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Moksha and moolah

If Chametcha Singphow had continued in his job as a site engineer for the Indian Railways at Dibrugarh, he would probably have been an unhappy man and, worse, plagued by health problems. His job involved endless travelling as well as backbreaking work on the railway tracks and had him falling ill on a regular basis.

Singphow, who took up yoga to keep well, chucked up his job in 2008 and joined the Svyvasa University (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana) in Bangalore to study yoga. After joining the university, he soon realised that he could make a career of it.

Singpow studied for seven years at the university and completed his MSc in yoga therapy, specialising in backpain. Today, he is employed as a yoga therapy consultant by one of India’s largest infrastructure companies, the Bangalore-based GMR Infrastructure Ltd. Singpow earns Rs 32,000 a month to conduct yoga sessions exclusively for group chairman G.M. Rao and his family. He supervises Rao’s yoga sessions every day even if it means travelling with him on his chartered flight! Besides, Singphow, also runs a yoga teachers association which provides corporate stress management training programmes.

As the world is turning to natural solutions to cure everyday health and stress problems, yoga has become a byword for the fitness conscious. Companies, international schools, hospitals (which are recruiting yoga therapists to treat patients, along with providing modern medicine), spas, hotels and yoga studios for fitness are flocking to institutes that teach yoga to recruit yoga therapists. Students who are starting their own centres too are finding many takers while those keen to work abroad can join the “huge network of yoga studios” which have cropped up in the US, the UK, China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

“It is a yoga world today,” says Anil Kumar, 29, who has been working in Singapore as a yoga instructor for more than five years. Kumar, an alumni of the Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in Lonavala near Mumbai, points out that he has a “healthy” future in more ways than one. “I’m amazed how the world is reaching out to yoga with a craze not seen five years ago,” he exclaims. “Starting salaries for yoga instructors abroad range anywhere between $2000-5,000 a month,” he says. Currently, Kumar heads Platinum Yoga Centre in Singapore. His advice to students interested in working abroad is to look for jobs online by googling the institutes in the countries they want to work in.

“Yoga has replaced IT as the boom industry,” says professor Sudheer Deshpande, Svyvasa University, Bangalore. Agrees K. Subrahmanyam, dean, yoga and humanities, Svyvasa University, “We see an increase in demand for our students from companies, as they grapple with stress-related maladies of employees. Students too are interested in taking up a career in yoga as it offers flexibility of time and, more importantly, helps in the upkeep of their own health!”

But before all that, you have to make sure that you get your yoga training from a proper institute. Many institutes and universities offer short, certificate, diploma and degree courses in yoga but without having enough, sufficiently-qualified faculty.

“Yoga has no regulatory council and hence you see many universities offering varied kinds of courses,” says Subodh Tiwari, joint director, administration, Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute (KYM). “The simplest yardstick is the faculty members. Many universities run master’s degree programmes with only one regular faculty member — others are visiting faculty members— and the qualitative aspect is a major concern. We are pushing for a regulatory council and an Indian Yoga Association as the first step. This move has the support of the Department of AYUSH under the Union ministry of health and family welfare,” points out Tiwari.

Yoga has different areas of study — yoga therapy, which uses yoga as a therapeutic tool, yoga education which leads to a career in yoga teaching, and yoga research. Students who wish to do research in yoga go on to do PhD. All yoga courses are a mix of theory and practice. Of Kaivalayadham’s 1,100-hour diploma course — which is considered a good one for those who want to teach yoga — 50 per cent is theory. If you are doing a BSc or MSc course, more scientific theory (research methodology, science and consciousness, anatomy and physiology and so on) is involved. According to Dr Latha Suresh, managing trustee at KYM, physiotherapists, gynaecologists and ayurveda practitioners are also trying to integrate yoga into their practice. For this reason, the Svyvasa University offers a bachelor’s of naturopathy and yogic sciences degree and a five-year MD course in yoga and rehabilitation.

The University of Madras offers an MSc in yoga studies under the department of physical education. Some of the established and older universities such as the Gurukula Kangri Vishwavidyalaya in Haridwar even teach the classical Sanskrit texts, the yogasutras. Other institutes which teach the texts use the English translations.

To do well in yoga, you have to be passionate about it. As Dr Suresh puts it: “You must be interested in practising yoga. You must be reflective, insightful and care for others. However, you must display mental maturity before teaching others.” And, there are students who want to pursue yoga for the sheer joy of being in sync with their bodies. They are quite happy to do research in prestigious yoga institutes, which may not pay well but gives them intense job satisfaction.

So if you want both moksha and moolah, yoga is the way to go.

Where to learn

Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Lonavala

Nine-month postgraduate diploma in yoga education

(Recognised by the National Council of Teachers Education)

Cost: Rs 35,000 (scholarships available)

One-and-a-half year postgraduate diploma in yoga therapy (in collaboration with Pravara Medical Trust, a deemed university in Loni)

Cost: Rs 68,000

Advanced teacher training and certificate course in introduction to yoga also available

Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram Institute of Yoga Studies, Chennai

Two-year evening postgraduate diploma in yoga

Cost: Rs 40,000

Entrance test (aptitude) and interview

Svyvasa University, (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana) (deemed university), Bangalore

Three-year BSc programmes in yoga therapy, yoga and consciousness, yoga and management and yoga and education

Cost: Rs 20,000 a year

Bachelor's degree in naturopathy and yogic sciences

Cost: Rs 20,000 a year

Two-year Msc programmes in yoga therapy, yoga and consciousness, and yoga and management

Costs: Rs 25,000

Postgraduate diploma in yoga therapy

Costs: Rs 30,000

Five-and-a-half year MD in yoga and rehabilitation, for doctors

Costs: Rs 60,000 a year

PhD in Yoga

Cost: Rs 20,000

Other institutes: Bihar School of Yoga, Munger; Mysore Yogashala; Iyengar Yoga School of Pune; The Yoga Institute, Mumbai; Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi; ICYER, Puducherry

The Paycheck

A yoga teacher employed by a fitness studio or a company may make anything between Rs 15,000 and Rs 40,000 a month. A yoga instructor with his or her own centre can earn Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh a month. Personal yoga trainers who have built up a reputation can charge up to Rs 1,200 per class.

Job profiles

  • Corporate trainer
  • Conducting yoga workshops and yoga retreats across the globe
  • Working in fitness studios that teach yoga as exercise
  • Hospital therapist
  • Yoga instructor for children with special needs
  • Instructor at the National Rural Health Mission-run yoga centres all over the country
  • Instructor at mini sports stadiums in states such as Haryana
  • Instructor at the district-level yoga wellness centres run all over the country by Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, New Delhi