“Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal.” ~ Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
Yoga originated around five thousand years ago in India. It is a traditional way of bringing into yourself the utmost state of mind, body and spirit. Though India is reckoned to be the birthplace of yoga, it is also very famous in the western world as well.
There were many Indian yogis such as Swami Vivekananda that helped bring to the west the valuable art and science of yoga. And this over time helped establish the best yoga retreats and schools all over the west.
But having said that, we would like to know how Indian yoga is different from western yoga? Are the practices the same? Are the western yoga techniques attached to the yoga retreats in India, teaching wise?
We would like to clear such questions and more. Hence, please read on and learn about the seven differences between Indian yoga and the western yoga today.
Differences between Indian yoga and Western yoga explained.
In India, spirituality is attached to yoga as a substructure
Not religiously though, but yoga is deeply concentrated with spirituality in India. But if you take a look at the yoga systems in the west, it is not connected to spirituality. Rather, yoga is taken to be an exercise to gain good physic and health. But in India, yoga is considered more as a way of life.
Student teacher relationship is different in India than in the west
In the west, we notice that the student teacher relationship is way more casual and friendlier than that in the Indian context. In the Indian context, the yoga teachers are considered to be gurus or leaders of yoga. But in the west, the teacher is only considered as someone who teaches the art form of yoga and the right postures of the exercise. In India, the guru designation is given to those who not only work on the physical aspects of yoga with immense yoga teacher training in India, but also focus on the spiritual and the mental upliftment of the learners as well.
Teaching style in India differs from that of the west
In the west, the yoga you are taught mainly focuses on the flow and Vinyasa. And there is focus also given on quick asanas such as dance steps sequences which are spent mostly in a standing position or in upward and downward doggy movements. Contrary to what the western yoga teaches, Indian yoga focuses on the likes of Savasana, meditation and pranayama, which helps relax and rejuvenate the body, the mind and the soul, and the gurus have undergone immense yoga teacher training in India.
Food affects ones emotions
It can be a culture shock to begin with. Just because you are encouraged to live a full yogic life, it doesn’t mean that you only engross yourself into practice of yoga. But it also includes including consuming a vegan diet. The meals designed in India are based on an ayurvedic philosophy, where the food is plain and the spices used are limited. In India it is taught that the food we consume has a big impact on our emotional state. In the west, most students overeat and not even plant based diets, which makes it tough for them to digest their food, and they do not listen to their bodies when it is hungry. In the west, students eat for the sake of it and because there is plenty of food. This is not the case in the Indian context.
Yoga is lifelong learning in India than in the west
In the west, going to a yoga class is considered as to going to a gym, or maybe like going for a work out. But that is not the way yoga should be practiced. If you take a look at the Indian context, one has to go to a teacher and learn from the teacher, the art of yoga. This would be like learning from a lineage and hence it is lifelong learning. In India, you are taught the art of being patient, and this can take time, sometimes years, and its not like how it is taught in the west. In India, yoga teachers dedicate themselves to years of practice to learn the art well, before they share their findings and learnings with their students. Yoga does not have an end, and it’s like the ocean where every small drop is a learning curve to achieve.
There is a wide variety of styles with western yoga
There are a lot of sects in western yoga that have spawned over the years. The forms of physical exercises that are yoga based are quite different from what traditional yoga is all about. Hot yoga and Bikram yoga are very popular in the west, but are almost unheard of in India. These days in the west, there are core fusion yoga classes where music is played and all forms of exercises are included in the yoga schedule. There are other forms of yoga that are emerging, such as anti-gravity yoga and even acro yoga, which are varied styles of yoga emerging in the west. While they may not be for everyone, they have a large fan following nevertheless.
The physical demands of Indian yoga are different from the west
In India yoga, it is the breath that is mostly focused upon. When you have the basics done, you then are allowed to progress to other varied poses and asanas. And there is emphasis given on staying and evolving in that pose. You would often see Indian yogis and gurus holding pretzel like poses that make you feel quite queasy. On the other hand, with regard to mainstream western yoga, you have the popular vinyasa used at all times. The emphasis is more about fast transitions from one pose to the next, and they depend mostly on endurance and athleticism. Squats, yoga lunes and pushups are very popular as exercises in the west, which are alien to the yoga retreats in India.
Summing it Up
These were the seven differences that we could bring to you between Western yoga and Indian yoga. We hope these seven differences gave you an insight on how Indian yoga is different from western yoga. If you have more differences to add, do write in and share your knowledge with us.