History of Yoga

An important part of becoming a serious yoga student is learning about the history of yoga. This practice has been developing for centuries.  When you become a part of that history, you do honor to the legacy of yoga by learning about its history. By understanding the origins and initial intent of yoga practice, you can more fully reach your potential through your daily yoga workout routines.

Brief Overview

In Hindu history, yoga is considered to be one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. However, yoga didn't become popular in the western world until the middle of the 19th century. During this time, Hindu philosophy continued to grow in popularity, and yoga was incorporated into this popularity as well. The yoga that the western world is most familiar with is Hatha yoga, a more physical spectrum of traditional yoga practices.

Classical Yoga History

Yoga predates most written history, as evidence of stone carvings have shown historians and researchers alike. Most historians and researchers estimate that yoga is as old as 5,000 years! The word yoga means "to yoke together", referring to the body and mind. The classical practices of yoga included an emphasis on personal freedom, self-understanding, and emphasis on physical and mental exercise.

Early Yoga Texts

Compiled by a scholar named Patanjali between 100 and 200 B.C., the earliest written records of yoga were called the Yoga Sutras, (or Yoga Aphorisms). Patanjali wrote primarily about Ashtanga yoga, ("the eight limbs of yoga"), which would go on to become the regular doctrine of most Classical Yoga. Today, most yoga schools rely heavily on Patanjali's writings, and many schools incorporate variations of this text. the eight limbs of yoga that Pataniali wrote about became the eight steps of Classical yoga. They are:

1. Yama; this means to practice restraint from violence, lying, stealing, "casual" sex, and hoarding.

2. Niyama; this means observance in areas of purity, tolerance, study, contentment, and memory

3. Asana; physical exercise

4. Pranayama; performing breathing exercises

5. Pratyahara; mental and physical preparation for meditation, or "withdrawal of the mind from the senses"

6. Dharana; the act of concentration, or being able to hold the mind on one object for an extended length of time

7. Dhyana; meditation, or holding the mind on something or nothing for a period of time

8. Samadhi; recognition of the inherent nature of the self

Yoga Sutras

The yoga sutras were built from Samkhya philosophy; the yoga sutras are recognized as a practice, and the Samkhya as more of the theory. The yoga philosophy that practices freeing oneself from worldly concerns can be traced back to Indus Valley period of India, and modern day yoga practices bear close resemblance to the yoga sutras of this region. Alongside Samkhya and yoga, the roots of Vendanta, Buddhism and Jainism can all similarly be traced back to the Ancient India Shramana traditions, particularly intheir theologies of individual liberation.