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Mastering the Vital Force

Kaivalyadhama Ashram launches three year TTC in Pranayama

Yathā siṃho ghajo vyāghro bhavedvaśyaḥ śanaiḥ śanaiḥ |
tathaiva sevito vāyuranyathā hanti sādhakam || 15 ||

Just as lions, elephants and tigers are controlled by and by, so the breath is controlled by slow degrees, otherwise (i.e., by being hasty or using too much force) it kills the practitioner himself.

This shloka no 15 of chapter II of the Hatha yoga Pradipika elucidates precisely the power of Pranayama- the 4th limb of ‘Asthanga Yoga’. However, in recent times the promulgation of Asana practices solely has become a fad. This uncanny trend has side lined the much more vital limb of ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ ie Pranayama. For Yoga is just not Asanas but much more. If the practitioner happens to be really genuine and is aiming to achieve the ultimate goal in his yogic quest, then the proficiency in one of the ultra- fine ‘angas’ of Yoga i e is Pranayama becomes inevitable for him/her.

There still exist yoga institutes who swear by the traditional system and are increasingly spreading awareness about the need to promote Pranayama at par with Asana practice. One such institute is Kaivalyadham Ashram, Lonavala, India. A pioneer in yoga related research, Kdham has set the ball rolling for one of its kind Teachers Training Course (TTC) in Pranayama recently.

The duration of the course is 3 years and it aims to create exclusive teachers in Pranayama. The course planners are in no hurry and a step by step methodology to produce proficient teachers has been created. Upon the successful completion of phase 1, the student is allowed to teach Pranayama without retention of the breath. At the next level, the student becomes eligible to teach Pranayama in 1:1:2 ratio. He progresses to teaching 1:2:2 ratio in third year or final phase of his TTC. The student will be taught Ayurvedic pulse reading and its application in Pranayamic practices. In between, they have to attend a minimum of 7 days duration training programmes at the campus in Lonavala. Upon their return, they are accorded sufficient theory and practical homework which is monitored from time to time.

“We increasingly felt the need to organise and standardize a teacher’s training module in Pranayama. Hence, an exclusive TTC in it”, explains Sudhir Tiwari, Director, Kdham International about the launch of a Teacher’s Training course in Pranayama. The fact that the TTC is spread over three years itself spells the seriousness and significance Kdham has accorded to the ‘anga’. Pranayama is now taking centre stage. Especially in the west where stress levels are ever high the subtle practice in its right form is the need of hour, Sudhirji elaborates. Himself an accomplished teacher in Pranayama, he beautifully describes Pranayama as “a pause in process”. He, however expresses concern over the haphazard manner in which this ‘pausing’ is taught to students today. The TTC strives to explore even the slightest of technicality of a practice based on not less than 10 yogic texts, besides the ‘Hath Yoga Pradipika’ and ‘Gherand Samhita’.

Students (who are teachers for a minimum of 5 years) of 20 nations are part of the first ever Pranayama TTC which kicked off late December in the year 2016. And, the course is up for grabs already, although Kdham has laid down strict norms for its intake.

“I grossly underestimated the practice of Pranayama. For me, it has now taken a lead over Asana ‘anga’ which lays more focus on the body”, says Ursula, a TTC student from Germany. Until recently, Ursula says she was unaware of the profoundness of Pranayama. “Now, I want to practice it more and more”, she reveals.

Antti Aleikinheimomoh has been a teacher of yoga for 10 years. However, as a true seeker, he could not move on to the next level in Yoga! “Pranayama was the missing link for me to progress towards Dharana and Dhyana”, he confesses. He is now excited to promote Pranayama among his students back in Finland.

Mika, a yoga teacher from Japan says specialized teachers in Pranayama are a much needed asset. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. She attributes the reasons for them to inflated egos in people, lack of family support and undue importance to body work than mind work. On the contrary, Pranayama transforms ego and mind. “Hence, the Japanese need Pranayama more than anyone”, she thinks.

Yoga for Special Children

Kaivalyadhama is striving to bring qualitative change in the lives of intellectually disabled children

There was a time when Vasudha (name changed), mother of Atharva (name changed) and his teacher’s struggled to make him sit in one place for more than 5 minutes. Today, Atharva calmly sits in one place for good 10 minutes!

Asmita (another special child) would often turn out to be so violent, her parents had to tie her up to control her. Uneducated themselves they had no choice but to do so. However, lately, Asmita has turned calmer and her bouts of violence are minimal, observe her parents.

Atharva and Asmita study at ‘Samvad’, a school for special children in Lonavala. Both were part of a five month old (December 2014- April 2015) exploratory project organised by the Kaivalyadham (Kdham) Yoga Research and Training Institute, Lonavala. The project was aimed at studying the impact of exposure to yoga on five special children.

“The results of the study have been delightful and encouraging,” quips Dr Praseeda Menon, Research Officer, Scientific Research Department (Psychology section), Kaivalyadham. “What better testimony than their caregivers certifying the change?” she further asks.

The Kdham team selected 5 children in the age group 7 years -17 years of age group. The group showed mild moderate intellectual disability levels. The children were administered psychological tests twice-One before the study and one after it. And remarkable improvement in the children’s ability to listen and follow instructions, hold postures during asana practices, betterment in neuro motor skills was recorded. “If in just 5 months we could achieve such positive results, we can help them do much better if we run the programme on a regular basis,” feels Dr Menon.

