International Yoga Day, celebrated each year on 21st June, thanks to the Indian Prime Minister’s universal appeal, has been officially recognised by the United Nations with the aim to create awareness about the immense benefits of practicing yoga. 

Originating from ancient India, ‘Yog’, now commonly referred to as yoga, is a practice that combines physical, mental and spiritual disciplines. Although the origin of yoga can be dated back to pre-Vedic periods of India’s history, the yoga that we talk of and practice today gained prominence in the early 20th century. This was when several yoga gurus introduced the practice to the western world.

We asked our very own master of yoga and Spa Director, Rishi Bhardwaj, some essential questions with the aim of helping people who are looking to practice yoga for the first time. Here’s what we asked him:

Q1. It is common for people to be resistant to yoga because everything that one comes across in pictures, online and on television looks very complex. What would be your advice for first time yogis?

The yogic practices, on the contrary, are very simple and can be customised as per the individual’s physical condition, age or medical history. The complex pictures of yoga that are most commonly seen (mainly, the physical postures) are portrayed to create a sense of accomplishment among practitioners and those looking to be inspired, similar to any other physical exercise. The actual practice of yoga is completely different from the way it has been presented to the western world. All aspirants of yoga must have a clear understanding of their expectations and the benefits that they seek through their yogic practice.  

Q2. What have you seen, in your years of practice and knowledge, as the major benefit of Yoga?

For me, the major benefit of practicing yoga is to stay physically fit, emotionally balanced, mentally strong and spiritually awake so as to experience pure consciousness. 

Q3. How should one choose what type of practice to follow?

In theory, there is only one type of yoga, which is Hath Yog, which includes practices for body, mind and soul. Yoga as a disciplined way of living encourages individuals to adopt a holistic approach and practice different aspects of yoga simultaneously for higher benefits. Every ‘type’ of practice that you see today has arisen by adding props and changing sequences and external factors to Hath Yog. As yoga deals with the physical body and the mind at the same time, it is essential for every first-time yoga enthusiast to understand his or her physical limits, mental or emotional condition, general lifestyle habits and stress levels. If the goal is to have a fit and flexible body, then any beginner asana class will be ok.  For stress and lifestyle-related benefit seekers, pranayama or passive yogic asana practice is more suitable. As Hath Yog is a brilliant combination of breath and body work, it is always advised to start with an easy, slow-paced practice and gradually build up the momentum as allowed by the body

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