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Yoga Today

2 Sep 2011   Shanti Gowans
Today, there are practitioners following different yoga paths and yogic styles who come from various lineages. 
 
In a society where traditional yogic concepts such as wholesome eating, mindfulness, mental wellness and spiritual health are now a common part of corporate health programs, what role does yoga play in your real life? 
 
A few decades ago, people used to look at me with weird facial expressions when I said I taught yoga and meditation for a living. Now, at the supermarket or in the bank, people say, “Oh yes, I could really do with that". 
 
Yoga in India developed within the culture very independently. There is big divide between teachers whose communities are of Indian origin and those who are can be called ‘converted’ yogis. 
 
However, many students of Yoga today experience the growing pains of a path which has gone from being a native, spiritual practice of minority groups, born from Vedic roots on the Indian sub-continent, in the period BC, to one that has been increasingly adapted by non-Indians since the 1950s. Many of these people came of age during the 1960s and encountered the practices through the hippie subculture before receiving any formal training in India, to become one of the largest spiritual practices to coalesce around issues of health in the world. 
 
Today there is an accepted group of tastemakers and trendsetters who speak for contemporary yoga. How accurately and honestly are these schools of yoga passing on yoga knowledge to new generations, and what is the relation between Australian (or American, U.K,  South American or whichever) yogis and those from India, where spiritual practice was born from Hindu roots well before the birth of Judaism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam? 
 
Whilst it is true that some 'gurus' seek to reify their positions and expand their influence, not that they are able to enact any sort of legislation that is in any way binding, they do however, have the power of their institutes and magazines to push their version of the contemporary yoga status quo.
 
Additonally today, there is also little, if any consideration given to the formal teaching of yoga or the nature of the teacher's role or tasks. With a sense that yoga is something already so well known that it can be taken for granted, being a yoga teacher pretty much equates with being an instructor in exercise (asana) techniques, with no real scope for challenging this assumption. 
 
Quality in yoga is not just about compliance or aptitude. It must include spiritual values and sustainable life practices, that include the yamas (nonviolence, nonstealing, nonlying, nonmisuse of sexuality and nongreed) and the niyamas (contentment, purity, sacrifice, self study and awareness of something vaster than the Self) together with asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (sensory withdrawal), dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation). On the other hand however, amongst the contemporary yoga generations there is a greater awareness and mutual respect for strategies in relation to learning and growth with more inclusions of social issues such as gender, race and sexuality that may have been overlooked by older Indian generations.
 
In yoga, there is one teacher, that of direct experience (maintain a day-to-day calm awareness of your body, sensations, thoughts and existence) and there is also only one sangha (the Sanskrit word for community). Individual people, individual teachings, all are yogis; all is yoga. All is one.
 
Unlimited blessings,
 
…your own…Shantiji
 

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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography


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