VIDEO: Is Yoga Straying Too Far From its Origins?

May 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Wesleigh Ogle
wogle@smu.edu

Hot yoga, prenatal yoga, laughing yoga, even mouth yoga. Some Hindus are concerned that this ancient religious practice is straying too far from its origins.

Yoga is a Sanskrit term meaning, “to unite” the body with the mind, or the individual with the godhead. However, modern yoga is transforming into something different.

“It’s the time of the day when I can take all of my focus and take it from the outside and put it on myself,” said yoga student Lauren Mishoe.

Yoga became a secular workout in the 19th century when British presence in India put an emphasis on strong, vigorous bodies.

“Yoga transformed itself in the popular consciousness as being a practice of health and well being, and started to become in that way less religious,” said SMU religious studies professor Steven Lindquist.

Although both forms share values of healthier bodies and minds, they differ in their end goals. Westerners seek reduced stress, flexibility and muscle strength, while Hindus are looking for ultimate realization.

“It’s a way to get closer to God, it’s a way to understand your position in the universe,” said Lindquist.

However, some Hindus are concerned that modern yoga is straying too far from its traditional form.

“For some, it’s an issue of cultural pride, it’s an issue of maintaining their cultural heritage,” said Lindquist.

But secular yoga students, like Lauren, don’t see it that way.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem, I think it’s a different kind of experience. I’m not a very spiritual person, so, for me, this is a different kind of spirituality,” she said.

“I think we’ve come a long way as far as knowing what exercises are good for your body. I think that I can create stuff that’s good or better than it was done a hundred years ago,” said yoga instructor Bryan Robbins.

Some Hindus are also concerned about charging a fee for yoga, because they say spirituality should not be sold. But Lindquist says it’s not a problem unless the motivation is solely profit and greed.