The term “father of modern yoga” is a general title for several authors who have defined the evolution of the discipline. In fact, modern yoga is a far cry from the original system founded by Lord Sri Krishna in centuries past. Originally, yoga meant simply seeking pleasure and spiritual satisfaction, while today it has come to mean more in terms of achieving inner wholeness. One can say that the evolution of modern yoga is a constant parallel with the evolution of humanity itself.
What’s the sense behind “the father of modern yoga”?
When we refer to “the father of modern yoga”, we are actually referring to Hatha yoga, a variant of the Hindu religion whose followers are called Hatha yogis. Guru Nanak, often referred to as Gautama Buddha, is the most famous father of modern yoga. Hatha yoga is sometimes called “eight limbs” yoga because it combines eight widely differing styles of physical exercise. It includes everything from power yoga to relaxation and meditation. Gautama Buddha is the father of Vedic science, or yoga, and one of the last of the great gurus of the Hindu tradition.
A Sanskrit translation of the name, Gautama Buddha means “the father of yoga” and he is regarded as the foremost authority on yoga in India. He wrote ten volumes on the subject, including a commentary on the Yoga Sutras. Most of his work is devoted to explaining various asanas and pranayama, but he also included a lot of treatises on the sand and pratya nadis, or positions that facilitate specific meditation.
Ashtanga Yoga is now practiced mostly in India, especially in Rajasthan and Gujarat, but there are many studios and gyms in the United States and elsewhere in the world. It was started in 1969 by B.K.S. Iyengar, and includes forms of aerobic exercise as well as more challenging workouts using more difficult asanas. The most famous of his asanas is the neck stand, which Iyengar demonstrated in India, Japan, and Bali. Other arenas include the fish pose, which is credited with helping to cure tuberculosis; and the half-moon, or half-moon dog pose, which Iyengar made famous at the California Institute of Yoga in San Francisco.
Yoga asanas – the gist of yoga
The term “yoga asanas” literally means “a series of postures.” This is not the same thing as “yoga” in the western sense, which is a system of philosophies and practices. Iyengar’s teachings, as he describes them, are Sattvic, or what he calls “yoga-stic” or “yoga consciousness,” because they relate specifically to the human being, while the systems of classical Hinduism, such as the Bhagavad Gita, deal with the God or the spirit.
The main text of Iyengar’s book is chapter one: The Yoga Sutras. This is a translation and transcription of the original Sanskrit sutras. He starts out with a short glossary and then goes into detail about each of the Sanskrit terms. He explains that the word “sutra” in Sanskrit also means “method” or instruction. There is a reason for this: in ancient Indian society, it was essential that the student understand his teacher’s methodologies, so that he could practice according to it.
Iyengar then goes into the descriptions of the nine yoga asanas, explaining that one should not perform any of these unless he has received specific instructions from his guru. However, he shows how even performing a single asana is extremely beneficial, because it revitalizes the body. He then describes the ten kriyas, which are the major aspects of the Sanskrit sutras. He concludes the chapter with a discussion of the meaning of the kaivalya, which is the final dharma, which is the pinnacle of the entire system.
This is not a very difficult book to review, especially if you know what you are looking for. If not, there are plenty of books available that do a better job of informing the reader. Iyengar’s fatherly advice is always useful, but it does seem a little strange that he includes the tantric arts in his list of aphorisms. On the other hand, if you read his father’s books, you will see that he places greater emphasis on the spiritual benefits of yoga as compared to just the physical aspects. Regardless, of whether you agree with him on the father of modern yoga.