Hong Kong-based Indian yoga teacher Yogaraj C.P. has set a new Guinness World Record by performing more than 1600 asanas for 40 hours and 15 minutes – without a break. He began the Maha Yoga Sadhana on February 13 and performed yoga on successive nights of February 13 and 14 before achieving the incredible feat on February 15. Yogaraja, who has been teaching yoga over the past 20 years and took a proactive role in popularizing yoga in Hong Kong, decided to create a new world record after the India-led resolution for declaring 21June as the International Yoga Day was passed at the UN last year.
Yogaraja also holds the Guinness World Record for doing 23 Yoga asanas while riding a motorcycle which he had achieved on 17 February 2011.
In an interview with me, Yogaraj speaks about why he has chosen Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) as his home, yoga’s immense spiritual values and why yoga must be made compulsory in every school curriculum.
You have been staying in HK since 2003. What makes you choose Hong Kong as your place of residence? What makes it so unique about living in HK?
What strikes me particularly about Hong Kong is its multi-cultural society. Indian community is well-tolerated by Hongkongers. They understand our culture; they also respect our culture.
I find many similarities between the Chinese and Indian culture. A US ambassador once said, “India has been conquering China for the past 100 years without even sending a single soldier, and only with the help of the culture.”
For example, all martial arts practitioners and many religious people worship Bodhidharma (the Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century CE). Bodhidharma travelled from Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu) to China 1000 years ago in order to preach Buddhism. He was the first person to teach Martial art, Medicine, and Mediation to the Chinese; if you go to the Shaolin Temple, you can see the biggest statue of Bodhidharma there.
Also, from the accounts of the Chinese scholar Yuvan Swang (the Chinese name is Xuanzang), who visited India, we come to know that cultural exchanges between the two neighbours existed for many centuries.
The squeaky clean Hong Kong city and its continued economic growth also fascinate me.I am overwhelmed by the infinite love showered on me by Hongkongers. Students from at least 10 different nationalities attend my class.
Tell us about your journey from a young boy to acclaimed yoga teacher and practitioner.
When I was five, I was initiated into yoga by my father S. Chidhambaram, who was in the Indian army. Later I learned yoga from yoga acharya A. Yesudas Antony from N.L.C. Sports Control Board, Neyveli. I had taken part in numerous yoga competitions and won many trophies since 1988.
In 1991, I won the State Yoga competition held in Tamil Nadu and was awarded the title ‘Yogaraj’ meaning “King of Yoga”.
In 1997, I was awarded “The International Best Yoga Demonstrator” title by the Pondicherry government. I also received awards from the chief ministers of Karnataka, West Bengal and Pondicherry for my yoga performance.
I began teaching yoga at 17. To boost my potential as a yoga teacher, I completed a Diploma in Naturopathy and Yogic Science at a teacher training course at Divine Life Society (Sivananda) in Chennai and received the title “Yoga Ratna”, (Jewel of Yoga).
Currently, I have been teaching yoga across Asia for more than 20 years and conducted workshops around the world. I hold two Guinness World Records in yoga: first, I performed 23 consecutive yoga postures while riding a motorcycle. The second one is 40 hours and 15 minutes yoga marathon, where I performed as many as 1600 different postures. Prime Minister Modi congratulated me when I achieved the feat on 15th February.
I also train those who want to become yoga teachers; some of my students are now teaching in Hong Kong and other Asian cities.
I founded my yoga studio, PranaYogam, at TsimShaTsui in 2011. All PranaYogam practices have one and only objective – helping people move forward in their personal journey of wellness and transformation through yoga practice.
Do you feel that yoga which had its origin in India and was taught by sages through ancient times should be made compulsory from early school days?
The idea of yoga’s origin in India by sages, I feel, gives it a religious overtone. Well, yoga isn’t a religious exercise; Yes, it must be made compulsory as a part of regular exercise for schoolkids and they should develop this skill all through their life.
Yoga, like swimming and cycling, must be taught to children right from their early years; doing asanas at a young age will be real fun for kids. Many private schools in India have introduced yoga in their school curriculum.
I hope the Modi government will be more proactive in making it compulsory in every school curriculum.
How popular is it among local Hongkongers? Have schools in HK introduced yoga in classes?
Yoga is well-received by Hongkongers. Currently yoga is more popular among girls in HK. Once a girl lands a job, the next thing she does is to join a fitness club.
Yes, there are some private schools which have introduced yoga in their extra-curricular activities. I am the first yoga teacher who has taught yoga in the universities in Hong Kong.
I teach yoga in City University of Hong Kong at Kowloon Tong. Students and young people must take up yoga seriously because they are the future of the nation. They should grow up with discipline and self-control. Yoga also shows how to achieve moral values in life.
You’ve created a new Guinness World Record. Please tell me about other professional achievements
In 1997 I got the best international Yoga demonstrator award from the International Yoga Festival committee in Pondicherry. In 2007, out of the three countries of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan, I got the Creative & Innovative award from Pure Yoga International Hong Kong.
In 2011, I was invited by the Colors channel (an Indian TV channel) to the programme called Ab India Thodega (meaning-India now will break the record)
I also performed yoga programmes on Shenzhen TV channel 5, and I have introduced rhythmic yoga in China through TV shows.
Yoga used to be practised by Indian rishis (sages) who were living in the Himalayas. Why do you think yoga has suddenly become popular?
It was popular for a long time. Maybe we didn’t know about it. If I am not mistaken, it was even mentioned in Nostradamus’ predictions. He talks about Pranayama and says India’s yoga will become popular across the world.
New age gurus like BKS Iyengar, Swami Satchidananda Saraswati, SwamiChinmayanada propagated yoga in western countries.
Most of the yogasanas are derived from the postures of different animals, reptiles, birds etc. What is the rationale behind this?
That’s a good question. We have many asanas postures resembling animals, for example, tortoise-like asana. When the tortoise anticipates an enemy attack, it goes inside the shell. This particular asana will help you retract all your senses and bring them to peace. Another one is simhasana. The posture of this asana is like a lion. When a lion roars, all the animals around it get scared. That’s the confidence of a lion. This simhasana will give you self-confidence and determination.
The rationale behind this is that animals have only five senses. However, to keep their body fit, they have an inbuilt sense that makes them adopt different postures. We human beings (having six senses) lack the sense of keeping our body in good shape. This is probably something we have to learn from animals. This is an area someone has to explore.
Do you feel that advanced research should be conducted for yoga therapy?
Researchers have been conducted in yoga. However, I am keen on conducting more advanced researches.
In this modern stressful life, people are suffering from many lifestyle-related diseases where yoga and breathing techniques are extremely beneficial. Your comments please…
Everyone must take yoga as part of his daily life activity like brushing the teeth, bathing and eating so that one remains healthy and fit as a fiddle.
What is your diet plan?
I had been a pure vegetarian since my school days. I became a vegetarian when I decided to take yoga as my profession. Since 2013 I have become a vegan (no dairy product, honey and no consumption of leather products).
Everyone must go back to a vegetarian diet because our body is capable of digesting only vegetarian food. If any student wants to become a yoga teacher through my guidance, he has to be a vegetarian first. Only then I teach them yoga teacher training course.