The History Of Yoga

Yoga is a spiritual science. It is based on a spiritual discipline which brings the mind and the body into a perfect and harmonious relationship. The word "Yoga" comes from a Sanskrit root "Yoj", meaning to "join" or "unite". As per the scriptures, practicing Yoga brings a persons consciousness in synchrony with the universe and creates an awareness of the soul. This creates a feeling of one-ness with their mind and body, heart and soul and nature. Anyone who experiences themselves as an immortal part of their Universe is said to be in yoga, and therefore is called as a yogi- A person who has attained this level of freedom of soul - also called nirvana or moksha.

Yoga is widely regarded as a "cultural outcome" of Indus Valley civilization – going all the way back to 2700 B.C. Yoga has proved itself to be providing materialistic and spiritual progress and upliftment of humanity and society as a whole.

The history of Yoga can be divided into four main periods based on its Innovation, Practice and Development:

1. Pre- Classical Yoga:

Yoga has its origin from thousands of years ago, way before the first religions came into existence. As per the stories told, Lord Shiva is considered to be the first yogi (Adi-yogi), the first Guru (Adi-Guru). Kantisarovar is a lake in the Himalayas in India,on the banks of which Adi-yogi endowed his profound knowledge of yoga to the Saptarishis or "seven sages”. These sages then carried this powerful knowledge to various corners of the world, which included Asia, Middle East, North Africa and Southern America. However, the greatest expression of yoga was to be seen in India- which was brought to India by sage Agastya- who was traveling the Indian Subcontinent at that time.

The beginning of Yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. A Number of fossilized remains of Indus valley Civilization with monograms and figures performing Yoga suggest that Yoga existed even in ancient India. The main sources of information about yoga and related literature are available in Vedas, Upanishadas(108), Smriti, Buddhism, Jainism, Panini, Epics (2) and Puranas (18).

2. Classical Yoga:

The period of time between 500 B.C. to 800 A.D. is the period of Classical Yoga. This period is regarded as the most distinguished time period in the entire developmental period of Yoga.

The progression of yoga during this time is owed to two main religious teachers of India- Mahavir and Buddha. They have explained the earlier forms of Yoga Sadhna. The most renowned scripture is the Bhagavad-Gita, composed around 500 B.C. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action and wisdom.

However, the Classical Period of yoga is defined by Patanjali's eight steps of path of Yoga- which is the most systematic description of yoga and leads to enlightenment and samadhi. Patanjali is the " Father of Yoga" and modern yoga is strongly influenced by his Yoga- Sutras.

The Sun was regarded as the most important during the period of the Vedas. This may have led to the development of Surya Namaskar. Pranayama became adaily ritual which is a group of breathing exercises performed to control breathing.

3. Post- Classical Yoga:

The period of time between 800 A.D. to 1700 A.D. is the Post Classical Yoga period.

After Patanjali, masters of yoga indulged themselves into creating yoga which helped rejuvenate their body and their mind and prolong the life of individuals. They developed "Tantra Yoga", with techniques that help cleanse their mind and body in order to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence, and take us to a spiritual level. These physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: "Hatha Yoga". Basically, it is process due to which the body can maintain a high level of energy. This process begins with the body, followed by the breath, proceeding to the mind, and finally, one's inner self or inner conscience.

The Natha Yogis who practice Hatha-Yoga like Gorkshanatha, Swatmaram Suri, Gherananda, Shrinivas Bhattji are some of the great individuals who promoted the Hatha Yoga during this time!

4. Modern Period

The time period between 1700 A.D. to 1900 A.D. is regarded as Modern period of development of yoga. The great Yoga teachers- Maharishi Raman, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekanandaji etc. have worked hard for the development of "Raj-Yoga" .In this frame of time, Vedanta, Bhakti yoga or Hatha-yoga flourished.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, masters of yoga began traveling to the West, attracting a lot of attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda astounded the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Hatha Yoga was widely promoted in India by T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Shivananda etc who perform Hatha Yog. Krishnamacharya established the world's first Hatha Yoga school in 1924 in the city of Mysore, India. In 1936, Shivananda found the Divine Life Society in India on the bank of the holy River Ganga. Shivananda has also been a prolific writer and has written over 200 books on yoga. He has also established nine yoga ashrams in India and a number of yoga centers across the globe!

Yoga is being spread widely and massively to the West. Indra Devi opened the first yoga center in Hollywood in 1947. Apart from her, there are hundreds of western and Indian yoga teachers who have been spreading the knowledge of yoga and are becoming pioneers of yoga in the modern times.

Yoga is not bound by any particular religious practice. It is regarded as a practice for the well being of the soul. Any person who performs yoga and practices it regularly can reap its benefits, regardless of their religious faith, ethnicity or culture. Millions of people all across the world are indulging intoYoga. A massive number of people have been at an advantage due to numerous health benefits from it. With the growing number of followers, yoga is being spread far and wide, and is blossoming with each passing day!

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