The 10th International Yoga Day will take place on Wednesday, June 21. Created in 2014 by the United Nations, on a proposal from India, this event aims to promote the benefits of this physical, mental and spiritual practice, which today attracts between 250 and 300 million people in the world, including more 2.5 million in France.
If its defenders include yoga in a thousand-year-old Hindu tradition, the practice of this discipline has changed considerably in modern times, according to spiritual and sporting reappropriations, both Eastern and Western.
Founding texts in Sanskrit
Originally the word yogawhich means “union” in Sanskrit, appears in the epic poem of the Mahabharatafounding text of the Hindu tradition written between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC. In the passage where it is mentioned, the deity Krishna teaches a character several forms of yoga, exercises aimed at the fusion between the body and mind, to achieve inner peace.
The The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, another text whose origins date back to the same period, codifies the practice of yoga in the form of 195 aphorisms. “Patanjali’s yoga referred to a master who taught his disciples, seated, around a philosophical discussion”recounts Marie Kock, author of Yoga. A world storyin an interview with Monde. In this practice, “The only ‘posture’ is then that of seated meditation”, she specifies, the dynamic postures dating only from the 15th century. Yoga then remains a philosophical discipline practiced by a small number of initiates.
Export you yoga
The practice of yoga became popular in the Western world at the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of the Hindu monk Vivekananda at the Universal Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. This then published a book of reinterpretation of the The Yoga Sutras, at the origin of the modern discipline. Many master yogis settled in the United States and then founded schools to promote different variations of the practice.
First associated with the hippie movement and the counter-culture in the 1960s, yoga developed during the 20th century in the Western world as a spiritual and sporting practice. Gradually, he “presents more and more as a science. The more we export it, the more we erase its religious dimension, note Marie Kock. The rereading by the new age of quantum physics allows some to reinforce a scientific guarantee. »
The yoga practiced today in the United States or in France is often a derivative of the branch of hatha-yoga, the “yoga of effort”, a postural yoga where one connects the asana – postures – although there are actually dozens of different yogas.
Yoga as a political weapon
In India, this practice has become a political weapon in the service of the Hindu nationalism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who came to power in 2014. Defending the idea of a millennial yoga, the leader promotes his practice to pose as a defender of peace and well-being, through yoga sessions with tens of thousands of participants.
Narendra Modi even created a ministry dedicated to discipline in 2014, before submitting his proposal for the creation of an international day to the United Nations. He will also attend a yoga demonstration this Wednesday at the United Nations headquarters in New York, as part of his visit to the United States.
In France, yoga is a common practice, and intended for all ages. This does not prevent some abuses. Thus, the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses (Miviludes) listed, in July 2021, 160 reports related to the practice of yoga or “practices derived from yoga”concerning the lack of sleep, the abandonment of medical care or deficient diets.
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