Swami Chidananda Saraswati, head of the internationally known Sivananda Ashram (Divine Life Society) in Rishikesh, India explains that: "Yoga is not mere acrobatics . Some people suppose that Yoga is primarily concerned with the manipulation of the body into various queer positions, standing on the head, for instance, or twisting about the spine, or assuming any of the numerous odd poses which are demonstrated in the text-books on Yoga. These techniques are correctly employed in one distinct type of Yoga practice, but they do not form an integral part of the most essential type. Physical posture serve at best as an auxiliary, or a minor form of Yoga."
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, describes the modern situation of Yoga quite well in the Introduction of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati, where he writes: "In ancient times hatha Yoga was practiced for many years as a preparation for higher states of consciousness. Now however, the real purpose of this great science is being altogether forgotten . The hatha Yoga practices which were designed by the rishis and sages of old, for the evolution of mankind, are now being understood and utilized in a very limited sense. Often we hear people say, 'Oh, I don't practice meditation, I only practice physical Yoga, hatha Yoga.' Now the time has come to correct this view point. Hatha Yoga is a very important science for man today…. The main objective of hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central force (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, its true objective is lost ."
Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, head of the Himalayan Institute of the USA writes in an article entitled Real Yoga that: "Yoga has become the health and fitness system of choice. This is odd because it is the mind - not the body - that is the main target of all genuine Yoga practices .... To regard Yoga primarily as a set of practices for increasing strength and flexibility while calming the nervous system is to mistake the husk for the kernel ."
David Frawley, an internationally recognized scholar and teacher, is quoted in the Sep/Oct 2000 issue of Yoga Journal: Yoga in the West "has only scratched the surface of the greater Yoga tradition," he says. "The Yoga community in the West is currently at a crossroads. Its recent commercial success can be used to build the foundation for a more profound teaching, aimed at changing the consciousness of humanity. Or it can reduce Yoga to a mere business that has lost connection with its spiritual heart. The choice that Yoga teachers make today will determine this future."
Georg Feurstein, another well recognized scholar and teacher, is quoted in a July/August 2003 article in the online LA Yoga Magazine. When asked, "How would you describe Yoga in the US today?" he responded: "It’s a mess. And you can quote me on that. Anything that comes to America or the West in general, immediately gets individualized and commercialized. There has always been great diversity in traditional Yoga, and this diversity was based on the experience of masters. Today even beginning teachers feel qualified to innovate and create their own trademarked Yoga system."
Paramahansa Yogananda, the well-known author of Autobiography of a Yogi, responds to the question "What is Yoga?" in the text The Essence of Self-Realization: "Yoga means union. Etymologically, it is connected to the English word, yoke. Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit. Most people in the West, and also many in India, confuse Yoga with Hatha Yoga, the system of bodily postures. But Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline . I don't mean to belittle the Yoga postures. Hatha Yoga is a wonderful system. The body, moreover, is a part of our human nature, and must be kept fit lest it obstruct our spiritual efforts. Devotees, however, who are bent on finding God give less importance to the Yoga postures. Nor is it strictly necessary that they practice them. Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of Raja Yoga, the true science of Yoga. Raja Yoga is a system of meditation techniques that help to harmonize human consciousness with the divine consciousness."
In the opening paragraph of Lectures on Yoga, Swami Rama explains: "The word Yoga is much used and much misunderstood these days, for our present age is one of faddism, and Yoga has often been reduced to the status of a fad. Many false and incomplete teachings have been propagated in its name, it has been subject to commercial exploitation, and one small aspect of Yoga is often taken to be all of Yoga. For instance, many people in the West think it is a physical and beauty cult, while others think it is a religion. All of this has obscured the real meaning of Yoga."
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