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History and Origin of Yoga

Yoga is a way to keep your mind and body in harmony. It’s like an art and science that helps you live a healthy life. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj,’ and it means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite.’ According to yoga teachings, practicing yoga helps connect your individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness, creating a perfect balance between your mind and body, and between you and nature.

Modern scientists say that everything in the universe is part of the same quantum stuff. When you feel connected to everything around you, you’re said to be in yoga, and you’re called a yogi.tun It means you’ve reached a state of freedom called mukti, nirvana, or moksha. The goal of yoga is to realise your true self, overcome suffering, and achieve a state of liberation or freedom.

Yoga is like an inner science that offers different methods for people to experience this connection and take control of their lives. It’s considered an important part of the ancient Indus Saraswati Valley civilisation, going back to 2700 B.C. Yoga has shown itself to be beneficial for both physical and spiritual well-being. The core values of yoga practice are about being a good and kind person.

The Origin of Yoga

Yoga has existed since the dawn of civilization. It’s an ancient practice that started thousands of years ago, even before the first religions were established. According to yogic stories, Shiva is seen as the very first yogi and guru. He shared his deep knowledge with seven sages near a Himalayan lake called Kantisarovar several thousand years ago.

These sages, known as the Saptarishis, then spread the wisdom of yoga to different parts of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and South America. Interestingly, scholars today notice similarities in ancient cultures worldwide. However, India is where yoga truly flourished. A sage named Agastya, who journeyed across the Indian subcontinent, played a key role in shaping a culture centered around the yogic way of life.

The evidence of yoga in ancient India is not only seen through seals and fossil remains from the Indus Saraswati Valley civilization but also in the diverse cultural and religious traditions that have roots in that period. The depictions of Yogic motives and figures engaged in Yoga Sadhana on artifacts from the civilization suggest a deep connection between the people of that time and yogic practices. The presence of phallic symbols and seals of idols of the mother Goddess in this ancient civilization also hints at the existence of Tantra Yoga, showcasing the diverse range of yogic traditions.

Yoga in the Ancient Period

The Four Vedas

The Vedas are a treasure map, whispering secrets of self-realisation across millennia. Within their verses lie not just abstract concepts, but potent tools for harnessing the energies (prana) that flow through us, aligning with the cosmic dance of creation (Brahman), and ultimately uniting the individual self with its divine source. And then there’s Yoga, the skilled artisan who takes this map and builds a bridge, brick by conscious breath and sculpted asana, to reach that hidden treasure. It’s not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about embodying it, yoking the body and mind to become conduits for the divine wisdom hidden within the Vedas. So, as you delve into the ancient verses, remember, Yoga isn’t merely a practice; it’s the key that unlocks the hidden chamber of self-realisation enshrined within the Vedas. What insights await you when you walk this path with both map and compass in hand?

Upanisadic Period

Imagine yourself not scaling a majestic mountain, but traversing an intricate ant’s path, painstakingly crafted by the wisdom of the Upaniṣads. This is the Yoga journey described in texts like the Varahopanishad, a slow, persistent crawl towards uniting the jivatman, the individual soul, with the vastness of the paramatman, the universal self. While other Upaniṣads like the Chandogya and Isha focus on meditation and ethical living, the Yoga Upaniṣads delved deeper into specific practices for harnessing prana, awakening nadis, and refining the mind. This diversity isn’t just theoretical; it reflects the multifaceted nature of Yoga, offering a unique path for each seeker.

The blossoming of Samkhya realism during this period added another layer to the tapestry of Yoga. The emphasis on distinct realities – consciousness (purusha) and matter (prakriti) – led to a deeper understanding of the “yoking” at the heart of Yoga. It wasn’t just about merging two identical entities; it was about aligning the finite with the infinite, the material with the divine.

Yet, what truly sets Yoga apart is its promise of accelerated growth. Unlike natural processes that unfold over eons, Yoga equips us with the tools – discernment, focus, and conscious effort – to actively shape our inner landscape. We become sculptors of our own spiritual evolution, not passively waiting for time to pass.

The Upanisadic vision of Yoga isn’t a mere philosophy; it’s a burning invitation. It whispers that within each of us lies the potential to transcend limitations, dissolve dualities, and experience the profound unity of the jivatman and the paramatman. So, step onto the ant’s path, embrace the deliberate discipline of Yoga, and embark on your own transformative journey of self-realisation.

upanisadic period​

Bhagavad Gita

Picture Yoga as a multi-faceted diamond, each facet reflecting a different dimension of this transformative practice. The Gita’s first definition unveils Yoga as a “dis-union with grief,” not a mere escape from suffering, but a liberation from the egoic limitations that amplify it. It’s like shedding a heavy cloak of self-centeredness and stepping into the light of inner peace.

