As stated in my mission statement, my objective in teaching yoga is to help my students develop their personality at all levels – physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. As yoga has gained in popularity, its original message has been watered down to make it more accessible to larger and more diverse groups of people. As such, for most practitioners , yoga involves simply practicing some physical stretching (asanas) and deriving benefits only at the physical level.
“Yoga is not about how good you ‘look’ in a pose but how good you ‘feel’ in the pose”
I am deeply influenced by and committed to following the philosophy and practice of yoga as expounded by Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. As per the Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as the "control of the fluctuations of the mind-field". To achieve this goal, he has given us the eight-fold path of yoga called Ashtanga Yoga. Physical postures (asana) which is what most people seem to imply when they talk about yoga is only one of these eight limbs. The objective of practicing asana and pranayama (breathing techniques) is to develop a body which is strong and flexible, and a mind which is free from worry and tension so that we can develop control over the mind through meditation.
In my yoga classes, I emphasize the importance of practicing asanas on a regular basis since a healthy and disease-free body is a basic requirement to pursue the higher goals of yoga. It is, however, important to keep the main purpose of yoga in mind while practicing any of the eight limbs of yoga. In my classes, I try to present the basic concepts of the yoga philosophy in very simple and practical terms which can be applied not just to yoga on the mat but to life in general. For example, the principle of ‘ahimsa’ (non-injury) which is one of the five Yamas, can be easily applied to our own yoga practice by making sure that our practice is safe and free of injury. We do that by maintaining complete awareness at the levels of the body, breath and the mind. Maintaining total awareness is what differentiates yoga from other forms of physical exercise. When you go on a treadmill, for example, you could be watching TV or listening to music while mechanically going through the moves of walking or jogging on the machine. In yoga, on the other hand, we try to remain totally mindful of what is happening to us at all levels – body, breath and mind during our practice. Having practiced awareness on the mat, we can carry the same concept off the mat and apply it to events and situations in our day-to-day life. This will help us a great deal in responding to situations properly thus enabling us to cope with otherwise stressful situations.
Music on treadmill
Another very strong guiding principle of my teaching is to guide each student in their practice based on their specific physical condition, ability and limitations. When students join for the first time, I have them fill out a registration form which gives me some background information including any special physical condition that they might have. Throughout the yoga practice, I guide them with precautions, contraindications and modifications that they can use to get the most out of their practice. Since yoga is ultimately about the mind, I tell my students, "yoga is not about how good you ‘look’ in a pose but how good you ‘feel’ in the pose".
Practice of yoga offers tremendous benefits at the physical and physiological levels. It is known to provide therapeutic benefits for a large number of common ailments – blood pressure, headaches, anxiety, stress management, heart problems and others. However, I emphasize that yoga is not a pill for quick relief from any given condition. Yoga must be developed as a life-style and the benefits begin to unfold over time. As I am not a doctor, I cannot specifically provide any guarantees for cure from specific ailments. All I can say is that yoga, for centuries, has been practiced with known benefits. Science is only playing catch-up with what the yogis have told us for millennia.
As many of you know, I am an independent yoga teacher, not associated with a yoga studio or a health club. I try my best to align my teaching schedule so more people can attend these classes. I offer most classes in the evening or in the morning.
I feel truly fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to work with my students and offer them any help that I can in making them healthier and happier in pursuing their life’s objectives. I endeavor to keep the classes light-hearted and fun so we can all have an enjoyable experience. I am always open to feedback and suggestions.