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History of Yoga!
Although there has been more than a century spent on the origin of Yoga, we are still not sure about the earlier beginning of Yoga. However, we do know that the history of Yoga originates from India, and it was started more than 5000 or even several years earlier. There was a discrepancy among western schools about the origin of Yoga as they thought Yoga originated a lot later, around 500 B.C.
This was the period when Gautama Buddha lived who was the founder of Buddhism. During the 1920s, the archeologists sprung a surprise by the discovery of Indus civilization. This culture existed over an area of around three lac miles.
This was the largest civilization in the period. From the ruins of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, there were depictions found engraved over soapstone seals, which resembled yogi-like figures. Other discoveries showed continuity between this civilization and the Hindu culture and society.
Yoga and Indus Saraswati Civilization
You will find very few things primitive about what is called Indus-Saraswati civilization these days. This civilization got its name from the two great rivers that flowed through Northern India at the time. Nowadays, only the Indus River flows through northern Pakistan. The urban population of this civilization enjoyed multi-story buildings, a sewage system that was unparalleled among the ancient period until the arrival of the Roman Empire. Even though just a few pieces of the art managed to survive over the years, these existing artifacts display exquisite craftsmanship.
It was believed for a long time that this magnificent civilization was destroyed by invaders from Northwest called Aryans. Arya means “noble” in Sanskrit. Many people proposed that these nomads were responsible for inventing Yoga, while others believe it was the Indus civilization was responsible for its creation. Some people think that it was a joint effort to create Yoga.
The Saraswati River dried up around 1900 B.C., and it had far-reaching consequences. It was an occurrence in proportion to that of Mississippi river waters drying out rather than flooding continuously. What is the significance of this to Yoga? Saraswati River is one of the more celebrated rivers from Rug-Veda. Rug-Veda is probably the oldest known text in any of the Indo-European languages. It is composed in the Sanskrit language. Sanskrit was used for writing Yoga scriptures.
These are clear indications that Yoga is a product of a sophisticated civilization. This civilization was unparalleled in the ancient world. If you are a yoga practitioner, you are a part of an honorable and ancient tradition. Indian culture is one of the oldest ones in the world. The problems facing it at the moment should not blind us from its glorious past. The yoga practitioners can especially benefit from India’s way of experimenting with life, especially their ways of exploring the mysteries surrounding the working of the mind.
The History of Yoga
Four distinct categories are dividing the Yoga viz,
These various categories can be termed as static snapshots of things that are in constant motion. It is a march of history.
1. Vedic Yoga.
1. Vedic Yoga: Different yogic teachings can be found in the Rug-Veda and the three other ancient hymn bodies, and they are termed as Vedic Yoga. Veda refers to knowledge. The Vedic Yoga, which is also referred to as archaic Yoga, was connected intimately with the ritual lives of Indians living in ancient times. This kind of Yoga revolved around the idea of sacrifice that was considered as a way of joining the world of spirit with the material world.
For performing the exact rituals well the person making the sacrifice was required to concentrate his or her mind for an extended period. This inner focusing on the reason for transcending the limitations of ordinary minds is the root of Yoga. The Vedic yogi is graced with a vision if he is successful, which can be termed as the experience of transcendental reality.
The master of Vedic Yoga is called a Rishi in Sanskrit, meaning a seer. It is believed that these seers can visualize the fabric if the existence and their hymns speak of their great intuitions, which inspire us.
2. Pre-classical Yoga.
2. Pre-classical Yoga: The category includes an extensive period of around 2000 years, roughly until 200 A.D. The pre-classical Yoga comes in several guises and forms. The earlier manifestations of pre-classical Yoga were closely associated with the sacrificial culture of the Vedas developed in Aranyakas and Brahmanas. , Out of which Brahmanas are Sanskrit texts that explain Vedic hymns and related rituals.
The Aranyakas, on the other hand, are ritual texts that are specific to the people that chose to live in the jungles close to seclusion. Yoga comes into its own in the Upanishads, which is a gnostic text teaching about the ultimate unity of everything. One of the more remarkable Yoga scripture is Bhagavad Gita. The present form of Bhagavad Gita was composed of around 500 B.C. It has been a daily source of inspiration for lacs of Hindus.
