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By Go for a career in yoga if you want the world to be your oyster, reports Hemchhaya De
  • Published 15.02.06

Your daily schedule begins at 4 a.m. Asana and pranayama classes start at 5.00 a.m.; breakfast is at 6.30 a.m.; general seva yoga, meditation classes and lectures continue till lunch time at 11 a.m. Lunch is followed by study time or leisure; afternoon tea is at 1.00 p.m., followed by lectures or practical classes and seva. The evening programme varies according to the course; dinner at 5.30 p.m., leisure between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., and lights out at 9.00 p.m.

Does this sound like life in an ashram? Well, it is. This is the routine that students have to follow at Bihar Yoga Bharati (BYB), better known as the Bihar School of Yoga. The yoga university in Munger attracts students from all over the world. And most of them are young men and women in their early twenties who have a keen interest in the practice and philosophy of yoga and who are eager to disseminate their skill and knowledge in the field.

Take Soham Bose, who has just completed a rigorous course at BYB. The 24-year-old from Calcutta has opted out of any kind of conventional jobs to carve out a career for himself in yoga. He conducts regular yoga classes at various organisations and his list of clients includes quite a few big names in the corporate world. “Most of my batchmates are doing well in this field. There is a huge demand for yoga in the international market. In fact, some of my batchmates from BYB are currently working with well-known organisations like Planet Yoga in places like Hong Kong,” says Bose.

An estimate by online magazine, Yoga Journal, last year says 16.5 million people, or 7.5 per cent of US adults, practise yoga, which is a $3 billion industry in the country. While fashion houses like Gucci peddle designer yoga mats, corporate giants like Ford and Pfizer are pumping money into yoga institutes. The most celebrated yoga guru in the West is Calcutta-born and Beverly Hills-based Bikram Choudhury, disciple of legendary Bishnu Ghosh, whose ‘Hot Yoga’ has caught the fancy of the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. His Yoga Institute of India, headquartered at Los Angeles, has branches all over the world.

Yoga maestros are highly respected around the globe. For instance, B.K.S. Iyengar is a noted yoga guru whose methods are taught all over the world. Then, K. Pattabhi Jois’ Power Yoga is regarded as the most rigorous form of the discipline. “If you are interested in fitness, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take up yoga as a profession,” says Bose. But how do you go about learning yoga and what are the career options in this field?

First of all, you have to bear in mind that this can never be a routine 9 to 5 job. You have the opportunity to work independently, but it involves a lot of hard work and self-discipline and a willingness to help others.

The first step to becoming a yoga trainer is to enrol at a good institute where you’d be taught more than just a few yoga postures. You can choose from various schools of yoga ? the Satyananda tradition or the Iyengar tradition, to name a few. The minimum requirement for admission to premier yoga institutes is matriculation. As part of the curriculum, you’d be taught anatomy and physiology. For instance, the Bihar School of Yoga offers diploma/certificate courses in yogic sadhana, yogic health management and yogic stress management, in addition to other specialisations. The most popular course is the four-month certificate course in yogic studies. Next year, BYB will be relaunching its postgraduate courses like MA in yoga philosophy, MA/MSc in yoga psychology and MSc in applied yogic science.

The institute follows a gurukul system, that is, you have to live in the ashram for the course.The course fee is around Rs 8,000. “It’s a very traditional set-up. BYB has an integrated, simplistic and systematised approach to learning yoga. The emphasis is more on a yogic lifestyle,” says Gopa Sen, yoga trainer and former student of the institute.

“These days, anybody who can bend his body wants to become a yoga instructor,” says R. Sharad, assistant director, Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI), Mysore, founded by K. Pattabhi Jois. Sharad says that AYRI works on the premise that several years of experience and practice are required to become a yoga teacher. “Students train with us for five years before we give them a certificate,” he says. Students are required to spend three months every year at the institute for five years. The course is not a residential one.

Although AYRI does not provide any accommodation, Sharad says most houses around the institute have given out rooms on a paying-guest basis to AYRI students.

Sharad says more and more people are taking up yoga as a profession. AYRI runs batches of 60-70 students. “Our courses have been running housefull for the past four to five years,” he says.

In Calcutta, you can go for the Yoga Medical College, which functions under the aegis of the World Yoga Society. The institute has 8-10 branches across the city. It offers a three-month certificate course and a one-year diploma course in yoga. The Swami Santadas (Institute of Culture) Yoga College in Southern Avenue is also recommended. It offers a three-month certificate course and a one-year diploma programme. Apart from asana, pranayam and meditation, the courses deal with anatomy, nutrition, diet and common disease management.

Step by step

After a course in yoga, you can begin by giving lessons to individuals. You can also get teaching posts at yoga institutes. Then you can take the initiative to hold workshops in various organisations, corporate or otherwise. In fact, yoga workshops are regularly held at big companies and even at business schools like Symbiosis. Yoga has now definitely become a part and parcel of high-end gyms, spas and other fitness centres.

“Yoga teaching can be an excellent career option. It gives you the opportunity to be a self-made person. But the level of awareness is not so high. Our institute offers placements to our students. We have 110 branches all over the world. Our students take up teaching posts in these branches,” says Dr Dibyasundar Das, founder principal, Yoga Medical College. He and his elder brother, Premsundar, were disciples of Yogindra Bishnucharan Ghosh. Their clients include sports icons like Sourav Ganguly and Kapil Dev and political leaders like Jyoti Basu.

The Yoga Medical College has 10,000 students at present.

Sound body & mind

So what does it take to be a good yoga teacher? “The requirements are very simple ? you have to be sincere and honest. But the most important criterion is seva or sympathy ? you should want to help others. It shouldn’t be taken as a purely commercial venture,” says Dr Das. Adds Anand Premji, yoga teacher at Satyananda Yoga Centre, “You need to be of sound health too. If you are not healthy yourself, how will you teach others to take care of their body and mind?”

“On an average, a yoga teacher can earn Rs 10,000-Rs 15,000 per month,” says Premji, who is a former student of the Bihar School of Yoga. But if you manage to make a name for yourself, the sky is the limit.