Buddhist Influence on Yoga in the West

Posted on November 15, 2012 by

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            The thoughts of meditation and yoga have wandered through our minds for centuries now.  Recent articles claiming that yoga has become more and more popular everyday struck my attention; since it is a Buddhist tradition that is an ancient union of the joining of mind, body, and spirit.  It spread across the globe starting in the early 1960’s and continued to become more favored throughout time.  This 5,000-year-old practice has had some help becoming popular; the media helps a lot when wanting to spread the message.  Also celebrities like Madonna and singers like the Beatles also supported the wide spread of yoga to the western countries.  Yoga has made its way to the top of every workout institution in not just America but other countries including Britain and South America.  There are yoga dance clubs, yoga cruises, and yoga singles parties; there’s disco yoga, aqua yoga, and even kickboxing yoga.  Yoga has “taken over the world” so to say and is giving us new outlooks on life as human beings.  Why has yoga taken over?   What does it do for us that normal exercise or relaxing can’t? 

Part of me thinks this ancient practice that is highly respected in Buddhist practicing countries has been absorbed only as an image for Americans. They just enjoy the appearance of yoga, not actually what it provides for life and the cogitation it bestows.  The other part of me believes that many are doing yoga as it should be done; to enhance the quality of life, to relieve stress, and for the better health of their bodies.  As all admirable yoga teachers should know, yoga is not about the tight clothes and looking like a model; it’s a strenuous exercise, and is about connecting and transforming the mind and the body into one. The most important approach of yoga should and is finding an inner meaning of life; it also distracts people from the highly materialistic world we live in.  Along with yoga comes meditation, which is just one aspect of fulfilling the ethnical customaries of the Buddhist Yoga path.

I feel this “ sonic boom” of popularity about performing and practicing yoga has risen so much because it relaxes the body and relieves it from built up stress faster than other relaxing activities.  It also helps replenish the mind and body with energy within just 20 minutes of meditation. Furthermore studies have shown that meditation might be the cure for several minor health concerns.  In Britain, more than 870,000 Brits experience anxiety, therapy with roots in Buddhist meditation is helping these people get over their worries faster and with no side effects from medication.  Meditation in Buddhism is especially crucial because Buddhists want to avoid duality so they aspire to achieve connecting the mind and the body together as one.

An article I found refers to the Occupy movement, which is an international protest against social and economic inequality, interested me.  It’s a letter that Buddhist yoga teachers wrote about the Occupy Movement and how they are proud that nothing has come to violence yet, but they are concerned of the clear harm its causing others and the unbalance its generating in society.  I think these yoga teachers exemplify the compassion and the kindness that grows as you become more aware of others.  This is why the Buddhist yoga and meditation is so influential in America and other countries as well.

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The Beatles are one of the most influential groups to bring yoga to the west.   While the Beatles were in the Bahamas on business in 1965, they had the opportunity to meet Swami Vishnu-Devananda-the founder of Sivandana yoga.  Harrison who is a member of the Beatles was intrigued by him and decided to go to India to study sitar, a type of stringed instrument.  While in India he found the program called Transcendental Meditation (TM).  The founder was Maharishi whose goal was to make meditation understandable.  The Beatles loved him and started venturing out to his retreats that he held.  These are just a few of many examples of   the worldwide influence of Buddhist yoga and meditation techniques.  They show us that by doing yoga correctly and with more meaning we could have a huge impact on the well being of ourselves and others, which in return helps us as individuals live longer and be healthier, not to mention it helps us become more at peace.

Sources:

http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=1575

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=7,11148,0,0,1,0

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ethan-nichtern/buddhist-support-occupy-wall-street_b_1078689.html

http://www.dailycupofyoga.com/2008/10/28/western-yoga-and-the-beatles/

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