a foreign language, she said movement is universal.
The author travelled as a guest of the Indian government.