Each day, a 1,000 students pass through the gate that leads to The Yoga Institute, which Hansaji is in charge of. It is considered as the oldest Yoga Institute on our planet earth (it just turned 100 years). Her husband was the son of the founder, Shri Yogendra, one of the old great masters of Yoga paving the way to today’s Yoga. The main focus of Yogendra’s teachings is Yoga for daily life. Expect lots of practical tips from this interview.
What is healthy living? How can yoga improve health?
Hansaji: Healthy living goes away the moment we do mistakes in life. Number one is food: we should be aware of the type of food we are eating, the quantity, the timings, the place where we eat. Eat only when you are hungry and only so much so that you get hungry after 4 hours. Have always some liquid when you are eating food. Always eat in daytime, not at night. If there are imbalances, diseases come. Ayurveda says that root cause of disease lies in the stomach.
Another area where we can do mistakes is in our routine. The moment we wake up, there should be some healthy action. For the benefit of the body, we should do something, we should be walking, climbing, be physically active. If your work is such that you have to sit for long, then every hour you should at least walk a little bit and drink some water.
Yoga will bring such awareness. Yoga is nothing else but a science of awareness: exactly become aware of what you’re doing, where you’re going, how long you’re sitting, etc.
Another major mistake is that people are not giving importance to sleep: good sleep is really required. For your body to get sufficient rest, you should go to sleep before the next day begins, before 12. Let’s say around 10pm. Working at night and sleeping during the day, is totally against health, against natural laws. Yoga deals with nature. Yoga derives strength from nature. Yoga’s technologies are from nature.
Yoga techniques help here: If you get up at night, try and concentrate on your breath to help stop your mind from wandering. Breath and mind work together. Maybe you cannot control your mind, but you can control your breath. So, start breathing slowly, slow inhalation and slow exhalation and your mind will soon calm down.
Another area is managing the external relationships. How do you deal with others? Your child, your parents, people with whom you are living. You should see that you are managing them very well, that you have a cohesive relationship, loving and caring. Love is visible through care. A person is supposed to care about people with whom he lives, not to try to change them. Changing others is not right, accept them and do your part. Be a good model yourself.
Yoga says that the root cause of disease lies in mind. If you have tension, when you are not at peace with yourself, definitely your happiness and health fades. Learn to be positive and happy all the time. It’s your choice. Why not be happy? Why get hurt?
Changing others is not right, accept them and do your part. Be a good model yourself.
On the yogic path, what are the challenges, especially for a householder?
Hansaji: Yogic path is the path of self-improvement. However, it is very challenging for householders. The problem is: I want some time for myself, but don’t have it. I want to sit and meditate, but I cannot do that. I’m in a house for this life and I have to rush, go to work, do so many things that I won’t be able to take out time for myself, even 5 or 10 minutes. But this is where the founder of the institute worked hard. He made sure that all the technology of yoga is simplified in a way that you could use it in your day-to-day life.
For example, if you’re travelling from home to the office, you can do some techniques, like: listen to the sounds and be quiet; exercise the eyes, looking at something that is very far and then at something closer; concentrate on the train moving. There are many things that can be done even if you don’t have time. Even in the office, when sitting on a chair you can twist this way and that, look up and down, make sure the spine is straight, become aware of the posture. Wrong postures cause many diseases: if the posture is correct and clear, digestion and respiration work much better.
The challenges could be met if we are a bit creative in life. Creativity should never go. Yoga should never become rigid, such as that an asana has to be done exactly like this or like that! This is fine for disciplining the mind and body, but then you have to be creative to use it in your life. Asanas can be done in the kitchen.
Yoga is a subject which is not learnt by books. From books you get information, but the interpretation should occur with the help of a teacher. Only when you start applying these teachings in your life, the real learning starts.
A person with full enthusiasm can start on this path and they will be healthy, happy, will enjoy every moment of life, become useful to others, and so on.
Yoga is a subject which is not learnt by books.
How can Yoga can help managing stress?
Hansaji: The problem is in the management with the external world, our approach towards other human beings. According to Yoga, to manage the external world there are certain steps:If you find that you are disturbed, there are yoga techniques for removing the disturbance: simple slow inhalations, exhalations, asanas, meditation, calming your mind down and seeing that the disturbance goes away. And then you could bring some philosophy in your life: if dog barks, it’s his nature; if a rabbit is getting frightened, naturally that’s its nature. So, once you develop this understanding, you don’t suffer because of others in life.
Speak the truth. Be straightforward and truthful in life. Truth has to be sweet, not bitter. If it is creating violence, then be silent.
Don’t steal. Not only money or things, but don’t steal credit from people. Such as taking credit personally for doing a collective work. For instance, if you make bread, how many people have worked to bring the wheat to make bread? Everything is a collective effort, so taking credit is absolutely wrong with anything in life. That’s why Yoga says: don’t steal.
Manage your energies and emotions. First of all, a person should live always with higher level goals in life. Do not get carried away by likes and dislikes. For instance, if you like food very much, you overeat; that would be wrong. If you have a partner, having a relationship with somebody else could be absolutely wrong. In life, understand your purpose and then do it.
Don’t be greedy. This is mine, that is mine; people collect things too much. That should be avoided. Learn to live with little and you will be most happy.
Do not get carried away by likes and dislikes.
This interview is part of the book ‚Zu den Quellen des Yoga‘ / ‘To the sources of Yoga’. This book introduces you to the outstanding Indian Yoga schools and masters, their traditions and their practice. It answers the questions ‘What is Yoga?’, ‘What are the aims of Yoga?’ and ‘How do we best reach these aims?’ from an entire Indian perspective. This book was produced in cooperation with Yoga.in and is published in Germany by Random House/Irisiana.