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History of Yoga

The history of yoga can be traced back to over 2500 BC.  In India's Indus Valley, ancient stone tablets were found with engravings of yoga postures from that time.  Although these are the first recorded examples of yoga, it is likely that the teaching of yoga pre-dates these as well.

Achieving Harmony with the World

history of yogaIt is thought that ancient yogi's sought to achieve a "oneness" with the natural world.  To do so, they observed the natural world around them, in particularly the animals, birds, and other forms of life.  From these, they developed a series of exercises and postures called asanas, as well as breathing practices.

Different Paths to the same Goal

Although the ancient yoga teachers were all striving for the same goal, they often took paths to achieve it.  Some of the branches of yoga include:

  • Raja Yoga - believes that the mind is the king of the psycho-physical structure and it therefore needs to be cultivated via meditation
  • Karma Yoga - focuses on adherence to duty and unselfish acts as the way to inner peace
  • Jnana Yoga - believes that enlightenment is found through gaining knowledge and wisdom
  • Bhakti Yoga - focuses on achieving enlightenment through selfish acts of devotion
  • Hatha Yoga - this is the kind of yoga that is most often practiced in North America.  It focuses on physical postures to achieve peak mental, spiritual and physical being.

"Soft" Yoga

In North America, yoga was a small movement in the 1960's.  The yoga practice was considered "soft", in that it emphasized mediation, relaxation, and separate, distinct postures.  It was not the high energy, physical workout that is popular today.

"Hard" Yoga

This began to change in the 1980's as a harder form of yoga called ashtanga started gaining popularity. 
Ashtanga emphasizes physical postures first and foremost in order to build strength and muscle tone, as well as vitality and endurance.  It is much more of a workout than the softer variety, as it increases the circulation, raises body heat, and gets the heart and lungs working.

When most people think of Yoga today, they are thinking of a form of ashtanga yoga.

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