Yoga’s History and the Different Styles of Today

Source: Ezine Articles

By: Marianne Wells

Although the exact origins of yoga are unknown, it is thought to be about 5000 years old. The earliest indication of the practice can be traced to what is now known as Pakistan where stone sculptures of figures in poses and meditation were discovered. The earliest traces of written reference to yoga came about 3500 years ago in the form of the Vedas. The Vedas, also known as the Upanishads, spoke of yoga, sacrifice and ritual. They wrote, “When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the path supreme.” This calm steadiness of the senses is called yoga.

Hundreds of years passed and the Upanishads developed what is now known as the four schools of yoga. The first two schools are Karma Yoga (the path of action of the soul) and Jnana Yoga (yoga of the mind), both of which teach that the Ego or Self must be sacrificed to attain liberation. Karma Yoga is the path of selfless devotion and service. By performing actions with out wanting reward or payment, the Yogi tries to free himself from the seemingly endless wheel of births and deaths. Jnana Yoga is the path of intellectual knowledge and wisdom. This philosophical approach, demands the study of the Upanishads. The last two schools are Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. Bhakti Yoga the path of unconditional love and devotion, includes chanting and prayer which sublimate the emotions and channel them into devotion. Raja Yoga the path of meditation or mental control, is also seen as the scientific or step-by-step approach, hence it is also referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, another name for Raja Yoga, meaning 8-limbed or 8-stepped.

Later came Tantra Yoga, a radical departure from the four schools of yoga. Focusing on the devotional aspects of Bhakti Yoga, Tantra Yoga teaches the union of opposites, showing the ultimate union as that of the Shakti male energy and the Shiva female energy. The emphasis is on the channeling of energy within to discover the evolution of thy self. Hatha, which branched out from Tantra, was interested in the transformation and union of the physical and the subtle bodies to attain enlightenment. The very word Hatha is made up from the Sanskrit syllables “ha” sun and “tha” moon. It was also at this time that Patanjali, the father of modern yoga, wrote his famous “sutras,” which explain how we transform ourselves through yoga practice by following the Eight Steps or Eight Limbs. Patanjali also believed in Kriya Yoga, the art of internally changing into a higher form.

All yoga styles teach contorting, stretching, bending, flexing and deep breathing at the same time. This practice has been around for more than 5000 years and was originally developed from the Hindu philosophy. The word yoga comes from the work yoke, it means to bind or union. Originally, yoga was meant to “find the union of the individual with the divine means.” This can be accomplished with the yoga lifestyle; proper diet, exercise, breathing, posture, and meditation. There’s many reasons why yoga has become so popular. Physically, yoga creates long, lean muscles and promotes serious flexibility. Mentally, yoga works wonders on stress. Spiritually, yoga centers you and bring you closer to the divine. The right style and teacher are different for various people. Studying all styles is recommended to give you an overview of the complete yoga offering of today. Yoga is wonderful for building up the immune system, overall physical health and mental stamina, naturally calming and healing on the body, mind, and soul.

Copyrighted 2008, Marianne Wells LLC, All rights reserved
Marianne Wells, International Yoga Presenter
Specializing in the Yoga Alliance 200 Hour RYT Teacher Training

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