How stressed are you on a scale of one to ten? Probably pretty high given the often chaotic situations modern-day life presents. Finding calm amidst the hubbub is not easy but perhaps a solution is at hand with a mind and body course starting this month.
The Art of Living Founda-tion, a non-profit education organisation led by Indian spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is now offering its human value teachings in Guyana which include the yogic breathing exercise, Sudarshan Kriya.
This Sudarshan Kriya is the highlight of the six-day course and is a process using breathing to rid the body of negative energies and re-energizing it.
The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-sciences in Bangalore, India, last May found that the Sudarshan Kriya is as effective as the best anti-depression drug `imipramine’ in treating depression. It also found that the breathing technique helps alcoholics in de-addiction. The Institute found that the breathing exercises of Sudar-shan Kriya lead to certain neurophysiological changes, which help cure depression.
The basic Art of Living (AOL) course being offered in Guyana offers the Sudarshan Kriya as a mechanism to aid in stress management.
According to Art of Living teacher, Nitin Limaye, who was in Guyana last month to conduct the first course, the benefits include freedom from negative emotions like anger, hatred, frustration, anxiety, fear, depression, guilt and paranoia. The course also prepares candidates to use their breathing for a more energetic and disease-free body; a relaxed and pleasant state of mind; enhanced enthusiasm and clarity of mind; greater concentration and memory and a life filled with joy and enthusiasm.
However, one requirement is to enter into the course with a receptive mind and be willing to explore new experiences to see maximum benefits.
“The Art of Living course has no religious connotations. In fact if you are a Christian, it makes you a better Christian...if you are a Hindu, it makes you a better Hindu or if you are a Muslim, it makes you a better Muslim. The course breaks the barrier of religions, nationalities and social backgrounds as well as age groups,” says Limaye.
Limaye, 38, is a chemical engineer by training, with a career as a motorcycle racer and a professional singer as well. He was also a financial partner in a software development firm in Bangalore. Life, he says, was absolutely full for him and nothing was missing until he attended the first Art of Living Course in Bangalore out of curiosity.
Limaye says the joys from life he has experienced as a result of the first course encouraged him to attend further courses and he eventually became a teacher. That was just over 10 years ago.
Today, Limaye, dressed in a dhoti, kurta and angavastra (body cloth), with his long hair and beard, handles different kinds of chemicals. These he said, include endorphins (produced by the brain and pituitary gland with properties similar to morphine which induce a state of peace and tranquility), adrenaline (a hormone secreted which results in increased blood pressure and stimulates the heartbeat) and lactic acid. Living his life like an ascetic, Limaye said his material needs were taken care of by people and nature. His wife is also an Art of Living teacher in the US.
The Art of Living Foundation, established in 1982 by Shankar is dedicated to creating peace at the individual level and fostering human values within the global community with programmes to eliminate stress, create a sense of belonging, restoring human values and encouraging people from all backgrounds, religions and traditions to come together in celebration and service.
The Art of Living basic course is part of the five H (Health, Hygiene, Homes for homeless, Human Values and Harmony in diversity) programme designed by Shankar and falls under the Human Values programme.
The AOL Foundation offers specially designed courses under the Human Values programme for different age groups. It has the Art Excel for children between 8-14 years, designed to remove inhibitions and resistances within children to allow them to realise their full potential. The young minds are trained towards individual, social, intellectual and spiritual upliftment.
There is another course for children between 15-18 years called the Young Adults Course. This opens up a young mind to the responsibilities, harms and benefits of the different aspects of life and prepares them for the challenges that would confront them.
Those above 18 are targeted for the basic AOL course, to be followed up ideally with the advanced course and the Divya Samaj Nirman (creating divine societies) courses if possible.
Asked about the basic course and why would anyone want to participate, Limaye explains:
“I have seen people being so dependent on situation and circumstances. I have seen people feeling happy in happy situations but as soon as something goes wrong, their minds snap. Negative impressions stays with us for a long time and ordinarily, we would not know what to do about it. This is where a simple, yet powerful breathing technique taught in the basic course helps. Through this breathing exercise (Sudarshan Kriya) we can dissolve all the negative emotions and impressions that hamper our joy and happiness every moment.”
Limaye explains that the breathing exercise of Sudarshan Kriya is a method to connect mind and body to the rhythms that exist in nature. He noted that when we are angry our breath is faster/shorter, when sad/depressed, the breath is like a sigh and when we are anxious or fearful the breath is shaky or quivering. On the other hand, when a person feels happy, the breath is relaxed and harmonious.
Limaye is to return to Guyana on June 23 for the next course between June 24-29 at the Gandhi Bhavan. Advertisements are to be placed on the times and other details. Those interested in the discipline can learn more at www.artofliving.org.