Delhi Yogotsav: The Presence of a Master

Despite having a good yoga discipline – I have resolved to do yoga every day for the rest of my life – I was feeling discontent because of a lack of growth in my practice. When I heard about Swami Niranjan gracing Delhi with his presence I was thrilled. The only other time I had heard him live was in Delhi in August 2005. His charismatic personality had left an impact on me even then. But this time, he presented us with the gift of a lifetime – in keeping with the busy schedules of householders and city dwellers, Swamiji gave us very easy to follow practices to purify all the panchakoshas.

On the first day of the Delhi Yogotsav, Swami Niranjan came across as a stern yogi, who seemed to be on a mission to draw people away from the modern, gimmicky ways in which yoga is being taught to the masses. Many practitioners of yoga seem to think that the longer and harder they practise, the more evolved they are. But Swamiji very clearly and simply explained the importance of tradition and the effectiveness of seemingly simple practices, once done regularly. In short, he stripped people of various pretensions. He also elucidated that a rigorous physical practice is just that – a physical exercise!

Conveying instructions articulately in Hindi as well as English, Swamiji attempted to reach out to as many people as he could. I also felt that he connected to the wide audience at multiple levels. Such was the information that he shared with the audience of over one thousand people, that everybody could gain something whether amateurs or professionals, people new to yoga as well as those who may have spent decades studying yoga from various gurus.

Over the four days he guided us very clearly in simple practices to adopt daily. "A practice focused only on asana and pranayama is incomplete," he said. He thus left us with a dinacharaya, daily routine, starting with mantra sadhana comprising Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, Gayatri Mantra and the 32 names of Goddess Durga first thing in the morning to activate the vijnanamaya kosha; then five asanas (including tadasana, tiryak tadasana, kati chakrasana, utthanasana, and any inversion such as sarvangasana) and surya namaskara to benefit the annamaya kosha; followed by sheetali, sheetkari, bhramari and nadi shodhana techniques of pranayama to cleanse the pranamaya kosha; yoga nidra to be done in the evening after work to remove tension and reactivate the manomaya kosha; and finally the Omkara or Om chanting before sleeping to reach the anandamaya kosha.

On the fourth day, before he tied it all together in the aforementioned daily routine, as Swamiji guided us to chant Om, and the entire stadium was resounding with the powerful energy of the mantra, he himself chanted the Swasti Vandana for everyone's well being, enveloping the whole space in his own aura and protective energy. I was overwhelmed and tears streamed down my face, as if some cleansing happened deep within my being. Over the course of the four days, the yogi who had seemed 'stern' to me at the beginning came across as a loving guru – accessible through his knowledge, yet elusive as a personality.

It has been a month since I attended the Yogotsav and I feel a world of a difference in my own practice, despite cutting down on the complicated asanas that I was doing earlier. My day starts with mantra sadhana, followed with the asana sequence as prescribed by Swamiji. This really sets a very happy positive note to my day, and I feel a general sense of well being. And all this despite cutting down on the time I used to spend on asana practice. The holistic routine really permeates the deeper levels of my being and I almost feel my practice touching the different koshas or sheaths. Such a profound impact can only come from the blessings and teachings of a real Master. I feel blessed to have been able to attend the yoga camp in Delhi and can only hope that we are blessed with Swamiji's visits more often than long nine-year gaps.

Shibani Bawa, Delhi