The Evolution of Yoga: From its Origins to Modern Times
As a practice that spans over 5,000 years, yoga has become invaluable knowledge that has merged with modern practices today. Since its inception, it has been passed down from one generation of practitioners to another, evolving into various forms that cater to different needs and motivations. This article will explore the evolution of yoga, its origins in Shamanism and its connection to Hinduism, Buddhism, Bhakti and Tantra yoga, and its various forms today.
Yoga and Shamanism
Yoga is believed to be an eight-limb structure that originated in Shamanism during the Stone Age. Whereas shamanism was a community-focused practice, yoga is an individual-focused one. However, both practices share spiritual ideals and have the common goal of healing and alleviating human suffering. Both also use the art of consciousness-altering, which is considered sacred in these cultures.
Om Symbol and Its Connection to Yoga
Om is a sacred sound and spiritual icon in Hinduism that is connected to the Ajna chakra (the conscience). One of the supreme gods in Hinduism, Shiva, used to practice it in a lotus pose while chanting Om. This sound has become synonymous with yoga practice, as it is said to bring about peace and balance.
Yoga’s Origins in Ancient India
Yoga was developed during the Indus civilization in northern India over 2,500 years ago. However, its first mention was in the classical Rig Veda, over 5,000 years ago. There are over two hundred scriptures documenting yoga, the Upanishads being the most prominent. As human wisdom grew, various forms of yoga evolved, from Karma yoga to Bhakti, Jnana, and Raja yoga. Yogi’s taught, the expansion of consciousness through the practice of asanas or postures, dhyana or meditation, and eventually, the super conscious state of samadhi.
Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga, and Buddhism
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali was the first systematic presentation of yoga, advocating the eight-limbed path for the avid practitioner. Hatha yoga followed with radical methods to rid the body of toxins and cleanse the spirit and mind. Yoga is also closely related to both Buddhism and Hinduism, with specific yogic postures and meditation practices included in Buddhist traditions. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest scriptures, references the existence of yoga, even before it was written.
Bhakti and Tantra Yoga
Bhakti yoga became popular during the time period 500-1500 AD. It is a spiritual pathway of deep faith and belief. Tantra yoga emerged during the same period, with mentions in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain treatises. During this time, yoga aimed to teach yogis not to pull away from the reality of the world but to instead accept it and include yoga in it.
Yoga has emerged as a means of combating disease, improving health, and removing the stress and tension of modern life. From hot yoga to Lyengar Yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and Power Yoga, many different forms exist, each catering to the needs, requirements, and motivations of the yoga practitioner. The practice of yoga has slowly made its way to the West since the 1800s, with practitioners finding their way to the west. By 1930, it had begun spreading more in the west due to its healthy, Satvic beliefs.
In conclusion, yoga has come a long way since its inception. As a spiritual practice, it has evolved into various forms, each with its unique benefits and practices. Regardless of the form, its primary goal remains to create balance in the body and energy in the mind, leading to the evolution of the soul in its journey towards the Divine.