Why Yoga Isn’t Really Yoga: The Trendy Path to Divine Hotness

It’s a trend that can’t be ignored. Yoga’s popularity is undeniable across America. It’s more than just a new, hip form of exercise, with fans that claim its practice grants ‘new, heightened awareness,’ and spiritual progress. Yoga even boasts lending aid in the fight against cancer, helpfulness in alleviating addictions, and healing the mental exhaustion and emotional dilemmas of our stressful American lifestyle. But how much of this is true and how much of it is wishful thinking? When we take on the lotus pose and sit cross-legged, the palms of our hands opened gently on either knee, do we actually engage in heartfelt meditation or are we taking a couple of seconds to snap the new, perfect profile picture? As Americans, our understanding of yoga and what it’s meant for and where it comes from differs according to what we want from it. But what do we actually know of this supposedly “ancient” practice and what can we learn from it, if we take the time to know the original teachings from before its trendy American form?

Inversion: YogaEasy to consume, yoga has become another marketable commodity. Buy a yoga studio membership, go to class and purchase the proper yoga ‘attire,’ and you’re on your way to becoming a yogi complete with the hot bod and Instagram-able poses to prove to friends that you’re reaching a new level of spirituality. All across the country, attaining yoga “hotness” or a thin contortionist body and cleaner, updated version of hippy happiness is being sold under the pretext of learning the ancient art and meditative form. However, the amount of actual “yoga” in the yoga classes sold across America is pretty miniscule. The ancient texts and the literary background of yoga according to Indian tradition is nearly forgotten as yoga has been refitted and perfected for the American agenda, despite the original practice being around for more than a thousand years before introduction to the West.

There’s no denying that yoga is a great way to slim down, stay stress-free, and through practice, gain the moves necessary to demonstrate the flexibility and strength worthy of gym-rat jealousy. Yoga is known to significantly lower stress levels, and the breathing exercises yoga employs are similar to methods used to combat anxiety. When taught correctly, yoga helps to strengthen core muscles in a way most forms of exercise don’t and core strength prevents back problems. Yoga competitions are springing up, with Nike and other sport companies investing in “yogi” athletes. Some even propose yoga be considered for the Olympics, and each year, the “yoga” poses at competitions get more and more complicated, aiming to impress with displays not unlike that of cirque du soleil contortionists.

A young woman demonstrates flexibility and strength in a yoga competition.
A young woman demonstrates flexibility and strength in a yoga competition.

Yoga has also been introduced to some public schools as an alternative exercise and fitness program. Debate about what does or doesn’t count as unconstitutional religious indoctrination has occurred as a result, but for the most part, its been accepted as an alternative fitness for kids who otherwise dread P.E. classes. Hospitals offer cancer patients the chance to participate in yoga groups and patients who do often report needing less pain medication for treatment. Certainly, its arrival in America has been a great, new chance for Americans to branch out in how they discuss the relation between physical fitness and mental and emotional well-being. It’s an exercise, a fashion statement, and even a spiritual experimentation, complete with a word bank, or yogi lingo, special only to its American form.

When anyone takes the time to learn the actual practice of yoga from India, practiced for hundreds of years before its arrival in the West, it becomes quite clear that the yoga of America is a new and modern invention. While it does consist of a few elements vaguely connected to the more ancient practice, the larger portion of what it has become is something special to the United States though it might wear a mask of Eastern origin. How we came to take something originally Indian and make it into something else entirely and then still see it as not American is a thing that happens often in our culture. Take for example what we call Chinese food–it’s not a secret that the food served in Chinese restaurants isn’t found in China and is instead a new form of food recreated for American preference. To serve Americans, often other cultural traditions must be changed and re-fitted, and the same goes for yoga.

The graceful lotus pose was once associated with sovereignty rather than meditation.
The graceful lotus pose was once associated with sovereignty rather than meditation.

