In Japan, Part 2
As we mentioned in the last entry, we are in Tokyo this week with the family of Karuna and Jibananda Ghosh. Today, their son Bubai wrote individual charts for us and led us through the regimen.
Yoga practice in this tradition--passed down from Bishnu Charan Ghosh and his students--is individual. It is hard to stress that enough. Each student gets one-on-one attention from the teacher, who assesses the student's strengths, weaknesses, illness, history and goals. The teacher then devises a routine of exercises unique to the student. The concept of a "yoga class" where many students perform the same routine is practically unheard of in this tradition, just as the idea of a yoga prescription is unheard of in the West.
In making our charts, Bubai draws from a system of about 40 asanas, most of which Western yogis would be familiar with. The important element is not necessarily knowing more postures, but knowing which ones to use and when. In addition to the asanas, there are about a dozen "Exercises" that are done in movement, like calisthenics. These are generally done at the beginning of the session to warm the body and prepare it for the asanas.
After many questions about our health, family history, goals, taking our blood pressure and pulse, and doing a small battery of tests to check brain function (luckily we both passed!), the prescriptions are drawn up. Both Ida and I are prescribed 2-3 exercises to warm up, followed by about 8 asanas and kapalbhati (blowing) breathing. Each element is done two or three times, punctuated by a few deep breaths and a rest in shavasana (which, like all Bengalis, he calls savasana).
Bubai hovers over us as we do the postures, making corrections and explaining why things are done in a certain way. We end with a brief meditation, a focused set of thoughts that he gives us. Then a rest and we are done. It has taken about 45 minutes. It is not strenuous or sweaty or exhausting. We are calm and focused and ready to continue with the day.
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Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
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