History of Yoga

Interesting History of YogaYoga has gained a huge cult following especially in the 21st Century, the reason being is that western civilization is filled with high-pressure work and long hours. People are looking for a way to unwind and relax not just their bodies but also their minds. Yoga classes are now offered worldwide and it is increasing in popularity the more people want to try it out. I am going to dissect yoga and show you how far it has come and how it has evolved over the centuries.Yoga started in Northern India over 5000 years ago by a civilization known as Indus Valley (Indus Sarasvati). Researchers believe that this civilization was the most highly developed during the Bronze Age. The first ever recorded evidence of yoga was found in Pakistan where the Indus Valley were bordering, what they found was a stone tablet with a man in a now popular stance known as the lotus pose. He was surrounded by animals which some historians claim him to be Lord Pashupati but Sir John Marshall and other well-known historians suggest that this is actually an early drawing of Shiva. Findings like this show us how peaceful the culture has continued to be since 3000 B.C.

The tantra philosophy was around for 450 BC to 1100 BC. Your body is considered a vessel of spirituality and was an early form of equality for both genders as nobody was excluded from participating in this form of spiritual awakening. This is where the spiritual side of yoga really started and it is the essence of what yoga is today in the western world. This is also the time period where yoga properly emerges; at the time it is described as the restraining of your senses to get you in complete control of your mind and your sense organs i.e. nose, touch, eyes and tongue. Around 200 AD are when the principles of yoga were written which is known as your eight yoga sutras. They are written by Patanjali, it is unknown if this was one author or many different people. It could be one or many writers of the Sanskrit.

A great number of resources have been dedicated to trying to figure this out but every attempt has seemed fruitless. Patanjali is the name synonymous to traditional yoga and without these teachings, we would not know the full extent of the complicity with yoga and how it not only helps the body and spirit but also one’s mind.The first principle he brings up is about Yamas, this is, in essence, the ethical side of yoga and sets morals for people to follow such as do not harm another being, do not lie, do not steal, do not cheat and do not value material possessions. What is taught next is known as Niyama, this goes into detail about accepting yourself and other people. It is about your thoughts, your behaviour and the purity of yourself like always showing respect to others no matter who they are or what their circumstances are. The next sutra is Asana which means posture or steady is the form of being able to hold a pose and to keep your posture in a certain way for extended periods of time while still being comfortable and relaxed.

The book states that a posture that is uncomfortable and is hurting you is not yoga and it must be stopped. Yoga is meant to be motionless and comfortable. Pranayama is broken up into two Sanskrit words which are “breath” and “extending”, this is Patanjali’s way of telling you to breathe slowly through inhaling and holding your inhalation as to calm your heart rate and then exhaling to release that pressure. Pratyahara is also broken up into two Sanskrit words which are “against” and “near”. This is to teach you how to draw awareness from within through your spirituality. It delves into your own inner peace and it teaches you how to not let your judgement be controlled by others around you but rather from yourself.

Dharana means to concentrate. This part of the book teaches you how to focus on one thought at a time without letting anything distract you. It teaches you that by just focusing on a single problem you will be able to sort it out without stressing about other problems you may need to solve and gets rid of cloudy thinking. Dhyana means reflection; Dharana and Dhyana are quite similar and these sutras work together to help you. Dhyana is the process of your mind whereas Dharana is more the state that your mind is in. The best example I can give pictures the moon, in a Dhyana state of mind you might think of just the moons shape but under a Dharana state of mind you will be more aware of the moons colour, shape and size. The last sutra is Samadhi which when translated from Sanskrit means “joining with”. This is the stage in meditation where all you and your thoughts combine together to become one.

These sutras help you improve your lifestyle through spiritualism and are there to help you live a more purpose-driven life. The development of yoga in the western world has been huge and many experts say that it is more of a posture exercise than the original Indian style of yoga which is more spirituality focused. Studies have shown that the majority of people who try yoga do it for its health benefits but those that continue doing yoga for years will turn to more of the spiritual side of yoga. The popularity with yoga in the western world hit a huge increase in the 1980s, that year marked a year where people became a lot more spiritual and yoga looked like the perfect tool to become connected with one’s spiritual side more whereas now it is predominantly used as a way to tone your body and build core strength.

In the East today it is still about spirituality and focusing on your mind, it has stayed true to its century-long traditions and is still religiously connected to Hinduism and Buddhism as it all comes from the ancient religious texts known as Vedas. Though the spiritual side is less practised nowadays in the modern world it is always nice to learn more about the spiritual side of an ancient Indian tradition.


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