Did You Know ?

Nature and Ancient Indians- Part IV

Yoga & Well-Being

Geeta Verghese

The universally timeless principles of Yoga are as relevant today as they were in ancient times. In Sanskrit, Yoga means "to unite” and aims towards harmonizing mind, body and soul to achieve a state of oneness with the universe. By eliminating, stress, ill health, and anger, yoga aims to achieve a state of peacefulness, vibrant health, and love towards all creation. The Yogic system lays down elaborate prescriptions for gradually gaining physical and mental control and mastery over the "personal self", both body and mind, until one's consciousness has intensified sufficiently to allow for the awareness of one's "real Self" (the soul, or Atman). So, even though the techniques are important in yoga, it is the ultimate goal that should always be kept firmly in mind.


There are three main aspects of yoga. These are:


The various yogic asanas while making the body flexible and strengthening the muscles, aim to improve blood circulation and functioning of specific organs in the body.


Pranayama is an effective tool to calm and energize the body and mind. All these asanas are to be properly coordinated with inhalation, exhalation and holding of breath.

Mediation is a means to still the mind's restlessness. Regular meditation trains the mind to be calm, centered, relaxed and detached.

 By helping us to get in touch with ourselves, Yoga heightens our senses and makes us sensitive to the natural order of the non-human realm. Yogis devised their asanas partly by observing how animal instincts work in the wild. They observed how animals like cats relaxed by instinctively stretching and arching the spine in both directions.  Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow while sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Asanas are also based on a sound knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. Yogis knew that placing the body in certain positions would stimulate specific nerves, organs and glands.


 Hatha Yoga lists several poses named for animals. Some examples are the Cow Head's Pose (Gomukha-asana) the Tortoise Pose (Kurma asana) the Rooster Pose (Kukkuta asana) the Peacock Pose (Mayur asana) and the Lion's Pose (Simha asana). Other asanas named for animals, include the Serpent Pose (Naga asana), the Cobra Pose (Bhujanga asana), the Locust Pose (Salabha asana), the Crow Pose (Kakasana), the Eagle Pose (Gauruda asana), the Frog Pose (Manduka asana), and the Scorpion Pose (Vrischika asana), to name a few.


The practice of such asanas has an emotional effect that goes beyond mere strength or flexibility of the body. In the performance of the Peacock pose, one feels a sense of balance, a sense of pride, an affirmation of one's ability to move competently in the world. In the Cobra pose, one feels both a tremendous gravity and a rising up, a sense of being weighted and glued to the earth, yet yearning and stretching to rise above. In the Lion pose one feels positively regal, refreshed and energized.


Yoga involves recapturing our animal physicality by reconditioning the body to establish itself within a non-technologically enhanced environment. In that sense, we learn to be empathetic and connected with the natural world from our experience of and relationship with animals.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)                                Cobra


Locust Pose ( Shalabhasana)                               Locust


Did You Know ?

The return of the Indian Warbler



The return of the Indian Warbler

-Can we save its habitat?





The large billed reed warbler, or Indian warbler, has brought focus on conservation of wetlands, says S.Ananthanarayanan.


A specimen discovered in Thailand has shown that this bird, so far thought to be extinct, is still breeding - and the search for larger populations has started.


A century ago


Acrocephalus Orinus belongs to the genus Acrocephalus, which means ‘flat headed’. This family is part of the great clan of ‘sparrow-like’ or perching or song-birds, and is insect-eating and short distance migratory and is associated with marshes or wetlands.


The species known as the Indian warbler was last seen in the Sutlej valley of Himachal Pradesh in India, in 1867. The specimen is not well preserved and there has always been a doubt – was it a separate species or just a variety of 2 similar birds, the clamorous reed warbler or Blythe’s reed warbler. It was only recently that DNA tests confirmed that it was a separate species.



In March 2006, ornithologist Philip Round, of Mahido University, Thailand, was banding birds at a wastewater treatment centre near Bangkok. Banding is to put a light metallic ring, with a unique number, around a bird’s leg.  


The bird has to be captured and the ring is placed with great care and skill, so that the bird is not traumatized. But the bird can then be monitored, by the same team or with the help of teams the world over.

Migration and breeding habits, life spans and population estimates then become possible.

So Philip Round discovered this bird which he immediately recognized as not the usual ones he was banding but a specimen of the long extinct large billed reed warbler! He had to be sure, of course. He took many photographs and also collected 2 feathers for DNA analysis. Analysis has now proved that the bird was indeed the same as spotted in Himachal Pradesh 140 years ago.

Ornithologists in India and elsewhere are excited and eager to discover where larger populations are roosting and whether they are threatened.

The habitats

The genus inhabits marshes and wetlands. The recent specimen was found in the water laden inner gulf of Thailand. “This shows how important it is preserve our own wetlands and save the remarkable biodiversity they support”, says Dr Rahmani, Director of Bombay Natural History Society.

India has an estimated 3.5 million hectares of wetlands.  The area of the whole Mumbai Metropolitan Region is 4,35,500 hectares. So the wetlands we have are about 8 times the size of Greater Mumbai. But these are fast disappearing as adjoining urbanization and coastal development or reclamation gobble them up.

The wealth of wetland that we have may still throw up communities of our long lost warbler. We cannot say how the Indian warbler disappeared from India and how it turned up in far off Thailand. While we now look for plucky little bird in places where it may be breeding, we must also make sure that such places continue to exist for this and other species.

For what our wetlands preserve are not just rare species of birds – they also host invaluable insect and plant varieties that must have marshes or bags to survive. Wetlands are then resources to guard and nurture, rather than exploit for only building highways and residential complexes. If we destroy our environment, the cities that we build may not be worth living in.

[The writer may be contacted at simplescience@gmail.com]


We have a photograph of “Warbler on a lemon tree” at the following link at http://www.wildscapes.net.  Is it a reed warbler or Blythe’s warbler? Can anyone respond?



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