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A Yoga Teacher is not a Fitness Instructor

25 Nov 2015   Shanti Gowans

A yoga teacher is not a fitness instructor. Yoga has its own science, and a deeper understanding about the mind-body, at causal, subtle and physical levels, together its own science of movement and the principles that arise from this. 

Just like travelling on a holiday, where we don’t know our way around a place to which we have never been, isn’t our path to accomplishment the same? Life is somewhere we have never been before and we try to figure it out along the way. Whilst we enjoy the element of discovery and the spirit of adventure, the journey is often more fruitful with a friend or guide to show us the highlights, scenic stops and legitimate routes so we don’t get stuck in a dead-end. Real Yoga is the way to help you live with grace and ease, no matter what comes your way.

Unfortunately, this is often been blatantly trivialised by a barrage of mis-information, based on pseudoscience. Instead of turning to yoga and it’s vast science for answers, teachers and associations are turning to all sorts of new-age bluffery, and vocabulary from what is easily seen as blatant derivatives of this wisdom practice. Teachers will tell people what they want to hear, and usually sell them a product that might not deliver on its promises. 

I feel particularly saddened by the poor quality of yoga teacher trainings and the lack of genuine, accurate, yogic biomechanical information about the body. 

Yoga's progression with humankind arose in the hunter-gatherer period of human history where people were moving around. They had the muscular adaptation needed for their daily life which included running, jumping, lifting, moving carrying heavy objects, punching or throwing objects and generally enduring long periods of physical demand. Yoga did not provide this. It was the antidote for this. But it was the antidote that matched and enhanced this tension and ‘strength’. Hence, movements were confined, and the opposite of the three-dimensional movement that was the norm in everyday life of the time were cultivated. Yoga was and is a great healing to the kinds of activity that everyday life involves.

Doing yoga in excess heat will not detoxiy the body or burn more calories. Real toxic substances are handled by a large organ in your abdomen called your liver. Doing the same pose in excessive heat as against in normal heat does not burn more fat or calories, you simply lose more water, which is the body’s way of regulating temperature. If the channels that release sweat are blocked, this can increase the heat in your system, and be more dangerous.

The ‘long, lean muscle’ often attributed to yoga is dependent upon your body type and genetic makeup, which we und=fortunately have  very little control over. The bony origin and insertion points of muscles determine their length. Unless your bones grow, it’s unlikely that your muscles will get longer.  

Doing familiar (yoga) movements regularly with the same amount of (body) weight resistance, makes the body more efficient, and you will expend less energy doing them over time, with fewer calories burned, if you stay with the same practice. This explains why, with a consistent practice of yoga, you have more energy.

The shoulderstand and headstand with long holds are inappropriate for most group yoga classes as they put the neck at risk. In most cases the students neck muscles are not prepared to support the weight of their bodies in these inverted positions. Bedning the neck at this angle and staying in this position for long periods of time can decrease the natural, functional curvature, especially with head forward posture (phones, tablets, computers) being so prevalent these days. This can can led to bigger problems.  A yog practice is perfectly complete without a head stand or shoulderstand. 

A 200-500 hour course does not qualify Yoga teachers and personal trainerto give hands-on, physical adjustments to students. You may have seen photos and videos of ‘gurus’ and established, well-known yoga teachers giving adjustments that look violating and abusive. You may have also experienced these pushy adjustments from all kinds of teachers in group classes. Using brute force to push the body into a preconceived idea of how a pose should look, or to push students deeper into the stretch is not yoga. It’s not yoking the mind and body with awarness to your essence. Physiotherapists, osteopaths and chiropractors go through extensive training and then apply for a license before they are allowed to touch their patients. 

Classical yoga done in a passive way, provides a lot of benefits. Twists help cleanse organ like your liver. Inversions, i.e. anything upside down to its normal flow, increases circulation in the opposing way. You can use yoga postures to flush the thyroid, and learn diaphragmatic breathing as the most beneficial way to calm your body. You will reduce the discomfort of menstruation and menopause because yoga helps you balance your hormones. You will be helped to be more regular, and with the appropriate food, cure constipation. You can strengthen your heart and respiratory system, decrease varicose veins, stimulate the chakras, aid in sleep, have better joint mobility and improve the quality of your skin. These benefits are completely supported by eons of history of yoga practice. 

There is  strong mainstream resistance to spirituality. However It is preposterous to propose that yoga has to abandon its spirituality and cultural background to have mainstream impact. Stay true to Yoga. It's vocabulary is not 'chi' or 'ki', it's prana. It's not yogalatesyin yoga or yang yoga, it's hatha or raja or bhakri or karma yoga. Yoga did not originate in the 21st century, in the western world, in the USA, it's origins are with Shiva, in the cosmic dance of life, and the formation of the universe. Yoga's anatomy includes veins and arteries, together with nadis (channels or rivers of energy), chakras, marma points, kundalini. Yoga teachers, it takes a lot of effort to create a lasting career, with a steady following. I offer you all blesings for your deepening in its practice.







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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography

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