A Brief History of Yoga and its Evolution

Hindu Dieties

History of Yoga

People often wonder about the history of yoga and its origins. Yoga is ancient and very hard to document from its beginnings due to it being handed down verbally, in strict tradition, from Guru (one who brings enlightenment) to sisya (disciple).

The real meaning of yoga, besides the word "union" is a knowledge of, and a deliverance from, the pain and sorrow of human life, hence the real reason for its evolutionary path. And, according to the Sutras of Patanjali, yoga is a "stilling of the chatter of the mind."

Early yoga practice is noted in the Rg Veda, the oldest scripture in the world. It is believed to have originated in the Indus Valley. There are certain aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism in yoga, but yoga predates both. Yoga's initial inception was born of a purely spiritual practice with a devotion to meditation to bring one to union with the Source of Being, the Supreme Primeval Power, not the popular and sometimes extreme yoga poses we've become familiar with today.

History of Yoga

Around 200 B.C., a sage named Patanjali codified the teachings and wisdom of yoga that was handed down verbally through the ages. He brought forth the Yoga Sutras, consisting of 196 aphorisms, which embrace the philosophical underpinnings of yoga. It was only recently, around the 1800's, that yoga was allowed to be shared outside of its protected, spiritual confines.

The physical practices (asanas) evolved much later, during the Tantric Period of 800-1600 A.D., and are described in texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and the Gheranda Samhita. However, even though these texts describe some yoga asanas, most of the poses we practice today have been developed only within the last 100 years.

History of Yoga

Today, yoga is needed more than ever with our stressful, hectic lifestyles, so this ancient healing process has been gifted down to us with purpose and reason. When we practice yoga on a regular basis, regardless of the style or intensity or reason for trying it, there is a connection forged in the body and mind through the breath that eventually brings one to an awareness previously not obtainable.

If coupled with a meditation practice, this awareness becomes more pronounced with time and eventually a spiritual unfoldment, traditionally called "enlightenment," occurs. The word enlightenment means a blissful union with the Supreme Energy of all things.

Experiencing and knowing that there is no such thing as separation, our normal existence is transcended and our spirit becomes one with eternity.

True Yoga is then felt and the heart sings this song:


SANKARACHARYA'S ATMA SATKAM - SONG OF THE SOUL

I am neither ego nor reason, I am neither mind nor thought,

I cannot be heard nor cast into words, nor by smell nor sight ever caught:

In light and wind I am not found, nor yet in earth and sky -

Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.

I have no name, I have no life, I breathe no vital air,

No elements have moulded me, no bodily sheath is my lair:

I have no speech, no hands and feet, nor means of evolution -

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss in dissolution.

I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed;

No touch of pride caressed me, so envy never did breed:

Beyond all faiths, past reach of wealth, past freedom, past desire,

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is my attire.

Virtue and vice, or pleasure and pain are not my heritage,

Nor sacred texts, nor offerings, nor prayer, nor pilgrimage:

I am neither food, nor eating, nor yet the eater am I -

Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.

I have no misgiving of death, no chasms of race divide me,

No parent ever called me child, no bond of birth ever tied me:

I am neither discipline nor master, I have no kin, no friend -

Consciousness and joy am I, and merging in Bliss is my end.

Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower am I, formless is my form,

I dwell within the senses but they are not my home:

Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound -

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I am found.

History of Yoga

An exploration of the history of yoga is fascinating and will ultimately help you in the discovery of your true Self and the yoga practice that best suits you.







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