The roots of Yoga are a little murky, to say the least, it probably has something to do with having been developed around the fifth to sixth centuries. What we do know, however, is that yoga stems from ancient Vedic India, and while its direct descension from Hinduism is hotly debated, its links to the six Āstika schools of Hinduism (those which accept the Vedas as a source of knowledge) is undeniable.
Nevertheless, its trajectory from inception to current day practices can be considered in four eras; pre-classical, classical, post-classical and modern yoga.
During this period, yoga was a jumble of ideals, beliefs, religion, and techniques, which often overlapped and sometimes contradicted. Nevertheless, It is conceded that the first sighting of the word yoga was in the ancient text of the Rig Verda, used by the Brahmans (Vedic priests) the Vedas became a collection of text consisting of songs, mantras, and rituals.
As the Brahmans and others documented their practices and experiences of yoga, yoga itself was slowly refined. Culminating in the development of over 200 scriptures known as the Upanishads. The Upanishads work from traditions of the Vedas and turned them on their head. Internalising the ritual sacrifice, teaching it as the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action, and wisdom.
The most famous Upanishads is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, which is said to have been composed around 500 BC.
The era of classical yoga is where we find the foundations for yoga as we know it. Until now yoga was mismatched and ambiguous. But in approximately 200AD, Patanjali’s wrote his Yoga-Sûtras, which sought to systematically present yoga. Taking the teachings, practices, and rituals of yoga in its physical, mental, religious, and spiritual senses and formulating the 8 Limbs of Yoga.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga are considered the steps and stages that yoga incapsulates on its journey towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment.
- Yama : Universal morality
- Niyama : Personal observances
- Asanas : Body postures
- Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
- Pratyahara : Control of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi : Union with the Divine
In the era after Patanjali, yoga masters started to change the way they thought of yoga. It took many centuries, but after some time they began to reject the teaching of the ancient Vedas. Instead, they sought to embrace the physical body as the means to Samadhi, this change in thinking lead to western yoga principles we today term Hatha.
The original incarnation from these masters was called Tantra Yoga, and it sought to rejuvenate the body, prolong life, cleanse the body and mind, and to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence.
It was in the mid 19th century that the West saw its first arrival of yoga masters from India. The first yogi to actively encourage the dissemination of yoga from India to the West was Swami Vivekananda when he toured Europe and the United States in the 1890's.
It was in the Western acception of yoga that the term became synonymous with the postures or asana and primarily as a form of exercise. There was paranoia and criticism of yoga initially, which ultimately lead to the development of neo-Hinduism schools formed for the western palate.
It wasn't, however, until the second wave of yoga in the West truly shed its connection to the traditional spiritual origins, becoming a purely physical exercise disconnected from esoterical or counter-culture origins.
Today, you can practice yoga on any level or spirituality or fitness pursuits knowing that the health benefits are insurmountable. The American College of Sports Medicine considers yoga to offer "profound mental, physical and spiritual awareness" along with its benefits in flexibility, core strength, and breath control.
At Salt Power Yoga we offer a number of yoga styles, all of which you can take on your own journey of spirituality if your wish. Otherwise, you can simply enjoy the physical and mental benefits of consistent practice.