What type of Yoga is suitable for Industry Workers? This is a seemingly straightforward question, which is likely to lead many to think of various yoga poses to counteract the body symptoms and disorders experienced by Industry Workers. However, is that really the “end all” solution or are there more to just poses or asanas?
As one embarks onto the journey of Yoga and learns of its philosophy and beliefs, one would realize that the question cuts across a broad spectrum and allows for various perspective and opinions. In order to illustrate this point, I would approach the topic in the following manner:
- Review the origin and philosophy of Yoga
- Defining the profile of Industry workers
- How the various streams of yoga can be adopted and practiced by Industry workers
- Typical physical symptoms experienced by Industry workers and how yoga can be beneficial
Origin and Philosophy of Yoga
The term Yoga stem from the Sanskrit work Yuj, meaning Union. Yoga refers to the union of the Individual self with the Universal Self, as well as the path and practices that one engages in, so as to achieve that union. According to Patanjali, who is known as the Father of Yoga, has defined Yoga as a conscious process of gaining mastery over the mind (Yoga Sutra :1.2), and by controlling the mind we reach our original state (Yoga sutra 1.3). The teachings of Yoga dates back more than 5000 years back and are documented and put forth in a number of ancient scriptures such as:
- The Bhagavad Gita
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
- The Upanisads
- The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
From the definition and scriptures, we can see the main objective of Yoga is not about physical practice. The science and philosophy of yoga is around control and culturing of the mind, leading to self-perfection. The various practices, techniques, disciplines of Yoga is to compensate and alleviate the weakness of the mind (Fear, Greed, Anger, Miserliness, Attachment, Egoism).
The manifestation of such weaknesses are affected by the mental and physical energy, which is known as Gunas :
- Tamas – Dull, lazy,inert
- Rajas – Energetic, active
- Sattva – balance, calm, harmonious
These Guanas exist in all of us, and fluctuates throughout the day and our lives, through yoga techniques and practices, we aim to regulate these energy and hence gaining control of the mind and attaining Equanimity of the senses. Asanas, is although the practice which draws the most attention and most visible by all, it is not the main objective. The philosophy that Yoga is built around goes much deeper.
Profile of the Industry Worker
The term Industry worker covers a broad range of industries and roles, and each having their own unique characteristics and demands, it is difficult to cover all industries and equally difficult just to focus on any particular one industry. Hence for the purpose of this topic, I will define the profile of the Industry Worker as an individual who is not holding a desk bound job, spends considerable amount of working hours outside the office environment, and has relatively degree of physical activities in their scope of work. Examples of such individuals would include but not limited to, construction workers, field engineers, nurses, chefs, etc. The following discussion around Industry workers will be in accordance to the above-mentioned profile.
How the various streams of yoga can be adopted and practiced by Industry workers
There are four streams of yoga, namely:
- Jnana Yoga , the path of Knowledge. It is believed that humans process buddhi, which is power of discrimination. This intellect allows us to form attachments, attractions and repulsions, hence the two main features of Jnana yoga is freedom from all desires and being totally in tune with oneself.
- Raja Yoga, the path of Will power. “Man is the maker of his own destiny” (quoted from Swami Vivekananda), hence one needs to know techniques to systematically direct our willpower to deal with such hurdles in life. This is the core of Raja yoga. It is characterized by asanas, pranayama and meditation practices. Patanjali has categorize the practice into 8 limbs, consisting of Yama (don’ts), Niyama (dos), Asanas (poses), Pranamaya (breathing practice), Pratyahara (control of senses), these make up Bahiranga yoga. The other 3 limbs are Dharana (focusing with effort), Dhyana (focusing without effort), Samadhi (super-consciousness), these make up the Antaranga yoga.
- Karma Yoga, the path of Action. It is a was of acting, thinking and wiling, where one acts in accordance to one’s duty without considering one’s personal likes and dislikes or self centered desires. One acts without attachment to the fruits of one’s deeds.
- Bhakti Yoga, the path of Emotion and Devotion. Its aim is to achieve self realization through devotion to God. There is also the element of yago (sacrifice) and Shraagati (surrender) in this path, on top just establishing loving relations.
It is important to note that while all of these paths has different focus, the ultimate destination of each of these path is Moksa which is the realm of perfection, silence, bliss, where one can be truly happy within, not affected by external environment and conditions. This concept in yoga is unity in diversity of paths
So, how do these paths apply to the Industry worker? I will seek to answer this question by the following illustration.
Scenario: JJ practices yoga where he finds it mentally and physically beneficial. He is a field engineer and spends his working hours on the construction site instead of the office. His work is physically demanding. Let’s walk through the events that can take place in JJ’s single work day.
Morning: JJ takes the train to work, which is fast and convenient. As it is morning peak hour, it is very crowed, and he has to squeeze his way into the crowded the train in order to make it on time to work. It can be uncomfortable and frustrating. JJ approaches the situation with calmness and takes a short meditation to calms his mind. He has accepted the situation does not allow the environment to affect his balance, he believes that the train is in fact a greener transportation option, which has wider benefits to environment. In this situation, he has adopted the path of Janna yoga.
