An Introduction to Yoga History

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An Introduction to Yoga History

yoga instructor trainingBy Faye Martins

How much time should we spend on history during a yoga instructor training course? If you want to understand the roots of what you teach, you might want to learn as much as you can. However, if you teach yogic fitness classes, you might not be interested in learning the history of exercise.

The exact beginning of yoga is hard to pin down. While there are stone seals depicting classic asanas that date back to almost 3000 years before the birth of Christ, some scholars argue that yogic methodology actually dates back to the Stone Age. Spurred on by the Vedas, yogic philosophy and methodology has made its way around the world to become a global phenomenon.

Some scholars date the earliest forms back to the Stone Age. These practices, they argue, were used by shamans to heal members of the community. This early form of yoga was focused towards the community as a whole. The oldest teachings, that can clearly be defined as yoga, are the Vedic writings. These sacred writings are a collection of hymns that offer praise to a divine power.

It was this time that practitioners began to rely on yogis who showed them a path to harmony with the divine. The first concrete example of the word “yoga” appears in a scripture called the Katha Upanishad, which dates from about 400 years before the birth of Christ. The famous text, the Bhagavad Gita devotes an entire chapter to yogic methods, with instructions on how to perform meditation.

By the sixth century BCE, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) began teaching meditation, and combined with physical poses, formed the basis of Buddhism. As with Hinduism, the teachings of the religion combined with the poses that would form the basis of yoga.

Maharishi Patanjali composed the classic Yoga Sutra about the second century before the death of Christ. Also known as the Eight Fold Path, Patanjali’s writing set out codified ideals of spiritual and physical practices for practitioners. After Patanjali’s codification and the use of yogic methods, it began to spread across the East. 

By the late 1800s, Gurus began to spread yogic teachings to the West. In the 1970s, specialized forms of yoga, including Kundalini, began spreading across the West as well. Yoga became part of the fitness craze in the West during the 1990s and 2000s as calisthenics addicts looked for a lower impact and more spiritual form of exercise to turn to. Yoga, which was born in India, has been around for almost as long as early civilization. 

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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One Comment

  1. Masud Parvez June 22, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Yogic philosophy and methodology has made its way around the world to become a global phenomenon. Thanks for sharing this informative article.

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