America’s fast-paced, keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ attitude makes yoga exceptionally attractive. It offers a kind of spirituality that is easy to put down and pick back up again in that it doesn’t require proof of practice outside of the classroom and it doesn’t have a community that holds practitioners accountable. Its feel-goody lingo (“I bow to the divine spark in you”) leaves the yoga student feeling accomplished as if he or she has gained some kind of spiritual truth while simultaneously making headway on conquering those last few, sticky pounds. On top of this, the myth of yoga as being foreign in origin makes it appear exotic and sexy to those that dabble in post-flower child trends, despite the opposite being true.

The yoga practiced by Americans today would hardly be recognizable to the yogis who practiced it in its authentic forms and even took the time to write down how to practice yoga correctly. The tradition of yoga has an exceptionally large history and fortunately, a fair portion of texts exist on the practice throughout its history so we still have access to understanding what yoga was and its development before it reached America. Upon its arrival here the practice was processed and underwent dramatic change so that even the spiritual aspect of the foreign concept becomes more marketable, familiar and applicable to the general American public.

The yoga aspirant can buy advice from contemporary books, take classes, and learn the jargon without sacrificing any part of their acculturated identity. No rigorous initiation rites that might threaten or challenge already set beliefs are required either. It’s so easy to ignore or toss aside the truth of yoga–that it is a set of practices and rituals surrounding a pre-modern Indian cosmology, or an understanding of the universe and our role in it, that is very different from our own. It’s concerns and goals are distinctly different from what most Americans pay money to take yoga classes for. Proof lies in the ancient texts that detail the way these beliefs work. The history of yoga and the extensive literary works that come with it are often poorly represented or forgotten in preference for easy marketability.

An artist's rendition of Patanjali as a serpent yogi.
An artist’s rendition of Patanjali as a serpent yogi.

What then was the yoga that existed before America’s trendy version of it and does it relate in any recognizable way to our version of it now? The earliest texts about yoga appear way back, from before our year zero. Patanjali is the name associated with one of the most important and monumental works on yoga, called the Yoga Sutras, but disputation as to whether or not Patanjali was one man or many writing under the same name is ever on-going. From around 400 CE, Patanjali’s work is also considered the first of its kind because of the ideas on mental analysis it presents. In fact, the Yoga Sutras‘s concern with human cognitive function and the effect various thought patterns have on our well-being is relevant to modern-day psychology.

The texts associated with Patanjali offer more than just aid in meditation and control over disruptive, unhealthy thought patterns. The texts also allude to the awesome possibilities that come with power over one’s own mind through the heightened yoga practice Patanjali prescribes. Descriptions of the powers include invisibility, levitation, hearing over impossible distances and more. Not unsurprising then are the many myths that surround Patanjali’s name, with some claiming the yogi not to have been a man but in fact an ancient serpent, possessing great wisdom and knowledge. Some folkloric traditions associated with yoga suggest that the “super yogis,” with Patanjali being one of them, have surpassed the limitations of the body, including death. Because of yoga they are said to be able to pass beyond bodies by leaving an occupied body when it tires and choosing a new one to possess, animal or human. In Tantric texts, harnessing the control of ghosts and demons is written as being possible and open-roof temples allow for the comings and goings of Yoginis, the semi-divine consorts of Yogis, who fly “on vehicles of various sorts…through the air under their own power” (White, 204).

Another image of Patanjali, Master of Yoga and the Ego.
Another image of Patanjali, Master of Yoga and the Ego.

Certainly, such myths are fascinating and the ancient, bygone forms of yoga associated with them stimulate the imagination. However, these esoteric and far-fetched examples were by no means ever considered the mainstream of yoga practice in India. Instead, the practice was more applicable to everyday life. Understanding what the word yoga means can help us grasp a deeper sense of what yoga was for the people who practiced it before it reached America. The goals of practicing yoga according to its representation in texts also make a lot more sense with knowledge of the word. The root of the yoga means to “yoke,” which refers to the discipline of “yoking” the body to the mind and the mind to the spirit. This discipline is considered required in everyday life for success in achieving spiritual liberation.

