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The History of Yoga - Where Did Yoga Come From?

Rishikul Yogshala Feb 196

In the sacred texts, we find the mentions of the science of union, the Yoga. Originated in the land of India about 5000-years ago, Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘’Yuj” meaning to unite. Traditionally, the system of yoga incorporates the practices of yoga asanas, pranayama, and meditation that lead to the union of body, mind, and soul with the universal consciousness.

Granting the human race with physical, mental, and spiritual health rewards, the individuals delve into the science of yoga for myriad reasons. However, there are only a handful of yoga practitioners who are educated about the origin and development of yoga from the ancient to modern times.

In order to fully assimilate the sole essence of yoga and its practice, it is imperative to unfold the history of yoga. So, with us discover the glorious tales of origin and evolution of Yoga.

Yoga in India is regarded as old as a civilization. The earliest archaeological pieces of evidence are found in the form of stone seals depicting the figures of yoga poses. The phallic symbols and seals of mother Goddess suggest the presence of tantra yoga in ancient times. The origin of yoga is speculated to date back to Vedic traditions.

The rich history of yoga can be chronologically classified into different eras on the basis of its development.

Vedic: The teachings of yoga were found in India’s earliest known manuscripts -- The Vedas. They are the oldest surviving Hindu and Sanskrit literature. The Vedas were ancient hymns sung by Rishis living ascetic lives in hermitages. In order to perform the Homa, the Vedic seers had to sit, stand immobile (asanas) for several days, weeks, months, and years. They chanted mantras that required breath control (pranayama) and the ritualistic accuracy needed intensive concentration (Dharana). Hence, the ritualistic worship of Vedic seers implemented a very strong practice of yoga sadhana.

Pre-Classical: Following the Vedic period is the pre-classical period which marks the beginning of Upanishads. The Upanishads were explanations of the mystic Vedic concepts in a more concrete form. Next, to Vedas, Upanishads are the most important repositories of the Yogic thought. The Upanishads teach about spiritual realization based on the individual experiences. Several Upanishads contain the nuggets of the golden Yogic truth like the Chandogya Upanishad mentioning the art of Pranayama (yogic breathing technique)

Classical: The period is considered to be the most prolific and prominent in the history and transformation of Yoga. During this period, the Yoga Korunta by sage Vamana Rishi was discovered by Sri, Krishnamacharya. It is said that the Yoga Korunta described the groupings of asana and teachings on vinyasa, bandhas, drishti, and mudras -- now eminent as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Maharishi Patanjali, inspired by the original teachings of Yoga Korunta developed the Ashtanga Yoga System, which he detailed out as eight limbs in his famous work -- The Yoga Sutras.

Post- Classical: During this time period the spiritual emphasis of yoga started to shift towards the physical practices keeping in mind the body-oriented nature of mankind. The Goraksha Satakam, Gheranda Samhita, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika are the prominent works of literature of this time period. Yoga in Bangalore is inspired by the teachings of classical yoga texts.

Modern: The modern period can be divided into three cycles, and there are several eminent world Yoga teachers who have taught in this era like Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, among others.

It’s nearly impossible to condense the beautiful, sacred, and long history of yoga in one piece of writing. Therefore, enlighten yourself with this brief history and continue to excavate deeper roots of this mystical science.

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