The world of Yoga is incredibly rich and diverse in its range of styles, practices, and teachings. From various asana-focused styles of the popularized Hatha Yoga, to the more mystical, scripture-study based Jñāna Yoga, to Bhakti- the Yoga of Devotion, or to Karma Yoga- the practice of being in service to others- it is fascinating that these ancient traditions, some 1000s of years old, continue to exist, evolve and be relevant to the humankind today.
Instagram’s enormous online community of Yoga practitioners through which we all connect is a striking testament to this.
Albeit, the recent debates on ‘who owns Yoga’, 'the Instayogis' ‘the authenticity of Yoga’ ‘the business / commercialization of Yoga’, ‘the stylization of Yoga’, ‘(de-) colonization of Yoga’ etc., expose some of the challenges of upholding the purpose of and respecting the roots and heritage of this ancient tradition as it grows globally.
On the other hand, on daily basis we also learn about some wonderfully inspiring real-life Yoga initiatives changing lives around the world:
'The only Saudi Arabian female Yoga instructor is awarded for bringing the practice of Yoga into the Saudi mainstream despite the widespread human/women’s rights issues.'
'In China, the elderly residents of many remote villages, which have lost their young population to urban areas, are practicing yoga to improve their health.'
'In Kansas, US, police officers, medics, and firefighters are offered yoga classes to deal with trauma and stress associated with their jobs.'
And maybe the most inspiring testament of them all is the ordinary, every day, offline, and non-fancy, stuff:
That feeling of walking into your local yoga shala shared with familiar faces; the sound of breath; the resonance of peace; the trials and tribulations at the heart of the practice, and the 'real work' on- and-off- the mat.
In the words of the inspiring Richard Freeman:
“Whatever tradition captures our mind, whatever ancient, medieval, or hybrid form of yoga we find that works for us so that we may dig deeply into the nature of the direct experience, that is the starting point. If it allows real work and authentic inquiry within our own unique circumstances, it is the tradition to follow enthusiastically. At the same time be aware of how the ego functions of the mind might turn any practice, tradition, or great starting point into escape, a distraction, or even a political agenda. A sincere yoga practice can save us from this.”
Richard Freeman, The Mirror Of Yoga-Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind
Photos: Jennifer Arndt