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Firdous Majeed | HuffPost | June 21, 2015:: I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time!
The moment I had Muslim + Yoga + Hindu + Surya Namaskar pop up on my newsfeed in one headline.
I couldn’t resist but write this.
But before I begin, let me introduce myself: Muslim, girl, religious, spiritual, yoga teacher and practitioner.
Now let’s cut to the chase. This whole ‘yoga is un-Islamic‘ banter is absolute rubbish. Let’s work backwards. I want to track back to the essence of all Islamic practices, i.e. intention.
In Islam, intention defines whether your deeds are in fact good deeds or things you did to show-off/ hurt someone / disrespect the religion / disrespect the tenants of the religion etc.
Yoga is the practice of syncing the mind and breath with the help of asana and meditation practices. And the Surya Namaskar in question, is a set of asanas combined to achieve the above.
Yes honey, it’s called Surya Namaskar. And no, it is not the equivalent of worshipping the sun.
Ancient and traditional yoga applied this as a practice to connect deeper into a yogi’s spiritual connection to God since their life was consumed spending hours in meditation and surrendering their mind and soul in search of inner peace and to find God.
That being said, nobody in today’s day and age stands facing the sun to worship it and perform a set of physically challenging poses solely for that intention and purpose. If you want to worship the sun, you get up, hold your hands in prayer, and pray to it. When you do a physical practice facing the sun, I doubt that makes it an act of worship.
As a Muslim, attending a yoga teacher training was at first a major culture change. (Notice I call it a change and not a shock.) There is chanting of OM, reciting of slokas, discussing god, and such. But when I was able to step back from the source and focus on the meaning, I found that it’s all the same. One of my favourite things to do at my teacher training was listen to my teacher sing the Gayatri Mantra. And just to add some perspective of where I come from, I grew up in Saudi Arabia wearing an abaya and head scarf and had zero to no understanding of Hinduism. Knowing anything about Hinduism was considered anti-Islamic.
But then…I stumbled upon this beautiful prayer:
Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction.
(English translation of Gayatri Mantra )
Isn’t this what everyone (who believes in God) wants? As a Muslim I ask this of Allah in my Namaz everyday. To guide me on the path that is right. I praise Him and confess I am nothing but his creation and need His guidance.
Tell me then, how is this prayer different from anything we would want in our life? As a Muslim, I gained huge insight into my religious and spiritual beliefs through yoga. Yoga opened up a sea of deeper reflection I never thought I had access to.
Yoga allowed me to focus during my Namaz. With every breath I take as I bow down to God, I am focusing on my words as they flow out of my lips, completely aware that I am bowing before Him and am completely present. With no wandering thoughts.
No wandering thoughts? How is that possible.
Pranayama every morning taught me to stay grateful to my breath. Every inhale and exhale is a moment to be conscious of. Every waking moment requires you to stay present. That’s training the mind. And I learnt it through yoga.
I am now more aware during my Namaz. More present in my Dua. More grateful to the Creator for giving me a healthy body and mind. I’m also a better human being to people of other belief systems. All because I practice yoga.
So to sum this up: I am a practicing Muslim who teaches the Surya Namaskar as a means of physical and mental well-being and advocate the practice for deeper self-reflection and focus in religious meditative practices as well!
May all who are ignorant and malicious find knowledge and perspective.
Courtesy: Huffington Post and links used above.
Yoga & Relieve from Diseases
Health is life of human. To remain a healthy person it is imperative for one to follow the right methods of human life catering to the bodily need of regular fresh diet, necessary amount of pure water and adequate sleep. Every person knows how to eat and drink, it is necessary to know how to remain always healthy. The more humans have been inclining to luxurious tastes the more they are inflicted with diseases. Those who are wealthy have several workers do not work and walk and play. Those lazy persons invite diseases for themselves. Before the 20th century human beings were not as unhealthy and riddled with diseases as they are today. Then the people were busy in hard work and were involved in physical activities. After the invention of modern equipments as plane, motor, television and computer people became occupied with matters of eating and drinking that lead to frivolous lifestyle.
Those who do not work and remain static most of the time are bound to end up becoming a victim of certain type of diseases. Women who stay at home only and are not active are mostly attacked by diseases. People who are been involving in sedentary works as justices, administrators, businessmen, poets-authors, shoe makers including, those who are engaged computer for more than three hours continuously, who pass time by watching movies, those who sleep more than necessary are susceptible of suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure. Women and men that have crossed the age bar of 35, even if they are feverish or not, ought to compulsorily take to exercise every morning. People with regular exercise and involvement in sports activities are not attacked by diseases. Rather than arguing we must focus on remaining healthy. Healthy people are the wealth of the world. To escape from possible illness even the healthy ones must get into little bit exercises, which would be best for them. We must care health to secure our life. Rishis (Hindu saints) with knowledge of Ayurveda (herbal and traditional medicines) have explored all sorts of treatments and medicines to maintain the health on basis of practical methods and experience of thousands years.
