Yoga in a Modern World

I read an interesting article this morning:

On the Bastardization of Yoga, like Indigenous Traditions by Low-Brow Pop Culture by Vikram Zutshi.

It really got my brain ticking over, which is always the sign of a well researched and written article, but it also left me feeling a little gloomy…

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The author is lamenting the cultural misrepresentation of the ancient science of yoga, which in his eyes has now become a watered down, more palatable and more marketable multi billion dollar industry.

He may have a point in some regards, yoga has certainly changed over time and yes, people are making money from it.  But what are the people paying for it getting in return?  Is it better people spend their money on their well-being, or on self-destruction?

Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was “cool” in your early twenties to spend your money on cocaine and cigarettes, now more and more young people are choosing to invest in a healthy lifestyle instead.  I think that’s definitely “cool”!

Surely all things evolve, to best be understood by and nurture the audience that will receive them, in the time in which they live?

Let’s also not forget that many major religions are multi billion dollar organisations, but does that mean that the word of their God becomes any less potent? They also spend a lot of their wealth on providing schools, healthcare and grants to worthy causes.

In modern times, the creation and passing hands of money is unavoidable.  Who we choose to give that money to however, is another matter.

Perhaps that’s opening a whole new can of worms… I shall leave answering that subject for a future post!

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“Undisturbed calmness of mind is attained by cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked.” ― Patañjali, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Back to the “Bastadization of Yoga“.

If yoga had remained an oral tradition, this would have happened quite naturally without people really noticing too much, it would have been influenced over time by the experiences and interpretation of the teachers sharing with their students and by our beautifully flawed human memories.

It’s a principle of Chinese Whispers.

It’s only because we have the Vedas, the Hatha Pradipika and other texts that we have a point of reference to compare our “modern yoga” with.

If we all followed the ancient texts of many belief systems to the letter, the modern world would probably have something to say about it:

“Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”. Leviticus 19:19

“If a woman should not grant her man his desire, he should bribe her. If she still does not grant him his desire, he should hit her with a stick or with his hand, and overcome her, saying: ‘With power, with glory I take away your glory!’ Thus she becomes inglorious.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 6.4.7)

“Women who are raped and fail to “cry out loud” in a populated area are most likely enjoying the attack should be killed.” Deuteronomy 22:23-24

“Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, then kill them. Such is the reward of disbelievers.” (Quran 2:191)

Many people follow a belief system peacefully and find it brings them great joy and respect for all living things.  They don’t feel the need to follow the ancient texts to the letter, as times have changed.  What hasn’t changed, however is the core message of their beliefs, which is the important part.

The core teachings of yoga involve spiritual development practices, to enable the student to cultivate awareness, stillness of mind and higher consciousness – to realise union with our deepest and truest nature.

It is true that in recent years the physical development aspect of yoga has become more prominent than the spiritual development aspect, but as this gap grows ever wider, it’s essential that we don’t create an even greater chasm by demonising the journey of others within the yoga community.

Many people come to yoga looking for physical fitness or perhaps stress relief and a large number of them end up experiencing something deeper and so their journey will continue.

Some people simply aren’t ready to invite anything more than the gross elements of yoga into their lives and may never come to appreciate the more subtle aspects, but at least they are taking the first step and have made some positive changes.

Essentially, it isn’t for us to judge the chosen path of another, as the yamas and niyamas teach us.  That includes yoga students and teachers alike.  They are all on their own journey and we are on ours.

With that in mind, I would like to thank Vikram Zutshi for his interesting article, for blowing the cobwebs out of my brain this morning and for sparking off some healthy debate.

I think the meaning behind Namaste sums my thoughts up perfectly, which has one translation but many universal intentions.

It literally translates as “bow me you” or “I bow to you.”  The word ‘namaha’ can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

Namaste – I honor the spirit in you that is also in me.

Regardless of the language you speak, the beliefs you hold, your interpretation of the world around you and those in it, we can all acknowledge that we are all inextricably linked.

So let’s all try to play nicely and get along, life’s too short… this one at least 😉

Health and Happiness,

Corrie xxx

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