Yoga is a form of exercise that involves physical, mental, and spiritual practices. It has numerous benefits for physical and mental health while allowing you to connect with your inner self. Practicing Yoga can improve your quality of life and make you healthier. How did yoga come to be? Is it different from what we practice today? What is the history of yoga?

It consists of postures, meditation, and breathing exercises to strengthen the body, improve mental health, and offer spiritual relaxation. While the practice has been around since ancient times, not many people know the history of Yoga. Read on to learn how Yoga began and how it evolved.

Origin and Evolution

The term yoga originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj,’ which means to unite. Yoga emphasizes the union of your outer self with your inner self. The Patanjali definition of Yoga describes it as controlling modifications of the mind.

Asanas and meditation, the basic concepts of Yoga, trace back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Since that time, Yoga has undergone different modifications to become what it is today. It went through the following periods to become a practice that involves postures, poses, breath-work, meditation, and even chanting.

Pre-Vedic Period

For a long time, many Western scholars believed that Yoga originated sometime in 500 BC.. This was also the time when Buddhism began. However, recent findings indicate that yoga postures also appear in excavations at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. So, yoga practices may have existed for more than 5000 years!

Vedic Period

The Vedic Period of Yoga refers to when Yoga started to become a ritual practice. People of this time recognized Yoga for its very first benefits of concentration. They transcended the mundane and increased their brain power by practicing yoga poses that do not exist anymore. These rituals closely follow the literal definition of Yoga: the union of the individual self with the supreme self.

Pre-Classical Period

Several ancient books such as the Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, and Upanishads contain various references to yoga practice. The Bhagavad Gita also mentions different forms of Yoga, including Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga. The pre-classical period of Yoga refers to when Yoga was more of a lifestyle than a form of exercise.

Classical Period

The classical period of Yoga is when Patanjali finally brought together 195 sutras or aphorisms into a concise compilation. At this stage, Yoga was seen as Raja Yoga in Patanjali’s perception. This Yoga comprises of eight limbs that are Yama (social conduct), Asana (physical postures), Dhyana (meditation), Pranayama (breathing regulation), Niyama (personal conduct), Samadhi (transcendence), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), and Dharana (focus).

Post-Classical Period

The post-classical period began when Patanjali Yoga followers began practicing Yoga to ‘cleanse’ their minds and body. They started giving more importance to Asanas, Pranayama, and Kriyas as they believed it would completely purify them. This form of Yoga is now known as Hatha Yoga in modern yoga practices.

Modern Period

A historic speech given by Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago mentioned the practice of Yoga. This is the time when Yoga was introduced to the modern world. It then became more prominent when the world recognized the spiritual accomplishments of yogis like Maharishi Mahesh, Ramana Maharishi, Paramahamsa Yogananda, etc. Many nations began to accept Yoga as a beneficial spiritual practice, and it has been very popular ever since then.

Modern Yoga may not be in its original form today, but the concepts and benefits remain the same. Do you practice yoga? Tag us on Instagram with your favorite yoga pose! @FITAID