An Unlikely Source For Meditative Study
By JEFF FEINMAN
In recent years, the American public has been soaking up an India-based meditation practice known as yoga. The art has become so popular, that it has been tried in Rikers Island prison and has even spawned a Queens Public Television show.
Sahaja Yoga is an open form of meditation that focuses on awakening the kundalini, an energy within the body that when ignited helps to achieve self-realization. “People of different countries and different religions can experience Sahaja Yoga,” said Anna Mancini, a QPTV producer. “Most people think it is all about posture, but the word ‘yoga’ means union, so when you start doing it, you are seeking a connection with the divine.”
Now, instead of zoning out in front of the TV, people in Queens can get help bringing their minds into balance thanks to the boob tube.
Mancini says that Sahaja Yoga is such a powerful form of enlightenment that Rikers Island prisoners took to it very enthusiastically. “We went there for two years to bring yoga for the prisoners,” she said. “It was tremendous because we’d have these men come into the room all chained up, and the very first program that we had, there were 40 men meditating. They loved it because they said it was the first time they really felt at peace.”
The power of Sahaja is so enlightening, Mancini said, that it has the ability to reform even the hardest of criminals. Prisoners ranging from murderers and drug dealers to teenagers in juvenile halls participated in the classes.
Shri Mataji, who was born in India in 1923, developed Sahaja Yoga in 1970. Her many followers believe that there are seven energy points, or chakaras, on the body that can be balanced by awakening the kundalini. When self-realization is achieved, a person will feel a cool breeze on top of their head. If there is a feeling of burning, then the body has not achieved such balance.
Many people have attested that practicing yoga is very beneficial, from curing health ailments to ridding them of bad habits like smoking. It has also been said that through its awakening of the subtle nervous system, yoga can help cure psychosomatic diseases and emotional problems.
The QPTV show, titled “Sahaja Yoga,” explores the many benefits of the art. The show plays on Channel 35 each Monday at 4:30 p.m., and repeats on Channel 56 on Friday at 10 p.m.
Seaburn Books in Astoria offers free yoga classes in its basement on Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m. The bookstore is located at 33-18 Broadway. To find out more about Sahaja in Queens, visit www.yoganewyork.org or call (212) 269-YOGA.