Westernized Yoga/Evolution of Yoga in the Western World

Yoga has become a way of life in western culture. Having started about 5,000 years ago in India, it has become popular in the past few decades. The devotees of this practice have tremendously increased, making it one of the highest-grossing industries in the lifestyle sector. It is estimated that last year alone, yoga products and services grossed a total of 27 billion dollars in the United States. It, among other factors, has led this industry to have massive airtime in our television, big campaigns and advertisements, and a massive establishment of yoga-centered stores around the world. Now, the question remains: is the yoga that we practice here in the west the same as the original one?

The media portrays yoga as a physically demanding activity that requires young, flexible individuals to practice it. It, coupled with the fact that almost all advertisement banners have young, beautifully looking people in a beach resort or an expensive surrounding holding a very complex posture, has placed a mental picture of what yoga is. Although this portrayal may not be entirely true, it has acted as a deterrent for people who would otherwise be willing to begin their own yoga journey. Excuses, such as it is only for the young or even for the rich, are prevalent. It, however, is not true, at least in the original context of yoga, and we are going to see how western yoga has evolved over time from its original eastern one.

  • Physical Fitness And Therapy

Western yoga has emphasized on the physical aspect of yoga. Most yoga schools completely ignore the spiritual and mental faculties of yoga. In the world of the west, people have gone ahead and classified it as a form of sports. A good example is in the United Kingdom, where it has been placed in the same category as other physically intensive activities, such as walking and swimming, placing third after the two. Asanas are the primary focus of the western world, with some modifying the asanas to act as a form of therapy for personal well-being and for treating some types of physical illnesses, such as back pain. It is contrary to the eastern culture where learning yoga is done wholly without emphasizing any particular area.

  • Spiritual And Mental Development

In a lot of western yoga schools, the emphasis on spirituality is almost ignored. It may be because most yoga practitioners do not want to be stereotyped with the hippies. Also, it may be since the mode of delivery in the western culture is entirely physical, thus ignoring the other disciplines which are essential in the eastern forms of yoga which focuses on both spiritual and mental growth.