History of Yoga

Where Did Yoga Come From?

If we were to pick s0mething and compare it with your knowledge of yoga then a guppy in an aquarium or fishbowl is the perfect example. You’ve been simply swimming around, enjoying the awesomeness of practising yoga, but what you know about this ancient practise isn’t very much different from what the guppy knows beyond its immediate fishbowl environment.

Oblivious to many, yoga isn’t some new age fad. But an ancient practise whose history dates back to around 3, 000 BC – with some researchers pushing its history up to 10, 000 years back.

But to understand the deep history of yoga and its growth over time, here are the four phases of growth that the practise has undergone since inception to get to where it is.

Pre-Classical Yoga

This is what marked the beginning of yoga. It’s basically the ancient development of the Indus Savasvati civilization, which flies to over 5, 000 years ago in the history of Northern India.

It’s during this time that the word yoga would first be mentioned in the Rig Veda sacred texts. For what’s worth, Vedas were basically a collection of sacred texts including mantras, songs, and the rituals performed by the Vedic priests and Brahmans.

Through the years, yoga would be progressively refined and modified by the Rishis and Brahmans, each of whom would document their beliefs and practises into a huge collection of ancient texts with an upward of 200 scriptures called Upanishads.

Popular among the ancient yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad Gita, combined around 500 BCE. What happens is that this Upanishad takes the whole concept of ritual sacrifice documented in the Vedas and tries to internalize it. It then proceeds to teach the benefits of sacrificing your ego through action, self-knowledge and wisdom.

Classical Yoga

The pre-classical yoga would be followed by classical yoga, which is simply a mishmash of the various yoga ideas, techniques and beliefs. Some of these ideas would end up conflicting and contradicting each other.

The Classical period of Yoga is defined by the first systematic presentation of the practise that was dubbed Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. But nothing would be documented about it until the second century, when the Raja Yoga path (or classical yoga as it’s also referred) would be described in text.

During this stage of yoga growth and development, Patanjali would organize the yoga practise into eight limbed paths, each detailing the steps involved in obtaining Samadhi (enlightenment).

Post-Classical Yoga

A few years after the classical period of yoga, yoga masters would team up to create a system of yoga practises meant to rejuvenate the body and prolong life.

First they had to reject some of the teaching of Vedas in favour of the physical body as the only mean to achieve enlightenment. That way, Tantra Yoga was developed, which basically involved embracing radical techniques that worked to cleanse both the body and the mind, in an effort to breakdown the knots that bound people to their physical existence.

This phase of yoga development essentially involved the exploration of both physical and spiritual connections and a series of other body centred practises that would together form what’s primarily considered western yoga.

Modern Yoga

The era of modern yoga dates back to late 1800 and early 1900, when yoga masters toured the west, attracting throngs of followers. Everything began in 1893, at Chicago’s Parliament of Religions, after Swami Vivekananda delivered a powerful lecture on Yoga.

By 1920s, Hatha Yoga would be publicly promoted alongside the work of Swami Sivananda and T. Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya would open the first school for Hatha Yoga in 1924 in Mysore. Twelve years later Sivananda would start the Divine Life Society (DLS). Through their students, the practise of yoga would spread wings to the rest of the world and at the same time be improved into what it is now.