Yoga is a way to learn and understand spiritual India. Also, yoga is associated with the culture and heritage of India. In Sanskrit, yoga means “to unite” and describes a way of living a healthy life. In yoga, the mind is disciplined through meditation, and the body is aligned and strengthened. According to yoga, it is the nervous system of the body that affects our health. The nervous system is purified with daily yoga and thus keeps our body healthy and secure.
The origin of yoga is considered as old as human civilization. But there is no substantial evidence to prove this. Despite extensive research in this field, there are no concrete discoveries about the origin of yoga. It is believed that yoga originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Many western scholars used to think that it was not 5,000 years ago, but in the Buddha period (about 500 BC) when yoga began to exist. During the excavation of the oldest known civilization in the Indus Valley, very amazing facts arose. The soapstone stamps that existed during that period were found engraved with figures similar to those of a yogi sitting in a yoga-like posture. Originally yoga started for the improvement of a community and not for the self.
According to the Vedas, the Vedic Period is the origin of yoga in India. The oldest known yogic teachings are known as Vedic yoga or archaic yoga, and can be found in four Vedas – Rig Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and Atharva-Veda. Rituals and ceremonies associated with Vedic yoga try to overcome the restrictions of the mind. Thus, Vedic yoga was closely linked to the ritual life of people of that time. Yoga was considered as a way to connect with the invisible world and revolved around a sacrifice – a sacrifice of self. The sacrifices, over a long time, used to focus only on something similar to meditation. Therefore, Vedic Yoga is considered to be the root of yoga. A Vedic yoga master was known as “seer” – Rishi in Sanskrit.
Then it was the pre-classical yoga period that was marked with the creation of the Upanishads. About 2,000 years are covered in this period, which lasted until the 2nd century A.D. There are many forms of pre-classical yoga. Still, most of the early yoga in this period was associated with Vedic yoga.
The teachings of the Vedas were explained in the Upanishads along with three disciplines – the final truth (Brahman), the intellectual self (atman), and the connection between the two – and so yoga came with the Upanishads. The Bhagavad-Gîtâ (“Lord’s Song”), an essential sacred book of the Hindus, is one of the most critical yoga scriptures of this period. Also the Râmâyana and the Mahâbhârata (which consists of The Bhagavad-Gita) composed of yoga. Pre-classical yoga consists of many techniques of deep meditation to overcome the body and mind and stay connected to the divine powers to discover the true self.
The yoga of this period is linked to both Hinduism and Buddhism, as Lord Buddha in the sixth century B.C. had begun to teach the importance of meditation.
Yoga Sutra that Patanjali around the 2nd century had written standardized Classical Yoga marks the creation of the classical yoga period. The word sutra means “thread”, and here it means “thread of memory”, in which Patanjali’s students retain the knowledge and wisdom of Patanjali. One hundred ninety-five aphorisms or sutras make the octagonal path of yoga which consists of Yama (ethical values), niyama (personal observance of purity), asanas (physical exercises), pratyahara (preparation for meditation), Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (ecstasy).
Patanjali believed that each individual is composed of matter (Prakriti) and spirit (Purusha). Through yoga, these two can be separated, and the mind is restored to its pure form.
The post-classical period of yoga has focused on the present. It consists of all the yoga schools that emerged after the Patanjali yoga-sutra. Post-classical yoga, unlike classical yoga, focuses on the ultimate unity of everything. Yoga took an exciting turn during this period when the hidden potential of the body was probed. Thus, a system of practices was designed by the masters of yoga to rejuvenate the body. It led to the creation of hatha-yoga, which is an amateur version of today’s yoga.
Modern yoga is believed, to begin with, the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. There, young Swami Vivekananda made a lasting impression on the American public. He then attracted students of yoga and Vedanta. After him, another popular yoga teacher was Paramahansa Yogananda. Now, Swami Ramdev of the Patanjali Yoga Peeth Trust was able to spread yoga to every home in India as well as abroad.
Lakulish Yoga University in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was recently inaugurated by Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It is a self-financed private university that was established by the Surendranagar Life Mission Trust. Three years of degrees will be awarded to students after completion of their studies in Ashtang Yoga, karma, knowledge, Bhakti Yoga, philosophy, psychology, anatomy, Ayurveda and naturopathy.
Yoga is, in fact, an integral part of Indian culture, and changes in it have been observed in every period of history. Therefore, be part of the real India and learn yoga for the improvement of body and soul.