Authentic Yoga: East vs. West

Authentic YogaWhat makes for an authentic yoga practice? The word Yoga literally means union, referring to the union of the body, mind and soul. In Yoga, the body, mind and soul come together to achieve an elevated level of consciousness that brings in immense happiness, joy, satisfaction and wisdom into one’s life. This was the concept with which the ancient teachings about authentic Yoga evolved in India over a period of thousands of years.

However, when the West adopted the concept of Yoga, it became more of a fad and fashion statement than a spiritual experience. An elite group of yoga teachers in America live in multi-million dollar homes catering to the uber-rich. Even the ordinary teachers have modified the teachings and the core philosophy of Yoga to suit the “consumer needs” of the growingly interested Americans. Thus, Yoga today is offered as a quick fix solution to everyday problems. This defeats the original purpose of authentic Yoga itself, which is meant to elevate an individual beyond these everyday trivialities. This modification of Yoga is thus ironical and it can never fulfill its original intended purpose when done in this way.

Traveling from India to America, I see a huge difference in the way Yoga is treated not just by the Gurus but also the people who want to learn it. In America, it is yet another way to make money while in India it is still largely a community help or service. Barring a few exceptions that cater to the billionaires and millionaires of India, almost every authentic Yoga school is free of cost to join or takes a nominal $1 to $2 for a month to cover expenses. The Yoga guru seldom teaches for money and usually has a day job which feeds him and his family. By separating monetary issues and the practice of Yoga, the Guru is thus able to practice and teach authentic Yoga in its true spirit, that doesn’t pander to the consumer fetishism of the 21st century where Yoga is just another commodity to be purchased in the market.

In addition, the practitioners and teachers of Yoga should never forget the real philosophy behind Yoga. Yoga is much more than physical exercise to keep your heart healthy and remove stress from life. These are but the side effects of a truer and larger goal, which is, as the word encompasses, the union of body, mind and soul. The original goal is a worthy one and something that every individual should pursue. The true purpose of authentic Yoga is thus not physical but spiritual, of which physical benefits are mere additional benefits.

The American concepts of Yoga are thus fundamentally flawed and it is difficult to realize the true potential of this ancient Indian practice. True, it will still provide the fringe benefits to the population but never the original benefits that it was intended to provide. One needs to fundamentally rethink about Yoga to practice it in spirit. One very good starting point to understand the Eastern point of view is by looking through the spirit of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga Sutras, which is an eight step method to practice Yoga. Until one looks at Yoga from the way it originated and the way it was initially intended, he/she is being deprived of the wisdom of the wise Gurus who laid down this system of spiritual elevation.

How authentic is your yoga practice? Leave us a comment down below and share your thoughts. Also, if you enjoyed this post, go share it with your friends on the social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

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