Which country invented yoga and how

Yoga story

Yoga story - Yoga is ancient. Yoga is probably the oldest exercise system in the world that is still practiced today. Dealing with the history of yoga is fascinating and provides insights again and again, also for yoga practice today. In this article you will first get a brief overview of the history of yoga, then a more detailed history of yoga in India, and finally an overview of yoga history in the west.

Yoga history brief overview

Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. The oldest scriptures in India, the Vedas, bear witness to the first yoga practitioners. Between 800 BC and AD 200 the most important classical yoga scriptures such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra were written down. Around 800 AD. described the great master Shankaracharya Vedanta, the philosophy of the absolute. Tantra, based on popular spirituality, flourished between the 6th and 16th centuries. The most important classical Hatha Yoga writings originated between the 8th and 17th centuries AD. Due to the foreign rule of Persian and Central Asian rulers as well as the English colonial power, the practice of yoga was since the 10th / 13th centuries. Century pushed more and more into the background. In the 19th century a renaissance began with yoga masters like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda. Since the 1920s, hatha yoga has been popular in ever new waves in India and the west. And after World War II, yoga masters like Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnu-devananda, Krishnamacharya, B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois known worldwide. Since the year 2000 at the latest, yoga has become a popular global movement. Some estimates assume around 400 million yoga practitioners, 4 million of them in Germany, 25-30 million in the USA (1920).

The stages in the history of yoga

A yogi's autobiography

Roots of Yoga History

Yoga is ancient. The beginnings of yoga history are therefore in the dark. Many thousands of years ago there were rishis in India, that is, seers, masters. They asked themselves: Who am I? What is the world What happens before the birth? What happens after death Is there a higher reality. The Rishis have come into deep meditation through preoccupation with these questions. In meditation you have experienced the depth of your being and the source of your being

Yoga has a tradition that goes back thousands of years. One finds representations of yoga postures from the time of the Indus culture from 5000 years ago. And even in the Vedas, the oldest Indian scriptures, one can also find the basic concepts of yoga and Ayurveda of the Indian health system. Even Hatha Yoga, the yoga of physical exercise, is already described in the Vedas.

Development of Yoga in India

There are several stages in the history of yoga in India:

  • According to mythology, yoga was previously practiced by people from all walks of life - this time is known as the "golden age".
  • In ancient India the important holy scriptures, the Vedas, the Puranas, Mahabharata and Ramayana originated. The basics of yoga are described in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Hatha and Kundalini Yoga have been practiced, but the scriptures only hint at them. Ayurveda has also been practiced and described. Hatha Yoga was integrated into the Ayurveda system as a healing technique.
  • Around 500 BC Through the teachings of Buddha and Mahavira, Buddhism and Jainism emerged. So there was also a renewal of yoga. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali was created as a systematic exposition of the yoga system. Since then there has been yoga in different religions.
  • Since the birth of Christ there have been large yoga and Ayurveda study centers in large cities like Varanasi, which are comparable to universities. Shankaracharya taught around 800 AD, renewed the yoga teachings and made "Advaita Vedanta", the doctrine of oneness, popular.
  • In the Indian Middle Ages, various Islamized steppe peoples conquered India. The great yoga and Ayurveda universities were closed, yoga and Ayurveda had to withdraw into the monastic orders and family traditions. The important Hatha Yoga scriptures such as B. the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The Mughal rulers led India to cultural and economic prosperity in the 16th century. Around AD 1600, India was probably the country with the highest national income and standard of living in the world.
  • In the 17th century the English conquered India. India became the "Crown of the British Empire". The English used India as a raw material supplier for cotton and tea and as the largest sales market for textiles. India became the basis for the industrialization of England. But this also led to the economic decline of India. At the beginning of the 20th century India had gone from being one of the richest to one of the poorest countries on earth. The great Bhakti Yoga schools of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism flourished, Tantra as a "secret tradition" fit into the time of oppression by the English and could develop underground.
  • From the end of the 19th century, great yoga masters such as Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi and Swami Sivananda introduced the modern renaissance of yoga.
  • India gained independence in 1947. New Ayurveda universities were opened. Large yoga ashrams emerged. The first systematic yoga teacher training courses are developed.
  • Yoga has been gaining popularity in India since the 1990s - while India is experiencing major economic, cultural and social changes at the same time. In many Indian states, yoga is becoming part of the school curriculum.

