History of Yoga

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Yoga Historical Periods

One way of examining the history of yoga is to divide it into the following five time periods:

  1. Vedic (the Vedas), marked by Vedic Yoga or Archaic Yoga
  2.  Pre-classical/the Upanishads, marked by Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, the six-fold yoga path to liberation, and bhakti yoga or the path of devotion.
  3. Classical, marked by Patanjali, the Father of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras, and Raja yoga
  4. Post-classical, marked by the core teaching of Vedânta (i.e. the oneness of existence, the divinity of the soul, and the harmony of religions), Hatha yoga (asanas, pranayma, and Samadhi or the height of divine consciousness), and Tantra yoga
  5. Modern Day Yoga, wherein yoga has increasingly gained respect and acceptance as a valuable tool for improving health and well-being, for managing stress, and for treating a wide range of ailments and conditions

The Six Branches of Yoga

While yoga today consists of many styles, there were originally six primary systems or branches of yoga outlined by Patanjali, the Father of Yoga. These six main branches are:

  • Raja Yoga, the yoga of self-control
  • Karma Yoga, the path of service
  • Jnana Yoga, the yoga of the mind
  • Bhakti Yoga, devotional yoga
  • Hatha Yoga, the yoga of physical processes
  • Tantra yoga, the yoga of rituals

Yoga History Evolution

The history of yoga unveils a dynamic tradition, transforming from a number of seated poses (yoga asana) to what modern-day yoga has become, a flowing dance between postures. While the evolution of yoga has seen many changes in styles and sequences, the original roots of yoga continue to form the foundation for all later styles and practices. With its rich lineage and constantly evolving nature, the last chapter of the history of yoga is not likely to be written anytime soon.