3. Classical Yoga.
3. Classical Yoga: This kind of Yoga applies to the eightfold Yoga, also known as Raja Toga. Patanjali teaches it in their Yoga-Sutra. The Sanskrit text in classical Yoga is composed of slightly less than 200 aphoristic statements. These statements were commented on over and over again for centuries. All serious Yoga students stumble upon this and have to understand its precise statements.
The Yoga-Sutra was written around 200 A.D. in all probability. There is also a commentary available on it called Yoga-Bhashya, which was created by Vyasa. This was developed in the 5th century A.D. and furnished a fundamental explanation of the cryptic statements of Patanjali. Not much is known about either Patanjali or Vyasa. Patanjali, by the way, is termed as the father of Yoga.
4. Post-classical Yoga.
4. Post-classical Yoga: It is another pretty comprehensive category that takes into account several kinds of Yoga schools that have come up after the times of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. The post-classical Yoga, in contrast to the classical version, affirms the ultimate unity of all things. These are core teachings of Vedanta that are a philosophical system, and it is based on the Upanishad teachings. We can find some great adaptations of Yoga in this period a few centuries after the end of the Patanjali era.
These probe the hidden potential inside the body while the prior generations did not pay specific attention to the functioning of the bodies. The new breed of Yoga masters developed practices that were designed to rejuvenate the body and increase its life. The body was treated as the immortal spirit and not a container to be discarded at the first opportunity. Several advanced Yoga techniques were developed to energize the body.
All this led to the creation of Hatha-Yoga, which is the version popularly practiced throughout the world today. Several branches of Tantra-Yoga were also developed during the period, and Hatha-Yoga is one of the approaches practiced by these schools.
The modern Yoga history began at the Parliament of Religions, which was held at Chicago in 1893. Several modern yogis arrived in America for the event. It was at this conference that Swami Vivekananda, who was an ardent disciple of Saint Ramakrishna, made an unforgettable impression on the people of America. He began addressing the gathering with words “Brothers and Sisters of America.” He captured the hearts of millions of people with those words and attracted several students to Vedanta and Yoga.
The next popular Yoga teacher after Swami Vivekananda was Paramahansa Yogananda. He arrived in Boston, the U.S. in 1920 and established a self-realization fellowship in the city of Los Angeles. He died in 1952 but still has a worldwide following. He was also responsible for writing the famous book “Autobiography of a Yogi.” All his teachings are popularly referred to as yogoda teachings.
A formal journalist and editor, Paul Brunton, was responsible for introducing Ramana Maharishi to the Western world. Brunton had also written a famous book called “A Search in Secret India.” Another person who attracted Western minds by his philosophy was Jiddu Krishnamurthy, who worked through the 1930s till his death in 1986. He also has several followers around the world. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was responsible for introducing Transcendental Meditation to the West in the 1960s. He was also associated with the famous band The Beatles.
Srila Prabhupada came to the U.S. in 1965 and founded ISKON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness). His movement was based on Bhakti Yoga meaning Yoga of Devotion. Another popular Yoga guru was Swami Sivananda, who served as a doctor in Malaysia and was responsible for opening several Yoga centers in America and Europe. He also wrote many books on Philosophy and Yoga. One of his famous disciples was Swami Vishnudevananda, who wrote “Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga.”
Many other masters were responsible for the spread of modern Yoga around the world, such as Swami Sivananda Radha, Swami Chidananda, Swami Satyananda, and Swami Satchidananda. One of the more popular and albeit controversial guru was Bhagwan Rajneesh, also known as Osho. He was active during the 1970s and 1980s. Another great was Sri Krishnamacharya, who taught Viniyoga Hatha Yoga. His son continues the tradition even today.
Significance of Yoga in Our Daily Lives
Remember, Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of living that is aimed at having a healthy body and a healthy mind. Humans are mental, physical, and spiritual beings. Yoga helps in promoting a balanced development for all these three types. Other kinds of exercises, such as aerobics, just assure physical wellbeing. They do not contribute to the development of astral or spiritual bodies. Yoga can recharge your body with cosmic energies and also facilitates,
- It improved personal power.
- Improved focus, attention, and concentration. This is significant for children.
- Better relationships.
- Removal of negative blocks from your mind and removal of toxins created in the body.
- Living with better awareness.
