Today 18 million people exercise yoga in America. Which is hard to believe since yoga did not virtually exist in our part of the world. The earliest uses of the term yoga are found in India’s origin scriptures, the Vedas. These Vedic readings use define “yoga” as a chariot. This later becomes incorporated into the war ideology in ancient India’s epic, the Mahabharata. This Sanskrit verse illustrates tales of heroic chariot warriors who ride on celestial yogas in order to crossing between heaven and earth. Furthermore, the interpretation of the word yoga is taken to be understood as the connection between the self and body to the relationship between a rider and his chariot in the scripture, Kathak Upanisad. The Upanishads concept of yoga would be later transformed into the connection between the “inner” and “outer” within us.
Yoga may be rooted in ancient India, but has morphed into something new in North America today. During the late 19th and early 20th century, a new era of open consciousness towards eastern cultures emerged. Traveling from a far distance the traditional religious background surrounding yoga is being overlooked by advanced capitalist nations; who use it as a form of exercise and fashion. What I’m asking is, at what extent is it okay for another nation to exploit another countries culture?
The Hindu epic Bhagavad-Gita became possibly one of the first teachings to use of the term yoga. This becoming systematic function will later be acknowledged by Hinduism as the universal goal behind the religion, which is to break away from the cycle of reincarnation (samsara), and ultimately achieve samsara (moksha). Ultimately, yoga was practiced by exclusive male yogis/gurus in search of spiritual growth. Hindus developed three very different types of yogas, the first developed by priest and is described by the Vedas (Sanskrit text) is Karma Yoga which is the discipline of action. The second, developed by wandering sages and written down in the philosophical scripture of the Upanishad, Jana Yoga which is the discipline of wisdom. The third is, Bhakti Yoga also known as the discipline of devotion.
America was first introduced to yoga by Indian Hindu Monk, Swami Vivekanada came to Chicago in 1893 in front of thousands to speak at the World Parliament of Religions (Berman).This generating a sudden increase of interest to the spiritual East. This welcoming many other Yogis and Swamis from India to share their knowledge behind the mysticism of yoga
World traveler Arundhati Baitmangalkar, writes in his blog the differences between yoga in the U.S. and India, “Coming from a traditional yoga background, I often found myself annoyed and upset, but soon learned to ignore the eccentric ideas that have borrowed the name of yoga.” Consequently, of course a cultures conception on a tool will be altered when practiced in a different culture. Modern yoga teachers can now go to school and learn from other “certified” yoga practitioners. This leading to people not feeling like they’re “getting what they paid for” several westerners will travel to India in search of authenticity. Granted, that they are willing to pay big bucks, Indian gurus will take advantage of the situation and rather than showing them the traditional sacred meaning of yoga, these gurus often teach various life lessons on humanity and equality to relate to their western customers. Hence avoiding all sacred traditional text and customs. People would have to travel miles to India in search of a swami (Hindu teacher) for a true yogic experience/enlightenment. Most Indian gurus will focus on the “breathing patterns, focus of the mind, and other guidelines around asana (posture) and of its benefits”. He continues on by saying, “Anyone can be a teacher as long as we chose that person to guide us, which doesn’t mean that person has practiced all of the teachings or is living a yogic life. Those that have tasted the beauty of yoga and embodied the depth, breath, and full intent of its different forms could not harm, use or abuse another. They will have realized the beauty within themselves and be able to bring that out in their students. There is really no true yoga without love.” We don’t want to lose that connection between student and teacher.
Arundhati Baitmangalkar accepts the different variety of yoga in the west because at the end of it all “The paths we take towards yoga are many, but in the end they all unite. No path is higher or inferior than another.” Here in the west yoga presently connotes a form of physical exercise. This is more correctly called Hatha Yoga or the ‘yoga of compulsion’. To compel the body to obey you, to help in your quest for the union. We need to evolve with the world as it has with us.
Many Americans, mostly those who seek stress relief or exercise have incorporated yoga into their daily lives. Now available hundreds of yoga websites DVD’s, books, and even schools on the different “poses” of yoga has brought it to the next level of commercializing it. Is it okay for people to profit off this? It not only ends there but the fashion that goes behind it. Yoga clothes has over populated the realm of relaxation. Baitmangalkar says, “In India, people show up in very casual comfortable everyday clothes for a class. They do not spend a lot of money accessorizing themselves to look good in class. After all, yoga is about detaching from the body and senses.” There is no necessary form of clothing needed for practicing yoga.
The transformation of yoga throughout the world has brought great change to the way we shape our life. Americans now use yoga as a way to transform their lives whether it be spiritual enlightenment or in search of physical activity. Knowing the origins allows people to coexist with the cultural evolution that’s happening in our world.