I have come across many articles lately both online and in yoga magazines about the pros and cons of yoga in the media. One of the main concerns about this issue is the misperception of yoga in society. We do not want yoga to be seen as a fitness class with visions of perfectly slim, toned women. We do not want yoga to be mistaken for an excersice with the aim to lose weight etc.
Yoga is for absolutely everybody and its main aim is not to be fit, flexible and toned. The true definition of yoga is ‘to cease the fluctuation of the mind’ and is traditionally used as a tool to assist one in achieving higher states in meditation and to deepen our awareness of ourselves and the world around us. It is not merely an exercise for the body but a philosophy for life.
The first thing a student should be taught when going to study yoga is that it is a system to achieve peace and unity in mind, body and soul, and has very little to do with gaining flexibility and muscle tone. In the little history we do know about yoga, we know that it was carefully and respectfully passed down in secret to avoid people twisting its tradition like a chinese whisper effect. Teachers of yoga would verbally pass down the tradition to their pupils generation to generation through scripture recitation to purposely avoid this.
Alignment of poses Another issue with yoga in the media is that a student who may be practicing yoga by watching YouTube videos may start off learning the alignment of a pose completely wrong (rather than been taught by a qualified teacher) and this can lead to damage of certain body parts long-term, along with having to retrain the mind and body when they eventually learn the correct alignment. Proper alignment is very important to know as it is doing the posture properly where your mind and body will receive the benefits.
Correct naming of poses (Sanskrit) Many students of yoga are learning the asanas - ‘postures,’ through their well known Western names rather than the traditional Sanskrit names. To learn the Sanskrit names is important because each one holds an important meaning to the posture and usually has ancient stories behind them.
Making yoga an egotistical practice? Some people may argue that yoga selfies and blogs etc are good because they promote popularity of yoga and encourage people to try it for the first time. There may be some truth in this. The other argument is that yoga is supposed to be a practice which aims to cease any egotistical attachments to the self and shouldn’t be used as a boost of ones ego.
So how do we avoid learning the wrong type of yoga from the media? Learn yoga from a qualified teacher in a class environment, along with reading well known and appropriate books. Remember that yoga is for everybody, everyone has completely different limits in poses and each person requires different props and instructions to be able to gain proper effectiveness from a pose.