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The Origin of Yoga and How it Got to Where It Is Today

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The Origin of Yoga and How it Got to Where It Is Today

Have you ever wondered about how yoga came to exist?

Yoga has gained tremendous popularity not only for its capacity for toning, improving flexibility, and relaxation but also for offering significant spiritual value. Widely practiced in the western world, it’s important to understand yoga’s origin dates back to ancient times in India.

The yoga origin

It is difficult to pinpoint the precise yoga origin because yoga-related archaeological finds date back to approximately 3,000 BC. The findings were stone seals that represented human figures in yoga poses. There were also paintings found in dry leaves and walls of caverns that revealed the practice in early civilizations.

According to Hindu tradition, yoga was manifested on earth when a fish tried to imitate the god Shiva who taught yoga postures to his wife, Parvati. It is said that by emulating them, the fish became human. The full knowledge of the yoga practice is contained in the Vedas, sacred texts that gather the Hindu culture and wisdom. Later, it was addressed in the Upanishads – more than 200 books with philosophical commentaries on the Vedas.

The teachings

The Upanishads spoke of God’s nature, the universe, and meditation. Vedas were written in Sanskrit, revealed to the Rishis, or Vedic seers, and transmitted orally between teachers and disciples. For their part, the Upanishads provide a detailed description of the Vedic teachings, contemplating the three main aspects of life, which are the external universe known as Brahman, the internal world called Atman, and the relationship between the two.

It was the Indian philosopher Patanjali who, thanks to the influence of his family, compiles the precepts of yoga contained in different texts such as the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita, creating the well-known Yoga Sutras in 150 C.E.

In the Yoga Sutras, all the currently known slopes include 196 aphorisms that cover all aspects of human life and codes of conduct that guide the practitioner towards the study of meditation to achieve harmony and balance. This is considered the philosophical center of this discipline.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is considered the most traditional practice of this discipline. It arrived in Europe during the British Indian colonization. Initially, it wasn’t as accepted as it is today. Scientists researched its effects and published articles without generating significant interest. It is said that the practice of the eight limbs of yoga allows the yogi to protect against acts that are dishonest, irrational, unworthy, and contrary to spirituality.

By the end of the 19th century, a Hindu missionary named Vivekananda popularized his practice, and it wasn’t until the 1930’s that this discipline was adopted by the western world primarily motivated by the interest in a healthy lifestyle. 

The way the western culture has adopted yoga differs significantly from its original concept. While the Hindu philosophy recognizes yoga as a channel to the inner world and spiritual growth, in western culture it’s seen as a stimulus to release stress, control anxiety, acquire mindfulness, and stay healthy.

Yoga is more than exercise

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For many people, yoga is a way of life. A way to achieve inner well-being and peace. For those who practice this discipline to renew health and achieve a better lifestyle, yoga can be used as preventive medicine. It can heal and rehabilitate a practitioner as it stimulates the processes of cellular oxygenation acting as an energy healing boost.

Also, yoga is beneficial for our psychological well-being. This discipline can bring peace and serenity, helping us face negative feelings, restlessness, and the irritability generated by a hectic world.

The breath work allows us to reach states of relaxation that clarify our thoughts and senses, allowing us to see events in different ways. Yoga helps us to avoid feelings of anger to achieve harmony and balance.

The benefits of practicing yoga

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Practicing yoga reduces cortisol levels, a neurochemical associated with stress that allows us to stay active and face obstacles, but can also cause illness when its production continuously increases. Yoga is an effective tool for boosting energy and creating a sense of confidence in ourselves. 

Yoga balances the secretion of melatonin and serotonin, hormones responsible for sleep regulation, mood, and appetite, generating a state of balance that allows developing intellectual skills by improving concentration and memory.

By strengthening self-esteem and allowing us to control our thoughts, yoga is recommended for people fighting addictions such as alcohol, tobacco, and substances, as well as other negative behaviors incompatible with a healthy and harmonious life.

Knowing the yoga origin and how it’s morphed to accommodate the current state of living in the world is important to our continued study and understanding of this ancient practice.

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