Concept introduction

The History of Yoga.pdf

2500 BCE

  • Clay seals of the Indus Valley civilization show images of figures sitting with their feet tucked beneath the torso similar to a lotus position. Some scholars consider these the earliest known precursors of yoga. 


  • Vedas (knowledge or wisdom)
  • Body of four sacred texts that are the scriptures of the canon of Hinduism
  • “yuj” which means “yoke” is first seen in the Rg (pronounced rig) Veda. This is the first known use of the modern-day word yoga
  • The four texts were regarded as sacred revelations by rishis, holy people, which consist of thousands of hymns and chants designed to bring good fortune to those who invoked them


  • Brahmanas & Aranyakas
  • The Brahmanas were works expounding Vedic sacrificial rituals for the priesthood
  • The Aranyakas were “forest teachings” a ritual text for the ascetic forest dweller


  • Upanishads (upa – approach, ni – near, shad – to sit: To sit nearby)
  • Took the Vedas a step further and began to ask the deeper questions about the meaning of a spiritual life
  • Invited students to come sit by their teacher and memorize the wisdom passed down to them
  • Asked not only how does the universe work, but why does it work the way it does, what is its nature and what is my place in it?
  • Knowledge of Chakras emerges
  • Concepts of reincarnation and karma are introduced
  • Four Pivotal concepts
  1. The ultimate reality of the universe is absolutely identical with our innermost nature
  2. Only the realization of this can liberate one from suffering and necessity of birth, life and death
  3. One’s thoughts and actions determine one’s destiny. You become what you identify with
  4. Unless one is liberated and achieves formless existence as a result of wisdom, one is reborn


  • Bhagavad Gita
  • A conversation between the incarnate God Krishna and his pupil Prince Arjuna on the battlefield
  • Considered the bible of Karma Yoga
  • Introduced the idea that the life of the world and the spiritual life should be cultivated simultaneously


  • Period of the Greek Empire
  • 438 BCE Athens dedicates the Parthenon


  • Start of the Roman Empire                                                      BCE



300 CE

  • Yoga Sutras (su – thread, tra- transcend: wisdom threaded together in order to transcend)
  • Patanjali considered by many the founding father of classic yoga
  • Consists of 195 aphorisms or sentences of yoga wisdom that can be easily committed to memory

Divided into four chapters:

  1. Samādhipāda – what is yoga and how is it attained
  2. Sādhanapāda – the practices for attaining the goal of yoga
  3. Vibhutipāda – Abilities gained on the path of yoga
  4. Kaivalyapāda – The final stages of attaining the goal
  • 8 limbs of yoga (discussed in more detail later)


  • Tantra emerges
  • Worships female deities, roots its ceremonies in human sexuality, seeks supernatural powers for material gain and cloaks its rites in secrecy.        


  • Gorakhanath, fuses traditions of Tantra and body discipline into Hatha Yoga


  • Hatha Yoga Padapadrika
  • Authored by Svātmarāma, and drew a distinction between Hatha- yoga and Rāja Yoga
  • The union between the Ha (sun/Shiva) energy and the Tha (moon/Shakti) energy through the rise of Kundalini (serpent rising) up the spine
  • “Forceful” yoga placing purification of the body as a means for spiritual liberation at the center


  • Mysore of southern India hires Krishnamacharya to run palace yoga studio.
  • His students include: Patabi Jois, BKS Iyengar and Indra Devi who become some of the most influential teachers in the west.