The Roots of Yoga

Yoga has been practiced for around 6,000 years and originated in the Indus Valley region situated in Northern India spanning from Afghanistan in the west to Lahore in Pakistan to the north, and down as far as the Arabian Sea in the south. This area is widely believed to be the cradle of civilisation. Yoga is a science which helps to bring balance to the mind, body and spirit. This is achieved by practicing physical postures, meditation practices and leading a balanced lifestyle. The earliest written references are found in Hindu scriptures dating back around 3,500 years. The Vedas describe yoga practices as a means of steadying the mind; other classical texts include the Upanishads which were written around 800-400 BCE, the Baghavad Gita (500 BCE) and the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali which were compiled around 200 BCE. The Sutras, or threads, attempt to apply a systematic principle to yoga practice and provide a structure known as the eight limbs which can be taken to take control over the mind.

These eight limbs are referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, covering:

Yama – five social restraints and ethical values including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, non-greed and abstinence

Niyama – five personal observances including purity, contentment, accepting pain without causing it, spiritual study and surrender

Asana – physical postures (This is where most people generally get into yoga)

  • Pranayama – breath control
  • Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – concentration
  • Dhyana – meditation
  • Samadhi - superconsciousness

 Finally, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written in medieval times in the fifteenth century, and focussed on the use of Asana, Kriya (purification practices), Pranayama, and Mudras and Bandhas which are subtle but powerful energy locks and seals which help to direct and contain Prana, the life force which is within us. Modern yoga focuses on the physical postures and indeed this is where most western yoga classes focus their attention.

By: Swati Kaushal



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