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Desktop Yoga

Gentle exercise for workplace wellness and efficiency

According to the statistics, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) & Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) have dramatically increased in the past years, since the evolution of the personal computer. In United States, more workers are injured using a computer keyboard than operating any other tool.

Checklist for Prevention
The most important thing to do is to take your eyes off, your computer screen and gaze into the far distance every half an hour. Drink a glass of water at a regular interval of time. Stay aware of your posture while you are sitting on your chair. During the lunch break involve yourself in physical exercises. Include full body stretch in your daily activity. Check that your workstation is set up correctly. Computer screen should be at eye level or below the eye level. Follow some exercise programmes that include upper body strength. The programme must also include exercise for flexibility, to stretch out the contracted muscles of the wrist, arm, shoulder, neck and upper back. Stretch your body before you go to bed at night. Observe your sleeping positions. Make sure that you have the right pillow height for sleeping. The neck should be supported, but too many pillows will create problems as well. The neck should be in line with the rest of the spine.

What are the solutions?
Easy Desktop Yoga is a series of exercises based on yoga and designed specifically for working people. Simple and easy modified yoga exercises help you to calm, invigorate and relax. Desktop Yoga is the perfect solution for those who want a simple, relaxing workout which they can perform while sitting at their desks. It is excellent for reducing stress during a long workday. This programme targets the muscles that are mostly affected while sitting for a long period of time. It is divided by body part, so you can choose how long you want to work out.

Recommended Yoga Exercises
Here are some desktop yoga-based exercises which can be done in the office during the course of the day to help prevent CTS and RSI. Hold the positions for a few breaths and let the stretch increase, but do not force it. The most important part of each exercise is to become aware of your body and breathe.

Full body stretch-Tad Asana (Tree Pose): Exhale and inhaling take both the arms up above the head from the sides and join the palms at the top. Lift the heels and stand on the toes and pull the whole body upward. Continue smooth breathing. Pull the hands upward as much as possible.

Internal Effects: In this asana all the muscles stretch in one direction at one time and then relaxed. This process helps to remove all the strains. The muscles get rest and relaxed.

Hand Exercise: Sit straight. Keep both your hands straight forward. Make strong fist & open it. Repeat it for 10 times with enough strength. Make strong fist and rotate clockwise 10 times and anti-clockwise 10 times. Pull your both hands with strength while inhaling and push your both hands forward while exhaling.

Shaking out Tension: Shake out your wrists and arms, letting them dangle from your shoulders. Rotate your shoulders forward and back.

Neck Exercises: Sit straight on your chair with feet firmly on the floor. Keep your hand straight on the seat back. Extend the torso and drop the chin into the chest.

First set: While inhaling turn your head to the left side and hold for 10 seconds. Exhaling turns your head to the right side and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat it twice. Come to the centre while inhaling. Tilt your head down to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Tilt your head left and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat it twice and come to the centre. While inhaling tilt your head back and hold for 10 seconds. Exhaling tilt your head down and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat it twice and come to the centre. While inhaling tilt your head back and rotate your head slowly clockwise and anticlockwise for 5 rounds. Come to the centre.

Second set: Place your right palm on your right side of the head and resist. Repeat from left side as well. Place both your palms on your forehead and resist. Interlock your fingers to place it in your back of the head and resist.

Release the Neck: Shrug the shoulders high up to the ears and then release and drop. Repeat at least 3 times.

Back Exercise (Forward Bending): Sit on a chair, spread the legs apart. Stretch both arms up and then bend forward, placing both palms on the floor. Hold on to the posture for 10-25 seconds and release. Repeat the same movement 5 times.

Opening the Chest: Interlock your fingers behind your back with the palms facing the torso. Roll the shoulders back, but keep the ribs from poking forward. Stretch your elbows and arms on the exhale and hold it for a few breaths. On the exhale, bend your elbows and bring your wrists to the right side waist, gently pressing the right elbow towards the left. Release and do the other side.

Opening the mid-back (Hug your body): Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and left hand on your right shoulder. Breathe into the area between your shoulder blades. Exhaling brings the arms straight down, the palms facing each other. Stretch the fingers up, and on the next exhale, raise the elbows up to shoulder height. Hold for a few breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Back Exercise (Side Stretching): Hold chair with one hand. Stretch the other arm up and bend sideways. Hold on to the posture for 10-25 seconds and release. Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. Repeat it thrice.

Pawanmuktasana (Abdominal Massage): Sit straight on a chair, bend your right leg, interlock your fingers and hold your knee. While exhaling pull your knee up to the chest. Hold for 20 seconds, release it while inhaling. Repeat it with the left side as well.

Ardhamatsyasana (Twisting the Torso): With the feet planted firmly in the ground and the thigh bones pressing into your chair, inhale to take your right leg up and cross it to the left side. Place your right hand straight on the chair. Hold your knee with left hand and press on the abdomen while exhaling. Inhale to take it up and exhale to bring it down. Repeat it with the other leg as well. Remember to keep breathing slowly and deeply as you twist.

Leg Exercise: While standing place your one leg on chair and stretch your toes hamstring muscle by pulling your toes in. While inhaling takes both your legs up and exhaling bend forward keeping your back straight. Try to hold your toes with both the hands. Hold for 20 seconds. Inhaling come up. Repeat it with other side as well.

Relax the Eyes: Turn your head right and left, looking into the far distance with your eye gaze. Close your eyes and take some deep, slow breaths with your belly soft. You can do it without moving your head as well.

Sahaj Pranayama: Sit in a chair with a straight back. Close the eyes and relax, keeping the spine and body straight. Focus all attention on the navel region – the point of fire in the body. Inhale deeply; tilt your chin down to touch collar bone. Hold your breath for a count of 10. Raise your chin up and exhale through the mouth. Repeat the three stages of this cycle in a rhythmic fashion. Practice up to 5 rounds.

Don’ts: People with cervical spondylosis should not press the chin down. They can keep their chin up.

Kapalabhati: Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine. Take two or three deep inhales and exhales. Inhale deeply to exhale sharply and forcefully through the nostrils, drawing the belly in as you exhale and producing a puffing sound. Let the inhalation happen passively, and continue this cycle of forceful exhalation and passive inhalation at a fast pace, so that the belly is pumping continuously. At the same time, receive auto suggestion about increased flow of blood circulation, detoxification and vitalization of the vital organs viz. kidney, small intestine, large intestine, prostate gland, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen and lungs etc.
Practice the process for 2.5-15mins. You may take short breaks when you start out on this yogic breathing exercise.

Benefits: Kapalbhati means the exercise which makes the forehead luminous & lustrous. This Pranayama supplies pure life energy to the brain. It increases the blood circulation in the brain and removes blood clots, thereby improving the memory power. Other than this the toxins and foreign substances from the body are evacuated. It cures cold, sinusitis, allergy, tension and other diseases. It is very useful in case of phlegm, skin disease, asthma, heart diseases, low blood pressure, depression, tiredness, laziness, sleeplessness, migraine, joint pain, obesity, diabetes, constipation, indigestion, acidity, gastric problem and other diseases pertaining to the kidneys and prostate gland etc. are also cured. As a result, the whole body becomes healthy and disease free.

(Courtesy: Nisargopchar August’2015)

Does the Mother’s Mind Bend the Baby before It is Born?

True maternity begins with the conscious creation of a being, with the willed shaping of a soul coming to develop and utilize a new body.

– THE MOTHER (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram)

According to a news item published today (The Times of India, 14 June 2017, p. 1)  the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN) has published a booklet ‘Mother and Child Care’ advising pregnant women to avoid bad company, bad feelings and non-vegetarian food. As expected, the advice has been ridiculed because it ‘lacks rationale’, forgetting that all scientific knowledge, which is based on reason, is tentative and therefore subject to revision. Leaving aside the debate on the place that reason should occupy in life, let us look at the issue with an open mind, which is a far more essential component of the scientific temper than rationality. An open mind is free of prejudice, preconceived notions, and is willing to unlearn, if necessary for going beyond what one already knows.

