Can students be taught yoga without the supervision of trained instructors? As parents and schools try to work out how Yoga Day can be observed on June 21 — a Sunday — yoga experts are critical of how teachers will be trained in such a short time.
The Maharashtra government has a plan: it plans to rope in yoga experts to train teachers to conduct the 30-minute session for students on June 21; the Union government has uploaded a series of reference videos called the ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ on its website. But city-based yoga instructors have objected to the approach.
“There is some amount of preparation that is needed to even begin yoga,” said Jogeshwari-based Kobad Variava, who learnt yoga from BKS Iyengar and has been teaching it for 45 years. Criticising the “quick, common-to-all” approach, Variava said children with bronchitis or asthma would be better off not attempting yoga without personal attention.
Variava said asanas and pranayam (breathing exercises) done the wrong way could even affect the nervous system. “Although such accidents are not likely to happen in the short session schools are planning, authorities must ensure weak or malnourished students are not forced into it,” he said.
Hansaji Yogendra, the director of The Yoga Institute, said the one-day celebration was evidently a token exercise, but one that will introduce the discipline to children. Yogendra was part of the nationwide panel that formulated the yoga programme for schools. Attempting simple asanas as laid out in the protocol, “which includes breathing exercises to loosen up the body”, pose no risk, she said. “The entire effort is to emphasise the greatness of this ancient discipline.”
Rajvi Mehta, a senior teacher with the Light on Yoga Research Trust, Lower Parel, said, “Even someone pursuing yoga for decades cannot claim mastery over it, so how can school teachers? But the day will act as an initiation.”