The Origin Of Yoga: How Far Have We Strayed?

You may think you're a yogi, but let's find out if you're staying true to the ancient masters.

The fitness world is one of the most thriving and explosive communities on the market. Health and wellness seem to be on just about everyone’s radar, and new workout trends are emerging constantly. But exercise today has become about more than just the physical; the origin of yoga targets both mind and body which many people today desire in their workout.

Yoga, in fact, has become an absolute phenomenon. Though its beginnings date back to over 5,000 years ago, recent generations have transformed it into a trendy lifestyle that people flock to. From goat yoga to weed yoga, there’s a little something for everybody.

However, these innovations beg the question.. how much can you glamorize yoga until it isn’t really yoga anymore?

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Mind Over Matter

Yoga found its origin in India as a way to harmonize one’s mind, body, and spirit. While the physical development aspect of the practice was present, it was not of primary concern. The praised health benefits were more about fighting disease and improving blood flow rather than muscle toning and shrinking waistlines.

The custom went through many changes over thousands of years, but it always centralized around meditation, enlightenment, and religious themes in the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Ultimately, the goal was to find a new level of self awareness that allowed for a deeper sense of purpose. It didn’t matter if you could stand on your head; what mattered was where your mind was.

East Meets West

As yoga edged its way into Western culture, it lost some of its core. If you ask true traditional yogis what the principal benefits are, they will probably mention something about a higher level of consciousness and spiritual awakening. However, if you turn to Shape Magazine for the answer, you’ll get something quite different.

Earlier this year, Shape Magazine named 'getting more online dates' and 'having better sex' as two of the top ten advantages of doing yoga. While these things may be true, they are quite a far cry from the genuine ideologies behind participating in this ancient tradition. These superficial notions completely contradict the holistic origin of yoga.

Much of the yoga practiced today has actually become the antithesis of yoga as it is meant to be." -David Surrenda

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Because Westerners have become so focused on using yoga as a means to a perkier butt and a reason to flaunt their Lululemons, the rest has gotten lost. David Surrenda wrote for The New York Times, “much of the yoga practiced today has actually become the antithesis of yoga as it is meant to be.” The disconnection has come as such a shock to some Hindu Americans that the Hindu American Foundation began a movement called “Take Yoga Back,” in an effort to replant the Hindu roots at the center of the practice.

Best Of Both Worlds

The two opposing sides of the yoga debate (exercise vs. spiritual awakening) both have something valuable to offer. Perhaps the real question now is, was the integrity of yoga lost... or was it just altered?

Some of the greatest productions across time have been fusions of different cultures, whether it be art or cuisine or fashion. There is no set rule that traditional practices have to remain stagnant and cannot travel across international waters. Modern yoga classes can be appreciated as the result of multiple cultures merging together instead of complete derailments from the origin of yoga.

Maybe you can teach an old downward dog new tricks.

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