Yoga: From Ancient Traditions to Modern Healing

By Priyanka Bansal

February 2024 FEATURE
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“SOMETIMES, you have to slow down in order to speed up,” says Jojo Struys, a former television host turned wellness speaker and yoga teacher. She spent 20 years practising Pranayama breathing techniques and training yoga at the foothills of the Himalayas before becoming a fully certified yoga instructor.

Jojo is one of many practitioners who are drawn to the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga. “It unites the mind, body and spirit. It brings us into higher states of consciousness and brings us clarity and inner peace. We live in such a fast-paced world; yoga helps us slow down and become more present.”

Dating back to the period of the Vedas and Upanishads, yoga is a traditional and time-honoured practice focusing on all-round wellness of the body, mind and soul. Like other Indian traditions, it was handed down from master (Guru) to disciple (Shishya), who, after rigorous practice, attains mastery and qualifies to become a master himself.

Yoga works on oneʼs body, mind, emotion and energy, giving rise to four broad classifications: Karma yoga (body); Bhakti yoga (emotions); Gyana yoga (mind and intellect); and Kriya yoga (energy). All systems of yoga fall within the gamut of one or more of these categories. It is said that only a Guru can prescribe the appropriate combination of the four fundamental elements for each seeker.

At its core, yoga aims at taking care of the individual, assuming the rationale that a good, balanced and integrated person is more useful to oneself, family, society, nation, nature and humanity.

Derived from the Sanskrit root “Yuj”, meaning “to join”, yoga, according to ancient scriptures, leads to the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness, indicating the perfect harmony between the mind and body, and man and nature. One who experiences this oneness of existence and has attained this state of freedom is called a yogi.

Yoga has become highly popular of late as a holistic path to healing. In the West, it is practised to fix bad posture, relieve stress and learn relaxation techniques. Traditionally, it is conceived as more than just physical exercise; there is no aspect of life that is excluded from the yogic process. Aside from building muscle strength, increasing blood flow, improving flexibility, preventing diseases and easing aches and pains, yoga is also practised to realise the inner self, overcome sufferings and pave the way for attaining a state of liberation.

Jojo enjoys and teaches a more meditative style of yoga, specialising in corporate training for stress management.

“I start with meditation so that we are clear on our intentions. I then bring people on a journey that helps them connect with their inner selves through movement and breath. It is all about coming home to yourself.

“I share breathing techniques to combat stress and anxiety as well as teach mindfulness tools to improve mental resilience.”

No concrete guidelines exist regarding the frequency and duration of practice—yoga is a personal endeavour and as such, these are highly dependent on the individual. Practice should be joined with intention, and modified to meet individual needs and goals.

For Jojo, practising yoga has made her more self-aware, grounded and compassionate.

“It is a way of life. From how you breathe to how you think and live your life, it brings much internal peace and awareness to the present moment.”

So trust. Flow. Be present. And surrender to the now.

Priyanka Bansal

is an Indian expat living in Penang. Owing to her artistic bent of mind she loves writing, painting and crafting.