The Yoga News - December, 2008
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|December 02, 2008
The Yoga News
The Origin of
gifting tradition has some roots in ancient India
Dr Swami Gitananda
Where did it all start? Who is to be blamed? Blame it all on the
Hindus. It's time we took the blame rather than all the credit.
It just so happens that the Hindus have been around for a long time.
They're rather an old member on the family tree. So intent were they on
study and realization of spiritual and material things that the
UPANISHADS, the ancient scriptures of India, report their conclusion
that "there is nothing new under the sun."
Many of the customs and rituals associated with most of the world's
religions and holidays originated in India, going through various
changes in the societies which adopted them. For instance, the story of
gift-giving at this Christmastide and the originator of such gifts are
both of Hindu origin ...
In the KATHOPANISHAD, we have the story of the Brahmin Vajasravasa who
fathered a son called Nachiketas, which is Sanskrit for Nicholas. The
boy dies and goes to the abode of Yama, Lord of Death where he lingers
for three days while Death is away. When Yama returns he is
embarrassed to discover that he had kept a Brahmin waiting. He grants
the boy three boons, or favours, and the boy returns to life again
bearing gifts for his father and family.
Sant Nachiketas (Saint Nicholas) is depicted driving a chariot-like
sledge loaded with the boons and gifts for the good of mankind. His
vehicle is pulled by reindeer that are able to fly, and he distributes
all of the ratnas,
or celestial gifts to mankind, including the knowledge of life after
The western story of St. Nicholas grew up many millennia later around
the life of a father of the early Christian Church in Asia Minor who
gifted a dowry for three ugly daughters of a poor parishioner. Later,
St. Nick was a "good guy" who went around blessing little children on
December 6th each year. "Bad" little ones were soundly caned by a
blackamoor who accompanied the old saint. The American super-tale was
created by the Reverend Samuel Clement
Moore when he wrote "Twas The Night Before Christmas."
This is the
winter solstice and the season when mankind dreads the loss of heat and
light; when ancient man lit his fire, he also lit it for the Gods in
hope that they would return the warmth and the day-light.
Their yule fire was an ancient offering to the sun. First candles, and
then electric lights replaced the fire. Modern electric lights like
their earlier counterparts, also represented the planets in our solar
system, and for the mystic Yogi, represented the chakras of the
inner cosmos. The fir tree represents the spine and the cranial nerves
upon which the chakric
lights resplendently appear.
At this time of year, Hindus are celebrating the Festival of Lights,
Muslims and Jews their own period of Id and Chanukah, while in many
other cultures the "season of light" is also acknowledged. Let us all
strive for that Light that illumines all worlds.
the Author: Yogamaharishi Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Guru
Maharaj (1907-1993) was one of the most potent and effective forces in
the field of ashtanga yoga worldwide. Learn more about Swami Gitananda here
Also visit the International
Centre for Yoga Education and Research
an opinion? Send
us Your Comments ...
Are Yogis Communists?
and Communism are
rarely two words that find themselves in the same
sentence. On the contrary, yoga has become
so popular in the West, that it is now often identified as much with
Americana as it is with its deeply communal Indian roots.
ancient science has done much to satisfy our desires for bodily health
wellbeing in recent times. It has even provided a few small elixirs of
spiritual nourishment for many along the way.
would dare suggest that a yogi could be anything but a free-living, you
can have it all, proponent of the utopian democratic dream? I surely
would not dare …
After all, Communism, that antithesis of the American spirit, strives
to attain a classless society, where no one stands in privilege or
dominion over another…
The yogis, of course, would recognize that the “true self,” the
essence of each and everyone of us, is identical; that we are, all of
us, children of the same Divine spirit, with neither class distinction
nor right of dominion over another. Ok, maybe that was a bad example …
How about this though? A popular slogan of the Communist movement
“Communism is a world in which each gives according to their abilities,
and receives according to their needs.”…
Hmmm ..., the Bhagavad
implores mankind to find liberation from their desires for personal
gain; to selflessly serve humanity; to view the fruits of this world as
a Divine gift, not for personal possession, but for the equal use of
all. Ok, I guess that was another bad example…
Really though, Communists view that a master and slave, lord and
subject, the “oppressor and oppressed,” stand in constant opposition to
one another, an arrangement that forms the root of inexhaustible
disharmony in life…
Actually, that sounds strangely like the concept
or duality that our ancient Rishis warned us of! They
taught us that it is this thing called “ego”, the perceiving of
ourselves as unique, individual and separate entities, that is the
cause of all our troubles. They told us that we are not alone in this
world, but “all one” in it, and that freedom from our discontent can
only come through the realization of the unity of all of nature and the
equality of all mankind.
