The History of Yoga

Yoga’s history is rich and complex. Many of its philosophies and techniques can be traced back to the ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas.

Legend has it that Parvati couldn’t keep her husband Shiva’s secret yoga art to herself, so she passed the knowledge on to humans. From there, yogic concepts spread around the world.


Yoga was developed in ancient India as a physical, mental and spiritual practice. It was part of several Indian philosophical systems and is now a popular form of physical exercise and stress management. Yoga’s roots may go as far back as 5,000 years in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, with evidence of practice including fossils and seals that show people doing poses, or “asana.”

Early Sanskrit texts such as the Rig Veda (1500 BCE) refer to rituals, mantras and songs while the Upanishads (c. 500 BCE) explore spirituality and meditation. It is thought that the sage Patanjali, who created the Yoga Sutras in 400 C.E, codified yoga into a practice that anyone can follow with the eight-limb path of ethics (yama), discipline (niyama), postures (asana), breath control (pranayama), concentration (dharana) and ultimate absorption or trance (samadhi).

Yoga became more well-known in the late 1800s – mid-1900s with the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Many of today’s styles, such as ashtanga, iyengar, power, vinyasa and restorative yoga, are rooted in these two teachers.


The practice of yoga has developed into many different forms over its long history. While yogis’ beliefs and practices vary, they all share a basic yearning for balance in the body, mind and soul.

The word “yoga” was first recorded in the Rig Veda, which is one of the oldest of Hindu scriptures. It also appears in the Bhagavad-Gita and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Yoga first gained popularity in the West in the nineteenth century when Swami Vivekananda began giving lectures about it. He promoted a spiritual form of yoga, while Krishnamacharya spread the more gymnastic and physical postures of yoga. This is when the yoga we know and love today really began to develop. A plethora of yoga schools with a focus on Hatha Yoga developed in Europe and North America from this point on.


The practice of yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India more than 5,000 years ago. It was slowly refined and enhanced by brahmans and rishis (spiritualist diviners) who archived their practices and convictions in the Rig Veda, an ancient body of sacred texts.

In the early 1900s, Krishnamacharya advanced hatha yoga, focusing on postures that build strength and stamina. He incorporated the physical culture of Western society into this practice, including the popularity of Scandinavian systems stemming from Ling and the [body-building] teachings of Sandow.

Religious teacher Swami Vivekananda did a lot to warm up the West to hatha yoga by explaining its philosophical side when he addressed the Parliament of Religions in 1893. He also founded the Self-Realization Fellowship which still exists today to disseminate meditation techniques.


As yoga has grown and evolved, so too have the styles of classes offered. It can be confusing to know which style is right for you. This guide, by Stepfanie Romine for the Beachbody blog, is a summary of some of the most popular yoga styles.

Vinyasa yoga, also known as “flow yoga” or “vinyasa flow,” is an incredibly popular style. Adapted from the more regimented ashtanga practice a few decades ago, it focuses on linking breath and movement to create a fluid experience that is meditative in nature.

Kundalini yoga utilizes chanting and movements designed to activate your life force energy, or prana, which is tightly coiled at the base of your spine. Practicing this style can elevate your consciousness and help reduce stress and anxiety.


Yoga is a practice that can help individuals maintain healthy physical, intellectual and spiritual health. It can also be used to manage and overcome mood related disorders such as anxiety and depression.

The benefits of yoga are vast and varied. It can strengthen the immune system, increase mental clarity, promote flexibility and improve cardiovascular health. Yoga can also reduce stress and encourage a positive attitude toward life.

The practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years and is continuing to grow in popularity. Understanding the history of yoga can help to give students a deeper appreciation for this ancient practice. It can also help them understand the origins of yoga and how it has evolved over time. This knowledge can enhance their yoga practice and encourage them to continue to grow and learn.