The intimate physical and physiological link that unites the mother and the baby during pregnancy is too obvious to need any elaboration. What is not so obvious is that the body and the mind are manifestations of something even more subtle than the mind, and that is consciousness. One mode of consciousness can affect another mode of consciousness. The mother’s mind and body, the growing child’s mind and body, and the food that the mother eats are, in the final analysis, different modes of the same Supreme Consciousness. In fact, there is an all-pervasive unified field of consciousness that can make thoughts and feelings at one place lead to physical changes on the other side of the globe. If this sounds strange, unbelievable, and irrational, ask a physicist well-versed in modern theoretical physics, and he will tell you that this phenomenon is consistent with physics as well as spirituality. If that is possible, why can’t we be open to the mother’s mind affecting the baby’s mind and body while it is in the mother’s womb? Ayurveda knew long ago that the effect exists; modern medicine is slowly coming to terms with it.

The Mother (of Sri Aurobindo Ashram) had once seen two beautiful little girls, twins, whose beauty had the perfection of a child in a painting by Reynolds. The girls resembled neither parent, but it so transpired that the girls’ mother had looked at consciously, throughout pregnancy, especially just before going to bed, and on getting up in the morning, a painting by Reynolds, and had prayed that she give birth to a child as beautiful as the child in the painting. The physical features offer much more resistance to any modifying influence than do thoughts and feelings. Therefore, if even the body of her child can be affected by the thoughts of a pregnant mother, it should be easier to influence the child’s mind during pregnancy. Hence the process of creating a new life through maternity can be a conscious process. The mother’s thoughts and feelings during pregnancy can shape the consciousness of the baby developing in her womb.

It seems a few doctors have also ‘rubbished’ the advice carried in the CCRYN booklet. The doctors do not necessarily have to learn theoretical physics or delve into spirituality to comment on the merits of the advice. Unfortunately, the doctors are not taught anything about the ‘latest’ developments in consciousness-based medicine, on which Larry Dossey, an American physician, has by now written several well-referenced paperbacks. Dossey calls consciousness-based medicine ‘non-local medicine’, perhaps to sound more scientific. The key discovery, or rather re-discovery, of these recent studies is that the healing intentions of a genuinely loving and compassionate person, even if he is not a doctor, can promote recovery from even a bodily illness. The positive effect is seen even if the patient is not aware of these healing intentions directed at him, and it can take place across long distances. If that can happen, why can’t the mother’s mind affect the growing baby in the womb? Baby steps in this direction were taken about twenty years ago in the Mecca of modern medicine in India, AIIMS, New Delhi, where it was demonstrated that music played to fertilized eggs could affect the development of the brain in chicks. About the food that the pregnant women should have, the doctors have said that the advice to avoid non-vegetarian food is ‘wrong’ because a pregnant woman needs more protein. It is an open secret that doctors are not taught much about nutrition during their training. A pregnant woman needs not only more protein, she also needs more energy. If the extra energy that a pregnant woman needs as compared to the non-pregnant state is supplied through a mixture of cereals and pulses, and some milk and milk products, the protein requirement will take care of itself. All that it needs to reach this conclusion is to sit down with the bible of nutritionists, ‘The Nutritive Value of Indian Foods’, published by the Indian Council of Medical Research, and do a few simple calculations (By the way, it is not a new book: the first edition of this book was published before India became independent).

Since children born today are the future of the world, women can contribute to a better future by treating maternity as a process of conscious creation. Therefore, the Mother advised women, and their partners, all the time, and especially during pregnancy, to be conscious of their thoughts, feelings and actions for their own sake, and even more for the sake of their children. We must be ready to change for the better if we want a better tomorrow. Thus, the advice contained in the CCRYN booklet is a small segment of all that we may do for a better future.  The language of the booklet may be simple, and even crude; its grammar may be faulty; its tone may be preachy; but let us not miss the grain of truth that it has. Let us not treat ‘scientific’, ‘rational’, and ‘true’ as synonyms; it is because they are not that we have all three of them in the dictionary. Truth is more important than being scientific and rational. Further, truth itself has many layers. When Will Durant wrote in a letter to his famous contemporaries in 1930 that “the greatest mistake in human history was the discovery of truth”, he was referring to scientific truths. Scientific truths are only part of the Truth, the One Truth that incorporates all truths, and remains essentially unknown although it may not be unknowable. But it is because scientific truths, which are at best partial, have hypnotized the modern mind that Will Durant considered the discovery of truth itself to be a great mistake.

The idea behind this blog is neither to tell what pregnant women should eat, think or feel, nor to say that everything in the CCRYN booklet, which I have not seen, is gospel truth. The purpose of writing this blog is only to highlight that rationality is not the final arbiter of Truth, and that something is not wrong just because a few doctors have rubbished it. That would be giving doctors an authority that they do not legitimately possess. Expertise in one area does not confer expertise in another area. Just as a typical yoga expert may not know how an antibiotic works, a typical medical doctor restricted in his knowledge to what he learnt in medical school may not understand the idea of mind over matter. Anybody who rejects what he does not understand is not only being ignorant, he is also being unscientific.


The Mother: Words of Long Ago. ‘To the Women of Japan’. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, fourth edition, 1994, pp. 115-126.

Dossey, Larry. Healing Words. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

Dossey, Larry. Reinventing Medicine: beyond mind-body to a new era of healing. New York: HarperSanFransisco (A Division of HarperCollins), 1999.

Dossey, Larry. Healing Beyond the Body: medicine and the infinite reach of the mind. Boston: Shambhala, 2001.

Some of the articles on the effect of music played to eggs on the developing chicks may be viewed by going to:

Will Durant’s letter to his contemporaries may be viewed by going to:’s%20On%20The%20Meaning%20of%20Life.htm



Common Yoga Protocol Hindi

Common Yoga Protocol

Common Yoga Protocol


Role of yoga in a professional’s life By Krishna Merchant, Singapore

I am a journalist by profession and have to work long hours and file stories on the computer and mobile phone. Like any other desk job, I was suffering from severe back pain. I took to Iyengar yoga for alleviating backache. Regular practice has not only cured the back pain, but has also given me clarity in thinking. That’s when I realized that Iyengar Yoga is a must for people that have desk jobs since they suffer from neck and back injuries.

Most of my colleagues that have desk jobs suffer from stress, depression, obesity and insomnia. Most of these conditions are because of long work hours, bad posture and sedentary life style which saps energy and makes it difficult to face daily challenges, at work or home.

Also, some people may have amazing control over their bodies since they resort to physical activities such as gym which helps loose body weight. However, boot camp type workouts does not help them build control over their mind and intellect. It is difficult to find a balanced person at the work place.

My personal experience is that with regular practice of Iyengar Yoga, people that have desk jobs can improve their postures through alignment in asanas. It makes the body healthy and one can even experience internal cleansing as the blood circulation improves to vital organs.

Iyengar yoga poses designed by Guruji BKS Iyengar, if done correctly with full awareness and dedication, also helps the practitioner, “get rid of dualities like gain and loss, victory and defeat, fame and shame, body and mind and mind and soul.” It brings about stability, mobility, and complete harmony between various body parts.

Sage Patanjali in the second yoga sutra in Samadhi Pada has said “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha”, which means yoga restrains the fluctuations of the consciousness. As the body gets aligned and the breathing becomes rhythmic, the mind becomes quiet.

After practicing asanas, I am able to focus better on day to day activities and execute tasks with efficiency. The energy depletion which happens by futile thoughts is curbed. Guruji BKS Iyengar has repeatedly said in his classes that asanas help develop “discriminative intelligence.”

Regular practice of Iyengar yoga not only brings about emotional stability, but also intellectual clarity. It generates positive energy that accelerates decision making. As one commits to sustained practice, discipline automatically sets in. The yoga practitioner naturally starts following yamas  and niyamas which bring about important changes in their lifestyle and even in the behavior towards the peers at work. The sadhaka enjoys inner peace which comes with healthy body and mental stability.

Guruji in Light on Life has given a beautiful anecdote; the moon’s reflection in the pond in the dark night can only be seen if it is free of ripples and murk. Similarly, a yoga practitioner can only come close to the spark of divinity within himself once the fluctuations of the mind are restrained. Guruji has also said “Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

Here are few asanas I have incorporated in my regular self practice routine for healthy body and mind, and it will also help people that work long hours on the desk.

