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Published on December 23rd, 2009 | by admin


A short history of yoga

The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ meaning to ‘yoke’ or ‘harness’. Yoga is believed to be 5,000 years old. Carvings from the Indus Valley Civilization, discovered by archeologist Sir John Marshall, depict a figure that represents a yogi sitting in meditation posture.

A Short History of Yoga

The Vedas are the most ancient sacred texts of India. There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Sanskrit word ‘Veda’ means ‘knowledge, or ‘sacred book’. The Rig Veda is the oldest text. The word yoga has its first mention in this collection of hymns or mantras. The Rig Veda defines yoga as ‘yoking’ or ‘discipline,’ but gives no accompanying systematic practice. Scholars generally agree that the scriptures date back at least 3,500 years. It is one of the worlds oldest religious texts.

The Upanishads are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. The word ‘Upanishad’ is derived from upa (near), ni (down) and the verb shad (to sit). It refers to the ‘sitting down near’ a spiritual teacher (guru) in order to receive instruction. Yoga is mentioned more in the Upanishads.

The Mahabharata and Ramayana are the long epic poems of India. The Mahabharata tells the legends of the Bharatas, a Vedic Aryan group. It is probably the longest epic poem in the world. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad Gita is a philisophical diologue between the god Krishna and Arjuna a great warrior. It is one of the most popular and accessible texts. It’s not exactly clear when the Bhagavad Gita was composed, but western historians assume a date between 500 and 50 BCE. It is one of the greatest spiritual books the world has known.

Patanjali, a philosopher and writer systemized and compiled the already existing ideas and practices into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It’s about 2,000 years old. Sutra means “thread”, each Sutra is the barest thread of meaning upon which a teacher might expand by adding his or her own beads of experience. There are 195 aphorisms (sutras), or words of wisdom which are divided into four sections. The Sutras are the basis for all the various types of meditation and Yoga which exist today. They are the most complete and authoritative work on yoga. Patanjali outlines the eight limbs of yoga:

The eight limbs of yoga are: Yama (ethical disciplines); Niyama (self observation); Asana (posture); Pranayama (breath control); Pratyahara (sense withdrawal); Dharana; (concentration/ focus); Dhyana (meditation); Samadhi (a state of joy or peace/ contemplation) (a perfect flow of attention on something that provides a superconscious experience).

Yama is divided into five moral codes; Ahimsa (non-violence); Satya (truth); Asteya (non-stealing); Brahmacharya (moderation); Aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Niyama is also divided into five codes; Shaucha (purity,cleanliness); Santosha (contentment); Tapas (practice causing change, “heat”) Svandhyaya (study of the self), Isvara Pranidhana (devotion, surrender to a higher force).

In all forms of yoga, the ultimate goal is the attainment of an eternal state of perfect consciousness.

Born in 1888, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya deserves the most recognition for developing the type of physical yoga that the West practice today. Krishnamacharya’s influence can be seen most clearly in the emphasis on asana practice that’s become the zeitgeist of yoga today. His four most famous disciples Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S Iyengar, Indri Devi, and his son, T.K.V. Desikachar have played a massive role in popularizing yoga in the West.


Go to to read an extensive article on T. Krishnamacharya.

Go to for a detailed history of Yoga.

Understand where the Gurus are coming from by reading this article:

“Why Yoga?” 3 GURUS, 48 QUESTIONS


Interviews by R. ALEXANDER MEDIN

Free copy of the article from Namarupa


Krisnamacharya Yoga Film 1938B.K.S. Iyengar 1938 Newsreel Part 1B.K.S Iyengar 1938 Newsreel Part 2



“Always remember, whatsoever I say to you, you can take it in two ways. You can simply take it on my authority, ‘Because I say so, it must be true’ — then you will suffer, then you will not grow. Whatsoever I say, listen to it, try to understand it, implement it in your life, see how it works, and then come to your own conclusions. They may be the same, they may not be. They can never be exactly the same because you have a different personality, a unique being. Whatsoever I am saying is my own. It is bound to be in deep ways rooted in me. You may come to similar conclusions, but they cannot be exactly the same. So my conclusions should not be made your conclusions. You should try to understand me, you should try to learn, but you should not collect knowledge from me, you should not collect conclusions from me. Then your mind-body will grow. OSHO


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