Thursday, June 17, 2010

To Find A Yoga School

I recently read an article by Lindsay Clinton titled 'Do I smell an opportunity here?'
on how India is not making use of its traditional resources like Yoga and Ayurveda effectively to enrich its economy and society.

There is a strong element of truth in this though the article is abrasively written and superficial in part. I quote:

"Ever since the microfinance investment story began in India, investors have been scouting the “next big ‘social’ thing.” One category has been overlooked—affordable wellness. India has cultural assets—yoga and ayurveda—that, if harnessed effectively, could create tremendous value for communities and the economy.

But without social entrepreneurs and investors willing to take on the work of professionalizing these assets, we may never know their true worth.

Case in point: yoga. Pick any major city in the world—London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Bangkok—and you will find a great studio and a menu of yoga options. Try to find the same thing in Delhi, Mumbai or Calcutta, and you’ll have a difficult time.

With the exception of a bright spot or two in Mysore, Pune, and Rishikesh, practicing yoga in its birthplace is either exceedingly dull or completely bastardized (“power yoga” does not a yogi make). Yes, there are plenty of spots for “yogations” (yoga vacations) but they cater almost entirely to tourists and are often taught by tourists. Why come to India to be taught by a German instructor? Where are the great Indian teachers and the great Indian studios?..."

Where indeed are the great Yoga 'studios' (a popular American term that has no translatable equivalent in Indian languages. Nor for that matter are there words for 'menu' and - 'yogations')? Not surprisingly, schools exist in those tiny places that have patronised and sheltered yoga through decades- princely states with erstwhile patrons such as in Mysore and their neighbouring areas where the influence spills over (Bangalore in this case), Munger- a tiny town in strife ridden Bihar- the state where Buddha was born and from where came much spiritual learning, Chennai- where the learned teacher Shri Krishnamacharya moved from Mysore, Pune - the home of one of his students, Bengal - another spiritual stronghold and many well known and little known places in the Himalayas.

It's true that one will not immediately find a school of one's choice in any random city in India, but the reasons for this are diverse and complex, and finally boil down to a matter of personal choice and options. Traditional forms of health and healing have not touched the common man's life to the extent that they could, but having viewed the system from both sides, I think this is because these systems are not intrinsically set up for easy systematization and replication in the form of assembly line units. Certain basic methods can be taught and used everywhere, and this is in fact being done- but without the necessary quality control. It is a difficult task, made much worse by superficial paramters of 'certification' issued by the government and other public and private organisations. For who is to say that their interpretation is the right one when there are hundreds of schools and amongst the many competent people, many more who are not that competent and some who are just phonies? And the aims of business are not always allied to those of promotion of health.

One forgets that Yoga (and allied systems such as Ayurveda) do not involve mere physical training and mental discipline. These aspects are undoubtedly important and effective- and one cannot deny that just learning these practices will do most people a world of good, but it is just as important to include in this framework a powerful component of ourselves- our spirit.

To be a teacher of yoga, or a facilitator of balance and healing is quite different from being an instructor of asanas or pranayama - and I feel that both are required in the world. Let us just not confuse or equate the two.

Let there be the super studios in London and Los Angeles and the bright spots in other parts and let them grow and help people in their own way. But let there exist alongside schools of deep learning and teaching that are not necessarily easy to find but not so difficult either, if one really looks for them.

1 comment:

Sonika Rajkotia said...

Thanks for the useful information. Your article is beneficial for us and those who are searching for yoga teacher training certification.

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