Monday, January 17, 2011

Why are there more people outside of India now practicing Yoga than inside of India? David Williams' thoughts on this

This post is inspired by Claudia's January 16th post, "How come there are no Indians in the Mysore Shala?"

I have my own theories as to the answer to this question, but I'll keep them to myself, since I don't feel I'm in a position to say anything really illuminating about this (This is rare; it is not often that I keep my views to myself...). Rather, I'll share David Williams' thoughts on this. In a 2002 interview with Guy Donahaye, Williams remarked that, "I believe more people outside of India now are practicing Yoga than inside of India." 

When Donahaye went on to ask him why this is so, Williams replied, 

"A lot of people in India didn't have the leisure time to do it, for one thing. A huge amount of the population works for enough food to feed themselves and their family that day and they are working from dawn to dark. Also, at least with this system of yoga, it was only taught to brahmins up till we sort of released it to the rest of the world and prior to, say, the 1960s, yoga was kept pretty much a secret. The guru taught the disciple and there was a lineage and, before mass communication, one person would learn one yoga system in their life, if they got introduced to Yoga. Now all of that has been blown wide open with mass communication and videos and all of that."

I just thought I'd share this, since you might find this to be of interest.    


  1. Actually, there ARE Indians practicing in the Mysore shala. There are three in the mornings and others practice in the afternoons, if I'm not mistaken.

  2. Nobel, that is a great find, I think that would explain why there are so few... talking it over with others, it seems to me that India is coming to the materialistic side of things as the west searches for the other side... of course this is a HUGE generalization, but one that somewhat rings true... and if for generations people could not afford to have leisure time, it is no wonder that everyone here is turning into a computer engineer in the hopes of having a comfortable life...

    It is an interesting topic... the conversation will probably continue...

  3. Interesting information, LI Ashtangini. I wouldn't have known this, since I have yet to go to Mysore.

    Claudia, even though it is probably a generalization, I think the idea that India is coming to the materialistic side of things as the west searches for the other side probably has some truth to it. From talking to some of my Indian friends and watching Bollywood movies, I think many younger Indians have this idea that yoga is something "old", "primitive", and "boring" that only their grandfathers do. For example, in the few Bollywood movies I've seen, yoga practitioners are either portrayed as boring people who don't have a life, and who make themselves get up at 5 in the morning (sounds like me actually... uh oh...), or they are portrayed as somewhat sleazy characters, for example, in one movie, there is a yoga instructor who is this attractive young woman who has an affair with a married man. Of course, media characterizations do not portray the whole truth of what is going on in society, but I think they nevertheless might echo some popular sentiments in the general populace.