The Creation Story
In the beginning, there was the Self. One day, before there were any days, the Self had a thought: It thought "I." And as soon as it thought "I" it became afraid. Once you have the thought of existence you are also confronted with the concept of nonexistence. But then the Self reasoned, “Since I am the only one that exists, what is there to be afraid of?” Reassured by this thought, the Self noticed that it was lonely.
So the Self grew until it divided into two, man and woman. As soon as the man and the woman separated, they immediately clung together, as male and female do, and out of this first union came the human race.
After a little while, the female Self thought, “This doesn't seem right. He is like my brother, and I am his sister we are from the same, and so we are the same. He should not attempt to possess me." So, the female Self disengaged and ran away. The male Self ran after her. She hid from him by turning herself into a cow, but he found her, became a bull, and from this union, cattle were created. She thought, "Well, this isn't working!" and ran away again. This time she turned herself into a mare. He found her again, became a stallion and from this union horses were created. She ran again and again, changing from one thing to the next but he still found her until finally the Self looked around and thought, "All this came from me, and I am in all of this.”
There are many different creation myths from many different religious and spiritual belief systems. It’s important to remember that the creation story is not meant to be taken literally. It is a myth created to give explanation to a subject that is otherwise unexplainable. In this example the myth serves to answer the question, how can God be all knowing, all seeing and a part of everything?
The Gods and Goddesses we sometimes hear referenced in a yoga class often come from the Hindu Mythology epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Like many myths, they serve to help explain philosophical or moral questions through stories or through what they represent. For example, the Hindu triumvirate consists of three gods: Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Brahma is the creator of the world, Vishnu is the preserver of the world, and Shiva is the Destroyer - in order for it to be recreated. Together they are Generator, Organizer and Destroyer or G.O.D.
The representations of these beings and the moral lessons their stories tell, lend themselves to themes for yoga classes, and so they are found regularly integrated into studio practice.
A Great Civilization is Born
Yoga's rich history begins in India close to 6,000 years ago. There, a civilization was born and flourished along the banks of the two main rivers around which it lays, the Indus and Sarasvati.
The Sarasvati River ran through a region located in Pakistan’s Sindh province. There, the city of Mohenjo-Daro was built, covering an area nearly 620 acres and serving as the home to almost 40,000 people. At its center was the citadel located above the lower residential homes. The citadel had a great bath that may have been used for ceremonies or morning prayers.
The residential buildings were constructed of clay bricks. These multi-story buildings had tile bathroom floors, public restrooms, and advanced sewage systems – for their time. The roads were laid out in a geometrical square grid lined with waste receptacles. It was quite easily the biggest civilization in early antiquity.
The people of this city were skilled merchants mastering woodworking, ceramics, brass, and stonework. They appear to have been very peaceful since minimal weapons have been discovered. It also seems that the construction was done without the use of slave labor but in a cooperative way.
Today, only the Indus River remains. The Sarasvati River dried up around 1900 BC, and archeologists think the civilization moved east towards the now well-known Ganges river. No one knows precisely how or why the Sarasvati dried up. Some believe there must have been some tremendous earthquakes or other geographical shift that redirected or disrupted its flow.
Further south along the coast, another city, Dholavira, also thrived. It had a population of roughly 20,000 and during the monsoon season, the people of Dholavira mastered the flow of the river with damns, channeling it into massive reservoirs that surrounded the city. These massive reservoirs were used throughout the year for drinking, washing, cooking and watering crops. The people of Dholavira eventually took to the ocean navigating over 30,000 miles of coastline as they traded goods with neighboring villages and towns.
Other than the fact that these cities were incredible feats of architecture, engineering, construction, and trade, they are also believed to be the birthplace of the Vedas. The Vedas are the four texts that make up the canon of Hinduism. The Rig Veda makes numerous references to the Sarasvati River and is the first place the word yoga is written, as “yuj.” There have also been clay seals discovered within the cities which appear to depict people seated in the lotus position with legs crossed and arms extended out towards the knees.
There is still much to be learned about these civilizations. The hundreds of images that appear to be a written language have yet to be deciphered, and because so many of the spiritual teachings were passed on in hymnodies (word of mouth), rather than in writing, we don't know much about the details of their lives. While there are many theories, the cause of the decline and ultimate demise of these great cultures after thriving for 500 years is unknown.