Hear the word India, and you instantly conjure up images of its bucolic life, the pandemonium of its many cities, and religious symbolism at every corner. But above all, you think of the rich culture that is associated with this country, and deep-rooted within this culture is one of the most ancient mind-body, holistic practices – Yoga. In an era of fad diets, six pack abs and size zero figures stands this gentle form of exercise – which has stood the test of time.
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways, these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul.
The science of Yoga imbibe itself the complete essence of the way of life, including – Gyan Yogaor philosophy, Bhakti Yoga or path of devotional bliss, Karma Yoga or path of blissful action, and Raja Yoga or path of mind control. Raja Yoga is further divided into eight parts. At the heart of the Raja Yoga system, balancing and unifying these various approaches, is the practice of Yogasana.
Pathanjala Yoga Shikshana Kendra
Patanjala Yoga Kendra is a holistic way of life that integrates all elements of ancient knowledge of Yoga, to make a prayerful discipline uniting the body, mind and soul. Along with the series of simple, yet effective yoga postures and breathing techniques, a greater emphasis is placed on the inner experience of meditation, for the well-being of mind and other hidden elements of human existence. We believe when one is in harmony within, the journey through life becomes calmer, happier and more fulfilled.
At this yoga centre, programs, the wisdom and techniques of yoga are taught by Guru Keshavamurthy, in a pure, joyful and thorough manner. The programs restore balance by helping to strengthen our body, calm our mind, regain our focus and improve self- confidence. It is a complete package for beginners as well as regular practitioners and has something for everyone – of all age groups.
Regular practice of asanas has brought remarkable lifestyle changes in the practitioners. They have experienced relief from chronic illnesses and have observed behavioral changes. Participants have reported a healthy, happier living with reduced anxiety, increased tolerance and mindfulness.
In an exclusive interview with Keshava Murthy, a renowned yoga practitioner and founder of Patanjala Yoga Shikshana Kendra, we find out what yoga means to him, different kinds of yoga and some on-the-go exercises for frequent visitors.
Tell us about your childhood.
I was born in KR Nagar but was brought up in Davadagere near Hunsur. Till high school I studied at Davadagere in Krishnaraja High School. My father was an astrologer. I have two sisters and two younger brothers.
What was your first profession before you became a yoga guru?
Earlier I was a high school teacher in Davadagere in 1963 for thre years. Then I worked at Belekere near Mysuru for some time. Then I did my MSc from Mysore University and worked as a lecturer at Sargur and then was posted to Kadur. Later I was promoted as the principal in KR Nagar and also worked in Nagamangala and Hiriyur.
When did you start practicing yoga?
In 1976, when I was a lecturer in Hunsur, I learnt yoga from my guru Raghavendraswamy and I was very much influenced by him. He was 87 then and appeared very young and lived till 107 years. Then I did international diploma in yoga. I was transferred to Srirangapatna in 1979 and then I started teaching yoga professionally and began Padhayoga Shikshana Kendra and since then I am into yoga for almost 37 years. I got retired in 1997 and since 19 years I am here in Mysuru.
What type of yoga do you teach and your favourite asana?
I teach Patanjala yoga and Hathayoga. In Patanjala, most asanas are in sitting forms. The goal of this rendition of the Yoga sutras is to make the principles and practices of the yoga sutras more understandable and accessible. Right now most of my asanas are from Hathayoga like Shirshasana, Bhujangasana, Sarvangasana. I like all the asanas. Yogasana is a part of yoga which includes asanas, pratyahara, dhyana and Samadhi. We can teach till dhyana but Samadhi demands immense dedication, usually done by yogis.
Is yoga more physical or mental?
You can say both. Asanas protect our body from all diseases. If we practice yoga for one hour daily, we can be free from all the diseases for the rest of our lives. Asthma and other chronic diseases have been cured completely here. Pranayama is the extension and control of one’s breath. Practicing proper techniques of breathing can help bring more oxygen to the blood and brain, eventually helping control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with various yogasanas. The union of these two yogic principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Pranayama techniques also prepare us for a deeper experience of meditation.
Is yoga an alternative to medicine?
Not really! Otherwise all the hospitals would have shutdown by this time. Yoga prevents a disease if practiced regularly. If a hypertension patient comes here, he can’t do most of the asanas only. So it is better to prevent the disease before they start controlling our body. Yoga cures some diseases, but it takes its own time, say from six months to some years depending on the severity of the disease.
What do you think about famous personalities getting into yoga? Is it good for yoga or does it make it a fad?
It is good actually, that too after the international yoga day celebrations. Recently Yogathon was conducted by Narayana Murthy Speciality Hospital to control the heart diseases through yoga and I was part of it. Many doctors are coming to our centre to learn yoga and advising their patients do practice yoga to get rid of diseases and to live a healthy life. Central government is also playing a vital role in creating awareness about yoga.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Shwathashukra Upanishad says yoge natasya rogaha, there will be no disease if you practice yoga and one can be very active in life as my guru was, even when he was 92 years. We can be mentally very peaceful, tension free, and avoid depression in today’s stressful life.
Your opinion about Mysore as a yoga hub.
That is because many foreigners come here for learning yoga. One interesting thing is that it all started during the maharaja period. Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar’s father used to practice yoga and Krishnamacharya was the first yoga expert who was from Chennai. The maharaja gave importance to it and even now one can see a yoga and Sanskrit room in jaganmohana Palace. Nowadays it has become more commercialized but still it is good for namma Mysuru for the international recognition it is getting in recent years.