Monday, November 20, 2006

Muscle-bound levitations

Columnists, I’ve realised, have a lot in common with insects. One of my favourites, Bill Bryson, has the perspective of a common housefly. He takes a disgustingly close look from the oddest of angles but with his self-deprecating world view, he gives you an unforgettable buzz. Fareed Zakaria, on the other hand, would inject you with potent thoughts that could develop feverish intensity, much like the friendly neighbourhood anopheles. Then there are others who might remind you of the Tsetse fly.

Speaking of insects, my friends call me the locust and it has nothing to do agricultural or intellectual depravation and everything to do with a stunt I pull on a yoga mat that never fails to draw gasps of awe from an adoring group of fellow yogis (sigh!). Apologies for blowing my own trumpet, dear reader, but hey, what are columns for. To be honest, I’m quite a slob on the mat, but an inveterate urban yogi nevertheless, and by some quirk of fate and genes, manage to do justice to a rather advanced version of an asana that looks spectacular when done right – the salabhasana or locust. All this preening has got be followed by some preaching, so here I am, taking a stand for the headstand.

Recently, I overheard a debate between colleagues over a magazine story. It was a story about the relative benefits of yoga versus the gym. As magazine stories go, this was as non-committal as ever – lot of facts and very little opinion. The women, many of whom could wear their knees around their necks for a lark, debated that yoga was a wonderful workout for body and soul while the gym was only good for muscle-bound monsters who’ll only have luck wooing a she-gorilla. The men, with bulging egos, bellies and the odd biceps, countered that yoga was for sissies and those on the wrong side of 50 or a shrink. Now, I really enjoy my ‘mat-time, and I assure you I’m no sissy ( I’m contract bound against countering the rest). And that is not because I also go to the gym, lift hundreds of Kgs (admittedly, only about as often as Mahmoud Ahmedinejad might cry over Anne Frank’s diary) or because I enjoy being thrown around by benign grandmoms in during Aikido practice.

I would recommend yoga to all who’d care to listen because yoga, as Diamond Dallas Page, three-time world champion wrestler and avid yogi, and a very big man, who you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley says, is “the best damn workout on the planet!” The world might agree that yoga is great for health, spiritual and otherwise, but few believe that yoga is also perhaps a sculptor of shape and symmetry. And why would you believe me when iron temple gods like ‘The Governator’ and John Cena display dimensions previously found in comic books while yoga ideals like B.K.S. Iyengar and Aadil Palkhivala, no matter how fit or supple, haven’t really exhibited action figure physiques. The truth, however, going by the lean athletic and long-lived examples of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Swami Ramamohan Brahmachari, is that when done at the right intensity, yoga promises the strength of an elephant and the grace of a peacock as the Patanjali sutras would testify. Working from the inside out, organs and glands benefit as much as muscle and bone, thus building an everlasting foundation for health and beauty (for what is beauty but radiant physical, intellectual and spiritual health). Just take a look at Rodney Yee and Baron Baptiste and you’ll know. More importantly, yoga promises mankind a blue print that will help him influence if not control his destiny.

As for the debate, it ended in a wager. I’ve accepted a challenge from my key board-crushing, dumbbell-toting colleagues that after three months of ‘real’ yoga, yours truly will emerge stronger and fitter than anything their gym busting could’ve managed. Will keep you posted and once that happens you too could exchange your gym membership for a yoga course.

Proof of the pudding...

Yoga means union, and subject to your school of thought, the union could be between a range of partners – mind and body, soul and the divine or lover and the beloved. The basic objective of the practice is to establish a bridge between the cosmic energy that shapes the universe and the energy that courses through our bodies.

Yoga, therefore is a path that allows the human form access to these vast, inexhaustible reserves of universal energy and channelise it through the human body and perform deeds that’ve hitherto only been described as superhuman. There have been demonstrations by yogis who’ve performed seemingly impossible feats like stopping their heart, an involuntary muscle, from beating and others who’ve spent days inside airtight sealed containers and emerged unharmed from the ordeal.

Yogi Bhim, a yogi based in New Zealand, has performed some astonishing feats of strength like tearing steel trays into pieces and bursting hot water bottles by blowing into them – a feat matched only by champion strongmen like Bill Pearl. The Guinness Book of World Records is replete with names of innumerable yogis and their near impossible feats.

Yoga, however, has far more to offer than just an assortment of the above but these events do offer a glimpse of our own super human potential. Science will do what it can but the real key to unlocking human potential lies in the energy sciences like yoga, qigong, tai chi chuan, aikido, reiki and pranic healing.


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