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Don’t we all have at least one friend who will walk into a drinking binge and play the polite party-pooper with tales of detox and general transcendence? And as if that isn’t enough of a bummer, there are foreign tourists who fly all the way to India (no, really, countries such as Denmark and Chile are a bit out of the way) to learn yoga. They’re possibly wondering if every Indian isn’t bending backwards doing surya namaskars instead of making breakfast.

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To be fair, some of us do practice yoga. But there are an even larger number of people for whom the first class itself falls flat. Rahul Sharma, a 27-year-old iOS developer from Delhi, recalls his experience: “I have had back issues all my life, and each time it ached someone in the room would recommend yoga. So I thought okay, let’s give this thing a try before I say to hell with it, and I enrolled myself for a class in the neighborhood. You know what happened? I ended up with a back pain that took a month of physiotherapy to fix.”

With everyone from Modi’s cronies to Goa’s cops switching to it, and with one teacher for every neighborhood in the cities, yoga can in fact be rather stressful even before it begins. It is extremely important to find the right fit, and to not land up in an amateur’s class or a class led by a teacher who has more important things in mind than explaining the basics to students.

As far as cities go, the most common institute names include Iyengar’s and Ashtanga, both of which are extremely good at their training and modulation. However, if it is the neighborhood hunk or hot auntie offering classes in a glossy studio, we suggest a good think before you leap.

Firstly, it doesn’t harm to go for a feeler. Most yoga institutes have introductory classes that give a fair idea of how the actual lessons are going to be. Hang around outside a popular class and have a chat with the students that are already enrolled.

Angeera, a 30-year-old musician who attends Iyengar’s classes in Lower Parel, Mumbai, says, “The first classes I took jumped straight from inhaling-exhaling to hardcore asanas that involved standing upside down. Until I went to Rishikesh and took a proper one-month intro course I never knew the whole technique is different from the shortcuts promised by city studios!”

If at all you intend to begin exploring yoga at home, start with basic breathing exercises and not the severe bending feats which, like it or not, are best tried with an instructor. For if anything, yoga does not promise instant salvation. It is a lifelong practice involving rigor and discipline, and the best way to approach it is by knowing that there are no shortcuts.

Unless, of course, we get something like this.

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