Spring Yoga Retreat by VYASA

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HOUSTON: Houston residents from all walks of life came together to immerse themselves in a fun, relaxing weekend of yoga and ashram living with yoga enthusiasts from across Texas. This was a community of like-minded students and teachers who wished to strengthen their connection with one another and share ideas and obtain information and inspiration from their esteemed Guruji  Dr.H. R. Nagendra and beloved teachers Vishwarupa and Smitha. This was the second retreat held by Vyasa Houston allowing Yoga devotees to absorb the ancient teachings of the Yoga masters in the beautiful surroundings at Camp Cho Yeh in Livingston, TX.

Historical evidence of Yoga exists in our ancient texts and scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads from thousands of years ago. Two hundred years ago, the western world came to India and carried away Yoga as physical exercises or Hatha Yoga, because they were only interested in its physical benefits.  The World Health Organization defines Health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. “.  This definition was adopted in 1948 and has not changed since. Over a century ago, Vivekananda brought this message of Yoga as a holistic science and advocated the benefits of Yoga to the western world.  Vivekananda’s goal was to bring “The best of the east – philosophy” with the “best of the west – Science”

VYASA (Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana) was founded in Bangalore in 1975. The objectives of VYASA were to examine the efficacy of yoga practices and to develop yoga courses to solve the basic problems of day to day modern life.  Dr. Nagendra, Dr. Nagrathna and Prof. Raghuram began this institute which has since evolved into a one of the premier Yoga institutions in India. Over time SVYASA was established as the academic arm of VYASA offering training courses in Yoga therapy and Yoga instruction.  The institute completed its silver Jubilee in the year 2000. Over the years SVYASA has achieved several milestones, the major one being the deemed University status [since 2002] given by the Government of India and another milestone with the publication of the International Journal of Yoga.  Dr. H.R. Nagendra (Chancellor of SVYASA) currently serves on the Yoga Advisory Board for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

VYASA in Houston began in 1999 with the assistance of Dr. H. R. Nagendra, Dr. R. Nagarathna, and Mr. N. V. Raghuram of Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (Research Foundation).  A number of Houstonians wanted to make the benefits of yoga as taught at VYASA’s Bangalore center available to more local residents. In agreement with VYASA-Bangalore, the Houston Center was established and incorporated in 1999 as a non-profit organization. Mr. Ramesh Bhutada, a local businessman, was the founding president and served until 2002. Dr. Sudha Rajan, a family medicine physician who has been involved since its inception, is now president of the organization. Said Dr. Rajan “ Events such as these serve to provide a concentrated environment where you can get huge doses of learning. Life will eventually dilute it.”

The retreat centered on the teachings of Yoga Guru Dr. H.R Nagendra combined with the philosophy and theories of ancient Yoga texts. Yogic meditation techniques along with the teachings of the masters were wonderfully elucidated by Dr Nagendra. The yoga guru is a qualified mechanical engineer who has a PhD from IISc. He worked at NASA for a short period of time and has also served Harvard University as a consultant. Dr. Nagendra has also penned 35 books on yoga and has presented over 100 research papers on engineering and yoga. He was also honored with the title ‘Yoga Shree” by the legendary BKS Iyengar.  He talked about Karma Yoga – the Yoga of Action. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to the divine, you learn to sublimate the ego.

One of the highlights of the retreat was the cultural program where current YICC students put together a variety of entertaining dances, songs and a skit that delighted the group assembled there.  The beautiful dances by Shalaka Taware and Annapurna and the spiritual singing were ably complemented by the quiz on the life of Swami Vivekananda.  The retreat ended with a special graduation ceremony for the Yoga Instructor certificate courses offered by VYASA Houston last year. Students Akash Dhingra, Minal Bhadane, Savitri, Meena Sharma, Bhavana Luthra, Madhukar Adi, Kumar Elangovan and Raju and Ranjan Veludandi proudly held up their certificates as a testament to the disciplined effort required for the program.

The educational sessions presented by Dr. Manjunath Sharma, scientific director and co-founder of the R&D for SVYASA University, on Yoga and Anti-Aging were very informative and thought provoking. Current research collaborations include trials at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and other leading educational institutions, establishing Yoga as a science with clinical data substantiating the reported health benefits of Yoga.  Recent Research studies at Harvard University have observed measurable changes in emotional processing and memory with meditation.  Dr. Kathryn Millbury Asst.Professor in the Dept of Palliative,rehabilitation & Integrative medicine at M.D. Anderson Cancer center spoke on  “how  Yoga and mindfulness can improve interpersonal communication.”

VYASA serves as a leader in making advances in Yogic Science’s and the dedicated efforts of director Vishwarupa along with the assistant director Smitha Malliah in Houston are a testament to that.  Both of them agree that “The goal of VYASA-Houston is to promote health, happiness and peace in the community through various programs like Yoga for positive health, yoga therapy for specific aliments and yoga in education for youngsters etc.”  Yoga at this center is offered as a service to promote general health and classes and therapeutic sessions at the Keshav Smriti  and India House are ongoing.   Houston needs more of these Yoga retreats so that people can get away from work related stress disorders to replenish and renew their resources and learn to live as nature meant them to.

To learn more about Yoga as a Science contact Vishwarupa or Smitha at vyasahouston@gmail.com