Yoga: How it is perceived in India & the rest of the world

By Sridhar Subramaniam
Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

The International Day of Yoga was celebrated yesterday (21 June) the world over. It is being celebrated since 2015 the world over on 21 June, ever since the proposal to celebrate 21 June as International Day of Yoga was  adopted in the United Nations General Assembly at the behest of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri. Narendra Modi.

Why June 21st? It is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (shortest in the Southern Hemisphere) and shares a special significance in many different parts of the world. In Indian Calendars, the summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana.  Dakshinayana is the six month period between Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, when the sun travels towards the south on the celestial sphere. Dakshinayana will end on Makara Sankranthi and Uttarayana begins.

According to Hindu Legends (Puranas), Yoga originated with Shiva (the destroyer god, in the Creator-Preservator-Destroyer (of the Universe) Trinity of Gods of the Hindu Pantheon.  He is said to be the Adi Yogi or the First Yogi. Summer Solstice is very significant in Yogic culture, as it is considered to be the very beginning of Yoga. The Saptarishis (the seven great sages of the Vedic realm) are credited as the first, to bring it to the people. Bharadwaja-Vishwamitra-Vashista-Gautama-Atri-Kashyapa and Jamadagni are the Saptarishis. The Adi Yogi first began imparting the knowledge of Yoga to the Saptarishis on Guru Poornima day, the second full moon after Summer Solstice. Hence the significance of June 21st!

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice, which originated in India.

People are drawn to Yoga for various reasons. The following four being the foremost.

Healing: People go through many kinds of pain and distress (physical, emotional and mental) and are drawn to Yoga, in the fond hope of transcending that pain and to derive the benefits of the therapeutic healing that ensues thereafter.

Joyful Living: Yoga contributes to Joyful Living. By joyful living we mean, attaining those things in life which contribute to making our lives full, rich and meaningful and which bring happiness thereby becoming an important spiritual element in our lives. Yoga is elevating and boundless. There is a certain aura and mystique about it that enriches our lives and extends beyond.

Self-Unfoldment: Many are seeking wisdom on the path of self-unfoldment. Want to know the purpose of life owing to higher calling and yearning of the soul. They seek out Yoga to seek answers to the questions that have been haunting and befuddling them. They are the Seekers.

Enlightenment: Many realize after going through or while going through, the rough and tumble of life, that there is more to life than simply fulfilling our basic urges, making money and acquiring material goods. The Bhagavad Geetha (the song celestial) talks of the fourth goal of Yoga, which should actually be, the raison d’etre of our lives. To go beyond knowing, what life is all about and acquiring the highest level of realization.

Once you embrace Yoga and make it an integral part of your life, it is certain that you will get hooked on to it for life and for good reason.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has looked at what makes Yoga so popular today and how Yoga is the only process of wellbeing that has stood the test of time. It makes you realize some fundamental facts about yourself. He opines that Yoga is the only system which has lived for over 15,000 years without any authority controlling it or enforcing it. He is of the view that, as the activity of the intellect becomes stronger in the world, more people will shift to Yoga over a period of time and it will become most popular way of seeking overall wellbeing.

But there is subtle difference in the way that Yoga is perceived in India and in the rest of the world!

In rest of the world other than India, Yoga is another form of exercise like Pilates.

Yoga is not merely exercise, it has other dimensions attached to it. Sadhguru cautions that it needs to be practiced in a very subtle, gentle way, not in a forceful, muscle building way because, this is not only about exercise. The physical body has a whole memory structure. If we are willing to read this physical body, everything—how this cosmos evolved from nothingness to this point- is written in this body. Yoga is a way of opening up that memory and trying to restructure this life towards an ultimate possibility. It is a very subtle and scientific process, he says.

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