The history of yoga is long and steeped in tradition. Contrary to what some people may believe, yoga was not developed as the newest way to slim down so they could fit into a smaller pants size.
The history of yoga goes back 5,000 years. It originated in India, and the first time the word yoga was found in written form was in the Rig Vada, one of the sacred texts used by Vedic priests. Yoga is a means of achieving spiritual enlightenment.
Originally, yoga techniques were passed down from teacher to student through word of mouth. These techniques had never been written down until the Indian sage Patanjali wrote down a systematic method of yoga in the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali is considered to be the father of yoga.
According to Patanjali, there are eight limbs of yoga, which lead to the ultimate goal of enlightenment.
Yama – abstaining from violence, stealing, lust, greed
Niyam – developing devotion, purity, studiousness, contentment, discipline
Pranayama – controlling the breath
Pratyahara – going inward and withdrawing attention from the outside world
Dharana – concentration
Dhyana – meditation
Samadhi – merging with the universal consciousness
The Swami Vivekananda added to the history of yoga by bringing it to America. In 1893, he addressed the Parliament of World Religions and discussed the path of yoga. As a result of his speech, it quickly began to blossom as a practice in many areas of the country. Yoga has since gained major popularity in the United States and many different styles including Hatha, Bikram, and Iyengar, are practiced by millions of people.
Knowing the history of yoga can help you, the practitioner, realize the richness that it has to offer. More than just a means of being fit and trim, yoga can help you live a healthy, whole, and empowered life.