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Origin and History of Yoga: The word Yoga originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Yoke’ which means union. Yogas are not just some poses and meditations that are meant to just help you with your health. It is a group of spiritual, mental and physical practises that will help you to still your mind and see the detached conscious that is untouched by the mind or its mundane suffering. There are a variety of schools of yoga.
Origin and History of Yoga
Yoga originated in India. Shiva is considered to be the Adiyogi i.e., the first one to impart the knowledge of yoga to humans. He taught Yoga to the Saptarishis i.e., the seven sages, who then carried this knowledge to different parts of the world. Let us learn more about the Origin and History of Yoga.
Yoga in Pre-Vedic and Vedic Periods
According to many scholars, Yoga dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. Even though a correct timeline cannot be drawn, many seals found during the excavation of Indus Valley sites had illustrations of Yogasanas in them. Some scholars do argue that yoga is of Aryan origin. Most believe that there existed a pre-Aryan prototype of yoga which was later refined during the Vedic period. But the first text to mention yoga is the Rigveda. Most often it is described as something that is practised outside the Vedic system by ascetics. These constituted contemplation and breathing exercises. Some say that the precursor of yoga is the practices done by Vedic priests before conducting the sacrificial rituals.
Practices that may be considered to be classical yoga in the present time were first mentioned in the Upanishads. The term Yoga first appeared in the text Katha Upanishad from the 5th to 1st century BCE. Some schools of Jainism and Buddhism do seem to have yoga at some point. Yoga was considered to be going back to the inner world or the accession of consciousness. Maitrayaniya Upanishad was written much before the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and mentions a sixfold path of Yoga. This includes:
- breath control
- introspective withdrawal of the senses
- mental concentration
- logic and reasoning
- spiritual union
Some Macedonian scholars like Onesicritus and Calanus talk about meeting Yogis in their memoirs.
The classical era of yoga is considered to be from 200 BCE to 500 CE. The Indian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were constantly evolving during this period. So were the principles and practice of Yoga’s growth during the Gupta and Maurya periods. Many texts discussing and compiling the Yoga practices were written during this period. Some of them are listed below.
- Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali
- Yoga-Yājñavalkya (a conversation between Yajnavalkya and eminent philosopher Gargi Vachaknavi)
- Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra (Treatise for Yoga Practitioners)
The original name of Yoga sutras by Patanjali is believed to be Pātañjalayogaśāstra-sāṃkhya-pravacana. It is considered that the systematization of yoga which began during the time of Upanishads culminated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Many scholars have studied it and given their commentaries as in Vyasa Bhashya.
It can be seen that yoga has adopted a lot of ideas from the Samkhya school of philosophy in Hinduism and Abhidharma Buddhism. Abhidharma Buddhism influenced Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism which led to the beginning of the Mahayana movement known as Yogācāra. Yogācāra movement was influenced by the writings of Buddhist scholars like Asanga and Vasubandhu. Bhagavath Geeta also has many verses that directly or indirectly influence or refer to the philosophical and spiritual part of Yoga. Another important Hindu school of thought is Vedanta. Yoga shares many ideas with the Vedanta philosophy. However, yoga does not accept the concept of monism in Advaita Vedanta. Instead, yoga believes in the concept of Moksha.
The Middle Ages in the history of Yoga is considered to be from 500 CE to 1500 CE. Satellite yoga traditions like Hatha Yoga developed during this time.
Yoga in Buddhism
The first reference to Hatha Yoga is found in 8th-century Buddhist texts. Its earliest definition is found in Vimalaprabha, an 11th-century Buddhist text. In Hatha Yoga Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is combined with postures and breathing exercises. It represents the evolution of asanas into the full-body postures that are now popular, and it is the style that is currently linked with the term “yoga” with its modern modifications.
Influence of Bhakti Movement
The Bhakti movement that was started by the Alwars in south India had a huge impact on Yoga traditions also. The Shaiva and Vaishnava bhakti movements combined the meditative practises of yoga with devotion. Bhagavata Purana describes a Yoga practice called Viraha Bhakti Which focuses on the devotion to Lord Krishna.
Tantra is another tradition that had a huge influence on Yoga. The word tantra means technique. Tantric yoga evolved elaborate visualizations, such as meditation on the body as a microcosm of the universe. Mantras, breath control, and physical manipulation (including Nadis and chakras) were all part of it. Teachings about chakras and Kundalini became fundamental to subsequent forms of Indian yoga. At the start of the new millennium, hatha yoga evolved separately from tantra. Tantric Buddhism and Tantrayna are other terms for Vajrayana. Postures and breathing exercises are part of Tantra yoga practices. The Nyingma school of Buddhism practices yantra yoga, a discipline that incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and other activities.
Sikhism and Yoga
Sikhism also has an important role in the history of yoga. Many texts talk about Guru Nanak’s dialogues with Jogis or Yogis. Guru Nanak opposed the austerities, ceremonies, and rituals connected with hatha yoga, instead supporting sahaja yoga or nama yoga.
Yoga and other Indian philosophies were introduced to the West during the early 19th century. Swami Vivekananda was significantly instrumental in spreading yoga throughout Western societies. There was a strong emphasis on physical well-being here. Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, BKS Iyengar, K Pattabhi Jois, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Vivekananda popularized Raja yoga.
The Western world’s postural yoga is a physical practice that consists of asanas. Smooth transitions are frequently used to connect these, which are occasionally accompanied by breathing exercises and normally conclude with a period of rest or meditation. Despite ancient Hindu traditions in which asanas played little or no role, it is generally referred to simply as “yoga.” No ancient yoga tradition placed a strong emphasis on asanas.
Origin and History of Yoga: Latest Developments
The practice of yoga as exercise is a part of the modern yoga renaissance, which was started by Swami Kuvalayananda and Shri Yogendra in the 20th century and involved a fusion of haṭha yoga and Western gymnastics. Hatha yoga featured a few standing poses before 1900. The Sun Salutation was first used in the 1920s by the Rajah of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi. Many gymnastics-inspired standing poses were adopted into yoga by Krishnamacharya in Mysore between the 1930s and the 1950s. Several of his students established new yoga schools. Pattabhi Jois developed Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, which paved the way for Power Yoga. In his 1966 book, Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar founded Iyengar Yoga and systematized asanas.
A brief account of the Origin and History of Yoga is given in this article. It is good to understand details including the Origin and History of Yoga before embarking on your journey to learn it.
Origin and History of Yoga FAQs
- Which was the first compilation of Yoga Practices?
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
- Who introduced Yoga to the Western world?
- Who developed ashtanga vinyasa yoga?
- Name the yoga practice associated with the Bakthi Movement.