The impact of Hindu Yoga on the Western World

Sarah Mackay Australia Yoga Bali couples meditation Mexico practitioners retreat Thailand Time to Thrive Yoga Yoga Journal

When you think about yoga a lot of ideas may come to mind, including where it originates from, what it's about and of course the way it is practiced.

What is sometimes not advertised is Yoga’s roots entrenched in Indian spirituality with a strong historical grounding. We can attribute this loss to its collision with Western culture and the commoditised versions that grace our TV screens. It is imperative, when partaking in a form of Yoga, to have a slight idea of what you are engaging in, even if it is just the origins of the word.

“What you and I might assume is “yoga” is probably not even closely related to what yoga was thousands of years ago,” says medical health reporter Lecia Bushak.

Yoga has traditionally been understood as a system of philosophy, principles and practices, which originate from Indian culture. This yoga practice has allegedly been around for over 2500 years. Many people like to believe in its advantages becoming in touch with nature and the mind therefore finding your inner self, but at the same time find it a little more difficult to engage in the multi dimensional nature of the human person.

Many distinct types of Yoga have been formed over the lifespan of Yoga, each being reformed and refined to suit different religious cultures and practices. Some of these include Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga, which are the main types but definitely are not limited to.

So how has Hindu Yoga been translated into the Western World or the Modern Yoga form you may ask?

Western Yoga includes many traditional elements such as moral and ethical principles, fitness postures, spiritual philosophy, guru instructors and mantra chanting which have been preserved in the modern form.

Of course Yoga would not be so established in the Western world if there were not a multitude of health benefits. This is what makes the practice so attractive to Westerners. Many Yoga performers claim that they feel healthier, more emotionally in touch, mentally balanced and live a more happier and fuller life. Although traditional Hindu Yoga was originally intended as a religious practice that draws the Yogi and their God closer together, the Western World has made it a practice that brings people together and offering a reprieve from the mundane activities of everyday life. Hence yoga becomes separated from the spiritual practice.

Traditionalists and critics believe that performing yoga as a physical exercise tramples the original intentions of Hindu yoga thus corrupting traditional form.

Since the 1950s, Yoga has flourished in Australia as modern ‘yogis’ Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda wished would occur in the Western World. The following table demonstrates the passage of Yoga introduction and teaching in Australia from the 1950s-2002.

And in this time the Yoga ritual has become one of the most popular physical activities in the world. In fact a study commissioned by Yoga Journal magazine discovered that there were over 20 million Yoga practitioners in the world in 2012. With that many practitioners just imagine of the amount of Yogi’s practicing. This was a significant increase from a 2008 study done by the same magazine.

Yoga retreats can also be thanked for this steep increase in market size in recent years. Particularly, with the glamorisation of Yoga retreats in movies like Couples Retreat, there is no wonder that the practice is growing in the Western World. Retreats take Yoga to that next level allowing singles, couples and groups to escape their everyday life for a short or long period of time experiencing Yoga in its fullest form. Set amongst the beautiful nature of Bali, Thailand, Fiji, Mexico and many other exotic places, who wouldn't want to go?

Get your Yoga mats out girls and guys because gone are the days where Yoga was merely a religious practice, we now live in a world where everyone can get in touch with their inner spirit!

Doga anyone?

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