Keeping Up With Yoga Traditions
By Jessie Blackledge • October 30th, 2012 • 3552 Views
Does it Matter?
Yoga is fast becoming the next big thing in the West. And yes, it is also becoming a bit of a bandwagon, which is getting more packed by the day. There have been numerous articles written about how the true nature of yoga is being lost in the Westernization of an ancient philosophy. This philosophy has been cultivated into a practice almost unrecognizable to our gurus and swamis back in India, who may well slightly shift in their graves (or next lives?).
The word “yoga” has been replaced in recent years (primarily in the West) to actually mean asana. Asana is the Sanskrit word for “posture”, and it is only one of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga. Ask a passer-by on the street, “What is yoga?” and they might answer something along the physical lines. They may say it’s a sport, they may say it involves twisting yourself into various positions, or they may say “it’s a spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.” In which case they have swallowed a dictionary and you should back away slowly. The point being, that many of us are unaware that yoga is in fact an ancient tradition dating back over 5000 years, and is much more than just a physical practice.
My own yoga teacher training was very centered on “honoring the source” and respecting the ancient teachings of traditional Indian yoga. We were taught Sanskrit mantras, we practiced the long-established Ashtanga asana series, we even learnt kriyas such as use of the neti pot to cleanse ourselves, as traditional Indian yogis would do.
I feel honored to have studied with teachers who are so knowledgeable and wise on the ancient teachings, and happy to have such knowledge within me also. Not long after graduating from my course, high on prana and excessive hugs from fellow yogis, I found myself in a conversation with a friend, explaining (with ridiculous enthusiasm) my experience. While I was clarifying the importance of abiding by these conventions, I was met with the response, “But does it matter?”
After spending an intense month of 5 am morning meditations, constant aching joints, and general blood, sweat and tears, I felt that I had really gained some insight into the true nature of yoga. You can...
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