Yoga is more than only the asanas (body postures) we typically see or practise in the west today. It goes beyond that. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual exercise that results in an experience of the ultimate reality.
Yoga has been classed and adapted over time. The Bhagavad Gita, the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, the Puranas, the Vedas, and the Upanishads are only a few of the Hindu writings that discuss the oldest form and understanding of yoga, as well as its benefits. Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Jnana Yoga are the three types of yoga stated in the Bhagavad Gita.
Modern-day yoga is a combination of ancient practises that include breathing, meditation, and holding various physical postures to promote harmony in the mind, body, and soul.
The word “Yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj,” which means to join, merge, or combine. So, when one realizes the ultimate reality, they are doing yoga. Yogis are those who have a connection to the Ultimate Consciousness. They can stroll and live a life like free spirits without experiencing the ills of this world thanks to yoga.
So, the main goal of yoga is to realise oneself and achieve liberty. The origin, development, and history of yoga will all be covered in this article.
Origin of Yoga
Yoga, according to historians and researchers, originated in India and predated the development of the first human civilization. Nearly all Hindu texts refer to yoga, although there is no one originator; some people think Lord Shiva was the first Yogi and that he taught great Saptarishi the practice (seven mighty sages). In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna claims to have first taught Surya Dev the principles of yoga.
The most development of yoga has occurred in the Indian subcontinent. Many yogis and sages journeyed throughout India to teach the ultimate meaning of life and to propagate the yoga science.
For how long has yoga been practiced? The birth of yoga cannot be dated or timed with precision. The Indus Valley Civilization, one of the oldest civilizations, left behind artefacts, documents, and fossils that depict a variety of yoga rituals, asanas, and figures that attested to the practice’s historical presence.
In addition, Rigveda is where the word “yoga” was first used. The other three Vedas, 108 Upanishads, Buddhist and Jain scriptures, Darsanas, and epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana all contain references to yoga.
During this timeframe, yoga was practiced under the tutelage of competent gurus and had a significant role in the ceremonies. During this Vedic era, the Surya Namaskar, or Salutation to the Sun and Pranayama (breathing exercise), was created. In order to preserve the existence of classical yoga, the sage Patanjali later collected all the ancient books that were based on yoga into a single book called the Yoga Sutras.
For the development and preservation of yoga, all the sages, saints, acharyas, and yogis donated their knowledge of yoga to manuscripts and publications.
Yoga’s Western History
In the west, yoga is gaining popularity as we move into the modern day. Modernized yoga is a more simple kind of yoga than traditional yoga. Every age group can perform it and understand it easily. In addition, contemporary yoga places a higher priority on asanas than it does on the mental and spiritual facets of classical and post-classical yoga. As a result, contemporary yoga functions more as a kind of physical and mental exercise than as a way to reach the Absolute.
Yoga was initially discovered by Europeans and Americans in the nineteenth century. But they preferred the philosophical tenets of yoga. Even though N.C. Paul wrote some treatises on yoga in English (A Treatise on Yoga Philosophy, 1851), they were primarily concerned with the physical side of the practise. As a result, it failed to capture the public’s interest at the time.
Physical yoga was unknown in western public schools and universities before to the 1950s, but that year it gained popularity. One of the most important books on yoga in the west is Le Yoga: Immortalité et Liberté, written by a Romanian scholar named Mircea Eliade. This book focuses on asanas (physical positions) to get the body ready for meditation and pranayama. Eliade found inspiration for his book.
The wonderful Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest Yogis, arrived in this world in the year 1863. He was the first yoga practitioner to ever visit the west and spread the practice. He travelled to many different nations throughout his life and took part in various World Meetings in order to spread awareness of yoga and its value to western civilization.
In addition to penning works on yoga, Swami Vivekananda also translated the entirety of the Sanskrit Yoga literature into English. In order for non-Sanskrit speakers to independently read, comprehend, and practise it.
Paramahansa Yogananda visited Boston after Swami Vivekananda in order to attend the World Religious Fair and spread the Kriya Yoga to the west. The great yogi Sri Lahiri Mahasaya promoted the practise of Kriya Yoga.
In 1896, another great yogi, Shivapuri Baba was invited by Queen Victoria of England to give her private lessons on Yoga. After Queen Victoria died in 1901, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached America. Shortly after arriving in the United States, he met with President Theodore Roosevelt.
In the 1970s, an Indian yoga guru, K. Pattabhi Jois, introduced the vinyasa form of Yoga in the US and Australia, widely known as Ashtanga Yoga. Similarly, Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, or Yogi Bhajan, an Indian- American yoga guru, scholar, and entrepreneur, introduced his style of Kundalini yoga in the US. In addition, he established the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) foundation in over 35 countries worldwide to spread his teachings.
As the global media and Internet started to grow in the late 20th century, yoga was one of the hot topics. It was everywhere, from televisions to radios, newspapers, magazines, and online. Realizing the value of yoga on humans’ physical body and mind, western people accepted yoga openly. Similarly, they even included yoga in their daily life as an exercise to live a happy, healthy life.