Year : 2020 | Volume
: 52 | Issue : 2 | Page : 53--55
Meeting challenges of interpreting directions and effects of yoga practices
Ranjeet S Bhogal
Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra, India
Ranjeet S Bhogal
Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra
|How to cite this article:|
Bhogal RS. Meeting challenges of interpreting directions and effects of yoga practices.Yoga Mimamsa 2020;52:53-55
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Bhogal RS. Meeting challenges of interpreting directions and effects of yoga practices. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 May 15 ];52:53-55
Available from: https://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2020/52/2/53/304619
In her thought-provoking editorial, in the preceding YM issue, Dr. Shirley Telles (2020) has emphasized the need of elaborate description and understanding of the yoga intervention, the need of addressing standardization-related impasse in yoga, the need of dealing with the problem of inadequate randomization, the need of masking and blinding in yogic research, the need of dealing with the lack of understanding and acceptance of traditional medicine by financial agencies in yoga research, and so on. She has also forwarded practical suggestions for continual therapeutic excellence in yoga research with “all-systems approach” that includes lifestyle change, different aspects of treatment, way of thinking, subtle energy, as well as psychological and spiritual benefits. It is truly the need of the hour to do something in this direction. Perhaps, the first step toward this would be interpreting resource material of yogic wisdom from the available literature.
As per a library in London, yoga is at least 8000 years old. However, literary research tells us that much of the yogic lore has been lost in the passage of time and also due to whims of insane invaders. Whatever remains is also quite rich in contents and wisdom. However, earnest efforts seem to be lacking in correctly interpreting the yogic message from the available Sanskrit verses. One views a lack of coherence in respect of yogic concepts and principles and disparate interpretations of yogic terms and resource materials related to yogic practices found in profligate schools, traditional lineages, and with yogic experts. One may argue that different schools are equally important for the growth of yoga. This argument is only partially true when we view the evolutionary stalemate existing in yoga to this date, as well as an impasse prevailing related to the standardization of Asanas, Bandhas, and Mudras, let alone the subtler practices of Pranayama and meditation. Unless we have a fair amount of unanimity as regards the basics of yogic premises, constructs, and expected effects, how can various traditions interact mutually? How can an evolutionary impasse be broken and an expeditious evolution be expected?
Kudos to Buddhist traditions for giving a practical outlook to Dhyana Yoga, which is sorely lacking in many a tradition in India, wherein the progress is painfully slow in getting developed any unified theory and reasonably acceptable practical aspects of this important component of yoga. How many yoga schools offer courses in Dhyana, unlike what is found in Buddhist traditions, although many a source of Buddhists' traditions have their firm bases in ancient Indian yogic texts and living traditions?
Classically, yoga means Samadhi and different yogic practices are its constituents, termed yogangas. Therefore, it is imperative on our part to look for Samadhi-oriented experiential phenomenon in yogic practices, in general, and in meditative practices, in particular. Obviously, the most authoritative sources of the authentic yoga being ancient scriptures and living traditions, we need to interpret a priori informational contents as regards the performance-related instructions and effects of all yogic practices, with a fair amount of unanimity among “practicing experts” of yoga, Sanskrit scholars, yogic scientists, and also beginners in yogic practice. Some attempts have already been made in Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, in this regard. Sanskrit literature, such as Siddha siddhanta Paddhati, Tejobindu Upanishad, and Goraksha Shataka, have ample references about experiential and transcendental phenomena, pertaining to breathing and meditative practices.
Yoga is experiential and transcendental, with subjective expressions being the central feature. Therefore, qualitative approach to directions and effects is the most practical solution, at least for the time being, until the day sensitive scientific gadgets are available for advanced quantitative research. Interpreting the source material of yoga, on objective lines, is the foremost step to be put forward.
The concepts of Deha Shuddhi, Nadi Shuddhi, Ahara Shuddhi, Prana-Apana Shuddhi, Manah Shuddhi, Citta Shuddhi, Citta Vishranti, Citta Shanti, and Atma Shuddhi are to be understood and interpreted by Sanskrit grammarians and yoga exponents, in the context of authoritative yogic texts and living traditions, corroborated by actual experiences of beginners and adept yoga practitioners. Take for example the definitions of Dhyana (yoga meditation) in Patanjala Yoga Sutra (PYS): Tatra Pratyaya Eka Tanata Dhyanam and that in Goraksha Shataka (GS: 77): Yattattve nischitam chetastattu dhyanam pracakshate. Is the term Tattva mentioned here akin to the term Pratyaya of PYS (III: 2)? Do we have a practical construct of Pratyaya or Tattva understood in modern terms, for practical use in meditational purposes? Once we are able to make headway in this respect, only then sound fundamental investigations into meditation will become a reality!
