Everything made sense. I’m not one for reading self-help books, so perhaps I wasn’t the best person to review Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide To Joy. But to my surprise I found myself riveted by this debut book by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder and head of the Isha Foundation, a nonprofit organisation based at the Isha Yoga Center in India.
The author makes it clear in his Foreword that this isn’t a self-help book, even if he does provoke readers into questioning their approach to life with his own outlook on how to bring joy into one’s life – which, he reckons, is what everyone is searching for, though in very different ways.
Instead of being pedantic, the book is practical and relatable. Everything makes sense and seems logical.
After a brief introduction, Inner Engineering starts with the story of Sadhguru (as he is reverently called by the millions of volunteers registered with the foundation) and his journey to becoming a yogi (a practitioner of yoga). As he puts it, this is so readers can know the “authorial company” they will be keeping should they choose to read the book.
Here we learn a little about young Jaggi Vasudev, the youngest of four siblings whose father was a physician and mother, a homemaker in Mysore, south India. He was a precocious boy who found school boring and often skipped it to wander nearby forests to observe nature. In the evenings, he’d join his friends in playing a game of jumping into a well and climbing out again. Seems inane but he explains it was dangerous and therein lay the challenge: “If you didn’t do it properly, your brains could become a smear on the wall”.
One day while playing, an old man joined in, and jumped down the well and climbed back up quicker than any of the young boys could. Jaggi, who was 12 at the time, was obviously impressed with the old man, who introduced himself as Malladi-halli Swami.
The swami persuaded Jaggi to learn yoga under him, thus introducing Sadhguru to yoga for the first time.
The ancient science of Hatha Yoga, says Sadhguru (stressing the fact that it is a science) is about understanding the body’s mechanics and using physical postures to channel and drive one’s energy in specific directions. The aim is to align an individual’s inner geometry with the cosmic geometry. Hatha yoga, he stresses, is not a form of exercise.
“If you have observed yourself, when you are angry, you sit a certain way; if you are happy you sit a different way; if you are depressed, you sit another way. For every different level of consciousness or every psychological state your body naturally tends to assume certain postures. The converse of this is the science of asanas (postures in yoga). If you consciously get your body into different asanas, you can elevate your consciousness,” he explains.
And it makes sense.
The book is filled with little gems – provocative statements and ideas that make readers rethink how they deal with problems or life situations. This is the inner engineering he talks about, that is central to the programmes offered at his foundation.
Sadhguru’s book is dotted with anecdotes and stories that help illustrate his points.
Early on in the book, in the chapter titled “The Way Out Is In”, he tells the story on a woman who went to sleep and had a dream. In it, she saw a hunk of a man staring at her. He started coming closer … so close she could feel his breath. She then asked him, “What will you do to me?” to which he replied: “Well, lady, it’s your dream!”
That rather hilarious anecdote is his way of telling us to take control of our lives or, at the very least, our thoughts and our emotions. While we can’t always control the events around us, we can control what’s inside us. The way out, he keeps repeating throughout the book, is inside us all.
“The human mechanism is the most sophisticated physical form on the planet. You are the greatest piece of technology but the problem is you don’t know where the keyboard is. It’s like you are handling a super computer with a pickaxe and a wrench!” he says.
Physical postures alone, he clarifies, isn’t what Hatha Yoga is about – they are just one aspect of the science.
“What’s important is the way you approach it. Hatha Yoga doesn’t mean standing on your head or holding your breath. It is the science of using the body to hasten one’s evolutionary process. It is the preparation you need to start any journey of transformation,” he says.
At the end of each chapter, the author leaves readers with little exercises (“sadhana”) or tools to help put the ideas he introduces in his prose into practice.
Definitely, this isn’t a book you can finish off in a day or two. Though Sadhguru’s writing style makes it very readable and engaging, there are so many points to ponder in each chapter (sometimes each page) that it can be very overwhelming if consumed at one go. But if you are in search of something new and different, or if your routine isn’t bringing you the joy or satisfaction you are seeking, you might want to flip through this book. It’s certainly food for thought.
Speaking of food, the chapter on diet isn’t bad either. It doesn’t preach vegetarianism, don’t worry, but it may make you reconsider your diet!
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev will be at the Mines International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Mines Resort City, Seri Kembangan, Selangor, on Jan 21 for a session called ‘Meet, Mingle, Meditate’. For more information, go to malaysia.ishayoga.org/sim-2017.
Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide To Joy
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau, nonfiction