Stretching for God. In the debate about what is and what is not Yoga, it is interesting to look back into history a little and see that the original intention of modern gymnastics (both male and female) and physical culture, including body building and the development modern dance, was based upon the principles of “education not of the body but through the body” in order to bring about harmony of the ‘holy triad’, that being “Body, Mind and Spirit”; a concept that is evident today - but actually re-emerged in the 1800’s.
A very important element in this rise of body orientated spirituality was the emergence of the ‘New Thought’ (now known loosely as New Age) movement in the United States during this period. Wikipedia states that the beliefs of this movement were that: “New Thought holds that Infinite Intelligence, or God, is everywhere, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect.” Wikipedia further adds that the core beliefs are that: “God or Infinite Intelligence is "supreme, universal, and everlasting. Divinity dwells within each person, that all people are spiritual beings;the highest spiritual principle is loving one another unconditionally... and teaching and healing one another; and our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living". It’s obvious to see how people who had these belief systems would have connected to the Indian/Hindu teachings of Vedanta and Non-Duality and so when Yoga began to spread to the West many of the principles of the New Thought movement merged with those of Hinduism and Yoga and carries on to this day.
As Mark Singleton points out so clearly in Yoga Body, much of what has become popular in the world of Yoga today looks a lot like what was developing during the 19th century and into the 20th century. More about that in the next post.
In this video my love @deepikamehtayoga and I are involved in this continuing conversation between East and West; this ongoing merging and blending of cultures and traditions. 🙏