Traditional Yoga vs. Today’s Yoga

Practicing yoga in the Java Barn is one of my favorite activities during the week. It is an hour that I can spend focusing on my breath and body while ignoring everything else that is going on at St. Lawrence on a Tuesday night.  It puts me in a very peaceful, appreciative and content state of mind; I sometimes don’t even mind going to the library after. When I was younger and practiced yoga with my friends after school I was so oblivious to the different aspects of it and am still learning that there is so much more to it.  There are is so much history and branches of yoga that most are unaware of.


A lot of people think of yoga as just a more fun way to stretch with young, healthy, attractive women in tight clothing. People think of Buddhist in plain loose clothing meditating in the Himalayan Mountains, chai tea lattes and tapestries. There are many stereotypes brought to someone’s mind when one says “yoga” which ignores what it actually valuable about it. Yoga has turned into a commodity and a great marketing tool because of this. The vibe of yoga is different for a lot of people and that’s because of the way advertisements creates different irrelevant ones. A lot of people think of hot women when they hear the word yoga and forget that it was created thousands of years ago in Indian forests. Here in the U.S. there is a large population of people who practice yoga and don’t think there is more to it than stretching and exercise, but there is a dense history.


So what is the valuable history you wonder? There is a ton of information so I will include an informative summary for you! Yoga started in ancient India and was written in shastras (texts) known as Vedas which “explain and regulate every aspect of life, from supreme reality to all worldly affairs” (The Origin of Yoga). It used to be taught in an intimate one-to-one personal manner by a Guru. It was practiced then for “the attainment of the highest spiritual goals: self-realization, enlightenment, and the liberation of the individual soul” (The History of Yoga- A Summary). Yoga then changed and there were more ways to practice that focused on social needs/ it as a whole compared to individuals. In 1500 A.D. the practice began focusing more on the physical aspect and breathing instead of the spiritual aspect. Yoga is especially different today because originally yoga was considered a way of life and not a practice. More and more people are pushing their view of yoga and changing the practice. There is a business aspect now dealing with profit compared to what it actually is.

Some Traditional Yoga Types!

Bhakti Yoga-
-“yoga of devotion” “yoga of universal love”
-historically valuable where the origins come from the greatest Hindu mystics who were bhakti yogis

Classical Yoga
-keeps to traditional spiritual teachings of India
-things of yoga as the way of life

Hatha Yoga
-highly part of modern yoga
-focuses on the body and physical practices

(Traditional Yoga Types)

Some Modern Types of Yoga!

Bikram Yoga
-one of the most well-known
-there are 26 practices, two breathing exercises and done in 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity

Ananda Yoga
-“combines breath awareness, affirmations and yoga postures”

Ashtanga Vinyassa Yoga
-one of the most common (what you would do at school most likely)
-more challenging dealing with physical exercise


(Different Types of Yoga Today)

As you can see from these few examples how people used to practice yoga in India is very different than how it is being practiced in the U.S. It is continually changing with more being added and today is a multi-billion dollar industry and a growing trend. Where you live and who you see that practices yoga completely changes what you think about it. The culture of yoga has different meanings to different people because it’s moving away from the traditional practice.


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