Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice originated in ancient India around 5,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that yoga was brought to the West. In the mid 20th century yoga become popular and since then has evolved greatly, leaving the spiritual aspect of the practice relegated to a second plane.
In a society where the physical body is so important, yoga is still regarded mostly as a physical practice. Asanas (or postures) have taken over the social media, elevating the ego of many practitioners and teachers. Probably because of this tendency, there’s a lot of talking about “authenticity”. Lately, I’ve been hearing that word a lot in relation to yoga, and I’m not surprised, because I think the authenticity of this ancient practice has been lost along the way.
What is authenticity then? When people talk about being authentic there is so much misinterpretation and egotistic views. Some people say authenticity is what rings true to you. But if that’s true, then authenticity can be something completely different to every person. To me, being authentic is coming from a place of truth deep within yourself, but also deep within the practice. That means looking back at the roots of yoga, at its origins and its true meaning.
When yoga originated, asana was just a part of the practice; a limb in the tradition of Yoga. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, asana is defined as "to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed". Basically, asana meant sitting for meditation. With time, asana changed into the different yoga postures we know today. But the philosophy, the meditation and the pranayama practices were left behind when it arrived to the western world, as it was considered an eccentric discipline.
I want to believe that yoga needed time to become widely accepted and be part of our lives in order for people to start questioning the authenticity of the practice. It’s nice to see that more and more teachers are introducing some of the yoga teachings into their classes and are connecting at a deeper level with what yoga really is from a place of truth.