One of the key differences that one finds between the yoga that is popular in the West and that which is taught by traditionally trained Indian Gurus of India is the idea of achievement. In the West, yoga is marketed as an achievement: the achievement of a particular body posture and a body type, which demands constant measurement and monitoring. But the traditional yoga guru is not interested in achievement. He is more interested in awareness, in using the body, the breath and the mind as tools to make one’s self aware of not just the body, breath and mind, but things within and without. Achievement versus awareness is the fundamental difference between western and Indian thought.
When we use the word western, what do we actually mean? We mean management of the body using Greek principles. In Greek mythology, people are always shown as athletic.
The Olympic games come to us from Greek Mythology and they were organised when great heroes died. Athletics played a very important role. Gods, like Apollo and Artemis, and heroes, like Atlanta, are celebrated for their racing abilities and the typical Greek bodytype, which is highly muscular. These stories are about achievement. The victor was crowned with a laurel wreath, because there was an association of the surge of adrenaline, exhilaration and triumph with the ambrosia of the gods. It was the moment when one connected with the divine. Hence, the Greek heroes were constantly focused on aggressive achievement. Now, add to this a scientific or business element and you will find people focusing on the measuring and monitoring the achievement of a target. One is pushed by one’s coach and cheerleaders to do better and better.
There is both reward and benefit and one sees this in athletic traditions; but now it has percolated into Yoga traditions, where one is continuously being cheered to achieve a particular posture, a particular number or to tone your body to a particular goal. It becomes all about the objective. This is very different from the traditional model where yoga was primarily a tool to make one self-aware.
As per scientific research, the human body is bombarded with various forms of stimuli. The human consciousness restricts the number of stimuli that one analyses in order to prevent the mind from going into overdrive by the onslaught. This process of constricting of the consciousness is seen as knotting, crumpling or rippling of the consciousness, in Hindu traditions. Knotting, crumpling and rippling is accelerated in humans due to imagination—imagined hungers and fears.