First instalment of a Brief History of Yoga (BHY) blog series: the Vedic period.
his blog series is not only for the readers of this blog but also for me. I think it's very important to know and respect the roots of yoga if you choose to practice it. Unfortunately only a small fraction of time in most yoga teacher training courses is devoted to studying yoga's complex history, and this fraction only scratches the surface of the thousands of years in which yoga has been practiced.
I think it's high time I did some proper research into yoga's history (as well as yoga's philosophy) and would like to invite you on this exploratory journey with me.
I had no idea to start with this, so I went to the obvious choice: the beginning (?).
No one is really sure when yoga started being practiced. The first evidence of yoga can be traced back to the Vedic Period (roughly 1750-500BCE, although these dates are disputed) in the Indus Valley (northern India). Carvings from this era indicated to historians that yoga may have been practiced. The first written affirmation of yoga's existence appears in the Rig Veda, one of the four canonical texts (called the Vedas) that were written during this time. The yogic practices highlighted in this text are nothing like the yoga we practice in the West today. In fact, according to Mike Singleton, "Modern" asana-based yoga only started to appear in the late 1800s.
The American Institute of Vedic Studies highlights three basic types of Vedic Yoga:
More information on Vedic Yoga can be found here if you're interested in learning more!
Blog image borrowed from sanskrit.org.