At work : JJ reviews his daily tasks list and realizes that there is a critical machine breakdown and needs immediate repair. The affected machine is located beneath ground level in a confined space. He needs to lead his crew to investigate and fix it. At the machine location, it was physically challenging as he has to lower himself below ground level with heavy tools and working in a confined space is also mentally draining. He needs to persevere and complete his job and also to encourage his crew to complete the job as well. He was glad that his yoga practice has keep him physically fit and strengthened his will power to complete a difficult task. Here, the path of Raja yoga is followed. For industry workers, it is likely that they would need to deal with unpredictable situations and physically demanding challenges; hence the path of will power is one which would benefit them strongly.
Lunch: JJ takes his lunch break, and pondered about the difficulties of his work. He has decided to calm his mind and decided to perform a quick relaxation which he has learned during his yoga practices.
Back at work: JJ returns to the work location to review the progress, he needs to replace a faulty component. He immediately contacted the supplier to check if the parts were in stock, and to his relief, the supplier has one in stock. However, there was no one available to make the delivery. JJ faced the situation where he could either self collect the parts and complete the job, but it would mean to work beyond his normal working hours or, he could arrange for a delivery at a later date. But remembering that he had the accountability to complete the repair, he decided to self collect the component, and completes the repair. Here, the path of Karma yoga is followed. Industry workers are often exposed to the demands of the wider environment hence will in turn, be exposed to conflicts between duty and self.
After work: JJ and team have finally completed the repair and the equipment was back in operation. It has way passed his usual working hours. He thanked his crew for willing to stay on with him to complete the job, the team packed up for day and returned home. On his way back, JJ reflected on the events of the day and thought about the difficulties he has met, but was thankful that the job was completed. As he opened the door of his house, he was greeted warmly by his wife and children. At the end of the day, he realized that despite all the difficulties at work, his sacrifices were worthwhile, as long as he is providing for his family. He was again at peace with himself. Before retiring, he completes his day with deep relaxation techniques. The path of Bhakti yoga is followed here.
The above illustration demonstrated that all four streams of yoga would come into play depending on the situation that the Industry worker faces. Hence, it would be inadequate to define just one single stream as most applicable to the Industry worker, and ignore the rest. It would be more holistic to know and understand the 4 streams and uses one discrimination power to adopt as necessary, since all streams will lead to Moksa.
If JJ is not aware of the characteristics of the 4 streams of Yoga, he could have approached the events with frustration and allowed his frustration to manifest into more anger. This would in turn breed more negativity in his mannerism and he would probably express his anger to colleagues and family members. This would also cause mental and physical stress as he allows his anger and senses to surface out in an uncontrolled manner. If allowed to manifest further, the stress level will further snowballed to cause physical disorders like high blood pressure or even heart diseases.
Typical physical symptoms experienced by Industry workers and how yoga can be beneficial?
We have approached the philosophy and streams for yoga from a holistic angle and recommends that all four streams of yoga should be considered for the Industry worker. However, it is also not the intention to diminish the effects of physical practice, i.e. Asanas, which is one of the 8 limbs of yoga.
Given the environment and work nature of Industry workers, back strengthening would be important because their work activities would involve lifting of heavy equipment or objects.
Shoulder stiffness, weakened knees, hip immobility are also likely problems of industry workers.
In severe cases, the cushioning disk in between spinal vertebra, can be out of alignment or damaged, resulting in pressure on the nerve, causing severe back pain.
Back strengthening exercises such as back bend and sitting forward bending (pasimottanasana), cobra (bhujagasana) would be beneficial.
Industry workers also perform repetitive actions, such as lifting and bending. Such repetitive actions, typically conducted on just one side of the body, will result in body imbalances. Repeated actions or motions over a prolonged period of time, causes sore muscles. If unattended, the surrounding muscles and joints at the affected areas will become inflamed and adds pressure on the nerves, causing pain or numbness. Inflamed joints can result in arthritis, which can limits range of motion and affects lifestyle.
Yoga can help create body awareness and help the industry worker to take the necessary precaution to prevent injuries. Yoga works on lengthening the muscles. Musculoskeletal system are being worked, joints are being worked in full range of movement, building up mobility and flexibility.
Over usage of one side of the body (eg the right shoulder), will result in the other side being weaker, causing body imbalance. This can result in bad posture, and cause strain and stress to the imbalanced part which may result in pain. Performing asanas improves the blood circulation and ease muscle tension and act of focusing mind on breath, all these combined to soothe the nervous system, reducing stress and fatigue. In addition, yoga postures work the internal organs and stimulate the endocrine system to improve circulation and eliminate toxins. Twisting and bending asanas, adds pressure to the various hormonal glands and stimulates them in various ways and help regulate hormone secretion.
So, is there then one stream of yoga or one set of poses which industry workers to follow? It would be inadequate and limiting to carve out a specific scope just for Industry workers, without considering other qualities of various streams of yoga.
While yoga asanas does deliver benefits to counteract the physical ailments commonly found in Industry Workers, its benefits are not limited to physical improvement, but as they progress deeper into yoga, the morals and philosophy of yoga tend to become what one builds their practice around and the focus on perfecting the asanas then becomes secondary.
The practice of yoga consists of the understanding of various disciplines in thought, action to others and ourselves. The understanding and practice of the different streams of yoga as well as the 8 limbs of yoga, channels our energy in specific manner to improve the overall being, and attaining mastery of the mind and consciousness. Therefore, making a conscious effort to understand the characteristics of yoga and practicing the discipline of yoga in the daily events would be a more sustainable way for Industry Workers to reap benefits of Yoga, which apply to all yoga practitioners alike.
Prepared by : Nikole Kan , 31 Oct 2013.