|HER WORLD||Sunday, October 6, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
How yoga helps them smile through life’s stress and strain
How yoga helps them smile through life’s stress and strain
YOGA, as they say is as old as the hills. The first reference of ‘yoga’ is to be found in the Rigveda. The word is derived from the root Yujir which means to ‘unite ‘ or to ‘connect’. What is yoga after all ? The Kathopanishad defines yoga as a ‘state of mind and the intellect, which when attained, makes an individual completely faultless and unoffending.’ However, the best known treatise on the yogashastra is Patanjali’s. He defines yoga to be a complete elimination of thoughts and its meanderings. He then prescribes certain body postures called asanas to attain the above objective.
This discipline did get eclipsed for some time but it never disappeared. The everyday stresses of the consumerist society have made people realise that physical ailments are connected with stress. The most stressed, perhaps, today is the Indian woman who is battling out at work, home and family.
Anita Berry, a lecturer, found her support in yoga when the days became just too long and hectic. "I was suffering from cervical and pain in the knees. There was stiffness of muscles as well. Consequently, I was becoming lethargic and obese. Then I turned to yoga. I learnt it from Dhirendra Brahmachari. It’s been a good 20 years now since I have been doing yoga and my ailments have disappeared. The morning time is the best time to practice yoga as the mind is fresh and one can concentrate easily. I start with kunjal, that is drinking of salted warm water and then throwing it out. This clears the digestive system. The second is the jalneti where you put water into one nostril and take it out from the other. This clears the nasal passage and then follow the different asanas culminating in dhyana.
It just needs half an hour or so in the morning and it is enough to keep you going throughout the day. All these ailments have disappeared and I feel strong and energetic throughout the day."
Yoga, however, is not confined to select few. It is heartening to note that even the younger generation is turning towards it.
Kuljeet is a student in a local college. She says: "I joined yoga last year only. When I first joined it I thought it would complement my subject (physical education) but now I feel it is so important to exercise and concentrate. In fact, it should be introduced as one of the optional subjects. Most people, especially girls, have the misconception that one needs to have a flexible body to do yoga. The fact of the matter is that the body goes on becoming flexible as one does more and more of the asanas. I am in the hostel and the most remarkable change is that I can concentrate on my studies even if there is a lot of noise around me." Kuljeet has been participating in yoga competitions at the state and national level and has won many prizes.
Paramjeet Sidhu, who has been practising yoga for the last 25 years, elaborates that yoga should be done on an empty stomach and in the presence of a teacher in the beginning. According to her: "Without complete mastery of the asanas and knowledge about their effects one should not practice yoga as otherwise it can be more harmful. Another thing to be careful about is that it should be learnt in a group of not more than five to six people. Too much of a crowd impedes concentration. Apart from building resistance within the body against diseases and increasing flexibility it helps one to remain slim and glowing." I agreed with that because she looked much younger than her 54 years. "When I first started it I had certain problems like backache, pain in the joints and cervical pain. Fortunately, they have by and large disappeared. Even if the cervical pain sometimes comes back due to excessive strain the required asanas cure it."
Deepali, a dentist, explains, "I had tried many kinds of exercises, jogging, swimming and the like. I am fond of exercising, and have always been doing some sort of workout. Then somebody advocated that yoga is good for the mind, body and soul so I decided to give it a shot. Yoga is mild as an exercise. Whereas, jogging can give you pain in the knees, especially if you jog on hard surface. There are no such problems with yoga. In fact, as a doctor I can recommend its uses. Pranayama or the control of breath is very good for lungs and then blood circulation. Shavasana is like a five-minute nap where one lets one’s mind go blank. The whole day one is energetic and sleep is sound.
Maya Sharma of Bhrama-nand Dhyan Kendra, a yoga teacher explains: Yoga is different from other exercises as it keeps a muscle under tension without causing repeated movements as in the case of jogging, swimming and the like. Yoga should not be equated with asanas. Yoga is concerned with bringing about a revolution in one’s attitude, tendencies and emotions. The asanas are developed initially for the purpose of sitting comfortably for long durations in a state of peace. Undoubtedly, all these asanas benefit the body especially if one is suffering from diabetes, constipation, asthma, nervous debility, high blood pressure, weakness of heart etc. However, the ultimate goal of a yogi is to develop strength of mind. This practice can start as soon as the child is eight to ten years old and then continue. Most of the people today are attracted to it because of its therapeutic effects, however sooner or later dhyana attracts them and the purpose of the teacher is served. Some of the asanas we recommend are for everyday practice, provided the health of a student is normal (before starting the asanas it is necessary to ensure that the student sits on a cushioned mattress and not on the ground);
Companies with big turnovers are making yoga mandatory for its employees to practice it to reduce stress as well as to make them more creative. Wonder why Murli Manohar Joshi did not introduce yoga as a subject in the university instead of astrology?
