An art, a science, a philosophy or a spiritual practice, the debate on what exactly yoga is never seems to subside. To know, learn and fully understand yoga is said to be near to impossible, but we can all start on this journey of discovery by speaking to someone who has mastered this practice.
Kuwait has more than a few yoga practitioners who have trained for ages and are willing to share with others what they have learned along the way. Santhosh Sebastian is one such practitioner; hailing from India and living in Kuwait since 2015, he is young, motivated and enthusiastic about spreading the message and benefits of yoga to everyone.
Having started practising advanced level of body balance and flexibility from his childhood, he has been systematically practicing yoga for more than 15 years. Santosh has represented his university at the national level yoga championship in India and is always on the lookout for a balanced lifestyle and great health. His search has taken him to most of the popular yoga destinations in India so as to live, learn and experience from various yoga gurus.
“From the time my master first asked me ‘Who I am’, I have been searching for an answer by ardently learning and practicing yoga in an attempt to open new facets related to my body, mind and soul. As I travel on this journey of discovery I am slowly getting to know myself and to understand the purpose of my life. This, I believe, has been my greatest achievement so far, although I do still need to learn a whole lot more.”
Santhosh believes that it is yoga and its teachings that have helped him balance his life, both professionally and personally. “It’s easy to manage time if you synchronize your body clock and the vibes within you. It can define your sleep time, sleep depth, energy level and body relaxation, this is called Yoga Nidra. Three hours of Yoga Nidra is equal to six hours of normal sleep,” explained Santosh.
“In my view, yoga is like an ocean; it is vast and spreads out in all directions.You cannot travel in all directions but you need to pick and choose the direction you would like to travel and experience. I have picked the direction that I wanted to experience in yoga and accordingly practice a combination of traditional, Ashtanga, Hata and modern yoga.I call it ‘Satyug Yoga’; which is my personal experience. Satyug Yoga is all about adapting yogic lifestyle in this modern era; the objective is to let the body follow what the mind dictates, and for the mind to understand what the body needs. It is a close and synchronous connection between mind and body.
“In order to understand which practice suits you the best, you need to first know, respect, feel and trust yourself. Then learn about all types of yoga practices from experienced masters before choosing the type of yoga that best suits us and makes us feel at peace.”
“When I started learning and practicing yoga, I had no idea that one day I would become a teacher for this beautiful art. I believe that as unique individuals we can all find our purpose with dedication and passion for whatever we do in life.”
To begin your journey with yoga, first understand what you need. You can practice yoga for different needs such as to alleviate stress, focus the mind, lose weight, increase stamina, enhance flexibility, relieve muscular pain, or for general fitness.
Then understand your strengths and weaknesses; seek the right master to learn from — if you can control your thoughts on your own then self-mastering techniques are better.
Learn the basics clearly and then begin to regularly practice the various poses by maintaining and feeling each pose as you perform it. To understand more read up on the subject or listen to those more experienced in yoga.
Some of the benefits to be derived from yoga include:
Increasing your mental strength — Dhyana for the mind; increasing your stamina through breathing techniques — Pranayama; Increasing flexibility through asanas for the body; increasing focus and concentration and improving balance of life through inner happiness, peace and positive vibes.
The practice of yoga can also cure certain types of illness. Most of our sickness is due to our lifestyle, genetics and ignorance towards our body. Yoga defines a healthy lifestyle which improves blood flow and awareness about ourselves, by which we can identify sickness from its initial stages and take the necessary precautions.
Meditation, a part of Ashtanga Yoga is a key element in gaining mastery over your thoughts. Meditation or ‘dhyana is the seventh limb of the total eight limbs of yoga. It comes from the Sanskrit roots ‘Dhi’ meaning intellect, and ‘Yana’ meaning journey. When we are able to focus on something and control our thoughts, this is the basic level of meditation.
“In Dhyana one must focus their mind on an object, subject, circumstance or nature and then practice to become absorbed in it. Once this is achieved then one must prepare for the physical part of meditation, which is the solid foundation. Ideally, we can practice some asanas so that our body is comfortable with being completely still for a while. Once we find our own comfortable position, also make sure you will have silence around you and that you will not be interrupted for a while. Start with just five to ten minutes at a time until you are able to practice longer periods of mediation.
“We all practice meditation in our daily lives, one way or another. For example, while we pray, while we read and understand its meaning, while we listen to music and drive, while we work, while we listen to a lecture on a topic that interests us. During all these moments we are focused. This is called laya in yoga. Laya meaning absorption.
To those wishing to pursue a career in yoga and would like to know more on the subject, I can only quote my master who advised me the same when I was first starting out in this field: It is a lifestyle that we need to learn, practice and feel before one can start teaching. In the end, do not focus on becoming a yoga teacher, instead focus on becoming a good human being, the other things will follow.
By Meryl Mathew
Special to The Times Kuwait