Shri Yogendraji
In the ancient period the laws of nature were universal, but even though the laws have remained the same there is a change in the situation. This has made the difference in the application of yoga because in the past the environment was such that it helped the students to continue the study and keep healthy, The ecological factors today have become so harassing that it is a problem today even to maintain good health. A student of yoga who follows the Yogic practices and techniques regularly will be able to maintain good health. To what extent is this possible is the question. With all the factors against man as they are today, to what extent can yoga help in this matter? Man lives at many levels for example physical, moral, emotional. Let us take physical good health.
Are we having the same environmental factors as we had in the past? Even as normal good health can be maintained through the environmental factors, yoga may add a little to it or better it. We may say that in the past there was better sunshine than the crowded houses as we see today, the atmosphere was not as polluted as at present, the water much cleaner, the food not adulterated. So the situation arises that under the changing circumstances how man, even though doing yoga practices, can keep good health. Our needs are increasing. Old diseases are wearing out because of medicines available for controlling them. On the other hand new diseases are cropping up which are difficult to control and which affect man not only at the physical level but also the emotional level.
With the conditions that prevail, if a student of Yoga comes to this institution, learns the yoga practices which are supposed to give him good health, to what extent can yoga help in the present conditions? For a living man needs air, water, food which are his basic needs. As the scientists say, the air is being increasingly polluted today. In Japan drug stores have oxygen rooms. When a person feels tired and exhausted, he goes into these rooms for a few minutes and comes out feeling much refreshed. If a person practices yoga breathing exercises here he will die of polluted air! How can yoga help?
Water is also polluted. It is purified with large doses of chlorine in it, which is not good for the body. In India it is not even sufficiently oxygenated. With such type of water, lifeless as it is, what can a Yogi do? If he does not drink water he will be dehydrated. If he drinks water he will be putting dirt into his body. So, instead of having good health he will be busy taking something unnatural and then fighting to remove it. .
In the field of food. A scientist analyzed the foods that we eat and found out that only 18 percent of what we eat is good food and the rest is the kind that he himself does not know. If a man knows only that much of what he is eating, how can he have good health? It is said that yoga was very difficult to follow in the old days but I say that it is so even more today. In the past we had favorable environmental factors. A man got enough energy and health drinking cool and sweet water. Today a person could die eating bad food!
How much then can a student of yoga expect from yoga? The general expectation would be that as soon as one takes up yoga and follows the practices, he would be completely free from all diseases. We live in a congested area and most people around us are suffering from some disease or the other. A person next to you might be suffering from respiratory complications and is severely coughing. Ordinarily the sun would destroy the bacteria but in a modern city with its congestions even this is not possible. So a student of yoga doing his practices should not expect perfect good physical health. It is not possible in modern conditions. He has to therefore satisfy himself in maintaining good health as best as possible. No amount of effort by any government or society can give you a long life or good health so long as industrialization continues and the forces of nature are affected by it.
It is better to live away from congested cities even though there may be some inconvenience n traveling. Many years ago a fifteen year old American came to learn yoga. Today he is an engineer. When I inquired about him he said that the city in which he lived and worked is so congested that he bought a cottage and a farm outside the city and is now living there. A university professor from Japan said that he understood everything. So when he went back to Japan what should he do. So, when he went back to Japan he bought a place away from the city congestion and though he had to drive daily to the city for his work, he said that he enjoyed some good health.
When we were on the lookout for a plot of land for the institute, Dr. Jayadeva had gone to a place near Daman. He found a place which was nice with hills around and a river nearby. Later he met a friend of his and told him of the plot he had seen. The friend told him that a paper factory was to be shortly constructed near that land and that it would not be advisable to build an institution there. Thus the physical environment is against all human beings and quite contrary to what a Yogi requires to live.
However, the knowledge of yoga can help the student to escape from the calamity of death in case of or due to bad environmental factors, but I cannot promise him absolute good health.
Another factor that affects us emotionally is work. There is injustice and inhuman treatment meted out. People under such circumstances also behave a little indifferently. Politics has entered the soul of man. The mind of every individual has reached a stage where we cannot be sure how he will behave or react..

Despite the many physical barriers, yoga offers through its techniques a student an option to move forward with a balanced mind towards good health.

Published in the April 2010 edition of Yoga & Total Health Magazine.

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