Next, we encounter “skill in action,” not just technical proficiency, but action fuelled by the fire of mindfulness and detachment. It’s the dance of a Karma Yogi, who weaves a tapestry of selfless service, unattached to applause or criticism. This isn’t mere efficiency; it’s a path of spiritual evolution through action.

Finally, there’s “equanimity,” not emotional apathy, but a steady inner compass that remains unruffled by life’s storms. It’s the unwavering peace of a tree rooted in a deep connection to something beyond the shifting sands of circumstances. These facets aren’t isolated; they interweave, forming a symphony of self-realisation.

Perhaps within these definitions lies a blueprint for your own transformative journey. Will you step onto the path of “dis-union with grief,” embrace the skilful dance of Karma Yoga, and cultivate the unwavering harmony of equanimity? The Bhagavad Gita whispers an invitation, and Yoga waits to unfold its multifaceted magic in your life.

Yoga Vasishta

If your mind is a turbulent ocean, whipped by storms of desire, fear, and attachment. The Yoga Vasishta offers a raft, not just for calming the waves, but for steering towards the sunlit shore of self-realisation. It reveals that our worldly sorrows are not external afflictions, but ripples born from our own distorted perceptions of reality. Vasistha Maharshi, with his gentle wisdom, invites us to see through these illusions, not through harsh denial, but through a compassionate exploration of our inner landscape.

His tools are not magical spells, but practices like self-inquiry, meditation, and a shift in perspective. He asks us to contemplate the ephemeral nature of desires, the illusory separateness of our egos, and the underlying unity that binds all things. Through this lens, fear melts away, anger dissipates, and envy withers, revealing the radiant heart of our true Self.

This union, the merging of Jivatma and Paramatma, isn’t some distant goal, but a potential that blossoms within each of us. It’s not about escaping the world, but living in it with awakened eyes, experiencing every moment with a profound sense of peace and connection. So, let the whispers of the Yoga Vasishta guide you on your voyage inward, for within its pages lies a map to navigate the turbulent waters of the mind and discover the boundless ocean of your true Self.

Yoga Vashistha - Yoga.in

Evolution of Yoga

Over a long time, Yoga has changed a lot. Its old teachings are still heard in yoga studios all around the world. From serene ashrams to bustling gyms, individuals and institutions have taken the torch, forging new paths while grappling with the question what is the true essence of Yoga? Some, like Ashtanga’s vinyasa flows, retain the rigor of tradition, while others, like Iyengar’s alignment focus, reframe the physical practice. Yoga in Motion explores the diversity of eighteen styles, revealing not a monolithic entity, but a vibrant ecosystem. While the study assures us that the ancient core remains, can a practice born under banyan trees truly thrive in the age of Instagram stories? Can modern interpretations, like laughter Yoga or aerial Yoga, offer authentic pathways to self-realisation, or do they dilute the essence beyond recognition? These are the questions that resonate in the echo chambers of Yoga’s evolution, a story far from reaching its final pose.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras The Wisdom of Patanjali

Assume your mind like a tempestuous ocean, waves of thoughts crashing against the shore of awareness. This, for Patanjali, is the state of “citta-vrtti,” the constant churn of our inner world. Yet, amidst the storm, he whispers the promise of “nirodhah,” a sanctuary of stillness. It’s not the obliteration of thought, but rather a harmonious symphony where the waves lull into serenity, revealing the boundless expanse of a tranquil consciousness. This is not an abstract ideal, but a transformative journey paved by the ancient wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Can we, in our frenetic age, truly find this oasis within? Perhaps the answer lies in the echo of Patanjali’s teachings, offering a compass to navigate the storms of the mind and discover the transformative power of “Citta-vrtti-nirodhah.”—a state of tranquil consciousness.

The Path to Tranquillity

Abhyasa, the unwavering practice of mindfulness and meditation, became my anchor, steadying the storm of anxiety. But it wasn’t just about pushing through; vairagya, the gentle letting go of attachment to the outcome, allowed me to surrender to the present moment. Slowly, like a sailboat catching the wind, a sense of tranquillity arose.

