If you thought yoga was all about waking up early in the morning, getting into your spandex three-quarters and racer backs with a yoga mat rolled under your arm ready to perform asanas, then think again. Sure, yoga is about the asanas, but it encompasses a lot of other things too.
Raghu Ananthanarayanan and Shashikala Ananth’s three-day workshop ‘Praana’ which culminated recently at the Apparao Galleries in Chennai is more like a revelation for some in terms of the true meaning of the word ‘yoga’. Their tagline, ‘Regenerate and rejuvenate life’, clearly indicates that yoga is more to do with the inner self. Not for them is yoga a commercial commodity to be marketed and sold with false promises of weight loss by ‘practising’ yoga or staying healthy by doing the ‘pranayama’.
“Asana practice is just a part of yoga. People usually mistake yoga to be ‘asana’ practice, but that’s not what it is,” says Raghu, a behavioral scientist. Just as he hates answering questions like how he manages work and yoga at the same time, considering he travels extensively and has quite a hectic schedule. He says, “There isn’t any relationship between me being busy and managing yoga. Like I said earlier, people mistake yoga to be nothing but ‘only’ asana practice, whereas what forms the major part of the discipline is being able to strike an inner balance.”
He further says, “Yoga isn’t about ‘practising’, as many people would say. Thought, feeling and action put together make yoga what it is.” Even as Raghu begins explaining how the discipline actually works, Shashikala Ananth, an architect and a trained Vaastu practitioner, pitches in, saying, “The reason we are focusing on striking an inner balance is because we have been raised in certain ways which forces us to fall into set patterns and habits, which in turn keeps us from enjoying little things and simple pleasures of life. The idea is to break free from the shackles of old habits.”
To a question why people fall prey to advertisements and hoardings proclaiming yoga (read asana practice) to be the panacea to losing weight and staying fit, Raghu says, “People fail to become their own authors. To become an author of oneself, one needs to know what he/she is all about. And to know one must have a balance between the outer and inner self, which is completely missing in people today.” So, does it mean that people have no control over themselves? “Control is a wrong word to use. It completely dilutes and destroys the meaning of what I am trying to put forward. It’s all about being able to be attentive from which balance shall come,” Raghu says.
Now, Shashikala dives right into the conversation, “For me, it is essential to have a balance because I am a Vaastu practitioner. I need to sense the energies of a given area or space and act accordingly.” She also adds that people are being robbed of their money by professionals, who ‘apparently’ are vaastu experts. They let these so-called experts lead them on to believe in something they are not sure of.
Raghu is an Indian Institute of Technology, Madras post graduate and one of the founders of Sumedhas — The Academy for Human Context. He is also a visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. He has taught at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand, and IIM, Bangalore. He has studied yoga with Yogacharya Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikarchari and has taught yoga for a decade at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. Raghu is also actively involved with reviving craft groups and theatre. Shashikala, who is an architect from the Anna University, has published three books on Vaastu and one book on sculptural traditions. She has also authored an award winning documentary on the Vaastu tradition.