The last few months has seen a surge in Yoga being adopted as a mainstream fitness class for various special interest groups, especially children and teenagers at schools and colleges. The U.N. International Day of Yoga was in
many ways a coming-of-age party for our beloved millennia-old, ‘once-esoteric’ practice. And we saw Corporates and Schools amongst other groups inundate us, (and I’m sure this was experienced by Yoga teachers globally) with requests for workshops. That was great – an interest amongst HRs to have their colleagues practice Yoga. In fact with modern-day stress levels as they are, Yoga seems to be one of the most potent anti-dotes.
Where this goodwill towards Yoga ends, in my opinion, is when Yoga is shoved down people’s throats. Imagine you in College, and you’re forced to attend a Yoga class! I would ‘bunk’ class for sure. Even if I knew (back then) that Yoga is an important practice that will ensure my Health and mental Well-being over the years. It just feels wrong to be forced to practice an Art of such rare beauty that even if it were to open Kids’ minds to the possibilities of Yoga, that Act of Force would surely turn away the actual Yogis amongst the Kids. Yeah! The Kids who will one day search for meaning in Life much earlier that their peers and will stumble upon Yoga – would be the ones burdened by the oppression of a College or School principal ‘forcing them to (try to) relax!’ The irony can’t be more pronounced – being forced to relax. And that is what Yoga is all about – relaxing everything in you in spite of the rat race you’ll find yourself in. Whereas the other Kids who will enjoy the Health & Fitness benefits will anyway seek out a yoga class in about 5 years after leaving college.
Why the Yogis amongst the Kids shouldn’t be scared away?
Yoga has survived for at least 5,000 years without any government forcing it upon its citizens. It has flourished as an inner quest for meaning and while everyone at some point in their life will seek meaning in their lives – a few will gravitate towards Yoga. (Others will of course choose from a myriad set of other practices)
The kind of people who become Yogis since time immemorial are generally the Free-thinkers, the Rebels – people who have looked at Life itself and realized that there has to be more to it. And while most of us feel the same, these rebels have had the courage to change the course of their lives to in order to seek Meaning and Truth in their lives. And these rebels are exactly the Kids who will run away from an enforced hour of Yoga at school or college! That’s why we shouldn’t be forcing Yoga upon anyone. Yes, have Yoga in the schools and colleges by all means – it’s great for a youngster to be acquainted with this essential life-skill; but make it optional. Always!
Where did you get your Sandals from?
And the same applies to Corporates. Let’s not let the over-zealous CEOs and Execs bring their ‘Type-A’-ness to Wellness. It won’t work – in fact it will be detrimental to all. Mr CEO – it’s fine if you’ve run a Marathon, Yoga is very different. Just let it be.
I’ve had the misfortune once of teaching a Yoga workshop at a Corporate, where all the employees were forced to practice. After an hour of what I thought was a good Yoga session, I said I would take questions from the audience. One lady raised her hand. I was excited that at least someone had an interest in my subject matter. ‘Where did you get your sandals from?’ There and then I decided never to teach people who didn’t sign up for Yoga of their own will.
Don’t do it!
There you have it – my heart-felt argument to dissuade the Authority-figures: Governments, Principals, CEOs, Parents from forcing people to do Yoga. It will have the opposite effect. Yoga has always been and should always be something that is done of one’s own volition – and that’s the key point. Never force anyone in the guise of helping them – that’s the worst trait of dictators. You often don’t realize and you think you are doing it to help people! Inspire through action, don’t force your views.
And my impassioned plea to all you never-done-yoga-ever people; don’t feel the peer pressure to do Yoga just because everyone else seems to be doing it! You won’t connect to it, not now at least. Get on the Yoga mat ONLY when you want to; when you feel the need to; when the ‘time is right’ in your life. Wait, cause there will come a time when Yoga can be of real use to you.
- MANISH POLE (Yoga Teacher, Writer & Speaker, Co-Founder of the Total Yoga style, schools)