Yoga as a spiritual tradition has been making its rounds through many multiples of generations. Every time the cultural/ societal backdrop undergoes a transformation, yoga changes the way it presents itself with a hope that seekers will find something within the presentation that can possibly draw them into the deeper unchanging essence beneath. Today, as the planet and our species plummet into massive change, the outer facade of yoga is mirroring the trend.
What is yoga really? Often times it is percieved in a highly polarized fashion. On the one end it is seen as an exclusively physical, postural practice and on the other end as something that is detached from and transcends the physical. We are physical beings, with complex bodies that predicate our emotional states through a cocktail of chemical reactions (hormones). The body is the first gift we recieve, and it’s a sheer lack of responsibility that we do not use its capabilites to the fullest. While, on the other hand, our physical bodies are temporary and always changing. There is something more to our being than simply its physical manifestation. Integration is the keyword here. Yoga translates directly to Union. Union implies being non-seperate. Having any practice, daily ritual or lifestyle that integrates the various aspects of our being; the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual can be considered to be yoga. Also a point to note here, is that yoga is simply a word being used to describe a concept; you can call it what you like, based on your set of beliefs and worldview. Always good to have a spread. Every culture, every worldview, every belief system sees things differently. No interpretation is complete, none is wrong, none is exclusively right and as long as the interpretation doesn’t claim to have a complete, undisputable answer it can continue to evolve.
Yoga was born from a particular spiritual culture and as it gets assimilated into different cultures from different regions in the world, it is diversifying as much as the diversity of people approaching it as a practice. As more people identify themselves with its practice, teachings and worldviews, we find a growing group of people tied together by its spiritual principles. Unlike religious groups that are often dogmatic, exclusive and overly concerned with safeguarding their traditions, this group is engrossed in movement, re-connecting with the body, alongside attempts to understand the mind. Some groups and individuals at the roots of the tradition worry that the essence of the practices are being diluted. Though, there is unquestionably a dilution happening within yoga, i believe it is temporary. In a bid to reach more bodies and minds it had to go through a dilution. If 10,000 individuals are capable of transmitting its teachings integrally, a few million have come seeking to learn and recieve the benefits that the practice has to offer. The tradition doesn’t grow by its number of practitioners, but by the number of individuals who can effectively transmit its spiritual depth. That number is increasing incrementally, but nowhere near the rate at which aspirants are seeking to be initiated. This gap can only be closed with time. People usually begin with the physical postural practice as a form of exercise and slowly over time begin to tune into the emotional and mental benfits that asana has to proffer. Eventually a portion of these practitioners get drawn to the philisophy and meditative aspects of the practice. At this stage they begin to seek out an individual who has successfully undertaken the journey of taming the mind. With determination and continuity in practice they will eventually be ready to recieve these teachings in its entirety and also pass them forward to other seekers. In this process the tradition can only be enriched, as each person diseminating its knowledge base will add to it their plethora of perceptions, interpretations and most importantly learnings. As more bodies, minds and hearts dedicate their careers to the tradition, the more it expands in breadth and also depth. Additionally it supports and offers a platform for those at the centre with extensive experience to disemminate their teachings to a wider audience.
Some see yoga as a trend, which it undoubtedly is. It has risen in popularity riding on a trend, but i dont see it vanishing anytime soon. It would be safe and pragmatic to expect that it might undergo massive change and might even be called something else in the near or distant future. However, more and more it plays a crucial role in shaping people’s lives, the way they interact with their bodies, environment and others. In time to come I see its philosophies, worldviews and teachings taking centre stage in politics, business and other forces that will shape our future. In many ways it already is. Many successful entrepreneurs follow certain techniques to reduce distraction, increasae awareness and prolong motivation. These techniques come from various traditions; are called different things, take on different forms, but that is of no consequence. The fact that they are changing the human experience and thus our circumstance is what is important. Yoga as a positive force has immense potential, and it is futile to assume that any individual or group can control a tradition that has successfully mastered riding the immense evolutionary wave that technology and information is bringing to life.