Losing touch with the important things as your busy schedule takes over your life? Classes are now available to help you cope internally and externally with the increasingly stressful world around you.
Everyone knows what yoga is, don’t they? It’s that exercise class with the stretching and the mats and all that?
Well that’s the common perception of yoga, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s about being in touch with your body, your mind, and your breathing through stretching, meditation and exercises.
Life is becoming increasingly stressful. People are trying to fit more things into less time, juggle more tasks and achieve bigger and better results. The Art of Living is a worldwide organisation combating the growing pressures of life. The group works to eliminate stress across the globe and already has a presence in more than 150 countries. It is typically set up as a non-government organisation (NGO) however in Abu Dhabi it operates as a business (due to trade laws in the UAE).
Alok and Divya Puri have been teaching the Art of Living in Abu Dhabi and have helped more than 2,000 participants over the past ten years. The Art of Living offers a course which heightens awareness of the mind and body and enhancing their connection. ‘Over 37 million people have been touched by this organisation internationally,’ explains Alok.
‘Everyone wants to be happy,’ says Divya, ‘but it’s not as easy as just being happy.’ It’s about raising the awareness of mental patterns and achieving a state of awareness that can assist (through breathing) with stressful living. The course is six days with a complementary weekly refresher course and is available throughout the world.
Divya tells us, ‘There are two reasons we get stressed. First it’s external, physical. It means we need to do lots of things but the body and mind lack the energy to do them, we can’t because we don’t have the time or energy. The second is internal. We teach our participants this, stresses are in our own mind. They manifest in the body and mind and we work on teaching people to master their emotions, rather than letting emotions master them.’
The six-day course includes two days of delving into one’s own mind, before breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are introduced. Like the common saying ‘take a deep breath and count to ten,’ the Art of Living employs a similar philosophy about breathing used to calm. Divya says, ‘Firstly we talk to clients about the basis of their life – what is life, what is stress – it’s very interactive. Then we prepare them for breathing meditation techniques. We start the journey inwards. On the second and third day, we are taking them through a very powerful breathing technique that is a cleansing process. The fourth day, the person opens up – obviously different people react differently.
The fifth and sixth days entail yoga and meditation through an awareness and breathing.
When we become more aware of our own mind, we realise that stress is not exactly because of work pressure – more due to how we perceive things in our mind. If we don’t like a person, they will give us stress. If you are comfortable with people, there is no stress – but if you are not comfortable, of course stress comes,’ she continues.
The importance of breathing is tantamount to life (obviously) but Divya emphasises the importance of breath to connect the body with the mind. ‘In the first session, we work with participants to learn about themselves, and then we begin with yoga. Yoga means union – the union of mind, body and breath. What happens is, once we realise how we perceive these stressors, we can cope with the outer world. Secondly we learn how to handle this stress.’
Success stories are all across the world, with these classes helping people alleviate stress, improve mental health and improve physical health through breathing and relaxation.
The organisation is also heavily involved in philanthropic work, including working on rehabilitation with prisoners in Abu Dhabi jails.
‘The programme is Dhs750, but we don’t see it in terms of money – we do this on a voluntary basis. All the costs go towards social projects around the globe. For example, the typhoon in the Philippines, The Art of Living volunteers are over there now, helping,’ says Alok. ‘I am happy because I love doing this, and the money goes to people who need it.’
Classes are open to the public. The six-day course costs Dhs750, www.theartofliving.org (02 671 7549).