raw yoga Q & A

unearthing the inner yogi 


Question 1. What is yoga?

Yoga is a complete system of physical and mental attunement that was developed in ancient India. The word yoga in Sanskrit means to join. Yoga joins the mind and body, breath and movement, an enhanced physical ability for joyous experience and spiritual centeredness.

Question 2. Was yoga developed for men and by men? Has it only recently adapted to the specific needs of women?

Yoga has an ancient and long tradition of yogis and yoginis who fine-tuned and developed this art and practice that we now know as yoga. One of the important yoga texts was in fact written specifically for women. Yoga is alive and well in the traditionally matriarchal communities in the state of Kerala in India. Yoga was always intended to be practiced by both men and women (and children!).

Question 3. Can I learn yoga by studying ancient yoga books? How about DVDs?

Yoga is an oral-kinesthetic tradition. It is meant to be passed down from teacher to student. It is one of the earliest forms of learning-by-doing and is meant to be learned from a teacher. When you learn yoga from a DVD you don't have the benefit of a skilled yoga teacher monitoring your movements and making adjustments. That can lead to slight misalignments accumulating over time and causing problems down the road.

Question 4. Can you explain the prevalence of multiple schools of yoga? Which school do you belong to?

The prevalence of many schools of yoga is a recent phenomenon. In India, where I grew up and studied yoga, there traditionally aren't really schools of yoga but different great teachers. I learned yoga from a teacher who in turn learned it from his teacher going back in an unbroken line many thousand years.

Question 5. What is the ideal yoga practice?

A short daily practice, lasting no more than 30 minutes, coupled with a good yoga class about once a week.

Question 6. How is yoga related to meditation?

Yoga practice can be thought of as moving meditation. Meditation involves stilling the mind and allowing the conscious mind to focus on one's breathing. Yoga allows for exactly that with the added benefit of physical toning and perfect health.

Question 7. What is unique about your approach to yoga?

To my knowledge no teacher in America teaches the kind of yoga I do. The yoga I teach works with moving the prana, or life-force energy through the body in combination with deep breathing and physical asanas, or postures. In this way we work on three dimensions at once. It is a powerful and amazingly fast way to creating health, beauty, and longevity.

Question 8. How is the yoga you teach different from Pilates and other forms of physical exercise?

The yoga I teach works far more deeply than most other forms of exercise. Working with the body's energy system, breathing, and postures works not only on the sinews but also much deeper on the body's glandular systems. This provides the conscientious student with the possiblility of deep transformations unavailable in most other forms of exercise.

Question 9. I have heard of yogis who can lie on beds of nails, walk on coals, eat glass, bend steel poles with their eye-balls. Are these stories true? Can I get to this point?

Yes. These are all true. I have seen all of these with my own eyes. If you practice yoga enough you may be able to do all these things if you choose to.

Question 10. Why do you practice yoga?

Because it is fun, healthy, and endlessly fascinating.

 Abhay Ghiara is a teacher, writer, and Gandhian economist. He studied economics and yoga at Bombay University, graduating exactly 100 years after Mahatma Gandhi. He has practiced yoga all his life.

Abhay lectures on yoga and life in San Francisco, London, Bristol, Chicago, and Mumbai, India. photo: Maritstar

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