History of Yoga

When was the last time you heard someone mention the word yoga? Have you ever wanted to know more about this ancient form of fitness? If you've answered in the affirmative then read through this piece as it tells you everything about the history of yoga.
| Saturday, January 01, 2011
Regular exercise is the best way to stay fit; of course with the different forms today the choice of selecting the ideal one becomes a little difficult. Yoga is one form which not only helps you burn fat but also connect to your inner self and thus attain a higher level. Yoga offers you peace and contentment, both qualities that people today strive very hard for. So if you’re curious to know more then continue reading about this art form in this article which talks about the history of yoga.

The Beginning of Yoga

What is yoga is a question that needs to be answered before you take up this practice, since knowing more about this ancient form will help you to incorporate it in your life effectively. The origin of yoga can be traced to as long as 5000 years back. The earliest reference to this form was made when archaeological excavations were carried out in the Indus valley civilization. Evidence from the two largest cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa also revealed a portrait of a human or God meditating in a position similar to that of a yoga posture. Yoga as we know it today is believed to be derived from the Rig Veda and has been dated to 3000 to 5000 B.C.

Yoga - Vedic and Pre Classical

Information regarding Indian culture and yogic activities is found in the Vedas. The Vedas are a compilation of rituals and hymns that are over 3000 years old. In this form of yoga also known as Archaic yoga the main theme is reuniting the visible material world together with the invisible spiritual one by sacrificing certain things. Anyone who wanted to practice this form would have to follow long rituals for which they would need to focus their mind to a very high level. The teachings at this time were transmitted to ordinary people by rishis who were vedic prophets.

As time went by yoga moved to another period known as the pre classical period of yoga which spans about 2000 years until the year 200. A collection of texts that revolve around metaphysical speculation known as the Upanishads tell us more about this period. These texts were secret texts but as time went by information about yoga spread from guru to yogi thus opening up the concept of individual system of thought.

To know more about what is yoga we would also need to look at another text that belonged to this time the Bhagavad Gita. This piece of literature was written about 500 B.C and is a beautiful story of a conversation that takes place between Krishna, a Hindu God and a prince by the name Arjuna. In this the plot revolves around the difficult position Arjuna finds himself in and how he takes the advice of Krishna and follows a difficult yogic path which lays stress on bhakti (devotion) and jnana (keen mind). To follow this path he also has to give up his karma (ego) and thus achieve moksha (spiritual freedom).

Yoga - Classical and Post Classical

Classical yoga is the eight limbed yoga that is described in the Sutras by Patanjali. This yoga was most probably written around the year 100 to 200 A.C. Yoga in this form is presented in a form that is approachable and systematic. According to Patanjali every individual consists of 2 parts, one part being prakriti (matter) and the other purusha (soul). The goal of yoga according to this great teacher is to free the soul from the material world so that it goes back to its original form.

As time passed by yoga moved into another period known as the post classical yoga. This was a period in which many independent yoga schools were formed. Yoga in this period was similar to post classical and Vedic traditions. Yogis in the post classical period began to focus on the human body and thus developed a system where different exercises, which also incorporated breathing and meditation, could help the body stay young and in turn prolong ones life span. According to them the human body was a temple which housed the immortal soul.

Yoga - Modern

It was at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in the year 1893 that modern yoga was born. During this meeting Swami Vivekananda who was from India spread the word of yoga and later became one of the most popular members of the Parliament. After the meeting he toured the corners of the continent spreading yoga. Many yoga schools were founded and people all over the world fell deeply in love with this form of exercise. Yoga found its way into Hollywood because of Indra Devi who opened a yoga studio there in the year 1947.

Yoga also found its way into sports in the year 1950 and that was all thanks to a yoga teacher by the name of Selvarajan Yesudian. His book which has been translated into more then fourteen languages has helped many sportspersons use yoga to strengthen and focus training regimens. Several years later yoga also became popular with the common people because of the spread of this form through books and even television.

Yoga As We Know It Today

These days yoga is practiced by over nearly 30 million people. The large number is all because the world is changing and people are getting more inclined towards health and spirituality. People the world over are looking for answers for everything in life and have found peace and contentment in yoga. Life can be beautiful and stress free if only you choose the path that has been laid down by teachers before you.  Everything is possible if you are ready to accept what yoga has to offer.

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