A stretch in time...
Vipritasana: Is for longevity. Assuming a lying down position with the back to the ground, the legs are kept straight and together. The hands may be placed on the two sides of the head, their palms facing the sky. Now stretching the hands backward, the legs are slowly raised from the ground, keeping them straight all along. The back should form an angle of 45 with the ground. While returning to the starting position, the back and hips are to be lowered down by slowly removing the support of the hands.
This is the easiest of asanas. Fold your legs and rest your hips in
between the soles of your feet and the toe touching. The hands be placed
comfortably on your knees. Sit in an upright position for at least ten -
twenty minutes after every meal and observe the difference in digestion. It
also regenerates the nervous system.
ONCE upon a time, Mala and her husband never seemed to stop talking. Rajesh and Mala would chat over their morning coffee, call each other during the day and curl up on the sofa after dinner, weaving words into a quilt that kept them close and warm. Then eight years into their marriage, Shivani was born, and their conversations turned to baby talk; bottles and burps, sniffles and smiles. Topics they used to discuss endlessly — movies, people, places, feelings — never crossed their lips.
"It’s just new-baby chaos," they reassured themselves. "It’ll pass." But when they eavesdropped on parents with older children, they got nervous because they (parents with older children) sounded like flight engineers at a domestic mission control, relaying data about soccer practice and dentist appointments. She asked her friends when they last really talked with their husbands, like grownups, about grownup things. Most could not remember.
Is having children incompatible with having meaningful adult conversations? Not necessarily, says family therapist Jaskiran Dhillon. Often, busy parents simply get out of the habit of staying in close touch. "Eventually an emotional distance develops", Jaskiran explains, "and it can be hard to close that gap. Some couples may stop trying, and that’s when they can get into trouble."
If you feel out of touch with your spouse and want to reopen the lines of communication, here’s how to get back in touch.
Couples need to talk in a way that makes them feel connected. Even if you are so tired you’re ready to drop, spend a few minutes sharing the highs and lows of each other’s day. Rather than ask a general question that triggers an automatic response, be specific. Ask how a big meeting went, whether your spouse likes the new boss. You’ll show you’ve been paying attention and that you care.
We often see in our social life that mostly, couples become ‘over-efficient’. She goes to the grocery store; he gets the car washed. They get more done, but they lose out on time together. Casual chitchat while peeling potatoes or ironing clothes can reinforce your sense of closeness. Two people can have a great talk while she’s putting on makeup and he’s shaving. What they talk about is less important than sharing something. That something may be nothing more than a quick update on the latest office romance.
For long talks, make appointments with one another, even if that seems too business-like. Many couples want to be spontaneous, but with children and careers, that’s not realistic. Couples have to make talking a priority. Once a week is an absolute minimum; more is better. If possible, get out of the house, away from kids and other distractions. Go for a walk or out to dinner so you can focus on each other.
It’s important every now and then to exclude the subject of kids — or the items on your "to do" list — from your conversation. Instead, zero in on each other’s interests, which topics make your spouses eyes light up? Think back to the times before children and the things you used to do together. Talking about activities you both enjoy — hiking cooking classes, dancing — can energise a relationship.
When women say, "let’s talk", many a man thinks she wants to talk about his bad behaviour. They are afraid of a lecture on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Husbands and wives should both be aware that nothing puts another person on guard like the word "you" as in "You always......". Stick with "I" statements and avoid criticism — either stated or subtle. Your partner will realise he or she has nothing to fear. When you do have a gripe, also offer a possible solution. Saying "I feel we’re out of touch" throws the problem to your partner. If you add, "I think we should sit down every night and have a cup of tea or coffee together after the kids are in bed," you’ve offered a practical suggestion.
One of the greatest things about intimacy is the freedom to talk about anything. That anything can include even the most sensitive subjects, such as your concern about a less-than-lively sex life or the family’s finances.
If you’re nervous about approaching a touchy topic, speaking up about your feelings can ease the way into conversation. A statement such as "I want to bring up something that’s not easy for me to talk about" can create an atmosphere of goodwill and make beginning a difficult discussion that much easier. Even if you follow all these suggestions, don’t expect instant success. At first, your conversations may seem awkward and artificial, but everything gets easier with practice. And practice is half the fun.
That’s certainly what
Rajesh and Mala found. Sometime after Shivani’s arrival, they
decided that Saturday evenings would be off limits to anyone but both
of them. Three years later, their Saturday night chats remains a
sacred tradition. And they haven’t run out of things to talk about.
My brother’s birth is announced with the clang of brass,
My own with the sound of broken shards,
The old folks weep, the plough boy laments and even the herdsman cries."
