How did yoga democratise itself and how it has become part of our daily life routine?

A few years back, Yoga was perceived like a weird spiritual related discipline that only hippies were into. So it got be questioning: how did Yoga become such a huge hype that today you cannot avoid traveling anywhere in the world without seeing a Yoga studio somewhere?

Yoga in sanskrit means “union” and a yogi will spend a lifetime trying to align body, mind and soul! 

Yoga originated over 5,000 years ago and at the time was a philosophical and meditative movement (amongst many others) trying to unite our physical world with the divine. 

The mental effort to unite body, mind and soul is much more difficult than only focusing on the physical postures. It is therefore thought that postures will only start appearing in Yoga in the 18th century and they could only start being practiced after long hours of meditation work first. Yoga has therefore evolved over the course of the years and History. The Yoga that we practice today has mostly been inspired by the 1920’s. 

The first guru to “promote” Yoga to the western world was Swami Vivekananda in Chicago in 1893 during the World’s Parliament of Religions. He gave a vision of Yoga to be a philosophical, spiritual, universal and tolerant discipline. 

In 1924, the guru Tirumalai Krishnamacharya developed a series of postures accessible to all, targeting the western world. This method which did not require intense meditation before starting any physical practice will democratize Yoga and become quite popular amongst westerners in search of spirituality and exotisme. 

In 1968, The Beatles go on a trip to Rishikesh, the city of their guru Maharishi Mahesh. Following their stay, Rishikesh will then become popular as a city of yoga and music and will attract a lot of people who want to visit the “Holy City of Yoga”. 

In 1973, the popular and controversial guru Bikram Choudhury started teaching Hollywood stars Yoga (Madonna, George Clooney, Demi Moore…). He will create his own hot yoga practice and will open hundreds of studios across the USA and abroad. 

In the 1980’s, as Yoga has become more and more “trendy” across the world, the attention sets back to its roots: India. Rishikesh becomes one of the official “yoga authentic” cities in the world. Many westerners who are into Yoga will make a stop over in the city. 

The various gurus who have helped Yoga become more trendy have also raised new questions amongst the practitioners: is yoga a practice of the body or the mind? 

Source: Marie Kock, « Yoga, une histoire-monde »