The Origins of Yoga
Nowadays more and more people become interested in the Eastern culture, religion and traditions. The philosophy of yoga attracts many followers due to its beneficial impact on the body and mind. However, the essence of yoga is much deeper than one may think. Its origins date back centuries and yoga in the Western world is far from the real yoga practiced by Indian sages. Furthermore, despite the popular belief, yoga is not merely a set of physical exercises but a spiritual path of becoming closer to the Divine.
The movie Origins of Yoga" comprises exciting information about the lifestyle of yogis and shows how complex and meaningful meditation is. Although thousands of people from the Western world practice yoga, few of them fully understand where this tradition came from. In the modern society, yoga is often put along with different kinds of sports like shaping or stretching. Yet, yoga in its original state is far from an exercise regime or a set of breathing algorithms. Of course, physical benefits of yoga cannot be overestimated and yoga teachers constantly emphasize that yoga is good for the posture, figure and flexibility, but the real value of yoga lies not in its physical advantages but in its mental and spiritual value.
The origins of yoga are shrouded in the mist of time. The movie mentions that the first yogis appeared approximately seven thousand years ago. Many scientists claim that Indus Valley civilization encompasses the images of people depicted in the typical yoga posture. Yoga is the rocess of controlling the mind abilities, and the person who can control the mind is called a yogi. First yogis lived in Himalayan caves far from the settlement of people. Today's yogis in India continue the ascetic way of life led by their predecessors. Renunciation from worldly desires and concentration on inner self are the main principles of yoga that resemble not mere philosophy but a way of life. Indian yogis give up everything that connects them with the world and never stay in one place for a long time. They believe that sticking to one place brings selfish desires and evils like greed, lust, envy, anger and fear. By leaving their family, relatives and usual way of life, they start their quest for the spiritual welfare that continues to the end of their lives. They believe that moving from one place to another purifies them like the river keeps clean by flowing. True yogis are always travelling and leading ascetic way of life not bound by worldly vices and desires.
The film itself is a real masterpiece of documental cinematography. It does not consist solely of bold facts or uninteresting numbers; it depicts a real life and real people. The viewer can observe the lifestyle and customs of Indian people as well as hear the interviews with real yogis with extraordinary appearance and unbelievable physical abilities. Film episodes are accompanied by the commentaries of the presenter who explains and adds useful information. These commentaries help the viewer to understand the prehistory of modern yogis and provide a sort of interaction with the audience. It is necessary to admit that the presenter Georg Feuerstein Ph. D is rather authoritative, knowledgeable and deeply interested in the customs and traditions of Indian people. He believes that yoga is a secret science that aims at knowing the inner self. The main difference between a yogi and an ordinary person is that the yogi takes full responsibility for the wholeness of the human being. The unity with nature and God provides them strength not to harm the environment and leave in peace and harmony with the world. Unlike true yogis, western people practice just the small part of ageless yoga tradition that comprises not only postures but plenty of other notions.That is why it is hard to pass the philosophy of yoga to the western civilizations. We can learn physical part but the core of yoga is spiritual growth. The main principle is to develop ourselves more than we are now. Such development can reveal the potential we never suspected, because our nature is always present in us but is often hidden away. Another vitally important principle of yoga is to get rid of certain things that have anything to do with our nature. This step is much more difficult because people are used to acquiring things, but not shedding them. The modern world teaches us only to accumulate information and knowledge but not to let it go. The principles of the educational system and working infrastructure suggest the thought that the more you know, the more successful you will become. However, few people enjoy the real happiness and freedom being pressed by constant duties of learning. True knowledge acquired by yogis lies not in the amount of information they are able to remember but in the spiritual growth that allows them to merge with nature and God and become free and happy. That is why the most difficult thing while becoming a yogi is to learn to let go preconceptions and notions about who we are and give up the social labels that make us behave and act according to worldly norms. These are fundamentals of yoga. When yogis give up everything that makes them conventional human beings, they reach peace of soul, freedom and happiness. Therefore, the key word of yoga is renunciation. The goal of yoga is to discover the true human being, also called the ultimate reality, transcend itself. Yogis claim that the main benefit of yoga is having pure heart and leading a virtuous life.