Analysing the Mind

A mind is a bustling marketplace, Citta the frenzied crowd, Buddhi the discerning merchant seeking truth, and Purusa the hidden sanctuary beneath the stalls. Patanjali, the wise guide, invites us to navigate this inner cacophony. He shows us how calming the Citta, like silencing the marketplace chatter, allows the discerning Buddhi to see through the illusions. Through practices like meditation, we peel back the layers of thoughts and emotions, discovering the vast, silent Self (Purusa) that always existed beneath the surface. But is this Self truly separate? Or are Citta, Buddhi, and Purusa different facets of the same diamond, glistening with understanding in the stillness of a focused mind? Perhaps the answer lies not in categorising, but in experiencing, in finding the tranquillity within the marketplace, the silence amidst the chatter, the hidden oasis within the bustling human mind.

The Eight-Limbed Path

The Eight Limbs of Yoga are not just a checklist for external order; they are a map to cultivate an inner garden of integrity and peace. Yama and Niyama, the first two limbs, aren’t restrictive fences, but seeds planted in the fertile soil of our minds. Honesty (Satya) weeds out self-deception, while contentment (Santosha) blooms into resilience against external pressures. As we practice non-harming (Ahimsa) not just towards others, but also towards ourselves, the roots of compassion and self-respect take hold. The interconnectedness of these principles weaves a tapestry of inner harmony, where cleanliness (Saucha) within reflects in our interactions with the world, and self-discipline (Tapas) becomes the fuel for deeper exploration. Ultimately, Yama and Niyama are not about mere external order; they are the first brushstrokes on the canvas of self-realisation, guiding us towards a life lived in alignment with our truest selves.

Inner and Outer Yoga

Yoga is not just a gym class for the soul; it’s a dance between the inner and outer landscapes. Asanas become roots digging deep into the earth, anchoring us in stability and presence. Pranayama transforms into a rising tide, lifting our awareness and expanding our inner horizons. With senses stilled through Pratyahara, we become like polished mirrors, reflecting the subtle energies within. Patanjali reminds us that Yoga is not just about contorting the body; it’s about realising the symphony of elements playing within us. As we find the strength of the earth in our poses, the fluidity of water in our breath, and the boundless air in our focus, we awaken the dormant dancer within, twirling in the space between body and mind, matter and spirit.

Antaranga Yoga

Beyond the physical postures and breathwork lies the heart of Yoga – Antaranga Yoga. Here, Dharana becomes our lighthouse, guiding the restless mind towards a single point of inquiry. Imagine training a puppy, learning to focus amidst distraction and the peace that comes with unwavering attention. With practice, this focus blossoms into Dhyana, a serene river of contemplation flowing without pause. Thoughts no longer hold us captive, and a deep joy arises from within, untouched by external influences. This transformative journey isn’t without its challenges, like fleeting attention and frustrating distractions. But like a sculptor chipping away the stone, each moment of focus reveals the inner masterpiece. Practices like Japa Yoga can be our chisel, carving concentration from the chaos of thoughts. Ultimately, Antaranga Yoga leads us to Samadhi, not just a state of absorption, but a homecoming to the Self, free from suffering and bursting with boundless joy. It’s a journey worth taking, a dance with the mind that reveals the infinite symphony playing within.

The Essence of Samadhi

Samadhi isn’t just a state of stillness; it’s a symphony of the soul, a homecoming to the boundless joy of our true being. Imagine a deep well of peace within, an oasis untouched by the desert storms of thought. Within this wellspring, the light of awareness shines brightly, dispelling the shadows of ignorance and illuminating the path of wisdom. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras aren’t just dry scriptures; they’re a hand extended through time, offering a map and a compass to navigate the inner terrain. Each Sutra becomes a lantern, guiding us through the tangled jungle of emotions and the treacherous peaks of ego. This isn’t a solo trek; it’s a dance with our potential, a blossoming of awareness with each mindful breath, each focused thought. So, dear reader, let the ancient wisdom of Patanjali ignite your spark of curiosity. Take the first step on your yogic journey, peel back the layers of the self, and discover the sublime symphony of Samadhi waiting to be heard within.