Tadasana or Samasthiti

In this pose, one masters the art of standing firm and erect like a mountain by resting the heads of metatarsals on the floor and stretching all the toes flat on the floor, tightening and pulling up the knee caps and contracting the hips. One learns about even distribution of weight on the heels and toes. This pose is very important as it the foundation of all other asanas. It helps me understand the correct method of standing and posture. It helps reduce fatigue, brings spinal elasticity and makes the mind sharp and enhances concentration at work.


The right leg is bent at the knee; and the right heel is placed at the root of left thigh. Here the person learns to balance body weight on one leg like the root of the tree, the palms are joined and the arms are raised over the head. This pose brings balance and poise to fight all odds in life, the day at work may be good or bad, but we have to be sturdy like a tree and give our best.

Utthita Trikonasana

In this asana, one has to spread the legs nearly three feet apart, raise the arms sideways, in line with shoulders, turn the right foot 90 degrees to the right, keep the left leg stable, stretched and tight at knee, bend the right trunk sideways and bring right palm near the right angle and rest, the left arm is stretched out. One has to repeat this on the left side. By regular practice, Trikonasana relieves backaches, neck sprains, strengthens the ankles and develops chest. This asana helps develop dynamic chest all the time and also gives relief for my neck and back problem due to long hours on desk.

Virabhadrasana II

In this pose, the right foot is sideways 90 degrees and the left foot is slightly to the right. By keeping the left leg stretched at the hamstring muscles, the right knee is bent at the right thigh, keeping the right shin perpendicular to the floor, forming a right angle between right thigh and calf. The hands should be stretched out. This pose brings elasticity to the leg and back muscles, tones abdominal organs and very useful for people that do not move around much and have a bad posture.


The headstand is practiced by spreading a blanket on the floor, resting the forearms on the centre of the blanket, keeping safe distance between the elbows, interlocking the fingers up to finger tips, balancing the head on the crown by taking the legs up slowly with bent knees first and shifting the weight from toes to the head. The head stand is a must since it increases blood circulation to the brain and brings clarity in thinking. It helps people suffering from loss of memory, sleep and aides vitality. One feels very energetic and alert after Shirshasana.

Supported Setu bandha Sarvangasana

In this pose, the shoulders are on the floor, the chest is supported on the bolster and there is a natural chink lock. This asana increases the venous blood flow to the heart and helps regulate important glands which are situated in the neck. Regular practice helps gain confidence and brings back lost volatility. People that have cough and cold regularly, it is minimized because of Sarvangasana practice.


Light on Life by BKS Iyengar

Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

Sthira Sukham Asanam By Rajvi H Mehta, Iyengar Yogashraya, Mumbai

Asana is one of the aspects of Ashtanga Yoga but yet the common man often associates only asana with yoga. At many meetings and conferences, I hear exhaustive debates on how this misconception has to be cleared from public perception. The common criticism is that there are only three sutras devoted to asanas in Sage Patanjali’s immortal Yoga sutras and asana is mentioned only twice in the yoga sūtras. Then why is it given “undue” importance? Some of the ‘experts’ believe asanas have been promoted to a great extent and therefore people ‘misunderstand’ asana as yoga. There are so many products, concepts, thoughts and ideas in the world that are promoted and marketed extensively with millions of dollars spent on their promotion but if there is no quality in the concept, product or idea, they cannot be sustained.  So, it is not about ‘promotion’ of asanas that have made them synonymous with yoga.

Instead, we should try to understand what is it about the asana that they have created such an impact on the minds of the people across the world? There are three words in Patanjali Yoga Sutras which describe or define an asana. Sthira sukham asanam.

Sthira means stability, firmness, steadfastness

Sukha means a sense of joy, delight, happiness

Asana means a seat, a posture or a position

Now these three words sthira sukham asanam can be understood as  any stable, joyful/ comfortable position is an asana or it can be interpreted as being in stable, joyful, comfortable in any position.  Both these statements can be considered to be true for the sutra sthira sukham asanam. But, what these two statements convey is drastically different. The first communicates that we should be only be doing those asanas in which we are stable and happy while the other means that we should be happy and stable in whatever asana we do. The first is confining us to our limits, to our comfort zones, but the latter is making us break our limits, our boundaries, our comfort zones but at the same time, retain our stability or position. It is impossible to know what Sage Patanjali was intending to communicate thousands of years ago. And, it can always remain a topic of debate and discussion without any outcome as different practitioners will have their own interpretation based on their experience and perception. However, the latter understanding of being stable and happy in any position would make a person withstand the ups and downs of life smoothly without being afflicted while the former will make us happy only when life would be conducive to us. After all, none knows what life has in store.  The subject of yoga was revealed to Arjuna on the battlefield by Lord Krishna. And, Lord Krishna was indeed taking Arjuna out of his comfort zone and therefore even if asana would have been just an aspect of yoga, a part of yoga – its intent would have been to make the practitioner stable even in the state of war.  So, it seems more logical that asana would mean being stable, comfortable and joyful in any position.

The next question that arises is that Patanjali has not named a single asana in the sutra; the Hatha Yoga Pradipika names 15, the Gheranda Samhita names 32 while the modern treatise, Light on Yoga names 200! Why this difference? Are we moving away from the scriptures by adding more asanas? There are again many ‘intellectual debates’ on what is ‘authentic’, what is traditional and what is modern? Why the difference in the number of asanas that are described? To me, it appears that possibly in Patanjali’s era, asanas may have been so common place that one needed to be told only the conditions and effects of an asana i.e. there has to be sthirata, sukhata: the prayatna to perform them has to cease. The methodology to perform them could have been orally transmitted. However, in the centuries gone by, when the subject was not so common place, it needed to be taught again. Let us take the analogy of Indian cooking. Cook books on Indian recipes appeared on the scene only in the last two decades. If somebody were to ‘study’ Indian cooking a few centuries later, would they be right in saying that cooking in India emerged only in the late 20th century. Just because it was not ‘written’ does not mean that it did not exist; Especially in our country, where the tradition of oral transmission of knowledge, has been much stronger than in the written format.

Now coming back to our primary question: what is it about the asanas that attracts so many people? The range of asanas from the standing, sitting, inverted, backward arching, forward extension, twisting, supine give us access to the various parts and systems of our own body, which are unknown to us. We have information about the body systems and parts but we have no knowledge or wisdom about them. Secondly, there is a common misconception that asanas deal only with the physical [read skeleton- muscular body], the asanas work on all the physiological systems, the mind, the intelligence and emotions. The body and mind can never be separated. A software programmer who has neck pain or back pain cannot write the codes as efficiently. The pain in the back does influence his logical thinking. That is the reason that when individuals start practicing asanas they find themselves feeling healthy and fresh in both body and mind.

The more challenging the asanas become, they learn to take up more challenges in life. However, here I reiterate that asanas are not contortions of the body but have the effect of stability and a sense of joy in the practitioner. Whether the criteria of sthirata and sukhata are attained can be seen on the expressions of the practitioner. All one needs to do is open any page of ‘Light on Yoga’.. The expression of the face, the muscles, the texture of the skin remain the same irrespective of the asana. This is sthira sukham asanam.

It is all right to ‘talk about’ the so-called higher, esoteric aspects of yoga. We need to know the known first before going into the realm of the unknown. Otherwise, we would live in the world of illusion, viparyaya while the purpose of yoga is to know and not imagine. So, let us give the due respect to asanas as they are the entry point for us, as long as we are in the human form, to enter the realm of the known.


Yogachemmal Dr Meena Ramanathan,Deputy Director, CYTER, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry.


Yogacharya Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani , Director, CYTER, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry.


Yoga is a classical Indian form that creates a dynamic connectivity between body, mind and soul. One can start learning this art at any age; in fact experts believe Yoga helps one age better and improves flexibility and strength of the body through simple and uncomplicated practices as well as to stay physically fit, mentally alert, and enhance spirituality.[1] The qualitative aspect of health is considered important in Yoga and other Indian systems of medicine. Geriatrics is termed as Rasayanatantra according to Ayurveda and anti ageing therapy is called Rasayana chikitsa which is closely related to Yoga Therapy. Many health concerns in senior citizens have been linked to the sedentary lifestyle and inactivity leads to muscular shortening, tightening and weakening. Lack of movement leads to joint deterioration and loss of flexibility.

