It is not circus, yoga industry escapes scrutiny, feel experts

An injury during a sport is quite common. But if it happens during a fitness activity, it makes a pretty good headline.
Yoga is a practice that tones human body and soothes the soul. But with rapid commercialisation of this ancient science, pain and injuries are also reportedly on the rise along with its popularity.
Experts bemoan that yoga instruction, which is supposed to be a ‘guru to student’ learning, has now become a group affair with a large number of people being packed in a studio and taught by self-claimed experts in this centuries-old ascetic discipline.
Adding to it are the online tutorials which are subscribed by many who consider yoga as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch and breathe in the most complex ways.
Increased popularity should attract increased scrutiny, but in many cases the yoga industry escapes such vigilance, feel the experts.
Yoga and asanas are related to breath control, simple meditation and specific bodily postures for health and relaxation.
“These are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul,” says Dr Pradeep Raghavan, an Ayurvedic physician and a yoga expert at Herbs and Roots, Muscat.
The science of yoga imbibes more than this. The term yoga is very much overused and misunderstood nowadays. It is often reduced to the status of a fad, he says. “It is very unfortunate to see the practice of such a highly evolved systematic practical science reduced to the level of street vending for petty commercial gains.”
While practicing yoga, the body, breath and mind are seen as a union of these multi-dimensional aspects of each and every human being.
“Many wrong and incomplete teaching have been propagated in the name of yoga. The so-called self-proclaimed teachers have no idea about the true purpose of yoga,” says Dr Pradeep.
Yoga is often misunderstood and taught as an exercise regimen consisting of physical posture. It’s more like, blind leading the blind, he adds.
The system and various techniques of yoga cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of internal peacefulness and clarity of the mind. It is a system that is designed to cultivate health and happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness.
Prema Arun, co-founder, Shankara Yoga Kendra, Muscat, says yoga is an art of right living and an integrated system for the benefit of the body, mind and inner spirit.
“Unfortunately today, numerous yoga brands all over the world are being used for commercial purposes,” she points out.
One needs to check the certification of a teacher. Yoga, for some teachers, is a business and they run with the mantra ‘One size fits all’. This comes with its own health hazards like injuries to the back, knee, neck and in extreme cases, fractures.
She believes that modules have to be customised for the individual depending on their needs and constitution.
“Our goal should be to seamlessly blend yoga and everyday life in the context of wellness. Yoga is not a brand and does not belong to any single individual,” she adds.
According to Prof Marc Cohen from the School of Health Sciences at RMIT University, exercise itself is inherently risky.
Yoga, however, “has a safety aspect in that it encourages being totally mindful with your exercise, so in fact you minimise any chance of injury”.
Yoga is less risky than other types of popular exercise, such as running. There should be no pain, and you shouldn’t be stressing your body at all, he says. “As a physician, I have come across many patients with health complications because of improper teaching and practice of physical postures or asanas,” says Dr Pradeep,
Yoga postures are very effective in its true form and harmful otherwise, a double-edged sword.
Yoga is a science to be taught or learned in a monastic style or something very close to that, master to disciple. These days there are many fake teachers and it is hard to know how to distinguish the true master from the many imposters.
While most of us practice yoga for fitness and to maintain flexibility, yoga also has a reputation for being able to treat an array of health problems, from carpal tunnel syndrome to managing pain during pregnancy.
“If you mix both the ignorance of what yoga truly is and the convenience of online studying… you end up with teachers that truly may cause harm to your body. And if you’re that teacher, you might cause harm to others’ bodies,” adds Dr Pradeep.