Author’s Note: Decades ago when I told people I taught yoga, they would often respond with a blank stare or call it “yogurt.” That never happens to me anymore. Yoga is on its way to not only becoming a household word, but a household practice. In fact, it has become the most widely practiced exercise system in the world.
Those who are confusing yoga with religion would do well to look into the roots of yoga. Yoga has been around for thousands of years longer than any organized religion in that area of the world. And because yoga is intuitive, there is evidence of yoga in three ancient cultures that are not geographically connected to each other!
Excerpt from KISS Guide to Yoga, by Shakta Kaur Khalsa:
What is Yoga?
What once was a totally foreign concept from somewhere “over there” is now offered as a lunchtime class for employees of forward-thinking corporations.
But what is yoga? Let’s take a look at the word itself to get some clues. Then, we’ll backtrack into the past to see where yoga came from, and how it got from there to here – where you are.
Every philosophy, every religion, and every therapy addresses the human need to feel whole. That’s because when you feel whole, you feel happy, with everything finding its place – and its peace. This is where yoga comes in, harmonizing body, mind, and spirit.
A life that incorporates a practice of yoga is a healthy, happy, whole life, as modern as it is ancient. Even better, you don’t have to believe anything in particular, or even give up your own beliefs to practice it, because yoga is just between you and yourself.
Yoga means literally to yoke, to unite, to be whole. It comes from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. The Sanskrit word yug is the great- grandfather, so to speak, of the English word yoke.
Yoga “yokes” all the separate parts of you into an integrated whole. This is why many people say that yoga makes them feel peaceful: you feel at peace when you are not conflicted, when your mind is not tugged in ten different directions, and when your body is relaxed. You may experience what dedicated yoga practitioners confirm; that a peaceful calm seems to emanate from them and transform their relationships with others. People will say, “You seem different somehow. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there.” What they are sensing is your inner peace.
How did Yoga develop?
Thousands of years ago, highly evolved humans created the system of yoga. Through their own personal experience of yoga, this ancient science developed and eventually was passed on from master to student, from generation to generation.
The ancient science of yoga developed in more than one wise old civilization, but under different names, of course. Archaeological discoveries have confirmed forms of yoga in ancient Chinese and Mayan cultures, as well as in India and Tibet.
I may say that yoga developed thousands of years ago, but it could be as much as tens of thousands of years ago. No one really knows the absolute beginning of yoga, but ancient scrolls found in Tibet show evidence of yoga-like postures dating as far back as 40,000 B.C,
Although forms of yoga have been discovered in various cultures, it was along the ancient Indus River that this body/mind/spirit science was first fully developed and preserved.
Yoga’s birth date of somewhere around 3000-1900 B.C. has been confirmed by references in the Rig-Veda, which is the oldest known text in any Indo-European language, parts of it being composed in the third or even fourth millenium B.C. In this ancient text there are many references to the Sarasvati River, which is believed to have dried up around or before 1900 B.C. This means that the Rig-Veda must have been contemporary with the Indus-Sarasvati culture where yoga first developed.
So now, you can do the math….yoga is older than any organized religion that is around today. As for the fascinating evidence of yoga in several cultures? It may be that when one is attuned to what is needed, the body and mind naturally accommodates… and yoga postures and meditation are the natural result of that flow of energy.
Books by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., who did a lifetime of research on the history and practice of yoga.