history of yoga
For thousands of years people have practiced yoga. The multitude of yoga styles taught in today’s modern world evolved from varied streams of culture, traditions, places and strains of thought. The history of yoga is not totally clear, but we do know that yoga schools agree on certain ideas, like the idea that human consciousness exists and exploring it brings people immense wisdom and insight into the nature of reality. We also know that yoga improves health and well-being, on multiple levels, for people of all ages.
Over the centuries, from two streams of culture – vedic and non-vedic – yoga emerged. Vedic ideas include reincarnation (human cycle of life), karma (cause and effect) and suffering. In vedic thought, practitioners were ascetic (meaning they separated themselves from society and daily life). This philosophy held through the fifth century in the Indus Valley, early Buddhism and Jainist thinking. Yoga then evolved over thousands of years in India, as well as Tibet and China, in a way that revolutionized it so it was available for everyone. Important influences were The Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali and the Yoga sutras, as well as the Vedantas (non-vedic) that discussed purusha (self) and prakriti (nature), or Brahman (one consciousness) of which we are all a part. It is interesting to note that most yoga before the last century was secret and practiced by men (challenging physical practices were also done by boys).
The real acceleration and popularization of yoga is in the last sixty years or so. In the mid-1900s, teachers from the East, mostly India, traveled mainly to the U.S. as well as Europe to teach yoga to regular people. Although there are many forms of yoga (such as devotion and service), they taught mostly hatha yoga focusing on the physical body. These teachers wanted to share yoga with “householders,” regular people in the every day world who have families, responsibilities, and jobs. They realized that this ancient yogic technology, which enhances well-being and health, could benefit people in the increasingly fast-paced modern world. Since the 1960s and 70s in the U.S., yoga is more and more popular in varied parts of the world.
Now, yoga is mainstream in many places and available for people of all ages. Currently, yoga is regularly practiced by women more then men, and is wonderful for pregnancy. Children’s yoga and baby yoga grew mostly from teachers in the U.S. who started teaching yoga at home to their own children, or in schools where they learned yoga helps children focus and calm down. Yoga and its benefits will continue to evolve and give many gifts to its practitioners. Scientific peer-reviewed research is proving the many benefits of yoga for all ages.
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