It is possible to practice, teach or study yoga in ways that do not reinforce the rebranding of yoga
Here's just one of the questions I ask myself before I go to teach yoga. ...I'm an intense person!
That the various practices of yoga are profoundly Indian and inextricably linked to Hinduism is a matter of historical consensus.
No tradition exists in a vacuum however, and all cultural symbols, practices, artefacts and technologies are influenced and shaped through processes of assimilation and exchange within and between different cultural contexts.
Allow me to elaborate how yoga has been influenced through its translation from an Eastern context to a Western one; British dominion in India had been a vector for exposing the West to Hindu culture since the early period of the British Empire, Western interest in yoga accelerated from the late 19th century onwards
The yoga described by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 as he embarked on a world tour was predominantly an individualised philosophical discipline focussed on achieving personal freedom and wellbeing to make it accessible to Western audiences.
So, from the outset of its exposure to the West, yoga was subject to modification and adaptation to reflect the prevailing Western discourses on health, medicine and psychology.
The growth in Western interest in yoga continued throughout the early 20th century, with the practice of postural yoga becoming more prevalent from the 1930s onwards, driven by the increasing association of yoga with physical fitness and the concept of yoga gymnastics.
I would LOVE to share the remainder of my essay on this, but I suspect it's a niche interest. (By all means email me if you'd like the full piece). What I will say is, through hundreds of hours of study and contemplation;
Yoga is transcultural. And that's both one of it's greatest strengths and my greatest concerns.
It's a physical, emotional (and if you want it); spiritual path to get to know your Self. It's a practice that offers an increase in resilience and strength from the inside out.
In it's truest form it neither conflicts with or undermines any personal or religious beliefs and can assimilate into any lifestyle.
My worry is the culture Yoga finds itself in today; one concerned with physical appearance, individualism and a crushing sense of loneliness I'm frightened for what the practice will transform into.
So, what shall we do about the evolution of yoga? I can't do this on my own.
9 teachers are training with me, and preparing to bring the most thoughtful, inclusive and compassionate Yoga to the industry! If you'd like to register your interest to train in 2021, email me and I'll send you the course details.
I've developed a 10 week yoga and meditation course for you to access in person, live on zoom or via recordings. We start on Wednesday 2nd September. It's £90 per person, or £75 per person when you sign up with a friend. More details here.