Yoga row between Indian purists and Western 'free-form'
Published 09/03/2011 | 10:40
leading yoga master has called on the Indian government to regulate the discipline after a row over Western teachers practicing suggestive routines in skimpy costumes at the world's biggest yoga festival.
A session led by the popular Californian yoga mistress Shiva Rea, in which she was reported to have writhed suggestively in low cut trousers, promoted a walkout by traditionalists who reject her use of 'trance dance' music and 'free-form' movements.
An American 'Kundalini' yoga teacher – who has taught Madonna and is followed by fellow Sikh convert Alexandra Aitken, the daughter of disgraced former Conservative minister Jonathan Aitken – also courted controversy when her followers chanted 'Allelulia' at the end of a session.
Yoga has been dominated by Indian Hindu gurus for thousands of years, but the arrival of the Beatles in the holy city of Rishikesh to study meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s sparked an invasion of spiritual tourists. Many of then still come to Rishikesh, by the holy River Ganges, to study yoga from its masters and become teachers themselves.
But according to gurus like Yogi Ram, founder Trika Yoga and Rishikesh's Kala Ashram, they have abandoned its spirituality and transformed it into a crass business.
"The spread of yoga has brought both good and bad things to the traditional art form. It has benefited thousands of people seeking peace of mind and health but at the same time those who have commercialised yoga.
"Wearing skimpy clothes, glamorising or doing unusual things definitely effects the dignity of Yoga. The government needs to step in and retain the essence and authenticity of the tradition Indian art," he said.