I have added a new page to my Art of Living section.
Because the section tends to draw the most web traffic, I thought it was time to update some of its content and I chose to add a page on whether the Art of Living Foundation could be considered a religious cult or sect. Cult and sect are culturally charged words and any understanding of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organization will depend on your own cultural and religious background and beliefs. I will be cautious about passing judgment.
The university environment can be one of the most stressful settings and the Art of Living Foundation has had a long-standing program for students.
Art of Living UT promotes yoga to relieve stress among students: “While the 2 a.m. Wendy’s run for french fries and a Frosty is a frequent and tempting stress-management method for many UT students during finals, there is a healthier way to cope with the strain the ensuing weeks will inevitably bring: yoga. Art of Living UT, an organization based on the global Art of Living Foundation, offers stress management workshops and conducts service initiatives around the world. Its mission is to help individuals get rid of stress and find inner peace. Art of Living UT promotes these same teachings at UT through free yoga and meditation classes for all students throughout the semester. The UT organization will hold its final yoga session of the semester Monday, giving students the perfect study break before finals officially begin.”
The trick is for each person to find the pose, sequences or practices that allow the release of tension. It can take more trial-and-error than just taking a pill.
Here’s another story about yoga classes at the Hillsborough Community College (Iowa) and why the school was promoting it.
I have to admit something. Most of my visitors don’t come here to read about my yoga practice and other jottings.
They come to check out my pages on the Art of Living Foundation, sudarshan kriya and sahaj samadhi. I get a huge amount of traffic from google.in. Sometimes, they will ask questions about the practice or where to find a teacher or whatever. I am not very qualified to talk about AoL practices. I am not one of their trained and certified instructors. I haven’t been to the maja kriya (group practice) in at least four years, even though the Washington DC National Chapter has great facilities for classes and yoga (Meridian Yoga Studio) on 15th Street, NW. For a long time, I let my kriya practice lapse as I concentrated on hatha yoga. But this summer, I started to return more regularly to my breathing practice, and now I try to fit it in everyday, but it’s closer to five days a week.
In many ways, I’ve become less methodical with my kriya now. I don’t freak out if I don’t get the exact number of repetitions of pranayama that are prescribed. I’ve also softened my approach: I used to be a Type-A breather who tried to get the biggest volume of air in and out of my lungs as fast as possible. Ever since Howard Rontal liberated my diaphragm, I’ve become more mellow in my breathing practice because the same volume of air seems to flow without as much effort. I pay more attention to the quality of my breath.
I’ve also added my personal touch to the kriya practice. In between each exercise, I fit in yogic stretches for my arms and shoulders so that I open up my rib cage and broaden my shoulders as much as possible. I also need to stretch my legs if I am seated on the floor; otherwise, my legs will be numb by the end of the session.
I fit my routine in whenever I can. If I have 15 minutes to spare before going to work, I do it before going to the Metro station. At work, I may look for a vacant meeting room during lunch or on a break. Otherwise, I practice in the evening after dinner or my yoga class. On the weekends, it’s a nice boost of energy in the afternoon because I am usually dragging after yoga class in the morning.
Now that I am writing about the AoL kriya practice, it reminds me that I really should go to a maha kriya. There is nothing like 10-20 people breathing in unison to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s high-pitched voice chanting the pace of the breath.
Priyanka asks whether I have access to Ravi Shankar Guruji’s audio tape of sudharshan kriya. If you have not taken the Art of Living Level One course (or gone to group sessions, which require that you take the intro course anyways), you will not have heard the taped audio of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar leading a class in this pranayama practice. It’s actually a longer, more intense version than the one done on a daily basis. And, of course, there is RS’s distinctive, high-pitched voice that becomes a metronome for your breathing.
This tape is reserved only for AOL courses and the group sessions that are led by certified AOL volunteers/instructors. It’s also called the “Long Kriya.” That means that the RS-led kriya happens under the AOL Foundation’s auspices. I am told that each year a new version of the tape is sent out. So if you want to get the full-blown show, you have to participate in AOL activities.
Priyanka, if you need help, get in touch with your instructor or attend a few of the group sessions. The first three steps of the daily practice are standard pranayama (yogic three-part breathing, Bastrika and Omkar) and can be found on the web or in yoga books. And don’t worry: it’s not a question of doing the kriya right or wrong. Just do it, and let the blessings flow.
PRESS RELEASE Campaign for a “Stress-Free, Violence-Free America” Launched at the Art of Living Foundation’s Gala Silver Jubilee Celebration at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. I did not see that the big event got much coverage in the U.S press. This Utah TV station did pick up something, but it was geared to an appearance by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Salt Lake City. Ironically, the event got more coverage in Asian media than in the States. Here is the official site of the event
and another on a second one — Art of Living sites tend to proliferate.
Sri Sri has the same message in India as in the States: Ravi Shankar initiative to eradicate untouchability because the Dalit caste is still discriminated against in much of rural India, and perhaps still in the cities too.
By the way, the Washington headquarters has been completely refurbished and is now fully operational.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be participating in the U.S. leg of the 25th anniversary of the Art of Living Foundation here in Washington, DC with a Gala at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on March 28. You can purchase tickets online, with tickets ranging from $50 to $250. There will be other events. The AOL has pulled in a lot of high-profile backers with keynote addresses by House Majority Leader Hon. Steny Hoyer, Senator Joe Biden, Indian Ambassador Vijay Nambiar. The event will be the occasion for unveiling of the Universal Declaration of Human Values. This will be the culmination of more than three or four years of work to increase AOL’s presence in the U.S. Capital.
The Art of Living Foundation’s DC Chapter has a physical home, located near Columbia Heights in the District:
2401 15th Street NW.
Washington DC, 20001<
They will be having a Maha Kriya (large group practice of Sudarshan Kriya) at the new place on Saturday, September 23 at 4:00 pm. They also have a new web site and address: [ http://www.artoflivingmetrodc.org/AOL/Home.aspx ]. There are some pictures of the new headquarters. Very impressive.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be coming to Washington, DC on Wednesday, May 3. It’s part of his One World Family Tour. You can see the rest of his U.S. schedule on the Art of Living’s events site. I went to one of his sessions two years ago and came away impressed by the atmosphere, the vibrancy of the people and Sri Sri’s calming demeanor and message. I don’t think I will be able to fit it in my schedule this time around.