The History and Philosophy of Yoga: Understanding the Roots of the Practice.

Jan 02, 2024

The Origins of Yoga

Yoga is believed to have originated over 5,000 years ago in the Indian subcontinent. However, the exact timeline remains a topic of debate among scholars. The word 'yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj', which means to join or unite. This signifies the union of the body and consciousness.

ancient yoga

The Vedic Period

Yoga was first mentioned in Rig Veda, one of the ancient religious texts of the Hindu tradition. The Vedas contained songs, mantras, and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was then a meditative means of spiritual connection and enlightenment.

The Upanishads

Following the Vedic period, the Upanishads, also known as Vedanta, were the next significant step in the history of Yoga. The Upanishads internalized the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action, and wisdom.

upanishads text

The Bhagavad-Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu scripture, is a part of the Indian epic Mahabharata. Here, most of the important and popular teachings of Yoga are outlined. The Gita speaks of the three paths of Yoga - Karma Yoga or the path of action, Bhakti Yoga, or the path of devotion, and Jnana Yoga, or the path of knowledge.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written around the second century, are considered to be one of the most authoritative texts on yoga. Patanjali systematized and codified existing practices of Yoga, its meaning, and its related knowledge into a collection of 195 sutras. These sutras define the eight limbs of Yoga, often referred to as Ashtanga Yoga.

patanjali sutras

Hatha Yoga

In the 11th century, a new form of yoga called Hatha Yoga emerged. This form focused more on the physical postures and practices leading to self-realization. It was during this period that many of the poses and positions we know today were developed.

Yoga in the Modern Age

Yoga was introduced to the Western world in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1920s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, and other yogis. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore in 1924.

modern yoga

The Philosophy of Yoga

The philosophy of yoga has evolved over the centuries, but at its core, it is about achieving a balance between mind and body and between self and nature. This is achieved through the practice of postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana). Yoga is not just about physical exercise; it is a holistic lifestyle that includes ethics, diet, and philosophy.