According to a fact sheet of the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health includes “subjective well-being, perceived self-efficacy, autonomy, competence, inter-generational dependence, and self-actualization of one’s intellectual and emotional potential, among others. [2] It further states that the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realization of their abilities, coping with normal stresses of life, productive work and contribution to their community. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how “mental health” is defined.  A widely accepted definition of health by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud: the capacity “to work and to love” is considered to be simple accurate definition of mental health’. [3]


The Yogic concept of health and disease (as explained in Yoga Vasishtha) enables us to understand that the cause of physical disorder sprouts from the higher levels of the mind and beyond. Adhi – the disturbed mind is the cause and Vyadhi – the disease which is the effect manifested in the physical body.

Maharishi Patanjali mentions “Vyadhi” as a hindrance to the complete integration of the individual personality. He doesn’t directly refer to the treatment of particular diseases as his approach is more holistic and expanded rather than analytical and limited.

Any sign of disease manifested in the body is a result of a mental imbalance or an unhealthy attitude. Srimad Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as equanimity at all levels which may also be taken as the perfect state of health where there is physical homeostasis and mental equanimity giving rise to a healthy harmony between the body and mind. [1]

An old man complained to Buddha; “I am an old one; suffering from several disorders. I am unhappy.” Buddha advised him; “even if your body is ill, let your mind not be ill.”


Growing old is when you have leisure time for your own self, for recreation (Vihar), to pursue with the hobbies and interests in life as well as for relaxation. Ageing is an inevitable natural process associated with sluggish metabolism, demineralization of bone and decreased energy levels, feeling of weakness and decrease in power of resistance. Common complaints of arthritis, incontinence, insomnia, difficulty in breathing, bronchitis, prostate enlargement, high blood pressure, diabetes etc coupled with mental depression, loneliness, anxiety, suspicion, self-centeredness, low self-esteem due to wear and tear of the brain tissues. This raises the need for the seniors to stay fit and healthy during this age, though degeneration of the body also set some limits to the types of exercises they can do. [4]

Swami Gitananda Giri states, “Yoga is the science and art of right-useness of body, emotions and mind”. Yoga is concerned more with the mind than the body. Any sign of disease manifested in the body is a result of a mental imbalance or an unhealthy attitude. Yoga has proven to be immensely therapeutic, in preventing the deterioration through ageing. As one grows older the transformation back into the childhood begins. Feeling sad, lonely, worried, or bored may be more common for older people; facing retirement or coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or friend. Adapting to these changes leaves them feeling lonely. They carry a notion that they are of no use anymore to the family or the society and hence start feeling inferior and depressed. The physical mobility, range of movement, flexibility decreases as on ages and physical stiffness radiates to their mind too. Hence, before starting over the practice sessions for the seniors, it is very vital to talk to them on a personal one-to-one basis. Yogic Counselling is the first and foremost step before starting the Yogic curriculum. (5)


Yoga has been proved to help alleviate or reduce many of the health challenges, making it an increasingly popular choice for the older adult population. Among the many benefits of Yoga, it has been shown to slow or even slowly reverse the ageing process. This is undoubtedly the major underlying principle that this traditional practice survives and flourishes all over the world. Any form of group activity, be it Yoga or otherwise, is mood-elevating for seniors. The social aspect of attending a group practice is invaluable. The contact group provides a sense of belonging driving the loneliness away.

Yogic practices aim at maintaining and improving the various motor skills. Simple warming up practices, the Jathis and Kriyas is essential to induce the flexibility.

Asanas, the isometric passive stretching practices in Yoga are non-strenuous, non-fatiguing and can be performed comfortably even at an advanced age. Talasana, Katichakrasana, Ardhakatichakrasana and Trikonasana stretch and twist giving an excellent effect of traction. Asanas like Mehruasana and Padahastasana help normalize blood pressure by resetting the baro-reflex sensitivity. Vajrasana, Sukhasana ,Paschimotanasana, Purvottanasana, Vakrasana, ArdhaMatsyendrasana, Navasana, Matsyasana, Makarasana ,Bhujangasana, Ardhashalabhasana , Ekapadauttanasana Dwipadauttanasana , Pavanamukthasana also have a tremendous effect on normalizing the various physiological functions. The shortened muscles are stretched gradually and pain in joints is reduced thus relieving a general complaint found in the elderly. Asanas build up proper tone in the muscles while the function of the vital organs is also improved simultaneously.

Controlled breathing in Pranayama helps in adjusting the circulatory-respiratory complex of the body towards normal activity. Some of the practices recommended are Mukhabhastrika Pranayama, Chandranadi Pranayama, Nadi Shuddhi, Pranava Pranayama, Bhramari Pranayama, Sukha Purvaka Pranayama and the Savitri Pranayama. These practices improve the flow of the life force (Prana), open energy channels, thus harmonizing functions of the body-mind-emotion complex with increased awareness. It also calms and relaxes the mind, alleviates mood and creates healthy attitudes resulting in emotional stability.

Purificatory processes of Yoga called Shat Kriyas are helpful in removing the imbalance in the various secretions of the body. They also help in balancing the Tridoshas (Vata, Pitta and Kapha), the three humors of the body. Kriyas like Neti help improve the immunity reducing the chances of infectious attacks.

Mudras and Bandhas are the psychic, emotional, devotional gestures. They are attitudes of energy flow. Practices like Brahma Mudra working with breath and sound vibration induces a sense of relaxation and reinvigorates the head and neck region which reduces stress, Viparita Karani Mudra (the topsy turvy pose that has an excellent effect on the psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine normalization) Shanmuki Mudra, Ashwini Mudra, Moola Bandha and Jalandhara Bandha may be given to them. Regular practice calms and stabilizes the mind, and also directs the flow of Prana to the heart, lungs and brain. This in turn improves vitality of all organs and drives away depression, producing a great sense of joy and happiness.

The practice of Dhyana (meditation), reduces the feeling of loneliness and gives peace of mind. Directing attention consciously to the different parts of the body during meditation helps increase the blood flow and channelize energy to those parts. (Yatho mana;Tatho Prana – Where the mind goes, there the Prana flows)

Yogic relaxation techniques like Spanda Nishpanda ,Kaya Kriya in Shavasana and Marmanasthanam Kriya helps rejuvenate the body and mind creating a sense of awareness and relaxation. (6, 7)


Many research findings confirm that Yoga improves the sleep quality, and reduces depression and promotes and enhances the health status of older adults. There is an improvement of hand grip strength and an integrated approach of Yoga including the mental and philosophical aspects in addition to the physical practices is useful for institutionalized older persons. Yoga programs tailored to elderly adults may offer a cost-effective means for preventing or reducing age-related changes and promotes sense of well-being and energy. Much of the early research illuminates the mechanisms responsible for the life-span extending and health-enhancing effects of these cognitive behavioural practices points to the importance of their anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and antioxidant effects as well as their impact in enhancing the production of endogenous substances that possess general longevity-enhancing, regenerative properties.