- Reduction in stress and tension in the body by the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
The Yoga practitioner feels energized and rejuvenated after completing the sessions. The Yoga will empower you with the capabilities of controlling your body and mind.
Benefits of Yoga
Practicing Yoga regularly can provide several mental and physical health benefits. However, learn about the different kinds of Yoga and how they are used as a tool for keeping you healthy. Yoga focusses on the natural tendency of your body to heal and maintain good health. The main purpose of practicing Yoga is building awareness, strength, and harmony in your body and mind. Although there are more than 100 different kinds of Yoga schools, most sessions conducted in them include meditation, breathing exercises, and assuming postures. These postures are called poses or asanas, and they flex or stretch different muscle groups. Yoga is a great tool to stay healthy as it is based on self-healing.
As there are several kinds of Yoga practices, anyone can start with them. Whether you are an athlete or a couched potato in terms of your size, it does not matter. There are modifications available for all Yoga poses, and beginners can find suitable routines easily. The idea with Yoga is to explore yourself and not to strive for excellence. It is a fantastic way of getting attuned to your body and mind.
There are many relaxation techniques incorporated in Yoga, and they can reduce chronic pain associated with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back, and headaches. It can also lower blood pressure and insomnia. Other physical benefits associated with Yoga are,
- Raised muscle strength and better toning.
- A balanced metabolism.
- Circulatory and cardio health.
- Protection from possible injuries.
- Better athletic performance.
- Weight reduction.
- Raised energy levels, vitality and respiration.
- Greater flexibility.
Apart from these physical benefits, one of the better advantages of Yoga is how it helps people manage stress. Stress has a devastating effect on your body and mind. Stress can appear in several ways, such as neck or back pain, sleeping disorders, drug abuse, headache, and an incapability to focus. Yoga is extremely effective for developing coping skills and acquiring a more positive outlook on life.
The incorporation of deep breathing and meditation in the Yoga routine helps improve the mental wellbeing of a person. Performing regular Yoga practices can create clarity in thought procedure and also brings an air of calmness. It also raises body awareness, relaxes the mind, sharpens your concentration, centers attention, and relieves chronic stress patterns. The rise in self-awareness is particularly beneficial because it leads to early detection of potential physical issues in the body and also paves the way for quick preventive actions.
How often should you practice Yoga?
So, how many times a week do you need to safely practice Yoga? The answer is, you know your body the best. However, as a rule of thumb, the healthy number for practicing Yoga is normally 3 to 5 times every week. It provides sufficient time for taking the rest. Rest is important for everyone to recover, become stronger, and maintain your health. It is alright to take the whole week off from time to time as you will feel stronger coming back from the rest at many levels. You can find several people who practice Yoga for 6 or 7 days weekly and do it without issues. There are others as well who do it just twice weekly. What it boils down to is, what is your reason for practicing Yoga?
If you are performing Yoga to burn the few excess calories or for getting physically stronger, then better options are running and lifting weights. Several people join Yoga classes to get a workout. It is a good start, but, the physical benefits of Yoga are just the fringe benefits. They are like an additional lip balm you got when you purchased a bottle of sunscreen. Rather than providing an exterior benefit, the Yoga is responsible for providing inner work.
Can you get injured while practicing Yoga?
The truth is people do get injured while practicing Yoga. It happens all the time. RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury can happen anytime when you are performing repetitive tasks such as the asanas in Yoga over and over. There are other names for RSI, such as Repetitive Stress Injuries, Overuse Syndrome, and Cumulative Trauma Disorders, just to name a few.
The obvious and the most effective treatment for the RSI is rest or strengthening exercises. The reason behind bringing up this topic is that we are used to “Go hard at it”, “Give it a 100%”, and “there is no gain without pain” teachings. So if you practice strenuously every day, you can pretty much expect to take a few weeks off now and then because of injuries.
So, what happens if you are unable to practice Yoga just once every week? Of course, you will only benefit from the session, but the effect of the session will not be the same as that of a regular practice. Doing too little is practically the same as doing too much. Here the key is finding the right quantity of practice, which will bring balance to your life.
Remember, this balance is critical much the same as consistency. In the beginning, commit to practicing yoga regularly for about 3 to 5 times weekly and up to 4 to 6 weeks. After this period, evaluate the gains. This will allow you to get into the habit and become physically and mentally stronger.
