As yoga continues to evolve in the western world, we look to some well-known yogis for their reflections on the yoga of today, and their hopes for the future.
MY OWN YOGA JOURNEY began 20 years ago when I was 14 years old. Over this time, I’ve watched as yoga has come out of the woodworks and into mainstream meccas around Australia and beyond. The practice has moved from community halls and into professionally designed sanctuaries, outdoor Balinese shalas and the homes of the rich and famous.
Yoga instructors today rarely resemble my original teachers, with their long white hair, mala beads and the scent of patchouli enveloping their aura. These days, your teacher is most likely sporting the latest Lululemons and wowing you with impressive sequences, epic playlists and an anatomy vocabulary that would have impressed Iyengar himself.
There’s no denying that yoga has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, and every day we’re stumbling upon absurd new hybrids like goat yoga, beer yoga and rage yoga, leaving traditionalists squirming.
Yoga, as we know it today, is worlds away from the traditional practices that were created to unite with the divine; to understand that we are all one collective consciousness, and to honour something greater than the individual self (God, the Universe, or whatever your interpretation is). The practice has evolved since its introduction to the western world, and we, in turn, have influenced the way that yoga is practiced in the east.
While there has almost always been a focus on the physical aspect of yoga, we seem to have moved away from the simple Hatha practices that were created to facilitate one in finding a comfortable seat for meditation, and towards something almost entirely exercise-inspired. Of course, even the most diluted classes often have an element of spirituality – time to be still and look within in Savasana, or a reminder to embrace the philosophies of ahimsa (non-violence) by being gentle with one’s body. And we can’t deny the often valuable spiritual lessons/ metaphors available through asana. But, the times they are clearly a changing, leaving so many of us scratching our heads and wondering, for better or for worse?
Thoughts on Modern Yoga
Duncan “I believe we have removed a lot of the mystique that scared people away from yoga practices and made it much more accessible to the everyday person…I think modern yoga is a natural evolution, similar to the original evolution of Tantra and subsequently Hatha yoga, to be able to be practiced by the masses and a doorway to so much more.”
SIMON “There are some great things about yoga in the modern world for sure…But increasingly, many people who have been involved with yoga for more than just a few years believe that yoga has lost its essence…Real meditation was [once] considered to be very difficult and would take years to master. You would need to have the ability to be able to sit naked in the snow. Now it seems anyone can sit and meditate.”
RACHEL “So many people take the outer shapes to be the meaning of yoga. That if you can bend, stretch and push your body you’ve achieved the essence of yoga. If you sit for a few moments in a beautiful place and take a breath, that’s yoga. And sure all these things give you a glimpse of yoga, but yoga is not a practice! It’s the nature of yourself. Find out who that SELF is and you’ve found yoga. Everything else is just scratching the surface.”