Reacho interviews Sanjay Arora- yoga teacher, motivational speaker and founder of Shells Advertising Inc- on the origins, benefits and efficacy of yoga, as well as his new book, Simple Yoga For A Healthy Life.
- What is the history of yoga?
Yoga’s origins are as old as civilization itself, long before the first religions or belief systems were born. Bhagwan Shiva is believed to be the first yogi or ‘Adi Yogi’- he is supposed to have transferred this sacred knowledge to the ‘Saptrishis’. The earliest mention of yoga is found in the oldest of humankind's texts, that is, the Rigvedas.
During the excavations of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of Mohenjadaro and Harappa, numerous seals depicting yogis performing asanas or sitting in the meditative ‘Padmasana’ pose were discovered. This makes yoga's recorded history go back at least 5000 years.
It was in 400 CE that Patanjali Muni codified the knowledge in 196 short aphorisms or sutras.
- What is the meaning of the word 'Yoga'?
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ meaning to yoke, fuse, join, synthesize, or harmonize. At the basic level it means a healthy development and unity of the body, mind and spirit. At a more advanced level, it symbolizes the merging of the individual consciousness (atma) with the Universal Consciousness (Parmatma), and thus liberation from the cycle of birth and death to achieve moksha.
- When did you start performing yoga?
I started very late in life when I was already crossing 40, that is my only regret.
- What compelled you to do yoga?
Nothing compelled me to it; I was always a very physically active person- I would jog around 6-10 kms a day. Around this time I heard about the free Yoga batch at Janardan Swami Yogabhyasi Mandal, I got interested, joined the batch and it was like having found my calling. I never stopped after that. This was in March. After finishing the one-month batch we were told about the ‘Asan Pravesh’ Certification exam, which takes place every year in May, which I took and completed. The very next year I joined the ‘Asan Praveen’ batch in May and completed that too.
- Did you suffer any health issues?
None at all. I have been fortunate in that I didn’t have to start yoga to cure a health problem.
- How did it benefit you in life?
It is very difficult to say how it benefitted me in one way or another. It was more like a transformation, itcompletely changed my outlook towards life. It of course offers all the health benefits, like keeping obesity and diseases at bay and cultivating a calm mind, a more energetic life among others. But more importantly it imparts a certain depth to life, giving it a certain spiritual fulfillment which is difficult to put into words. It can only be experienced.
- Tell us something about your book.
Oh! The book Simple Yoga For a Healthy Life was a bit of an accident. I was selected to lead a Rotary team to USA for a month way back in May 2006. We were supposed to carry small gifts which reflected our Indian culture for our hosts there. I thought, what would be better than to give them a part of our most precious heritage, that is, Yoga. I enquired at our Mandal; at that time they didn’t have a book on yoga in English. This motivated me to write one. Swamiji amongst his many books, has two books on asanas in Marathi and Hindi. After taking permission from our Guruji Rambhau Khandweji, I wrote this book based on Swamiji's book.
This book isn’t an exact translation but is more descriptive, incorporating all the instructions we are given when we are taught asanas at Mandal. I wanted the book to replace a teacher for a beginner, since not everyone is blessed enough to come to the Mandal and learn. That is how the first edition of the book got published. The entire lot of the first edition was distributed free, most of it in the US. Now I have published the second edition, which again was just before a similar trip to the US. Once back to India, I found out that our Mandal was constructing a new 5-storey building for which huge funds were needed, it was then that I decided to put my book on Amazon and other platforms for sale and offer all the proceeds from it for this cause.
- Where do you teach yoga? Who is the best teacher in the country to teach yoga?
We teach at the Chitnavis Centre, next to Hislop College, Civil Lines everyday from 7 am to 8 am.
This too was an accident. Chitnavis Centre had just been completed, I felt that it would be an ideal location for a branch of our Mandal. I again took Guruji’s permission, and once he said yes, I approached Ms Avantika Chitnavis. I knew her from our college days and told her that we wanted to start a free batch for a month. She agreed. The response to the first batch was so enormous that she gave us the permission to make it a permanent venue for a free Yoga batch every morning. It's been around two years now and we haven’t looked back since. Every morning my wife and I religiously engage this class.
- How can yoga teach work life balance?
Yoga is the only way to attain a healthy work-life balance. There is an enormous amount of research with papers being presented at the highest level on this aspect of its benefits. It calms the mind, reduces stress and anxiety, increases the feeling of well-being, making a person more energetic and efficient.
- Any scientific studies which have proven that yoga can be used to cure illnesses?
As I mentioned earlier, not a day goes by without some paper or some scientific study reporting the various physical and mental benefits of practising yoga. Just a cursory Google search on ‘Scientific Studies On Yoga’ returns over 7 lakh results, ranging from Harvard University studies to papers in the Scientific American. There is no dearth of evidence now.
- What do you think about the patent issue of yoga in USA?
It is laughable. Yoga is a part of human evolution and civilization, how can anyone person own a patent on something which thousands of minds have worked to perfect!
- What are the best yoga exercises which can be done in 15 mins everyday to maintain good health?
Well, it is very simple. There are 4 basic positions, standing, sitting, lying on the back and lying on the stomach. For those short on time, just one asana in each position is sufficient to keep the body healthy. A few Suryanamaskars, Kapalbhati & Pranayam will complete the routine within their time constraints.
- Do you believe in alternative form of healing and medicine?
Only a fool will not believe in them. There is a place for every ‘pathy’. If it is an accident and an emergency, clearly Allopathy is called for. But for many diseases- especially lifestyle-related diseases like abnormal blood pressure, diabetes, depression and others- our Mandal has conducted various camps in conjunction with the relevant Medical Associations. With monitored studies, the results have been amazing to say the least.
I have seen innumerable cases in really bad shape being totally cured by our Guruji. This is no miracle. With his unmatched insight and deep understanding he is able to diagnose the root cause and recommend the right asanas. That is because he has lived yoga, this knowledge cannot come from mere superficial involvement. Unfortunately the proliferation of the superficial ones gives alternate therapies a bad name.
- Why do people associate yoga with Hinduism?
Since it originated in the Indus Valley and the Greeks called anything from this part of the globe ‘Hindus’, it got that label. If you read Patanjali’s ‘Yog Sutras’ not one of the 196 sutras has the word ‘Hindu’ in it. Yes almost all Hindu sages were yogis, which probably reinforced the impression.
- You being from advertising background, what was the success of yoga? Did anyone advertise it anywhere? Or is it without advertising? Did it go viral?
Whatever is eternal and satisfies the soul will never need any advertising. Yoga, whose origins are lost in the dawn of human civilization has never needed any advertising. Janardan Swami ji started teaching yoga some 70 years ago. Till date, the Janardan Swami Yogabhyasi Mandal has never needed any advertising. Only those who need to make money from this noble timeless science will need advertising. The purest form of this practice will keep attracting people as it fulfils a far deeper need.
- What advertising techniques should a startup learn from yoga?
Very simple, keep offering true value that helps people enhance their quality of life, fulfill a genuine need and people keep beating a path to your doorstep.
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