The Bhagavad Gita is the text attributed to mainstream and contemporary Indian understanding of yoga which lists four types of yoga, detailing how to use each type and who should use which type. It has become one of the most important texts associated with a uniform, classical understanding of Hinduism. The four yogas in the Bhagavad Gita are certainly different from the yoga found in America, such as hot yoga, Bikram, or even laughing yoga. Instead, the Gita gives us Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jñana Yoga and lastly, Raja Yoga.

A scene from the Indian Epic, the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna reveals his Infinite Form to the warrior, Arjuna.
A scene from the Indian Epic, the Bhagavad Gita, in which Krishna reveals his Infinite Form to the warrior, Arjuna.

To practice Karma Yoga, the yogi must learn to always, no matter what, do the right thing and take right action. On top of this, the yogi has to remember to never expect any sort of reward for doing the right thing and even if there’s no benefit or return in the end. Those who Karma Yoga is described as good for are people who are always constantly active. Bhakti Yoga is described in the Bhagavad Gita as being a little easier. It’s known as the path of devotion, and the yogi’s job is to commit himself or herself to acts of worship and love for the divine, such as singing to the divine in choir or doing chores at a place of worship. The goal of Bhakti Yoga is to become so enraptured and obsessed with the divine that spiritual liberation is gained through realizing oneness with the divine. Then there is Jñana Yoga, the path of knowledge, which is considered the most difficult path a yogi can choose to pursue. To follow this path, the yogi must excel at knowing any and all sacred texts and other forms of divine knowledge.

Lastly, there is Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, or royal yoga, is closest to what we recognize as yoga. It combines intense meditative discipline with breathing exercises, renunciation and postures, all aimed at creating the best connection between mind, body and spiritual concentration. The practice of postures used to gain mental and physical control for proper meditation has a name–hatha yoga–which has become recognized and popular with Americans. For some reason, it is this practice of postures that has caught on in the West, despite it being only a small part of the entirety of Raja Yoga’s practice.

Raja Yoga’s introduction to America came during the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 where it was held in Chicago (Miller). A year later, Vivekananda “initiated classes in New York on the Yoga school and on Vedanta” and Raja Yoga grew in popularity (Miller, xi). Most interesting of all is that Vivekananda gave hatha yoga very little attention, and stressed that it was not the most important part of yoga, but only a tool, and perhaps even “the least important component of yogic practice” (Miller, xi).

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna uses the metaphor of a chariot yoked to a horse to explain yoga's "yoking" of the spirit to the body.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna uses the metaphor of a chariot yoked to a horse to explain yoga’s “yoking” of the spirit to the body.

So why is it that hatha yoga became so popular to Americans, when other yogic forms were forgotten or discarded along the way? Because it suited American interest. The health benefits are obviously attractive so it makes sense that an exercise accessible to all sorts of body shapes and fitness levels catches on. Americans that traveled to India in the 1960s brought back parts of yoga and what seemed useful was kept while other aspects, such as complete renunciation and monastic lifestyles, were tossed aside. Original teachings on the goals of yoga according to Indian tradition and text weren’t included, because to become mainstream in American society yoga first had to become irreligious. If yoga seemed like it identified too much with any particular religion or was threateningly foreign, then it wouldn’t have succeeded in being accepted as it has by America today. Just one example of its success, due to its presentation as a practice that is fundamentally irreligious, is the fact that its been allowed in public schools.

Each person that practices yoga can decide how much he or she wants to learn about it and if they want it to be an exercise or a spiritual journey. To become a certified yoga instructor the required course work often includes some aspects of the philosophies behind yoga, but there is little to no reading of texts and philosophies that pertain to anything apart from the physical aspect of yoga. Perhaps the five koshas or three gunas are touched on and the basics of pranayama acknowledged, but these tools deemed essential by the texts in the “yoking” of mind, body and spirit aren’t mentioned in the typical yoga classroom. The reason for this is an obvious one–most people who spend their time and money on yoga wish to develop stronger and more flexible bodies and healthier, calmer minds. They aren’t looking to devote time to learning something that deviates from their modern and fast-paced lifestyle, and instead, are only looking for something that will add to it.