Although the world became modern, there are still many yogis in the mountains, in the jungles, near rivers, and in the forests who are totally devoted to God. The word yoga means to unite. Yogis believe that through their spiritual quest they merge with God and get true wisdom and knowledge. According to the film, there are more than fifteen millions of yogis in India. For them yoga is the whole life, a way to reach oneness with the divine. The tradition of yoga was passed through four fathers through songs and scriptures. Furthermore, yoga passed through the centuries with the help of sages and gurus who had disciples and taught them everything they knew. Indian yogis are always moving from one place to another. They mainly travel on foot and sometimes by bus. The wisdom and knowledge of yogis are beneficial not only for themselves but also for the people around them. Yogis often give advice to local people and people from other countries and continents.
The thing that impressed me the most in the movie is the way of life led by the yogis. They live on the margins of society, give up the usual household and devote their whole life to meditation. One of the film characters has a name Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari. He practices yoga for thirty years and searches for the unity with God. For an ordinary American, it is hard to imagine such longing for truth. Living in the era of technology and skyscraper jungles, we often perceive the life of Indian yogis as close to prehistoric. However, who knows whether we are happier in our life than those people who search not for prestigious diploma or well-paid job but for the peace of mind. Modern people become depressed due to the information crying from billboards and advertisement screens. There are few parks in the cities where nature is bordered by the fences and cultivated artificially. In such surrounding people forget about something divine because they see only human creations but not God's. Indian yogis say that yoga surrenders to God totally and is protected and sheltered by his power.
Another thing that astonished me is the moving philosophy of yogis. Unlike Buddha monks that meditate in the temples, yogis try not to get attached to the surroundings. Staying in one place for a long period brings bad habits and prevents the self-development and merging with God.That is why many yogis live in solitude in the mountains far from the human settlements. Total resentment of the past life also deserves admiration. In the movie, one yogi said that when he took up yoga, he proclaimed himself dead. He performed his own funeral and left everything he had, i.e. mother, father, family and business. He experienced the death of the personality known by everyone. He became no one and nothing to the world he lived in. It is also interesting that in India it is acceptable to devote the whole life to the spiritual quest. In America, such actions would rather resemble hippies and yogis would be associated with vagabonds. Nevertheless, yogis in India are respected by the local people and a great number of men choose such difficult path to become spiritual. Another factor that significantly differentiates Indian yoga from yoga in the Western world is the impact of culture and history on the nation. Indian territory was not so greatly influenced by Christianity and the power of church. Therefore, the authentic traditions were not killed by the domination of one religion, but had an encouraging surrounding for the further development. As a result, few people in Europe remember the true customs of their ancestors, but the tradition of yoga was passed through generations and remained unchanged.
To conclude, the movie "Origins of Yoga" contains a lot of useful information about historical development of yoga tradition and depicts the life of modern yogis. Despite the popular stereotype, yoga is not only stretching and focusing on breathing exercises, but a complex philosophy that is aimed at merging with nature and God. Real yogis devote their whole life to becoming closer to the divine and getting real wisdom and knowledge. The most impressive thing about yogis is their ascetic way of life. Yogis give up their past and start the new life constantly moving from one place to another.The main principles of yoga include self-development and renunciation from the worldly desires. The history of yoga is recorded in the scriptures and songs, however, scientist are still unsure about all the details of its historical development. It is believed that first yoga sages or fathers were from the Indus Valley civilization. Yogis of contemporary India try to lead the same way of life as the four fathers. The most complicated thing in becoming a yogi is dropping out preconceptions and notions about the nature of a man. Yet, only meditation and refusal from human vices and desires can bring real happiness and freedom. Some yogis prefer to live in solitude high in the mountains or deep in the forest, but sometimes they communicate with ordinary people and give advice to those who need authoritative commentaries from the person close to God.