Often, a peculiar type of happenings, reported by many a Dhyana Sadhaka, is psycho-physiological discomfiture, due to an enhanced sensory feedback, often evident during the beginning stages of Samadhi (Tejobindu Upanishad: I: 40-41). So also, this discomfiture almost invariably gets neutralized instantly (Shiva Samhita: V: 71), resulting into a void-like state (Tejobindu Upanishad: I: 42) akin to Samadhi, as reported by adept sadhakas. Here, Qualitative Analysis can, plausibly, be employed to assess the progress into Samadhi. Progress into other subtler stages of Samadhi may as well be attempted with advantage. This Upanishad has described the experiential phenomena in Samadhi, in sufficient details, enabling us to create subjective checklists and qualitative questionnaires, in assessing the levels of Dhyana reached by its practitioners. The qualitative approach of assessment can be pursued, as far as it goes in knowing the fundamental features of meditative practices, with a great advantage to beginners in yogic meditation. As the meditative experiences are a central theme even in rather tangible Hatha Yoga practices of Asana and Pranayama, one can develop qualitative tools to assess the same (Lachnit & Bhogal, 2006).
The profligate forms of spiritual interventions have been observed with advantage, in the articles selected for this YM issue:
Hetal Nayak, Smita Mehta, and Shreekumar Vinekar, in their comprehensive case report study, Reversal of pelvic floor prolapse symptoms with Ashtanga Yoga of Mysore, conclude that Ashtanga Yoga of Mysore helps in the reversal of pelvic floor prolapse symptoms, through proper activation of the respiratory diaphragms, both thoracic and pelvic; helps with proper pelvic floor activation/synchronization; and helps restore proper alignment and activate all the three layers of pelvic floor muscles. The case study would be immensely appreciated for its succinct presentation.
Dr. Meena Ramanathan and Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, in their experimental study, “Yoga training enhances auditory and visual reaction time in elderly women inmates of a hospice: A pilot RCT,” find that a 12-week yoga program, as a part of elderly's lifestyle, has helped agility and alertness, in terms of reduced auditory and visual reaction times.
Dr. Aditi Jain in her article, “Knowledge Retention through Arham Meditation,” proposes that Arham meditation, comprising a sequence of activities including Arham pranayama, Arham chanting, awareness of one's own self, and feelings of compassion for all living beings, prepares its practitioners for gaining a large amount of knowledge and retaining it as much as they can, as the calmness of the mind is amply gained through Arham meditation.
The paper, “Integrated approach of Yoga and Naturopathy alongside conventional care: A need of the hour healthcare strategy in the management of COVID-19 in India: An overview” by Dr. Pradeep MK Nair, discusses the possibility and necessity of integrating yoga and naturopathy interventions such as fasting, diet therapy, hydrotherapy, sun bath, and yoga therapy based on its evidence in the management of COVID-19. The authors assert that the holistic therapy may enhance the therapeutic potential of the existing standard care, as well as may offer a better prognosis and reduction in the number of days of stay in hospital.
The review article entitled, “History, philosophy, techniques of yoga and its effects on various systems of the body” by Drs. A. Mooventhan and L. Nivethitha, extends a bird's view of yoga as a science, philosophy, and practice, as well as forwards its scope and application for the modern human. The article is useful particularly for the beginners of yoga.
Dr. Ravi Kumar in his article entitled, “Advaita Vedanta answer to the hard problem of Consciousness: A philosophical review,” discusses the nature of consciousness as put forth and demonstrated according to Advaita Vedanta philosophy. The article concludes that the conscious experience in the material body is possible because of the fundamental nondual self-luminous principle that reveals itself and everything else in the universe.
A review study titled “Review study of Kumbha Mela as a pilgrimage site” by Dr. B. R. Divya is an attempt to bring out the significances of Kumbh as an important Hindu pilgrimage site underlining its healing dynamics. The author perceives the pilgrimage of Kumbha Mela as a compelling and effective means of addressing the problem of human sufferings. Unique of its kind, the article exhibits a spiritual and humanistic approach to religious congregation of Kumbha Mela.
The conceptual article entitled “Do Hindu tradition and Jewish–Christian tradition speak the same language?” by Tommaso Bianchi perceives a common heritage of Hinduism and Jewish–Christian tradition. The author intends to offer an example of how two cultures, the Hindu one, with particular reference to yoga, and the Jewish–Christian one, present common contents which, if known, would contribute to deepening of the understanding of yoga which has recently become an intangible heritage of humanity.
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