The practice of yoga dates back to thousands of years – which means that as you practice today, you are doing something that people have been doing for thousands of years. While most of us today look at yoga as a series of postures and poses, yoga practice is more than that. Looking at the history of yoga, we can see how it started, how it has evolved and how the practices are being done in this modern day and age.
History of Yoga: The Very Early Beginnings
The history of yoga practice dates back to more than 5,000 years ago, developing in the northern part of India. It begins with the Vedic period, as the first writings about yoga was first seen and mentioned in the Rig Veda - India’s collection of the oldest and most scared texts. The Vedas are basically scriptures used by Brahmans or Vedic priests, and in these scriptures contain several yoga teachings which were used by Vedic people to teach them about living in divine harmony and spiritual oneness.
After the Vedic period, we see the history of yoga move through the creation of the Upanishads, which are also philosophical texts that contain 200 scriptures which talk about the Brahman (ultimate reality), the atman (transcendental self) and one’s relationship within the two. At around 500 BC, the Bhagavad-Gita was also written, which is entirely devoted to yoga. The Gita basically has a central point, which is to be alive by being active in such a way we avoid difficulties in our lives and the lives of others.
History of Yoga: The Classical Stage
After the Vedic and pre-classical period, we look at the classical History of Yoga, which begins with the creation of the Yoga Sutra. The Yoga Sutra was created in the second century by Patanjali and is basically a standard definition of classical yoga. Patanjali’s work centers on the Eightfold path (Eight limbs) of yoga which are:
1) Yama – avoidances or restrictions
2) Niyama – observances
3) Asanas – physical exercises
4) Pranayama – control of breathing
5) Pratyahara – sense of withdrawal
6) Dharana – concentration
7) Dhyana – meditation
8) Samadhi – ecstasy
The initial goal was basically to understand the world, then the self with self enlightenment being the ultimate goal of practice. By the 6th century, meditation and poses were implemented by Buddhist teachings and started to become critical and important elements of the practice – changing the course and the history of yoga itself.
History Of Yoga: Modern Yoga
During the post classical stage, the practice focuses more on the present and the now. Instead of focusing on liberating a person from the reality, yoga practice now shifts to helping people accept what is real right now and help them live in the moment. By the early 19th century, yoga made its way to the West and started to become popular until it has reached its prominence today. While most forms of yoga have the Eight Limbs as its backbone, some yoga practices focus on one or two specific limbs instead of focusing on all of them. For example, some practices may focus on proper meditation and relaxation, while some practices are done for the purpose of exercise and weight loss. You can check out a variety of yoga practices with different concentrations, and see what works best for you, today.
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