A review by Roland et al included all studies of yoga with older adults and concluded that there were trends toward improvement in strength, balance, gait and flexibility in older adults participating in yoga. [8]

Another review of yoga interventions with older adults focused on randomized controlled trials comparing yoga to other interventions done by Patel et al., found evidence that yoga may result in greater improvements in physical and mental scores, flexibility, and VO2max than aerobic exercise interventions. [9]

The most relevant program of research in older adults was done by Chen et al. who developed a yoga program (Silver Yoga) for institutionalized older adults and found that yoga improved flexibility, walking speed, sleep quality, depression, and QOL among yoga participants. In summary, there is increasing evidence that Hatha yoga can improve physical function among older adults, while the psychosocial benefits are promising.  [10, 11, 12, 13]

Elderly participants practiced the protocol that was specially designed for senior citizens, keeping in mind their health status and physical limitations. This included simple warm-ups (jathis), breath body movement coordination practices (kriyas), static stretching postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayamas), relaxation and simple chanting. [6]

It was concluded by Ornish et al that telomere shortness in human beings is a prognostic marker of ageing, disease, and premature morbidity. Comprehensive lifestyle intervention was associated with significant increase in telomere length and improved telomerase activity. [14]

Ramanathan et al recommended that yoga should be made a part of health-care facilities for elderly as it can enhance the quality of life by improving their overall mental health status. It could provide a healthy and positive alternative from depressing negative thoughts, and give them a sense of purpose and hope. [15]


Whatever activity one is engaged in- be it Yoga or any other form, should provide contentment, satisfaction and self confidence, must help maintain a youthful mind, cultivate flexibility, strengthen the immune system, nourish the body, and much more. As one begins to reverse the biological age, tapping into the inner reservoirs of unlimited energy, creativity, and vitality becomes easy and natural, improving the sense of well-being. Yoga certainly helps change the habits of thinking and behaving and alter the experience of the body and the ageing process. Old age can be made not only bearable but also pleasurable. After all, old age is not a matter of years but a condition of mind and Yoga brings a healthy state of mind. Yoga aims at enabling the individual to attain and maintain the “Sukhasthanam” (the natural state of the being), enables one to attain the sense of physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga may not only add a few years to life but also may add life to the years. Therefore, practice of Yoga should become an integral part of old age.


  1. Bhavanani AB. Yoga Chikitsa: The application of Yoga as a therapy. Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations, 2013.
  2. World Health organisation fact sheet on “Mental health: strengthening our response”. Fact sheet N°220. Accessed on 5 December 2016
  1. Sigmund F. Das Unbehagen in der Kultur. Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag Wien., 1930; p. 101
  2. Meena Ramanathan. Applied Yoga (Applications of Yoga in various fields of human activity). Aarogya Yogalayam, Venkateswara Nagar, Saram, Pondicherry-13. 2007.
  3. Bhavanani AB. Health and healing. Dhivyananda Creations, Iyyanar Nagar, Pondicherry. 2008.
  4. Gitananda Giri Swami. Yoga: Step-by-Step, Satya Press, Pondicherry, 1976
  5.  Bhavanani AB, Ramanathan M, Trakroo M. Single session of integrated ‘silver yoga’ program improves cardiovascular parameters in senior citizens. J Intercult Ethnopharmacol., 2015; 4:134-37.
  6. Roland KP, Jakobi JM, Jones GR. Does yoga engender fitness in older adults? A critical review. J Aging Phys Act., 2011; 19(2): 62-79.
  7. Patel NK, Newstead AH, Ferrer RL. The effects of yoga on physical functioning and health related quality of life in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med., 2012; 18: 902-17
  8. Chen KM, Tseng WS.  Pilot-testing the effects of a newly-developed silver yoga exercise program for female seniors. J Nurs Res., 2008; 16: 37-46.
  9. Chen KM, Chen MH, Hong SM, Chao HC, Lin HS, Li CH. Physical fitness of older adults in senior activity centres after 24-week silver yoga exercises. J Clin Nurs., 2008; 17: 2634-46.
  10. Chen KM, Chen MH, Lin MH, Fan JT, Lin HS, Li CH. Effects of yoga on sleep quality and depression in elders in assisted living facilities. J Nurs Res., 2010; 18: 53-61.
  11. Chen KM, Fan JT, Wang HH, Wu SJ, Li CH, Lin HS. Silver yoga exercises improved physical fitness of transitional frail elders. Nurs Res., 2010; 59(5): 364-70
  12. Ornish D, Lin J, Chan JM, Epel E, Kemp C, Weidner G, Marlin R, et al. Effect of comprehensive lifestyle changes on telomerase activity and telomere length in men with biopsy-proven low-risk prostate cancer: 5-year follow-up of a descriptive pilot study. Lancet Oncol., 2013; 14:1112-20.
  13. Ramanathan M, Bhavanani AB, Trakroo M. Effect of a 12-week yoga therapy program on mental health status in elderly women inmates of a hospice.  International Journal of Yoga., 2017; 10:24-28



Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani


Director, Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research (CYTER), Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Pillayarkuppam, Pondicherry. Email:


We reap only by first sowing and constructive and conscious effort is required every moment as nothing in life is obtained without effort. We must remember to lay the foundations well and “leave no stone unturned” if we truly wish to fulfill our ambitions. Nature goes through phases of seeding, nurturing much before the fruition occurs. We must never forget ancient wisdom that says, “As you sow so shall you reap” (Galatians 6:7).


Indian culture has for millennia stressed on the importance of responsibility or the fulfillment of one’s Dharma as the bedrock of life. One of the many ways in which this is inculcated is through the division of the four stages of human life as described in the Yogic science of Yantra. These Chatur Ashrama are Brahmacharya, Grahasta, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa and each of these has specific responsibilities and duties that enable us to grow fully as a human being.  Brahmacharya is the period of life from birth to 27 years of age. This is the period of one’s life that is devoted exclusively towards attaining knowledge. It is the period of study at the feet of a realised master (Guru). The second phase of one’s life is the Grahasta Ashrama or the householder phase. It is said to be from 27 to 54 years of age. This is the period of responsibility and obligations. It is the productive period of life in family, financial as well as personal pursuits. The world can be said to turn because of the population in this Ashrama as they have the responsibility to take care of all the other three groups. The third stage of life is the Vanaprasta that runs from 54 to 81 years of age. This is the retirement time when one can sit back and relax in a quiet, reflective, meditative state. Inner unfoldment may be given paramount place without undue concern for worldly matters. Sanyasa Ashram is the fourth stage of life where total renouncement occurs. It is the period of ones, life beyond 81 years of age wherein the spiritual consciousness of the person may manifest in totality. It is important to note that this final stage of Sanyasa is to be entered after completing one’s duties in the three earlier phases. Many take Sanyasa as an escape from the world and this is not to be. It is the culmination of a life well lived and never and escape from responsibility. As Pujya Swamiji used to say, “Many want to renounce, but they don’t have anything to renounce in the first place!”


Indian culture accepts the Chaturvidha Purushartha, that there are the four legitimate aims of life, namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. Tiruvalluvar deals with the first three in his great Tamil scripture Tirukkural under the headings of Aram, Porul and Inbam. Dharma or Aram is the living of a righteous life with fulfillment of all duties in the spirit of Nishkama Karma (selfless service) and Karmasu Koushalam (perfection in action). Artha or Porul is the fulfillment of all legitimate material needs in the proper manner. We must realise that in many instances our needs are legitimate but our wants may not be correct as they only mirror our greed. Man needs a house for shelter but his greed makes him want ten houses. There are examples of even ‘spiritual leaders’ (?) who have trillions in banks, hundreds of cars and numerous houses!

As the great soul Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is enough for everyone’s need but not for every man’s greed”. Kama or Inbam is the fulfillment of desires especially of the sexual nature in the proper, legitimate, socially accepted manner. Family life is an important learning experience and is the stepping stone to further experiences. It is important that the sexual potencies are utilised for the right purpose in the right way. When the first three goals are achieved in a legitimate manner, then we are ready for attainment of the ‘goal of all goals’, Moksha or the final liberation.


Karma is the universal law of action-reaction. As long as the Kleshas exist, the Jiva is bound to the fructification of the Karmas. The three main sources of Karma are Adhyatmika, Adhibauthika and Adhidaivika.  Adhyatmika is that which is due to the self. This is due to our thoughts, words and deeds. They may be due to our acts of omission as well as commission. Not doing the right thing is sometimes Karmically as bad as doing the wrong thing. Adhibauthika is that which is due to the worldly side of creation. It may manifest through animals or forces of nature. Adhidaivika is that which is due to the great clockwork of the universe at the time of our birth. Astrology and numerology deal with this, but the Yogic science of Yantra gives us a complete understanding as well as a master plan of this manifestation.

The three major types of Karma are Prarabdha Karma, Kriyamana (Agami) Karma and Sanchita or Sabija Karma.  Prarabdha Karma is the fructifying Karma and is the load of Karma with which we are born to work out in this lifetime. Kriyamana (Agami) or Vartamana is the one that we are generating in the present. These actions that are generated day by day may either join the Prarabdha and become operative in this very life or join the Sanchita and become operative in future lives. Sanchita Karma or Sabija Karma is the one that has most negative connotations. It is the accumulated store of Karmas from many past embodiments that is stored in our sub conscious and manifests if we create an atmosphere conducive for it to fructify. It strikes when least expected and can cause havoc with a peaceful productive life. According to Patanjali, Karmic fructification determines the class into which one is born (Jati), the life span (Ayu) as well as enjoyment (Bhoga) of pleasure and pain.

