Is Yoga losing its originality and authenticity?

With the world celebrating the International Yoga Day tomorrow, the 21st June 2015, proposed to the UN by the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, and accepted with acclamation, yoga’s popularity is likely to get another boost.

Originated in ancient India, yoga makes use of different movements, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that help in leading a healthy life, while keeping stress at bay. Although yoga is a powerful technique that is absolutely relevant to the modern world, and bearing in mind that yoga is one of the best remedies ever known to humankind, it cannot be however be denied that the pure concept of yoga is often misrepresented and packaged in present day world.

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Yoga has been watered down, where people now confuse it with other exercise programs, build profit making ventures in the name of yoga, and sometimes those who are unaware of its value, even regard it as a religion. On the whole, yoga has been surrounded by confusion, and it needs clarity that yoga is indeed a union of mind, body and spirit.

In ancient days when yoga originated, it was practised in the peaceful environment of forest or mountains. Today, yoga is practised in air conditioned enclosures at homes, fitness centres, attractive resorts and even at offices. Although commercialisation has boosted the popularity of yoga and helped in creating awareness among people, it has also been simultaneously glamorized to suit modern taste, thereby losing its authenticity of age-old discipline, experts worry.

According to experts, commercialisation of yoga can have both positive and negative impact. However, during the journey, we need to treasure the traditional yoga style and maintain its authenticity, rather than mix up various styles of yoga.

The origins of yoga which dates back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions have been introduced to the west by yoga gurus from India. It is estimated that there are atleast 250 million people across the world who practise yoga.

Over the years, yoga has evolved into forms like Ashtanga yoga, power yoga, hot yoga and more. Today, yoga is being offered in several venues, in different styles, and with more teachers. But, when teaching the yoga forms and values, the yoga teachers should ensure the promotion of authentic yoga, and hence, certification of yoga teacher from a good institute should be made mandatory.

However, with increasing popularity of yoga, it is also sad to note that yoga is growing to be a global business. It has lead to opening of multiple training centres all over the world. Bikram Yoga, an international chain has opened its first franchisee in India (monthly membership of Rs.6000 exclusive of taxes, or annual membership of Rs.50,000 plus tax). Further, the fact that yoga is indeed, growing to be a global business, is also proven by the variety of designer apparel and practice mats and yoga pants that are available in the market today.

So as yoga is all set to create waves across the world, and is in the process of dragging many more into its path, let the authenticity and traditionalism of yoga remain. It is in the hands of yoga gurus or teachers to see that the original and traditional form of yoga does not get adulterated due to blending of various styles, and lose out on its true value, while they pass on the techniques to millions.