It was 1978 when you got into this whole foray of yoga therapy and all of that. What really drew you to yoga at the age of 20?
I was actually forced into this (yoga) because of my illness. When my first child was born, I was suffering from a bad backache. Then I developed anemia and I became very weak. So one day my mother had come to visit me and asked me to stay in an ashram, which had come up in our home town, for 15 days. Initially, I was not very much keen to do it because I was not attracted to yoga besides having no knowledge about yoga. So she literally forced me to go to ashram. All my ailments which I had developed disappeared in just 15 days except backache which took a few years to become completely normal. I had earlier tried allopathy and ayurveda but nothing had happened. Even if I had got any relief, it was temporary.
You don't have a formal degree in yoga. So have you developed your expertise through self-teaching or by having a guru?
Yes, yes. The ashram (where Hota went) is a branch of Bihar School of Yoga whose head was my guruji Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He had written a number of books which I had started reading. Then my yoga guru had helped me with his experience. So I gained knowledge from his experience followed by my study and own experience. So that I have gradually grown over the years.
Contrary to many practitioner's approach which remains linear, your approach, which is much dynamic, integrates yoga, psychology, meditation. How could you manage to encapsulate so much into your teachings?
Actually I had started with only asanas and pranayamas and then everything else. When somebody used to come with insomnia, migraine, I knew I had to teach some special technique. Then, somebody came with arthritis, whatever normal asanas, pranayams I taught her she improved but she was not cure. Her health would deteriorate suddenly. So I couldn't understand it. Then during my visit to my home state, my maid servant told me she had very bad joint problems and she got cured with ayurveda but also she had whole lot of diet restrictions. She told me she would get back the pain if she didn't stick to her diet. Then I realised then there was something to do with food. So when I had applied the same diet restrictions on my patient, she got cured. Later I studied psychology to deal with other patients. That is how I developed my way of teaching.
Today's generation goes through a lot of depression and also suicide rates are higher nowadays. Your method of teaching is radical yet based on logic and science. Would you like to elaborate how do you deal with mental depression and all?
Mental depression can be purely due to physical or due to nutritional deficiency or sometimes psychological. It has no fixed cause for that. So first of all, if one does not go to the Sun (exposure to the Sun), he won't get Vitamin D, then calcium won't get absorbed and the calcium deficiency can lead to depression. Similarly if some glands are not functioning or feel-good hormones are not being produced properly, one can get depressed.
Even if someone does meditation for very long, he may get depressed because meditation depresses the nervous system as it tries to relax one. Also there are psychological problems too. Unhappiness due to demise of any dear person or failure in relationship or career can lead to a normal clinical depression. So one has to first find out the cause of depression. If the cause is physical, we treat through asanas and pranayams. So accordingly we treat.
We are seeing various yoga gurus around us nowadays. In one way, yoga has become more westernised with its quick fix solution. Do you think this kind of westernised yoga is short-lived and yoga should be based purely at an art level?
See yoga was devised by yogis who had a thorough knowledge of body and mind. Yoga works on the "pranic" or energy level. For a long time, the West had no knowledge about "pranayam", then one professor at Yale University first discovered that all objects were enveloped by an energy field. The professor had called it bio energy. Then Dr. Motoyama of Japan studied the flow of pran with an instrument and tracked down its course that the yogis had spoken about. Now Dr. Motoyama found those exactly in the same way the yogis had described. Yogas and pranayams were based on postures.
Now we cannot play with pran because we don't have that insight. Just looking like asanas does not make them asanas. We can call them just another form of physical exercise. All physical exercises make one feel good but that does not mean they are asanas.
In the times of so many online courses, do you think practising yoga without any physical guidance can even harm one if he gets even a bit mindless?
To practise yoga without any physical guidance, one has to know the conditions of doing it. Even during online courses, a teacher must know the problems of the practitioner. If one practices yoga imitating someone else then that will harm.
Is yoga, unlike allopathy, more preventive measure than curative? Can one give up yoga once the ailment gets cured?
Any muscle which does not get used will be give pain. So it is necessary to do exercise one way or the other. For any ailment, one has to identify the cause which must be treated. So one must exercise the whole body and all muscles to remain healthy.
So yoga treats in a more subtle level.
Yes yoga works on a subtle level because it mainly targets the pran. According to yoga and science, we are all energy, so yoga works on the subtlest of them i.e. pran.
Would you like to elaborate a little on your latest book 'All About Weight Loss'.
It is thyroid which controls our weight. If thyroid is very active then one does not put on weight but if it becomes sluggish, one will put on weight no matter how less he eats. So one tries to keep thyroid on a higher side. Super active thyroid will burn all our calories. Thyroid is a gland and all glands are influenced by our emotions, so it is necessary to do some meditations and yoga. Diet is also important. Even thyroid needs food as iodine is necessary. I find coconut is also important for thyroid gland. After all these, one needs to do asanas and remove all tension which leads to obesity.
Image: Yoga (Pixabay)