The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “to attach, join, harness, yoke”, and signifies union of the individual and universal conscious.
History of Yoga
Yoga is widely considered as an “immortal cultural outcome” of the Indus Saraswati Valley Civilisation – dating back to approximately 2700 BC. A number of seals and fossil remains of Indus Saraswati Valley Civilisation with Yogic motifs and figures performing Yoga sādhana suggest the presence of Yoga in ancient India. The seals and idols of” mother Goddess are suggestive of Tantra Yoga.
References to Yoga is also available in ancient Vedic and Upanishadic heritage, Buddhist and Jain traditions, Darshanas, epics of Mahabharata including Bhagawadgita and Ramayana, theistic traditions of Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Tantric traditions. The Vedas expounded a diverse set of practices, ideas and concepts; six main schools of philosophy emerged from these teachings. They are: Nyaya (logic), Vaiseshika (analysis of the universe), Samkhya (classification of the universe), Yoga (union with the Divine), Mimansha (ritual interpretation of the Vedas), and Vedanta (inquiry into the Self).
The different philosophies, traditions, lineages and Guru-shishya paramparas of Yoga led to the emergence of different traditional schools. These include Jñāna Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Pātañjala Yoga, Kuṇḍalini Yoga, Haṭha Yoga, Dhyāna Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Rāja Yoga, Jain Yoga, Bouddha Yoga etc. Each school has its own approach and practices that lead to the ultimate aim and objectives of Yoga. Of these, asanas are a part of the Hatha yoga tradition.
Maharishi Patanjali systematised and codified the then existing Yogic practices, its meaning and its related knowledge through Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He elucidated eight limbs of yoga, namely – Yama (social ethics), Niyama (personal ethics), Asana (postures), Pranayama (life force), Pratyahara (turning the senses inwards), Dharana (one-pointed focus), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (merging with the self).
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. In 1893, Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda lectured on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions.
In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore in 1924 and in 1936 Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River.