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(Dr Nachiketa Das is Special Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Planetary Systems Science, Hiroshima University; And Director, School of Kaya Yoga, www.kayayoga.net
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Kaya Yoga is a holistic system for health and well-being that lays emphasis on the proper intake of air, right consumption of water, and a balanced diet in addition to the practice of the very best few postures of asana, praanaayama, bandha, mudra, and internal cleansing. The choice of this narrow range of techniques is deliberate, and is designed to effectively serve the time-poor of the twenty-first century. Kaya Yoga does not advocate the mastery of the entire array of yoga and praanaayama techniques, nor does it preclude a practitioner from learning them, information on which could be sourced from a number of authoritative books on the subject.
The central philosophy of Kaya Yoga is moderation, derived from the teachings of the greatest master in human history, Gautama Buddha, who in one of his innumerable fables, parables and analogies had explained the concept by alluding to a veena, a stringed musical instrument of India. In his analogy the master had stated that the strings of a veena strung too tight, snap, and on the contrary, if too loose, fail to produce the musical notes. Since the veena"s function is to produce melodious notes, it is imperative that the strings be strung at the right tightness, neither too tight nor too loose. The Buddha thus, had emphasised the importance of the Middle Path for leading a happy and a healthy life.
Kaya Yoga therefore advocates treading the Middle Path, a life of moderation, half way between the ostentatious opulence and austere self-denial; teaches a life of honesty, simplicity and truth. In this twenty-first century world, where honesty and truth have become the two truly endangered species, the preceding statement may be misinterpreted as a sermon to lead a monastic life, but that is not correct. Kaya Yoga does not preach renunciation of the world or the worldly pleasures; on the contrary, it recommends a balanced sense of enjoyment of all the pleasures of life - physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual - by the accomplishment of sound physical and mental health. Moreover, Kaya Yoga encourages a sense of humour and joy by promoting laughter, and advises to remain cheerful even in the face of adversity. A good belly-laugh, every now and then, cures many ailments. Kaya Yoga also prescribes writing from the heart, no matter how small, be it an entry in a diary, or big, like a creative work of literature. Although Kaya Yoga owes its origin to Hindu and Buddhist philosophies, but is open to people of any religion, nationality or ethnic background.
My grandfather, Mr Alekh Prasad Das (1902 - 2000), a practitioner and teacher of Kaya Yoga, had simplified and perpetuated this holistic system founded by his forebear, the fifteenth century poet, philosopher and great yoga master of Orissa, Achyutananda Das (circa 1480 - circa 1550). Achyutananda was an accomplished yogi, who is believed to have breathed his last in a meditative padmaasana posture while levitating eight inches above the floor. My grandfather in his autobiography, Jibanara Daka, that received the Orissa Academy of Literature Award, has recorded this astounding fact. I am, however, not certain that my forefather Achyutananda, was the founder of Kaya Yoga; it is possible that he inherited Kaya Yoga from his forefathers or was even initiated by some anonymous guru.
My grandfather was a self-realised master, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and an award winning writer. He passed away at the age of ninety-eight in the year 2000. As a cricket loving Indian, I was greatly disappointed because he chose to declare his innings, instead of going on to score a well-deserved century. His innings, however, was graceful and chanceless, for he never had an illness; but came to an unfortunate end when he slipped and fell over a wet concrete floor and broke his hip. His children, well educated, well established professors and doctors, instead of giving him a proper rehabilitation gave him complete bed rest. At that age, no wonder, his skeletal system ossified, making him stiff and immobile. Consequently, he became incapable of performing his daily bodily needs. Since his one and only wife of seventy years had passed away a few years earlier, he chose to join her in the other world, instead of becoming a burden on his children on this earth. One forenoon he called for my father, who is his eldest son, and daughter-in-law, my mother, and blessed them and bid them goodbye. Then he had a modest lunch and a siesta. He never opened his eyes again.
I am the eldest grandchild of my grandfather, and had the good fortune of studying under his tutelage for three years in a primary school in the village of Samia, where he lived in semi-retirement. He taught me the fundamentals of Kaya Yoga when I was only a little boy. Grandfather taught me the age old Vedic philosophy of India that is very clear in its statement of the purpose of human life, in Sanskrit Purusartha, and the pursuit of Dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires) and Mokshya (liberation), as the means to achieve purusartha. Kaya Yoga, he advised, facilitates the attainment of purusartha. Kaya Yoga also emphasises the control of the six most dangerous enemies of a human being and they are: Kama (lust), Krodha (anger), Lobha (greed), Moha (infatuation), Mada (pride) and Matsarya (malice), who hinder the attainment of purusartha.
I have added one key tenet of Vedic India, Aham Brahma Asmi (I am the Brahma), which could be interpreted that there is genius in all of us, as the Supreme Soul or the Brahma dwells in all of us, to the central philosophy of Kaya Yoga. The emphasis is on the phrase - all of us - and Kaya Yoga facilitates the realisation of this simple yet profound truth. We, human beings, were not mass produced like the mass produced items of everyday life, we were handcrafted. Each one of us is an object of art and precious. I appeal to you all to realise this basic fact.
I have been practising Kaya Yoga for over forty years and in the last ten years I have taught this holistic system to students from over forty countries. The present era of globalisation requires the widening of the scope of Kaya Yoga through worldwide teaching and preaching to confer the benefits to the entire humanity. Consequently School of Kaya Yoga was registered as a business on the 2nd of March 2006 with the Department of Fair Trading of the Government of New South Wales, Australia. The website, www.kayayoga.net was hosted on the 20th of February 2007, which records hundreds of hits everyday from all over the world.
