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The Direction of Yoga

Umesh Balavaradaraju

Posted on May 15, 2020 #recent

There was an immense surge of energy and a sense of lightness in being me. I was dripping like it was hot summer. I was so aware of my body, my mind, and my breath. I wanted more of it. There was this beautiful rush I felt throughout and when it was time for ‘Shavasana’. I could not stop myself being one with the stars and the galaxies as I closed my eyes. It was magical! I was smiling! I was happy! I had finished my first Yoga class! Almost two decades later…with the same smile, I’m here with you sharing how it all began.

My background in movement arts started in 1997 when my parents enrolled me to study martial arts because I beat up my school mate when he teased me. As lame as it may sound, I was pretty hurt and suppressed as I held onto my emotions. I was all bottled up and quite. The training began with stances, alignment, breathing, and striking with the foot and hand. My reflexes were required to develop into responses rather than unsystematic reactions. I was jumping, rolling, learning to break a fall. It all became second nature to me. Over the next few years, I improved multifold not only physically but mentally and emotionally. I was taught about – ‘Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit’. These were lessons for life.

What had changed in me was that I turned out more disciplined with awareness. The boy who I beat up was friends with me again because I went up to him and apologized. I had learned to forgive and be empathetic. And, that felt good to me. It was on the same campus where dance was taught. The sound of Indian percussion music aroused a passion for dance. Now I was both shadowboxing and ‘shadow dancing’ with postures I did not even have a name for. They looked aesthetic and pleasing to me. I knew I had an eye for detail and articulation.

From 2001 to 2014 I have been a contemporary dancer, performing across the globe. Through this, I learned more about ‘rasas’ and stage presence. I gained further insight into human anatomy, musculature, injury prevention, and nutrition. Martial arts and dance are such a beautiful combination together. They are like two sides of a coin to me. One you defend yourself with and with the other you express and communicate. Oh yes! I specialized in sculpture making in my Arts College. It was all a beautiful alignment to understand the human body. It was at this juncture that I started learning Yoga to prevent injuries and to focus inwards.

The spiritual search for clarity began with Yoga and there has been no end to the possibilities it opened up within and outside. I’m grateful to all the teachers and schools who have given me this knowledge and to the students who I learn from as I teach. I will always remember the very first Yoga class which has taken me till here with a smile.

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The chanting of the ‘mantras’ at the beginning of a class invoked a sense of being in the present and thanking the almighty creator, the universe, and its elements. India has had such a rich heritage, deep culture, and its own mystique to it. Who knew that this would be Yoga? Why these postures? How are these postures, mudras, yogic breathing, and uses backed by medical and scientific research and analysis in the present day?

It amazes and intrigues me as more advanced scientific and medical data proves and shows that Yoga is a must for everybody. For example, the risks arising from cardiovascular diseases are reduced with the practice of certain ‘asanas’ and ‘pranayama’. Apart from making me physically flexible, strong, and supple, Yoga has helped me heal mentally and emotionally. My emotions are sometimes on a surge because I am human. Even if it does surge for a few seconds, it automatically brings me back into a sense of calmness and blissful focus. I look inwards and question myself. I try to be in the present and practice mindfulness with every step, bite, and breath. I have learned to amalgamate the nuances and technique of martial art and dance into Yoga and I have noticed in my own practice and the inner feelings of my students who express so well saying they feel heroic and they feel unknown beautiful serenity. They feel relaxed and accomplished at the end of the class. That is so true because I feel the same! My life has been full of art and movement. The compass is always pointing towards Yoga. Simply put, Yoga unifies the mind and body. Uplifting our spirit and energizing us, it aligns everything possible for us in a positive way. This ancient art of Yoga was made for all of us to practice with an open heart regardless of age. We will have a clear direction then. And, that is Yoga, the most beautiful path! I hope you like my journey so far here. Looking forward to seeing you often! Stay Blessed, Namaste!

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