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Understanding the Difference Between Modern Yoga

March 16, 2018

There is no doubt that yoga has become extremely popular in different parts of the globe. Over the years, yoga has transformed from to what we currently have now. It has morphed into a western version of its own. However, it is imperative for a yogi to still understand the traditional version of this practice. 



What exactly is yoga?

The ancients believe that yoga is a complete system. This means that postures are only a small part of yoga. The word yoga in itself refers to the whole and not merely a part. As for its purpose, yoga is spiritual in nature. 

In fact, you can classify yoga into four broad categories namely Vedic Yoga, Preclassical Yoga, Classical Yoga, and Post Classical Yoga. However, keep in mind that despite the popularity of asanas in modern yoga practice, there is no evidence that asanas has ever been the primary aspect of Indian yoga practice tradition. 


Traditional Yoga vs. Modern Yoga 

For starters, keep in mind that traditional yoga or yoga in its real essence is a spiritual practice. It was aimed with a goal of having a union with the absolute or the divine. Traditional yoga has been historically taught orally and because of this nature, there are subtle nuances depending on the teacher and lineage. In this regard, there really is no agreed upon practice of yoga even in a traditional standpoint. 


On the other hand, modern yoga focuses more on the physical aspect of yoga. There are contemporary styles of yoga that are mostly variations of what is called hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses more on the physical exercises in order to master both mind and body. 


What most people don’t know is that postures are only a part of yoga as an entire practice. In fact, Jnana yoga doesn’t involve physical postures. Instead, it involves rational self-inquiry and even seeks to get rid of ignorance of one’s nature. 


Patanjali’s Asanas


For any yogi, it is important that they know their history. Asanas weren’t even part of yoga until Patanjali wrote Yoga Sutras around 200BCE. He was able to incorporate postures that help discipline the body. The goal is to be able to create a connection between the body and your consciousness. 


Contemporary yoga practitioners are mostly based on this. Yoga has become popular tremendously in the West mainly because of its ability to promote health benefits ranging from injury prevention to recover and even detoxification of the body. Classes are usually focused on physical fitness or can even be integrated with meditative focus as well. 

Unfortunately, most modern yogis don’t practice any kind of spiritual awakening. For a lot of yogi purists, why not explore the spiritual benefits of yoga as well if you are already getting physical benefits from it?