Human embodiment is a rare opportunity for the soul as self-effort (Purushartha) is possible. A human being can modify the fructifications of the past by their present efforts, reduce the negative Karmas of the past and enrich the positive ones. They are also in a unique position that they can bring about the very eradication of the roots of the Karmic tree through a sincere Yoga Sadhana.


Karma Yoga is one of the central teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and aims at the attainment of Kaivalya or eternal freedom. The Karma Yoga Marga enables us achieve this exalted ‘state of being’ by performing with responsibility our day-to-day duties. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna, “Therefore, without attachment, constantly perform action which is duty, for, by performing action without attachment, man verily reaches the Supreme”.

The other extreme is when some people translate Sanyasa as the total renouncement and try to escape from their responsibility through this ‘spiritual loophole’. It is important to remember the real meaning of renouncement for Lord Krishna says, “Renouncing all actions in Me, with the mind centred in the Self free from hope and egoism and from mental fever, do thou fight”, and who sit quiet, renouncing their own duty, will not derive any benefit by such renunciation.

The whole teachings of the Bhagavad Gita reiterate the need for self-responsibility and in so many ways Lord Krishna tries to persuade Arjuna to do his Dharma. In VI.5, Krishna preaches about ‘right’ exertion: “Let a man lift himself by his own Self alone, let him not lower himself; for this self is the friend of oneself and this self alone is the enemy of oneself”. The Lord tells Arjuna that each one should do his duty according to his nature, and that doing duty that is suited to one’s nature in the right spirit of detachment will lead to perfection. He says, “Do thou perform thy bounden duty, for action is superior to inaction and even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for thee by inaction”.

Another modern tendency is to ‘feel’ that one can do somebody else’s job better that them but not one’s own job! This is a major ego based survival technique, an escapist tendency that must be watched carefully. So many people go around saying, “I would be the best prime minister of this country or I would run this company better than this guy” etc, but look at them and you find that they are totally incompetent messes! Arrogance and ignorance are a very dangerous combination and so many ‘featherless bipeds’ running around this planet today seem to be endowed with this combination in plenty.

No wonder Lord Krishna warns us, “Better is one’s own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged. Better is death in one’s own duty; the duty of another is fraught with fear” (shreyaan swadharmo vigunah paradharmaat swanushthitaat swadharme nidhanam shreyah paradharmo bhayaavahah). He continues by saying “Each one, devoted to his own duty, attains perfection”. He concludes by telling us that we become qualified for the dawn of Self-knowledge and perfection though the performance of our own duty. This idea of work-ship as worship is so relevant in this day and age.


The Yogic concept of SWADHARMA or ‘self responsibility’ and the psychological concept of Self-actualization have many similarities. Self actualization is a term originally introduced by Kurt Goldstein for the motive to realize one’s full potential. In his view, it is the organism’s master motive, the only real motive. However, the concept was brought most fully to prominence in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory as the final level of psychological development that can be achieved when all basic and mental needs are fulfilled and the “actualization” of the full personal potential takes place.

Abraham Maslow studied the greatest people of his generation in an attempt to identify the hallmarks of what he called “self-actualizing” individuals. Maslow studied what he called exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.”

He basically concluded that “There are no perfect human beings”! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers…even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it. This is so similar to Lord Krishna’s teachings when he says, “One should not abandon, O Arjuna, the responsibility to which one is born, though faulty; for, all undertakings are enveloped by defects, as fire by smoke”!


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs deals with life as a pyramid of growth or self evolution from the lower physical needs to safety needs, need for love and belonging, need for self esteem and then self actualization. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid he reaches self actualization. At the bottom of the pyramid are the “Basic needs or Physiological needs” of a human being, food and water and sex. The next level is “Safety Needs: Security, Order, and Stability.” These two steps are important to the physical survival of the person. Once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more. The third level of need is “Love and Belonging,” which are psychological needs; when individuals have taken care of themselves physically, they are ready to share themselves with others. The fourth level is achieved when individuals feel comfortable with what they have accomplished. This is the “Esteem” level, the level of success and status. The “Need for Self-actualization,” occurs when individuals reach a state of harmony and understanding. Self actualization is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – becoming ‘”fully human”…maturity or self-actualization’ – and is considered a part of the humanistic approach to personality.

maslow's hirarchy

Maslow based his study on the writings of other psychologists, Albert Einstein and people he knew who clearly met the standard of self actualization. Maslow used Einstein’s writings and accomplishments to exemplify the characteristics of the self actualized person. He realized that all the individuals he studied had similar personality traits. All were “Reality Centered”, able to differentiate what was fraudulent from what was genuine. They were also “problem centered”, meaning that they treated life’s difficulties as problems that demanded solutions. These individuals also were comfortable being alone and had healthy personal relationships. They had only a few close friends and family rather than a large number of shallow relationships. One historical figure Maslow found to be helpful in his journey to understanding self actualization was Lao Tzu, The Father of Taoism. A tenet of Taoism is that people do not obtain personal meaning or pleasure by seeking material possessions.

It is too bad Maslow didn’t study any of the realised souls of India for there have been so many such ‘self actualised’ masters from time immemorial! Each age or Manvantara has seven great Rishis. The seven great Rishis of the first Manvantara are said to be Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya and Vashista. The Sapta Rishis of the present Manvantara are the forefathers of all present day Brahmanas. The Gotras that are named after these Rishis are used to identify the different families that have sprung from their progeny. These seven great seers of this age are Kashyapa Maharishi, Atri Maharishi, Jamadagni Maharishi, Bharatwaja Maharishi, Vishwamitra Maharishi, Vashishta Maharishi and Gauthama Maharishi. They have been immortalized by a constellation of seven stars being named the Sapta Rishi Mandalam (constellation of seven Rishis).

The great minds of our Indian culture have given us thoughts about responsibility in such a lovely poetic manner. One such example is the Purananuru that is a Tamil poetic work belonging to the Sangam period corresponding to between 200 BCE – 100 CE. Purananuru is part of the Ettuthokai anthology which is the oldest available collection of poems of Sangam literature in Tamil. Purananuru contains 400 poems of varying lengths in the Akaval meter. More than 150 poets wrote the poems. It is not known when or who collected these poems into these anthologies. Purananuru is a source of information on the political and social history of pre-historic Tamil Nadu. Purananuru poems deal with the puram (external or objective) concepts of life such as war, politics, wealth, as well as aspects of every-day living.

I give below one of the most famous songs from therein with special highlight (mine) on the fact that we are responsible for al the good things (punya phala) and bad (papa phala) that comes upon us. It also states so beautifully that both the cause of the pain as well as the antidotal remedy for it lies within our own very selves. It is very interesting to contrast this with the prevalent modern idea that “I am the poor innocent victim”. 


யாதும் ஊரே, யாவரும் கேளிர்,

தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா,

நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன

சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே, வாழ்தல்

இனிதுஎன மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே, முனிவின்

இன்னாது என்றலும் இலமே, பின்னொடு

வானம் தண் துளி தலைஇ ஆனாது

கல் பொருது இரங்கும் மல்லல் பேர்யாற்று

நீர்வழிப் படுஉம் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர்

முறைவழிப் படுஉம் என்பது திறவோர்

காட்சியின் தெளிந்தனம் ஆதலின் மாட்சியின்

பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே,

சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே.

-கணியன் பூங்குன்றன், புற நானூறு, 192


To us all towns are one, all men our kin,

Life’s good comes not from others’

gifts, nor ill,

Man’s pains and pain’s relief are from within,

Death’s no new thing, nor do our blossoms thrill

When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.

When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem

This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft

Borne down the waters of some mountain stream

That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain

Tho’ storms with lightning’s flash

from darkened skies.

Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.

Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !

