Eliminate Stress 30 Minutes

In his book, ‘Hathayoga Pradipika’, Swami Svatmarama in Chapter II describes-

Cale vaate calam cittam niscale niscalam bhavet
Yogi sthanutvamapnoti tato vayum nirodhayet

The shloka narrates the significance of one of the subtle aspects of the human body, the breath (even subtle being is prana).  The meaning of the shloka goes as- “So long as breathing goes on the mind remains unsteady; when (it) stops, (the mind) becomes still and the Yogi attains complete motionlessness.  Hence, one should restrain one’s breath.” Ancient yogis had long ago discovered the power of breath control and its relation to the human mind. In fact, they have attributed the cause of the disease to disproportionate/ uneven breath.  Therefore, arresting (read slowing down) the medium of the vital force is one of the foremost steps to start treating a disease- A reason why India’s most premium yoga institute, the Kaivalyadhama, has invented the ‘Slow Breathing Technique’ module for treating patients of lifestyle induced disease and disorders. SBT is a mix of different ways of breathing and chanting, and brings substantial relief to patients in a matter of 30 minutes!

The founder of the 90 years old Kaivalyadhama Yoga Research and Training Institute, Swami Kuvalyananda realized the worthiness of introducing poorva or pre pranayama practices, also known as SBT, much much before. So much so that largely every patient who zeroes down on Kdham for an alternative therapy treatment gets introduced to the practice of SBT.  Dr Sharad Bhalekar, Resident Medical Officer (RMO), Health Centre, Kdham, reveals patients who choose integrated holistic therapy at packages at Kdham are often distressed lot. “And SBTs are an instantaneous remedy to cool down the Parasympathetic nervous system,” he explains.  Research, he says, shows that the practice of SBT significantly lowers blood pressure in patients with hypertension, and soothes stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. In patients with insomnia, SBT helps maintains serotonin and melatonin levels. “If practiced regularly, patients can wean off their sleep inducing medication, claims Dr Bhalekar.

The SBT is a notch down than the advance practice of Pranayama, as the former does not involve retention of breath or kumbhaka.  Hence, it is one of the safest practices and even applicable to heart patients. “The primary aim of SBTs is relaxation. And relaxation is one of the vital aspects of Yoga Therapy,” narrates Dr Bhalekar.

The SBT comprises of:

1 AUM chanting

2 Bhramari Pranayama

3 Slow and deep inhalation and exhalation

4 Simple Anulom Vilom.

Of course, all the above techniques, which are a boon for patients with psychosomatic disorders, have their time and method to perform in a manner prescribed by the yogic texts. In some patients, SBT needs customization.   

Kriya Yoga Medium Value Education

With the value system in our society shrinking rapidly, policy makers are now striving hard to sow its seeds in the minds of the children at a nascent stage. The UNESCO describes values as- “Values are generally long-term standards or principles that are used to judge the worth of an idea or action. They provide the criteria by which we decide whether something is good or bad, right or wrong.” Going by the definition, there is no doubt that our society and education system is struggling to establish or revive human values for the betterment of the populace and ultimately the country and the world. Value education is necessarily turning out to be a part of school curriculum as one of the many subjects. However, a deeper understanding of the ancient yogic texts teaches one that yoga and value education are interlinked. In this context, besides Ashtanga, which prescribes the 8 limbs of practice for one’s liberation, and certain Hatha yogic practices, both, ‘asanas’ and ‘shuddhikriyas’, for self- purification, Kriya yoga, its three components being, ‘Tapas’, ‘Svadhyaya’ and ‘Ishvarpranidhana, is being looked upon as a path to develop the much- needed value system in an individual. While establishing oneself in Ashtanga yoga is the preliminary aim of a yoga practitioner, the key to it also lies in the practice of Kriya yoga. The earlier its inculcation, the better result it is bound to fetch.

Hence, for policymakers in education, it becomes of utmost relevance to introduce the principles of yoga, especially Kriya yoga in the curriculum if they have to imbibe values in students. Largely, value education strives to thrive values such as respect towards democracy, social justice, social cohesion, national integration, patriotism, building scientific temperament, respect for cultural heritage, gender equality, protection of the environment, secularism etc in students. All of these and much more values further boil down to basic values of truth, righteousness, peace, love, and non- violence which are easily achievable through the practice of yoga in general and kriya yoga in specific.

The chapter 2 of Patanjali Yoga Sutras defines Kriya yoga as “Tapahsvadhyayaesvarapranidhanani kriyayogah!”.  Tapa or Tapas means austerity, ‘Svadhyaya’ indicates self- study and ‘Ishvarpranidhana’ refers to surrender to the Supreme. In the context of yoga and value education, ‘Tapas’ would mean putting in more efforts to burn the laziness of the physical body and the laxity of the mind. Similarly, ‘Svadhyaya’ would involve self- study or reflection of own actions, learnings at the school, surroundings etc. The practice of ‘Svadhyaya’ will not only inculcate self- discipline but also provide discriminative powers to the learner. By practicing ‘Ishvar pranidhana’, students will develop the attitude of surrendering to elders and humbleness, a necessity today. Furthermore, they will develop acceptance and absorption towards knowledge and goodness. As a wholesome process, the practice of kriya yoga must unquestionably lead to establishing the prescribed values, laid down by different education policy- making and governing bodies.

