The History of Yoga

Health and Fitness is a multi-billion dollar industry today and one of the biggest components of this industry is yoga and that is not very surprising. It does not require any equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Today we will look at the history of this amazing form of exercise that not only helps you physically but mentally and spiritually as well.

Yoga originated in India but the exact time of its inception is not known but it definitely goes all the way back to the earliest form of written history available in India. It might have been first practiced by the people of the Indus Valley civilization all the way back in 2000 BCE but this cannot be confirmed as we only have pictorial representations of what is thought to be poses of yoga. The earliest written proof we have of an early form of yoga is in the four Vedas which are amongst the oldest literary works in India. Though the name yoga has not been used, a form of meditation and control over one’s mind and body, known as ‘Tapasia’ has been described in these literary works which describe the precursor to yoga as we know it today. This spans the time between 1500 and 500 BCE.

Then came the age of the Bhagavad Gita and it is here that we see the first documented use of the word ‘yoga’ with the same meaning as it is used today. In these texts, humanity is described as having many stages of existence and yoga is the means through which a higher state of existence can be achieved. With later works of literature, the practice of yoga became more defined and some literary works such as the ‘Yoga Vashista’ concentrates entirely on the different forms of yoga.

So far, all mention of yoga had been confined to India but that changed with Alexander’s invasion of the country in the 4th century BCE. Historians from outside India got their first glimpse of yoga and the practitioners of yoga were described as ‘Yogis and Yogins’ who practiced different postures while standing, sitting or lying down and who maintained a disconnected demeanor to the outside world. This was followed by the advent of Buddhism and Jainism and Yoga became an integral part of religion and as Buddhism and Jainism spread throughout the world, so did yoga. The rest of the world still saw yoga as a religious practice and this continued all the way to the 1800s.

In 1851, N.C.Paul published his works on yoga and it was through his book ‘Treatise on Yoga Philosophy’ that interest in yoga was first generated in the western world. Yoga came to even more notice when Swami Vivekananda visited Europe and the USA in the 1890s and preached its many benefits. From there on, many westerners adopted yoga as a part of their lifestyle and has since become the highly popular form of fitness we know of today. While it is still an active part of the religion for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, people outside of these religions recognize the huge benefits of yoga and accept is as a form of fitness and healthcare.

While it has a fascinating history, modern times have allowed it grow even further. Yoga today has expanded into many forms suited for different requirements and we will now have a look at each one of the popular forms of yoga in existence today.

1.) Hatha Yoga:

This is the form of yoga that includes the different postures also known as Asanas. A list of the popular ones is listed below along with the body part they benefit.

Beginner level Asanas:

– Mountain (Tadasana): Improves balance and posture
– Chair (Utkatasana): Legs, shoulders, and back
– Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): Shoulders and thighs
– Triangle (Trikonasana): Improves flexibility
– Tree (Vrksasana): Feet
– Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): Neck and chest
– Corpse (Savasana): Calms the mind
– Warrior (Virabhadrasana): Balance and core strength

Intermediate level Asanas:

– Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana): Hips and Abs
– Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana): Abs, laterals, hips and thighs
– Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana): Abs and laterals
– Bow (Dhanurasana): Shoulders, chest, and abs
– Camel (Ustrasana): Full body stretching

Advanced level Asanas:

– Assisted Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana): arms and core
– Crow (Bakasana): wrists, arms, and hip
– Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana): Abs, shoulders, and calves
– Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana): back and inner thighs
– Boat (Navasana): Abs and Hips

2.) Sura yoga:

This form of yoga involves vocal chanting of mantras and are used to calm the mind and improve concentration. The sound is meant to keep away any distractions. Typically any single syllable word can be used for chanting.

3.) Karma yoga:

This applies to work and basically implies that one should have a complete and utter devotion to work and should get completely immersed in their work. Practicing this form of yoga improves productivity and efficiency. To achieve this some form of meditation must be done before beginning work so that the mind is calm and the body is relaxed and one can work without getting distracted.

The history of yoga is soo deep and we could not possibly cover all of it here. It has been an enthralling journey so far and hopefully, This brief summary of the history of yoga timeline have given wisdom and enjoyment as much it has for me. Stay healthy and have fun. For more info on the history of yoga learn more here 

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