ICC YOGA PROGRAM
Here is a perspective of our Yoga classes by one of our senior member.
A perspective by: Kamal Mirchandani
The single most popular activity out of the several programs organized by India Community Center (ICC) – Milpitas, is the Senior YOGA. I had the fortune of joining this program over ten years back. Since then it has grown into an enjoyable routine occupying a very important place in my retired daily life.
Seniors, males and females mostly of Indian origin, some south-east Asians and a few Caucasians too ….with the varied cultural and lingual backgrounds, retired professionals or householders, all come together to form an interesting group like a multicolored decorative quilt. Energized with the competitive eagerness, interacting socially while forming long lines, treading hurriedly to enter the Yoga hall, rushing to occupy one of the limited few available chairs or lay mats down at the favorable floor spots. This daily drill brings back the sweet memories of schooldays in India. How the students used to race back after the prayer assembly to occupy their favorite seats in the classrooms. Is it not a sweet wonder how the Yoga session awakens childlike spirit in the seniors?
Yoga practiced in the common Fitness Centers as well as Special Yoga Classes across the country is popularly known to improve the flexibility, promote physical wellbeing and develop the mental discipline. Variety of Yoga Asanaas, Kriyaas, Sookhshma Vyayayams combined with Pranayama practices are performed for improving the functioning of internal organs, individual limbs and other body parts, helping to prevent many ailments as also to aid healing and achieving the peace of mind. However, there is much more there to Yoga than that. The higher values and benefits are realized when Yoga is practiced under the guidance of the dedicated and experienced teachers……learning to align the body, mind and emotions to connect with the true higher Self.
Hindu Scriptures define YOGA as the union of an individual soul with the Supreme soul. Properly taught Yoga practices can help the aspiring students to progress toward achieving such an auspicious goal. In the Senior YOGA, daily journey begins with a gentle reminder to put the cell phones in silent mode,…… sit comfortably, close eyes gently, sit with straight back, focus on the breath, inhale deeply and exhale fully, chant Omkara three times, recite the opening Mantra “Sahanaa vavatu…”, hands back holding right wrist with left hand inhale bending backwards, exhale bending forward, forehead down, taking blessing from The Almighty, slowly rise into sitting position, rub the palms, place them cupping over the eyes, with few blinks open the eyes ….the class is now ready to embark upon precious “Yoga routine…..step by step”. Finally the journey ends with closing Shanti Mantra “Sarve bhavantu…..” rubbing the palms, cupping eyes, gently massaging forehead, face and the whole body,…opening eyes looking into the palms held open in front. What an excellent disciplined routine! OM, Peace, Peace, Peace!!!
How then are the higher values or benefits achieved? Starting with a mindful resolve when leaving home for the Yoga class…..shall devote this precious one hour entirely to my Self. Avoiding unnecessary talk before and during the class…. settle down soon. With the spirit of total surrender, keeping eyes closed, internalize the instructions of the Yoga teacher. Carry out the routine without judging, experiencing each moment by moment. Observing the breath, visualizing union of body, mind and the emotions, one experiences “Shoonya” – a total absence of thoughts leading naturally to the blissful moments of meditation…an automatic benefit of the Yoga.
Those are the precious moments when mind is absorbed with the positive emotions and you are simply an observer. Experiences will vary from day to day. Such moments occur frequently during the group chants which raise the positive energy level as also during the “Shav aasana” and “DRT” the guided deep relaxation technique, the visualization of rising out of body and merging with the blue sky. Other precious moments occur during “Bhramari Pranayama” experiencing resonance in the head region, “Sthira sukham aasanam” the extended durations of holding the trying Asana postures, “Keval Kumbhika” experiencing nothingness with the cessation of breath, the sectionalized breathing sessions followed by silent chanting inside and the final three Omkara chants etc., before ending the Yoga session.
I believe that Senior YOGA is quite a blessed activity in that it has a great team of trained and dedicated Yoga teachers who conduct the class so gently with positive feelings and understanding towards all. Without them the Yoga session could as well be like any other commercial fitness class. Truly the team of Yoga teachers can be regarded as a “Vardaan” the boon and the Yoga class as our “Saadhna or Ibaadat”, the daily prayer. I am grateful for the contribution of all teachers, the ICC management and the team of volunteers who have collectively made the Senior YOGA such an incredible experience.
OM – Shaantih, Shaantih, Shaantihi!!!