We marvel not at the greatness of the great;

Still less despise we men of low estate.


Kaniyan Poongundran, Purananuru – 192

(Translated by G.U.Pope, 1906)


The evolutionary Yogic process of culturing ourselves in order to attain the highest state of “universal perfection” deals with both the external as well the internal aspects of our individuality that are cultured in a step-by-step manner to integrate all levels thus producing completeness of our whole being.

The regular practice of Yoga as a ‘Way of Life’ helps reduce our physical, mental and emotional stresses that are destabilizing us. The Yogic ‘way of life’ lays emphasis on right thought, right action, right reaction and right attitude. No wonder Pujya Swamiji, Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj has defined Yogic living as the “right-use-ness of body, emotions and mind” – a life of righteousness indeed.

An integration of multiple factors needs to occur both externally and internally. Our higher mind needs to be tapped and the inherent powers released with the flowering of higher consciousness. The three powers of Buddhi (discriminatory intellect) are the Iccha Shakti (power of will), Kriya Shakti (power of action) and Jnana Shakti (power of wisdom). Many persons have the will but not the power to act. Many have the will as well as the power to act but do not know right from the wrong. Only the best of us is endowed with all three and know what is right as well as have both the will and the power to act in the right manner.

We need to get our selves ready and that is a great effort in preparation too. When the student is ready the Guru will appear and this means that the sincere sadhaka should get themselves ready by cultivating the required characteristics. The four fold essential qualifications necessary in a spiritual aspirant are Viveka (discriminating intellect), Vairagya (dispassionate dedication with detachment or non-attachment to worldly pursuits), Shat Sampat (the six noble virtues) and Mumukshatwa (a burning desire of aspiration for self-realization). The Shat Sampat or six noble virtues that are part of the important qualities necessary for a spiritual aspirant are Sama, Dama, Uparti, Titiksha, Shraddha and Samadhana. Sama is mental poise, Dama, sensory control, Uparti, selflessness, and Titiksha is endurance. Shraddha is faith and Samadhana is the surrender to the Divine will. These are real spiritual qualities that are found lacking in most modern seekers and that is why frustration overcomes them and they stray off the path. These qualities were in abundance in ancient society when men lived a natural life and unless and until these qualities are cultivated, there is no chance for spiritual evolution. Strict Gurus of ancient days would not accept disciples who didn’t have these qualities, but in today’s world which Guru can afford to refuse a disciple on such grounds especially when they themselves don’t posses them in the first place?

As Pujya Swamiji Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj so rightly said, “Only the responsible will evolve while the others continue to stagnate“!

Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani is Director of the Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research (CYTER), MGMCRI, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth University, Pondicherry (

He is also Chairman of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry, India ( and Yoganjali Natyalayam, the premier institute of Yoga and Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam in Pondicherry ( He is son and successor of the internationally acclaimed Yoga team of Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj and Yogacharini Kalaimamani Ammaji, Smt Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani.

He is a Gold Medallist in Medical Studies (MBBS) with postgraduate diplomas in both Family Health (PGDFH) as well as Yoga (PGDY) and the Advanced Diploma in Yoga under his illustrious parents in 1991-93. A Fellow of the Indian Academy of Yoga, he has authored 19 DVDs and 23 books on Yoga as well as published more than two hundred papers, compilations and abstracts on Yoga and Yoga research in National and International Journals. In addition, he is a Classical Indian Vocalist, Percussionist, Music Composer and Choreographer of Indian Classical Dance.

In recent years he has travelled abroad 15 times and conducted invited talks, public events, workshops and retreats and been major presenter at Yoga conferences in the UK, USA, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

He is an Honorary International Advisor to the International Association of Yoga Therapists (, the Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists (, the World Yoga Foundation ( and Gitananda Yoga Associations worldwide  (

A recognized PhD guide for Yoga Therapy he was also recognized as an IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, USA in September 2016. It is notable that he is the first Indian to receive this honour.

He is currently Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the CCRYN, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt of India as well as the Expert Committees of AYUSH for Celebration of International Yoga Day and the Yoga & Diabetes program. He is Consultant Resource Person for the WHO Collaborative Centre in Traditional Medicine (Yoga) at MDNIY, New Delhi. He is also member of the Executive Council of the Indian Yoga Association ( and Board of Directors of the Council for Yoga Accreditation International (



Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani


Director, Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research (CYTER), Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Pillayarkuppam, Pondicherry. Email:


Yoga, an ancient cultural heritage of India, understands health and wellbeing as a dynamic continuum of human nature and not a mere ‘state’ to be attained and maintained (Bhavanani, 2013). Yogi Swatmarama, author of the Hathayoga Pradipika, one of the classical Hatha Yoga texts gives us the assurance, “One who tirelessly practises Yoga attains success irrespective of whether they are young, old decrepit, diseased or weak” (Bhatt, 2004).

Yoga conceptualizes the human being as a multi layered, conscious being, possessing three bodies or sharira (sthula-gross, sukshma -subtle and kaarana -causal) and having a five layered existence (pancha kosha) consisting of our anatomical, physiological, psychological, intellectual and universal existential layers (Giri, 1976; Bhavanani, 2008). Yoga as a way of conscious living, enables the individual to attain and maintain a dynamic sukha sthanam that may be defined as a dynamic sense of physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. The Bhagavad Gita (II: 48) defines Yoga as samatvam meaning thereby that Yoga is a harmonious and balanced state of equanimity or equipoise at all levels (Chidbhavananda, 1984). This may be also understood as a perfect state of dynamic wellbeing wherein physical homeostasis, emotional balance and mental equanimity manifest in harmony.


Fig 1. Pancha kosha, the five existential layers (Giri, 1976; Bhavanani, 2013).

This qualitative aspect of health is something that Yoga and traditional Indian systems of medicine have considered important for thousands of years (Feuerstein, 2003;  Bhavanani, 2010). Even Maharishi Patanjali’s definition of asana ((sthira sukham asanam- Yoga Darshan II:46) implies this dynamic state of steady wellbeing at all levels of existence (Bhavanani, 2011). He also goes on to say that through the practice of asana we can attain a state that is beyond dualities leading to harmonious and serene calmness (tato dvandva anabhighata- Yoga Darshan II: 48). We can even gain unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy and satisfaction by practicing contentment, (santoshat anuttamah sukha labhahYoga Darshan II: 42) one of the five ethical observances or niyama-s (Bhavanani, 2011). This inherent link is quite apparent once we think about it, but not too many associate the need for contentment in their greed for anything and everything in this material world.


Qualities of a mentally healthy person:

The central theme of Yoga is the golden mean (yukta), finding the middle path, a constant search for moderation and a harmonious homoeostatic balance (Feuerstein, 2003;  Bhavanani, 2010). Yoga is the “unitive impulse” of life, which always seeks to unite diverse streams into a single powerful force (Giri,1976; 1995).  Proper practice and living of the Yogic principles produces an inner balance that gives stability and calm even in the midst of chaos.  This ancient science shows its adherents a clear path to the “eye of the storm” and ensures a stability that endures within, even as the cyclone may rage on externally.

Some of the prerequisite qualities of a mentally healthy person (stitha prajna) are enumerated in the Bhagavad Gita as follows: Beyond passion, fear and anger (veeta raga bhaya krodhahBG II.56), devoid of possessiveness and egoism (nirmamo nirahamkarah- BG -II.7), firm in understanding and unbewildered (sthira buddhir asammudhahBG – V.20) ,engaged in doing good to all creatures (sarva bhutahiteratahBG V.25) ,friendly and compassionate to all ( maitrah karuna eva caBG XII.13); and pure hearted and skilful without expectation (anapekshah sucir daksahBG XII.16) (Chidbhavananda, 1984).


