Shaping up and staying cool with yoga

As an exercise regime it can compare to anything else that gets the joints and muscles smooth and pliable.

By Asha Iyer Kumar

Published: Tue 30 Jun 2015, 9:44 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:15 PM

I am a random (and reluctant) practitioner of yoga, the reluctance inspired not so much by misgivings about it as by physical restrictions. Suryanamaskar was part of my morning routine till a sore shoulder put paid to it some time ago and the brief break became permanent. It took me on a guilt trip about giving up something that is touted as a sure shot way to good health and cheer. Somehow, my evening walk didn’t seem to match the gratification that Suryanamaskar brought, the dissatisfaction largely brewing in the mind than in the body. Needless to say, my estrangement with what now has become as popular as hip hop robbed me of an opportunity to be part of a record creating endeavour by congregations across the world on 21st of June. I have no regrets for reasons that may sound cynical, but in fact are a result of confusion about what this whole jamboree is and was about.

I was curious how Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ slogan acquired a whole new meaning with the International Yoga day. The merchant of Indian dreams abroad acquired a purple halo with his effort to put a ‘you are here’ sticker over India, and peddling an ancient practice as panacea to the modern world, and the herd followed, happy to share the limelight. A majority of those who observed the day in earnest were deep-dyed enthusiasts who will swear by the efficacies of the practice, and the rest were mere cheerleaders who didn’t want to miss out on an international page 3 opportunity.

With no scientific proof in hand to either accept or dismiss yoga’s effect on the mind, body, and related ailments, one would rather not pass rash judgments on it. However, one is forced to think of the true import of this collective campaign that vacillates between fancy and philosophy. To many, yoga is an alternative to the gym. The fluid movements in yoga and its promise to build pretty contours makes it more or less a preserve of women, with men still preferring to hit the treadmill to work their abs. As an exercise regime it can compare to anything else that gets the joints and muscles smooth and pliable. Yet there is something about yoga that puts it above regular workouts, drawing men out of gyms and women back from jogging tracks.

It would be wrong to harp on the religious subtext of yoga and narrow its apparent scope. But there is an unmistakable spiritual flavour in it which probably explains why people are taking this leap of faith in hordes. Spiritual diet plans handed out by mystics of various hues are now a rage, thanks to man’s search for the elusive peace in a tattered mind space. Any tonic that promises to settle the turbulent mind is welcome and yoga now is part of a prescription to our material woes. Like over the counter generic pain killers, we now buy alternative medicines cleverly branded, packaged and marketed by spiritual representatives. No harm, as long as it mellows us and makes us truly meditative in spirit and aspect even while in throes. Whether it does is a million dollar question on which run many new million dollar industries.

It is good to introduce anything in our lives that will put our fractured selves together and sedate our inner tumult, and if it will come by way of some physical training and discipline, no matter what it is called or how it is branded, so be it. But if it is going to be just a lot of display and grandstanding that only succeeds in airbrushing our lives, if it becomes a fad that we follow without seeking its meaning and purpose, we will be acting like the characters in ‘the blind men and the elephant’ parable. True yoga is a lot more than just bending, stretching and breathing deeply. 

Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based writer

More news from OPINION