Yoga around the World – A road, many paths

P – How is Yoga around the world?

Carlos Rui – The word Yoga seems to be perfectly integrated in Europe and United States, but still didn’t get rid of the exotic image attributed romantically by the West. And, nowadays, the word Yoga is unfortunately much more famous for minor reasons and accessories than known in its essence, being frequently misunderstood with something monotonous, and countless reduced to a kind of therapeutic Asana Gymnastics, with wood tools, belts, blankets, or a contortionist and acrobatic performance repertory, very fashionable between international rock stars.

But, by the observation, even inattentive of TV commercials, magazines and newspapers, we verify that Yoga is frequent news, being used as a powerful Marketing tool to attract new clients to so called natural products, (bifidus yogurt, etc.) and their doubtful benefits.

We also notice an explosion in Yoga practitioners specific market – there are products announced as needed for Yoga, like: sticky-mat, t-shirt, shorts, scarf, , bolster, belts, ropes, bags, wood tools for back – bend and forward – bend, bricks, etc., etc..
Fashion Spas don’t give out a Yoga Teacher for their client’s well-being; the best gyms in the big cities also offer all kind of fashion, in time rates.

In the big cities, we usually see people carrying in the shoulder the bag with the stick-mat. Show-business, TV programs and series stars now eat vegan three times per week and practice Yoga, between two cigars, some other forbidden product and a few sips of absinth.

A whole of products, direct or indirectly, linked to Yoga, subtly crowd into our life.
It also appears a range of the most diversified kinds of Yoga: Yoga for nervous, Yoga for pregnant, Yoga for asthmatics, Yoga Zen, Transcendental Yoga, Power Yoga, Dance Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yoga for scoliosis, Yoga for dogs etc… etc…

As if, by magic, an unbelievable number of human beings discovered the talent for teaching Yoga, so the pseudo Yoga Masters and Teachers are coming into the world every day, like transgenic mushrooms, such big is their proliferation.

Based in these reasons, I can conclude that Yoga market is in great vitality in the West.

In my opinion, Yoga is giving its first consistent steps in the modern world. And honestly, I rather think it’s premature to make peremptory statements about Yoga notoriety in the West. Yoga big awakening in the West started in the 70s/ 80s, and still is very early to make qualitative balance, although in quantitative meanings this is a real boom.

But the quantity reduced to itself is only a “presupposed” need, but doesn’t explain nothing; in fact it’s a basis, but nothing more than that, and we should not forget that the basis is, by definition, what is in inferior level; so, reduce quality to quantity is nothing more than “reduction of the superior to the inferior”, one of the most typical modern world aberrations.


P – Through your answer, to what respects quantity everything is going well, but can you clarify two questions:

a) What is Yoga?
b) And what’s you opinion about Yoga quality in the modern world?

Carlos Rui – Let’s answer it by parts

a) Yoga, in itself, can be an equivocal word, and frequently in literature and Oral Indian Tradition we verify that its meaning changes from century to century and from one tradition to another; if there is a systematized Classic Yoga, there’s popular Baroque Yoga and another one Pre-Classic non-systematized; if we find an restrictive Ascetic Yoga, we’ll also surely meet with another of erotic and desrepressing tendency.

Therefore, the word Yoga can mean: “method” (Gitã, III, 3); “activity” (Moksadharma, V 11682); “renouncement” (Gitã, VI, 2); “Yoga is the control of the mind fluctuations” (Yoga-Sutra, cap 1, vers 2), etc.

This variety of meanings is due, without question, to Yoga versatility and Indian culture wealth.

But the word ” Yoga”, is masculine gender and derives etymologically from the verbal root YUJ which means, “subjugate” and can have a lot of connotations, such as “ stars conjunction, grammatical rules, attempt, occupation, union, pair, equipment, resources, artifice, magic, aggregate, etc.”. It is related to English yoke, French joug, German joch.