Exploring the Evolution of Yoga Traditional and Contemporary Perspectives

Traditional Period

The seeds of Yoga, sown in ancient philosophy and spirituality, blossomed into a vibrant tapestry of schools during the traditional period. Samkhya and Yoga danced together, exploring the interplay of consciousness and matter through meditation. Buddhism resonated with the practice of mindfulness, seeking liberation from suffering through mindful awareness. Hinduism’s tapestry weaved devotional Bhakti Yoga with the philosophical inquiries of Advaita Vedanta, leading to paths of union with the divine. This vibrant landscape saw philosophies cross-pollinate, practices evolve, and new lineages emerge like the powerful wave of Tantra, emphasising energy and ritual. And it’s this rich legacy that continues to nourish contemporary Yoga, offering diverse paths for self-discovery and inner transformation.

While classical Yoga emphasises postures and breathwork, the wisdom of Buddha offers a complementary path to self-realisation through the eightfold path. This isn't just a moral code, but a dynamic dance of mindfulness, ethical conduct, and mental discipline. Imagine weaving a tapestry of right view, intention, speech, and action, each thread strengthening the others, leading to a life grounded in compassion and wisdom. Unlike striving for perfect postures, the eightfold path invites us to cultivate "rightness" within, aligning our thoughts, words, and deeds with our deepest values. It's a journey that starts with mindfulness, like a candle flame illuminating the path within, guiding us towards liberation from suffering and the joyful blossoming of our true nature. Perhaps, within the tapestry of your own life, you'll find threads of the eightfold path waiting to be woven, leading you on a transformative journey towards inner peace and awakening.

Forget intricate postures; for Jainism, Yoga is a dance of the soul, a journey inwards through Dhyana and Samadhi. Yet, this journey isn't paved solely with meditation; it's illuminated by the three jewels of right view, right knowledge, and right conduct. Jain Yogasādhanā transcends theistic frameworks, reminding us that the key to liberation lies within. It's about scrubbing the mirror of the mind with the gentle cloth of Ahimsa, non-attachment, and compassionate action. Each mindful step, each kind word, and each act of generosity becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of our being, leading us closer to moksha. The path may be demanding, but the reward is a heart overflowing with peace, a mind radiating wisdom, and a life woven with the golden thread of ethical awareness. Perhaps, nestled within the folds of your own curiosity, lies the thread of Jain Yogasādhanā, waiting to be unravelled, leading you on a journey of self-transformation and a world touched by the gentle light of non-violence and compassion.

Sikhi Moksha isn't about dissolving into a formless void; it's about tuning the instrument of your soul to resonate with the cosmic symphony of the Divine. It's not a passive wait, but an active dance of surrender and service. Imagine polishing a mirror until it reflects the boundless sky; with unwavering faith and righteous action, the Sikh's heart becomes that mirror, reflecting the Divine Light within and without. Guru Nanak's message echoes the spark of the Divine in every blade of grass, every beating heart, and treat all beings with the reverence due to a reflection of the One. In living generously, chanting the Naam, and facing challenges with Chardi Kala, the Sikh weaves a tapestry of devotion, not to escape the world, but to transform it into a living expression of the Divine Will. Perhaps, within the melody of your aspirations, lies a note in tune with the Sikh path, waiting to be sung, leading you on a journey of service, devotion, and radiant alignment with the Divine Source.

Kundalini Yoga isn't just about stretching and chanting; it's a daring dive into the depths of our own potential. Imagine a slumbering serpent of energy coiled at the base of your spine, holding the spark of your full, awakened self. Kundalini Yoga, drawing from the wisdom of Shaktism and Tantra, offers the key to awaken this energy, not with brute force, but with a symphony of practices. Pranayama fans the flames of awareness, Kriya Yoga channels the flow, Mudras sculpt the energy, and Bhakti Yoga pours devotion like fuel. This isn't a journey for the faint of heart; Kundalini's awakening can be intense, bringing to light shadows and releasing pent-up energies. But in the embrace of a qualified teacher and with dedicated practice, the rewards are boundless. Deep healing blossoms, creativity soars, and a profound connection to oneself and the divine becomes a lived reality. Perhaps, within the whispers of your own curiosity, lies the echo of the Kundalini's call, inviting you to embark on a transformative journey into the depths of your being.

The Middle Ages witnessed a bloom in Yoga's tapestry, with Hatha Yoga taking centre stage. It wasn't a mere fitness craze; it was a laboratory of internal alchemy, where asanas danced with pranayama and mudras became tools to sculpt the subtle body. Texts like Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita whispered secrets of prana's flow and nadi's awakening, weaving physical practices with ancient wisdom. This wasn't a rejection of tradition but an expansion of its canvas. The body, once seen as just a vessel, became a temple to be refined, a stepping stone to higher consciousness. Mental clarity and physical well-being weren't mere side effects; they were stepping stones on the path of liberation. This shift laid the foundation for Yoga's global journey, offering everyone, regardless of belief, a potent cocktail of physical fitness and spiritual exploration. Perhaps, within the folds of your curiosity, lies a thread waiting to be woven into the vibrant tapestry of Hatha Yoga, inviting you to sculpt not just your physique, but your inner landscape as well.

