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The ‘yoga industry’ is thriving like no other today. Everyone from the ordinary and the famous, the old and the young, the healthy and the suffering, have turned to this ancient Indian discipline that promotes physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Yoga does prove effective in healing many of the problems we encounter on a daily as well as long term basis, but that happens only when it’s practiced in a wholesome manner under expert guidance.

While yoga is gaining immense popularity, many modern-day practitioners are losing out on its true essence. A physically challenging session divested of the mental and spiritual aspects is no longer yoga. And nothing can be more wrong than practicing those complicated asanas, wearing body flattering fitness gear while your mind is filled with thoughts of Instagram likes! (Also read – Yoga: A Misunderstood Legacy)

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A large part of the problem lies not in the way yoga is being practiced but the way it is being taught. Anyone and everyone is becoming a yoga teacher these days! All one needs is a slightly flexible body, a three to six month certification course, and a fair amount of self-advertisement. Safety, quality and caution can be conveniently thrown out of the window meanwhile. Learning from these barely trained ‘professionals’, who themselves have a lot to learn, can be harmful, even leading to substantial damage for a lifetime. They wouldn’t really know which asana can cure your pain and which one might worsen it. And they sure as hell don’t know about the spiritual side of yoga which only comes with years and years of dedicated practice.

Did you know that there are more than seven different types of pranayama alone, which depending on your body constitution, season, purpose, etc. can help cure and cleanse your body internally? Plus, every individual’s body is different and when it comes to yoga, your teacher is almost a doctor. And there’s no way anyone can learn to read a body in just a few months.

Yoga is an institution that requires lifelong commitment and there’s no shortcut to learning it or teaching it. On International Yoga Day today, we urge you to practice yoga safely and authentically under the guidance of trusted institutes such as these (in no particular order):

1. Association for Yoga and Meditation, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Set up in 2005, the Association for Yoga and Meditation is one of the oldest yoga ashrams in the yoga capital of the world–Rishikesh. It offers internationally certified 200-hour and 300-hour intensive yoga teacher training course as well as a 500-hour multi-style teacher training course, including courses in Philosophy, Asana Alignment, Pranayama, Meditation, Human Anatomy and Physiology. It also offers workshops on traditional meditation and mindful meditation, if you want to start learning about leading a stress-free, minimalist life.

2. Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, Bihar

The Bihar School of Yoga was set up in 1964 by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He recovered the lost yogic teachings and traditions from old scriptures to develop what is now known as the Satyananda Yoga. The aim was to develop a yoga system that would integrate practical philosophy with a holistic lifestyle. Hence this school combines traditional yoga and meditation practice along with the medical sciences, setting up projects in collaboration with prestigious hospitals while offering various courses in yoga training.

3. Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune, Maharashtra

Set up in 1975, this school follows the system of Iyengar Yoga devised by Yogacharya BKS Iyengar, based on the ashtanga (eight aspects of yoga) put forth by Sage Patanjali in his yoga sutras. BKS Iyengar also designed props such as wooden gadgets, belts and ropes that are used to help the practitioner to achieve perfection in any asana. This institute offers courses at beginners as well as advanced levels, attracting students from all over the world. According to a fellow millennial, “I attended an Iyengar yoga class at a fancy studio in Mumbai and was shocked to see that all students, old or new, were expected to do the same level of asanas. They were obviously too difficult for me as it was my first day there. I never went back! It’s best to learn yoga at a traditional school where teachers truly understand and respect the practice.”

4. K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, Mysore, Karnataka

This school of yoga was started in 2009 by Pattabhi Jois, who is also famous for teaching the art of yoga to international celebrities such as Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow. In addition to ashtanga yoga, Pattabhi Jois laid special emphasis on Vinyasa (a breathing and movement system), Tristhana (attention to posture, breathing and looking place) and the internal purification of the 6 poisons of the spiritual heart.

Apart from extensive courses on Ashtanga and Hatha yoga offered throughout the year, they also include anatomy, philosophy, meditation and the art of teaching as a part of the curriculum so you get a holistic learning experience.

5. Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Trivandrum, Kerala

Founded in 1959 by Swami Vishnudevananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda near Neyyar dam of Kerala, this institute follows Swami Sivananda’s Synthesis of Yoga and Swami Vishnudevananda’s 5 Points of Yoga. Apart from focusing on classical yoga techniques such as postures, meditation and breathing, it also offers Sanskrit, Patanjali, philosophy, anatomy and physiology as a part its curriculum. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you can apply for their basic or advanced teachers’ training courses.

Image Credit: Total-yoga

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