Yoga – A Worldwide Phenomenon

Words Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen | Photo Sam Kolder

Yoga Is Addition; addition of energy, strength and beauty to body, mind and soul.

Yoga is not religion.

Yoga is science; science of well-being, science of integrating body, mind and soul.

Happy International Yoga Day 2021!

A worldwide phenomenon, yoga is an art and science of healthy living. Yoga has been deduced to be the healing power of many sorts of discomforts and ailments. If done correctly, some restorative yoga can also bring about reversal of certain ailments. In short, yoga is a force to be reckoned with; a ‘chi’ for living, if you will.

The world has started taking notice of yoga since the 1950s but it was not until the 60’s and 70’s Flower Power-era that catapulted yoga to its current state of euphoria. Afterall, isn’t yoga all about giving love, receiving love and living wih a non-violent idealogy? 

Yes, yoga is indeed all that and much more. 

This beautiful ancient practice is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. The fluid movement, shifting from one asana to the other, as soft and gentle as it may seem brings about total mental and physical awareness. 

Breathing which many of us take for granted is the fundamental point of yoga, without which, all movements will be just that; simply movements, without impact whatsoever. In yoga, we strive to “breathe consciously” – it is the essence of yoga. It assists in connecting with subtle energy from within. It is through breathing we are able to navigate different levels of consciousness.  Breathing consciously has a biological effect on our mental, emotional and physical state.

Coming back to the ancient practice of yoga, there are few written books that chronicle the early days of yoga and its original structure. The theories and asanas have been compiled into one such book by the scholar Patanjali in the 2nd or 3rdcentury B.C.  This book is entitled Yoga Sutras.  Patanjali wrote about the classic Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is the original system of this ancient practice. Translated to Sanskrit, Eight Limbs of Yoga is known as Ashtanga – also where Ashtanga Yoga got its name from.

The Eight Limbs are namely :

1. Yama (restraint)

2. Niyama (observances)

3. Asana (the physical yoga exercise)

4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)

5. Pratyahara (preparing for meditation)

6. Dharana (concentration, prepare for meditation)

7. Dhyana  (meditation)

8. Samadhi (absorption, submerge with the eternal and divine)

However, like any other sciences, yoga has evolved. Evolution of Yoga is most definitely a positive one. 

The variety and interpretations of yoga practice available makes yoga accessible to people of all different cultures, belief systems and socio-economic levels. 

Having said that, the fundamental Eight Limbs of Yoga scriptures of Patanjali should always be the main core of the practice, whichever variation and interpretation one dwells in. These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature. These eight steps mainly focuses on the mind and body’s wellbeing and health without swaying too far from the original .

It is also in the most recent years, in yoga’s evolution era that people have come to realize that yoga is a non-religious practice.  My most favourite quote to-date is, “Yoga practitioners consists of very secular, practical, body-oriented people, to the most spiritual people on the planet, and everything in between. And it serves all of those purposes because these are universal teachings.” Such a profound way to expel any thoughts and beliefs on yoga-religious connotations.

After all these years, one thing I know for sure; an inspiring teacher should always be chosen to lead the way for this beautiful practice. The essence of yoga is most definitely student-teacher relationship and the intuitive passing along of knowledge from one to the other.

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