Rame Yoga
Rame Yoga

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us"

- Buddha


"What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create."

- Buddha

History of Yoga

Yoga's history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga's long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.

Vedic Yoga

The ancient texts of Vedas are the oldest scriptures in the world. The Sanskrit word Veda means "knowledge" and rig means "praise". Thus the Rig Vedas are a collection of hymns that are in praise of a higher power. Other three Vedas are Yajur Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama Veda (Knowledge of chants), and Atharvana Veda (knowledge of Atharvana).

Vedic Yoga is also be called Archaic Yoga, as people believed in a ritualistic way of life. Rituals, sacrifices, and ceremonies existed because they were considered a means of connection to the spirit world. People turned to rishis or Vedic yogis for illumination. Vedic masters were blessed with a vision of the supreme reality and their hymns speak of their marvelous intuitions.

Pre-Classical Yoga

This covers an extensive period of approximately 2,000 years until the second century. Gnostic texts, called the Upanishads, that spoke in detail about the self and ultimate reality appeared. There are approximately 200 Upanishads. One of the most remarkable yoga scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gita, which was composed around 500 B.C.

The central teaching of the Gita is, to do ones' duty and not expect the fruit of the action.

In 1200 BC the great teacher Rishaba, who was the exponent of the tradition of Jainism, also emphasized on efforts dedicated to the liberation of the spirit.

It was during this time, that Yoga found its way into Buddhism too; Lord Buddha was the first Buddhist to study Yoga. Buddhist scriptures lay stress on meditation and physical postures, which are Yogic processes.

Classical Yoga

In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written some time in the second century, this text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called "classical yoga". Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an "eight limbed path" containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sutras still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.

Post-Classical Yoga

A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.

Modern Period

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures 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. Krishnamacharya produced three students that would continue his legacy and increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Sivananda was a prolific author, writing over 200 books on yoga, and established nine ashrams and numerous yoga centers located around the world.

The importation of yoga to the West still continued at a trickle until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularizing hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice.