Yoga: A Global Phenomenon with Enduring Significance

5 Min Read

Yoga: A Global Phenomenon with Enduring Significance


Declared by the United Nations in 2015 and spearheaded by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the International Day of Yoga highlights the global appeal of this ancient Eastern practice. Despite its non-religious nature, yoga finds mention in sacred Hindu texts like the Bhagavad Gita. Meaning “union” or “yoke” in Sanskrit, yoga aims to unify the mind, body, soul, and universal consciousness, fostering a sense of liberation, tranquility, and self-realization.

Key Concepts and Practices

Yoga encompasses a range of physical, mental, and spiritual techniques, including mindful breathing, various postures, relaxation, chanting, and meditation. Different styles of yoga exist, each with its own unique approach to achieving a state of unity.

Historical Origins

The roots of yoga can be traced back to ancient texts like the Rigveda and the Upanishads. The Yoga Sutras, authored by Patanjali around 200 B. C., is a foundational text that expounds on yoga as a means of controlling the fluctuations of the mind.

Spiritual Significance

Yoga holds spiritual importance, seeking to regulate the mind, attain a detached observer consciousness, and break away from the cycle of birth and death, as asserted by a yoga website.

Cultural and Diplomatic Impact

Since his ascent to power in 2014, Modi’s administration has actively promoted yoga as a cultural and spiritual practice. Yoga has become a notable soft power tool in India’s foreign policy endeavors.

Prevalence in India

Despite its popularity, a comprehensive study by the Pew Research Center revealed that a significant proportion of Indian adults (60%) do not engage in yoga, including a majority of Hindus (60%). Only 35% of respondents reported ever practicing yoga, with a mere 7% adhering to a daily regimen.

Religious Affiliation and Yoga in India

According to the Pew survey, Hindus were not the most likely religious group to practice yoga in India. Jains (62%), Sikhs (50%), and Buddhists (38%) practiced yoga at higher rates than Hindus (36%), while Muslims (29%) and Christians (24%) ranked lower.

Spiritual Significance in Western Europe

While yoga’s spiritual roots are intertwined with Hinduism, a Pew survey in Western Europe explored whether individuals viewed yoga as a spiritual practice beyond its physical benefits. The results indicated that a considerable portion of the population (26% median) embraced yoga spiritually, particularly in Sweden, Portugal, and Finland.

Perspectives on the Spiritual Aspect of Yoga

  • Pinky Choubey, Hindu Yoga Expert: Yoga possesses spiritual significance and leads to a deeper connection with spirituality through meditation. It is intrinsically linked to Hinduism, with the Bhagavad Gita playing a central role. Yoga encompasses four paths: Karma, Bhakti, Raja, and Jnana.
  • Jaykar Kristi, Former Hindu Sadhu: Christians should refrain from yoga as it promotes thoughtlessness, which conflicts with the Christian practice of conscious prayer. Yoga’s origins in sun worship also contradict Christian beliefs.
  • Sunita Howell, Christian Educator: Yoga is inherently a Hindu practice connected to the supreme power, Purusha. It fosters self-awareness and leads to recognizing the need for external help, which I find in Jesus Christ.
  • Leela Manasseh, Christian Leader: Yoga is a form of worship, and while I respect those who practice it, I personally refrain from doing so as there are alternative exercises for health and well-being.
  • Dorcas Isaac, Retired Christian Principal: I engage in yoga classes and find them beneficial for physical health. Despite its Hindu origins, I view it as scientific exercise and do not perceive any Hindu elements when reciting Bible verses instead of Sanskrit mantras.
  • Mohit Singh, Christian Lay Preacher: Yoga can be practiced by Christians as long as they are clear about their intentions. I approached yoga purely for physical fitness and avoided chanting mantras. If one’s intent is genuine, God will provide guidance in such situations.


Yoga has established itself as a global phenomenon, transcending cultural and religious boundaries. While its origins lie in Hindu scriptures, yoga has evolved into a practice embraced by individuals from various backgrounds, offering benefits ranging from physical well-being to spiritual enlightenment.

Share This Article