• Kalpana Karia and Yogita Mehta help understand yoga better and bust popular misconceptions.
• Indian High Commission is organizing special workshop commemorating International Yoga Day
On the occasion of International Day of Yoga, the Star talked to two passionate Yoga teachers who helped debunk some common misconceptions of yoga.
Yogita Mehta who has been working in this field for more than thirty years says, “The word 'yog' originates from the Sanskrit root 'yuj' which means to 'unite'. The purpose behind International Yoga Day is to have the world unite with their body, mind and soul realizing that we are all indeed one.”
Hopefully, the following information will help change some misconceptions about yoga day and give a fresh outlook.
Yoga is not Inaccessible
No, you do not have to enrol in an expensive class or buy expensive yoga equipment to practice the art. In fact, both teachers that are on board to burst such myths have never charged their students for any of their classes themselves. They think of yoga as a service to humanity.
With the emergence of the Internet, what is there that you cannot access! Although the physical presence of yoga teacher who can correct your postures is better than learning online, it doesn't mean its not a good option. There are also books and videos you could watch.
Kalpana Karia, the yoga expert who has written “Yoga for Health” inspired by her Kenyan Television series that aired from 1982 to 1986 where she shared her knowledge and practice says,
“It really puts me off at times because people do it commercially because yoga is not something you do for money. You can charge for classes when you're a qualified person, that's fine. But I see that you should not make it a commercial art. I don't like it to be very honest, I feel that they should have proper training, not just for the external health, it is for your mind, body and soul. So yoga is connecting your inner-self. When you're doing yoga, you are going inwards. It's an inward journey. That's what I feel. What most of the people do is that they do it very externally, and that's what I don't like. I'm trying to teach people the opposite.”
Yogita Mehta, on the other hand, has been organizing programs in different places with the help of the Indian High Commission to spread Yoga among the Kenyan population.
“Till now I visit 8 schools around Nairobi also now I’ve started going out from Nairobi. I went to Machakos for one yoga workshop as well,” he says.
Lucky for you if you stay in Nairobi, she takes free classes all weekdays except Tuesday at the Indian Residential Complex, Wangapala Road at Parkland!
Yoga is more spiritual than religious
People tend to think of Yoga as a complicated practice that involves an entire belief system having religious aspects of possibly 'Hinduism'.
We forget that no matter what religion one follows, all religions only try to put people on the correct path and help them become a better person. Whether it is the value of forgiveness in Christianity or the idea of giving to the poor during Ramadan, everything teaches us something that makes us a better person.
In the same way, Yoga teaches us the art of internal and external peace, not just for the body but also for the mind and soul. Yoga Expert, Kalpana Karia says,
“People have a misconception about religion. They think they are going to temple, or doing pooja (worshipping god), all that is religion. But religion is more serving your inner self first, coming to know your heart and that everyone has parmatma (god) in their heart. When you see god in everyone's heart you connect with them more. First yoga must bring peace within you, only then you can give it to others. Only then you can make others understand what true peace is. That's my word about religion. It's not a religion, and yet its the topmost religion.”
So, there it is. It's about connecting with the spirit inside ourselves. And it doesn't matter what religion your spirit follows.
You can do Yoga at any age and at any fitness level
Although it might be thought that yoga can only be practised if you're 'flexible', and if you are not, you might only start to reap the benefits once you are perfect in your postures and asanas. Karia stuns us with her personal experience to bust this myth.
Back in 2010, Karia suffered from a major car accident where she had nine fractures on her back. She almost lost her life.
Due to the fact that she was kept in the hospital under heavy drugs like morphine and her disbelief about modern medicine, she ran away.
Through the practice of her simple breathing techniques as she wasn't quite well enough to perform complicated asanas, she slowly started recovering. In 2014, except a little problematic knee, she recovered without any medication, surgery or doctors.
This was the time she came across International Day of Yoga, and attended a workshop that developed an urge within her to start teaching again.
“So that’s when I really started doing Yoga again. And I thought to myself, I have to start doing it, I have to start doing it, I have to start doing it. I Have to start teaching.. so that’s what put me into teaching. Because I was doing it on my own but everyone said no you can teach” she said.
With perseverance and a strong determination given to her by IDY, she trained herself hard and started learning all over again. And the very next year she conducted the IDY workshop all by herself. She regained all the flexibility that she has lost over the years. What a victory!
We often forget, its the small steps we take today that result in big outcomes later on. And we can't start our journey anywhere, at any time, and at any age.
Yoga can be a fully-fledged Yoga Routine
Gym enthusiasts and Fitness freaks have started incorporating Yoga in their fitness routine along with other parts that might include cardio and weight training. And that's great.
It is wonderful that Yoga is now being recognized around the world, but for the sake of this post, it is important to realize that yoga is a fitness routine on its own.
Karia tells us about a girl who came in with a different perception of yoga that she has now.
“So there was this girl who was coming to me, she was a fitness instructor, and she said she joined yoga because she was so much into the gym and running and all that. She was so hyper and I wanted to calm herself down, so that's why she started coming to my classes. But now she is doing a teacher training course for yoga. And she said that she feels yoga is included in the fitness as well. So she’s changing her lifestyle now.”
So yes, yoga cannot be categorized into just meditation or stretching but needs to be recognized as a magnificent science for the external and internal health of a person.
Yogita Mehta says, “when we make some yoga postures, we are playing with our body, with our breathing which affects our nervous system our digestive system, respiratory system and glands.”
Good news for people in Nairobi, Indian High Commission will organising a Yoga workshop commemorating International Yoga Day on 23rd June at Premier Club Ground, Forest road between 8:30 to 10 am in the morning.