Yoga in Varanasi
Yoga is the oldest form of physical exercises. It involves breathing technique and body postures that help in relaxing the body and mind. Its practitioners considered it a philosophy rather than just physical exercises. Ascetics, mystics, and sages of the ancient times practiced this form of exercises in order to connect themselves with the spirit of the universe. By practicing pranayama (breathing technique) and asanas (forming various types of body postures), they could harmonize their mind, body and emotions. There are hundred types of asanas in yoga. The regular practice of yoga keeps the person young, fit and healthy.
The old scriptures describe Lord Shiva as a great exponent of Yoga. Probably, He was the first to discover it and practice it. As Varanasi or Kashi was dearer to Him, He might have brought yoga to Varanasi. Who was his first student is not known though. Perhaps, He taught it to one of his ardent followers and asked him to teach it to others. And this way, yoga in Varanasi has become a sort of tradition since then.
During those days, ashrams were the learning centre of yoga. It was taught by sages and ascetics to their students. They even transformed their knowledge of traditional yoga into books. People who practiced it diligently and whole heartedly became masters of yoga. As the wheel of time rotated ahead, Yoga got transformed into a modern form. These modern gurus developed their own version of yoga based on the traditional yoga. Power Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga are a few to name it. The modern yoga gurus also claim that yoga has the power to heal sexual dysfunction in married couples.
Since yoga has the healing power as well, it has been adapted into the curriculum by several colleges and universities of Varanasi. The Banaras Hindu University and Sampurnand Sanskrit University are pioneers in starting yoga as a part of the curriculum. These educational institutions have a separate department and experienced trainers. Thousands of students from India and abroad come to Varanasi each year to learn the traditional yoga. Besides colleges and universities, there are hundreds of yoga centres in Varanasi. Even hotels and resorts offer a crash course in Yoga for their guests. They even include yoga in their tour packages to attract customers.
Those who want to learn traditional yoga and experience the ashram life, Varanasi is the only city to taste it. For the ashram and guru-shisya culture is still prevalent in Varanasi. Though the ashrams do not provide any 5-star facilities, they are still well-equipped with basic amenities. Others, who are living with a body pain for years and have not got any relief from the medical treatment, they can consult yoga centres of Varanasi and plan their itinerary accordingly.