From Odisha with Love: Teaching Yoga in Thailand

Bhubaneswar: Yoga has become popular. Tomorrow the United Nations (UNO) and more than 190 countries are celebrating the 5th International Yoga Day. It is heartening to know that yoga has been increasingly accepted as a scientific method of healthy living and overall well-being. We were invited by Thailand’s Mahidol University, a leading public institution of higher learning, as yoga experts to deliver lectures on yogic therapy, yoga psychology and yogic philosophy. Students coming from different countries including that of Vietnam, Thailand, India and Switzerland studied in the yearlong intense program that the university offers to practitioners of yoga to advance their academic understanding, philosophical depth and enhance their research quotient in yoga.

Worldwide many people still associate yoga with asana (physical postures), we were mighty pleased to find out that students at the Mahidol were more keen on the deeper theoretical, philosophical and healing aspects of yoga. They showed sincere curiosity to know the differences and similarities in the diversity of yogic traditions in India as well. Confining yoga and yogic traditions ‘to a set of physical postures’ is the greatest dis-service that one can do to this excellent system of holistic health science. Yoga is a way of life and has been so since its inception thousands of years ago. The interest in Sanskrit and key original texts is correspondingly increasing.

In Indian yoga map Rishikesh, Bangalore, Mysore, Lonavala, Pune and Munger have been leading centres of learning. Through Sri Sri University, Odisha is making a gradual impact on national level yoga training. We both having trained from Munger and now teaching at Sri Sri University were enough for students to seek answers on our experience of teaching yoga and what Odisha has unique to contribute to yogic studies.

The mystic tradition of Bhakti Yoga during the Panchasakha period produced several key texts in Hatha Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Though they were influenced by the Natha and Vaishnav tradition of Yoga, still they had a uniqueness in the use of Odia language and extensively drew from their lived experience as grand masters of yoga. There is an urgent need to revisit this era to earmark the Odisha’s literary and scientific contribution to yoga. Our experience of training students in Asana and Pranayama, evaluating them in their presentations and clarifying their doubts in one to one sessions this time in Mahidol has given us a message on collaboration and the need to undertake inter-disciplinary studies to understand one’s own heritage and take it to the levels of students and researchers at the international level.

Authors who have obtained PhD in Yogic Studies, have been trained in Bihar Yoga Bharati tradition from Munger, and are currently professors of yoga at Sri Sri University.