History of Yoga

The Origins Of Yoga

Chennakesava Temple, Hoysala architectureThe exact origin of yoga is still uncertain however, it has often been widely believed to have been linked to the Indic civilization which stretches back as far as the 7th millennium BCE - (Feurstein, 2003).

Anecdotal accounts of mysterious yogins and of fakirs ‘miracles’ includes reference to ‘baykardjy’ yogins; often described as wondering naked monks, with long hair and nails. The yogins and saddhus, of various sects, contributed to the spiritual unification of India. The ascetic techniques and mystical itineraries do not significantly differ. 

The Indian religious orders were ‘militarised’ during the Middle Ages. British rule suppressed and disarmed this order. Remnants of this era can be detected in some temples with reference to arms and during festivals. In the Kumbh Mela festival for example sannyasis march carrying emblems reminiscent of the arms of military times - (Eliade, 1990:424).

The Term Yoga

The term ‘yoga’ was not utilised until the Upanishads; c.800-600 BCE - (Feurtstein, 2003). 

Historically the term ‘yoga’ refers to ‘ascetic and meditative technique’. 
The techniques reflect the sociological movements of the time, including: 

‘Classic/Yoga-Darsana’, ‘Non-Systematic’, Non-Brahmanic Yoga (Buddhist, Jainist), ‘Mystical’ It is the term yoga that has created the confusion of meaning and interpretation - (Eliade, 1990).

Yoga And Asana Connection

The antiquity of the practice of yoga appears certain. However, the technical term ‘asana’ does not occur in the earliest Upanishads.  It is first mentioned in Svetasvatara Upanisad II:10.  Later it occurs in the Bhagavad Gita, where it has the same meaning as in the Ksurika Upanisad.

The Vedic texts often refer to the yogic posture of the practice and
There is speculation regarding a number of seals found at Mohenjo-Daro, that may represent divinities in the asana position - (Eliade 1990:382)

The 'Indus' Civilisation

Indus Yoga CivilisationArcheologists then went on to amaze the world in the 1920's, when they discovered the civilization known as 'Indus'. This incredible and rather huge civilisation spanned over a vast area the size of Ohio and Texas combined! Upon excavation of the ancient ruins, they found strange stone carvings which greatly resembled 'Yogi' like figures.

The 'Indus' civilisation was extremely modern for it's time and way beyond their years. They built complex multi-story buildings and even highly advanced sewage systems which spanned the entire length of the city. 

They also made use of advanced techniques to produce 'standardised' baked bricks. This made it convenient to not only transport building materials over a large area, but also allowed for the creation of perfectly constructed road systems that made widespread construction and expansion of their empire possible.


The Aryans And The Destruction Of The 'Indus' Civilisation 

It is believed that the remarkable 'Indus' civilasition came to an abrupt end when they were suddenly invaded by a population from the Northwest, known as 'The Aryans'.

It has been widely debated whether is was the war loving 'Aryans' who created Yoga, while some firmly believe that it was in-fact a joint creation between the two civilisations. The fact remains that it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure.