Mental Health, Yoga and Nepal

The land of Nepal, especially the Himalayas has been the abode of seers, Yogis, Siddhas, Rishis, and great meditators since time immemorial. Out of their wisdom of meditation and Yoga, a yoga-oriented lifestyle and culture which carried a deep understanding of nature (and human nature) in its bosoms evolved in contemporary society. Though rapidly evaporating from society because of the rampant urbanization, such a lifestyle is still largely prevalent in the rural parts of Nepal. I myself grew up in the village but couldn’t acknowledge the yogic beauty/nuances present in/of village life until I had the opportunity to read yoga texts and experiment with them. 

If we look deep into nature, we will find one grand principle i.e. lesser the energy, greater the stability. Everything in nature tries to keep its energy as minimum as possible to become stable. The nature of the mind is no different from the nature of nature. The instability in mind mostly comes from our very nature of accumulating unnecessary thoughts and nurturing negative emotions which is exactly opposite to the way of nature. Consequently, this instability leads to various self-induced mental problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, and so on. The mind will not be stable unless one’s way of life is aligned with the way of the creation. And the systematic process of aligning one’s way of life to the way of creation is Yoga. 

Basically, there are four pillars of a yogic lifestyle, and I will discuss how these four pillars support our lifestyle and maintain the stability of/in our mind:

Aahaar (Diet):

“As the food so the mind, As the mind so the Man”. This cliché is as profound as simple as it sounds. Our mental health is intimately connected with the food we eat. Annam Brahma. Food is the creator. In yoga the food as the creator in a sense that food creates the physical body. In yoga, tremendous care is given to what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat. Our food is mostly unprocessed and wholesome. The vegetables are grown in the backyard and are fresh. Eating peacefully (no phones, no TV) together with the family is a great way to share love, care, and concerns with each other. While eating we sit in a crossed-legged pose which is referred to as Sukhasana in yoga. We must have noticed our grandparents or parents paying gratitude to the food either by praying or with just a simple devotional gesture.

For instance, at my home, we never eat the food before first offering it to the fire that cooked it. This sense of gratitude creates positive energy. And no late-night dinners. Dinner is done by seven or at most by eight in the evening. By the time we sleep, our stomach is empty which helps to get sound sleep. Moreover, Yoga recommends eating simple vegetarian food. However, one can eat non-veg food maintaining enough gap generally of a week or a month. The food items that are hot and spicy, processed, too oily should be consumed to a minimum extent. Food should be regarded to serve more to the well-being of life rather than pleasing the tongue and eyes. 

Vihaar (Recreation): 

The day should be full of physical activities. It brings calmness within the mind. The word recreation means creating again. Do not stick with the same situation, create something else. Just like the unmoved piece of iron gets junk in it, the stagnant body of water gives birth to nasty frogs, the lifestyle if not made active and recreative, gives birth to many mental problems. With this realization, recreation became an integral part of our culture. The fact that we have this many festivals like nowhere else shows this. The celebration regulates enthusiasm in the body and rejuvenates the mind.

In the village, the daily lifestyle is such that people spend significant time working in the fields, herding cattle in a vast open space, collecting firewood and grass in the forest, and crisscrossing all those pakha-pakhera, and ukaaali-orali. All these activities ensure a good amount of exposure to nature on an everyday basis. But these days more people are becoming couch potatoes and rarely if they find time they go to the gym. Rather than working out in the artificial gym, one should try to spend time in natural places. Hiking is a nice way to get connected with nature. The low mountains around the Kathmandu valley have excellent hiking spots. 

Aachaar (conduct, routine management):

Namaste! Yes, namaste or namaskara is a yogic gesture. Joining both palms to do namaste supports the balance of the right and left energy channels in our body. How to present oneself to create a balance among energies in one’s body is an important aspect of yoga. Many people do not even know what namaste is. The literal meaning of namaste is “I salute the divine within you.” In mainstream yoga, there are more powerful types of namaskars such as Surya Namaskar, Chandra Namaskar, and Shiva Namaskar. The balance of the energies maintains peace in mind.

Aachaar also deals with managing daily time to ensure one does not waste time. Excessive free time invites the devil in the mind. Utilizing every bit of time in a productive way is a great way to balance the body and mind. I am always surprised by the unbroken routine of my mother. When I used to be at home, she would wake up in the early morning and turn on the radio to play bhajans. The bhajans would soon permeate all over the house finally into my ears and I would wake up too. Then, I would start my part of the morning work. Bathing in the tranquility of early morning gives a nice start to the day. 

Vichaar (thought process, contemplation, meditation):

 Mental exercise is as important as physical exercise. Circulating fresh ideas in mind, participating in healthy conversations, and listening to inspirational discourses are some ways to exercise the mind. The welcoming nature of the Nepalese community makes one feel like family. It is easy to start a conversation with almost anyone. The mantra Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam ‘everyone is a part of a family’ is found here. Such a homely atmosphere largely prevents negative thoughts in mind. Moreover, one should make conscious effort on his side to nurture positive thoughts in mind. Meditation, contemplation, mindful breathing are some effective tools to channel positivity in mind. Similarly, self-study (the study of the Self) is very important to become mentally resilient. Through a systematic study of the self, one can refine and repair his personality. 

It is a matter of great fortune to be born in Nepal. The default yoga present in our culture makes our lifestyle unique. The homely atmosphere where you can call anyone daju – bhai (elder brother-younger brother) or didi – bahini (elder sister – younger sister), the laughter and smile that never leaves our face, and the landscape that can allure Indra, the king of heaven makes my life peaceful and blissful. What more does one need than a simple and happy life? As Sadhguru says Gyanam Dhyanam Aanandam.

However, I must admit with a sad note that our lifestyle these days due to excess modernization is annihilating our precious culture and mutating our way of life. More people are getting confined to gadgets, processed food is replacing wholesome food, people’s attitude towards life is becoming more ambitious, and whatnot. All these things give birth to complications in life. I am hopeful that we realize it soon and work towards leading a simple and blissful life. Through Yoga and meditation, one can know his true Self and fathom the grandeur of life which gives rise to certain wisdom in him. Blessed with this wisdom one becomes satisfied and happy. It is much worthier to know one thing about oneself than knowing a hundred things about somebody else. Om Shanti! 

— Laxman, Hanover

* This is a submitted post *  

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