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Friday, February 1, 2013

A Newcomer from India Surveys American Yoga

Posted By on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Third in a three-part series by Ruchika Rai

The Americanization of yoga has often resulted in a practice that’s commercialized, expensive and inaccessible to ordinary people.

The original yoga was quite different. The ancient yogis performed the surya namaskar (sun salutations) literally at sunrise. Nowhere in India would you find a place where early morning temperature is as high as the 109 degrees Fahrenheit you’d find at a hot-yoga class.

Clearly, the aim was to allow the body to rejuvenate for the day ahead and be one with nature. Hot-yoga studios, in the city, are far from any trace of nature, and unnecessarily tough on the body. Think about departing the yoga studio into a snowy winter day or night: The skin receives a huge shock, something it’s not evolutionarily designed to deal with. Talk about looking younger.

What’s the solution? Here’s one approach that’s worked for me. Having lived in India my entire life until this past summer, I’d join a fitness center that had exotic group classes and attend for a couple of months. The moment I felt that I could replicate the steps on my own, I canceled my membership and practiced independently. That gave me a much-needed change in fitness routine and saved a considerable amount of money.

The approach with yoga is similar, tried and tested over the years. There are many great ways to learn yoga fundamentals, including classes and DVDs. But the key strategy is this: Form groups and get out in the park to do yoga together.

In the summers it would be a good idea to have a sunrise yoga session at Schenley Park. Come winter, it won’t hurt to call over friends at home and do some yogasana together.

Yoga has stood the test of time as one of the oldest forms of physical fitness. The least we can do is give the founders some credit and not tamper with it more than necessary. Maybe then we shall be able to truly embrace the essence of yoga and reap its benefits.

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