Yoga Misconceptions Essay

1249 words - 5 pages

“Yoga is not a religion. It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed God-like figure to be worshipped in a particular manner” (American Yoga Association 1). The common misconception is that yoga is a religion. In actuality, “the whole school of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation” (Christensen 13). Though yoga has been around for centuries, the modern world has altered the way this originally humble practice is performed, culturally stereotyped, and religiously viewed.

The practice of yoga dates back thousands of years and is traditionally an intimate practice between a disciple and teacher. “The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God” (Iyengar 19). Yoga can be traced to the Prehistoric Period, where written words were nonexistent. Therefore, yoga was originally practiced through oral teachings given by a Guru (teacher) to his Chela (disciple). This way of teaching limited the number of practitioners and also allowed Gurus to teach only those who they considered to be worthy of practicing. Around 500 A.D. yoga experienced a shift from personal spiritual attainment to a social practice with the goal of cultural benefits. At this time, yoga’s practices and teachings were written down, however “the first time the word yoga was found in written form was in the Rig Vada, one of the sacred texts used by Vedic priests…these techniques had never been written down until the Indian sage Patanjali wrote down a systematic method of yoga in the Yoga Sutras” (Menechella). This period also saw a rise in teachers and it grew from individual teaching sessions to sanghas (spiritual communities or classes). Yoga also experienced a shift around 1500 A.D., which brought the primary focus of the practice to breathing and poses and away from its spiritual and self-awareness roots. Even with these great leaps in popularity, yoga did experience a decline up until 1893, when Swami Vivekananda addressed the World Parliament of Religions. He spoke about the history, teachings, and practice of yoga in an attempt to educate the western world on yoga. His speech paved the way for western practice of this eastern tradition.

Yoga is mainly viewed as a healthy practice of physical postures as well as breathing techniques, but many are unaware that there are many different types of Yoga. These types range from subtle poses and breathing to more intense sessions of intellectual investigation. Although many people have mixed feelings towards yoga, it is hard to argue the mental and physical benefits of the exercise. Yoga is not only beneficial to the physical body; it is also equally helpful in reducing stress levels or dealing with depression. Also, studies have found that practicing Yoga actually helps in...

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