Thursday, July 18, 2024

Is yoga losing its Indian roots?

Arnabjyoti Kashyap

Yoga is a practise that has its origins in ancient India. Although it is a broad term, when we say “yoga”, we generally talk of “hatha yoga”, which involves physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It is a holistic practise that aims to unite the body, mind, and spirit.

Yoga has many benefits for both physical and mental health. It can help reduce stress, improve flexibility, build strength, and increase mindfulness. The practise of yoga has been shown to have positive effects on a variety of health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. There are many different styles of yoga, each with its own unique approach and focus. Yoga has been practised in India for thousands of years and has deep roots in Indian culture and tradition. The practise of yoga was originally developed as a means of spiritual development and self-realisation, although nowadays people mostly use it as a tool to improve their health and fitness.

In addition to the physical postures, yoga also includes strong spiritual practises. The philosophy of yoga is based on the ancient Indian texts known as the Yoga Sutras, which outline a path to spiritual enlightenment through the practise of yoga. The yoga sutras describe each limb of yoga, which includes ethical principles, physical postures, breath work, meditation, and other practises.

In recent years, yoga has gained popularity worldwide, and people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds have started practising it. While this has led to the spread of yoga around the world and popularised this practise, which originated in ancient India, some people do argue that the commercialization and commoditization of yoga in the west have led to the dilution of its Indian roots. Some of the studios and teachers focus more on physical fitness and less on the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga. The actual essence of yoga is getting lost through colonisation, according to Tāmaki Makaurau-based indigenous yoga teacher Reha Kumar. She quotes that “if we don’t give credit and pay respect to indigenous yoga, we dilute and invalidate the practise, and nowadays the yoga industry has become a multi-billion-dollar industry and just a money-making tool.”

Thus, the debates about cultural appropriation and whether non-Indian practitioners should be respectful of the origin and tradition of yoga practise provide practise.  Provide a practise. Many people argue that non-Indian practitioners should be mindful of the cultural significance of yoga and seek to learn from Indian teachers who can provide a deeper understanding of the practise.

At the same time, there are also efforts to preserve and promote the traditional teachings and practises of yoga in India and around the world. Many Indian teachers and organisations are working to educate people about the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga and to ensure that the practise remains connected to its Indian roots.

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual practitioners to decide how they approach and practise yoga. Some may choose to focus more on physical fitness, while others may seek a deeper understanding of the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga. However, it is important that we are respectful of its origins and seek out teachers who can provide a deeper understanding of the practise.

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