Some Yogic tools for mental health and wellbeing:

  • Tools to induce psycho-physical harmony: Asana-s (static postures), kriya-s (systematic and rationale movements), mudra-s (seals of neuromuscular energy) and bandha-s (locks for neuromuscular energy) gently stretch and strengthen the musculoskeletal system in a healthy manner. They improve mobility and flexibility of the different joints and groups of muscles. There is also concomitant improvement in the systemic function such as respiration, circulation, metabolism, digestion and elimination. A general sense of health and wellbeing is also promoted by these aspects of Yoga that help release feel good hormones like endorphins and encephalins (Bhavanani, 2008; 2013).
  • Tools to balance emotional volatility: Swadhyaya (introspectional self analysis), pranayama (breathing techniques for control of vital energy), pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (intense concentration), dhyana (meditational oneness) and bhajana (devotional music) stabilize emotional turmoil and relieve stress and mental fatigue. They bring about an excellent sense of emotional balance that is vital for good health. Group work also enables achievement of emotional balance essential for good health.

Machanism Of Yoga


Fig 2. Mechanisms of Yoga (Giri, 1976; Bhavanani, 2013).


  • Development of appropriate psychological attitudes: Yoga encourages us to step back and take an meta-cognitive, objective view of our habitual patterns of behavior and thoughts. This enables us to cope better with situations that normally put our bodies and minds under strain. Patanjali emphasizes the need to develop following qualities in order to become mentally balanced humane beings (Bhavanani, 2011). He emphasizes abhyasa (relentless positive self effort) and vairagya (dispassionate attitude) along with ishwara pranidhana (acceptance and humility of the universal plan). He provides an antidote to the stress pandemic by suggesting change in our inner perspective through pratipaksha bhavanam (adoption of the contrary attitudes in the face of negativities). He advises us to develop clarity of mind (chitta prasadanam) through adoption of four conscious attitudes: namely maitri (friendliness towards those who are at peace with themselves), karuna (compassion for the suffering), mudita (cheerfulness towards the virtuous) and upekshanam (indifference and avoidance of the evil) (Bhavanani, 2008; 2011).
  • Contemplation, relaxation and meditation: There are a great many Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga techniques of relaxation and visualization that are useful (Giri, 1976; Bhavanani, 2008). Other practices such as trataka (concentrated gaze), pranayama, pratyahara, dharana as well as dhyana may also be utilized. Relaxation is a central element in Yoga as it is the body’s own way of recharging its cells and helps to ease physical, emotional and mental tensions. We can facilitate our own healing when we are relaxed. In fact, we often unintentionally retard our inherent healing mechanisms when we are tense and uptight. Choice is ours to make!
  • Enhancing spiritual awareness: Yoga is the best way for us to consciously evolve out of our lower, sub-human nature, into our elevated human and humane nature (Giri, 1995). Ultimately, this life giving, life enhancing and life sustaining science of humanity allows us to achieve in full measure the Divinity that resides within each of us. Swadhyaya, satsanga (spiritual gathering), bhajana sessions and Yogic counselling are important aspects of Yogic living We need to realise that “Oneness” is health whereas “Duality” is disease. We cannot remain lonely, depressed and diseased if we realize that we are part of a wonderful, joyful and harmonious Universe. Spirituality is the personal connection we feel with our own inner being. This can be strengthened greatly through conscious introspection and self inquiry. When we begin to understand the oneness manifest through all forms of life, we manifest gratitude, respect and love. Our life becomes one of selfless service (nishkama seva) for humanity. At that point, we start to radiate joy, love and wellbeing (tejasvi).
  • Relieving suffering and pain: In the Bhagavad Gita (VI:23), Yoga is also defined as “dukkhasamyogaviyogam yoga samjnitham”, the conscious disassociation from union with suffering (Chidbhavananda, 1984; Bhavanani, 2013). Yoga improves pain tolerance and provides an improved quality of life. It can be safely said that Yoga helps us endure conditions that it may not be able to cure. This is vital in end life situations where it is important that the patient has a sense of improved quality of life during their final days and moments on earth. Yoga can also benefit caretakers of such terminal patients who are under great stress themselves as it enables them to realise that we fulfil ourselves best as human beings when we help others.


In conclusion:

Yoga is the original mind body medicine and is one of the greatest treasures of the unique Indian cultural heritage. As both an art and science it has a lot to offer humankind in terms of an understanding of both the human mind as well as all aspects of our multilayered existence. Yogic lifestyle, Yogic diet, Yogic attitudes and various Yogic practices help man to strengthen himself and develop positive health thus enabling him to withstand stress better. This Yogic “health insurance” is achieved by normalizing the perception of stress, optimizing the reaction to it and by releasing it effectively through various practices. Yoga is truly a wholesome and integral science of life that deals with multidimensional aspects of health in both the individual and society.

Yoga helps us to take the appropriate attitude towards our challenges and thus tackle them effectively and efficiently. “To have the will (iccha shakti) to change (kriya shakti) that which can be changed, the strength to accept that which cannot he changed, and the wisdom (jnana shakti) to know the difference” is the attitude that needs to the cultivated. An attitude of letting go of the worries, the problems and a greater understanding of our mental process helps to create a harmony in our body, and mind whose disharmony is the main cause of  ‘aadi – vyadhi’ or psychosomatic disorders.

“Health and happiness are your birthright, claim them and develop them to your maximum potential” (Giri, 1995). This message of Swamiji Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj is a firm reminder that the goal of human existence is not health and happiness but is moksha (liberation). Most people today are so busy trying to find health and happiness that they forget why they are here in the first place. Yoga is the best way for us to regain our birthrights and attain the goal of our human existence.


Recommended reading:

  1. Bhatt GP. The Forceful Yoga: Being the Translation of HathaYoga-pradipika, Gheranda-samhita and Siva-samhita (P. Singh, R. Bahadur, & S. C. Vasu, Trans.). New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. 2004
  2. Bhavanani AB. A Yogic Approach to Stress. Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations, 2008.
  3. Bhavanani AB. Understanding the Yoga Darshan. Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations, 2011.
  4. Bhavanani AB. Yoga Chikitsa: The application of Yoga as a therapy. Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations, 2013.
  5. Bhavanani MD. The history of yoga from ancient to modern times. Pondicherry, India: Satya Press, 2010
  6. Chidbhavananda Swami. The Bhagavad Gita. Trichy,India: Ramakrishna Tapovanam, 1984
  7. Feuerstein Georg. The Deeper Dimension of Yoga Theory and Practice. Boston Massachusetts, USA: Shambala Publications Inc. 2003
  8. Gitananda Giri Swami (Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani. Ed). Frankly speaking. Pondicherry, India: Satya Press,1995
  9. Gitananda Giri Swami. Yoga: Step-by-step. Pondicherry, India: Satya Press. 1976

 Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani is Director of the Centre for Yoga Therapy Education and Research (CYTER), MGMCRI, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth University, Pondicherry (

He is also Chairman of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry, India ( and Yoganjali Natyalayam, the premier institute of Yoga and Carnatic Music and Bharatanatyam in Pondicherry ( He is son and successor of the internationally acclaimed Yoga team of Yogamaharishi Dr. Swami Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj and Yogacharini Kalaimamani Ammaji, Smt Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani.

He is a Gold Medallist in Medical Studies (MBBS) with postgraduate diplomas in both Family Health (PGDFH) as well as Yoga (PGDY) and the Advanced Diploma in Yoga under his illustrious parents in 1991-93. A Fellow of the Indian Academy of Yoga, he has authored 19 DVDs and 23 books on Yoga as well as published more than two hundred papers, compilations and abstracts on Yoga and Yoga research in National and International Journals. In addition, he is a Classical Indian Vocalist, Percussionist, Music Composer and Choreographer of Indian Classical Dance.

In recent years he has travelled abroad 15 times and conducted invited talks, public events, workshops and retreats and been major presenter at Yoga conferences in the UK, USA, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

He is an Honorary International Advisor to the International Association of Yoga Therapists (, the Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists (, the World Yoga Foundation ( and Gitananda Yoga Associations worldwide  (

A recognized PhD guide for Yoga Therapy he was also recognized as an IAYT Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, USA in September 2016. It is notable that he is the first Indian to receive this honour.

He is currently Member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the CCRYN, Ministry of AYUSH, Govt of India as well as the Expert Committees of AYUSH for Celebration of International Yoga Day and the Yoga & Diabetes program. He is Consultant Resource Person for the WHO Collaborative Centre in Traditional Medicine (Yoga) at MDNIY, New Delhi. He is also member of the Executive Council of the Indian Yoga Association ( and Board of Directors of the Council for Yoga Accreditation International (





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