“The roads are bad these days, full of potholes and craters. You really cannot do anything about it. Only thing you could do is to have shock absorbers in your car to lessen the effect of jerks. If you ask me, yoga is nothing but shock absorber for life.” Says Sandeep Kumar, a yoga trainer and a perennial learner, as he likes to describe himself. Recent studies in the field of yoga reinstate the faith in what Sandeep has to say. “With the contemporary lifestyle and urban mayhem, a person may have all the wealth. But, it is increasingly becoming difficult to achieve good health in all the three aspects- mental, physical and spiritual. Here is where Yoga comes in.”
I always thought that someone who practised yoga would be calm and composed. But, contrary to my belief, Sandeep is a complete livewire. The moment he enters a room, you are bound to feel the difference. It was apparent that almost everyone, right from the manager to the waiters, in the restaurant where we met, knew him. Replying to all the ‘hi’ and ‘hello’, he was finally at my table. “Hi, I am Sandeep’, he said. This guy, who looked like he was in his mid twenties was a yoga trainer. I couldn’t believe it, as I was expecting a senior person. After the initial introduction, I wanted to order the much-needed snacks. “Only tea for me. I do not snack at this time,” said Sandeep. Ahem..disclipline. I need a lot of that. “How did you get into yoga, that too at such a young age?” I asked him. “I was always interested in yoga and vendanta traditions. I grew up in an atmosphere where yoga was part of everyday life. I remember very clearly that as a child, though I could not perform asanas perfectly or recite mantras accurately, I liked listening to their recitation. When you recite mantras, which is also a part of yogabhyas, the entire atmosphere is charged up. You feel rejuvenated and calm at the same time.” So, you were very clear that you wanted to take up yoga and later teaching yoga as a career. “Teaching came much later. First, it was learning in a systematic way. After my graduation in history, I did my One Year Diploma in Yogic Studies in 2000 from Bihar Yoga Bharati. I started working as a yoga instructor after my diploma. This break in studies was only to gain some practical experience. Later, I did my Master’s in Yoga Psychology from the same university in 2005.
What would you say, yoga is? “That’s a very difficult question…to describe something as profound as yoga. The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yujir Yogey” meaning to unite, to yoke, to join or to put together. Yoga does not believe in mind over body. On the other hand, Yoga is about developing harmony between them. In Yoga, you use your mind to perceive and guide your body. We do not propagate controlling mind or forcing it”. Where do you trace back the origin of yoga? “There are no written documents to provide evidence to the origin of yoga. But it is believed that Yoga is a 5000 year old science whose teachings were first imparted not in a classroom or Gurukul, but on the battle field. In the epic Mahabharata, the sage, Lord Krishna is first said to have imparted the teachings of Yoga to his despondent student Arjuna. Around 1500 years later, another sage, Patanjali, went on to enunciate, for the benefit of humankind and eternity, the way to reach the ultimate goal in life through a series of 195 aphorisms (sutras) in his epic treatise The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Could we say that yoga enhances spiritual and physical wellbeing simultaneously? “Absolutely right. The goal of yoga may range from improved health to reaching Moksha. Yoga is highly therapeutic. You may be surprised at the endless list of ailments that yoga can cure completely. Yoga is a way of life, a conscious act, not a set or series of learning principles. The dexterity, grace, and poise you cultivate, as a matter of course, is the natural outcome of regular practice. You require no major effort. In fact trying hard will turn your practices into a humdrum, painful, even injurious routine and will eventually slow down your progress. Subsequently, and interestingly, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is the direct result of involving the mind totally in inspiring (breathing) the body to awaken.”
I was always under the impression that asanas are extremely difficult to perform. To this Sandeep commented, “Contrary to popular – or unpopular – perception, Yoga positions are not about how far you can reach to touch your toes or how many repetitions you can perform. It is all about paying attention to how your body feels; how it moves without that excruciating pain or agony! Yoga is all about breathing correctly about integrating that breath into your being. Conscious Yoga doesn’t call for you to force or strain your nerve or sinew. Meaning to say, right Yoga is learning how to do things right, do less that gets you more.”
In the course of our conversation, I came to know that Sandeep has conducted yoga programmes for an interesting mix of people. From schoolchildren to high profile corporates, from blind people to mentally challenged. I wondered how he could mould himself to such diverse groups and their expectations from learning yoga. Sandeep was relaxed replying to this question. “I make necessary changes in my programme according to the expectations of the group I am to teach. For instance, corporates are looking for bringing down stress and enhancing powers of relaxation as well as greater powers of concentration and self-control. Yoga for blind concentrates on becoming more aware about one’s body. I would strongly recommend yoga for young children. The earlier one begins practicing yoga, the more one can benefit from it. Yoga boosts functioning of the immune system, enhances posture and muscle tone, improves blood circulation, results in healthy, glowing skin and cleanses and improves overall organ functioning. Most important of all, yoga bestows peace of mind and a more positive outlook to life and infuses a sense of balance and internal harmony.”
It is not surprising then, that yoga has gained popularity as fitness and healing science over the last few years. Various forms of yoga like power yoga and hastha yoga are now part of workout regime. There has also been an increase in demand for yoga instructors. On being asked whether he would recommend young generation to take up this career, Sandeep said, “I am young myself and doing well as a yoga instructor. Need I say more? I would definitely suggest taking up proper training in yoga before embarking on a career in this field. Many universities offer courses in yogic and Vedanta studies. Having proper training is a prerequisite as you need to know the right methods before you teach someone. One wrong step can prove to be dangerous.”
Our talk would have continued for long time, but Sandeep had to rush for his Saregama students. Well, he is a yoga trainer for Hindi Saregama participants along with being an instructor for NAB, ONGC and a few of schools. “I have also trained Arjun Rampal and Mehr Jessia. They are good students, I must say.” Now, how do I end our meeting? By giving him an autograph book to get me autographs of his celebrity students. Ah!not a bad idea.