Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development


Yoga is a special way to help your mind and body feel good and work well together. It’s like an art and science of healthy living. The word ‘Yoga’ comes from an old language and means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’.

People who do yoga believe it makes them feel connected to everything around them. It’s like having a happy balance between our thoughts and our body, and feeling close to nature. Some scientists also think that everything in the world is connected in a special way.

Yoga Its Origin, History And Development
Yoga Its Origin, History and Development

People who do yoga are called yogis. They feel like they’ve found a special kind of freedom from worries. This freedom is called mukti, nirvana, or moksha.

So, yoga helps people understand themselves better and find this special kind of freedom. It’s like finding the best way to live happily and healthy. People have been doing yoga for a very, very long time, even thousands of years ago.

They used to do yoga around 2700 years before now. It helped them be better in their everyday lives and in their hearts too. Being kind and good is a big part of doing yoga.

A Brief History and Development of Yoga:

Yoga has been around for a really, really long time, even before people had different religions or beliefs. They think it started when civilization first began. According to ancient stories about yoga, Shiva was like the very first person to do it. He’s like the first teacher too.

A very long time ago, by a big lake in the Himalayas, a wise teacher named Adiyogi shared his special knowledge with seven special sages. These sages then spread this powerful knowledge to many different parts of the world, like Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and South America. It’s interesting because smart people today have noticed that many old cultures from around the world had similar ideas. But in India, they really made this special way of living called yoga their own. One of those sages, Agastya, traveled all over India and made this way of living an important part of the culture.

Long ago, in ancient India, there were special signs and old remains that showed people doing yoga. They drew pictures of people in yoga poses on stones and other things. Some symbols and statues showed special kinds of yoga called Tantra Yoga.

Yoga was a part of many old traditions in India. People in different groups and beliefs did yoga. It was in stories, poems, and even in how they saw gods and goddesses. Some people had a very old and pure way of doing yoga that was like a secret, special practice in South Asia.

During this time, people did Yoga with a special teacher who showed them how. They thought it was really important for the spirit. They did it as part of their special ceremonies and prayers. They really looked up to the Sun during those days. The way they greet the Sun, called ‘Surya namaskara,’ might have started around this time.

They also did a special breathing exercise every day. It was like giving a special gift to the gods. Even before the Vedic period, people were doing Yoga, but a wise person named Maharshi Patanjali organized and explained it really well in his book called Yoga Sutras. After him, many other wise people and Yoga experts helped make Yoga even better through their teachings and writings. They kept the knowledge alive for future generations.

Yoga has a long history, with evidence of its existence dating back to around 2700 B.C. This knowledge continued to evolve until the time of Patanjali. We learn about early yoga practices and related literature from various ancient sources such as Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis, teachings of Buddhism and Jainism, writings of scholars like Panini, as well as from epics and puranas. These texts provide valuable insights into the development of yoga over the ages.

During the period from 500 BC to 800 AD, known as the Classical period, significant developments took place in the history of Yoga. This era is considered highly productive and influential for Yoga’s growth. Notably, commentaries by Vyasa on texts like the Yoga Sutras and Bhagavad-Gita emerged. This period is closely associated with two prominent religious teachers in India, Mahavir and Buddha. Mahavir introduced the concept of the Five Great Vows (Pancha Mahavrata), while Buddha advocated the Eightfold Path (Ashta Magga), both of which can be seen as early forms of Yoga practice.

The Bhagavad-Gita, a revered text, provided a more detailed explanation of Yoga, introducing concepts like Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga. These three types of Yoga continue to serve as powerful examples of human wisdom, offering methods for finding inner peace. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, in addition to covering various aspects of Yoga, is especially known for outlining the Eightfold Path of Yoga, a central component of his teachings.

During the period between 800 A.D. and 1700 A.D., known as the Post Classical period, significant developments took place in the practice of Yoga. This era saw the emergence of influential teachers like Adi Shankracharya, Ramanujacharya, and Madhavacharya, who made notable contributions. Additionally, figures such as Suradasa, Tulasidasa, Purandardasa, and Mirabai played important roles in advancing Yoga teachings. The Natha Yogis from the Hathayoga Tradition, including Matsyendaranatha, Gorkshanatha, Cauranginatha, Swatmaram Suri, Gheranda, and Shrinivasa Bhatt, were instrumental in popularizing Hatha Yoga practices during this period. This time also saw the publication of a significant commentary on the Yoga Sutras by Vyasa, emphasizing the importance of the mind and its control through Yoga practice for achieving inner balance.

During the Modern period, spanning from 1700 to 1900 A.D., significant figures like Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Vivekananda played crucial roles in the advancement of Raja Yoga. This era saw the flourishing of various yoga practices including Vedanta, Bhakti yoga, Nathayoga, and Hatha-yoga. Important teachings in Hatha-yoga during this time included Shadanga-yoga from Gorakshashatakam, Chaturanga-yoga from Hathayogapradipika, and Saptanga-yoga from Gheranda Samhita.

In today’s world, many people believe in the power of yoga for maintaining and improving health. This belief has spread globally thanks to influential figures like Swami Shivananda, Shri T. Krishnamacharya, and others who have shared their teachings worldwide. These individuals have played a significant role in popularizing yoga internationally.