We can deduce, by the verbal root, that Yoga is linked to the idea that allows the control and command of something, and define Yoga, as an “ascetic technique”, a “contemplation method”. Any other definition is restrictive and it only embraces a specific kind of Yoga, in particular

b) Regarding Yoga quality in contemporary world, we verify that:

The goal and quality of Yoga techniques offered to the human being didn’t get lost somewhere in a corner between the ancient world and the amazing modern world. It also doesn’t seem to me that the human being, in his mental, organic functions and in his biomechanics, has suffered so many changes in the past thousand years. Certainly that cultural, technical and economical challenges are different, but the hand that holds today the I Phone and the one that gathered berries, three thousand years ago, to eat, held and holds today the toe in Utthita-Astha-Padangustasana, both are submitted to the same nervous impulses, work with the same muscles and have the same motor zone, in the brain. They only are differently specialized. Therefore, Yoga techniques quality as a psychophysical tool is there to last and go beyond our existence.

The problem in question is something else; it is related with human quality and pedagogy in Yoga teaching. Maybe it is useful trying to structure and define this topic.

In the West, we have quickly adapted Yoga to our own rhythms and conveniences.

The simple classes concept, in a way of a regular schedule to learn is something typical of our culture. In India, if nowadays this way of teaching Yoga is developing, it occurs due to occidental influence and demand, which are used to school rhythms.

In the West, we practise Yoga, two, three, four times per week, with the same attitude that we have music classes, tennis or golf lessons.

This western way of learning is completely out of Yoga traditional teaching, in which the student lives near his Guru and the progressive developing of his life quality is one of the fundamental criterions to personal evolution, even maybe the foundation stone of Yoga pedagogical process and traditional teaching.

The change in traditional teaching withdraws the student the undeniable (though ambiguous sometimes) master-disciple relationship advantages. It disappeared, almost in its whole, Yoga culture learning in the daily existence rhythms.

We have deviated ourselves from master | disciple personal transmission of Indian tradition, we have rendered Yoga an interpersonal practice… nowadays, we are in a new stage of Yoga life, marked by the rupture of Yoga with its initial cultural context.
We have emerged a new modern western Yoga.

Yoga transplantation from a social and mental universe to another is still rather known, and what kind of perversions and injuries this situation can originate, surely is a serious reflection theme for any honest and dedicated Yogin.


P – Are you saying that Western teaching methods and their teachers aren’t completely suitable with Yoga?

Carlos Rui –I’m not, in any circumstance, saying that. I’m just reflecting about the fact that there is a new relationship in Yoga’s life, relationship that still is in a flirting phase. It doesn’t mean that is necessarily good or bad: it exists and we can’t ignore the fact.For example:

The pompous expression “Yoga Teacher“and what it implies is an illustrious newly arrived in Yoga world. Maybe the expression “Yoga Instructor“ is more appropriated to classify this new character.

I explain:
The word Guru doesn’t have sustainable applicability in the West; it is irremediably out of context, (although it is used by sects and manipulators of no scruples). The word Teacher is usually used in an academic context, therefore, in my opinion, inappropriate to define who transmits western Yoga teaching.

Even the word Master is used in the context of someone that, after a lot of years practising, has conquered a high knowledge and domain of an Art, like a painter, sculptor, watch-maker, carpenter, etc.

This same word “Master”, if it wasn’t for the danger of infusing a great deal of egos eventually badly solved and thirsty for personal affirmation, it could be, in some cases, one acceptable definition.

The word “Instructor” is used to classify for example, who teaches how to drive cars and the respective Driving Code, giving the precise instructions about driving with success and security Art, respecting with ethics a whole of rules and signs. It is still the Instructor the one responsible for the correct checking that his pupil controls driving techniques, understands and follows in a diligent way the rules and ethics, preserves his life and respects others life.

Thus the word “Instructor” surely is the most appropriate and precise.

The Katha-Upanishad, in Yama and Nachiketa famous story, illustrates well this point of view.


P – What story is that?

Carlos Rui

Yama “ God of Death” , tells Nachiketa the coach story, saying:

  • The human being is like the driver of a car, pulled by horses.

Yama watching the apprehensive look of Nachiketa, continued:

  • The body is the coach.
  • The intellect “Buddhi “ is the car driver (coachman).
  • The mind “Manas “corresponds to the reins.
  • The senses are the horses.
  • The senses objects are the roads run through the horses.

Yama waited a little, watching Nachiketa thoughtful face and continued, without giving her time for much reflection:

  • The car (body) which moves without direction has:
  • Capricious horses (senses) which are not duly trained.
  • Reins (mind) which are not firm and duly controlled, allowing that each horse pull the car in its own whim.
  • A sleepy and drunk driver (intellect), without art in the reins domain and horse knowledge, incapable of driving his car towards the goal he pretends to reach.

