Is the current generation of enthusiasts missing on some deeper aspects of Yoga?

Yoga has its roots in ancient India where thousands of years ago, the saints and mystical seekers engaged in various practices which prepared them for meditation. Yoga has now become a worldwide phenomenon which has its wings spread across Yoga workshops, Teachers training, Yoga retreats and clothing lines and what not! But the pertinent question is whether we still have the essence of yoga intact or our encounter with Yoga is just on the superficial level.

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Today, for most of the people, Yoga is all about the physical benefits, mainly weight loss. However, Yoga teacher training in India is more than the physical aspect, it is more about awakening. Asanas have got to do with the physical aspect of yoga while pranayama and meditation have a deeper impact on a person opening the path to spirituality. It not only helps in treating various disorders but also re-establishes the connection with the soul.

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Dr. Madan Bali, a 93-year-old Yogi believes that yoga is to learn how to transcend, not just with physical postures but with pranayama i.e. the breath work which nourishes our brain. Though the physical aspect of Yoga teaches how to focus and challenge or engage the body in various situations, pranayama is a quintessential factor which should not be ignored. As per the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the yoga text for self-realization, out of the eight limbs of Yoga, asana is the third limb and Pranayama is the fourth limb while eight limb being Samadhi i.e. enlightenment. Even while practicing an asana, breath is the principle element.

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Ujjayi, the cooling breath is the basic pranayama which is used as a support during the Yoga asana practice. Several research back the claim that Pranayama helps the body in relaxing which leads the conscious awareness to enter the unconscious mind. Joy Devi, the author of ‘The secret power of yoga’ says that to get the full benefit of Yoga, the classes should offer more than the asanas. Though Ujjayi breath is a part of asanas, it should be done on its own for a minimum of 3 minutes to achieve maximum benefits. Three minutes is exactly the time which parasympathetic system takes to override the sympathetic system. While few experienced teachers incorporate pranayama/meditation in their classes, in the recent years there has been a rise in classes which strictly focus on the asanas to build and sustain the body.

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For the spiritual progress, it is essential to practice Pranayama, though one can start the asana first, gradually integrating the breathing part. The way asana controls the body, pranayama controls the mind and makes it much quieter. By practicing Pranayama we transform the physiological state of our brain. It prepares the mind for meditation which is the seventh limb of yoga. During meditation, we get access to our higher self.
Just like the material objects, bodies are a compound which would eventually decay. Asanas are important as they help people heal physical injuries and ailments but Yoga is not just about the physical form, it is merely the vehicle to attain the higher purpose. Yoga means to unite and asana is the stepping stone to a deeper practice. If you aim to grow spiritually, going beyond asanas is the key!

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So, is it a radical shift or the ‘western yoga’ has lost the touch from its roots? There is no denying that civilization has evolved drastically but our internal nature remains the same. Yoga is an individual journey and each limb leads to the other. It is a journey towards our true source, union with the divine which was the ideal purpose of Yoga according to the saints.

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If you are keen on exploring the deeper aspects of Yoga, the Yoga Teacher Training in Dharamsala can help in realizing your goals. Enroll in the 200 hours YTT certification courses and gear up for a life-changing experience.

Happy Learning!