When can you expect to see the results?
The great thing about Yoga is that you will begin to see the results almost immediately. Some people started feeling at peace with themselves and relaxed even after the first class. However, generally speaking, it takes a bit more time. Some people have changed their bodies completely within a year. The work on your soul and the atman takes a bit longer. You can typically expect to put in some effort in this period.
Although Yoga is treated as a physical practice in Western countries, it was intended to make a connection between your mind, body, and spirit. You are conscious and awake during the practice, and this can help you live a richer and more fulfilling life. The physical practice is only a way of getting inside. In this way, we become conscious of the present, and it brings awareness. Other ways can be used, such as meditation, mantra, and chanting. The significant thing is to get inside and observe yourself.
Once you have begun to feel confident and started getting the benefits of the regular practice, it is easy to forget about the past. Some people have mentioned that they started feeling depressed after giving up the Yoga practice for a few weeks. The calm Yoga afforded was forgotten in the period people got caught up in their work.
For doing justice to the Yoga practice, you must adopt it as your lifestyle. You need to show up for the sessions, connect with others, offer a smile and a kind word, and many times just be present. Yoga practice is about being compassionate, loving, and kind. For many people practicing Yoga is like eating and sleeping. You will get health and happiness from it. It will not only benefit yourself but your community and people you love.
Basis Asanas (Poses) for Yoga Beginners
Here are some basic poses or asanas that will get you started on your Yoga practice.
1. Mountain Pose or Tadasana: This asana teaches you to stand steadily similar to a mountain. Tada means mountain. That’s where the name originates from. It refers to the main group of muscles and improves your concentration and focus. It is done in the beginning before doing other asanas. Stand with both your feet a bit apart and hang your arms by the side near the torso.
Lift and spread your toes gently and also the balls of your feet and then lay them down on the floor softly. Make sure that the balance of your body weight is firmly on the feet. Lift the ankles and firm up the thigh muscles while rotating them inward. Elongate the torso as you inhale and when you exhale, release the shoulder blades away from the head.
Elongate your neck and broaden your collarbone. Your ankles, hips, shoulders, and ears should all be in a single line. You may check your alignment by standing against the wall first. You may also raise the hands and stretch them. Breathe slowly and easily.
2. Tree Pose or Vrikshasana: This asana gives you a sense of being grounded. The asana can improve your balance, and it also strengthens the back and legs. It is like the steady stance of trees. Put your right foot high up on the left thigh. Remember, sole of the feet has to be flat and positioned resolutely. Keep the left legs straight and look for a balance.
While inhaling, the air raise the arms above the head and join the palms together. Ensure that the spine is vertical and take some deep breaths. Exhale slowly bringing your hands down and releasing the right leg. Go back into a standing position and repeat the same process with the other leg.
3. Boat Pose or Naukasana: In the Naukasana, you tighten the stomach muscles and strengthen the upper back and shoulders. The Yoga practitioner feels a sense of stability after performing this asana. Lie down on the mat with both your feet together and hands by the side. Take a deep breath, and as you are exhaling, raise the feet and chest off the ground gently.
Stretch the hands in the way of your feet. The toe, fingers, and eyes will be in a single line. Hold onto the position until you feel the tension in the naval area, and the stomach muscles begin to contract. Go back to the ground as you exhale and relax.
Doing Yoga from Home
There is one major difference in practicing Yoga at a school and at home, and that is at home; there is no teacher. This may prove to be a bit of a challenge because having a teacher in front, showing you exactly what needs to be done is a lot easier than doing it alone. For this reason, you must have a fair idea about what needs to be done while doing various asanas and other sequences.
Coming up with your own Yoga routine appears like a tough task if you are not experienced in practicing Yoga. The best solution to this will be going to the Yoga classes once every month. This will permit you to practice under the guidance of professionals. This will also gradually allow you to develop a routine for practicing at home alone.
A professional instructor can take a close look at what you are doing and will ensure that you have a good grasp of all the poses. If you have already learned the basic poses and other aspects of Yoga get a DVD or a book on Yoga for inspiration. Remember, whether you are in shape or not, you need to start out slowly when you are a beginner. If you begin with the advanced poses, it puts a lot of undue strain on the body. This is also a reason why you must consult a pro if you are planning to practice from home.