The government is counting on the brand equity of some of India’s best-known spiritual and yoga gurus to take the ancient physical and spiritual discipline to the world — albeit by bringing the world to India first.
The ministries of human resource development and AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) have finalised a plan under which the country’s best-known and biggest yoga schools will offer specialised courses for foreigners, starting as early as this year. “The Yoga Certification Board (YCB) has identified 10 yoga institutions. These will undergo a process of being recognised by the board. Once recognised as leading yoga institutions, they will start offering specialised courses specially created for foreigners,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.
The YCB was set up by the government last year to certify individual yoga teachers and also yoga schools. It is headed by Dr Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, AYUSH, representatives from several ministries, and also the heads of three yoga schools or centres, HR Nagendra of the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), Chinmay Panda of Dev Sanskriti Viswavidyala, and Jaideep Arya of Patanjali Yogpeeth. Nagendra is credited with having taught yoga to many eminent personalities, including PM Narendra Modi.
Besides the three schools whose heads are on the YCB, the institutions identified by YCB include the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar-led The Art of Living, Bengaluru, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudeva’s Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, according to the official cited above.
The others are Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi; Kaivalya Dham, Lonavla; Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai; The Yoga Institute, Mumbai; and Rama Sadhaka Grama, Rishikesh.
“ YCB is working on courses specially meant for students from abroad. It has identified these as the institutes which may be able to teach them,” the official said, adding that a meeting to finalise the contours of the plan was held on January 17.
The programme will be implemented through human resource development ministry’s Study in India initiative and is expected to attract around 5,000 students this year itself.
Four courses will be on offer: a 200-hour yoga protocol instructor course which will take around one month; the second level or yoga wellness instructor course which will be a 400-hour or 3-4 month course; the third level yoga teacher course, which will be of 800 hours’ duration and take 6-9 months ; and the fourth level yoga master course that will take 1,600-2,000 hours.
“There is a great demand for yoga teachers across the globe. However, often what is taught in the name of yoga is merely some kind of physical exercise which has no connection to the discipline. The aim is to guide the foreign student who looks towards this branch of knowledge. Those who take these courses can also go on to teach yoga in their countries,” the official said.
YCB has identified institutions that have at least 20 years of standing in education, and the required competency and infrastructure, said YCB’s chief executive officer Dr. IV Basavaraddi, explaining the choice set.
“We identified, initially, 10 leading institutions with the capacity and potential to conduct YCB-prescribed courses for foreign nationals. This will also bring some uniformity in teaching, training and curriculum,” Basavaraddi, added.
All chosen institutions will now have to go through the certification process, he added. “We are open to more joining the movement. The attempt is to create an internationally recognisable Indian brand of yoga.”