Not just some exercise fad reserved for vegetarians, the word “Yoga” came from the word “Yuj” which is derived from Sanskrit, meaning to join or unite.
Yoga is a means to achieve the union of self with the Cosmic Consciousness or the Universal Spirit. It is more than mastering postures and increasing one’s flexibility and strength.
It also stands for a complete system of social, physical, mental and spiritual development. The very word itself emits a sense of tranquility and peace. That is why so many people who seek enlightenment practice Yoga.
Nobody knows exactly how long ago or when Yoga started. Some believe it to have evolved some 26,000 years ago during the period of Sat Yuga, also called the Golden Age.
Some say that it originated around 5,000 years ago in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, where the Rig-Veda shows topics of Yoga in their scriptures and texts.
Some yoga postures were even found on ancient artifacts that date back to 3,000 BCE. All of these beliefs have one common thread—they point to Yoga’s place of origin as India.
In the classical period of Yoga, during the second century, Patanjali, the father of Yoga offered the first systematic presentation of the ancient art in the Yoga Sutras. His approach was composed of the “eight limbs path,” which in English are moral codes, self-purification and study, posture, breath control, sense control, concentration, contemplation and meditation.
The post-classical period gave rise to Tantra Yoga, intended to cleanse the system from physical existence. From this form evolved Hatha Yoga, which is the most practiced form in the West today.
In the modern period (late 1800s and early 1900s), Yoga masters began traveling the world. During the 1920s, the first school of Hatha Yoga was opened in India by T. Krishnamachary. From this base, three students—B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar, and Pattabhi Jois—started to spread the teachings of Yoga globally.
In 1947, Indra Devi opened a Yoga study in Hollywood. It became the beginning of the spread and popularization of Hatha Yoga throughout America.
Yoga became even more popular during the 1960’s, when the “hippies” of the time started accepting Eastern teachings and philosophies in an attempt to enlighten themselves and break away from the traditional American values and government that they rejected.
Nowadays, Yoga is more of a form of exercise than a way to enlighten oneself. The spiritual aspect of Yoga is slowly being ignored and only the physical aspects are being used.
People want to live healthy lives these days and Yoga exercises can certainly help maintain one’s body in good physical condition. But die-hard Yoga practitioners of the more traditional forms still exist today, too, keeping alive the old ways and foundations of this fascinating practice.
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