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What is the history of yoga?

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One can learn about the yoga asanas or pranayama through yoga classes, studios or free online videos; but, to achieve the purpose of yoga, one must know its history. The following article will reveal the same.

Toning the buttocks or relieving pain from the body is not the purpose of yoga. It is practiced to attain liberation by bringing a balance to the physical, mental and psychological state. One can develop strength, lose weight, and cure issues in the body through regular yoga; but, to achieve the goal of yoga, enrolling for yoga teacher training in India or yoga teacher training in Nepal is a must. They teach the inner science of yoga to help you understand its motives and make you believe in the same.

As international yoga day is around the corner, a lot of workshops, discussions, and seminars on yoga are taking place; this is the best time to learn yoga intensely. But, before you apply for any of such programs, make sure to read about the history of yoga. For your convenience, a brief of the same is mentioned in the following article.


Yoga originated in pre-Vedic Indian traditions most likely around 5,000-6,000 years ago. Although there are no physical pieces of evidence to prove the same, there are archaeological shreds of evidence in stone seals that depicts figures engaged in yoga poses.

To know the origin, let's divide yoga into three periods i.e. pre-classical, classical and post-classical period.

Pre-classical period

This period of yoga was influenced by the Vedas where verifiable pieces of evidence were found around 5,000 years ago in the Indus valley civilization. It marked the discovery of archaeological seals portraying a human figure in meditative poses.

To understand the idea of yoga, one must understand the idea of two crucial ancient texts Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. Ramayana instructs about the idea of yoga through the story of Lord Rama. He, who in spite of pain and sufferings led a selfless, altruistic, happy and peaceful life. Bhagavad Gita, on the other hand, is a converse between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna. Through these dialogues, one understands the purpose and meaning to live life in contentment and peace. In fact, the concept of dharma, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and jnana yoga were explained in the same. For the same reason, wise men, seers and yoga masters honored Bhagavad Gita as yoga psychology, precious knowledge.

Classical period

This period was defined by the first systematic presentation of yoga by Patanjali’s yoga sutras. There are 195 composed yoga sutras that clarify Raja yoga, its underlying principles and the eight limbs of classical yoga. The eight limbs of yoga include Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

For some centuries, yogis followed Patanjali’s concept wandering around meditation and neglected asanas. Later, ‘body is a temple’ belief was revived and so did, the importance of asanas.

Post-classical period

This phase differed from the previous periods as it was directed to the present. It is believed that one must accept and live in the moment instead of, striving for liberation.

In the early 19th century, yoga was introduced in the west and was studied as Eastern philosophy. But soon, it became an inclination for vegetarianism and health. In the 1960s, one of the yoga gurus Swami Sivananda opened yoga schools in America and Europe. He also gave the five modified yoga principles that are followed today:

  • Shavasana for complete relaxation
  • Asanas for physical workout
  • Pranayama for the correct breathing process
  • Dhyana for meditation and positivity, and
  • Proper diet

With the help of these principles, yoga has continued to propagate and escalate its teaching beyond boundaries, culture, and language. To learn about the yoga discipline extensively, enroll for yoga teacher training in Nepal.

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