The Western world and the fascination for the body

The Western world is fascinated by the physical body like no other part of the world. There could be a lot of reasons for this. One is in the eastern world, where spirituality pervades, we are always brought up to believe we are but a small part of the whole and the focus tends not to be on oneself. In the freer thinking world, one can disassociate oneself from Him much more easily and the thought becomes more self-centric. And the mind, being the monkey, exploits the senses. This prevalence of sensory entrapment has led the entire western world to focus on what is physical, visual and in essence everything sensory. Thus you see a plethora of messages in the various media of perfect bodies and perfect looks being perpetrated to the common man endlessly. This meaningless entrapment has pervaded the Yoga world too in the West. Today, the West knows more about Yoga than in the past. However, if you skim through the sites and magazines, you will see the authors or the models all eager to flaunt their perfect bodies. This is true even of the more popular teachers. In the current edition of Yoga & Life, I saw numerous articles and ads (of course) that were flaunting their bodies. All this does to the novice Yoga practitioner is to encourage to work towards a perfect body and thus takes away what Yoga is all about to that practitioner. No doubt, over a period of time he or she will realize the truth, but these magazines and sites are doing a disservice in general by taking the wrong approach. BKS Iyengar, when he wrote his book Light on Yoga about five decades back, illustrated yoga asanas where he had his body photographed, but the appeal of the perfect body wasn’t there. Yoga clothing is a multi-billion dollar industry today. Yes, it has provided jobs, but to the few. Yoga inherently isn’t about being popular with the masses but is about being popular with everyone’s self and thinking. One should carry an image of Yoga as a vehicle to stay balanced in life all the time and not something flashy.

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