Beyond the Yoga mat

© A Master Media

by Junita Thakorlal

Our ancestors founded yoga eons ago, which has now gained widespread popularity with yoga studios popping up like local coffee shops in every city worldwide. Activewear corporations earn billions on yoga clothing, making our sages who practice the artform in the Himalayas seem super cool and urban. The must-have non-tech accessory of the 21st century seems to be the yoga mat, which now comes in all sorts of fancy colours and finishes and retails up to $88.

We sit down with revered medical biochemist and professor of Pathology at UBC, Dr. Arun Garg, to find out more about the ancient practice of yoga and how it impacts our overall wellness.

Q. What does Yoga mean?
It is the fusion of mind, body and soul. To me, it is inspirational, experiential and spiritual. It is the basis of health, harmony and happiness. I left India at the age of 19 so I find that yoga connects me to my heritage through self-realization and insight into one’s self. To me, it’s a foundation of values and principles which guide my day to day interactions and living.

Q. How many years have you been practicing yoga?
My life partner has been a yoga practitioner for the past 50 years, but in the last few years I incorporated the Raj Yog practice of Patanjali coded Hath Yog of asana, which is the poses, and pranayama, which is the breathing. Being in academia for most of my life, a deep sense of commitment is required and so I hadn’t realized that for many, many years I actually was following Bhakti Yog, a spiritual practice focused on loving devotion of God, and Karm Yog, which follows the path of unselfish actions.

Q. Are 90-minute yoga sessions effective?
Doing phenomenal poses and the ability to twist and bend physically is a very small part of yoga. It’s actually about balancing a physical work out, mental stillness, getting proper sleep, maintaining your diet and behaviour. My interpretation come from books and conversations held with Swami Ram Dev Ji, Devadutt Patnaik, Swami Vivekananda Ji. I believe there are eight limbs of yoga, and it’s when you balance all that you can attain true success in yoga and in life:

Yama is about moral discipline; Niyama is conducting positive duties and observances; Asana is holding the posture; Pranayama is breathing techniques; Pratyahara is gaining mastery over external influences; Dharana is focused concentration; Dhyana is contemplation and meditation; Samadhi is obtaining bliss or enlightenment when the mind becomes still.

As you can see, it’s much, much greater than simply holding a pose for 60 seconds.

Yoga is not just physical exercise, it is a value system to live by, giving insight and reflection. Yoga is a beautiful journey of self-discovery that everyone should embark upon and practice.