A Brief History of Yoga

The History of Yoga cannot fairly be condensed to one page. Here is a very brief introduction to a small part of this ancient tradition.

The Origins of Yoga

The history of yoga can be traced back to India over five thousand years ago. Its roots are found in the Vedic period, approximately 5000 BCE, and specifically in the Rig Veda - the oldest written book in the world.

Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian Philosophy. The actual date of its origin is difficult to pinpoint, but the era from which this knowledge comes from is far less important than the knowledge itself.

The word “yoga” is a Sanskrit term that has many meanings. The word itself is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj - "to yoke or harness."

The Rig-Veda was written in ancient sanskrit

In India, one would bring an ox under control by harnessing it to a wagon. This is a metaphor used to describe the process of yoga. It is a method for training and uniting the body, mind and spirit. It has been practiced over the centuries in many different forms.

Where did Ashtanga Yoga come from?

Traditional Ashtanga Yoga is the name given to a set of practices compiled by the sage Patañjali some time between 200 BCE to 250 CE. Ashtanga Yoga is translated from the Sanskrit language as: Eight Limbs of Yoga.

Very little is known about the sage Patañjali, although he is credited with writing texts on Grammar, Ayurveda, and most importantly for us, Yoga.

Simply put, Ashtanga Yoga Philosophy describes a spiritual discipline or path that promotes harmony within the individual self, and creates connection with a greater universal self, God, or Ultimate Reality.

How is Ashtanga Yoga practiced today?

The popular system of “Ashtanga Yoga” that is widely practiced today, traces its more recent origins back to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois became a student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya in 1927 at the age of 12. Over the next twenty-five years, he learned and mastered the practices passed on to him by his Guru.

Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) believed it was essential for most practitioners to enter the eight limbs of yoga through āsana. The Ashtanga Yoga system of āsana helps to purify the body and the mind, creating an environment suitable for meditation to arise.

Pattabhi Jois passed away in 2009 at the age of 94 at his home in Mysore, South India.