In the 21st century, yoga is generally considered the prefix for mom. It is considered to be the slightly more interesting and witty form of exercise that is raved about by at least one friend in everyone. Its popularity is undeniable, a survey in 2019 said up to half a million people in Britain practice regularly. Having started the practice myself, at the start of the lockdown, I can say with confidence that I never even thought about its origin and what it actually brought to my mental and physical health until a few years ago. weeks. In this piece, I aim to explore the origins of yoga and its misconceptions.
Yoga was introduced to Western audiences in the 20th century by a range of spiritual leaders. One of the most famous being Tirmalai Krishnamacharya (born in 1888 in southern India). He was coined as the founder of modern yoga and the architect of Vinyasa, the art of blending structured breathing with a set of exercises. He traveled through India as a child, learning the six darshanas (Indian philosophies). In college, he studied logic and Sanskrit and later studied Verdic philosophy. He became a yoga therapist and helped spread the practice across the world, he called it “India’s greatest gift”. His philosophy was that he recognized yoga as a spiritual practice while simultaneously being a mode of health enhancement.
Yoga originated in 3000 BC and dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization. In Hinduism, all “words of knowledge” were compiled into the Vedas, a collection of religious scriptures. This is called Vedism and it is the earliest religious activity seen in India and it is the foundation of many beliefs in the Hindu tradition. There are four Vedas, four Sub-Vedas, six Limbs and six Sub-Limbs. Among these sub-limbs is the practice of yoga. There are different types of yoga, including karma yoga, hatha yoga, and mantra yoga. They all offer the person a different experience, for example the practice of mantra yoga is the combination of movements with repeated chanting. This is when “mantras are signposts to the wondering mind” (- medindia.net) and allow you to strengthen the connection you have with the divinity within.
In the Middle Ages in India, yoga was only accessible to royalty or aristocracy, but over time, spiritual leaders opened up the practice to the common man. Many gurus have believed that yoga is a union of body, mind and spirit, something that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. Its aim is to help the yogi to recognize the direct link between the finite and the infinite, the tangible and the abstract.
Today, yoga is best known for some of its distinctive physical positions, for example Child’s Pose or Mountain Pose. However, there is more to yoga practice than physical movement, which can be a common misconception. In reality, the basic principle of yoga is to maintain an equanimous state of mind. The art of yoga can be practiced anytime and anywhere, on and off the mat. Simply keeping control and acting in harmony is practicing yoga successfully. It’s a state of mind, not just a set of actions. The Bhagavad Gita is a 700-verse piece of Sanskrit considered one of the holy scriptures of Hinduism. It states ‘Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam’ which means yoga is a skill in action and expression, which reinforces the idea that yoga is a way of life and not just a form of exercise. The founder of “The Art of Living” suggests that babies are born as yogi. They feature the same mindset closely tied to yoga, and many positions are based on the early movements we make as children.
Over the past century, in the West, yoga has been embraced as a tool for maintaining mental and physical health. Its popularity is now global, as more and more people have been captured by its power, no more than during the confinement where it has become an outlet, an escape. My research into its origins has increased my appreciation of the practice – in a way, writing this article, I’m practicing off the mat.