I believe modern yoga like most things of this day in age are the conglomeration of many things. Just yesterday there was a commentary posted on NPR, http://www.npr.org/2010/12/29/132207910/yoga-a-positively-un-indian-experience?sc=emaf
that discusses this very idea. The posting reaches the conclusion that todays yoga, while it draws on ancient Hindu deities and ideas, is a modernized form of practice. Yoga in history and in India are usually very different than the sessions we employ in our after work endeavors. I have also heard that present forms of Vinyasa and Ashtanga are forms of British Gymnastics. That the British, while in India, incorporated some asanas with a training program they had to birth the vigorous style some of us subscribe to now.
The way that we schedule and perform in our lives; sitting in cars, desks and restaurants, feeding our egos and bank accounts, leaves me lacking most days. I find that yoga helps me to shed my monkey mind, challenge myself, hear about alternate ways of looking at situations and teaches me to link my breath to my body. These concepts are new to the American culture and not taught in many other venues. Yoga allows me to link to my inner body by opening my energy channels, creating space and allows me to sit still and perform more meditative states. It has also been told to me that yoga prepares the body so that it can sit in more stillness and meditate longer and more effectively. This in turn allows practitioners to find the soft subtle self and reap more answers to thoughtful and seeking questions they might be asking themselves.
It takes a lot to unplug and remove one self from the technologies and conveniences we have in our daily lives. One teacher of mine, Jenn Wooten, has said, something to the effect that it would be nice to go and sit in a cave (akin to ancient yogis) and meditate and be away from what we are dealing with and then come back with the found approach. But that is a luxury we cannot afford and we must be able to deal with situations as they come up, as they are happening and choose the higher response. Yoga can teach us that everything is a miracle and there are no wrong movements or actions,IT just is.
On a basic level yoga has reconnected me to my body. Our body is our spacesuit or garment that we wear to experience life. It has been discussed that body posture, correct breathing, even smiling and body language are core aspects that can enhance our experience this existence. For me, Yoga trains these processes and I can call upon them for assistance throughout my day. It has been proven (in Science and to myself) that the way we think about ourselves,posture our bodies and present our person to others will affect our interaction; and in turn this will affect our reactions...
Yoga has also afforded me a community of like minded souls that I do not believe I would find elsewhere. The studios are communal places where many different bodies, styles, and persons gather to practice, play and participate with each other. Yoga, once learned can be a very spiritual practice, much like a full body prayer and practiced alone. I keep coming back to class to fill my soul with new teachings and be with others. We take turns pouring energy out and taking energy in to balance this life. All of energy has a push and pull, and what we do from the moment we wake until we rest every day affects something or someone.
I also believe in the physical benefits of yoga, as far as, balance, strengthening and flexibility. Many times I have noticed how, although athletic my whole life, after several years of yoga practices am I the strongest physically. I am also quicker to react when faced with uneven ground and less likely to injure myself if running or doing other activities. The only thing I can say negatively about yoga is that it does take a bit of time and commitment and will change ones life and habits greatly if taken on as a major activity :)
All in all, the yoga I practice is a modern spiritual soup of the best and beautiful practices, that allow me growth, functionality and enjoyment with this American Life I am now living. Thank you for supporting me in class, sharing your highest energies and your willingness to dive deeper into your selves.