Bookreview By Manju Gupta
A true disciple of yoga is none other than the world-renowned yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar. This is his first book in Hindi.
Born in 1918 at Belur in Kolar district of Karnataka, he began to learn yoga at the age of 15 and in 1936, when only 18-years old, he took to teaching yoga at Karnataka College in Dharwad.
?On completing the age of 80 years, and five decades of yoga practice, if I can present Patanjali'sYoga Darshan from the stage of utility to spiritualism, then I shall consider myself worthy of having paid back my dues, partially if not completely, as I owe this debt to the society. Hence, without letting this opportunity go by, I agreed to write the book. This book is the outcome of my deeply-felt gratitude,? says Iyengar in the beginning of the book.
?No matter what subject is presented, it is necessary to describe it in detail. When a person wishes to have a meal in any country abroad, he has an unusual desire to taste the food of the people of that land. Initially he is not able to decide what to eat and what not to eat or what should be eaten with what. But if he tastes the food item with the smell experienced by his nose and the taste buds of his tongue, then there is nothing wrong in it; on the contrary, it is the easiest and the correct path to adopt. As is with any other subject that one desires to learn, what is simple and easy to do should be tackled first, before going on to something that is tough to handle. Novices too should follow the same rule when undertaking the practice of yoga?begin with the easy asanas or postures initially and then move on to the more complicated postures,? says Iyengar.
In Indian culture, knowledge of yoga has an important place. The philosophy of yoga is among the six darshans, which explain Indian philosophy. It is believed that these were given as an award, personally by Lord Brahma, the Creator, to mankind. Prior to this, knowledge on the subject of yoga was available from disparate sources, but subsequently it was compiled in treatises like Upanishads, Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Shiva Samhita, where its descriptions can be found. With passage of time, certain topics underwent a change, but yoga essentially remained the same as it is true knowledge. Yoga treatises have not only the capacity to bring about physical, mental, ethical and philosophical changes, but are capable of developing one'sindividual and cultural status along with that of the entire societal setup. That is why yoga is considered a blessing for mankind.
Iyengar defines what is health and its relation with yoga asanas. Normally the word ?health? is used to denote the state of the body and one whose muscles are strong is called healthy. But in Yoga Shastra, health has a wider connotation. In Indian science, it has been accepted that the muscles and senses of the human body have a connection with the heart and the mind and this connection is found to be very fine and close. The status of one is bound to affect that of the other. Hence, according to Iyengar, it is not enough to take into consideration the state of the body; on the contrary, it is essential to keep in mind the status of the mind also. A positive state of both the mind and the body means that the person is in good health. Iyengar considers a man who is strong and muscular but handicapped mentally to be unhealthy. He states that in Yoga Shastra, not only a disease-free body is called healthy but a mind and body free of problems is treated as healthy.
It is necessary to maintain and control the rhythm and equilibrium between physical, mental, moral and other states in one'slife. Man'shealth is responsible to some extent upon internal, family, societal and other external happenings. Through yoga asanas the body, mind and intellect are kept pure and a healthy body is maintained.
For obtaining a healthy body and mind, different kinds of exercises are needed so as to keep the muscles taut and mobile and these help to institute an increase in the blood circulation and extract fresh air from the environment when exercising.
The author has divided exercises into two categories–exercises for certain parts of the body and exercises for the complete body. In the first category are included sports like running, athletics, tennis, swimming, etc., while in the latter category fall the yoga asanas where the entire body in brought into play as the asanas help strengthen not only the body, but increase one'swill power too, leading to a healthy body and peaceful mind. Each and every organ becomes active, equilibrium is brought about, the body begins to feel light and the mind becomes still. Along with the body, even the mind gets the right direction.
Iyengar then goes on to describe the various asanas, the preparation required before pranayama, types of pranayama, dharana, dhyana, bandhas and tantra. An additional attraction of this book is the inclusion of nearly 300 line drawings to explain the asanas and pranayama more lucidly. The book is moderately priced, readable, useful and a proper reference book on the subject for every family desirous of maintaining the health of each of its members.
(Prabhat Paperbacks, 4/19 Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi-110001.)