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Residents doing yoga at a weekend carnival in Dubai. The rising popularity of yoga has prompted a two-day Arab Region Instructors Conference in the city on April 26-27.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The rapid proliferation of fitness regimes that pass off as yoga has prompted a unique initiative in the UAE, which seeks to put the record straight and separate the wheat from the chaff.

As the two-day Arab Region Yoga Instructors Conference (ARYIC), organised by the Science India Forum and FOI Events, prepares to host over 500 yoga instructors in Dubai on April 26-27, the event’s chief coordinator Akhil Mohan told Gulf News: “Most of what is taught as yoga these days is just one element of the ancient Indian practice. Yoga is not only confined to a mat where a set of asanas (physical postures) is done. It goes far beyond that, and covers an entire lifestyle.”

Akhil Mohan

The practice of yoga cannot be delinked from its fundamental theory. Only when they come together can its full benefits be realised.

Mohan said, “Yoga has eight limbs or Ashtanga. They include our code of conduct (Yama), attitude towards ourselves (Niyama), physical postures (Asanas), the vital force of breath (Pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana) and complete sense of bliss or integration (Samadhi).”

Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

But are all yoga instructors adequately equipped to impart this knowledge? Just what are the standards of qualification and regulation that govern them?

While this largely remains a grey area, Mohan said, “In India, where the science of yoga originated, the Quality Council of India conducts courses across four levels, complete with professional examinations. The Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga under the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) is also holding exams now for professional yoga instructors. Instructors also take up TTCs or Teacher Training Courses under various schools.”

In the UAE, Sundara Beam Rao Kasinath, founder of 1000 Petaled Lotus Yoga, a dedicated school for yoga instructors, said, “We follow the US-based Yoga Alliance, which is the largest repository of yoga schools and practitioners worldwide. Our students become registered yoga teachers under this Alliance by progressively completing 200, 300, 500 or more hours of teaching. In addition, we prepare our yoga teachers to legally practise yoga in the UAE under the Registry of Exercise Professionals (REPS).”

Sundara Beam Rao Kasinath

The rampant commercialisation of yoga is making it more of a fad. “We need to set some standards and follow benchmarks in order to teach the authentic practice.

Dubai-based Sunita Maheshwari, an advanced yoga instructor registered with the Alliance, said, “It is very essential that yoga teachers impart the right knowledge. If they are not sufficiently qualified, they can harm practitioners. Like doctors, they too need to keep upgrading their skills because it’s a vast ocean out there.”

Maheshwari, who is a health coach from the Institute of Integrated Nutrition from New York, said yoga adopts a holistic approach to one’s well-being.

Sunita Maheshwari

What we need to remember is that yoga is not aerobics. Moving with the breath is the key and the remaining pillars of Ashtanga also define the difference.

With the market replete with several variations of yoga, Subhash Pal Desai of Shri Ambika Yoga Kutir, who has been conducting free yoga classes in the UAE for over 12 years, said: “Yoga is not a circus. It is not about acrobatics, neither is it a sport. It is a spiritual practice, a by-product of which is health.”

An authority on Hatha yoga, Desai said one formula doesn’t not apply to everyone in yoga as each individual is different.


Arabic Region Yoga Instructors Conference

The conference, which will be held at University of Dubai, Academic City, on April 26-27, will address the following issues, among other subjects:

  • Challenges and opportunities for practising Yoga in the Arab region
  • Need for cohesion among yoga practitioners
  • Integral yoga: Understanding all dimensions of yoga
  • Impact of yoga on youth
  • Clinical validation
  • Social integration
  • Health and food concepts
  • Work-life balance
  • Pathway for energisation
  • Wisdom for experiencing life in happiness