Yoga: From spiritualism to political capital

What does Yoga really mean today?

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Yoshika Sangal | June 16, 2015


#what is yoga   #yoga day celebration   #yoga day   #international yoga day   #yoga spiritualism  


“The Muslim Board has decided to move the Supreme Court and launch a nationwide campaign against the order that wanted students to perform yoga and Surya Namaskar.”

This was something I read last week as the government prepared India and the world for the International Yoga Day. The Muslim organisation may have felt that yoga is being used by the government for some hidden political agenda and they are being compelled to perform the sun salutation (Surya Namaskar) which according to them violates the monotheistic nature of Islam.  That is their opinion.

The word yoga often leaves me in a sceptical position. Yoga as I know, as a student of Indian Philosophy, relates to the Yoga school of philosophy which is one of the six orthodox schools of philosophy.

The Yoga sutras provide a holistic way of life that starts with the ethical code of conduct proceeding through physical postures, breathing exercises, control of senses, concentration, and meditation that culminates to a total detachment and surrender of worldly possessions in order to attain self-enlightenment.

That is the ancient wisdom. Cut to present day - every morning, middle-aged women in my colony gather at the public community centre. They roll down yoga mats or cloth sheets (essentially bed sheets) and perform kind of physical exercises in the name of yoga, with great effort in order to shed some extra weight. For most this also provides them a good relief from house chores to gossip and share stories in their beloved social circles (their social media app, I believe).

The number of celebrities practicing yoga has expounded exponentially in light for demand for toned and flexible bodies, especially the performers. Like for pop-singer Madonna, yoga is an effective cardio workout and is considered as a bodyweight bearing exercise that promotes dynamic movements and body strength.

Almost everyone wishes to explore newer ways of yoga to further enhance body postures and positions.

This typical shift from holistically spiritual to modern sense of yoga, tied to marketing of quick benefits and now graduating to with political overtones. The origin of yoga for spiritual discipline, led to mastering postures for physical proficiency and now associated with religion for political schemes, epitomises yoga as a single word, with many practices.


 

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