Nepali Times


God surely knows why Autobiography of a Yogi is as popular in Nepal as it is in the West. But it may have something to do with by now quite similar patterns of superficial spiritual questing in a world overwhelmed by material considerations, here and there. If you can't give up the ties that bind, you can at least read a book about it.

Many visitors to the East do believe that the subcontinent possesses a germ of spirituality lost elsewhere. I find this notion hard to stomach when even our festivities smack of conspicuous consumption. If Nepalis did once exist in a state of pre-material spirituality, they have long since made the transition to a state of Obsessive Consumerist Disorder.

It's no surprise then that Nepalis reach out for copies of Yogi in an attempt to recapture the spirituality once available to them on tap. Indeed, as the atrocious cover story of the last issue of Nepal indicates, our spiritually harassed yoof are, far from rioting for a constitution while trashing the malls for free fakes, heading for a range of 'dhyaan' packages, offered by the likes of psycho-gurus Manokranti Matrix and the perennial refuge of the dulled, Osho. Or, as is increasingly the case, they turn to yoga.

Yoga is of course as much about physicality as spirituality. There is a tendency in the West to strip yoga of the latter so as to focus on the corporeal benefits (while still advocating meditation in some form). Many yoga programs this side of town have the reverse emphasis. But then what's a man from the East, equally sceptical of Power Yoga and the cancer-blasting ramblings of a cock-eyed teleguru, to do?

Tired of being told that I could damage myself (as opposed to my 'Self') irreparably if I relied solely on yoga books, I decided to find a living, deep breathing guru to show me the eight-fold path. I contacted a local practitioner of the famed Bihar School of Yoga, who promised to call me to confirm sessions. The call never came, and the promise of enlightenment proved to be mere illusion; once more I lapsed into couch-slouching.

Then media coverage of the latest yoga program to hit town (cue pics of expats in yogic poses in front of Kathmandu landmarks)began to get on my nervous system in a less than yogic manner. So I followed up on an ad from the the HBMC, featuring a full course from the afore-eluding guru.

"Hello? Are you still taking people for your course of yoga?"

"Um, is this for you? This course is for bideshis."

"How much is it?"

"Mahango chha. It's 180 dollars for the week."

Nirvana don't come cheap.

Cheaper, then, was the option then floated by a friend intent on attending an Art of Living course. A full 24 hours of intensive pranayam exercises for Rs 1500 seemed reasonable, despite my aversion to folks who take on multiple honorifics, in this case, Sri Sri Sri (excuse me if I missed any) Ravi Shankar.

But once again my inbred scepticism, this time about the potential ills of a breathing course that has been accused of forcing hyperventilation upon participants, stopped me. My friend sighed, accused me of laziness, plain and simple, and signed up.

She'd be sighing ever more deeply by midweek. Not only was the heavy breathing giving her headaches, she found Art of Living unusually keen on practices more reminiscent of corporate team-building exercises than meditative pranayam. Each attendee was part of a sub-group: she couldn't enter the building without all the group members being present. There were paper-and-pencil routines to divulge what you wanted from the course and what you thought of your fellow attendees. And if you decided to sleep in? You had to inform the group in advance. At which point the guru would take it upon himself to wheedle you (over the phone) into attending. My friend terminated her imminent induction into the One World Family with some relief.

So where did this leave me? In the beginning was the Word. For this incorrigible autodidact, it's back to book yoga (deep, relaxed sigh).

Read also:
The solo trekker, BHRIKUTI RAI
In a journey of self-discovery, Sunil Tamang traverses Nepal from east to west on foot

1. Sharanhari Dukulanthak
majaa ayo, gyaanka netraharu pani khule!

2. Ken Subedi
Shows Nepal as a practitioner of eastern civilization and has yoga craze and it has become way of living to manyyyyyyyy

3. Rishi Ram Paudyal 'Ezra'
It's an interesting piece. In the busy life of Kathmandu and the drudgery of their work, a lot of people are tempted to go for yoga with a hope to rid all the stresses and worries, which, ever if their problems seem to go away for some time, they remain where they are when you are out of yoga classes. I recall one of my students falling ill during an Art of Living course run here in Kathmandu. She had gone there to come back with more vigor and health, but was bed-ridden. Unless we change ourselves, yoga can't change us!

4. B2B
Yoga is possible if you ain't rubbing it the wrong way.

What I've found is whenever I'm stressed I take time especially in the evening to practice pranayoga. Normally my pulsations are between 70 to 90/minute. When I start concentrating my mind either on the petals of rose, fractals like the mandala or blue sky slowly my tension diminishes along with my pulses. If I pursue further on I can bring them down to 30 pulsations per minute. This is also called the transcendental meditation. At best, you have to shut your eyes and concentrate your mind on the middle of your two eyes, also called the 'third eye'.

Oft-times it occurs to me to practice a sort of yogic flying. But for that you've gotten to dispose ample time so that your mind can make a round about tour of the place that you want to visit. It hinges mostly on what sort of memory you have gathered throughout your life. It is possible only for those who are practicing it for a pretty long time.

For relaxation there is nothing better than yoga.

5. Pranab
Thanks for a this article. In our country where people have started to constantly copy Western values without understanding our own, this article is refreshing. Yoga is the result of our advanced civilization and we should be proud of it. It is orders of magnitude higher than what any other civilization has. Also, please note that per Bhagavad Gita, the highest form ofYoga is Bhakti Yoga, where you engage in the devotional service of the Lord. Other Yogas such as the physical (Hatha Yoga) as made popular by Patanjali are merely lower stages of Yoga. The Gita clearely states that these lower forms of Yoga such as Hatha Yoga and Dhyan Yoga while useful to help us get in physical shape, are hard for many people and there is chance of failure. So, the Book points people to Bhakti Yoga as a shortcut which will deliver spiritual happiness to all.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)