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Westernization of Yoga: Exploring Traditional Roots and Modern Branches

The purpose of this article is to provide more clarity between Western yoga vs Eastern yoga. It’s also helpful to bring balance in physical and inner health.

To understand it further, we need to explore history in brief. Yoga was founded in ancient India between the 2nd to 4th century CE. Indian saint Patanjali is the founder of Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Yet it’s believed that it could be even 5,000 years old.

Yoga is an inner science, and the literally meaning is union in Sanskrit language. In spiritual terms, it is the union between mind and body. No conflict between them and to make them work harmoniously for inner growth.

Yoga was introduced to the west at the end of the 19th century. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda mentioned yoga at the World Parliament of Religions. It was held in Chicago. Later, Indian yoga gained popularity in the West around the mid-20th century. This was thanks to Paramhansa Yogananda, B.K.S. Iyengar, and others.

The Westernization of yoga is an evolved version of an ancient practice. You’ll understand Western and Eastern yoga when you finish reading this article.

Indian Vs Western Yoga

What is actual yoga?

Osho explains it: “The whole foundation of religion is how to bring all these parts together. That is the meaning of the word ‘religion’: to bring fragments together, to bind fragments together. Religion means to bind, and that is really the meaning of yoga too. Yoga and religion are synonymous: the science of creating a togetherness, making you one piece. And then great power is released.” (From Darshan Diary – Turn on, Tune in and Drop the Lot, Chapter # 19)

It’s a spiritual practice for self-realization and union with the divine. In India throughout the centuries various paths came in existence, and it includes –

While Western Yoga is emphasizing physical health through various asanas (physical postures). The West is leaning more towards science and logic. They are useful for living a healthy life. The Eastern mind is more focused on inner health and wisdom. It seeks the ultimate truth through deeper practices.

Practices of Modern Yoga Vs Traditional Yoga:

Modern yoga practice influences the individual who is seeking flexibility and strength. And traditional discipline has given asanas, and they’re helpful in achieving it. A wide audience wants fitness. Modernization is now famous worldwide.

Traditional way of practicing in India since ancient time has an integrated approach. It is a discipline to harmonize the body, mind and spirit. Each person is different. So, there are various paths of Yoga for this reason. These traditional yoga practices have deeper philosophical and spiritual purposes.

Western Yoga Vs Eastern Yoga

Let’s dive deeper into both – Western Yoga Vs Eastern Yoga.

Western yoga has been evolved based on the current science of body and health. In the last 100 years, science has progressed rapidly. One can does not deny the immense beneficial contribution of science in today’s world that we are living. It has made our life easy because of inventions in various fields.

Westernization of Yoga has invented tools and devices. And they are helpful to achieve the right postures easily. Through these devices we can have results faster than early practices. It has also made it commercial and more focused on the outer look. This commercialization has created various job opportunities as well.

Eastern yoga is a journey of the inner world, and not so commercial. Eastern practices involve methods of relaxation and calming the mind.

The Eastern way of life includes various practices such as yoga. It is different from the Western way of life. East is more focused inwardly than on the outer look.

Which one is better?

Now the question may arise, which one is better?

It can be debated by the believers of both practices. And may present their views and logic to prove that they are better. It will be wastage of energy and time to prove which one is better; it is important to understand both.

The Western mind focuses on physical fitness. This is as important as the inner science of Eastern ideology. A healthy body is helpful for inner growth. But only being fit is not the key to happiness. One also needs to learn harmonized and relaxed mind for complete wellness.

In simple language, let us think of the outer and inner world. To grow higher and touch the sky, one needs to have deep roots inside, doesn’t it?! Same way Western and Eastern Yoga are in a way balanced. Modernization has improved in ease of postures with the approach of science. While traditional disciple has quality to bring relaxation through asanas, various yoga postures.

Both are significant. They keep evolving to fit the latest mind, body, and environment.

Osho’s these small quotes makes it easy for us to understand –

“The West has lost contact with its own soul and the East has lost contact with its own body. And man is a dance of these two complementaries; these two are partners in the dance. These two are like two wings: you cannot fly into the sky with one wing alone, with one wing you will fall. The West has fallen, the East has fallen; both have proved to be utter failures.

We need a new kind of human being who has both wings: the wings of knowledge, science, technology, and the wings of meditation, enlightenment, love, freedom. When both wings are functioning in a deep synchronicity, in a deep togetherness, in accord and harmony, then only man is complete, total.” (From the book – The Goose is Out, Chapter # 2, Question # 3).


Osho further adds “Whether you are in the East or in the West, awareness will be the same — and that is the essential core of meditation.”

For balanced life, the union of tradition and westernized yoga is useful. It will nurture emotional and physical health.

In summary, you can find inner peace and a healthy lifestyle by practicing both types of yoga. These are the Western and Eastern ways.


Deep-ji (1)

Deep (Lead Trainer and Visionary)
Yoga New Vision Bali

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