Want to learn more about yoga history, how was this discipline born, how did it come to us, and how has it become the practice we all know?
Then, you’re on the right page.
I started from the assumption that when I do something that is a job, a trip or any activity I dedicate myself to everything myself.
The question arises spontaneously then:
Can we start or continue doing an activity like yoga without knowing how this was born, evolved, and what does it mean?
In my opinion no, one should know what to do and why it is done in everything that begins in life.
So if you are a beginner who has recently started this path or just curious about this topic take 5 minutes and read this article.
You will discover the legend of the birth of yoga, its origins, what are the first texts about this discipline, what are the Patanjali Yoga Sutra and how in recent years the practice has become what we all know.
The legend behind the birth of yoga
The legend says that one day Shiva God decided to teach all the secrets of yoga to his Parvati wife.
Close to them, however, there is a small fish that, without being noticed, listened carefully to all his wise words.
When the two of them realized the presence of the little intruder was too late and the little animal had already run out, bringing with him everything he had learned.
The little fish swam away experimenting with the sacred teachings he had acquired. As time passed, she went through the stages of the evolutionary path of yoga and eventually turned into a man.
And so the first yogin of history was born and thanks to it the science of yoga was known by the human being.
The origins of yoga
What Are Asanas Most scholars agree that the first testimonies of yoga date back to 5000 BC. in India, as some of the positions on coins, tablets and seals of that time have been found.
At that time all the teachings were exclusively handed down as a disciple master until the first words about written works were found.
At that time yoga was understood as a set of meditative techniques with the aim of reaching the ultimate reality and controlling the senses.
First Yoga History Texts
The first written tests can be found in Vedic scripts, namely the Upaniṣad, which are philosophical and mystical poems written in Sanskrit, exploring the nature of the human soul.
It is on these ancient texts, dating back to 3000 AD, that we can find the first lessons on yoga.
Also in the Bhagavad Gita we often find the word yoga, understood above all as a way of life that drives towards liberation.
Yoga sutras, the “bible” of yoga
It is with this work, written around 500 BC by Patanjali, that for the first time in the history of yoga, all the knowledge of that time is put to inscrit.
This is recognized as a fundamental text by all the different schools. It is a text that any yoga practitioner should read and keep in mind.
The sutras can be divided into 4 sections called falls:
- Samādhi Pāda: “the conjunction” where yoga path is illustrated as a means of achieving samadi, the state of bliss in which one has a different awareness of things and reaches liberation.
- Sādhana Pāda: “the realization” where the eight petals that make up the yoga path are explained. They are:
- The moral rules (yama),
- observances (niyama),
- the positions (āsana),
- breath control (prāṇāyāma),
- the retreat of the senses towards their origin (pratyāhāra),
- the concentration (dhāraṇā),
- meditation (dhyāna) and
- the absorption of consciousness into the self (samādhi).
- Vibhūti Pāda: the “powers” in this section Patanjali speaks of the last phases of the yogic path and of these “powers” that are achieved through proper practice.
- Kaivalya Pāda: the “separation” between spirit and matter that is what is achieved through the attainment of samadi.
From this period on, the history of yoga changes and all knowledge is handed down thanks to this book, as well as of course a disciple master, which has become the basis for all those interested in taking this path.
The history of modern yoga
Throughout this time, yogic practice has focused on meditation or variations in the lotus position.
But how did it become the practice that we all know today with countless asanas?
This merit goes to three Indians who lived in the early twentieth century and focused on the physical aspects of yoga and not just about meditation.
- Swami Kuvalayananda who focused mainly on the infinite benefits that this discipline can bring to health.
- Swami Sivananda and Krishnamacharya who instead focused on developing a broad and varied asana system and pranayama techniques.
They were the ones who started the kind of practice, especially physics, which has been widespread in recent years in the West.
In particular, Krishnamacharya (in the picture below), also called “the father of yoga”, taught three disciples who were particularly distinguished and influenced the spread of yoga in recent years: Pattabhi Jois who gave birth to Ashtanga Yoga, Indra You must have earned the name of “First Lady of Yoga” and BKS Iyengar has created a style characterized by a special focus on alignments and the use of supports, namely called Iyengar Yoga.
Thanks to these Gurus and many other teachers that have been formed in recent years, yoga has had unprecedented diffusion and there are currently millions of practitioners around the world, and the number continues to rise incredibly.
Yoga has spread so much that you have developed many very different styles from one to the other. Some are more static, others more dynamic, and other practices are completely different from traditional yoga, such as laughter yoga, antigravity yoga or shakti dance.
If you have started to do yoga shortly you should know that choosing a yoga style right is very important. This is of course influenced by various factors: the type of person you are, the type of life you are leading, how many years you have, the purpose of the practice, etc.
Naturally, the history of yoga might be in-depth, but I tried to be synthetic to get you a general idea of how this discipline was born, how it came to us and how the practice has changed in recent years.
I hope so much that you now have a clearer idea about the history of yoga.