Majority of the people are unaware that our Eurocentric perspective of analysing and judging lead to some misunderstanding about practice and success in Yoga. In case of Yoga we apply our western vigorous and result oriented approach even in practicing Yoga. In other words: successful Yoga has to be demanding, exhausting and result driven like our western understanding of performing sports or leisure activities.
Funnily enough, this western concept has already influenced the Indian Yoga over hundred years ago, while the British conquered the Indian subcontinent and showed western supremacy in the form of strong physical fitness of their officials and soldiers. This influenced certain Yoga traditions, which evolved to focus more on physical strength than the traditional way of Yoga. Exactly this west-influenced Yoga came back as one type of Yoga. Old wine in new bottles? Yes and no. In the beginning, as Yoga spread in the west, most of the practitioners understood Yoga as a way of life, a mental path and not a practice of body movements. Indeed, there was the term Fakir as one type of Yogi, which shifted over the time to a person who uses the body and mind to overcome the attachments of life.
So what happened in the past 30 years, when Yoga became popular? In Germany the television helped, alongside the growth of certain Yoga organizations to popularise Yoga. Many Indian teachers came to Europe spreading expertise of certain Yoga-Traditions, mostly Hatha-Yoga with a focus on the physical level. Due to the materialistic history of Europe, this Yoga-Tradition was quite helpful for people to integrate it into their existing lifestyle. On the other hand it contributed to loss of the traditional understanding of what Yoga really is.
Today if you Google for Yoga-pictures you always will find some immaculate asana (posture), sweaty girls and sometimes a meditating person. It appears that Yoga got stuck in the physical level, and lost the connection to it roots, which means to restrain from attachments to focus on the union within the polarity. The common Yoga is far beyond of this traditional goal of the ancient India and the Vedas.
From the traditional Yoga perspective, the frontal lobe based lifestyle is seen as the main cause for modern day suffering. Current societies believe, that the intellect will find every solution. But in reality nearly all people are emotionally driven and controlled. The lack of techniques to handle emotions creates a madhouse out of every frontal lobe based society. The imbalance between intellect and heart creates a vacuum which is filled up with intellectual Fata Morganas. Traditional Yoga recommends in this case the development of the heart, which literally means compassion and love.
Looking back, to the beginning of the article: Is Yoga-practice demanding? Yes, indeed. Yoga will bring you to your mental and physical limits. Yoga-practice will make you aware of and to respect your inner balance, as well as your limitations. Yoga will make you sweat as well as freeze, depending of what kind of exercise you do. Yoga will make you breath-less or explode, there are no limitations. With Yoga you can loose weight, find your inner love, relax your mind, strengthen your body.
Yoga in the traditional sense is a tool, a vehicle to support your personal evolution, regardless of which level you are on. As I wrote in the beginning: our modern way of thinking strongly influences our expectations of how and what Yoga is, which has lead to some distortion. Too much pressure, too many expectations lead to pain and suffering in your Yoga practice. It has to be clear, that Yoga with its history has no need for testament, that it is demanding like any fitness activity. Modern paradigms skewed towards performance orientation is not the sole premise of Yoga, instead it is a holistic practice that will make you sweat, exhausted and energized just like any other sport.