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On-line Interview: Yoga Q & A


Conducted by Shikta Shimana, a Grade 11 student from Jarvis Collegiate Institute in Toronto for a school project.  

What made you interested in yoga?

Initially I wanted to get a good workout. On another level I knew I was looking for something. After returning from living in South Korea for several years I had spent time in Buddhist temples and learning about Eastern practices such as Yoga. In the beginning, I had very little interest in the theory or philosophy of yoga. While in Korea I was working as an English teacher. I had a book with me on yoga as therapy, which I read and later on decided to teach some of the postures. When I returned to Canada, I felt it would be a good idea to take a formal training program. Since then I have made mnay trips to India to study under my teachers and became more seriously interested in yoga beyond exercise.

Do you have any special stories about yoga or anyone you’ve worked with?

I have taught a wide range of people from children to a man of 91 years old! I think that alone is very special as it shows how useful Yoga is from the young to the old. One memory that stands is when I was teaching a relaxation session to a group of elderly people. I asked them to focus on an object and suggested things like a flower, a tree, etc. When I asked the group to share what they were focusing on one of the students (the 91 year old) said, 'You. I am focusing on you.' It was a cute moment. There have also been very important moments when I see a student begin to understand a posture they have been working on. There is something magicial when they begin doing something that they once believed they could never do. And it is not only this, but how their awareness shifts and a feeling of being capable and free.  

Have you ever worked with a mentally disabled person or someone with a mental illness?

Yes, I worked with a disabled woman as well as people with depression and anxiety. In each of these sessions we worked in a one-to-one setting in where we devleoped a program that was suited to the person and as we went along. There was a lot of emphasis on breathing, relaxing and doing the postures in a modified way. She felt great and there was a huge improvment in her mental outlook.

How was the experience?

As a teacher it places you in a position of being able to see how much you know as well as how much you can share that information. By this I am not talking about book knowledge, but working intuitively with a person, being able to adjust and modify the practice, learning to be creative, watching what they are doing and being able to add or or subtract from it. I feel it is the most interesting and rewarding way to teach as you are working with a 'real' person (very different than case studies or imagined relationships). I don't think there are many training programs than can really prepare you for this experience. It is all about applying what you know and many times what you do not know. It is also not about what you think works for you, but what will work for the other person. These are 2 different things.

Do you think yoga benefited them and why or why not?

Yes. I don't think yoga could not not help. Learning yoga relieved their anxiety and stress. It also empowered the disabled woman by helping her to feel she could do many movements on her own. I remember her telling she often felt like she was not in control and Yoga was giving her this new freedom. 

Are there any disadvantages to practicing yoga?

Not being able to practice sufficiently. 

What types are yoga are there and how are they different?

There are many types of yoga. Most people understand yoga as the physical postures called Hatha-yoga. However, there are four paths of yoga that deal with: 1) studying the scriptures adn texts, 2) chanting and devotional practices, 3) doing work without any material gain or profit and 4) mind control. The fourth path is divided into two paths called Hatha-yoga (the physical practice) and Raja-yoga (mind control).

What is best known today in the West is Hatha-yoga. Within Hatha-yoga there are many branches of yoga. These are usually named after the Yoga Master who developed it such as Sivananda yoga, Iyengar yoga and Bikram yoga (as examples). What makes them different is the approach and focus during the practice. For example, some types of yoga are more focused on breath and alignment while others use props, etc. In the end the methods may appear different, but the path is leading to the same means. 

What are some of the ways that yoga is more effective than medicare?

Yoga is more effective as a long-term practice and regime that helps a person strengthen their body, mind and spirit. Yoga also provides tangile tools such as breathing techniques, meditation exercises and physcial postures. The approach in yoga is a holistic one by addressing all aspects of a person (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually). It is a life-practice that you learn to do for yourself. In that sense it is more effective because you are becoming dependent on externals. 

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