A Brief Exploration Into The History of Yoga

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Over the recent years, the popularity of yoga has grown exponentially across the world. It is currently one of the most followed holistic healing methods, with over 300 million people practicing it globally as per the data collected by International Yoga Federation. What makes Yoga so popular is its universal nature. Anyone, irrespective of age, weight, and health condition can practice it safely. Right from toddlers to senior citizens, even disabled and high-risk pregnant people can benefit from yoga. But before we get into that, it is a good idea to learn about the history of Yoga, which will help one appreciate and practice it better.

A Tale As Old As Time

While most people do know that Yoga originated in the Indus-Saraswati civilization of India, many aren’t aware that it dates back to 5000 years. The first mention of the word ‘yoga’ was found in the ancient Rig Veda, the oldest of the sacred texts of Vedas. However, several tablets and pictorial references point out the fact that this ancient practice could be much older than the Vedas. Some schools of researchers believe that this practice dates further back and could be anywhere between 5000 to 10000 years old, just that the name ‘Yoga’ wasn’t coined in writing yet. It was practiced and propagated orally. With the development of language and subsequent writing of history, we come across the word ‘Yoga’ in its organized forms.

The word ‘Yoga’ is Sanskrit for ‘union’. Yoga believes that body, mind, soul, and spirit must function in a sacred unison to offer perfect health and a deeper understanding of life. Yoga poses that we practice today are only a part of yoga. 

Patanjali And The First Treatise On Yoga

We do not have much understanding of the methods and procedures of yoga before the Indian saint Patanjali took it upon himself to pen down the principles into a concise form, known as Yoga Sutras, for others to study and pass on. While we do not know the accurate date, according to studies, it is roughly placed somewhere around the 2nd century BC to 400 AD. With the composition of the Yoga Sutra, the knowledge of this ancient philosophy and practices became available for everyone as well as for posterity to learn.

The Birth Of Modern Yoga

The oldest yoga institution in the world, The Yoga Institute, was founded by Shri Yogendra in 1918, its headquarter is situated in Mumbai, India. The founder, commonly known as the traveling Yogi, spent his life traveling around the world and teaching Hatha Yoga or asanas, which is popularly called Yoga in the modern sense.

The international popularity of yoga can be ascribed to Swami Vivekananda, who introduced Eastern religion and philosophy as well as Yoga, to the United States of America in his lecture on Hinduism and the philosophy of yoga at the Chicago World Parliament of Religions in 1983. His electric speech gave birth to an interest in Eastern philosophy and yoga in the USA, which subsequently spread to the rest of the world.

Presently all over the world, there are several schools and paths of yoga, which have evolved from the traditional holistic philosophy of yoga, as preached by the Rishis of India.

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