Yama stopped talking, gazing the shadows of his immense cavern, calmly shook the fire and, looking terribly to Nachiketa, began over again talking:

  • The common man illustrates well the story that I’ve told you, he doesn’t have any control about the senses, as even he is ruled and controlled by them, letting him to be conducted, as an insane, for where they take him.
  • Yoga is the control of our psychophysical vehicle, the senses are the main dispersion factors and they must be submitted to Buddhi control. Only that way, the coach will arrive to the desired destination.

Do you understand now the best reason to insist in the expression “Yoga Instructor”?


P –Yes, I think I understand, but the word Master wouldn’t be fairer?

Carlos Rui – No, kindly note that not all painters and sculptors are Leonardos Da Vinci, and nevertheless they understand unequivocally his art, having a profound relationship with it. A Master must have Leonardo da Vinci talent, delicacy and vision. Can you classify all who teach Yoga in the West, and even in India, as having that talent?


P – No, no… But I’m the interviewer, so please, don’t reverse the process (laughs). So, how can you define na Yoga Instructor?

Carlos Rui – Let’s clarify subjects:

To find someone who has vocation to teach is not only a Yoga problem. All of us, during our students’ life had a countless number of teachers. Surely that we can count by one hand fingers those teachers that really inspired us and opened new horizons in the way of understanding subjects and enjoying life.

a) Teaching yoga: to remove dust from part of an unoccupied day; because it’s fashion; because it makes easy the sexual predatory action; as resource to a simple job, which pays the house rent, general expenses and have some more small change for extravagances; enjoy the scenario of a hard Yoga practising, showing that there’s an “exterior” control of advanced postures, surely aren’t examples of Yoga teaching vocation.

b) The vocation to teach Yoga is not learnable, or you have it, or not. What you can learn is how to develop and improve this ability. To teach Yoga is not a phenomenon that occurs from one day to another in the student life. Generally, there’s a whole of diversified existential motivations intimately linked to each personal story. It’s rare that this search doesn’t have as place of departure, conscious or not, an absence of well-being, a profound dissatisfaction, an individual freedom need.

This process includes: a will to explore own corporal capacities; the desire to develop a bigger concentration power; the longing of own knowledge through a discipline that has its focus in human being global interiority and development.

Following Yoga history, we verify that this reluctance, this search for freedom and individuality is not contemporary. Yoga can be define as a path to free human being from Duhkha which means: physical pain, psychological discomfort, disquietude, agitation, metaphysic agony. When the practitioner has already accomplish a state, in which his practicing is structured, daily, consistent and maintained for a long period of time, he can feel the need to be a vehicle in Yoga art transmission.

Those are some of the components that allow germinating a good Yoga Instructor. You can conclude by the explained, that pass on Yoga art has, in each personal story, a clear beginning, but not an end, being a continuous practising process experience, maturity and inner growing which always involve the profound respect for space, liberty and others sensibility.


P – What are the signs that a Yoga student must have in consideration
to verify his classes quality?

Carlos Rui – First, I must refer that there are different ways to approach Yoga; it’s not about this that I’m going to talk about, but about what must be protected independently of Yoga styles differences. And that surely allows the student to make a qualitative evaluation of his classes.

a) Traditionally, in India the Guru was paid by his disciples in work, service (Karma Yoga) and gifts (food, flowers, money, etc.).
Nowadays this is not practicable, therefore the instructor must establish, in a transparent way, the honoraries he charges for his classes, accordingly to his experience.

b) The instructor must fulfil rigorously the schedule for his classes, starting and finishing in the fixed time.

c) Must have an impeccable and cared personal look.

d) Must provide that the classroom has hygiene, light, ventilation, temperature conditions and all the suitable tools to the students’ security, comfort and development.

e) Must have classes with different levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced, to avoid mixing in the same class students with different prectising exigencies.

f) Once that the classes for the various levels obey to programs, technical and pedagogical differentiated particularities, the instructor must only teach the levels for those who have training and the subjects about which has a practical and objective experience.

