"Yoga is the journey of the self,
through the self,
to the self."
- The Bhagavad Gita
A very ancient practice
The first practice of yoga is considered to date from earlier than 5000 years ago in the region that is now Northern India. Stone carvings have been found that show people sitting in meditative-looking positions.
However, Yoga as a complex and detailed practice was born with the first philosophical books such as the Vedic texts, which are also the sacred texts of Hinduism, and more specifically:
the Bhagavad Gita, dated around the 3rd and 4th century BC,
and Patanjali's written Yoga Sutras, 2nd century BC.
The Bhagavad Gita is the narrative tale of a war representing an allegory of life, a synthesis of the ideas of old Hinduism which is based on yoga which in this case means: union to the Absolute God.
A collection of 195 statements, the Sutra provides a kind of philosophical guidebook for dealing with the challenges of being human. Giving guidance on how to gain mastery over the mind and emotions and advice on spiritual growth, the Yoga Sutra provides the framework upon which all yoga practiced today is based.
In both of these texts, the physical practice of yoga, which is called Asana,
central in Hatha Yoga, is rarely taken in account.
The Asana practise was subordinate to other practices like Pranayama (expansion of the vital energy by means of breath), dharana (focus, or placement of the mental faculty), and nada (sound), and did not have health and fitness as their chief aim.
Not, that is, until the sudden explosion of interest in postural yoga in the 1920s and 1930s, first in India and later in the West.
Yoga in the Western world
Yoga began to gain popularity in the West at the end of the 19th century.
But it was a yoga deeply influenced by Western spiritual and religious ideas, representing in many respects a radical break from the grass-roots yoga lineages of India.
The first wave of “export yogis,” headed by Swami Vivekananda, largely ignored asana (the physical practice that is now so famous today) and tended to focus instead on pranayama, meditation, and positive thinking.
It was not until the 1920s that the focus on asana began to gain prominence as a key feature of the modern English language-based yogas emerging from India. In the 60s in the USA there was the first boom of the practice how we know it today.
Yoga today: the modern vision.
Nowadays, yoga is mainly recognise as a form of exercise.
It is taught in gyms, schools, dedicated studios as a series of postures that helps the body to increase flexibility, strength, healthy joints. It includes a special attention on the breath.
At Mindful Yoga Retreat we agree on the fact that in order to be content and at peace with the world, we need to feel at home in our own body and treat it as a temple.
Nevertheless, we don't forget the yoga is the path of union, and yoga practices help us come to the realisation that there is a connection between different parts of ourselves.
The physical level of the asanas, that take in account the body, we know as being just one part of the complex being we are, that as well includes: breath, mind, soul...
This is why we include pranayama and concentration techniques, and of course meditation, mindfulness!
Without losing the fun of jumping around and flowing gracefully from a pose to the other!
Below you can see some videos of Giulia's teachings with voice and music: