Honestly, I was very puzzled when I first heard the question. I wondered where was this question stemming from and why until I heard and read about injuries suffered by yoga practitioners. I learnt how people sprained their legs or hurt their necks or spine while doing yoga, how orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors and physical therapists in the US were doing their best to heal the yoga related injured patients. These unfortunate incidents raised a few questions in my mind, the answers to which would show the way to how to do safe yoga.
Do you have the right yoga guru? An experienced teacher who knows and respects the subject and is always willing to listen to you? A yoga teacher who is constantly in the pursuit of higher knowledge in the field?
Did you have an in-depth and honest discussion about your physical and medical history before doing the asana? Were you completely and totally honest in your discussions? Did you give the yoga teacher the true picture about yourself, even if it meant coming clean about your most intimate details?
How experienced is your yoga teacher? How much does she or he love yoga and understand the human physiology, psyche and what are his or her principles? It is most important to have the right yoga teacher or guru. Learning to do a few yoga asana may not qualify anyone to become an expert yoga teacher; there is more to it than the poses.
The yoga teacher should love and revere yoga, and be able to inculcate the same reverence in you as students. Yoga is not a physical exercise, as it has been reduced to in today’s numerous yoga studios and classes and gyms – yoga is a way of life. You must approach it with due respect, and in return you learn to respect yourself, your body, your mind, your position in life and your soul. The process is not as difficult or insurmountable as it sounds provided you start your yoga practice under the aegis of a knowing guru. Yoga, when done properly teaches you to be introspective; you get introduced to your inner self, you become more aware, alert and focused.
The most important principle followed by a true yoga teacher is never to touch, push or goad the student into any pose. This is in complete violation of yoga principles; yoga asana is not just about the physical body, it also includes the spiritual aspect of the yoga performer. When the student is physically touched while performing asana, it disturbs the performer’s aura and energy, causing the student to lose balance and concentration. Therefore, the student should perform the asana on his or her own under the teacher’s strict supervision. The student may not get the perfect posture initially, not even after a number of practice sessions. Nonetheless, it is only important to perform the prescribed yoga asana with total dedication and awareness. The purity of action and thought will harbor positive results and the student will be on the path to healing.
Yoga principles also require each person to do yoga on his or her own yoga mat or folded blanket covered with a clean cloth or towel. The same cloth or towel should not be used for any other purpose except yoga and only by the same person. The simple reason behind this age old rule is not to disturb the yoga student’s energy and aura.