Pranayam is Hinduism’s unique contribution to humanity. The history of yoga as described in religious texts makes it peculiar to Hindus and it remains an integral part of the Vedic religion. Yet it is strange that different kinds of yoga including the latest “Christian” version are being developed which divorce it from its original faith. The argument that yoga is not exclusive to Hindus, since it has been practiced by followers of other faiths, does not cut ice. It fails to see that certain belief systems were offshoots of Hinduism. In that sense, yoga forms the core of a spiritual tradition that spans the history of Hinduism. It cannot be reduced to a series of callisthenic exercises. The fact is that despite its Hindu roots, the practice of Pranayam or Yoga is essentially transcendental in nature, going beyond its classical definitions and a set of physical exercises. It’s an integrated system of physical and spiritual health that can appeal across religions, attested to by its popularity across the world.
‘Meditation will bring us the peace of mind, calmness, and a sense of well being better relationships, better health, and a better life .Personal, philosophical, and spiritual insights. The benefits of meditation are our birthright, whether you are Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, and Taoist, follow some other religion, or none at all. Pranayama is the art of breath manipulation and energy balance. Pranayama involves breathing techniques practiced thousands of different ways. One of the most common and fundamental breathing techniques is Ujjayi. Pranayama involves sitting for long periods of time and performing breathing.’ ‘years of life
Vedic Rishis have said that if your breath count is less than 5 per minute, you will exude youth, beauty and glow. If it is above 10, you have fallen prey to disease, sadness and old age.
Breath is a direct indicator of your state of being. You derive vital energy from the breath you take in. When the body is under stress, cells consume energy at a faster rate. Consequently the body gasps for more breath and the breathing rate is higher.
Exercise through Yoga is for building Devotion.
The exercise is also a form of devotion. Every person is created with a purpose and a direction. This purpose and direction were engraved in our hearts when we were conceived. In addition, we are given access to a quiet guidance system which helps us to achieve our objectives and direction. We need to recognize this guidance system. Its called intuition, the quiet voice, urges the knowing or the feeling. Once we locate our purpose and direction, we are given skills, talents and abilities that are unique to only ourselves. We must practice daily such type of exercise –meditation. The people belonging to all religions can exercise it in the name of their Gods, keeping in mind ‘The Creator’, the one and only one, who created the whole universe and us. So, it is our first duty to keep our mind and body healthy.
We must be aware of what we eat and drink. Honey is elixir. If we eat honey and ghee in equal proportion it becomes poison. So we must not consume the foods detrimental to health. People take whisky and rice beer by knowing the quantity they can consume, when they are healthy. To drink too much will be very dangerous, even a healthy person becomes sick. It is like the saying, ‘too much of anything is bad’. However, the patients of uric acid, rheumatism, sugar should not drink beer and whisky. It is best not to drink alcohol. Those with fat body must after ‘Pranayam’ take in lemon water. ‘Lemon (Citrus) is a miraculous product to kill cancer cells. It is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy. It is considered also as an anti microbial spectrum against bacterial infections and fungi, effective against internal parasites and worms, it regulates blood pressure which is too high and an antidepressant, combats stress and nervous disorders.’-(Zee Beach, Institute of Health Sciences, 819 N. L.L.C. Charles Street Baltimore)
Fat people must avoid consumption of banana, sweets and ghee. Its better they can carry out fasting. Foods with fibrous substance as in vegetables and fruits are best for health. Dry rice, bread, fibrous vegetable and milk will be appropriate for relief of gastritis. If a person maintains a balanced diet coupled with regular exercise then the person has a natural defense against illness. To take oily foods once in a while is not bad. Consumption of oily foods, for they are tastier, would not be good. We should never forget the proverb- ‘Money is lost nothing is lost, character is lost something is lost but heath is lost everything is lost.’
Patients of sugar and blood pressure cannot afford to stay for long in empty stomach. Sugar patient must always keep in mind that pancreas should never remain dry. One must take 3-4 liter of water daily in order to hydrate pancreas, heart, lungs, liver and kidney. If we are suffering from disease of prostate gland you must take the medicines of Patanjali Yoga Guru Ramdev. If this does not cure, then you can seek recourse to medical surgery. Patients of rheumatism must compulsorily resort to ‘Pranayam’ and avoid cold, slippery foods, ginger, and curd and spinach, which help in increasing arthritis. All sorts of patients must not fall into the abyss of depression rather they ought to remain jovial, take walks and indulge joyful activities. Happy feelings will attract more happy circumstances.
Dirgha Raj Prasai