Ancient India did not practice yoga for physical exercise – Quartz India
June 21, International Yoga Day, people will pull out their yoga mats and practice sun salutations or sit in meditation. Yoga may have originated in ancient India, but today it is practiced all over the world.
In the United States, it was philosophers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau who first engaged in the philosophy of yoga in the 1830s. Yoga only gained a wider American audience only late 1800s.
Part of the appeal of yoga today is that it continues to be seen as a mystical and ancient tradition. However, as I discovered in my research, the practice of yoga has undergone profound changes. Here are four.
1. Yoga for health and happiness
He was a Hindu reformer, Swami Vivekananda, who first introduced yoga to a wider audience. Vivekananda originally came to the United States to seek funds to alleviate poverty in India. Several electrifying speeches he gave at the World Parliament of Religions, the first global interreligious dialogue held in 1893 in Chicago, brought him instant fame. He then traveled to the United States for several years, giving lectures and teaching yoga.
Vivekananda revived the tradition of Patanjali which had been almost forgotten.
Vivekananda revived the tradition of an ancient Indian sage, Patanjali, which had been almost forgotten. Patanjali probably lived in India somewhere between the first century BC and the fourth century AD. He claimed that the purpose of yoga was isolation from existence and liberation from the bonds of mortal life.
According to Patanjali, to overcome suffering, individuals had to give up the very comforts and attachments that seem to make life worth living for many today. As journalist Michelle Goldberg, author of “The pose of the goddess” Said it, Patanjali’s yoga “is a tool for self-effacement rather than self-realization”.
No one today is likely to see yoga as a way to give up their existence. Most people are drawn to yoga to find happiness, health, and compassion in everyday life.
2. Value of physical exercise
Today, most people associate yoga closely with physical exercise and postures, called asanas, designed to strengthen and stretch the body. However, yoga is not limited to the physical. Yoga also encompasses devotion, contemplation and meditation. In fact, the main focus on the body would surprise both Patanjali and Vivekananda, who prioritized mental exercise over physical exercise.
Patanjali treated the body with disdain, believing it to be a prison. He insisted that we are not our body and that any attachment to our body is a hindrance to yoga. Vivekananda echoed those thoughts. he treated asanas with contempt. Vivekananda argued that an obsessive focus on the body distracts attention from the real practice of yoga: meditation.
On the other hand, contemporary practitioners embrace asanas as a central element of yoga. Contemporary yogis recognize that the mind and soul are embodied. Through “become smart in their yogaContemporary yogis take care of their body, but also of their emotions, because the health of the body has an impact on the ability to see clearly and to act deliberately.
3. Focus on yourself
Today svadhyaya has come to mean self-study. People often embrace the practice of yoga to lead happier, less stressed, and more compassionate lives.
Yoga involves, as I state in my book “The art of gratitude, pay attention to his habits. It is only by first noticing one’s habitual patterns that it becomes possible to change them.
Sacred texts, broadly defined, can help this practice of self-learning, as they encourage reflection on deep and difficult questions that do not have easy answers. For today’s practitioners, these questions include: What is the purpose of life? How can I live an ethical life? And what would make me really happy?
Ultimately, self-study is at the heart of a healthy yoga practice. It allows yogis to recognize their deep connection with others and the world around them. This recognition of interdependence and inter-being is at the heart of yoga today.
4. The ethics of a yoga guru
In ancient practice, the relationship between a guru and a student was crucial. Today, the guru-student model is changing. Yogis no longer train for years in their guru’s house, as was the practice in ancient India. Yogis instead practice in studios, parks, fitness centers, or at home alone.
Yet many contemporary yoga teachers claim the title of “guru”.
Yogis no longer train for years in their guru’s house.
However, some yoga practitioners claim the end of the guru model, since it is endowed with an inherent power, which opens the door to abuse. There are many examples of such abuse, a more recent being the case of Bikram choudhury, the 73-year-old founder of Bikram yoga, who fled the country to avoid an arrest warrant in California in 2017 after being charged with sexual assault.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement in the United States and India, many yoga practitioners have initiated important conversations on the ethics of being a yoga teacher. At the heart of these conversations is how yoga teachers should first and foremost treat their students, who are often deeply vulnerable, with dignity and respect.
Old, but not timeless
Indeed, there is great power and great mystique in the Age of Yoga.
But as a communication teacher, I observe that one of the most common mistakes people make in everyday conversation is to appeal to antiquity – what scholars call the ‘argumentum ad antiquitatem’ fallacy – who says that something is good just because it is old, and because it has always been done that way.
Yoga is ancient, but it is not timeless. By pausing for a moment to consider yoga’s past, we can recognize the crucial role we can and should all play in shaping its future.
Jeremy David Engels, Sherwin Early Career Professor at the Rock Ethics Institute and Associate Professor in Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University. This article was originally published on The conversation. Read it original article. We welcome your feedback at [email protected]