Lecture shows benefits of yoga

Mike Enright

Students learned about flexing their minds and their bodies Wednesday evening at the St. Paul Student Center.

N.V. Raghuram, international coordinator for Vivekanada Yoga University in Bangalore, India, lectured on the “Science of Yoga” in the Minnesota Commons room of the center.

The university’s goal is to use scientific research to examine the benefits of the more than 5,000-year-old Indian philosophy, according to its Web site.

Raghuram said Vivekanada probably is the first university of its kind in the world.

Since 1985, the organization has published studies indicating that yoga has been shown to improve asthma, memory, stress management and helped women suffering from breast cancer.

The university has also treated more than 100,000 patients exclusively with yoga therapy at its hospital, he said.

“Twenty years ago I had to tell people what yoga was, but now all over the world people are practicing yoga so much,” Raghuram said. “Yoga is spreading like wildfire.”

In the U.S., for example, there are 20 million people practicing yoga, he said.

Beyond the physical

Although some consider yoga to be mainly a form of exercise, Raghuram explained that physical activity really is a small part of yoga, and those who perceive it only as exercise underrate yoga and themselves.

“Yoga is not doing, yoga is undoing,” Raghuram said. “Yoga is the conscious journey from doing to being.”

Complete yoga philosophy includes five “concepts of personality,” said Raghuram, including physical, life force, mental, intellectual and bliss.

Raghuram said that while all the personalities exist together, it is bliss that ultimately guides people’s actions and decisions.

“Where you follow is joy,” he said. “Joy does not come from any outside object, but from touching your own nature.”

Vishard Ragoonanan, a second-year doctoral student in mechanical engineering, said he came to learn how yoga is based in science.

Ragoonanan said the talk was “one of the few lectures I wasn’t falling asleep in.”

Hindu Student Society member Ashima Nagpal said she also learned quite a bit from Raghuram.

“I think he did a very good job of blending it,” said Nagpal, who is working on a master’s degree in rehabilitation sciences. “We need to know that yoga is not working out, it’s being and working in.”