Yoga, the very name emanates “peace and harmony” in our mind. For everyone who is related to Yoga, heard about Yoga or is merely acquainted with yoga, knows that Yoga was born in India. The word Yoga derives its meaning from the Sanskrit word –“yuj” meaning “to connect, to join, to unite”. And today we can see assimilation of Yoga in various other religions like Buddhism, Jainism, even Sufism.
Owing to the successful adaptation of Yoga in the western culture, many researches have been conducted, to date the origin of Yoga. As per archaeological evidence, the art of Yoga started around 3000 BC old (3rd Millennium BC), because of various seals depicting of Yoga postures were discovered at various excavations of Indus Valley Civilization. However, religious gurus and yogis debate that the existence of Yoga predates Vedic period, where the discipline and knowledge of Yoga was passed on orally from one generation to another.
This attributed to its evolved nature and what we follow today is more of Modern Yoga deriving just the essence from its glorious past.
Seal discovered at Indus Valley civilization depicting Yoga Postures
Yoga history formally began with “The Yoga sutras of Patanjali“ written by Patanjali. This set of 196 sutras or aphorisms gave yoga, a more systematic demonstration. For this he is even known as “Father of Yoga”.
The glorifying history of Yoga can be divided into:
1. Vedic Era:
The sacred Vedas dating back to 1500 BC to 1200 BC contains all the marvelous chants and practices of Yoga. The teachings or practices of Vedas found in the Yoga are called as Vedic Yoga. The Sanskrit word Veda means “knowledge”. The four Vedas are – Rig Veda (Contains the hymns of praises to the supreme lord), Yajur Veda (Knowledge of Sacrifice), Sam Veda (Knowledge of Chants) and Atharva Veda (Knowledge of the Atharvana). It was during this time Yogis used to isolate themselves completely for attaining moksha. Various sacrifices and chants were performed for gaining illumination.
2. Pre Classical Era:
The creation of Upanishads around 800 to 500 BC embarks the Pre Classical Era. The 200 scriptures of Upanishads further explain the teachings of the Vedas. Upanishads are also called as the end of Vedas. Further around 500 BC, the Bhagvada-Gita (Lord’s Song) was created. The Bhagvada Gita known to man unite three streams of Yoga namely – Bhakti Yoga (Connection with the supreme being), Jnana Yoga (Connection with respect to knowledge and wisdom) and Karma Yoga (Connection using selfless actions). It was fiercely believed following these paths leads to enlightment. Moreover during this time, Yoga also found its way towards Buddhism.
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3. Classical Era:
The yoga sutras compiled by Patanjali around 200 BC was during the Classical Era. Written by “the father of yoga”, these 196 sutras emphasized about Raja yoga for attainment of Moksha. The eightfold paths of Yoga (Ashthanga Yoga) forms the epicenter of the classical yoga. They are – a) Yama, b) Niyama, c) Asana, d) Pranayama, e) Pratyahara, f) Dharana, g) Dhyana, h) Samadhi.
4. Post Classical Era:
This era emphasized more on treating the body as a temple. This period focuses more on present and rather teaches one to accept the reality and live in the moment. Yogis designed various practices to rejuvenate body and prolong its life. This led to Hatha Yoga, which is the yoga of asanas. Along with Hatha Yoga, Tantra Yoga of chants and rituals was also developed.
In the modern period, we are seeing resurrection of Yoga, which is not limited to India alone. Yoga is now widely practiced in western countries also. The main credit for this propagation goes to Swami Vivekananda. A chief disciple of Saint Ramakrishna, he brought Yoga and Vedanta to west.
Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings called as Yogoda teachings was transcendental in west. He wrote the famous “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
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J. Krishnamurthy attracted many followers with Jnana Yoga. Shrila Prabhupada founded ISKON in US and propagated Bhakti Yoga. Sri Krishnamacharya spread Hatha Yoga, which is further continued by BKS Iyengar.
Other popular spiritual gurus were Sathya Sai Baba and Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho). They had wide followers across the globe and through all the genres.
“Thus Yoga propagates itself through a spiritual journey of Mind, Power and Body where one can find peace and well being.”
Hope this brief history of yoga helps you to understand the importance of yoga. If you have any thoughts to share, please give your comments.
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