The History of Yoga

history of yoga

Yoga is one of the oldest practices in the world. It was originally a secret art taught by Parvati to her lover Brahma and then passed on to the sages or rishis of India.

These early Sanskrit texts like the Vedas and the Upanishads created a road to enlightenment that included philosophy, worship and meditation. Yoga’s modern incarnation as posture-based exercise was influenced by European ideas of health and fitness as well as Indian nationalist ideas of man-making.


Yoga, in its most basic form, is about connecting body, mind, and spirit. It’s a holistic practice that has been around for more than ten thousand years. It is part of several Indian philosophical systems.

The earliest recorded yoga history dates back to the pre-classical era. This period marked the first written records of yoga, as well as development of different schools of yoga.

This era also introduced hatha yoga, which is known for its physical postures or asanas. It was created to prepare the body for meditation and to help a person achieve enlightenment. According to yogic legend, Shiva or Adiyogi gave this knowledge to the legendary Saptarishis on the banks of Lake Kantisarovar in the Himalayas. From there, these sages spread yoga to other parts of the world.


Yoga is a physical and mental practice that originated in ancient India around 5,000 years ago. The term yoga is often used to describe the practice of asana (physical postures) and breath control, but it also includes philosophies, meditation and lifestyle and behavior principles.

It was around the time of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras that yoga developed into a unified system. This is known as the classic yoga or raja yoga and it is still a major influence on most modern styles of yoga.

Yoga became popular in the West at the end of the 19th century thanks to Swami Vivekananda, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and others. These yogis were heavily influenced by European ideas of health, fitness and body culture and created systems like Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga.


While modern yoga has become popular in the West as a physical workout, the discipline of yoga originally meant more than postures and breathing exercises. It was a system of teachings designed to improve all aspects of the self, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Early Sanskrit texts like the Rig Veda and the Upanishads explore yoga as a way to unite human form with divine spirit. Later, the sage Patanjali codified yoga’s philosophy in his Yoga Sutras, which describe an “eight-limbed path” to enlightenment.

As global travel became easier, Indian yoga teachers such as Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and Swami Vivekananda began to spread yoga’s ancient teachings. Their philosophies gave rise to many of today’s most popular yoga styles, including ashtanga, iyengar, vinyasa and power yoga. Yoga’s spiritual side is emphasized in the 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship.


The yoga practice we know and love today has been influenced by a variety of sources. Its development in India during colonialism was heavily influenced by nineteenth century European physical culture, and it also incorporated ideas from Hinduism.

One of the most influential yogic texts was Patanjali’s eight limbs, which created a road to enlightenment. This text is still in use today and has helped shaped many schools of yoga.

The modern era of yoga began in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda introduced it to the West at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. This was in large part due to the popularity of esoteric spirituality and the occult in Western societies at the time. Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society was another important influence and played a major role in the popularity of yoga.


Yoga was originally developed to help people connect with nature and God. It is believed that the first mention of yoga was in one of the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. Over time, this discipline became more refined as the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) documented their beliefs in the Upanishads. This period is known as the pre-classical era of yoga.

The yogic philosophy became popular in the 19th century with a revival thanks to Theosophists like Swami Vivekananda. He sparked interest in the West when he spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Then, Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi came out in 1946 and was read by many yoga students.