Yoga, the well-know form of exercise and mediation, is certainly getting more and more popular when it comes to staying healthy and fit. Many people prefer yoga over any other form of work out because of its physical and spiritual benefits.
Different schools of yoga are practiced worldwide nowadays, but they have common roots that can be traced back to about 5000 years ago. As a matter of fact it is the oldest form of exercise known to man. Some researchers even claim it to have roots dating back to 10000 years ago.
The earliest yoga writings were said to be transcribed on fragile palm leaves. So unfortunately they have been lost. Even though the art of yoga is said to be old and varied, it is seen as the most popular form of relaxation of both the body and mind. Most people look up to yoga as a true lifestyle.
Yoga and the pre-classical era
Pre-classical yoga has its root back to the Indus-Saraswati civilization of the Northern part of India, making India the birthplace of yoga. The word ‘yoga’ was first mentioned in the oldest and most sacred text, the Rig Veda.
The development of yoga took place as brahmanas documented it in the Upanishad, marking the beginning of the pre-classical era of yoga. Yoga began to be practiced and preached from that time, progressively increasing in popularity.
The most renowned yogic scripture, the Bhagavad Gita is said to have been written in 500 BCE. The rules of origination of yoga can be traced back to both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Bhagavad Gita brought various disciplines in Yoga called-Bhakti yoga, Karma Yoga and Jana yoga.
In this Yoga period, Patanjali composed the yoga sutras. These Yoga sutras were meant to be memorized, not written. The earliest writings about the yoga sutras can be found in the Yog Bhasha, written by Ved Vyas. Patanjali’s idea of yoga emphasized restoring the spirit of each individual to its absolute truthfulness.
The yoga sutras were the first systematic representation of yoga and are said to have been written in the second century. Patanjali is often said to be the father of yoga and his design of the yoga sutras still influences modern yoga styles to this day.
Post classical yoga
Centuries after Patanjali, some yoga gurus designed a system to practice yoga, rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the prior teachings of the Vedas. The idea of the physical body as the main means of enlightenment came to light and started to be followed.
A new discipline of yoga, tantra yoga was born. This form of yoga was more spiritual than physical and was designed for the health of the mind and body. The idea of tantra yoga is to weave many yoga styles together to connect with the universe.
Tantra yoga was designed to break the boundaries in our minds and cleanse the soul to gain enlightenment. This discipline of spiritual exploration led to the birth of modern yoga or yoga in the west-“hatha yoga”
Modern yoga came to being in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of saint Ramakrishna, addressed the audience in a conference in Chicago as “Brothers and sisters of America”, hereby attracting many American students to India and yoga. This marked the beginning of the modern yoga period!
The next famous yogic guru was Paramahansa who wrote the “autobiography of a yogi”. His teachings called “Yogodo teachings” continue to influence modern yoga today. In the mid 1960’s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi introduced techniques of meditation to the West. These teachings continue to be an important pillar on which the art of modern yoga stands.
Shrita Prapbhupada founded the “International Society for Krishna Consciousness” or “ISKON” in 1965 and spread a movement based on a discipline of yoga-” Bhakti Yoga”. Another prominent yogic guru was “Swami Sivananda”. He wrote more than 200 books about yoga and served in many yogic centres as a doctor, across the world. Bhagwan Rajneesh, popularly known as Osho was still another famous yoga guru, renowned across the world!
We all know about Sathya Sai Baba! He is a guru, who is looked up to by people of all races across the globe. He is said to be “the man of miracles” by his disciples and people follow him religiously!
Now that we know the birth of yoga and its journey over the last few centuries. It is easy to say, it’s an ancient method of stress release and also of strengthening the immune system, that has been practiced for years and will continue to be practiced.