Addressing and correcting misunderstandings or wrong beliefs.

Yoga is often thought of as just physical postures, known as Hatha Yoga. However, in the Yoga Sutras, only a few passages focus on these postures. Hatha yoga mainly aims to prepare the body to hold more energy. It starts with the body, then involves the breath, the mind, and the inner self. It’s a step-by-step process to enhance one’s overall well-being.

Yoga is often seen as a way to improve both physical and mental health, like a form of therapy or exercise. However, its true purpose goes beyond that. Yoga aims to bring about a deep connection with the universe, aligning our inner selves with the greater cosmos. This alignment leads to an elevated state of awareness and inner peace.

Yoga is not tied to any specific religion or belief system; it’s seen as a tool for inner well-being. It’s accessible to anyone, regardless of their faith, background, or culture. There are various traditional schools of yoga, like Jnana-yoga, Bhakti-yoga, Karma-yoga, and more. Each of these schools has its own unique principles and practices, all aiming for the ultimate goal of yoga.

The passage explains various yogic practices for health and wellness. These practices include Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi/Samyama, Bandhas & Mudras, Shat-karmas, Yukta-ahara, Yukta karma, and Mantra japa. Yama focuses on restraints, while Niyama emphasizes observances, and both are seen as important prerequisites for yoga practices. Asanas involve adopting different body positions to bring stability to both body and mind. These positions enable individuals to maintain a specific posture for an extended period, promoting awareness of one’s physical and mental state.

Pranayama is a practice that involves becoming aware of one’s breathing and then purposefully controlling it. This helps in understanding and gaining control over the mind. Initially, it starts with being mindful of the flow of breath in and out through the nostrils, mouth, and other openings in the body. It also involves understanding how the breath moves internally and externally. As one progresses, it involves regulated and controlled inhalation, leading to an awareness of the space inside the body filling up (puraka), remaining filled (kumbhaka), and then emptying out (rechaka) during controlled exhalation. This practice helps in developing a deeper connection between breath, mind, and body.

Pratyahara means disconnecting your awareness from your senses, allowing you to stay connected with the outside world. Dharana involves focusing your attention inward, often referred to as concentration. Dhyana, or meditation, is a state of deep contemplation with focused attention within your body and mind. Samadhi is the ultimate state of integration.

Bandhas and Mudras are advanced practices linked with pranayama, which involve specific body postures and breath control. They contribute to better control over the mind and support advanced yogic achievements. Shat-karmas, on the other hand, are methods for detoxifying the body, aiming to eliminate accumulated toxins. These procedures have a clinical approach.

Yuktahara emphasizes the importance of consuming the right kind of food and adopting healthy dietary habits for a balanced and healthy life. Nevertheless, the core essence of Yoga Sadhana, or the practice of yoga, lies in the practice of Dhyana, which is meditation. This meditative practice aids in self-realization, ultimately leading to a state of transcendence.

The Fundamentals of Yoga Sadhana

Yoga addresses different aspects of a person – their body, mind, emotions, and energy. This leads to four main types of Yoga: karma yoga, focusing on the body; bhakti yoga, centered on emotions; gyana yoga, involving the mind and intellect; and kriya yoga, harnessing energy.

There are different types of yoga practices, and each person is a unique combination of four factors related to these practices. It emphasizes the importance of having a knowledgeable teacher, or guru, to guide and tailor the practice to the individual’s needs.

In the past, yoga knowledge was passed down within families or by wise individuals, similar to education in religious institutions in the West. It was also taught by seers and wise teachers in special places called Ashramas, which are like monasteries. The goal of yoga education is to nurture and improve the individual, with the belief that a balanced, truthful, and transparent person can benefit themselves and society. This type of education focuses on the person’s inner self and is called ‘Being oriented’. The methods used in this field are collectively known as ‘Yoga’.

In today’s times, there are numerous respected institutions and colleges dedicated to teaching yoga. These include specialized yoga universities, departments within larger universities, as well as naturopathy colleges and privately-run trusts and societies. Moreover, a wide range of facilities like yoga clinics, therapy and training centers, and units focusing on preventive healthcare through yoga have been set up. These can be found in various medical settings such as hospitals, dispensaries, medical institutions, and therapeutic establishments. This reflects the growing recognition of yoga’s importance in promoting physical and mental well-being within the healthcare community.

In India, where Yoga has its roots, there are various customs and traditions that show a deep respect for nature, a willingness to accept different ways of thinking, and a kind and caring attitude towards all living beings. Practicing Yoga in its many forms and styles is seen as a solution for leading a purposeful and fulfilling life. This approach to achieving overall well-being, for oneself and for society as a whole, makes Yoga a valuable practice for people from all walks of life, regardless of their beliefs, backgrounds, or where they come from.


In today’s world, countless people from all corners of the globe have experienced the positive effects of practicing Yoga. This ancient discipline has been carefully passed down and promoted by revered Yoga Masters through the ages. What’s remarkable is that Yoga is not fading away; instead, it is flourishing and becoming even more lively with each passing day. The number of individuals embracing and benefiting from Yoga continues to rise, highlighting its enduring relevance and impact on people’s lives.

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