Yoga in the 21st century:- Has yoga lost its soul?
How this ancient practice of Bharat is losing its essence in the modern world?
The practice of Yoga is believed to have started with the very dawn of civilization. The word Yoga first appeared in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda and is derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” which means to join or unite.
The practice of Yoga was started during the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. It was first mentioned in Rig Veda, a collection of texts that consisted of rituals, mantras, and songs which was mainly used by the Vedic priests.
Yoga in the west
Modern Yoga as it is known in the West took off in the late 1890s when Indian saints began spreading their knowledge to the Western world for the first time.
The introduction of Yoga to the West is often credited to Swami Vivekananda.
Vivekananda organized numerous world conferences on the subject by describing yoga as a science of the mind. He translated Yogic texts from Sanskrit into English and in 1893, during a visit to the US, sparked the nation’s interest by demonstrating Yoga poses at a World Fair in Chicago.
In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda came to address a conference of religious liberals in Boston. He had been sent by his guru, to “spread the message of kriya yoga to the West.”
Later in the 1960s, BKS Iyengar introduced Yoga to the western countries. In 1963, he appeared on the BBC with David Attenborough and violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Today there are over 36 million Yoga practitioners in the US alone (up from 20.4 million in 2012) with practitioners spending up to $16billion on yoga classes, clothing, equipment, and accessories.
Today, although this practice of ancient India is being practiced across the globe the matter of concern out here is yoga losing its originality.
When during the early sixties and seventies when the people of the west were looking for something new this ancient practice came as a savior for them.
The Indian gurus who went to the west to distribute this knowledge were a hit out there. But during the later stage when yoga in itself turned into a lucrative industry many 2nd and 3rd generation teachers compromised with the originality of this practice.
Each generation of yoga teachers has its own goal, targets, and motives. Similarly, when commercialization of the practice takes place there is a demand for quick and result producing techniques.
Some of the teachers diluted the message of yoga according to their audience in order to keep their clientage intact.
Today there has new forms of yoga that have been introduced as per the comfort of the audience and the market demand.
Beer yoga, hot yoga, laughter yoga, dog yoga, etc which has taken the market by storm is now moving towards India.
Something from one culture is absorbed into another culture, rendering the original of identity invisible- Rajeev Malhotra
Today the teachings of yoga have been limited to just the physical aspects of it.
According to Patanjali sutras, there are eight limbs of yoga:-
- Yama (abstinence),
- Niyama (observances),
- Asana (yoga postures),
- Pranayama (breath control),
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption).
Gradually one has to reach up to the stage of absorption. But unfortunately, most of the practitioners have limited themselves to asana and pranayama.
But there are some people like Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) who have been propagating the original message of yoga in the west.
As a Hindu and a practitioner of Sanatana dharma, our role here is to give out the clear message of yoga to the world.
Today when people across the world practice yoga there are few who express their gratitude to this great land of Bharata for sharing this valuable ancient knowledge.
Even if we ought to commercialize yoga but at one stage the real message of yoga should be given to the students or else it is an injustice to the acharyas and the saints who have passed down this knowledge.
If we do not carry on the message as it is the soul of this Vedic practice will die down and its revival will be an impossible task.
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