While the 21 June is being celebrated as International Yoga Day, the practice has evolved and come a long way from its primary objectives, taking the face of a new-age movement with contemporary variations that now and again, stir up much debate among traditional practitioners.
Western civilization has been cited as a major influence which has remolded yoga and made it what it is in modern day society. Tracing yoga back to its roots—the Yoga Sutras (fundamental yogic principles written by Patanjali)—were taught orally from teacher to student.
These ideologies were meant to train human beings to cut through blockages and achieve moksha or liberation. In other words, the body was not the end goal or sole focus. It was merely a small but, important conditioning element to enhance the mind-body connection through discipline.
On the flip-side, contemporary yoga has a heavy focus on the physical training of the body through asanas, and neglects the spiritual and mental aspects for the most part. In fact, not every yoga class may even have pranayamas or breathing exercises, which were imperative to the practice earlier. Yoga classes in the current scheme of things are dictated by busy schedules and dominated by fitness goals such as weight loss, detox, strength training and contouring the body for superficial perfection.
However, there is an upside to contemporary yoga styles such as power yoga, Bikram yoga, aerial yoga, and other hybrids. They provide individuals with challenges, motivation, and a seeming relevance to modern day living, and most importantly, facilitate a new kind of moving meditation.
This is an outcome of the obvious, as changing times warrant an emergence of new ways to develop relatability between each individual and the kind of yogic practice they want to adopt.
Yoga Comes Full Circle
Some people like a speedy flow of asanas, while others prefer holding postures with the assistance of props for a long period of time, and the list of choices and their vast availability make all of this possible.
After a period of consistent practice, yoga practitioners tend to move on beyond the physical and seek the mental benefits, wanting more out of the awakening they have tapped into. They want to learn how to slow down and gain control of the senses, breath, and mind—seeking complete union of body, mind and soul.
So in a sense, this natural progression puts us in reverse gear, where new-age yoga paves the way for age-old benefits that were part of the original plan.