Yoga today is a spiritual and physical journey undertaken by millions of men and women every day. These yogis are living and practicing yoga all over the world.
For more than 5,000 years, however, yoga was an integral part of life in a specific geographic area: in and around the Indian subcontinent.
Yoga developed in Vedic India as a part of a greater Guru-shishya parampara, rooted in religion, spirituality and daily life.
As a modern yogshala, this narrative is something that inspires us as well as our students. In this piece, we have taken a look at how this tradition developed, as well as its modern face.
The term Guru-Shishya consists of two parts:
Guru: teacher and student: shishya.
Parampara means the continuation of tradition, or direct succession of this chain, from one line of guru-shishya to the next. This tradition exists not just in Hinduism, but also the other major India religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, making it truly Indian.
The full meaning of this term goes beyond the usual meaning of teacher and student. The student would not pay the Guru, like we do in modern times.
As this exchange was held to a higher, more divine standard, the student would dedicate their life to giving seva daan (voluntary service) as their Guru-dakshina.
Some of the most important examples of this are found both in ancient Indian history (Nandhi Deva and Patanjali) as well as in modern times(Tirumali Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar).
Comparing Yoga Education in Ancient and Modern times
For this comparison, we will look at our yoga school: Pyramid Yogshala, as a reference in comparison to an ancient gurukul. This way, we can speak to our own experiences as a school teaching modern yoga at an ancient center of yoga: Rishikesh.
Here are some ways yoga has changed and some ways it has not:
1. Instruction method
In earlier times, yoga instruction was oral(Maukhik Parampara), with knowledge passing directly through each line of teacher-students. Our students have access to written manuals, PDFs, and other digital resources.
2. Place of Practice
Individual yoga practice can take place anywhere you can roll out your yoga mat. For groups, however, the Yoga hall is the center of action.
In ancient Gurukulas, open spaces in ashrams called akharas were where they practiced.
Today, akharas have become synonymous with kushti akadas(kushti: wrestling) due to movies, music, and other popular culture.
In reality, akhadas still play an important role as the ashram’s daily place of activity.
Even in 2023, ashrams in India have communal places for sleeping and bathing. This has hardly changed in ashrams to this day. Mattresses on the ground function as bed and the sofa.
In professional yoga school like ours, students get to stay in more modern dwellings, with hot water, air conditioning and balcony views of Rishikesh Holy City.
Students in older times would help with the chores of the Gurukula, and assist in the cleaning, cooking, and other menial tasks as seva daan. Food eaten was satvik, with a heavy emphasis on milk.
This has changed in modern time: At Pyramid, we know how diverse modern eating choices can be. All food preparation takes into account allergies, and other preferences.
However certain things remain the same, with an emphasis on lighter satvik food options, cooked with the fresh produce and to exacting standards.
5. Future prospects
As all education was conducted inside Gurukulas in ancient India, they would start at a very young age (as soon as 7) till the teaching was completed in adulthood (around the mid 20s).
The shishya would then tend to their material life, or continue onto a divine path, living on alms, meditating, and journeying towards the ultimate truth.
In modern yoga schools, you will mostly encounter adults over the age of 18, at different stages of life and knowledge of yoga.
After graduating from our school, you can join Yoga studios that prefer Yoga Alliance certification. You can also choose to deepen your practice, visit ashrams or attend more yoga experiences.
Yoga Teacher Training at Pyramid Yogshala:
a mixture of traditional and modern Yoga
At Pyramid Yogshala, we hold traditions close at heart. The institutional knowledge of Yoga is still strong in Rishikesh.
From age-old ashrams teaching advanced techniques to normal folks doing their daily pranayama, yoga is a way of life.
Along with our traditions, Pyramid Yogshala is also an inclusive place that celebrates diversity.
Our Yoga Gurus are steeped in Indian tradition, yet they are connected to the modern world, and hold international qualifications to teach future yoga teachers.
They also keep up to date with the latest developments in the Yoga world, such as satvik diet trends, innovation in sustainable yoga equipment and much more.
Our 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training helps our students become qualified yoga teachers, while also interacting with its living history on a daily basis.
You’ll chant Sanskrit mantras, participate in Aarti service, and get to stay and grow with people from all over the world, a truly lifetime experience.
A professional yoga teacher training program can do wonders for your resume and deepen your practice.
Our team has helped countless graduates start their yoga career. Contact us today fill up the form below and we’ll be with you ASAP!