Teaching Yoga for a Cause: Kamlesh Barwal

From wearing many hats to teaching the world the art to de-stress through yoga, Kamlesh Barwal has brought in good health and cheer in the life of millions across the globe.

1. What attracted you to the Art of Living? How has it changed you as a person and a professional?

I joined The Art of Living because my neurosurgeon instructed me to. When I was in college, I had some health issues and my doctor had read about the Sudarshan Kriya and its healing effects, so he suggested that I attend the course. After having practiced Sudarshan Kriya and pranayama for a couple of months, I felt myself change. Not just my physical health but also my mental and emotional stability improved; what began as a mere practice to get a healthy body and a stable mind has become my lifestyle now.

2. How does it feel to be practicing yoga for so many years?

This knowledge has helped me discover my inner strength as a human being and enhanced my ability to connect with the world outside in a much better way. My relationships, interactions, responses - everything has become so much better. Today, I am one of the most-traveled trainers with the Art of Living. I have lived in several villages for over a month on very basic amenities. I went to places where I knew not a soul and moved out of there with hundreds bidding me farewell in just a few months. Every moment I feel something inside of me growing stronger. Not that the situations are always favorable, not that I don’t meet with opposing events and people anymore, but my response to them has completely changed. I can just smile it away.

3. Today, people are aware of yoga but it is one of their lesser priorities. What do you think is the problem?

I don’t agree to this. Unlike a few years back, today more and more people are taking to yoga and meditation. Due to advancement in technology, the demand on one’s time and mind is much higher than before. The mind is working much harder and faster. Hence, the mind needs much more and better-quality rest. Sleep won't be enough. Yoga and meditation are the only solutions. People have understood this and are keeping yoga on their priority.

4. Do you believe that yoga and spirituality have any role to play in building a violence-free society? How?

Spirituality is the only solution. Lack of human values such as compassion, belongingness and kindness is the cause of aggression and violent tendencies. Aggression can occur in anybody; it is quite natural but one should know how to handle that aggressive tendency in a healthier way. It is the lack of spiritual knowledge that leads to accumulation of stress. Spirituality allows you to relieve stress, realize the inner beauty and gives you the opportunity to express better. Spirituality is the only way to achieve a violence-free society.

5. You have traveled the world over. What do you think is needed to bring about the much-needed change and to connect the world into a global family?

Education. We all need to know a little bit about cultures around the world. When people feel, ‘my way is the right way, all others are wrong', that is the cause of conflict and intolerance. Yoga and meditation can provide a much-needed method to unite cultures around the world, as it is based on such basic aspects such as body, breath and mind which transcend class, culture, race and religion. 

I believe that it's only spirituality and the experience of love which can bring true transformation in our society today. In my 14 years with the Art of Living, I have seen amazing transformation in numerous lives. I have seen Naxalites, prisoners and manic depressive patients change into beautiful human beings and, in turn, become instruments of change. 

The society is just a reflection of the individuals it consists of. An empowered and positive individual has positive impact on everyone around him. I am one such example and now my life is an inspiration for everyone around me. I feel completely connected to everyone; wherever I am, I am home. This is what we need the most: spiritual knowledge, the knowledge of the Self, the capability to handle our mind and emotions and techniques to get rid of stress

6. We all know that stress is the root cause of the ills in the society. How do we deal with this and how can we bring awareness to educate each and every corner?

In yoga, we say ‘Heyam Dukham Anagatam’, which means that the suffering which is yet to come can be avoided. Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. If we notice, every emotion and thought has a corresponding rhythm in the breath. Using these rhythms of the body and breath, yoga, pranayama and meditation are effective methods of releasing stress and living a healthy life.

We need to start wherever we are and do what we can. We are working towards this aim in various ways - social service projects benefiting the under-privileged, courses in prisons helping to rehabilitate and reform prisoners, and even apex courses aimed at providing tools to the corporate sector to achieve excellence at the workplace and eliminate stress. Today, yoga has come out of the esoteric realms of the rope-trick fakirs (mendicants) and bed-of-nails yogis to the august boardrooms of the corporate world. We would like to invite everyone to benefit from these time-tested techniques and help eliminate stress from the society.

7. With more and more people becoming health-conscious and turning to practices such as yoga, what role do you think technology can play in taking yoga to millions across the world?

Technology has already played a major role in disseminating information about yoga to millions. Today, from online classes to encyclopedias of yoga, everything is available on the Internet. There are newer technologies such as Google Hangouts and Twitter Town Halls, which can be leveraged to spread awareness and disseminate the knowledge of yoga effectively. Facebook is a phenomenon by itself, which has also enabled yoga teachers and students to network and share resources. Of course, the Internet is no replacement for hands-on experience, yet it can be a valuable tool to supplement and enhance the classroom experience. However, technology without spirituality can be destructive, so we must not neglect the technology of consciousness, that is spirituality. Both can together transform the world. As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says - Technology has made the globe into a village. Spirituality will make it a family. 

8. The recent times have seen people coming out to strongly voice their opinion through social media. You being a very active user of the social media yourself, how do you think it can be used as a tool to bring out social transformation?

The Vedas themselves proclaim ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ - a one-world family. Technology is making the Vedic proclamations a reality today. Any tool can be used both for good or bad. However, given the open and truly democratic nature of social media, one can see it being used effectively to drive what the society needs. As a tool for connecting the teacher and student, social media offers an invaluable resource. At the same time, it provides an effective way for transforming the society.

9. Handling many roles at a time, yet pursuing a global vision. What is your secret to the art of management?

Yoga and Meditation!

10. What role do you envision for yourself and the society in the years to come?

We have a lot to do. Each one of us will have to be an inspiration and support for many around. The best form of service is uplifting someone’s state of mind.

I feel very fortunate to have been born in a time when, through technology, I can influence and inspire thousands with just the click of a mouse. This is an immense power. I take this opportunity to invite everyone to use the technological advancements for bringing in a positive change in the society. 

Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Read More