Yoga has always been around. There is no real beginning for the history of yoga. (In India) people have always wondered why they were on earth, where life was about. They always have been on spiritual a quest.
Historical evidences of yoga were seen up to 4500 B.C and are found in the Vedas, the old sacred scriptures of Hinduism. After the period of the Vedas, a great sage Maharshi Patanjali systematized yoga, its meaning and its related knowledge through his (Patanjala) yoga sutras. He wrote two more books: Mahābhāṣya, an advanced treatise on Sanskrit grammar and a book on Ayurveda. Patañjali’s is said to have lived between 500 B.C and 200 B.C.After Patanjali, many sages contributed greatly to the field through their practices and literatures.
Roughly yoga is divided in three periods:
- Pre – Patanjali Period: [Before 250 B.C]
- Patanjali period: [250 BC to 800 A.C]
- Post Patanjali Period: [800 A.C onwards]
The time up to the Patanjali period is considered as pre Patanjali period. The main sources for yoga in those days are the Vedas, Upanishads, teaching of Buddha, Jainism (Indian religion) and Puranas (ancient Hindu texts).
In the Vedas there is no direct explanation of the word yoga, but the word dhira (self-realized) is mentioned in all Vedas. Asana, pranayama, the mudras, meditation techniques and yama and nyama are explained, but the asanas that are explained in Vedas are mainly for the purpose of meditation. The Vedas also explain the ultimate aim of this all:to attain Moksa (liberation).
After Patanjali’s dead a lot of great yogi’s gave their vision on his sutra’s. Among them sages like Osho and Iyengar.
During the English colonisation of India yoga almost got extincted. The English looked down on it, considered it as some inferior Indian relation and try to ban it. ‘Yoga’ survived, but was practised almost secretly and the common knowledge of it almost died out.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888 – 28 February 1989) brought yoga ‘back to life’. He is seen as the thriving force behind modern yoga. While under the patronage of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, Krishnamacharya traveled around India giving lectures and demonstrations to promote yoga. He is also the architect of vinyasa flow, because he was the first to combining breathing with movement in this way. In India he is mainly seen as a healer who used his knowledge of ayurveda and yoga to help his patients get better again.
The colonisation of India by the English had another effect. Indians (Indian yogis) started to look outside of their country to be able to practice yoga and by travelling to ‘the west’ they started spreading the yoga message. Among them Swami Vivekananda, who left India in 1893. and gave his first speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago; promoting Hinduism and yoga. He would be followed by many, many more great yogi’s, like B.K.S. Iyengar; named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Nowadays India is proud on its yoga background again. As of November 2014 India has a ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH). Shripad Naik was the first minister in charge of this department. Indians Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly called for greater use of India’s health remedies and exercises and pushed Indians to promote traditional learning. During his first address at the United Nations Modi encouraged more people to take up yoga and called for an International Yoga Day.