According to the Ishvara Gita, a medieval text that addressed is to the followers of Shiva, Lord of Yoga, a complete devotion to the yogi life includes living alone with no people or other animals, because such isolation is necessary for complete focus of the mind and total renunciation. Not many people choose such a lifestyle, so it makes sense that few people in Western society have any interest in learning about that kind of yoga practice. However, we’ve still missed out by skipping over some of the less-than American practices of yoga. What yoga was versus what it has become are two very different things. The manner in which America adopts aspects of other cultures and reconstructs the cultural significance of practices and traits of other traditions is important to recognize. Acculturation is something America is especially prone to.

Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, in peaceful meditation.
Shiva, the Lord of Yoga, in peaceful meditation.

Taking from other cultures what we deem appropriate or worthwhile and ignoring or disowning the rest means risking completely missing some of the best, most mind-expanding experiences offered. Correctly understanding traditions opens up more possibilities. After all, why not have four types of yoga such as taught in the Bhagavad Gita rather than only one? Why not learn about how to employ Patanjali’s therapeutic discipline of yoga, meant to restructure thought patterns and probe into releasing painful memories, much like the aim of modern-day psychology? Sadly, instead of these parts of yoga being adopted, what is sellable and superficial is what is most used. It’s not hard to find ‘chakra’ underwear sold in a package of six colors with a chakra symbol on the front of each but finding a yoga class that actually teaches the philosophies behind yoga is more difficult. Such is only one of the bitter examples of the effects of consumerism on yoga as cited in the documentary, Yoga, Inc.

In the American rush to get fit fast, gain the grace of flexibility over night, and present the world with a version of ourselves most evolved in enlightenment and hotness, we often forget true appreciation for the culture that gave us what we now enjoy and benefit from. Trends and marketing strategies often cause ‘forgetfulness’ as they sweep us up into being a part of popular culture and the mainstream. But that doesn’t mean that what’s offered by the ‘trendy’ part of whatever it is that’s being dangled before us is the only good or even the best part of something available. Often, with a little curiosity and research, we find that there’s much more to something than we think there is. Yoga is only one example of many. Our American understanding of yoga becomes small in comparison to the hundreds of traditions and practices surrounding yoga that have been circulating the Indian subcontinent for more than a thousand years now.

Works Cited

Miller, Barbara Stoler. Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra According to Patanjali. New York: Bantam Books, 1995. Print.

White, David Gordon. Kiss of the Yogini. Chicago and London: the University of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.

Yoga, Inc. Dir. John Philip. Perf. John Abbott, Baron Baptiste. Bad Dog Tales, 2007. Film.

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42 Comments

  1. Genie Hein
    0

    Yoga comes from something very far from commercialisation.

  2. What a great article.

  3. There are lots of westerners who do understand and revere the hindu origins of yoga.

    • T. Gipson
      0

      It’s not just yoga, divorced from Hinduism and its Hindu roots thats sold, some rather dodgy brands of |Buddhism too have emerged in the West, divorced from their roots, context, and utterly emasculated too. Buddhism as ‘lifestyle choice’.

  4. Clemmie
    0

    The connection and recognition of Yoga’s history has been forgotten – in effect harming the benefits it provides to its practitioners.

  5. I’ve had a fair experience of yoga, from quite New Age through more fitness orientated core exercises to practising Asana with Hindus in the community hall at a Hindu temple.

