Today, people all over the world are discovering the myriad of benefits that yoga classes can provide, however most don’t know the history of this unique practice. Aside from its physical benefits, yoga is known as an ancient path to spiritual growth, and originated from India. While some people are away of its ancient roots, we’re here to give you the history of this widely used practice.
The Ancient Roots of Yoga
While historians aren’t entirely sure when the practice of yoga first appeared, the term “yoga” has been discovered in some of ancient India’s earliest known scripts. Known as the Vedas, these scripts date all the way back to the Vedic period, which began in 1500 BCE. The Vedas were composed in Vedic Sanskrit, and they are the oldest writings of Hinduism and Sanskrit literature.
3rd Century, BCE
Throughout the 3rd century BCE, the term “yoga” became more and more popular in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist writings. In Mahayana Buddhism, the notion of yoga as a spiritual or meditative practice was referred to as Yogachara. Yogachara involved eight steps of meditation that were known as “insight.”
5th Century, AD
Around the 5th century, yoga became a more established core idea among Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. These ancient versions of yoga were mostly considered spiritual practices, which revolved around several different core values. The first value involved analyzing one’s own perception and cognitive state, understanding the root of suffering and using methods of meditation to solve it. During yoga, the mind was expected to “transcend” bodily pain or suffering in order to reach a higher level of being. The second value aimed to uplift or broaden a person’s state of consciousness, while the third value involved using yoga as a path to transcendence. The fourth value was using yoga to enter other bodies and act in a supernatural manner, which is perhaps the most strange and mythical of them all.
The Medieval Practice of Yoga
Throughout the medieval era, different schools of yoga began to emerge. During this time, Bhakti yoga became a popular practice among Hindus. Yoga served as a way to focus on living life through love and devotion towards God. Tantra yoga was also another type of yoga that arrived around the 5th century, which was often exhibited in medieval Buddhist. Interestingly, Westerners today usually associated tantra with a sexual form of yoga, and as it turns out, they aren’t too far off. Many tantric beliefs revolve around yogis having sexual relations with low-caste women whom were believed to be yoginis, or women who embodied a tantric goddess. Yoigs believed that when they had sex with these women, it could transcend them to a new level of consciousness.
During the mid-19th century, yoga came to the attention of the Westerners, who were intrigued by the Indian culture. Many people attribute yoga’s popularity in the west to a man named Swami Vivekananda. He was a Hindu monk who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s, where he spread knowledge about Hinduism to people all over. Vivekananda was also responsible for bringing the Yoga Sutras into light. These were the writings of Patanjali, which were written around 400 AD to describe the yogic traditions at the time. The Yoga Sutras focused primarily on removing all excess thought from the mind and focusing on a singular thing.
The 20th Century
Hatha yoga didn’t become commonplace in the United States until the 1930s and 1940s. Yoga finally reached its peak in the 1960s, when Hindu spirituality became popular among young Americans. Many Indian teachers of yoga began teaching classes in the United States, and yoga became even more popular around 1980, due to the variety of health benefits being reported. This was the very first time that yoga was seen for purely physical benefits and as an activity that could improve your heart health and overall fitness.
As you can see, yoga has evolved quiet rapidly to become a favorite form of physical exercise and meditation throughout the United States. If you’re shopping for a new yoga mat online, be sure to check out the YoYo Fitness Mat online. With a simple snap of one end, this unique yoga mat can roll up all by itself, simplifying your life and your practice.