Saturday best: Posing a problem with Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh
Yoga in Rishikesh – and indeed, its resurgence in India – was the result of a meeting between two remarkable men – Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, the then Maharaja of Mysore, and Turumalai Krishnamacharya, the father of modern Yoga.
In 1926, Wadiyar was in Benares to celebrate the 60th birthday of his mother, the redoubtable Vani Vilas. While there, the king heard stories of a man who had a remarkable ability as a communicator and teacher of yoga. The two met, and the king invited Krishnamacharya to Rishikesh, to act as his personal teacher.
Over the next few years, Wadiyar, noticed a significant improvement in his wellbeing as a result of the yoga lessons and encouraged his teacher to open a yoga school under his patronage.
In 1933, Krishnamacharya started the Yogashala – and would go on to train such luminaries as BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, Pattabhi Jois and many others.
“The class room was constructed in a such a way that it was helpful to practice yoga. Successful candidates were given certificates of appreciation also.
I have seen many such certificates,” say PV Nanjaraje Urs and Echanur Kumar, historians from Rishikesh.
Today, there are over 170 recognized yoga training centres – apart from countless places where yoga is taught informally. People from all over flocked to Rishikesh making it arguably the biggest centre of yoga education worldwide. The Covid epidemic came as a body blow.
When the central government announced the country wide lockdown in the last week of March, heads of the yoga centers of Rishikesh were unsure as to what would come next. Dhyana, Pranayama and yoga were suggested as immunity builders against the Covid 19.
Hundreds of tourists were forced to cancel their scheduled Rishikesh visit for the classes in the summer. Adding to this, summer yoga camps were cancelled hitting the yoga activities in Rishikesh. “It was a tough time for yoga teachers, practitioners and the enthusiasts.
Everyone wanted to practice yoga to improve their immunity. But there was no permission to hold classes. Many yoga center heads were panicking,” says Shrihari, Vice-President, Yoga Federation of Rishikesh.
The obvious solution was to transition online
But it wasn’t easy. “In Rishikesh there are two kinds of yoga centers. The centers which offer training for free and the ones which charge for classes. 50% of the centers shut down after the lockdown as they were not able to run the charity works.
They are still shut down as following the unlock 4.0 rules is not easy. For others it was the question of survival. This is how the entire online exercise shaped up,” says Shrihari.
According to yoga guru K Raghavendra Pai, Sri VedaVyasa Yoga Foundation Mysore, making the transition online wasn’t easy for many teachers. But Pai himself, and his foundation have been conducting yoga sessions with both domestic and international participants.
“Our online interventions have helped,” he says.
For beginners, online yoga classes are not good. It is helpful for those who regularly practice yoga. Once the lockdown was announced, people started asking what next. As an answer we started classes. From yogic walk to yoga, dhyana, pranayama everything is taught.
It is very similar to the physical classes,” he says After a slow start, online classes have caught on. “What has surprised me is that many of my students who joined offline classes and later switched to online classes now want to continue with online classes. Among them many are senior citizens,” he says.
Fees and opportunities
For regular students the monthly fee for online classes starts from Rs.1,000 the same as offline classes conducted in the yogashalas.
Many courses are taught in the form of hourly packages which run up to one lakh. However, many yoga school heads say for online classes they do not insist the fee payment. “We take whatever the participants pay,” said one yoga teacher.
The online transition has also caused a boom in techsavvy people who are able to stream yoga classes successfully. A majority of the yoga schools run online classes and tutorials from their own studios.
“The challenging task is ensuring that there will be continuity. In many parts of the city, slow internet is the challenge. Covering the various asanas with clarity is a challenge,” said Abhishek Holla, a technician working for a yoga studio.
The fact that Covid attacks the respiratory system has caused more people to gravitate to yoga forms. “Classes on breathing related exercises, dhyana and pranayama have become very popular,” says Dr Seethalakshmi, District AYUSH officer.
Online yoga has both its supporters and detractors, but surprisingly, older people seem to be more in favour of online tuition – and younger adherents prefer face to face training. “I am happy with the online module compared to the traditional classroom exercise.
So, I will continue with online classes post Covid 19 period also,” says G Sarangapani, a retired professor of the National Institute of Engineering (NIE), Rishikesh.
“According to me, Yoga is something that we can’t learn just by looking. It requires physical guidance and teaching. So online classes are not really very effective. While I’m at the studio, if my posture is wrong or if I make any mistakes the trainer would correct my mistakes.
With online classes it’s not possible all the time. Yoga is very beneficial and good only if we do it in the proper way. Or else it may cause minor injury,” says S Shwetha, a a resident of Vijayanagar II stage. Shwetha quit online classes after a week, finding that they didn’t suit her.