    In some circles there is a bit of New Age, chakras and pseudoscience everywhere and an urge to ask the teacher to prove the electromagnetic wibbly bits she’s on about because we do have the kit to detect magnetic fields you know. Imagine the headline “Yoga student probed teacher with search coil”

    One of my best experiences has to be with the Hindus. I don’t know whether it is that the religion is there and taken and therefore does not have to be emphasised. Yes they said the Gayatri Mantra at the start, but the rest was yoga practice. I suppose everyone was happy that the religious bits could be found in the temple next door.

  6. Venus Echos

    Very good article on how yoga has become Americanized. I appreciated the outline of the Indian beginnings of the practice of yoga. I remember studying the art of India and the statues that depicted the presence of prana, the life force or breath. However, tying into this article Prana is an American high end yoga clothing line.

  7. DowdMarble
    0

    Yoga is a means of being healthy, and it recognizes that to be healthy one also needs to have a healthy mind.

  8. I am an Indian who lives in the US with an American wife. The community I come from are practitioners of ancient Indian medicine, which probably makes them have a greater claim to Yoga than any other.

  9. Thanh Sowell
    0

    The ancient Indians who developed Yoga were very perceptive of human nature, and Yoga was a product of their perceptiveness and wisdom.

  10. Thanks. There should be more reference to the historical roots of Yoga.

    • WHIPPLE
      0

      Y-e-s. It is not something that anyone can come along and make better. It is important to preserve the wisdom of Yoga, and this is threatened by “celebrity teachers/gurus” who have a distorted understanding of Yoga and whose goal is wealth and fame.

  11. Elegantly written post. Thank you.

  12. Yoga and or Tai Chi are excellent excessive programs and it would be good to offer them in schools along with belly dancing.

  13. Welcome to the post-modern world, you’re lucky that no one has spent megabuck on promoting disco yoga .or yoga to go… maybe it’ll be the next Apple killer app .. The iYoga Workout.

  14. Ma Yoon
    0

    Yoga is a good way of exercising the body. I haven’t done it for years – I am thinking of taking it up again.

  15. Yoga, the 8 step system, is interesting. I don’t understand the subtleties of the latter 4 steps and question Patanjali’s later chapters, but the basics coupled with other Hindu ideas such as the Bhagavad Gita are certainly interesting.

  16. Perhaps it is not an accident that yoga, Tai Chi (Taiji), and Islam are all mentioned in conjunction with spirituality. The common element among the three is ritual. The question therefore arises: is there a relationship between ritual and spirituality?

  17. The point of yoga is to reduce stress, increase blood flow to organs and gain a better control of the body through various breathing techniques. Like much else, it is inevitable that yoga has been commercialized but there needs to be a deeper understanding of the art form in the future.

  18. Nof

    This was a really interesting article and a great point that you make. It really is a trend, and because of this, people can’t and don’t know how to really appreciate true yoga. Good job!

  19. It is defined as whatever the people who practice it want to call it. Just because it emerged from an environment of superstition and belief in the supernatural doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. People are perfectly entitled to take what they see as the useful part of a system and discard all the irrelevant superstition.

  20. Unfortunately in America the best way to sell something is to claim its American. The main problem is many Americans are going to be happier doing something that is not related to a religion, other than Christianity.

  21. LaurenCarr

    I was nodding my head in agreement throughout your article. I have to admit, I practiced yoga for many of the American reasons and had no interest in what yoga was derived from…until I studied Buddhism. Most people barely have the patience for the American version of yoga so trying to teach the historical meaning can result in a shutdown of the yoga studio.

    Perhaps the general American practice of “Yoga” should have been called something else in it’s introduction. ?

    I couldn’t agree more with your analogy to “Chinese Food” :)!

  22. I definitely commend the interest in offering critical commentary on the all-
    American pastime of commodifying and sexing-up anything that attracts the very small mind that the average American possesses. I would be interested to know whether the author thinks this trend is going to result in the defilement of the spiritual traditions themselves, or will the Americans just shrug and move on once their white hot viral aspirations have been achieved.

