The History of Yoga
The word Yoga means, “to join or yoke together”. The practice of yoga postures joins the body and mind together into one united experience. While many people are just discovering the benefits of yoga and many fitness facilities are just starting to offer yoga classes, the classical techniques of Yoga date back over 5,000 years. The exact origin date for Yoga is unclear, but it most likely predates written history. Illustrations of Yoga positions have been found in archeological site stone carvings in the Indus Valley dating back 5,000 years.
The physical practice of yoga is called Hatha Yoga. It was developed by Yogis who went into the jungles thousands of years ago to meditate. During meditation, these Yogis observed animal movements. The development of many of the yoga postures comes from their observations of nature and animals. Although yoga has a long history, its rise to popularity in the United States has been only in the last 50-75 years. However, Yoga has now found its away across the continents to take root in American culture.
Yoga as we know it today has its seeds of origin within the Yoga Sutras written by Pantanjali about 800 BC. Though Pantanjali identified eight limbs of yoga, most people are initially drawn to only one of the limbs, Hatha Yoga. The foundation of Hatha Yoga includes exercise and breathing. Yoga breathing is a unique process regulating the inflow of breath in the two nostrils. The exercises of Yoga are designed to engage the human glandular systems, thereby increasing efficiency and total health. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body and mind and that a quiet mind allows silence and healing from everyday stress.
The power of yoga lies in its simplicity and most of the postures in yoga (called Asanas) are relaxing, refreshing, require no special equipment or clothing and can be performed by men, women and children above 16 years. Hatha is derived from Ha meaning the Sun and Ta meaning the Moon. As mentioned above, the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Yug’ which means “yoke”or’ unite’. The two terms together denote the unification of the Sun and the Moon.
Hatha Yoga postures leads to coordination and harmony between the different organs of the body. Thus Hatha Yoga helps in restoring normal health to the whole body, conserving energy and purifying the body from all impurities. Praanayaama and the relaxation techniques of yoga generally help regulate the breathing, enhance the oxygen absorption into the blood stream, control the mind and act on certain nerve centers to ensure delivery of vital energy to the body and restoration of normal health to the nervous system, endocrinal glands and all the vital organs of the body.
The concept of yoga includes union or binding of body and mind. Yoga helps in development of coordination and control of all the forces within the body, leading to perfection in the functioning of all the organs. Yoga gives the ability to control the normal stresses and strains in life and handles the overall functioning of all the vital organs of the body. Health of a person is determined by holistic health, a mixture of physical and mental health. Yoga helps maintain this holistic health of a person, which involves great discipline not only of the body, but also of the mind. Yoga instills in the minds of the people a hope full of optimistic approach towards life.
Yoga probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s, but it did not become widely known until the 1960s, as part of the youth culture’s growing interest in anything Eastern. As more people learned about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and overall well-being.
A short History of Yoga by George Feuerstein.
History of Yoga by the American Yoga Association.