IN everyday life ‘sex role’ generally demarcate the ‘gender roles’. Sex role refers specifically to behaviours determined by an individual’s biological sex, such as menstruation, ejaculation, pregnancy and lactation. Gender roles, on the other hand, are socially created expectations for masculine and feminine behaviour. Exaggerating both real and imagined aspects of biological sex, each society sorts certain polarised behaviours and attitudes into two sets, then labels them "male" and "female".
In most societies, child-rearing is assigned to females and it becomes central to the female gender role, with the result that it is treated as if it were a biological imperative for females. Such societal perceptions of gender are sometimes also constructed through ignorance. One interesting example is the role of producing a male child. Traditionally, it has been the female who was cursed for not delivering a male offspring. Despite large-scale awareness on this matter, truth still eludes social manifestations.
Historically, these gender formulations have defined male attitudes towards women counterparts. Interestingly, these attitudes start manifesting themselves in the perceptions of the youth at an early age. When Anand of the Department of Mass Communication was asked how he perceives women, his reply was based on the traditional stereotypes of men; loving, caring, tolerant, sweet-tempered, God-fearing, sensitive and understanding. When questioned about the opposite traits possessed by men, his reply was that ‘men are like this’.
Gagan, of the Department of Pharmacy expressed a similar view that gender roles are determined by nature and biology. His emphasis was on the chastity of women and her honour. However, he compromised on the chastity of men, regarding it as a social norm.
These segregated norms of gender, which, off and on try to reinvent themselves, in one form, or other, are culturally sustained by the effective patriarchal continuum. The best example of these norms is the practice of ‘bride price’ which existed in colonial Haryana and was later replaced by dowry. Women, in general, by accepting these socialised norms, and men in particular (by imposing these as the family head) are equally responsible for iniquitous nature of gender formulations. When Gagan was asked how would he feel if he is placed in the situation of a woman, he obviously felt uncomfortable and regarded patriarchal norms as a part of cultural values.
Redefinition of gender norms has implications for both men and women. Everyone among respondents was critical about the changing attitudes of today’s women. Clothing was specially contested, Surjit of Laws being an exception. Surjit’s comments on the changing attitudes were contradictory in nature. Though clothing was not an issue for him, his views were highly reflective of dominant male perceptions. He did not want a life partner of equal professional status and believed that whatever may be the case men's decision ‘should’ be final. Most boys were positive about helping their prospective wives as far as household chores were concerned. This was occasional and rare.
With female foeticide rampant in Punjab and Haryana, little can be visualised about the future role of women. However, there are some very inspiring findings in the report of Census 2001. Haryana has seen a dramatic rise in number of working women in the past one decade. According to this report there 27.3 per cent of women working in Haryana as against 10.7 per cent in 1991. While economic security of women is giving them decision-making power, this is in no way changing the attitudes of men. Deepak of the Department of Physical Education believes that even if both men and women are working women follow men. None of the boys interviewed wanted women to be dominant.
An interesting aspect of all this was boys’ perception of their life partners (sex partner in particular). The opinion was divided on this topic. While Korak of Department of Physics and Ambuj of the Department of Philosophy believed sex to be an activity of mutual consent and that women should not submissive, Anand and Surjit believed that women should be submissive and understand the ‘male urge’. Opinion was divided on the issue of ‘empowerment’. Most of the boys felt that women should be educated and become economically stable. However, Gagan was of the opinion that women’s work outside the household would lead to an increase in the levels of general unemployment. Surjit held the empowerment responsible for the mounting social problems (especially divorce).
There is no doubt about the fact that education is redefining the gender roles. The boys living in the hostels generally know how to cook. Ambuj believed in an active interaction between life partners and emphasised on shared responsibilities. Psychoanalysis of the interviewed boys tells us that they lean more upon women for emotional support. Korak seeks a life partner who is emotionally supportive, while Ambuj seeks one who is talkative. It was also clear that men were expecting their life partners to be a model of what they have never been; not over-emotional, religious, not dominant, not sentimental etc.
This whole debate of changing gender roles has indeed made things more complex. There has been a sharp increase in the violence meted out to women. Recent statistics given by the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC) shows a manifold increase in the cases of wife bashing, dowry, eve teasing, rape and molestation. When the dress code of girls was put to debate among boys, they unanimously declared that it was responsible for increasing violence against them. Such ideas reflect upon the foundations on which youth base their future attitudes.
The issues discussed above are very complex and the socio-cultural norms that define, gender roles explosive in nature. This whole debate of redefinition of gender roles will not be of much help unless men are actively involved and a serious step towards sensitisation of gender issues is taken up. A more productive mechanism, which involves both men and women, for the purpose of questioning gender norms and sensitising boys and girls, will have to be evolved.