Adaptability, Growth, Flexibility: Yoga and IndianCultural Identity
© Copyright 2022 by Diya Kothari
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Yoga is a philosophy of life that is entrenched within the culture of India. Originating in India about 5000
years ago, Yoga is a tranquilizing practice of establishing harmony and balance between the mind, body,
and soul to achieve inner peace, health, and well-being. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word
‘yug’, which means ‘union’. The science of yoga refers to the process of uniting the individual
consciousness with that of the universal divine consciousness. There are four paths of yoga that constitute
1. Karma Yoga (Work ethics): advocates doing your daily work as an altruistic service without
expecting any reward or thoughts of success and failure.
2. Bhakti Yoga (Devotion): advocates uniting with the supreme being through prayer and worship.
It is believed to fill the mind with divine love and peace.
3. Jnana Yoga (Knowledge and Wisdom): advocates for the enlightenment of the mind with an
understanding and cognizance of the facts and realities of life.
4. Raja Yoga (Control over the mind): advocates a systematic process of having control over your
mind and its whims and fancies.
The adulation of yoga by western culture is conspicuous. There is everything from group yoga sessions to
made-up yoga practices such as hot yoga and goat yoga. Rather than becoming an obsolete practice, it has
become more ubiquitous now than ever before! This is because it is the answer to finding peace in the
hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Its necessity has even cascaded down to me as it prompted me to start
my own non-profit organization, OYOGA, aiming to make a fruitful effect on the wellness and well-
being of others through the teachings of yoga.
The increase in popularity of yoga has had an unfalteringly positive impact, moving outside its
philosophical realms and, through the willingness of Hindus and Yogis to spread their knowledge of
Yoga, become more secular. Yoga is progressively being used as support for many mental health issues
such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. Moreover, it has also paved its way into the medical industry, as
doctors increasingly advise their patients to practice yoga. May it be diabetes or pregnancy, yoga is the
way to go! YouTube has been infiltrated with yoga videos for all niches, may it be period cramps or
simply overeating on your trip to Italy! Yoga is the only form of leisure and fitness that is inclusive of
people from all walks of life and all religions. Furthermore, its anti-ableist nature allows for tremendous
growth and inclusivity for those who are bed-ridden or on a wheelchair. It is a practice that looks beyond
disabilities, experience, skin color, age and sexuality. Schools across US and other countries teach yoga, a
5000 year old physical, mental and spiritual practice, to their students , in hope to imbibe the lifestyle
values yoga teaches. This could only have been possible when yoga, rather than remaining a ‘Hindu’
practice, became almost synonymous with a larger ‘Indian cultural identity’, even outside of India-
particularly in the West. Rather than seeing it as a culture, Indians have incorporated yoga as a daily
practice and this lifestyle has attracted foreigners to adopt yoga into their lives as well. This is because
those who practice yoga have seen the power yoga holds and in a mutualistic sense, want everyone to
reap the fruits of this practice as well.
This inclusivity and want for others to experience the exuberance and power of Yoga that Indians
inherently hold has made Yoga extremely marketable by using a certain ‘Indian-ness’ for its branding.
Yoga is the soul of India and its marketability is evident in the rise of the enterprise Patanjali started by
Baba Ramdev. Using the brand-pull strategy, Patanjali enticed its customers by portraying its products as
healthier alternatives to popular products such as Maggi (packaged noodles), claiming that their products
had ingredients that better portrayed our ancestor’s simple, rustic lifestyle. Although it was palpable that
2-minute packaged noodles did not make it into our ancestors’ daily meals, Patanjali noodles were selling
like hotcakes! This proves the versatility of yoga- yoga as a business, as fitness, as pleasure, as
spirituality, as lifestyle. It is a field of endless possibilities and endless definitions, tailoring itself to what
is important to you. An ancient practice that keeps remodeling itself with changing times.
When practicing yoga, you must remain steady and in control through transitions and long holds, every
muscle in your body must be activated. These newfound muscles continue to burn calories after you’ve
walked away from the mat. Speaking from personal experience, Yoga isn’t a chore like going to the gym
used to be. When I first tried yoga, I saw an instant shift- for the first time, I was inspired and passionate
towards something. It gave me confidence and helped me organize myself internally. I became more
patient with myself and those around me and started to put my life into perspective. Since then, I have
been able to integrate it into my daily routine, which is what helps me remain healthy and mindful
throughout the day. Yoga is really about connecting your mind, body, and soul and that’s why it is, now
more than ever, so invaluable to such a large proportion of people.
Yoga to me is a lifestyle that stretches beyond the yoga mat, my guru would say that “the real yoga
practice starts the moment you leave the yoga mat”.It has transformed my life, encouraging me to be
present and aware in everyday life. Yoga is my answer to everything that ails me.
As we continue into the future, people need answers and Yoga will be a tool to help us find these answers.
Spiritual dimension will continue to be a crucial part of life. Yoga will continue to be popular in the future
as a reminder to take a breath and recharge.
The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.
I am a high school graduate from Nashik, India and have only written essays as part of the school syllabus.