“Yog” or popularly known term “yoga” means union or process of joining. Yoga is joining of awareness which is otherwise fragmented due to constant interference of thoughts emotions and ego. With integration of awareness, yoga brings about corresponding integration in body and it’s chemistry. Thus yoga works on you not only on physical level through exercises but also on level of mind, ego and awareness.
Yoga touches your body at deeper level. Yoga touches your mind, ego and awareness at it’s core.This makes yoga a very powerful yet complicated and double-edged tool for self transformation. Yoga can influence deep and subtle levels of your existence positively as well as negatively. Hence it is advisable to learn yoga through a good and experienced teacher.
A novice may purchase book and CD and try to learn yoga by themselves without proper guidance. Such self help method of learning yoga is fraught with risk of self deception and damage to body and psyche. A self learner may remain under illusion that they are learning yoga whereas in reality they are learning postures and exercises. They may learn what they see, hear and read while fail to learn the meaning of cultivation of health and choiceless awareness, freedom from mind, ego and desires which are true goals of yoga.
Learning yoga by oneself will not teach you what is suitable for you and what is not, when to start and when to stop, when to be aggressive and when to be passive, how to be sensitive to ones body, what disciplines are needed and what are not. It is difficult to learn these nuances however not without mishaps and risks.
Approaching yoga with an unrestrained mind which is full of greed and desires can inflict harm that is irreversible and subliminal. Yoga may trigger phenomenons of body and psyche that are new. A novice without experienced adviser may get excited and ensnared by such phenomenon. Such phenomenon can entice learners to trespass the limits of their body and mind and thus inflict harm to themself. Maturity, self restraint, and a balanced self is necessary to handle yoga especially the advanced aspects of yoga.
To learn yoga a learner needs to adopt lifestyle and discipline that is tailored according to their needs. Yoga needs discipline in the matters of food, sleep, celebacy, intoxicants etc. A experienced teacher is best to guide a learner through such disciplines in a balanced manner. Otherwise,without such discipline, a novice learner may harm themselves if not learn yoga.
A simple exercise of paschimotanassana (forward bend while sittiong on buttocks with legs straight) can be done by a novice without taking in to consideration that it can harm him or her if they are suffering from depression or back problems.
Without guidance, such novice learner may fail to under stand that they need to approach this posture indirectly by first learning to sit straight on their buttocks with legs straight rather than directly forcing themselves in to the forward bend in case of their body dimensions are not suitable for direct approach. Without guidance, novice may fail to understand that they need to do intense aerobic warmup before approaching such exercise.
Without guidance, novice may also fail to take in to account whether they need to or do not need to do backward bends as a followup up exercise in order to balance out the forward bend. There are many such subtleties associated with different yoga exercises that makes yoga a complicated science as well as art like a timeless dance. It is difficult to learn necessary finer nuances of yoga by oneself without exposing oneself to mishaps and risks. Hence a good and experienced yoga trainer make process of learning yoga smoother, faster and safer.
Learning yoga at an institution will with a group exposes you to subjective and objective process of learning yoga and enhances your understanding. You will also the support and resources necessary to learning. At home you may not have necessary cushions, blocks and ropes to use that facilitate learning of yoga.
Exercise like handstand cannot be learned at home as effectively as it can be learned when there are people to support you while you garner your awareness of core muscles in order to learn to balance yourself on head without risk of injuring your neck or abdomen. At home you may not be the best person to counsel yourself and clinically assess yourself so that you can do and not do exercises that are indicated and contraindicated for you. For example you may attempt to do kapalbhati pranayama without taking it in to consideration that it is contraindicated for you if you have hernia or suffer from breathlessness and chest pain due to underlying heart condition. Consideration to such risk factors is particularly warranted when it comes to learning yoga in it’s advanced form.
Besides a self learner can miss the inspiration and motivation from a yoga teacher. A self learner will miss the experience of being in communion with a yoga teacher who has traveled the ladder from position of learner to a higher level of awareness, relaxation, egolessness and self mastery.
Written by Chetan More for parimukti.com
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