The instructor must develop excellent asana demonstration capacities (without show-off or narcissism) as so as verbal positive, safe, clear and precise instructions. He must also teach accordingly to students real needs.

h) The instructor must know how to cultivate his students’ persistence, develop their will strength and transmit the knowledge about what are the attention focus points and effort application.

i) During one to two hours and a half, rarely more (accordingly with the levels), the instructor gives his class in a organized and programmed way, paying attention to a technical and pedagogical precepts whole which aim the progressive development process of his students.

j) Nevertheless, the instructor doesn’t assume a Guru psychological and spiritual functions (that only occurs, when he suffers from some personality upset). But wanting or not, he can not get away of the responsibility of being his students transformation process catalyser. Some practitioners will immerse themselves profoundly in this internal process. The instructor must have the capacity, sensibility and autonomy to always preserve the space and the liberty of all his students.

k) The instructor must shield his private life, which can never interfere in his conduct during his classes. He also mustn’t show any particular preference for his students, all must be treated equal.


P – Can I now ask you a more personal question?

Carlos Rui – Of course you can, you ‘re free to do it, as I’m free to answer only to what I feel appropriated in this kind of interview…


P – In your inmost opinion, wouldn’t you like to live the Yoga mystic and esoteric side, with which probably great part of western students dream of?

Carlos Rui – Surely is a good question to finish this nice conversation.
But, honestly, still today I would like to know what is Yoga mystic and esoteric side, that is in western students’ minds:

  1. To dress like an Indian and have your hair scraped?
  2. To parrot in an uncritical and acephalous way the books of some Guru, selling with fervour (unconsciously in the beginning) the fallacy of wonderful ancient Yoga?
  3. To delivery uncritically the responsibility, management and your life control (and goods) to a Guru community?
  4. To express yourself with smooth talks, act “goodie”, flow the sensation of someone who only has high thoughts?
  5. To have a hysteria crisis when accidentally tread down an earthworm or ant, when in any breath and digestion kills thousands of poor bacterias and virus (which only want to have dinner).
  6. To see lights, having tremors, physical spasms and screaming as a possessed in group?
  7. To spend hours writing and discussing a Guru classes, worried with each word spoken as the most important, without understanding the context e purpose of your intervention?
  8. To practice always the same postures sequences during several years, to have your knees operated, contract hernias, perform the Asana out of line and in an anti-physiological way?
  9. To be closed in a room with temperatures rounding the 40º, sweating like a pig, drinking water like a camel and waiting for the loud applause, because today the Teacher decided that you have well performed one of postures of the patented sequence.
  10. To adhere to a pseudo Tantra Yoga to free, with saint absolution, the sexual imaginary?
  11. Do not know what to do with your Yoga practising, if you don’t use in a frenetic way the tools (blocks, belts, bolster, ropes, etc.)?

It’s obvious, that naturally some of the above mentioned situations or others can make part of the initial process of approach Yoga world.

It’s fundamental to promote humour and to know how to laugh of our ingenuity and experience.

The problem is when these situations become a chronic behaviour, being integrated as the (deviated) goal of a Yogin life.

There is a big difference between the essential and the accessory: one thing is something technical, as for example to button up a shirt, and other thing is the wish to integrate the whole of a culture different from ours.

In the technical case of button up a shirt, you have to be precise in the instructions of which hand or foot, and how many fingers make part of the technique.

If you’re standing, sitting or lying down, etc. Any human being with the correct instructions and training (and also having all limbs) can button up the shirt.

To light incense, recite words in Sanskrit, be devote to an Indo divinity, make Pujas, dress saris, have your hair scraped, train up an ascetic physiognomy, deny the objective reality of the exterior world (although ephemeral), means, wanting to pass a sponge and clean our personal story that is a problem.

As referred in Hatha-Yoga Pradippika Cp. 1 vers.66 (Yoga perfection is not reachable through having a Yogin exterior look, through chat and debate Yoga… the practice is the only way to success. This is the truth, without any doubt).

We can not change our culture, as you change our shirt, erase the past and change our personal stories; what we can do is to decide what, in the world that we know, makes sense for us, what we pretend to improve, change, move, as help in our way to freedom.

I don’t feel any nostalgy by the mystic occidental side of Yoga, or even by the way how Yoga was transmitted in ancient India, I live each moment in the present and, in it, the culture, tradition and essence of Yoga are alive…

…and now, let’s finish our conversation, because it’s time for my practice. So long, see you again.