  23. The beginning of the work scared me a bit. I thought this was going to be another rant about American body dysmorphia. I was personally disturbed by “All across the country, attaining yoga “hotness” or a thin contortionist body and cleaner, updated version of hippy happiness is being sold under the pretext of learning the ancient art and meditative form.” This is a major red flag for your generalization of this horrific stereotype of American hippy women. But the large body of your work pays excellent hommage to the roots of yogic practice. I particularly enjoyed the sentence, “Taking from other cultures what we deem appropriate or worthwhile and ignoring or disowning the rest means risking completely missing some of the best, most mind-expanding experiences offered.” This is the real root of the problem of which you speak: cultural appropriation. You are correct in assuming that yoga is a deeply mind and body altering experience, and I enjoyed reading about the various traditional open-roof yogic practices.

  24. Jane Harkness

    Awesome article! Yoga is incredibly popular where I live and it really does seem like just a fitness trend to many people-the spiritual aspect is completely lost.

  25. It takes patience to remain consistent in practicing yoga. I have been trying yoga on and off and haven’t been able to keep up.. “living alone with no people or other animals, because such isolation is necessary for complete focus of the mind and total renunciation” Maybe this is what I need!

  26. I think this article was written from such an interesting perspective. Many people that I know don’t even do yoga for the purpose of getting fit, but rather to relax and they see the characteristic calm of yoga as the only stress relieve that aids them.

  27. I really appreciate articles like this which cover cultural appropriate. I don’t think enough journalists write about this issue. I liked the thoroughness and historical basis, given the space.

  28. Great article. Yoga should start being introduced in schools as long as it does not become any more Americanized than it already has. It has an amazing impact on the mind and body that more people should look to for overall health.

  29. Kate

    Very informative, especially to someone like me who has never gone to a yoga class.

  30. I love that articles like this exist. Before I took courses in university on the philosophies of Hinduism and Buddhism, I had absolutely no idea that yoga was anything but some fancy stretches that I’d pull a muscle trying to accomplish. This concisely sums up what took nearly two weeks of a semester for me to grasp, well done.

  31. Wonderful exploration into the real origins and purposes of yoga. It is so easy to misinterpret this ancient tradition with the Americanized influence.

  32. Maddie Gubernick

    The title speaks for itself

  33. ScottRaia

    What a thoughtful piece, and well-timed in my life. Other material I found helpful were by B.K.S. Iyengar on the power of capital-Y Yoga; and by William Broad on the science, risks and history of the sex cult it has become in recent centuries.
    Thank you for the thoroughness, Anneka.

  34. Yama144

    ‘ They aren’t looking to devote time to learning something that deviates from their modern and fast-paced lifestyle, and instead, are only looking for something that will add to it’

    Although the article attempts to emphasise the cultural significance and context of yoga and find it incredibly judgemental and romantic.

    Despite yoga originating in Asia (though not restricted to India I might add ) just because an ascetic practice is beneficial to oneself does not mean that should not be targeted to a wider audience , regardless of whether this means commodification. Maybe this is the question that should be asked?

    Instead of singling out yoga, perhaps you should have aimed your criticisms and scepticism at the general fast food culture you have associated with the United States.

    There is anecdotal scientific evidence that yoga alleviates PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)symptomatology and allows attuning of certain regions of the brain and the body’s response to stressors. Whether this is through breathing techniques (asanas), meditation remains to be seen.

    You seem to have gone into detail on the religious aspects of it, without touching on the concept of mindfulness- in a secular context.

    Just a couple of references to finish off, for those that might be interested:

    Damasio, A,R. 1999. The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Meaning of Consciousness. (an accessible science book written by the distinguished Antonio Damasio)

    Kolk Der Van A Bessel Ann.N.Y.Acad.Sci (2006) Clinical Implications of Neuroscience Research in PTSD.

