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As the world celebrates International Yoga Day tomorrow, experts shed light on what many yoga enthusiasts get wrong and how to correct them

As India celebrates International Yoga Day tomorrow, we review a practice that has been universally recognised as a way to diffuse stress, reduce tension, calm the mind and energise the body. But the increasing popularity of yoga has also lead to several misconceptions about the form. As a result, yoga is being approached more as a daily workout than as a way of life that includes both mind and body. As the fundamental rules of practising yoga disappear under the bed of misconstrued myths, experts point out the most common mistakes and offer solutions to overcome them:


The ideology of yoga extends to integration at every point as it is based on a holistic, wholesome and collective bedrock. The form of the asanas is what is seen but what remains unseen is equally important. “While technique and posture will get you far, having the wrong attitude can undo more than you can imagine,“ says fitness expert Mickey Mehta. “Compassion, reverence and regard are the three pillars of attitude that one must cultivate when performing yoga. Without it, the biochemistry won't be triggered and it will remain peripheral.“ That most people are over enthusiastic and less clued in to the right attitude makes the process counter-productive.Sneha Arora, a yoga teacher, says that many people approach yoga as a two week selfdevelopment and training programme. “Yoga classes thrice a week while eating junk food every night is of no use. If one takes it up, it's a commitment that calls for a review of lifestyle, habits and daily routine,“ she says. So don't leave yoga back in the classroom.


Performing yoga requires one to be mentally focused. Yoga improves your glandular and hormonal secretion, liberates energy and neutralises toxins.“But if your awareness isn't total, the healing mechanism won't be wholesome,“ warns Mehta. Arora adds that those who practise yoga with the aim of losing weight or to increase flexibility forget to include their mind while per forming asanas. She often finds students having difficulty with shavasan or the corpse pose. “This is because their minds are scattered and you can see frown lines on their faces and their eyelids moving.“ Dhan Palkhivala, a veteran Iyengar yoga instructor, says that it isn't enough to get the pose right; the mind needs to be firm as well.


Arora, who requests beginners to steer clear of over-challenging themselves, says, “On the first day of class, don't compare yourself with others.“ Yet, it is easy to get carried away and attempt the most complex asanas in the first week. But this can only lead to disas ter. “Some students confuse yoga with flexibility and over-exert and over-stretch themselves, leading to injuries of the back, hamstring and knees,“ says Mehta, who suggests spending a minimum of 45 days of regular practise before attempting complex aasanas such as chakrasan, dhanurasan, hala san, sarvangasan, naukasan and karnpidasan. “People try to be acrobats but yoga is not an exhibition but an expression of your totality and energies coming together.“


It is of utmost importance that you consider your medical history, no matter how minor, before attempting yoga. “People perform kapalbhati indiscriminately. If you're acidic or have cardiac issues, then kapalbhati can aggravate your prob lems,“ warns Arora. Inform your trainer about your minor medical details. “For instance, if you've had a C-section, then you will be asked to stay away from certain asanas that stretch the abdomen,“ clarifies Shalini Bhargava, a yoga mentor with the Dance with Madhuri workshops.


A common mistake of any workout, applicable especially to yoga, is skipping a warm up. “A paradox about yoga is that the best and essential warm up is to be in a state of inaction. Sitting with your legs crossed in sukhasan with your eyes shut and in gyaan mudra while breathing slowly can help orient, compose and integrate you.Throughout the day, we're running about and need to get centred, have our breath in rhythm, before practising the asanas,“ says Mehta, who feels that the process would only be 10 per cent effective without prior warm up.


The way you breathe is of utmost importance, too. “One should never aggressively close their nostrils or force their breath“ says Arora.Bhargava adds that holding of the breath the wrong way tightens the muscles and can even make your blood pressure spike or make you dizzy. Breathing improperly may also affect the ease with which one assumes postures. “The trick is to keep it gentle and manipulate your natural breathing,“ advises Arora.

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