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Phuket: Teaching the science of yoga

PHUKET: For many Westerners, yoga is often seen as counter-culture, alternative and even mystical. As such, in India – the birthplace of the discipline – one would think that the locals would practically be born in an ‘asana’.

By Jody Houton

Sunday 11 November 2012, 05:16PM

Dr Abhishek Agrawal at the entrance to his Kata studio.

Dr Abhishek Agrawal at the entrance to his Kata studio.

However, you’d be wrong, Dr Abhishek Agrawal, from Narayanganj in the state of Madhya Pradesh, said that far from being immersed in yoga from an early age, he got into it rather late, and in a very formal way.

“I started practising yoga in 2000 when I was a student as part of my Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yoga sciences degree.

“Yoga wasn’t part of my culture or anything like that, neither my father or grandfather did it.”

Still, looking back he said that despite coming to yoga at a relatively late age, in many ways he’d been practising elements of yoga since birth.

“Although I wasn’t taught the postures or studied the actual postures until later, I was a vegetarian and also followed the spiritual side of Hinduism.”

Dr Abhishek added that the common perception that many people in India had was that only holy men (known as yogis) do yoga. Despite this, he’s quick to point out that he is not a yogi.

“Yogis have disciples who follow them, I have students. They follow celibacy and abstain from everything not required to do yoga. Without the spirituality you cannot really be a yogi. I call myself a professional yoga teacher and I focus on diet, nutrition and postures. I have never met a ‘real’ yogi, but that’s also because I haven’t really been searching. I believe in knowledge.”

Indeed, Dr Abhishek has a very scientific approach to the discipline, focusing on the physiological, not spiritual benefits of practising, “It’s a great way of staying healthy and preventing illness.”

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He added that everybody, no matter age or gender, can benefit from regular yoga exercise.

“People who go to the gym are only strengthening [and] constricting the muscles, it isn’t making them more flexible like yoga does.

“Yoga is good to improve flexibility and circulation, which leads to an increase in energy levels.

“Everybody should practise yoga and give priority to yoga. They should do at least 10 sessions in order to try the different classes and levels and see how their body responds to see if they are suited to yoga.”

For any visitors to one of the two Abbysan Yoga centres – located in Phuket Town and Kata – they will be able to join one of a number of tailored classes, according to level of advancement and even gender.

Dr Abhishek said that he followed Hatha yoga, but that no matter the name or style – be it Bikram or Abbysan – the postures, style and form are essentially the same.

“Dough is still dough whether you make bread or pastries – the raw material is always the same.

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