Contemporary Period

The contemporary period isn’t just an echo of the past; it’s a vibrant tapestry woven by the threads of influential figures like Vivekananda, Iyengar, and Desikachar. Their voices, diverse yet united, redefined Yoga’s narrative, moving beyond spiritual confines to embrace well-being and personal growth. Vinyasa flows with the rhythm of modern life, Yin whispers ancient wisdom into weary muscles, and Restorative Yoga offers a sanctuary for stressed minds. Globalisation has become a melting pot of cultures, with Eastern traditions enriching Western wellness practices and scientific research illuminating the hidden benefits of Yoga.

Swami Vivekananda was a revolutionary who saw Yoga as a potent tool for social transformation. He envisioned a world where the principles of Karma, Bhakti, Raja, and Jnana Yoga weren't mere philosophies, but catalysts for collective progress. With scientific precision, he deconstructed ancient practices, revealing their practical benefits for the body and mind. Each inhale in Pranayama became a measured experiment, each asana a meticulously tuned instrument for unlocking human potential. This wasn't merely self-improvement; it was a ripple effect, empowering individuals to become agents of positive change. Vivekananda's call for selfless service ignited communities, his devotion to universal values bridged cultural divides, and his embrace of scientific inquiry paved the way for Yoga's global journey.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati wasn't just a doctor who embraced Yoga; he was a visionary who saw the four Yogas as threads in a tapestry of self-realisation. In his hands, Karma Yoga's selfless service wasn't merely a distant ideal, but the fuel that ignited the mind for Bhakti's devotion. Raja Yoga's discipline became the chisel that sculpted the body for Asana's physical refinement, and Jnana Yoga's wisdom illuminated the path for all. His teachings weren't confined to ancient texts; they danced in the streets through social service, flowed in the air with conscious breathing, and bloomed on the plate with mindful eating. Sivananda's Yoga of Synthesis wasn't just about perfecting an asana; it was about perfecting oneself, offering a practical roadmap for holistic well-being.

Paramahansa Yogananda was a mapmaker who unveiled the hidden pathways within. His tool of choice? The potent practice of Kriya Yoga, a symphony of breath, energy, and awareness designed to awaken the slumbering giant within – the prana. Unlike esoteric secrets whispered in hushed tones, Yogananda democratised this transformative practice, offering a key to unlock the door to self-realisation for anyone willing to explore. Through his captivating words in "Autobiography of a Yogi" and his global teachings, he sowed the seeds of Kriya Yoga across continents, influencing the very landscape of modern Yoga. This wasn't just about perfecting an asana; it was about diving into the depths of your being, experiencing the unfiltered truth of your soul.

B.K.S. Iyengar, or Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, made a significant contribution to modern yoga. He played a crucial role in popularising and spreading the practice of yoga globally, making it accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Iyengar developed a unique style of yoga, now known as Iyengar Yoga, which focuses on precision, alignment, and the use of props to help practitioners achieve the correct postures. His emphasis on detail and alignment has had a profound impact on the way yoga is taught and practiced today. Iyengar's teachings go beyond physical postures; he emphasised the integration of body, mind, and spirit in the practice of yoga. His approach has been instrumental in making yoga more therapeutic and adaptable, allowing individuals with various physical conditions to benefit from its practice. B.K.S. Iyengar's numerous writings, including his seminal work "Light on Yoga," have become essential references for yoga practitioners and instructors. His dedication to spreading the transformative power of yoga has left a lasting legacy, influencing the modern understanding and practice of this ancient discipline.

Yoga is like a colourful quilt made from both ancient wisdom and new ideas. Think of traditional poses combined with modern knowledge about how our bodies work, and breathing exercises mixed with today’s mindfulness techniques. It’s not a random mix; instead, it all works together to make Yoga useful for dealing with the challenges of modern life. This diverse quilt provides tools for managing stress and building emotional strength in the 21st century. Yoga isn’t just for one place; it’s a worldwide conversation. Different cultures add their own ideas, creating a lively and inclusive quilt. 

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