Yoga, its History & True Philosophy

Written by Andrew Zubriczky.

Yoga's timeline coincides with our own 'cradle of civilization', which began in the Tigris and Euphrates Valley of Mesopotamia, more than 5000 years ago. In Northern India around the same time, a civilization was already developed in the Indus Valley, rich in art, jewellery, and cultural artefacts, including some forms of writing. Agriculturally minded, they specialized in growing wheat and barley.

yoga history

Understandably, over such a long period of time, Yoga has become many things to many people. Some Yoga purists, those that pursue a more spiritual path, are abhorrently repulsed by what Yoga has become today, with celebrities making it "the thing to do".

A few thousand years ago, Yoga needed clarifying. One man took on this mighty mission and spent his whole lifetime in dedicated devotion to the philosophical and spiritual ideals of Yoga, as he interpreted and understood it, at the time. His deep devotion allowed him to perceive with great insight into the mysteries beyond the physical forms, and physical benefits of Yoga.

According to various historical scholars, Pantanjali, considered the "Father of Yoga", was an ever so humble physician, who wandered through-out India somewhere between 200 BC and 200 AD. He was a moral man, compiling and codifying a moral philosophy of life and living.

If he were alive today, he would laugh heartily at all the sights in any Yoga studio. Yoga today, as it is practised, mainly focuses on a fixed number of physical postures, exercises, and breathing techniques. These provide only physical results; although some mental benefits are also attained.

Spiritually speaking, the Yoga of today is far removed from the Yoga of yesterday, as taught by Pantanjali. Putting his passion to words he created what was and is, essentially an ethical template for living a moral and ethical existence.

We know of this today by his work, The Yoga Sutra of Pantanjali, a compendium of 195 sutras he recorded so that people would incorporate his teachings into their lives. Strangely enough, even though this work is considered the fundamental text on Yoga, and he its' father, you will not be able to find one mention of a single posture or asana within it!

He vehemently taught and firmly believed that you cannot practice Yoga, by pressing out a few postures, while breathing deeply. Essentially, to paraphrase him, one cannot go to a Yoga class, and then go home to watch TV, type on your phone, collect your e-mail, or take-out the garbage. To him, Yoga existed to cultivate not just the body and the mind; but also, most importantly, to develop spiritual awareness.

This is the missing link and legacy of Yoga today. The focal point of Pantanjali's teachings focused on the "eightfold path" of Yoga. A spiritual path, that if followed will lead to a spiritual state of enlightenment called Samadhi or absolute bliss.

Somehow, over the past 2000 years, most of us have seemed to miss our bliss-absolute or not! The Yoga of today appears to be more fixated on flattening tummies than it does on attaining spiritual freedom. While Yoga has amazing benefits and adds to a longer life, the true history and philosophy of Yoga is rooted in the spiritual, and not just the physical.

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