History of Yoga


Just by the looks, yoga looks quite satisfying to do. Actually, yoga is a popular meditation process in the subcontinent of India. Most of the time, the meditation process is like an oral transmission of a sacred text. For this reason, understanding the history of yoga can be confusing. Mostly because of the secretive process of teaching the meditation technique makes its history uncertain.

However, if you still desire to know the history of yoga, we can help you with all the information. Yes, we know that the process is quite uncertain and tough to understand. But if we look at the cultural and historical evidence, there is a lot of information regarding the history of the meditation process.

The origin of Yoga

Yoga was first invented in India, and it has a religious background to it. Well, there is a lot of meditation process and the most secretive of them all is the Yoga. However, there is no specific history or origin territory of the meditation process.

But after finding out that, Yoga is a practice for Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism – we can say that the origin is in the South Asian region. Considering that, the origin is still a mystery and we are not sure who first invented the process.

What is Yoga?

You can’t just judge Yoga after watching them on the TV or history of yoga pdf. Yes, from the TV screen the thing looks cool and refreshing. However, meditation is not that simple practice. In Sanskrit, an Indo-European Language, Yoga means mental, physical, and spiritual practices. Mainly, in ancient India, Yoga became very popular among Hindu, Buddha monks, or preachers.

Well, the Hindu monks are known as Sadhubaba and they always tried to stay calm by doing the meditation. Well, the verses of the holy books were the key to ensuring the spiritual effects of the meditation. Not just that, ancient India introduced Yoga as a powerful and mysterious way to come in contact with the gods.

The modern-day yoga is mainly for physical and mental satisfaction. More and more people are trying to learn the meditation process of Yoga. Well, Yoga is one of the six Asthika or main schools of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Not to mention, there are a lot of practices among yoga. However, the modern form of the practice is actually called Hatha Yoga.

But if we take it seriously, we can divide the concept and history of yoga into four different periods.

The four different period of Yoga or the history of yoga timeline

So, first, we need to know how Yoga became so popular in the modern ages. One thing for sure, the meditation practices were not meant for ordinary or civilians. Most of the time, the preachers and the monks were doing these practices. Their epic journey by foot needed a bit of relaxation, and Yoga was the best way to do so.

However, Yoga came across different time skip and development. Well, most Hindu or Buddhist people won’t agree with our verdict. But yes, there are four different periods of the practice, and we are going to discuss them in brief.

Pre-classic period yoga

Dating back 5,000 years ago, the people of Indo-Sarasvati first came up with Yoga. Or at least that is what our recent information tells us. The word Yoga is mentioned in Hindu, Buddha, and Jain sacred texts. This means it was a part of the different schools of meditation. There are six different schools in the sacred texts, and Yoga is one of them. We can especially learn about yoga in Rig Ved.

Vedas are sacred texts for Hindu Brahmins or higher class nobles. Vedas are sacred scriptures containing different songs, offerings. It was the Brahmins who started to develop another scripture called “Upanishad”. There are over two hundred scriptures of the Upanishad. Mainly, in the Upanishad, they started to develop yoga slowly, maturely.

Mainly, Yoga was an alternative for the sacrificial activities of the ancient Hindu or Buddhas. By doing so, they have sacrificed their ego and gained eternal peace. If we look closely, one was called self-knowledge yoga (karma yoga), and the other one wisdom (jyana yoga) respectively.

Classical Yoga period

The pre-classic period of Yoga was not the best part of the practice. Different preachers or Brahmin Guru started to develop it, and most of the time that created conflict. Yes, the pre-classical period was full of contradictions and debates among the yoga masters. However, the classical yoga period created an order among the yoga masters.

People call the classical yoga period “Patanjali Yoga Sutras.” So, this was the time when people were first introduced to the systematic way of yoga source. Without a systematic way, it was nearly impossible for people to join with the practice and sacrifice their ego.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra introduced the famous “Eight Limbed Path” for yoga. However, the steps were to obtain eternal or spiritual peace of the human mind. The final step of the practices was to gain Samadhi or spiritual enlightenment. From then, the inventor Patanjali is regarded as the father of Yoga. Even to the modern days, Patanjali sutras are used for practice. The classical period of yoga gave it a systematic way of practicing meditation, and after that more innovation came.

Post-classical period of Yoga

The Patanjali soul Yoga Sutras were a success in the “classical era.” But after a while, the Hindu or Buddha yoga masters again developed the techniques. This time, the focused on the body and started to think about the self. After understanding the body itself, they began to develop new and new techniques of yoga.

Among most people, this was called the “Tantra Yoga.” Obviously, Tantra Yoga was not that popular among a lot of people. In this period, the yoga masters tried to loosen the knots of the body, and cleanse the physical existent. To do so, they had to understand death and people’s deadly sins.

Without clearing the deadly sins, it was impossible to cleanse the soul and gain eternal peace. Tantra yoga consists of radical techniques and practices. So, the process is quite easy for a lot of people to do. Not to mention, they didn’t need any yoga masters to get the postures right. In the classical period, it was all about the sitting postures and chanting sutras.

But the “Tantra Yoga” was a little different from the others. Here the physical and spiritual connection is the main object. Not to mention, modern Hatha yoga is highly influenced by Tantra Yoga. Even to this day, Tantra yoga is popular among a lot of people as it can benefit both the body and the mind.

Modern Yoga Period

The modern period of Yoga started in the West. That’s quite natural as yoga masters started to travel to the yoga west a lot. Mainly, it was in the late 1800 and the earlier part of the 1900s. Bengali intellect Swami Vivekananda was the most famous of them all. He started to attend seminars and courses of Yoga in the West, and slowly the meditation became very popular.

However, the seminars were about world religion and spiritual aspects. So, people were curious about the spiritual advancement of physical existence. Nobody thought that physical existence could gain inner peace by chanting sutras. But the process worked in a great way.

It was later in the 1920s to 1930s when Hatha yoga first came into origin. T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, and many other yogis started to promote yoga in India.  In 1924, Swami T. Krishnamacharya opened a Hatha yoga school in Mysore. Soon after that, Swami Sivananda established the Divine Life Society in 1936. The Divine life society is situated in the banks of river Ganges – the holy river for the Hindus. Swami Sivananda even wrote more than 200 books on Yoga, history of yoga books, techniques. So, the Hatha yoga west period was becoming more and more successful day by day.

The word Hatha means sun and moon. Well, it also has several translations, and the most famous of them all is “two things from the opposite directions or entity.” Hatha Yoga required both the body and mind to put equal efforts to gain eternal peace.

To this day, Hatha Yoga is becoming more and more popular. Earlier we said, the yoga technique is influenced by the Tantra Yoga. When Indra Devi established a Hatha yoga studio center in Hollywood, the practice gained world recognition once more. More and more people are starting to gain interest on the matter.

Final Verdict

Just like we said, we are not sure about the origin of Yoga just yet. Yes, some speculate that Yoga was first invented by the Indo-Sarasvati people in India. But that has no solid evidence yet. Due to the massive popularity of Yoga in the west, people are starting to understand the importance of Yoga.

But before starting with meditation or practice, they need to know the origin. Otherwise, they might not find any interest in a foreign meditation process. Depending on the period, Yoga has evolved and matured. We tried to give a short history of the development of Yoga in each period. Finally, we reach the modern ages where Yoga is very popular for refreshing the mind and keeping the body fit.

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