How yoga came to the west

India, Persia, the Mediterranean region and the Roman and Hellenistic cultures were in lively exchange through the great trade routes (e.g. southern Silk Road). The term “therapist” probably comes from the Indian “Theravadi”, the one with the right knowledge. Greco-Roman medicine and the teaching of "juices" (humores) were strongly influenced by Ayurveda. Buddhist missionaries stayed in the Mediterranean and influenced the Greek mystery cults. Legends about the trips to India by Pythagoras, Jesus and the apostle Thomas were in circulation.

In the 18th century there was a first fascination with India in Europe, especially in Germany: Schelling translated the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads enjoyed greater popularity, Goethe was a particular lover of Indian culture. It is likely that German Romanticism was particularly inspired by dealing with Indian culture. This fascination for India of the great German intellectuals like Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Hermann Hesse continued in the 19th and 20th centuries.

At the end of the 19th century, the Theosophical Society also brought yoga techniques and exercises to the West. Different types of yoga meditation, Raja yoga techniques, breathing exercises, vegetarianism and others. enjoyed growing popularity.

Boris Sakharov opened his first yoga school in Berlin in the 1930s. Swami Sivananda's writings also inspired many people in Germany to practice yoga.

After World War II, yoga became increasingly popular in several waves. Some yoga centers opened in the 1950s and many Europeans spent time in Indian ashrams. In particular, Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda, who worked with him, encouraged these Europeans to pass on the knowledge in Europe. Swami Vishnu-devananda himself moved to America and Canada in 1957, wrote the bestseller “The Great Illustrated Yoga Book”, conceived the first systematic yoga teacher training in the West and helped a great yoga wave to break through in America. Yoga became popular in Germany through the television series by Karin Zebroff and many yoga courses in adult education centers. The first professional yoga associations such as the Association of Yoga Teachers (BDY) and the German Yoga Society (DYG) were founded.

At the end of the 1960s, yoga in German-speaking countries was combined with the culture of the 68s. Many young people made pilgrimages to the Indian ashrams. Some gurus got a large following in the west.

With the esoteric wave at the beginning of the 80s, yoga received a new impetus. Scientific research into yoga was also intensified.

In the 90s, yoga became an important part of society. Scientific studies have proven the effectiveness of yoga. The health insurance companies encourage attending yoga courses as part of health promotion ("primary prevention"). The major yoga associations BDY, Yoga Vidya and others developed systematic yoga teacher training. Children's yoga, pregnancy yoga, back yoga and other specialties of yoga emerged. Various yoga styles came to Germany from India and America, Yoga Vidya as an independent style became popular in Germany.

Yoga history in tabular form: chronology

  • approx. 4500-1800 BC. Indus culture, main localities Harappa and Mojendro Daro with representation of yoga symbols (asanas such as lotus seat, yantras). According to classical Indian chronology, the time of the Vedas and the Rishis and thus the systematic transmission of yoga
  • Approx. 1500-700 BC According to western Indology, the time of the immigration of the Indo-Europeans to northern India. Origin of the Vedas and Upanishads and thus the oldest yoga scriptures, especially Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge
  • Approx. 800 BC Chr. - 200 AD. According to western Indology, the most diverse time for the development of yoga:
    • Writing down the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, basics of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of worship. The most important part of the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita, the basis of integral or holistic yoga: connection of Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga.
    • Writing down the sutras, the basis of the philosophical yoga systems. The most important sutra is the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the basis of Raja Yoga, psychological yoga, yoga of [meditation] and self-control.
    • Origin of the Smritis, the books of the law, the basis of the teaching of karma.
    • Writing down the Puranas and thus the beginning of the three main lines of what is now known as Hinduism: Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Shaktism. Basics in particular of Bhakti Yoga.
    • 5th century BC: Siddharta Gautama Buddha.
    • Beginning of yoga history in the West: Alexander the Great and Greek philosophers come into contact with yogis and call them Gymnosophoi or Gymnosophists. Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and Cynics are influenced by Indian yogis and the Greco-Roman and Indian spiritual worlds are in exchange. Early Christianity is also influenced by the teachings of the Indian yogis
  • Approx. AD 200-AD 900.

- to be continued-