Yoga has become so popular around the world that it almost mainstream. Many people seek its benefits and try to navigate the overwhelming varieties of commercialized yoga which claim to understand something about yoga. Yet do we know what they offer is real yoga? How can we decipher between correct understandings of yoga from wrong? Where shall we go to learn yoga and how to choose the right teacher?
Unfortunately, the reality is that most yoga studios are not teaching authentic yoga and their teachers are not teachers but merely instructors. These instructors lack the basic knowledge of yoga but claim to be number one in the world. Sadly, yoga has been turned into a “circus act” in order to attract attention and people. Yoga is often taught as an exercise but it is not an exercise. Yogic practices are the techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation. During yoga, respiration, metabolic rate and oxygen consumption rate slows down, body temperature drops, having specific effects on different glands and internal organs. In contrast, exercises speeds up oxygen consumption, heart rate, metabolism and temperature. A lot of sweating occurs and sometimes we feel exhausted. Although exercise also imposes beneficial stress on the body, it is not suitable for everybody. Exercise works on the physical body and the mind, but yoga, if practiced properly, works on all four levels of our personality; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The truth is, most instructors are giving emphasis only on physical practices because that is the “easy” part to teach. Often, people feel good after physical practices but this elation is temporary and superficial. Many people take part in yoga for misguided reasons such as loosing weight and to gain flexibility. However, the true benefits of yoga is to achieve a state of deep relaxation, peace, calmness and inner happiness, all of which can not be taught, but need to be experienced and could hardly be expressed in words.
The word YOGA means union. We aspire in yoga to reach a state where our minds, bodies and emotions are in union. When this union is attained, we work with efficiency and maximized brain potential. We can achieve this state only when we work on all four levels of our personalities. Application of yoga practices in our daily life is important to make our life better. But can we achieve this by doing only physical exercise? Yoga can take us on our inward journeys only through our proper understanding and practice of yoga. We have to dedicate ourselves to the correct and integrated approach of all practices from asana (physical posture), pranayama (breathing), relaxation and meditation. Each individual is unique, so it may be necessary to adjust the practices according to the individual’s specific needs. Regrettably, most yoga studios offer the same physical practices just named differently. The actual aim of yoga practices is to develop awareness, improve work efficiency, feel happy and healthy, and develop positivity. During this process of transformation, there are nice side effects like, weight loss, gaining flexibility and healing from different diseases. Yoga therapy is a beneficial contribution to mankind. With right selection of practices, we can prevent many diseases and manage our health to save money from costly medical treatments. Yoga is a science of the soul. It works on holistic principles of harmony and unification. It also creates balance in the nervous and endocrine systems and organs of the body. Effects of yoga practices extend beyond body and mind. It cannot be understand intellectually but only through correct practice and experience. In order to take full advantage of what yoga has to offer, we need to make yoga our lifestyle and not our exercise routine.