Everybody has their own set of ideas about yoga. The reasons to practice the mindful art of yoga can be vary from person to person. Some practice it to improve the posture, some to calm the soul, nourish the overall health, while others for weight loss, body sculpting and more. Whatsoever the reason may be, the crucial questions are, “Do you know about the origin of the science of yoga? Have you ever wished to dive deep into the theoretical aspects of yoga. Have you ever wondered where did yoga originate from, why do we practice it? Does the history of yoga incite you?”
Whether an existing yoga practitioner or an aspiring one — History of yoga is a crucial chapter to uncover as it unfolds the soul and purpose of yoga ever since its origin. Theoretical knowledge is equally important as practical experience. Acquiring in-depth knowledge about yoga history will facilitate a better understanding of the science of yoga, various styles, correct practice of doing the asana and, further help understand the specific benefits of each asana. Theoretical knowledge also supports practical application of the yoga postures. Without adequate theoretical knowledge, the practice of yoga poses can be a difficult task to master. Additionally, the wrong application of yoga asana may invite a host of problems and, increase the risk of injuries. So, prevent injuries through correct practice and, reap the most of it by learning about yoga history.
The word history is derived from a Greek word ‘ Historia’ meaning inquiry. History means chronological narration of past events relating to a particular person, place, event and so on. The science of yoga has a long history that accounts for innovation and transformation. The ancient sutras narrate details about the origin of yoga. The written ancient text accounts for the veracity about the art of yoga.
The following paragraphs speak about the glorious history of yoga:
Yoga is a 5000-year old traditional Indian body of knowledge derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning union of body, mind, and soul. The earliest mentions of the meditative traditions of yoga are found in the ancient literature ‘Rig Veda’. The oldest surviving literature dates back to Indus Saraswati Civilization. However, It is also believed that the main source of information regarding yoga practices is available in Vedas and Upanishads like Brihadaranyaka. The practice of Pranayama finds mention in Chandogya Upanishad. The meaning of the word ‘yoga’ as it stands today perhaps happened in Kato Upanishad for the first time.
If sources are to be believed, the period between 500 B.C. -800 A.D. is considered as the most prominent period in the origin of yoga and its development. The concept of Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma yoga is detailed out in the sacred Hindu book ‘Bhagavad Gita’. Further, the science of yoga is also discussed in the ancient sutra of Hindu Philosophy and, explicitly explained in Patanjali Yogasutra. Sage Patanjali is considered as the father of yoga and his sutras are entirely dedicated to the science of yoga. Various aspects of yoga are contained in the sutra. However, Patanjali Yoga Sutra mainly identifies with eight limb path of yoga.
The rich history of yoga can be divided into five main eras of development and practice.
● Vedic Period: The period defines the holy writings of Brahmanism known as Vedas. The Vedas were the compilation of worship songs and encompass the ancient teachings of yoga. The lessons from Veda are recognized as Vedic Yoga
● Pre-Classical Period: Vedic period was followed by Pre-classical yoga period that marked the beginnings of Upanishads. The Upanishads give more insights into the teachings of the Vedas and extend people’s knowledge about Vedas.
● Classical Period: The beginning of structured yoga approach with the emergence of Patanjali Yoga Sutra. The eight-limb path known as Raja Yoga was also introduced during this era.
● Post-Classical Period: During this period, the teachings of Acharya Trayas – Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya were more prominent. The great personalities like Swatmarama Suri and Shrinivasa Bhatt popularised the practice of Hatha yoga during post-classical period.
● Modern Period: The great yoga acharyas- Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Ramana Maharishi, Vivekananda, contributed to the development of Raja Yoga. The Hatha yoga, Bhakti yoga, Vedanta flourished in the modern period.
The rich long history of yoga cannot be condensed in one piece of writing. Therefore, only a gist about yoga history is outlined in this writing. Feed the history enthusiast in you with this brief piece of information.