Yoga, with its roots embedded in the soil of India, has not only expanded to the West but has been embraced by the world steadily and firmly. This International Yoga Day let us look back at how the practice has extended inside the minds and soul of the people who follow it today.
The word ‘Yuj’ (unite and integrate) from which YOGA is derived, originated from India and goes back to around 5000 years. Much practiced all over the world today, Yoga’s trail towards the West could be traced along the path taken, by none other than Swami Vivekananda. But more on that later.
Yoga, primarily a spiritual discipline, is a science of focusing on achieving harmony between mind and body, man and nature. First mentioned in the Rigveda, and its collection of texts, Yoga was developed by the Vedic priests who eventually chronicled the practices and beliefs in the Upanishads. Researchers believe that the Vedic priests, generally self-disciplined and in avoidance of any form of indulgence, performed sacrifices that was known as Yajnas using poses that is again believed to be precursor to the poses that are used today in the modern world.
Yoga is practiced across the world by millions of people in many methods and varieties today. Considered to be a scientific means of spiritual practice, Yoga’s appeal lay in the fact that it could bridge the gap between science and religion, developing both as an academic science on the one hand and as something like a mindfulness practice.
If one were to trace Yoga’s journey to the West, we would have to go back to the year 1893, when Swami Vivekananda made his famous speech at Chicago in the Parliament of religions during his visit to America. With his powerful oration on the spiritual superiority of Indian religious traditions, which also won him adoration of the Americans, he also found ways and means to spread awareness on ancient Indian spirituality with Yoga to be the best concept to aid him in the process.
Vivekananda was a product of the neo-Vedantic movement that had taken roots in Bengal. Founders of the Brahmo Samaj movement fused Vedic concepts with Western humanism. Against this backdrop, Keshab Chandra Sen, founder of the Bramo Samaj initiated a modern form of Yoga that drew upon both the ancient Indian texts and Western scientific concepts.
Over time the concept and practice was taken forward. Over the years Yoga Gurus and practitioners, Indian and otherwise spread out across the globe. Yoga Centres and schools were established as an ensuing process with growing interest towards the discipline internationally. The healthcare industry has also been instrumental increasing the interest in yoga, as a therapy commonly addressing both physical and mental ailments. Through research and self-reports it is undeniable that the benefits that Yoga apparently elicit are unmatched by any other wellness practice.
Yoga now finds itself having a strong influence on the overall wellness industry. The number of practitioners are steadily growing and in one global research study it is stated that the number of practitioners will see a staggering growth to 55 million by 2020.
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared June 21 as International Day for Yoga. The idea was to celebrate the ancient Indian physical and spiritual practice worldwide and spread awareness on the benefits of the same.
It was first proposed by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) when he said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness it can help in our well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”
In its effort to promote Yoga as an essential element of India’s culture, Niyogi Books has carefully chosen a few books and published them under the self-help category. Written by experts and packed with insights and advice these books make for meaningful and enjoyable reading.
In Yoga Shakti, Shailaja Menon, a certified Manasa yoga teacher, speaker, and freelance writer/editor based in Malaysia and with over 18 years of experience in yoga, both as a teacher and as a practitioner, explores the physical benefits of practising yoga, and the spiritual and mental fulfilment one gains from this practice as well. Using personal experience as a driving force, Shailaja explains the origins of Manasa yoga in a way even laymen can understand, and recommends daily exercises to help introduce beginners into the world of yoga. This book is the genuine expression of an author who has greatly benefited from practising yoga, and wants to share this knowledge with those who seek to do the same.
Yoga: The Indian Way is not just another book on yoga. The simplified, yet effective and safe, methods for practising yoga, as shown in its pages, are meant for almost anyone between the ages of 8 and 80 years.They are based on traditional practices. This book provides excellent guidelines to those who want to follow a spiritual path, but are confused as to where and how to start. It is an effort to put the great science and art of yoga in its right perspective by describing its background in simple terms without losing its essence. Author of the book, Dharamavir Singh Mahida is an active sportsman, he has taught yoga at the Sports Medicine Centre of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Exploring the principles of yoga in Indian dance and building a tangible artistic practice based on this understanding, Dance as Yoga addresses the background, technique and embodiment of the Odissi dance form. It describes Odissi’s mechanism for creating, dispersing, and expressing energy, as well as some early experiments in choreography that extended its accepted parametres with reference to Choreological Studies. It is meant for both performers and audiences to better appreciate the reasons for the restraints inherent in such dance forms and, by doing so, have an informed appreciation of innovation that builds on traditional strengths. This book is authored by Rekha Tandon who is a choreographer and researcher in Odissi with an interdisciplinary background.