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Yoga: A Misunderstood Legacy

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Yoga: A Misunderstood Legacy

Yoga encompasses a wide array of spiritual practices, but is reduced to a set of physical exercises

Read the following word out loud – karma. You probably ended up pronouncing it the way it’s spelt in English, even though you knew the original Sanskrit pronunciation (karm). Similarly for yoga, both, the word and the concept have come full circle. ‘Westernisation’ has hit us so rapidly, that it seems feasible that we may have a generation of Indians soon who believe that yoga was a form of exercise that yoga-pants sporting white women from the US started.

Hollywood celebrities such as Jessica Biel advocate the Western interpretation of yoga, that of practicing it to maintain physical fitness. With its headquarters in Switzerland, the International Yoga Sports Federation’s long term goal is the inclusion of yoga as an Olympic sport. But advertising yoga as yet another form of physical exercise or as a competitive sport, is, according to me, a travesty.

Yoga: A Way of Life

Yoga is much more than a way to get rid of your backache or becoming more flexible; it encompasses a wide array of meditative and spiritual practices. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains it best, “Suppose you did not know what an airplane is, and I give you one. You try to drive it around…you chop off the wings and drive around with your airplane. You may be pretty happy, but one who knows what it means to fly will cry.”

The current generation of Indians had direct access to the complete wealth of yoga, yet our perception is aligned with the West; we think of it as a set of physical or breathing exercises. The reason that the spiritual aspect (which involves meditation and introspection) often goes unnoticed, is because of its conjugation with religion. This association is the primary cause of skepticism towards yoga. But, yoga is unusual in that it spans across religions. Apart from thematic similarities in texts, religions rarely agree on a set of practices and yoga is just that. Along with being a school of philosophy in Hinduism, yoga is practiced by followers of Jainism and Buddhism as well. In this way, it does justice to its etymology; yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word yuj which means ‘to unite’.

Additionally, Baba Ramdev is to blame for ruining the public image of yoga for the Indian millennial. He diluted the benefits of yoga by suggesting that it is the solution to all problems including cancer and schizophrenia. He associated it with “curing” homosexuality. Furthermore, he exploited his followers by using yoga as a marketing tool. These regressive factors are unfortunate since the Indian millennial has a lot to gain from all facets of yoga.

Indian Youth & Netflixasana!

21-year-old Aman Jotwani, a recent graduate who is extremely keen on yoga and also attends classes, says, “You can find a good yoga class anywhere, and I enjoy it more than gym or even sports, both of which I had tried. I started it in the 4th year of my college and I’ve never scored better or felt better. Currently, the only asana that the youth practices is Netflix-asana, that is, the uncomfortable slouching position that one adopts while watching shows on Netflix or poring over their blue light devices (cell phones, iPads, etc)!”

Speaking about the benefits of real yoga he says, “Yoga won’t immediately cure sleep and musculoskeletal disorders that arise due to blue light and poor posture, but it’s the first step to taking control of your body, mind and more importantly, your soul. Today I have a 9 to 5 job, but waking up for my early morning yoga takes me through the day!”

Give Yoga A Chance

Perhaps the most convenient aspect of Yoga is that it can be practiced at home – all one needs is good resource material, easily available online. Aman recommends www.yogajournal.com, coupled with the willingness to learn. In summary, don’t discard yoga before giving it a shot, it may be holding the answers you’re looking for.

One of the few concrete achievements of the Modi government has been the inception of 21st June as International Yoga Day. Last year, Prime Minister Modi himself did yoga along with several other ministers all over the country. Join him this year too along with 74 other Union government ministers. Either you’ll feel rejuvenated or at the very least, you’ll have a chuckle watching Amit Shah attempting yoga in formals. Win-win!

Image Credit: Imagesbazaar

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