International Yoga Day special: Purpose of Yoga is to reconstruct our lives fully, says Himalayan Siddha Akshar
On the occasion of International Yoga Day 2022, renowned Yoga guru Himalayan Siddha Akshar, in a free-wheeling telephonic conversation, talks about the essence of the ancient practice, the right time to begin yoga, and tips for youngsters to adopt various yoga techniques in their life.
A TEDx speaker, an author, an internationally acclaimed spiritual Yoga master and visionary, Himalayan Siddha Akshar aims to guide people in living their best potential life through yoga and spirituality. On the occasion of International Yoga Day 2022, the renowned Yoga guru in a free-wheeling telephonic conversation with HT Digital, talks about the essence of the ancient practice, the right time to begin yoga, and tips for youngsters to adopt various yoga techniques in their life. (Also read: International Yoga Day 2022: Practice this 60-minute yoga routine every day to stay healthy)
Excerpts from the interview:
A set of exercises and breathing techniques, a way to beat the stress or a means to attain salvation – what exactly is Yoga and why this ancient practice is fast emerging as a hottest wellness trend?
Every human is unique in their own way with specific requirements and needs. Some people struggle with physical health issues while others with mental health problems. Then there are people who are trying to connect with their inner self. If world has a population of 8 billion today, then Yoga has to be divided into 8 billion parts.
If you ask my perception of yoga, it means to be able to reconstruct our lives fully. This means to be able to feel complete joy in whatever one is doing without the involvement of ego or anger, to feel selfless love towards people and be dedicated to our goals when we wake up in the morning and go to bed in the night. It also means to have good and nutritious food that powers the body to achieve those goals, to focus on developing good relationships in life, earn money to serve the society with it. All these things in combination give a definitive purpose to life.
The changes promised by Yoga can be life-changing, but isn't it difficult to practice it in modern life which is riddled with complexities and lack of time?
Awareness is very important for leading a yogic way of life. The right time to start is from childhood when a child has just started to learn things. Yoga has to be introduced in a person's life at a very early stage in a dynamic way so that when the child grows up to be an adult, he/she doesn't have to struggle with mental peace and health.
Yoga seems to be making more impact in the West compared to India although it remains the cradle of Yoga philosophy.
Yoga is popular in both India and West but people in West are getting more involved with it. Yoga is a gift to western world. It is an exclusively made-in-India practice that is benefitting millions. It is heartening to see the extensive research that's going on in the field of Yoga, the universities that are being set up in America. Ever since United Nations announced International Yoga Day to be observed on June 21 in 2015, I have been seeing a dynamic change in the perception of Yoga worldwide, about how powerful the practice is. Our hon'ble Prime Minister has to be credited for this change.
Tell us something about your background and your Yoga journey?
I was born in the lap of Himalayas near Naina Devi in Himachal Pradesh and I had the opportunity to experience nature in all its glory, and observing saints and seers from a close distance. I was deeply influenced by their way of life, their simplicity, purity and the inner freedom they had. My father was in military and with him I got a chance to explore places across the India from north, east to south and it made me understand life better. My pradhan guru in Odisha further guided me towards this path and helped me realise my true calling. My father being a military officer wanted me to join his line as he wanted me to serve my country, but I was able to convince him that by following spiritual path, I would be able to serve the entire society.
You have made your own contribution towards Yoga and developed your own techniques. Would you like to talk about it in detail.
I have always been curious about finding new ways and techniques to connect with self, but for that you have to do 360-degree planning. You have to be careful about the research - its origins, its background, its journey. Like I recently discovered a technique called Siddha Walk for which I had to spend a lot of time in Tamil Nadu to work on its historical facts. It originated from Naadi Vigyaan of South India where a person has to walk in the shape of numeral 8.
Researching correctly about yoga techniques also help in spreading right information to people. Like many of the asanas are rechristened incorrectly. You might have read about warrior pose which translates to Vir Asana, but in reality, it is Virah (sadness due to separation) Asana - a different meaning altogether. The translation of Malasana to garland pose is also faulty as we are not referring to mala (garland) but mal (faeces) which is an evacuation pose. It is important to distribute the right knowledge to youngsters.
Paddleboard Yoga, Yoga on horseback, Pet Meditation, Chocolate Yoga - we keep hearing about these emerging so-called yoga techniques. Are these valid according to you or are fads?
These can also be termed as fad but Yoga practitioners at times, to make the practice interesting, make these modifications. I am not completely opposed to it but there are still many things that will not be accepted in the realm of Yoga. Like we probably won't be able to accept Beer Yoga. In New York, some of our practitioners there drew my attention to Nude Yoga where students do not wear any clothes at all while practicing. This is not acceptable because it is the practice for those Yogis who have renounced the world and want to merge themselves completely into the nature. You cannot skip directly to that step when you are just beginning your Yogic journey.
What are the simple practices according to you that yoga beginners can incorporate in their lifestyle to deal with stress and realise their goals in life?
The most important thing is physical health. If our body is healthy, good things start happening on their own. Food is the foundation of good health. Bhagvad Gita recommends Yuktahaar Viharasya which means one should eat what is most suitable for them. Eating less carbs and more protein, consuming more vegetables and fruits and less of salt, sugar and flour, not only makes sure you are free of all the lifestyle diseases but also makes your yoga practice more effective.