Ok, forget all those things. In the end,
Communist ideals are surely too radical for the yogi; after all,
Communists openly declare that their goals can only be attained by the
forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. “The people have
nothing to lose but their chains,” they say, “but they have a world to
WAIT A MINUTE! The cultivation of the “warrior spirit” is
vital in yoga too. In fact, yoga masters have demonstrated that
immense effort is needed to overcome the many obstacles on the yogic
path, to conquer the ego-self and to pull back the veil of ignorance
that overshadows our Divine inner light.
world,” cry the yogis, “a
revolution of the spirit is at hand. You
have nothing to lose but the chains of ignorance that bind you. You
have the greatest possession of all to win - Freedom … Liberation…
Communion with the Universal Divine!”
Really Communists Then?
Communism is a simple three-syllable word that evokes such strong
emotion. The root meaning of the word itself simply means to "commune,"
to "come together,"
to "connect." Similarly, the word Yoga
means "union," a joining of our lower, worldly self with the higher
Divinity; a "communion" of the individual with the Universal.
that make Yogis Communists? Surely not in the political sense of the
fact, Yogis are no more Communists than they are Republicans,
Democrats, Socialists or Anarchists. The "communion of yoga" subscribes
to no dogma or politically motivated ideology; it does not strive to
subjugate people or impose beliefs. Yoga enlightens, empowers, and
It seems that great ignorance, misunderstanding, and misuse have
lofty concept of "communing" in our time, both in and out of the
political arena. Perhaps
in that respect, Yoga and Communism
do share some common ground.
they continued steadfastly in fellowship.
And all that believed were together, and had all things in common.
And they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men,
as every man had need.”
New Testament, Acts of the Apostles
the Author: Yogacharya is the director of International
an opinion? Send
us Your Comments ...
Intensive Yoga Combats Chronic Low Back Pain
recent study conducted at the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Institute,
near Bangalore, South India, demonstrates the effectiveness of a
short-term, intensive yoga program for sufferers of chronic low back
Eighty patients diagnosed with CBLB participated in the study. They
were randomly placed into two groups: Forty into an experimental yoga
group, and forty into a control group. The experimental group engaged
in a week-long yoga-based program, while the control group was
prescribed a non-yogic, physical exercise based intervention.
Both groups carried out a comparable daily schedule for seven straight
days, with the yoga group engaging in meditations, yoga postures,
(yogic breathing), yogic relaxation and devotional hymns (bhajans), while
also attending discourses on a yogic based lifestyle.
The control group engaged in walks, therapeutically designed exercise
routines, non-yogic breathing practices, listening to music and
watching video shows on nature, while also attended healthy lifestyle
Spinal flexibility was measured, and a special “functional disability
test” administered to the participants, both at the beginning as well
as the conclusion of the seven-day period.
The results showed an improvement in spinal flexibility in both groups,
with the yoga group demonstrating a considerably greater improvement in
spinal flexibility than the control group.
The functional disability test was in the form of a self-assessment
questionnaire, which included graded questions for assessing the degree
of pain in 10 different areas of living, such as walking, standing,
social life, etc. The total score of this test was expressed as an
index ranging from zero to 100, with zero representing the least amount
of disability, and 100 the most.
