“Yoga is a very wide discipline,” he says, “There are over 26 traditions that are reputed and another 40 to 50lesser known ones, so to gain a proper perspective on it you have to go to many different schools. I went to schools up north, the south and even some schools abroad till I felt like I had learnt enough to understand and to teach,” he explains.
Kumar began teaching only 15 years ago. “I was injured in an accident and yoga helped so much in my recovery that I felt it was a shame on my part to not teach something so useful to people. That’s how I began conducting workshops,” recalls Kumar. Today, he and his team of volunteers, which consists of yoga practitioners from all walks of life, conduct summer workshops in over six locations in the city and also train teachers for the same.
At the summer workshops, which last for a week, Kumar not only teaches yoga but also educates the attendees about diet and nutrition. “Most illnesses we see today, like hypertension and diabetes, are all lifestyle related. So this type of awareness is important especially in our country,” he says.
“ The West has made full use of this science; did you know that astronauts and members of the US Marine force have to undergo compulsory yoga training before they embark on any missions?,” he adds. However training teachers, he says, is of utmost importance because yoga done erroneously can do more harm than good.
“If not taught well, it can damage the muscle. In India the unorganised model is very popular but abroad you need to get certified,” explains Kumar, who has an ERYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teachers) 500 certification himself.
“To properly teach yoga, you need a good understanding of physiology, psychology and human anatomy. It has to be taught like a science, like chemistry or biology. That’s what keeps it far away from religious dogmas too. It is the science of staying healthy and happy and a constant maintenance of the body and mind.”
Religion, Kumar says provides a positive conditioning to the mind.
“Surrendering to a higher power is important for our own peace of mind and it brings about humility which is an important trait.”
Ask him how he balances a job as a nuclear scientist with his yoga practise and he will tell you why the two are not so different. “Yoga too is all about fusion, it helps a human being to achieve a fusion between the conscious and subconscious mind. Despite evolution, we are still driven by animal instincts and our subconscious mind responds to these instincts in ways that our conscious, rational mind does not. This causes disharmony. You must develop an awareness of what you are and then reap the benefits from it. Awareness, coherence and harmony can come only if you master your body and mind,” says Kumar.
While Kumar believes in staying up to date with advancements in alternative medicine and nutrition, he believes that yoga should be practised in its pure, traditional form.
“Yoga was given to us by those who were enlightened. It is a science that has been tested for the past 5000 years so if I was to introduce something of my own, it loses its significance; I don’t have the expertise,” says Kumar, even as he takes us through some of the most difficult yogic postures.
“I don’t even represent any single tradition, or pick up a few asanas and sell them as a package; that is how yoga is getting narrow and branded according to who teaches it.”
To A.L.V. Kumar, Yoga is representative of a holistic system of living, one that he encourages everyone to take up. Apart from teaching yoga, he also acts as an alternative medicine consultant. “People come to me with certain types of illnesses after other treatments have failed. I spend at least three hours with each patient, and try to go into the root of the problem,” explains Kumar. The idea, he says, is not to treat the illness itself but to create an environment that will facilitate healing and the “ultimate aim is to help an individual stay healthy and happy.”
To properly teach yoga, you need a good understanding of physiology, psychology and human anatomy.
It has to be taught like a science