If you could go back 50 years and try to find any resources on yoga as a Westerner, you would probably be confined to the “world religions” section in the public library. After using the dewey decimal system card index, you would probably find some material on Swami Vivekananda, a few obscure academic translations in French or German of the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra-s and a whole lot of books with the word “Hindoo” in them. My have times changed! I used to get kind of excited when I would see yoga referenced on a TV show, or even an advertisement. Now I don’t think there is ANY ad without some reference to yoga.
For one, communication technology has radically changed in the past 50 years. That makes any idea more accessible. Secondly, the popularity of yoga has increased exponentially with this emerging communication technology. Therefore, it appears as though yoga is everywhere.
But what are people defining as “yoga?” Mostly it’s some type of asana or calisthenics practice. The instagram crowd that saturates your news feed declares that taking a selfie of some contortion in a dangerous location is called “yoga.”
What if today’s technology existed back in the time of Vyasa or Patanjali? What would they “tweet?” My inkling is that they would be more interested in transmitting teachings via audio. They would chant the hymns of the vedas and sutra-s for all to hear in their correct pronunciation. We have to realize that the reason why yoga has been around so long is because it is an oral, not a visual tradition.
The brilliance of the language of Sanskrit is that every character in the Devanagari alphabet is pronounced exactly the same. Unlike the Roman alphabet whose letters can go through a radical range of pronunciations even within small community. The continuity of the Sanskrit alphabet reduces the error in misinterpretation. That is why computer programmers and artificial intelligence science has taken a renewed interest in this ancient language.
In essence, the Veda-s, Upanisad-s, Mantra-s, and Sutra-s are a codified zip drives encapsulated in the indestructible medium of sound. This is a far more sophisticated technology than anything we could invent today. How can you have an infinite amount of information stored in something that does not take up any physical space?
The beauty of these “zip-drives” is that they give every practitioner the instructions based on their level of understanding. That is why no two practitioners are alike, even though they have the same instruction. Our level of understanding and capability has much to do with our own personal karma-s.
So now the fitness/yoga industry is having its current field day exploiting the physical benefits of yoga. But as long as there are practitioners willing to “decode” the ancient texts, and interpret and practice them to their own capabilities, Yoga will last for the rest of humanity. Hopefully, that will last a little bit longer.