Therefore, to resolve the crisis in value education, the inclusion of kriya yoga could go a long way in bringing in the much necessary change. 

Going Beyond Cancer

In just few days time 33-year-old Bhoomika is all set to receive her certification in yoga from the prestigious Kaivalyadhama Yoga Research and Training Institute at Lonavala. For a woman diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer just a few years ago, this is indeed a big achievement.  As she dwells upon her journey, she thanks herself to have taken the decision to opt for ‘Beyond Cancer: Healing the Whole Being’, a unique cancer rejuvenation programme at Kdham. The programme helps assist cancer patients/survivors to reconcile with the disease and tackle with its life-long effects, both physical and mental, as well as emotional.

As human beings we have limited vision. We are used to view, visualize and analyse what is within our periphery. Not many attempt to look beyond it, but one such person to do so is Lee, who is in charge of the ‘Beyond Cancer’ project at Kaivalyadhama Ashram. A senior yoga therapist, Majewski’s own fight with the monster disease propelled her to design a programme that attempts to empower cancer patients rather than make them helpless.

Lee has been through all of it – the trauma of learning she had cancer, undergoing traditional treatments, post-treatment laceration, and mental lethargy. “Had it not been for yoga, I would have not made it to this stage,” she narrates with a wide smile. It was Lee’s exposure to yoga at a Trinidad-based yoga ashram just before her cancer diagnosis to which she attributes her new- found courage.

The project is close to Lee’s heart. She has a hands-on experience of applying yoga to cure her. Moreover, she knows she has researched and derived the best of yoga and other alternative healing techniques.  ‘Beyond Cancer…’ sets in where the patient wants to give up, feels Lee. It is a boon for patients who are waging a war with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer treatment.  Lee laments that often patients are left in a lurch by the end of their medical treatment. “Typically, this is the time when they need support to gather themselves, learn to relive…”, she says. Lee’s sensitivity towards this bitter truth made her realize that there is a great divide in the healthcare system. But, the solution to this she found at Kaivalyadhama, where she herself attended a yoga retreat.  She swung into action and decided upon a programme for cancer patients based on yogic principles. “And thus, the ‘Beyond cancer’ programme happened. “It is a programme which encourages patients at their lowest point in life – at the end of the treatment”, she explains. 

The very foundation of the programme lies in using all yogic tools optimally. Without limiting the schedule to just ‘asanas’ or only the practice of meditation, it is an exhaustive, well-researched package to ensure that the patient is re-established and rehabilitated both within himself, as well as his surroundings! From asanas and Pranayama, to meditation and chanting, from mudras and bandhas to Yoga Nidra are all integrally used to extricate patients from the hazards of the side effects of the treatment. “The idea is to work on all the aspects of the human being – body, emotions, energy, and mind,” elaborates Lee.

Ask Lee if such programmes lose velocity overtime and she warns of the mumbo-jumboism prevalent in their promotion. She informs that it is only recently that the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT) has standardised training of yoga therapists. Moreover, even if a patient does find a certified therapist, Lee stresses the need for his/her own personal practice or sadhana. “A good healer should be a good practitioner. That’s a pre requirement,” she points out. Hence, she recommends renowned institutes with professional therapists to ameliorate the side effects of treatment for maximum benefits.

The Programme:

There is a place for everyone here. Cancer patients in all stages can participate. Only eight participants are allowed at a time and a highly individualistic approach is adopted.  All participants are expected to complete the 21 days residential retreat. Necessary arrangements during an emergency are already in place.

First week:  The first week is a ‘settling-down’ week for most of the patients. Some crisis in patients is seen, but it is between the first and beginning of the second week when practices which work like a suction pump and force out their innermost emotions, fears and anxieties are introduced. 

Second week:  By the second week there develops a fair amount of bonding amongst the participants. The realisation that they are not alone in the battle against cancer sets in. Intense spiritual initiations see the weak mind and many times the body too progress to higher endurable levels. The camaraderie opens up avenues for true healing.   

Third week: This week is important to patients. It is here they realise that they are the sole torchbearers of their health and overcome the sense of hopelessness. Their energy levels witness a definite increase, too, and their motivation levels are refreshed.

As Bhoomika now readies to assist Lee, says, “I am glad I took up the challenge of attending this programme. I have now found a mission in life.” All her inhibitions before joining the course have now vanished and she feels empowered enough to assist a Beyond Cancer session. “Isn’t this proof enough that the programme really works?” she asks as she signs off.

Daily diary at ‘Beyond Cancer’

  • 1 hour of gentle asanas
  • 1 hour pranayama (breath management techniques)
  • 1 hour meditation
  • 1 hour Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation)
  • 30 minutes of chanting
  • 1.5 hours of lecture or group work
  • 30 minutes of yogic counselling upon request

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 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….