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History of Yoga

yoga-history

As knowledge in ancient times was transmitted orally, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of yoga. However, most scholars agree that yoga was first developed in the Indus Valley civilization around 5,000 years ago. The first mention of yoga was in the ancient Indian text of Rig Veda, a collection of sacred mantras and hymns used by priests and mystic seers.

Patanjali, a Hindu Sage, was the first to elaborate the transcendental nature of yogic philosophy through physical movement and yoga poses somewhere around 400 CE to 500 CE. The 8 limbs of yoga were outlined in the Yoga Sutras – a collection of philosophical texts (or aphorisms) in Sanskrit that depict the attainment of enlightenment and mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

How Old is Yoga?

yoga-ancient-history

The spiritual discipline of yoga is approximately 5,000 years old.

Where Was Yoga Invented?

Although the country of origin of yogic practice is debatable, scholars agree that yoga’s origin can be traced to the Indus Valley civilization, located in Northern India. A number of fossils and seals were found with figures performing yoga, thus proving the presence of yoga in the ancient culture roughly 5,000 years ago.

Story of Yoga

nataraja

It is believed that Lord Shiva is the founder and inventor of yoga, and is also known as the first Yogi or Adiyogi. According to belief, when Lord Shiva attained enlightenment, he retreated to Mount Kailash and performed the Dance of Bliss, or Tandavam. This dance is a symbol of the natural cycle of birth and death. Lord Shiva is often depicted dancing wildly in the Natarajasana, or King Dancer Pose, in the statue of Nataraja.

Everyone wanted to understand this profound realization being experienced by Lord Shiva. However, their pleas were not entertained by the First God. Many left and eventually, there were seven people who were determined to gain this understanding – known as the Seven Sages or Saptarishis. On the day of the full moon, Lord Shiva agreed to teach yoga to the Saptarishis, and thus, became their Guru. In modern times, this day is celebrated as Guru Purnima – an auspicious occasion when devotees pay respect to their Gurus, or teachers, who enlighten others by sharing their wisdom.

Spread of Yoga in the Western World

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In the 1980s, yogic philosophy and spiritual discipline were spread to the western world as yoga masters travelled to the west and began to attract followers. Yoga was first introduced at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda, who described and portrayed yoga as a “science of the mind.” He also translated many yogic texts from Sanskrit to English.

In the 1930s, the form of Hatha Yoga was promoted by yogis like T. Krishnamacharya, who also introduced the Asanas or yoga postures. Three of his students would develop sub-styles of yoga – each with their own purpose: 1) B. K. S. Iyengar (Iyengar yoga) 2) K. Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga yoga) 3) T. K. V. Desikachar (Viniyoga)