History Of Yoga - Understanding Yoga Through Its History

Understanding the history of yoga helps us understand not only the origin of this unique form of exercise but also helps us comprehend the basic principles of yoga. By studying the history we realize that yoga is not just about poses and breathing techniques, it is about a way of life. A way of life that people lived thousands of years ago.

Indus Valley Civilization

It is said that the history of yoga goes back to 5000 years. However, archeological evidence puts the date somewhere around 3000 B.C. archeological excavations of the Indus Valley civilization have provided us with a seal, which depicts a human or god meditating in a yoga posture. The Indus Valley Civilization is dated back to 3000 B.C, so we can conclude that yoga was around at that time.

Vedic Age

The Vedas, a compilation of hymns and rituals in praise of a divine power, also mentions yoga. The Vedic Yoga aims to reunite the physical being with the invisible soul. It was characterized by rituals and ceremonies that would help overcome the limitations of one's mind.

Pre-Classical Stage

The next stage in the history of yoga is classified as the Pre-classical yoga. The Upanishads, a collection of 200 scriptures, deal with meta-physical speculations. The Upanishads focus on three subjects: the ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman) and the relationship between the two. Some of these 200 scriptures deal directly with yoga.

Classical Stage

The classical yoga is linked to the eight-limbed yoga mentioned in the Sutras by Patanjali. These Sutras can be dated around 100- 200 A.D. In the Sutras, yoga is presented in a systematic manner. According to Patanjali, every human consists of matter and soul. The aim of yoga is to free the soul from worldly matters.

Post-Classical Stage

The post-classical yoga varies from the other three stages in that it focuses on the present. The new yogis developed postures and breathing techniques that would help keep the body healthy and young. These postures are very effective in prolonging life. The postures and the breathing techniques developed during this time are classified as Hatha Yoga.

Introduction In West

Yoga was introduced in the West in the 19th century. Swami Vivekananda can be credited for bringing yoga to the West. At the Parliament of Religions in 1893, he introduced the Americans to yoga. Many yoga schools were subsequently founded in America. And today yoga is well known in America.

The history of yoga teaches us that it was developed with the main aim of bringing harmony between the body and the soul. Today when our lives are constantly under stress and tension, we can count on yoga to help us live a healthy and stress-free life.

Yoga can be taken up at any stage in life. It is best to start with yoga for beginners. These poses (asanas) are designed to stretch our body and bring about flexibility in our movements. These are very easy poses and most usually do not face any difficulty in practicing these poses.

One can also choose to go to a yoga retreat in order to learn yoga. These retreats not only introduce one to the basics of yoga but also provide an insight into the rich history of yoga.