Yoga is a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual practise that has its roots in the Indian Subcontinent. It has been globally celebrated on International Yoga Day since 2015. It was inaugurated by the United Nations as a way to promote peaceful coexistence, harmony, and international health. The Indian Prime Minister and member of the right-wing RSS and BJP, Narendra Modi, had suggested during the UN meeting that International Yoga Day should be established on June 21st, as it is the longest day of the year. It has since been celebrated quite auspiciously all over the world.
“It is very difficult for any philosophy, religion or culture to survive without state patronage. Yoga has existed so far almost like an orphan. Now, official recognition by the UN would further spread the benefit of yoga to the entire world.”
– Ravi Shankar, Yoga Guru, Spiritual Leader and Founder of Art of Living
Yoga has a deep-rooted lineage with Jainism and Buddhism before the emergence of Hinduism. While scholars still have a lot to uncover in the field of yoga’s definitive origins, there is substantial proof that it cannot be singularly attributed to the Vedic tradition. Some scholars have pushed back the date of yoga’s inception to 500 BCE, a period when Buddhism was at its most prominance in the Indian Subcontinent.
Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu religious preacher and philosopher, is credited with bringing the yogic practice to the West. He made his first visit to the West in 1893, and upon hearing his speech at Harvard, Professor William James said, “That man is simply a wonder for oratorical power. He is an honour to humanity.” Vivekannanda was a pioneer of the Neo-Vedanta movement, where he breathed new life into the esoteric teachings of Hinduism, creating a religious following not only within the Indian Subcontinent but throughout the West as well. Today, yoga is a billion-dollar industry that has a wide range of followers all over the world.
While there is an argument that yoga has been highly commercialised and has lost its core teachings of discipline and spirituality, it is up to the larger public to become conscious of the true inception of yoga. Only by comprehending the foundational history and practice of yoga can one be entranced by its enlightenment.