Regular practice of Kaya Yoga confers many benefits that are described in the following paragraphs. Kaya Yoga, however, does not transform an average practitioner into an Olympic standard gymnast, although sincere commitment to this holistic system can help improve the performances of the athletes of any level. Advertisements for and by various yoga schools, often boldly portray some arduous irrelevant posture more appropriate for a circus or a magazine for contortionists. Kaya Yoga does not claim nor intend to create contortionists; nor does it claim to confer the piscine or the avian abilities on human beings because it has no intentions of causing bankruptcy in the international shipping or airlines industries respectively. Kaya Yoga does not espouse any magic formulae, and secret recipes to bring about instant miraculous cures to the lifestyle ailments of the twenty-first century. Kaya Yoga makes only a simple claim of making human lives healthier, and hence happier, only if practised in a resolute determination to achieve good health by disciplined adherence to sound dietary habits; and faithful and regular practice of the procedures of this holistic system.
The true pandemics of the industrialised nations of the twenty-first century are obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stress and the consequent ailments. At the time of writing this book in 2006, I come across reports of seven year old Australian children weighing seventy kilos!, a piece of dazzling statistics of the sickness of the western societies as a whole. Australia by no means is alone, it enjoys the glamorous company of the US, Britain, and Canada. The developing countries of India and China are in hot pursuit to join this illustrious group of nations. The burgeoning middle class in India, estimated to be around 300 million in 2006, is witnessing hither to unknown pandemic of obesity. The rising wealth and significant disposable income in India is fuelling the malaise. Towards the later part of 2006, Government of India announced the introduction of teaching and practice of yoga in the schools of India to combat the problem of obesity; a laudable move indeed.
The International Diabetes Federation in 2006 announced that 230 million people worldwide were afflicted with diabetes. The more disturbing fact related to this vast number is the rate of growth of diabetes worldwide. In 1986 there were only 30 million cases of diabetes that has grown almost eight fold in the last twenty years to reach the staggering number of 230 million. Diabetes currently is not by any means confined to the developed countries, it is rampant in the developing world too. A projection based on the simplistic logic of diabetes multiplying eight fold again, in the next twenty years, predicts 2 billion cases worldwide by 2026, a full 20 percent of the future global population. The incidence of diabetes could be even worse than this projection, unless the so called modern lifestyles change. The enormity of the problem is truly mind numbing.
Kaya Yoga is essentially preventative in nature, and is curative only in certain conditions. A regular and disciplined practice of Kaya Yoga prevents the onset of the lifestyle ailments such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and could alleviate and even cure some of them. Kaya Yoga detoxifies, revitalises and strengthens all the eleven systems of the human body, which are: cardio-vascular, respiratory, nervous, endocrine, lymphatic, digestive, urinary, reproductive, muscular, skeletal and integumentary. The specific benefits that accrue from the individual techniques of Kaya Yoga are beyond the scope of this article, and are described in the book, Kaya Yoga: Road to happiness, health and longevity (© Dr Nachiketa Das; ISBN 9780980322309; 1st ed. 2007; School of Kaya Yoga; also hosted on the website: www.kayayoga.net).
Kaya Yoga, like ayurveda and traditional yoga systems of India, places an enormous emphasis on disposal of the digestive wastes of the human body. Ayurveda advocates a thorough cleansing of the digestive system before administration of a treatment for any serious and for that matter any chronic illness. The benefits that accrue from the cleansing techniques of antra dhauti and basti are huge. They prevent many of the ailments of the digestive system. The cleansing of the colon improves the general condition of the skin and may even eliminate stubborn cases of acne and pimples. The cleansing techniques followed by a regular practice of asana, mudraa, bandha and praanaayama techniques of Kaya Yoga, substantially improve sexual health for both the genders.
Kaya Yoga prevents and on occasions alleviates the unseen, hence often neglected, and carefully hidden, problems of mental illnesses. The problem of loneliness, particularly among the middle-aged single women in western countries, is the fertile ground for the breeding of many of the mental ailments. These lonesome individuals are invited to take up Kaya Yoga and lead happy and healthy lives.
Let the practice of Kaya Yoga become a pleasure and a joy. Let the practice of Kaya Yoga progress to become a way of life.
Source of the article
This article is based on excerpts from the book, Kaya Yoga: Road to happiness, health and longevity; © Dr Nachiketa Das; ISBN 9780980322309; 1st ed. 2007; School of Kaya Yoga; also hosted on the website: www.kayayoga.net. The book records a citation from the devotional literature of the blind Oriya poet of the nineteenth century, Bhima Bhoi, and the English translation is mine. I cite the orison quoted from my book, to show the spirit of service in Kaya Yoga, as follows:
"Mo jeevana pachhe narke padithaau,
Jagata uddhaara pau;
Jagata uddaara pau."
Even if my life wastes in hell,
I wish the whole world well,
And I pray for their salvation as well,
I wish the whole world well.
Kaya Yoga "wishes the whole world well", and I conclude this article by quoting the age old Sanskrit verse that is often recited in Indian homes as a prayer, which my grandfather taught me, and the translation is mine. The quotation is as follows:
"Sarbe janaah sukhino bhabantu,
Sarbe santu niraamayaah,
Sarbe bhadraani pashyantu,
Maa kaschit dukha bhaaga bhabet."
May there be happiness for us all,
May good health be granted to all,
May there be right vision in all,
May no one suffer any pain at all.
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References & Notes:
(This article was first published in an online newspaper from Orissa, www.hotnhitnews.com on July 2, 2008; also posted on www.sulekha.com on July 9, 2008. The author retains the copyright.)