Can Yoga transcend the Western influence?


logo_design_v1_1 (3)For thousands of years, the great wisdom of yoga was transmitted from master to student through an initiation process. The deserving disciple was initiated into Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) by the grace of his teacher, who was a realized master or adept. Only then, was the practitioner assured of complete passage across the “ocean of phenomenal existence.”

The teachings of yoga were passed orally from master to student. The teachings were codified by Patanjali into 195 succinct phrases or sutras to represent the essence of yoga which ultimately means to “yoke”, purify and transcend the mind. To join the individual consciousness with Universal Consciousness.

These practices continued even as India was overrun by foreign powers who tried to bury the Indian culture and this precious gift to humanity. After the British invasion in the 1700’s, yoga survived in the forests, caves and mountains around India until the British left in the 1950’s. During the British Rule, the Ayurveda Institutions that survived were shut down to make way for “western” medicine.

Some Yogi’s such as Paramahansa Yogananda, came to the United States to spread the purest teaching of yoga, lest it be lost. Some yogi’s such as David Williams went to India to find the “perfect” yoga practice for him, only to be rebuffed by Patabbhi Jois, who refused to teach him Ashtanga Yoga for several months, since he was not a Brahman. Patabbhi Jois, keeper of the knowledge of Six Ashtanga Vinyasa Series, was 68 years old and working in a motorcycle factory when Williams begged him to teach him the ancient wisdom. Had Williams not persisted, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga may have stayed locked away in one man’s head.

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Fast forward 45 years and Ashtanga Yoga has blossomed all over the world because of one man’s need to know. Since that time, yoga has continued to explode into a worldwide phenomenon. There is even a tablet called the “yoga”. The term “yoga” is as ubiquitous as the term “aerobics” and is often spoken about as if it is another form of exercise. But, is it really yoga? Is Yoga really just another form of exercise? Can you get the purported benefits of yoga just by practicing yoga postures and not the rest of the practices?

Stripped of its foundations, the yoga that is being taught in yoga studios and gyms across the country bears little resemblance to the traditional teaching that you find in ashrams, such as the Sivananda Ashram and Satchitananda Ashram. They still follow the teachings of Sivananda which is why when you spend a week at either ashram, you feel transformed.

But, when you enter a “Hot Vinyasa” class and the temperature of the room is 105 degrees, and the teacher is calling out a series of postures and then expects the student to remember the order of the postures and keep the pace, it reduces the yoga class to nothing more than “exercise”. The problem is, doing the postures without intention and a connection to breath with awareness, it could actually have a negative effect.

Core yoga principles are being discarded for the sake of the “choreography”. In fact, a yoga teacher was told by the group exercise director that their club did not want “alignment” or “calm, yoga classes”. She was told that the club wants to promote their “yoga brand” which was “hot, loud, fast and fun”…

This new yoga mentality has had an effect on the yoga classes all over the US. Serious students of yoga who have observed the foundations of yoga being trounced by these ill prepared “yoga” teachers should take heart that things are about to change.

It is most auspicious that a Yogi was voted in as Prime Minister to the largest democracy in the world. In one of his first actions as a world leader, Prime Minister Narender Modi got the UN to declare June 21, 2015 the FIRST INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY. The vast majority of the countries were in favor of the Amendment as they canvassed the floor allowing the Amendment to pass without having to go to committee.

Almost simultaneously, there was a call to action by Yoga Institutions around the world, whereby the Council of Yoga Accreditation International (CYAI) was formed and a credentialing system for yoga leaders, yoga teachers and yoga therapists was established.

Research Institutions around the world joined in, including: S VYASA Institute, Kaivalyadhama Institute, The Yoga Institute, Life In Yoga and the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research, to name a few. The CYAI is concerned that the healing benefits of yoga will be lost on this generation of teachers, reducing yoga to a form of exercise rather than the holistic system of healing body, mind and spirit.

The essence of their collaborative effort pivoted on one concept: That all yoga practices adhere to the Yoga Sutras – the pervading theme being that yoga practices promote sukkam and shtira – calm and steady. No loud music, no quick movement, awareness of breath, allowing rather than pushing, etc.

The CYAI has five levels of certification:

· AYI – Accredited Yoga Instructor safely and effectively cue asana, pranayama, yoga Nidra, according to the teaching of the Yoga Sutras.

·AYT – Accredited Yoga Teacher can customize yoga practices for the individual, according to the teachings of the Yoga Sutras.

·AYTh – Accredited Yoga Therapist who is certified for remedial yoga therapy for specific disabilities or disease conditions.

·AYTP – Accredited Yoga Therapist Physician who is also a licensed physician.

·AYTPS – Accredited Yoga Therapist Physician Specialist who is certified as a AYTh, is licensed and a specialist in a practice specialty for Yoga Therapy.

Yoga teachers who wish to stay current with the International Standards for Certification may want to look into becoming an Internationally Accredited Yoga Instructor, Accredited Yoga Teacher or Accredited Yoga Therapist. Certification Exams are scheduled for Spring 2016.

Suzanna Ran, founder Yoga Therapy OM is a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher Trainer. Contact her for information
about private yoga therapy sessions and upcoming Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapy Training. 248-507-4008 or www.


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