  35. I have no interest in “real yoga”. I prefer yoga as a physical exercise. Having researched Hinduism and spoken with with many Hindus, including reading of some of the Gita and other texts, I don’t believe it holds spiritual truth. I have the same attitude towards Buddhism.
    Of course, that is my belief and I have my right to it. In short, I have no interest in practicing “real yoga” and will go out of my way to avoid things tied to it. However, the implication that I have no spirituality and must be caught up in a fast-paced lifestyle is, well, prejudiced, to say the least. There is no foundation for asserting that people who prefer yoga as an exercise do not cultivate spirituality in some other manner, which is not inferior to some “ancient eastern practices”.

    On the other hand, when I tell people I like yoga, they have criticized this as inconsistent, and I’ve tried in vain to explain that American yoga practiced in gyms and even in many “yoga studios” have no spiritual element or any real tie to religious/spiritual philosophies or practices. The less pretense there is about that, the greater I enjoy the class and get what I am seeking out of it – a good workout.

    I realize the aim of this article was slightly critical towards this American approach, but I don’t see why I should take an attitude that my spiritual beliefs are somehow inferior than some “Eastern traditions”. I am not devoid of culture for being American, and I’m certainly not devoid of spirituality, and so I don’t need to adopt a supposedly more “authentic” cultural practice. FYI, the reason American culture tends to regard certain things as foreign that are really an American invention with a immigrant backstory is because our culture is a melting pot, and it’s simply a way to explain how different features of our culture don’t have a singular inspiration.

  36. Felicia Bonanno

    Thank you thank you thank you for this article! I thought I was the only one noticing the Westernization/hipster-ization of yoga.

  37. I started practicing yoga about a year ago and I haven’t ever been taught anything of the origins but I always love learning about how customs and beliefs change over time. I think origin and evolution is important to know about pretty much everything, whether it be ceremonies or language customs so I thought it was really important that you posted this.

    Personally, I never really saw yoga as a means of physical fitness, granted it always did help me with my back problems. For me, yoga was a way for me to learn how to meditate and connect my body, heart and spirit. I just found it a way for me to deal with my days better. Also, I may not be Hindu but I do pray during my yoga sessions if that counts for anything.

    (However, I do agree with Yamal44 that this article seems to be romantic)

  38. Interesting comments/ observations about Yoga today. However, I don’t agree that yoga isn’t yoga anymore. To what kind of yoga are we referring? It is almost like saying that Christianity is not Christianity anymore because it is not what it used to be thousands of years ago. Today, there are still so many forms of yoga that follow old traditions. Of course the practice itself has to adapt to modern day life but that is just like anything else. It is true that yoga has evolved, but that is not a bad thing. It will continue to evolve/ change, just like anything else.

    The founder of Modern yoga, Krishnamacharya, based his practice on old forms of yoga that he learned from his grandfather and father, and so I think that modern yoga is still based on many old, important traditions. Perhaps this article should have explored how yoga become to be what it is today. And I don’t think it is the commercialization of yoga that made it’s practice so popular. Just look back at the times when Krishnamacharya was exploring what we know today as modern yoga in the Mysore palace. His practice attracted many people because of it’s physical complexity and the aerobic series of asanas. The physical benefits to the body and the mind are what made his practice spread all the way to Europe and America in the 70’s. Yoga today is still about connecting the body and the mind, just like thousands of years ago.

  39. Shelley Cowden
    0

    This is a really good article on this subject – it’s a fine line between staying as ‘true’ as possible to the ‘original’ purpose of yoga, and finding a way to make it accessible to people living in contemporary western cultures. I feel this trend towards ‘image-based’ yoga and physicalised yoga must be remedied by teachers themselves. In my experience my practice was first developed under the guidance of a teacher who shared the necessary physical knowledge in context with the corresponding mental and spiritual transformations. However many who go first to a teacher who’s into “juicing poses” will have more difficulty gaining a deeper understanding of the subtleties that lie within deeper (and gentler) approaches to yoga. Thanks for putting this so well 🙂 Namaste. Shelley

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