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YOGA teacher Shikha Sachar calls herself a “lifelong student” and says that in the west yoga is often presented inaccurately.
“The biggest misconception about yoga in the west is that it is a physical, postural feat,” says Shikha, who teaches yoga in Tuggeranong.
“This has been creating an unfortunate ‘misconception’ in the minds of the general public that staying put in a twisted one-armed handstand will take them to the path of self-realisation.
“[But], yoga is not a posture, yoga is the philosophy of human being.”
With a senior yoga trainer as a mother, a grandmother who has been practising raja yoga meditation for 70 years and a childhood in India where yoga was taught freely in her school, Shikha says yoga has been an integral part of her life.
“This leaves a lot of influence and impression on a growing child and you start to observe what the body is capable of,” she says.
Shikha moved to Canberra almost 10 years ago but has since been back to New Delhi to help look after a sick relative.
It was during that time where she began to ask what she was doing for herself.
“This was a turning point but I was still grappling with what my next step was,” she says.
Shikha’s mother, a living and breathing inspiration in the family unit and her first guru, guided her to the yoga school she had practised yoga 36 years ago.
So, Shikha then completed a year of formal yoga training under the guidance of gurus based at Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga.
“While studying the diploma, I started observing a shift in my perspective on life,” she says.
“The most noticeable change was my inclination to quietness and introspection as well as a heightened sense of empathy for myself as well as others.
“I started observing the actions and reactions, including my own, to various situations in light of the precepts of yoga.”
Now, through her own teaching in Canberra, she shares the tenets of holistic self-healing and self-awareness while she continues to learn herself.
“People [who come to yoga] are inspired by their own suffering,” she says. “But suffering can be of any form, whether it be mental or physical.
“When I communicate with my students, I don’t ask them why they’re here but I do ask them to ask themselves.
“Everyone has their own reason for coming to yoga and obviously there’s something in a yoga class that caters to many people.”
However, the history of yoga is a more difficult question to answer and although it’s thought to have started more than 5000 years ago, Shikha says it’s like asking how philosophy started.
“Why it came to being is pretty much asking, why does a person think?” she says.
“I think it’s one of the oldest-living relics on psychotherapy.”
Since then, there have been many misconceptions of what yoga is, and Shikha says one of the big ones is that people believe yoga is a form of the Hindu religion.
She asks: “More than half the world speaks English, that doesn’t make them British; how is yoga different from that?”
“Regulating one’s breath and mind and paying attention to diet and posture should not make one less Christian or Buddhist or Sikh.
“Linguistically, there is no translation of the word ‘religion’ in Sanskrit or Hindi because there is no such notion in the Indian culture.
“Yoga professes ‘unity’, not division – and this is the foundation on which the science of yoga was created.”
TO mark the International Day of Yoga, instructor Alan Goode will conduct a free yoga class, at Albert Hall, 100 Commonwealth Avenue, Yarralumla, 10am-11am, on Sunday, June 24, followed by Shikha’s free meditation session, 11am-11.30am.