Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years. Some researchers believe that it may have even been created up to 10,000 years ago. Its history comes from many obscure places, but the main origins humankind has discovered it is through sacred texts. Early writings on yoga were written on very delicate palm leaves, so much of it got destroyed or damaged throughout the years. Yoga’s history can be divided into four significant periods of innovation, practice, and maturation (Singleton & Mallinson, 2017).
During the pre-classical yoga period, it was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India, more than 5,000 years ago. In one of the oldest discovered collections of texts containing yoga called the Rig Veda, songs, mantras, and rituals were written out to be used by the Brahmans who were the Vedic priests. Throughout the years, yoga was gradually altered by the Brahmans and Rishis, the mystic seers. They documented their practices in the Upanishads, a collections of text containing over 200 scriptures. These texts incorporated the principle of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and teachings of the sacrifice of ego through knowledge, action, and wisdom (Singleton & Mallinson, 2017).
During the Classical Yoga time period, yoga became a combination of different ideas, beliefs, and techniques that actually conflicted each other. Classical yoga became known as Raja Yoga throughout time and was defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-S?»tras. He laid out a path of yoga by splitting it amongst eight different stages toward reaching Samadhi, or enlightenment. Due to this structure he created, Patanjali become known as one of the fathers of yoga and greatly impacted many styles of contemporary yoga (Meet India’s 10 most renowned yoga gurus, 2015).
After a few centuries passed, the Post-Classical Yoga period came around. Many yoga masters gradually altered the original yoga practice by focusing it more on rejuvenating the body and prolonging the practitioner’s life. They believed through physical activity, the yoga practitioner would be able to reach enlightenment more quickly. This technique became known as Tantra yoga. Physical-spiritual connections became a very popular yoga activity because of Tantra Yoga, which eventually led to the development of Yoga in the West, Hatha Yoga (Singleton & Mallinson, 2017).
The current time period society is in is called the Modern Period. Through the 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters among the colonists began to travel to the West. Throughout their journey, they gathered many followers and spread their beliefs. Yoga initially started in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in the West. Swami Vivekananda amazed the attendees with his lectures on the relationship among yoga and religion. He further explained its philosophy, benefits, and different poses. He ended up publishing more than 200 books on yoga, and founded nine ashrams and an immense amount of yoga centers throughout the world. During the 1920s, Hatha Yoga became very popular in India. The first Hatha Yoga school was opened in Mysore in 1924, and the Divine Life Society was founded a couple years later by Krishnamacharya. This society brought yoga practitioners together and produced three key students that would later promote Hatha Yoga around the world. These students were named B.K.S. lyengar, T.K.V. Desikarchar, and Pattabhi Jois (Meet India’s 10 most renowned yoga gurus, 2015).
B.K. S. lyengar brought light to yoga abroad. Throughout his life, he struggled with diseases that made him physically and mentally weak. Seeking recovery, he turned to yoga and redefined what is now known as ?Iyengar Yoga’. Supposedly, he could perform a yoga pose called the sirsasana, which is the headstand pose, for half an hour. As for Pattabhi Jois, he created Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from Hatha Yoga. He based it off the ancient text called ?Yoga Korunta’. Many celebrity practitioners, such as Madonna, Sting, and Gwyneth Paltrow, practice this type of yoga. Lastly, T.K.V. Desikachar lectured in the United States about how yoga heals. He also made it known that yoga can benefit every single individual, regardless of age and physical fitness, and can be tailored to the needs of the practitioner (Meet India’s 10 most renowned yoga gurus, 2015).
In 1947, the first yoga studio to have the greatest impact on Western civilization opened in Hollywood by Infra Devi. Hatha yoga was taught there, thus attracting many Westerners and Indian teachers. They learned from her studio and spread their philosophies and practices throughout various countries. Since this time, Hatha Yoga has branched into several different styles, stressing certain aspects of its original style, but still containing the same philosophies (Singleton & Mallinson, 2017).
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