Saru Bai is our daughter’s nanny. When I asked her age she said I am 50 sir plus thuda kuch saal (some more years). She used the word sir – even though she didn’t need to – she is older than I am, plus she doesn’t sit with us on the couch or the chairs. She always sits on the floor. She tells me that she has six children, five of her own and one adopted. She lost 3 of her children, one at a very young age and two before they were even born. All three could have been saved. But there are no regrets, she tells me as if it’s normal. She works six days a week and comes to our campus around 7-7:30 am and leaves by 8 in the night. She is employed at least by 6 residents on campus for various house hold chores. Her salary per month is around Rs. 30000 (that’s on the higher side, I think she earns less). Her daily work involves a lot of physical labor, which is always with a smile on her face.
Now that you know a little bit about her, the question that I have for you is – do you know anyone like Saru Bai in your life? Can she/they practice Yoga? The obvious answer is that Yoga is for everyone – so surely she can. Are you sure? Well think again and go through every aspect of what makes it possible for you to practice yoga. First, answer what is Yoga for you. Second, take into consideration the time and money required to travel and practice at the shala and then add a few others things to the mix. The things that I mentioned already are obvious – the things that are not so obvious are – language barriers, economic strata and so on so forth.
When I started learning Yoga – the only thing that attracted me to the practice were the asanas and that’s what I learnt as well – and most of my training has been related to Asanas. It’s only after many years that I started to discover other aspects of Yoga and it’s real meaning, which is cessation of thoughts in the mind. What we learn during a Yoga class around the world today is mostly asanas and we have incorrectly termed asana classes as Yoga classes. Is Yoga a luxury of a few who can afford the cost and time associated with it.
Most of the people who go to Yoga studios do not have much physical activity in their lives. I am thankful that the Asanas have popularised Yoga to what it is today and ofcousre to Baba Ramdev, who has made it a household name today. I have been told and I have also preached that Yoga is for everyone. But is it? How many people that you know, who are like Saru bai practice Yoga or know what Yoga is and what are it’s benefits of Yoga? Yoga Sutras is the authoritative text about Yoga Philosophy. Asanas are mentioned only twice in the book. Firstly, in chapter 2 sutra 29; Asanas are mentioned as one of the eights steps of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga). Secondly in chapter 2 sutra 46; describing how should one feel in an asana – sthira sukha asana – Stability and Joy in Asana. The first two steps of Ashtanga Yoga are self-regulation and observances, fourth is pranayama and the last four steps are various types of meditations to reach the ultimate goal of Yoga.
Asanas have been commercialised and popularised as if they are the end – but in reality they are just the means. Yes, Asanas help but they do not represent the depth of Yoga. People of various age groups and body types have varying degrees of capabilities and requirements to practice Asanas. Every body is different and needs individual attention when it comes to practicing asanas. The Yoga as I now know is much deeper than what I thought about Yoga when I started this journey. For Saru bai and people like her who are already doing physically demanding work, who may not have the luxury of time and money, other steps of Yoga should be introduced especially the meditation practice. Practicing yoga has benefitted me in many ways but it mostly helps calm my mind and reduce stress, I am able to respond better in difficult situations. Every one should be able to enjoy these benefits and more. The changes that are brought by making yoga part of your life may be small and slow but very significant.
For the month of May this year, may I invite you to join me to incorporate meditation into your daily lives. May I got a step further to invite you to teach someone like Saru bai, who has no idea of what some of the benefits of yoga are, to meditate. Both invitations are open to anyone and totally optional. Most of you who practice at our studio already have a meditation practice but I would like you to meditate in your own space and time. Teachings helps you learn more, that’s why I have added the element of teaching someone like Saru Bai. I will leave it upto you to decide on how and what to teach but I will send out some guidelines to use breath or some support as your guide along with a guided meditation once a week. If you, Saru bai or people you know are able incorporate meditation in your daily life, I wonder the level of impact that can all have. Before, I get too carried away, let’s take a deep breath and be in the moment. If you have any questions please feel free to let me know. Look forward to the beautiful month of May.
By the way – Saru Bai’s real name is Saraswati Somlinga. Saraswati means goddess of knowledge, music, art and learning. She is called Saru bai because her first name was shortened to Saru by her first employer and she also called her bai, the one who cleans and works at home; hence Saru bai. By the way, we now have started sitting on the floor with her.