Tamzidur Rahman talks about yoga with Anika Rabbani
The main aspect of yoga is meditation and turning inwards with all our focus. You cannot come to a yoga class with only half your attention or giggle with friends or stop to check your Facebook
How long have you been practising yoga? What inspired you to start?
I started doing yoga when I was 14. My older sister used to go to a class conducted by a lady named Fouzia Mansoor and our mother made me tag along with her. I turn 35 this year, so over two decades of practise. After wrapping up college, I started working in the development sector and at work I taught yoga twice a week to the female staff at CARE Bangladesh. After I had my daughter, I started teaching more regularly and eventually went on to get certified to teach professionally.
There are many old wives’ tales attached to yoga (like floating, unusual meditative stances, power derived from the Chakra pool, etc.) due it being an ancient and ‘mysterious’ form of meditation. What is the difference between such myths and the actual practise?
Yoga or “union” comes from the ability to detach or discipline the constantly thinking self from whatever is going on externally – the union in question of course is that of the breath, mind and body. In the ancient texts there is an image of a chariot being controlled by two reins and it is said that this yoke or control is the yoga – a metaphor for being able to control the ever-altering mind. Thus, yoga empowers us to be unfettered by situations or outcomes, be they pleasant or otherwise. It strengthens the mind alongside the strengthening of the physical body. The first yoga sutra by the sage Patanjali reads, “Yogas chitta vritti nirodah – yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.” There is however a lot of truth to the “old wives’ tales” as you call it. Meditation can be a form of out of body transcendental experience as can conscious breathing. However, there are no shortcuts, practise is essential and in the words of the famous guru Pathabi Jois “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”
You follow the Ashtanga Yoga form – what sets it apart from the various other forms?
Ashtanga is a lifetime yoga practise. The practitioner graduates from the first series to the intermediate, third and so on. Each series has an intelligent set of postures/sequences to practise designed through centuries to help the practitioner develop physically, mentally and spiritually. So you have to do the practise six days a week with one day off. It’s deeply rooted in tradition – we don’t practise if there is a full moon for example and on the rest day, we eat a lot of sweets and take castor oil baths. It’s also the hardest, most challenging form of yoga that exists. It’s namely a breathing practise that looks like serious gymnastics. The deeper you get into the practice you realise that it is in fact a form of moving meditation. I currently teach the primary series – also known as yoga chikitsa in Sanskrit which means yoga therapy or cure. When done regularly this practice is known to cure illnesses and purifies the body both mentally and physically
Can you elaborate on the benefits of yoga for the residents of Dhaka?
Yoga is perfect for the citizens of Dhaka as it’s a city that leaves you in a state of high stress, bad diet and lackluster exercise options. It will leave you feeling stronger, younger, more supple at the joints. Continued practice of yoga will improve digestion, skin, hair, memory, and mood and the list can go on. I don’t see how anyone can not benefit from practice of yoga but you need to remember, just coming to one class won’t solve anything, you have to keep practising.
A handful of yoga practitioners suffer physical injuries each year due to which yoga has been criticised for being potentially dangerous. From your experience, how much of this is true? Have you ever been seriously injured doing yoga?
I have been injured many times – mostly when I was not being mindful and when I was pushing my body beyond its limits. You have to watch out for the ego voice which eggs you on to do more instead of listening to the cues your body gives you to stop, slow down, modify or even skip a pose. Most injuries happen when there is something for the student to learn, perhaps a lesson in slowing down and listening to the internal cues signalled by the body. The main aspect of yoga is meditation and turning inwards with all our focus. You cannot come to a yoga class with only half your attention or giggle with friends or stop to check your Facebook – you have to be fully present. If you are not then you can very well get injured. The same thing happens to people in my Karate/Jiu jitsu class!
Do you have any advice for beginners?
If you take up yoga remember it is not just a physical exercise. It will creep up on you as though by surprise, toughen up your spiritual muscles and leave you fighting fit for anything life throws your way – come to practice with an open mind and remember always to breathe consciously. After all, you don’t do the yoga – the yoga does you.