How long have you done yoga, and what made you start?
I embarked on my yoga journey at the age of 14, so that would be 18 years already. At the beginning, I was just playing without knowing I was actually doing yoga poses (wheel pose, headstand, seated forward bend, etc.) One day at school, I saw some students practising yoga poses and I asked their teacher what they were doing. I was told they were practising yoga asanas for a national competition sponsored by the Indian government. If selected, the students would go on and participate in divisional, state and national levels competitions. I was attracted to the idea of travelling around the country, seeing new things and making new friends. So, I told the teacher I could do some of these poses, and upon demonstration, he offered me a chance to join his yoga team and participate in competitions.
What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
I was in a sales job before I decided to become a yoga teacher. I felt that I was just chasing after quotas and targets, which caused a lot of stress. I started to feel that there wasn’t real meaning in that, hence it didn’t give me satisfaction and contentment. I started to think that I could help the masses by teaching yoga and making their lives better, as I realized that service to others is the higher purpose one can have in one’s life. I saw that through yoga therapy, I brought smiles to faces by alleviating some of the discomfort caused by lifestyle diseases. All these gave me a sense of satisfaction. I really think it is such happiness that makes life more meaningful, rather than just money.
Tell us more about yoga therapy and why your classes are focused on it.
Yoga therapy is a form of holistic treatment that supports the amalgamation of body, mind and spirit. It is about helping individuals to overcome their health issues. It integrates several yoga techniques such as Asanas, Pranayama, Kriya, Mudra, Bandha and Dhyana etc. that work at the Pancha Kosha level (five sheaths of existence) and helps to eradicate the disease from its root cause.
Yoga therapy produces significant positive outcomes, and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction when I see improvement in health conditions of my clients, their medication scores and quality of life.
Yoga therapy, for me, is a life-long learning journey as each new case teaches me something new. I integrate evidence-based yoga researches, yoga philosophy and my own experiences, and this integration helps to produce better results in a shorter period of time. I am also deeply involved in providing yoga education to yoga therapy students.
How have Singapore yoga enthusiasts taken to yoga and yoga therapy?
In Singapore, people are taking yoga therapy as an alternative method to ease their health conditions.
I think most people in Singapore still see yoga as a form of fitness-based exercise. Most people do not even know what yoga therapy is. People also think that only flexible people are suitable to do yoga as yoga is about stretching. Due to this misconception, many people are not exposed to the benefits of yoga.
Yoga is holistic, and much more than just poses and stretching. Yoga is a way of living. It includes discipline at physical, mental, social and spiritual levels. It is the duty and responsibility of every yoga teacher/practitioner to spread awareness and communicate the vast meaning of yoga.
What is your method of teaching?
I would sum it up as E.E.I. – Experiential, Encouraging, Integration.
Experiential learning – I believe in doing more than just knowing a ton of theory. I let students experience the benefits of yoga, this gives them a firm grounding in their own practice.
Encouraging – Yoga is not about forcing oneself into the practice, yoga is about giving your best, leave the rest, and feel happy with whatever you are able to do. I want my students to feel encouraged and motivated to be regular in their practice. I use yoga quotations, motivational phrases (even the ones in Sanksrit) and encouraging words to motivate them. I want them to enjoy yoga and feel good about themselves. And I make sure there is always laughter in my classes.
Integration – As mentioned in some of my answers for earlier questions, I strongly believe in integrating philosophy and science. The great yogi Swami Vivekananda also said, ‘To combine the best of the West with the best of the East’. Having both Vedantic and research background, I really see the positive results in combining philosophy and science, so I adopt this method in my teaching.
How different is yoga in India compared to overseas?
In India, yoga continues to be more comprehensive than overseas. Though the percentage of Hatha Yoga practitioners is increasing in India too, people believe and adopt diverse streams of yoga, such as Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. There are several reasons for this, such as exposure to different streams of yoga since childhood, the yoga environment in India and the practice being part of India’s culture.
While outside of India, large number of people practice yoga as part of their physical workout. Some people practice only the physical aspect, the yoga asanas, and misconstrue the spiritual aspect to be religious. They are able to see tangible results from the physical poses, but spirituality is subtle and the results are not visible immediately.
Dr. Kuldeep K Kushwah is a Ph.D. in Yoga from SVYASA University in Bangalore, India. He is currently a lead yoga trainer and yoga therapy consultant at Vyasa Yoga Singapore, and also conducts yoga teacher training and yoga therapy programs. You can reach him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published in the print edition of Yoga Journal Singapore, which is now Yogahood Online.