As is customary in the world of investment banking (and the corporate world generally), the question as to how one intends to spend his or her weekend is a normal part of small talk interaction on a Friday afternoon. A few months ago, when asked this question, I replied in a cool and confident manner that I intended to visit the Yoga Show. A look of surprise came across my colleague’s face. I mean, a guy working in banking attending a yoga show? “Is it for flexibility or stretching, or is he one of those tantric guys?” I could practically read the words running through his mind. Of course, this is a misunderstanding often associated with the modern yoga practice for those unaccustomed with the tradition. Even gyms at corporate offices promote the benefits of yoga in a similar manner.
Rewind 5000 years and to the original text – the Yoga sutras written by Patanjali, only three things were said about asanas (yoga postures): “Sthira”, “Sukham” and “asanam”. What this basically means is that posture should be steady and comfortable as you find the good space necessary in order to prepare the body for meditation. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less. If anybody is interested further, click here for an interesting article.
Of course, yogis since then have further developed the physical yoga practice of what we in the West associate with “yoga” today into more than simply a means to be able to sit cross-legged in lotus pose more easily and meditate… but it is actually astonishing to think that this was exactly what yoga was originally all about.
Fast forward to today’s fast paced 21st century, and it couldn’t be further away from the original source – it has now evolved into a multi-billion dollar wellness and lifestyle industry; cities (and corporate gyms) filled with studios, classes and workshops and an abundance of yoga retreats all around the world catering for all different styles and tastes… The modern City professional is blessed with an abundance of choice as to how he or she wishes to practice yoga.
I’m not too sure what the original yogis would make of all this. I mean, I know some people who may actually frown upon the commercialisation of yoga. I even heard that one well-known guru from the Bihar School of Yoga in India recently remarked that ‘meditation isn’t for Westerners’…. Perhaps though deep down they would truly be happy that a simple, yet deeply spiritual practice is helping to give relief to all of us who work so hard to make an honest living in this fast-paced City life? After all, that is why many of them made the journey to the West. It’s just that… yoga has changed; just like life is never constant, always changing, as Buddha said.
Yoga has changed, but it has also evolved to become part of the mainstream: Yoga is for those who work in investment banking, and many more. Because a yoga practice for the busy City professional is actually much more than a trendy lifestyle. It’s a time to slow down, recalibrate and listen. It’s personal too. Listen to the gentle inner sound of the mind and soul as we delve deeper into who we really are away from our busy professional lives, which are often a shadow of our true inner selves.
As we contemplate and cherish the fact that yoga is here with us to stay, it is interesting to note that the very roots of yoga were something very different. But just as humans have evolved from the basic forms of life on Earth, so has the modern yoga practice. You may not walk into a yoga studio after a busy day in the office with the aim to strengthen your body for meditation, (you may not even meditate at all!), but the practice itself still offers you something. Your own personal practice that is special to you. Cherish this and roll with it – yoga is here for you, whatever form it may take.