THE EAST VS. THE WEST
Kiana Ng Yoga
The main difference between yoga in the East vs. the West is not so much in how it is taught, but more so in the lessons taught alongside the physical asanas.
In the West, the focus is more on the physical workout of a practice and getting that “yoga body” which is only a small portion of yoga (the physical asanas being only one of the 8 limbs of yoga). There tends to be less focus on the spiritual aspects of yoga. However, many do find there way into the spiritual lessons found in yoga, as well as doing yoga for stress-relief and relaxation.
In the East, there are many lessons that are taught alongside the physical portion of the practice that a large portion of the West doesn’t usually amplify. Here are a few:
- Yoga is more than just the 60-90 minutes you spend in a class. Yoga should be practiced in your day-to-day life as well. This means incorporating respect, honesty, and acceptance towards yourself as well as others.
- Meditation is a very important focus in the Eastern world where stilling your mind is a key aspect that you should work on while performing the asanas. Seated meditation is also done at the beginning and end of most classes.
- Pranayama is emphasized a lot more in the East as well. Breathing is said to control your prana, or life force, and bring about positive changes in health and well being.
- Chanting may also be done in the beginning of yoga classes in the East, where as in the West, chanting is not emphasized very often.
- Understanding that you are a student your whole life is very important as well. Many teachers or gurus in the East practiced yoga for years on end before they considered sharing their learnings.
Along with those teachings, hot yoga is very rare in the Eastern world too. Most practitioners in the East don’t even know what that is! Since us Westerners are always so busy, there are time constraints with yoga where as the East doesn’t really have any. The East also believes that connecting nature and yoga is very important so practicing outside is very popular in the East as well.
Finally, the fashion trends. The fashion trends associated with yoga only seem to be relevant in the West. In the East, their style of fashion or what they practice in doesn’t involve yoga leggings or clothing from Lululemon.
I believe that yoga does run a lot deeper than just the physical portion of yoga. I encourage you to find meaning in your practice that doesn’t revolve around becoming physically “fit.” So, the next time that you are practicing, set an intention for your practice and allow yourself to explore that intention as you move through each asana. Notice how your practice changes or doesn’t change. There are many lessons to be learned from developing a personal yoga practice so allow yourself to be open to these experiences and to be adventurous in your practice inside and out!