World Yoga Institute

Authentic Yoga: Displaced from its proper role?

In recent times, there has been a commingling of methods on Yoga and the variety of fitness programs. As mentioned in previous blog posts, the word Yoga has lately come into popularity. There are many styles and types of exercise, ranging from aerobics to calisthenics to jazzercise to kick boxing.

Quite a few have come to be associated with Yoga. As odd as it may seem, somebody has even come up with an asana practice for dogs!

Authentic Yoga lost to students

Two primary results from this commingling of methods has produced two results, neither of which is desirable:

  1. Participants come to believe that these other forms of exercise are a part of Yoga, which they are not.
  2. This false identification of two or more practices results in the displacement of authentic Yoga from its proper role. Due to confusion, true discipline then becomes unavailable in many circumstances and for countless students.

Let’s admire those who keep the terms separate and know the difference. Some providers of exercise programs have integrated postures and sequences of poses into their teachings but have resisted using the word Yoga.

Congratulations to them for having the wisdom to not misrepresent this age-old science by presenting blended or watered-down versions under that name.

By presenting their programs in this way, their students are getting some of the benefits of a small physical part of Yoga while at the same time not distorting the ancient Indian science in the eyes of those actively learning.

Functional training vs. spiritual education

Functional training integrates Yoga principles but without hijacking the name. Leaving its higher spiritual goals to qualified teachers is the correct approach towards functional training or functional exercise.

From this perspective, the student understands some of the postures of hatha Yoga are only a part of a broader physical fitness routine.

The increasing use of terms like “functional” is very good news for instructors of the ancient traditional science. This way the actual physical training more accurately describes what the trainee is really attempting, rather than deceptively, or by omission, calling the practices Yoga.

When CBS interviewed Bikram Choudhury in 2005, the interviewer referred to Yoga as “meditative.”

Bikram responded, “No, that’s the biggest problem in America. That’s the Yoga introduced to America. Yoga means sit and close your eyes and you look at the lamp, or look at the crystal. Absolutely not; absolutely you are not ready for that kind of Yoga.

“You use the body as a medium to bring the mind back to the brain. Perfect marriage between body and mind. Then, you can reach and knock the door to the spirit.

“Yoga is free. It belongs to the Earth. It’s a god.

“The philosophy of human life: Who you are? Human. Why you came to this Earth as a human? What ultimate destination of your life? To understand all these things, you have to study Yoga.”

Next: Yoga and its use — and/or abuse — as a spiritual tool.