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Modern Indians rediscover yoga

In Atlanta, resident Indians are revisiting the realms of Yoga in order to live healthier lives, writes Meeta Chaitanya.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2005 19:08 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

One would think Yoga -- the widely acknowledged holistic ancient Indian philosophy -- would hold an obvious appeal for foreigners unacquainted with unified therapy alone.

In Atlanta however, resident Indians are beginning to revisit the realms of this ever popular meditative, spiritual fitness practice in order to live healthier, fuller lives. Similarly, Indians and others already in practice are rendering their services and know how to nascent centres.

The goal of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra is understood by most of us today as one that helps us achieve harmony physically, physiologically, psychologically as also spiritually. A follower of Yoga becomes over a period of time, with devout practice balanced in mind and body.

Atlanta offers a wide variety of Yoga centres for anyone keen on learning the discipline - from beginners to advanced students. Ironical as it may seem, most of these learning institutes are set up and fully manned by non-Indians with requisite qualifications in ancient Indian philosophy, such as Ayurveda and individual branches of Yoga; or Indian languages and culture such as Sanskrit along with hands on experience in alternative health therapy as Ashtanga Yoga.

To an enamoured public, the city offers a comprehensive set of Yoga schools to choose from. From followers of the Sivananda organisation, to Iyengar principles, to practitioners of fusion Yoga -- replete with music therapy, Ayurvedic analysis etc, Yoga is present in all forms here, pure and modified.

Yoga centres thrive as they introduce new and new-sounding methodology to the universal routine. As such, some well-known centres here are introducing chapters as Mysore Yoga in the innovative class format. The cost of classes too, varies by factors as hours per week, weeks per schedule and the asanas involved. It can cost anything from $50 for the entire course capsule to piecemeal prices per class.

Some training centres even encourage donation from wealthy patrons in order to enable financially challenged but keen Yoga followers to study the practice unencumbered.

Aside from metaphysical benefits, to a stressed out working community, Yoga offers the promise of increased vitality and energy, effective stress management, mental alertness, improved postures, increased stamina, flexibility and physical strength as also remedial alternative therapy for common ailments as indigestion, back problems, asthma, obesity etc.

Almost everyone who has dabbled in Yoga is aware of its five pronged principles; proper exercise (asanas), proper breathing (pranayama), proper relaxation (savasana), proper diet (satwik ahaar), positive thinking and meditation (dhyana). A course that integrates these principles is therefore very popular with the community, many among whom now practice pranayama and basic asanas even while at work or while travelling.

Yoga, erroneously and commonly construed as simply a union between body, mind and spirit, is traditionally defined as the union between the Jivatman (the individual consciousness) and Paramatman (the Universal consciousness).

Hence, it is considered incomplete without the chanting of Om, the oldest and most sacred dhwani (sound) in Hindu philosophy. Therefore, regardless of the original purpose of undertaking Yoga lessons, some as cursory as 'doing the in-thing', in its purest form, Yoga becomes a state of consciousness where one experiences union with the divine, the universal, the omniscient.

To see this basic Indian philosophy, not religion, embraced by so many people of diverse origins is exalting. To see Indians hearken back to this system invented, perfected and propagated by their forefathers is even more endearing. It is this yoga (union) through Yoga that straddles the bridge between east and west, in its own way, miles away, here in Atlanta.

First Published: Sep 27, 2005 18:50 IST