The curriculum Kdham had to adhere to for training the special children had to be carefully designed. “It had to be moderate and precise”, explains Dr Meena Ramanathan, who specializes in training intellectually disabled children in yoga. Dr Meena Ramanathan who works with Pondicherry based Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research (CYTER) was especially roped in for the project.

The children were exposed to Yoga training five days a week. Initially, the yogic training began with simple asana practices and ‘Omkaar’ chanting. Over a period of two months it advanced to teaching children dynamic asana practices, surayanamskars and Pranayama such as Bhramari. The study was a learning experience all the way for Kdham’s research team and its teachers. It was during the study, Dr Menon and team realised the need to some ‘fun element’ to their teaching. “In order to make it more absorbable for the children we decided to further experiment”, narrates Dr Menon.

Thus, evolved the concept Of ‘Yog Mela’, wherein intellectually challenged kids were exhibited yoga for two days in a fun filled way at the Kdham campus. Tasks which enhanced their neuro motor skills were eventually added. Children were asked to make laddoos, grate carrots, plant trees etc. “Such activities led to children overcoming their normal abilities and developing better discrimination power. To put it in yogic terms, it was practicing ‘Dharana’ for them,” explains Dr Meena Ramanathan of CYTER. Omkaar chanting assisted in relieving suppressed feelings in them. “Omkaar Sadhana facilitated the expression of deeper, suppressed emotions in a great manner. This helped children to further open up,” observes Ramanathan.

Very few precedents as far as application of yoga for special children is concerned have been so far set. Be it in India or elsewhere around the globe. That is just the reason why Kdham wants to take the study to a wider audience in terms of its application. It is now in quest of like-minded people, institutions, social scientists and funding agencies who can join hands with it. “Such associations will help it explore and establish the efficacy of yoga in intellectually challenged children” feels Dr Subodh Tiwari, CEO, Kaivalyadham.  Yoga can make a qualitative difference to the lives of not only the special children but also their parents, he assures.

To sum it all up in the words of a Yoga teacher deeply involved in the project-“You cannot order a tree or a plant to grow in a particular manner. All you can do is provide favourable conditions for its growth. We will be doing just that”….

Taking Yoga to the Grassroots

Kaivalyadham has been disseminating Yoga training to Navodaya Vidyalayas for over two decades now…

Yashobanta Singh’s eyes widen at the rope mallakhamb feat he is watching in front of his eyes. As a passionate Physical Education Teacher of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV), Imphal, Manipur. He is in awe with the generous exposures to yoga and other fitness regimes, the training for which he has been undergoing for a week now at Kaivalyadham (Kdham) Ashram. Kdham is a premier yoga training and research institution located in Lonavala, Maharashtra.

Yashobanta is just one of the 40 teachers from JNVs across the country who are here to attend a unique 10 days orientation course in Yoga and Physical Education. The course is a result of a tie up between Kdham and Human Resources Ministry (HRD) of India which runs the JNVs. The curriculum and training for this programme has been developed jointly by Kdham and SNDT University, Mumbai. All around the year 240 teachers across the country are initiated into this exclusive orientation programme.

“For a teacher from the North East, where yoga training is still a distant dream, the orientation programme is just the right thing to happen”, he feels. Forty seven years old Sudeshna Raishom, a physical education teacher from Shillong has similar sentiments to share. . She feels, the orientation programme which exposes the teachers to a diaspora of activities, such as yoga practices and teaching theory, variety of fitness regimes-rope mallakhamb, gym and aerobics training is a boon for teachers who come from smaller places. “My stay here has broadened horizons for me. Also, we can make our students aware of career opportunities in the field of yoga,” she stresses.

The 10 day programme will bring about a qualitative change in her students, feels 54 years old Saroj Kalra, a P Ed teacher from Baswada, Rajasthan. The course has refreshed her completely, she says. In fact, she wants the programme extended. “We realise yoga is an ocean. We need to delve more into it. Ten days are just not enough. The programme should be extended to at least a month,” she demands.

Back home the orientation will be of tremendous help to students studying of higher secondary classes, thinks Mamata Sharma, a teacher from Jammu. “We always knew students in higher standards are stressed. What we didn’t know is what more could we do to reduce the stress. Now we know the answer lies in yoga,” she states.

 

The orientation programme is just one of Kdham’s activities with JNVs. Besides, since the year 2003 it has been sending yoga teachers for a three months training programme at various JNVs. Under the scheme, 280 schools have been already covered. “Our target is to reach 600 schools,” explains Subodh Tiwari, secretary, Kaivalyadham.  It gives Kdham immense pleasure to reach the ancient science to grass root levels. More so, as the knowledge is reaching the bright and young talent from rural India who will be the country’s future, he feels.

In order to make the administration more aware of the significance of yoga training to teachers Kdham is not leaving any stone unturned. Hence, it has designed a programme for administrative personnel of Navodaya Vidyalayas too. Principals and assistant commissioners attached to JNVs all over the country visit Kdham twice a year. They are briefly introduced to Yoga and undergo rejuvenation programmes too.

As Mamata Sharma, the teacher from Jammu sums it up “The surroundings and teachers have been inspiring to us from Day 1. I would give anything to re attend the programme,” she ends….

 

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