Evolution of Yoga

Evolution of Yoga

Wondering how yoga originated? How it evolved throughout its history? Here’s a peek into this wholesome discussion.. Every true yoga enthusiast has at least once questioned, “From where did this wonderful practice of yoga even start?” or “How did yoga evolve and originate”. Adhiroha will today unveil the answer to these most sought after questions because at Adhiroha we believe that Self-Study (svādhyāya) is an important dimension of Yoga and is central to strengthening once conviction and perseverance towards their yogic practice. What is the most authentic way of answering this question? First things first, we will agree on a central point that, despite more than a century of research, there is not much scientific documentation of yoga’s beginnings. However, what we do know is that it originated in India several thousand years ago. Therefore, we will be looking at its origin and evolution as per the Indian cultural context as this will be the most authentic way of approaching this question.
Origin of Yoga & Shiva’s Legend... As per Vedas and scriptures the origin of yoga is credited to Lord Shiva who is seen as the “Adiyogi” (first yogi). According to the legend, Shiva reached enlightenment thousands of years ago in a place called Mount Kailash. Followed by this, on the banks of the lake Kantisarovar in the Himalayas. Adiyogi poured his profound knowledge into the legendary Saptarishis or “The Seven Sages”. These sages are responsible for the spread of the yogic way of life around the world (or world as they knew it then). However, it was in India that the yogic system found its fullest expression. Agastya, one of the Saptarishis who travelled across the Indian subcontinent, crafted this culture around a core yogic way of life. There are multiple historic evidence to validate this claim. The main sources from which we get the information about Yoga practices and the related literature during the early period, are available in Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis, Puranas etc. The Bible of Yoga, Before and After! Well, most certainly you wouldn’t find yogis doing asanas on a branded yoga mat with the best in class music and yoga classrooms in the early days of yoga. Obviously yoga is not the same as it was back in those days. Tentatively, the period between 500 BC - 800 A.D. is considered as the Classical period which is also considered as the most fertile and prominent period in the history and development of Yoga. During this period, commentaries of Vyasa on Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad Gita etc. came into existence and if we want to delve deeper into understanding the history of yoga at this time we can look at something commonly referred to as the Bible of Yoga- The Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is a sacred Hindu text in the form of a poem that takes place on a battlefield. Weird? Right? Not really the kind of setting you would do yoga in! But this setting is often believed to be a metaphor for the “battlefield of the mind.” In Bhagavad Gita the ‘Guru’ lord Krishna has elaborately presented the concept of Gyan yoga, Bhakti yoga and Karma Yoga. These three types of yoga are still the highest example of human wisdom and even today people find peace by following the methods as shown in Gita. Briefly:

1. Bhakti Yoga

The major purpose of this type of yoga is to manifest the true power of love, devotion and faith to attain enlightenment which is the objective of one’s yogic practice

2. Gyan Yoga

This is something that you are doing right now! This type of yoga emphasizes on the power of knowledge in the pursuit of enlightenment. Knowledge of ancient scriptures is critical here.

3. Karma Yoga

Yoga:This is the path of work. It is all about selfless service and action. To follow this path, you must devote yourself to your dharma (your ultimate purpose in the world) and unwaveringly fulfil this purpose. With this the treasure of yoga was opened and grew in diverse ways. The period between 800 A.D. - 1700 A.D. has been recognized as the Post Classical period wherein the teachings of great Acharyatrayas - Adi Shankracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya- were prominent. The teachings of Surdas, Tulasidasa, Purandaradasa, Mirabai were the great contributions during this period. The Natha Yogis of Hathayoga Tradition like Matsyendaranatha, Gorkshanatha, Cauranginatha, Swatmaram Suri, Gheranda, Shrinivasa Bhatt are some of the great personalities who popularized the Hatha Yoga practices during this period. A brief on major yogic traditions of the Post Classical Period:
Raja Yoga - The Yoga Sutras were written between 400 BC and 200 BC by Patanjali and have been a hallmark in the yogic traditions in the post-classical period. In The Yoga Sutras, yoga was described as an eight step path to reach enlightenment. This path became known as the Raja Marga (or royal path), and this is the path of pure meditation or introspection. This was the first ever Post-Classical compilation of yogic literature.
Tantra Yoga - The word Tantra means, “to weave or expand.” The root of the word yoga is “yuj” which means, “union.” Similar to some of the other 8 Forms of Yoga. What distinguishes it from others is that it also weaves dynamics of other mystical practices as well such as: Astrology, Ayurveda, Crystals, and Gemology to name a few. In utilizing these aspects, the Tantric practice aims to expand beyond perceived limitations of yogic philosophy and the asanas. Tantra is about balancing our energies: male and female, hot and cold, internal and external.
Hatha Yoga - Hatha Yoga is the practice of physical yoga. And this is definitely the closest branch to what most of us practice in our modern world. Hatha includes most yoga styles and includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises), which help bring peace to the mind and body, preparing the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation. To know more about Hatha Yoga check out Adhiroha’s Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga Teacher Training Course. Yoga Today and in the times to come… The best part about yogic practices has been to adapt to the changing times while not losing its central purpose. And what is that purpose? It is ultimately to seek enlightenment. So, the practice of yoga even in the 21st century highly emphasizes focus on the breath and the inner workings of the mind. Nowadays, we do yoga to feel fit, to be happier, look better etc. But deep inside all of us do know that yoga moves way beyond these latent effects. Yoga is a pursuit of answering questions long pending in our lives, telling us the purpose of our mortal flesh and raising us to an elevated state of life. The reason for yoga's widespread success and adoption globally is that it is a practice that adapted to the changing times while not leaving its roots behind and dear readers, this is yet another lesson that yoga teaches us.

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