By Deepika Srivastava
My Friendship with Yoga is the inspirational tale of the foray of the author Revathi Raj Iyer into yoga; inspirational because it doesn’t end with just the feel-good factor of yoga, it outlines in detail its practicality too. Her journey begins in Fiji Islands, moves to New Zealand, and finally reaches its home, in India.
Revathi, a book reviewer, is on the panel of Muse India. She also volunteered with the women’s centre in ChristChurch, New Zealand, where she listened to the problems of several women of all age groups, and helped them connect with NGOs to get help. I first met her at a writers’ group meeting. The fact that she practices yoga did not surprise me. From her calm face to her elegant body posture, I wondered what her secret was, until I got to know about this book.
Yoga, considered a highly intellectual, spiritual concept, one which is demanding and needs body flexibility, is simplified and presented here. The jargon associated with it are decoded and made accessible to the common man. There are certain references from the Bhagavad Gita, which might appeal to everyone’s conscience at some level. This is what makes it a book for everyone. But, for someone looking for an in-depth, saintly, and highly intellectual understanding of the subject, it might seem a little breezy. However the combination of the philosophical, psychological and practical aspects of yoga have been captured well in just 185 pages.
The first part titled “Narrative” gives a history of yoga, and talks about the author’s foray into yoga, which helps the reader understand her capability in writing the book. The chapters are short and relatively independent, which allow the reader to pick up the book and read from anywhere. Written with a subtle lucidity, the chapters make one reflect upon their own life, without forgetting that they are actually reading about yoga. Reading the chapter title, “Thoughts and Monkey Mind”, you can see own self trying to concentrate on an exam paper, and sometimes wishing that you could meditate too. Adapting to yoga is not just a matter of habit, it demands a change in lifestyle, and as the book progresses one moves towards that change. While the first half of the first part talks about controlling the mind, the second half talks about the technical aspects of the body – the chakras, the interior body locks, and the energies of yin and yang.
The second and third parts deal with the practical aspects of yoga, with visual and textual descriptions of the various asanas, and a weekly routine, giving a beginner a guideline of how to embrace yoga in their daily life. So, this is just not about the spiritual and experiential part of the ancient Indian science. Someone like me, who’s been a lazybones, and has needed someone to outline a regimen for me might be compelled to skip to the second and third parts directly. But for someone seeking to understand the true essence of yoga, reading the author’s journey is essential. The clarity and simplicity with which it is written, might compel someone to make it their journey as well. This book carries within it pearls of wisdom, one of which I will use to end my review.
She would urge us to silently talk to ourselves and say, “I know I am breathing in”, as we inhale and “I know I am breathing out”, as we exhale, so that mind and body complement one another and do not go in different directions.
If we think about this statement for a while, we can probably hear ourselves say, “I know I am reading”, “I know I am writing”, “I know I am…”, and “I know I will embrace yoga…”