There is a natural tendency for unification of various entities of our planet. Yoga perceives and attains it in its higher realms of samadhi dwelling on heightened state of mind and elevated knowledge. The unification of mind, body and soul is divinity. This is yoga and is achieved through yogābhyāsa to maintain poise between pravitti and nivritti in the attainment of purusārthas. Yogāsanas is one part of yoga to attain perfection of body.
The lore of India’s tryst with yogis needs to retain its sanctity. Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi feels – ‘Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being.’ The state of well-being is pervasive to our existence and pertains to global community.
Why does a prime minister practice yoga on a public podium? A prime minister in any democracy is the vanguard of the citizenry. Shri Narendra Modi and his penchant for yoga has become a cult and his mission to popularize yoga has received worldwide appreciation. Yoga verily leads to better attainment in public life. The Prime Minister himself practicing it has instilled a precedent for others to try out and adjudge its prudence. Yoga also bears a secular mantle and cultural versatility. This has led yoga to get transplanted all across the globe.
Prime Minister in his address to the 69th session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA) on September 27th, 2014 exhorted the world community to adopt an International Day of Yoga to render its profundity – ‘Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change.’ Within three months, 193 members of UNGA approved this proposal by consensus with a record 177 co-sponsoring countries agreeing to establish 21st June as the International Day of Yoga.
The Ministry of AYUSH has been striding forth with establishing the curative values of yoga and integrating yoga with various disciplines to reap societal benefits. Be it the high altitude soldiers or mountaineers or expeditions in Antarctica, yoga streamlines body’s functioning to the requisite elimination of body wastes and bolster better assimilation of nutrients for bodily build-up.
Yoga can be of immense benefit to the armed and paramilitary forces. Yoga is highly effective in enduring cold tolerance and proves to be immune-modulatory and anti-inflammatory and also in augmenting stress hormones and neurotransmitters. Yoga workout improves the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the alpha index of electroencephalogram sees improvement. Yogic practice on stress hormones and neurotransmitters sees a spurt.
Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences (DIPAS) under Defence Research & Development Organization in collaboration with Morarji Desai Natonal Institute of Yoga (MDNIY) and Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA) developed customized yoga packages for army, air force and navy to tackle high altitude, hot desert and cold desert conditions and submarine and ship conditions. According to Dr Shashi Bala Singh, outstanding scientist and Director of DIPAS, ‘scientific investigations on āsanas and prānayāms have enabled its application in combating the stress in soldiers and promoting their psycho-physiological fitness. Yoga can also be a support system to cope up and overcome the disturbed biorhythm and social isolation in adverse climatic conditions.’ Yogic practices on BSF have shown to improve anaerobic power.
Yoga in Antarctica was tried out during 35th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica in 2015-2016. ‘Effect of Antarctic conditions and mitigation: yoga for Indian Expedition’ was undertaken by DIPAS and S-VYASA to facilitate better thermoregulation and minimize sea sickness. Also, yoga was found to enable better adaptations to the changes in the circadian rhythm or the body clock while staying at Bharati and Maitri stations in Antarctica. Improved sleep architecture and better mood prevailed.
Yogasana is not just for body flexibility but has a profound corrective action on aberrant human physiology. Several incurable ailments for modern medicine such as epilepsy, mental disorders, endocrine imbalance etc find a solution. Prof K.K.Deepak is the Head of Department of Physiology at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. He has carried out measurement of autonomic tone using heart rate variability before and after prānayām and sudarshan kriya which involves regulated and rhythmic breathing. The effect of controlled breathing exercise on the psychological status is also noted. He has made assessment of sympatho-vagal modulation during pranayam and conscious paced breathing. Heart Rate Dynamics during Shambhavi Mahamudra, a practice of Isha Yoga was worked upon. Voluntary heart rate reduction is proven possible following yoga using different strategies. Cardiac autonomic function even in patients with diabetes improves with practice of comprehensive yogic breathing program.
An extensive study on yogic therapy in epilepsy and prolonged meditation practice as a useful adjunct for management of drug-resistant epileptics has also been carried out in AIIMS. Yogic intervention for mental disorders is also possible. Studies have also been conducted to see the effect of yoga based intervention in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The effect of comprehensive yogic breathing program on type 2 diabetes is also noted.
What is āsana and how should it be done? Sthirasukhamāsanam, says the seer Patañjali. Late Yoga Guru B.K.S.Iyengar transliterates it as, ‘the sense of sanctity brings composure and poise in the body, feeling of firmness in mind and benevolence in the intelligence’. Aṣṭāṇga Yoga of Patañjali holds exemplary toning regimen.
sangacchadhvam samvadadhvam sam vo manānsi jānatām
devā bhāgam yathā pūrve sañjānānā upāsate ||
[May you move in harmony; may you speak in unison; let our mind be equanimous like in the beginning; let the divinity manifest in your sacred endeavours.]
Sanjnana Suktam, Rig Veda. X. 191
(Author is a senior journalist and a radio documentary maker. Views expressed in the article are author’s personal)