The average total disability scores in the yoga group decreased from
36.5 to 18.7, representing a 49% reduction, and a shift from “moderate”
to “mild” disability. Surprisingly, however, the reduction in
functional disability for the control group was statistically
These results indicate that the yogic-based regimen was significantly
more effective in the treatment of CLBP than the non-yogic therapy
approach, providing convincing support for intensive, yoga-based
lifestyle programs in the treatment of patients with chronic low back
Official Registration of The
Indian Yoga Association is Announced
July, 2008, we published news of the newly formed Indian Yoga
[Read “IYA: India Bends Toward Yoga Regulation"]. Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani,
one of the founding executive committee members of the IYA, and their
Director of Publicity and Public Relations, recently updated us with
the following news:
On October 31st, 2008, the IYA was officially registered as a Society
under the Societies Registration Act XXI, 1860. It will be initially
supported administratively and financially by the Department
Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddhi and Homeopathy
and the Morarji
Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY), and will be
initially based out of the MDNIY.
The following aims and objectives of the IYA were explained by Dr I
Basavaraddi, Secretary of the IYA and Director of the MDNIY, during a
meeting at the International
Centre for Yoga Education and Research in Pondicherry, India
on the 6th of November 2008:
Promotion and advancement of Yoga and its applications.
Maintaining and promoting the different Indian Yoga traditions.
To provide extensive research facilities for carrying out
fundamental and clinical research in the discipline of Yoga and its
applications keeping in view the socio-economic needs of all sections
of the society.
To hold Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Camps and Public meetings
to propagate information and knowledge of Yoga, its various techniques
and practice in various parts of India as well as abroad.
Accreditation and affiliation of Yoga Institutions including the
prescribing of basic requirements for affiliation of Yoga Institutions.
To conduct experiments and research on emerging trends in Yoga.
To develop techniques and approaches based on the Ancient Yoga Texts
(books) of Yoga to meet the challenges of the modern era.
Development and dissemination of new approaches to the practice,
teaching and research of Yoga.
To prescribe different courses for imparting education and training
in Yoga; to prescribe syllabus and curriculum for various Yoga
education, therapy and training courses and programmes; also to
prescribe guidelines to carry out research in Yoga and its applications
at various levels.
Dr I Basavaraddi also stated that the general body would be constituted
soon along with the various committees such as the Academic Committee,
Accreditation Committee, Research Committee, Finance Committee,
Publication Committee and Public Relations and Publicity Committee.
The first Executive Committee meeting of the IYA will be held in the
last week of December, 2008 at the Yoga
Institute in Mumbai.
Fashion Hopes to Boosts Yoga’s
has just received a big injection “from style” by well-known fashion
designer, Dona Karan. The founder of the DKNY label, Karan donated
$850,000 through her Urban Zen Foundation to fund a one-year yoga
research project at the Beth Isreal Medical Centre in Manhattan.
The project aims to demonstrate the effects of yoga, meditation and
aromatherapy on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation.
In January, 2009, fifteen yoga teachers will begin working in
the hospital’s cancer ward with non-terminal patients, while at the
same time training nurses in yogic relaxation techniques.
Karan, who lost her husband Stephan Weiss to lung cancer in 2001, hopes
to demonstrate that the use of yoga and meditation practices can reduce
the familiar side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, nausea and
anxiety, and serve as a model for replication elsewhere.
Hindu School Opens in London
Imagine your child being educated through passages from the Bhagavad Gita. Imagine that the
curriculum at their school includes harmonium and mridagam lessons, the
instruments of Indian classical music.
For Britain’s 1.5 million Hindus, that dream has become a reality with
the recent opening of the first state-sponsored Hindu school in London.
Krishna Avanti Primary School
promises to merge the government approved
school curriculum with the religious and cultural values of Hinduism.
Of the motivations behind this project, head teacher Nania Parmar said,
“We aim to create an effective, calm and happy learning environment
where the vision and mission statements are 'lived' by combining the
wisdom of vedic teachings and exemplary professional practice.”
With 23 pupils entering the first batch, the school plans to gradually
increase enrolment to 236 students by the year 2014.
Though similar schools for other faiths already exist in Britain, this
is the first time that a Hindu school funded by the British government
has been established. This welcome initiative provides expatriate
families with a supportive vehicle for the teaching of Indian Heritage
and the transmission of its spiritual and yogic ideals to their
children who are growing up in a land so far removed from their own
is 6 months old!
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encouragement! Please keep sending us your COMMENTS and FEEDBACK
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