Yoga and Living

~ Vedashree Patankar and Deepa Soman

When Deepa writes that our Learning Monday session on 28 Th January will be on yoga, I am a bit skeptical. Anything that purports to solve all my problems and/or relive me of my stress sounds like a myth or urban legend.
The session is by Munmun Ghosh, her repertoire includes a myriad of roles. One of which is being an academic and it seeped through the session. She starts off the session by asking “What is Yoga”. “Union” quips Tanvee mam in her infinite wisdom. Lumiere members are well versed with yoga. “Union of what?” Asks Munmum. Yoga is the union of the mind and body.
To the uninitiated like myself, Yoga is concentration. Attaining that balanced state of mind, where you can focus on “one” task at a time. The ultimate goal of a student of Yoga is to tame and stop the fluctuations in our minds.
But how can the mind be at peace when the body is in pain or discomfort, and here we enter into the realm of ‘asanas’ and ‘pranayama’ practiced to strengthen the body and keep it disease free.
Munmun takes us through the timeline of Yoga, the classical periods of Patanjali and ‘Ashtanga yoga’ (the 8-fold path to overcome the kleshas) to the period of ‘Hath yoga’ (focusing on the body), popularized by the Nath yogis right up to the 19th century when Vivekananda detailed the 4 ways to attain concentration.
Now we can define, “Health” through the eyes of yoga- Healthy body, calm mind and strong spiritual values, with an emphasis on mental cleanliness and mental attitudes
All of this sounds great but how do we go about achieving this? Munmum answered this doubt by making us some ‘Sahaj bhava’ asanas – simple asanas that get us into a state of readiness, ready to tackle the world at the same time help us fostering a mental attitude through each asana.
We do the asanas in the office, releasing those tight muscles and opening up ourselves to imbibe more.
What was keeping me hooked, was how Munmun was peppering the session with personal anecdotes on how she came to inculcate the faith. She speaks about making the intelligent choice of choosing faith and being happy rather than not believing and not being happy. Saying that faith keeps us anchored to our health.
She gives us asanas to help in regulating our menstruation and general reproductive well-being. Because as she explains each asana has a reason behind it, emphasizing on the spinal cord and nervous system
Then Munmun speaks of ‘Pranayama’, the need, the necessity and how to incorporate it in our daily lives. ‘Pranayama’ is the connection between thoughts and breathing, we may not be able to control our thoughts, but we definitely can regulate our breathing. Because conscious breathing, slows down the mind, increases the activity in our cells, helps processing the food and bolsters immunity.
Speaking of food, Munmun speaks about ‘Mitahara’, and what constitutes good nutritious food. Though ideal, we take it with a pinch of salt.
We do an exercise, to write about our loved ones and then crumple that piece of paper, in that one moment we get attached to an external object, Disha is mortified to crumple the sheet, while Deepa does it in an instant. ‘It shows the ability to detach’, says Munmun
At the end of the session, Munmun shares some tips to beat the stress by indulging in some unique perspectives. ‘Pratipaksha Bhavana’ tells us to think the exact opposite of what you are thinking, it helps to curb those nagging negative thoughts.
The session ends on a profound note. ‘Irrespective of whether you are right or wrong, if you keep nourishing those negative emotions, you will suffer. We feed our soul with good thoughts, good music and a faith in our ability to be open and accept what the Universe has in store for us’ Says Munmun
And in true academician style, Munmun provides us with a handout that summarizes her session.

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