I invite you to ask yourself this question while I will take you on a journey: We will revise where Yoga came from and what core principles it is driven by. Be aware that I will include a lot of foreign-sounding Sanskrit terms. The words of the ancient language carry various meanings. I’d like to think that the “real” meaning lies beyond the words. Let us begin with a quote:
To not get caught in someone else’s dream life, it is important to ask yourself, what is it that drives you…And that even accounts for the “good” things. Like your daily 😉 Yoga practice. Many have started Yoga to become fit, or flexible. Some stick with Yoga because that is what they do, because of friends, or because it “feels good”.
And now, when you think about it, it is quite difficult to describe what Yoga really does for you.
Where does Yoga come from?
First traces of what we call Yoga can be found in ancient verses and scriptures of Hindu philosophy that range back to a time from 5000 BC to 2700 BC. There is no exact time because the knowledge was initially only passed down verbally. This was done by using sophisticated mnemonic methods that allow the memorization of all words, and the correct pronunciation, accents and duration (8). That is quite impressive isn’t it?
Around 500-200 BC the Bhagavad Gita – a central scripture of Hinduism – was composed. This scripture summarizes the old knowledge. The Bhagavad Gita tells its story in the form of a dialogue between the young warrior Arjuna and Krishna (an incarnation of the god Vishnu). In this dialogue, they discuss life, spirituality and ethical dilemmas.
Krishna says that “yoga is to perform your duty without attachment to success or failure and maintain [the] evenness of mind”.(3)
Around 200 AD, the sage Patanjali published the Yoga Sutras. A text consisting of 195 verses that give direct instruction on how to practice Yoga. In his second verse, he describes that Yoga is a way of calming the waves of the mind. (3)
The years 500-800 AD describe the classical period during which much of today’s knowledge evolved. Teachers like Buddha spread their teachings throughout Asia. One must know that historically, Buddhism and Yoga have been closely related. Buddha was according to Sharon Gannon a practitioner of Yoga himself – or at least the same (Vedic) philosophies (7). Both Buddhists and Hindus use the word yoga to refer to a spiritual discipline.
They also both recognize that our minds must find stillness and equanimity to become free, to find enlightenment. Buddha said that “the cause of our suffering originates in our minds” and that “Freedom comes when we are free from our wants, our preferences.” (4)
Over the course of the next millennium, more yogic schools came into being. It was only in the mid-19th century when Swami Vivekananda took Yoga to the West that Yoga became so pre-occupied with practising postures. We have seen that Yoga is constantly evolving. I think that when you are looking for knowledge, it is not only found in the past, but also in the present.
So, why was Yoga practised?
“For the ancient yogis of India, yoga was … a path of liberation, a way to reveal the truth about oneself and the world, a vehicle to directly experience the presence of God… Whatever yoga is for you is ok. There is no hierarchy of meaning…Defining the practice for yourself is a crucial step along the journey inward that I believe every yoga practitioner will benefit from.”Kino Mac Gregor
I believe that the more you read on this topic, the closer you will come to your own wholesome understanding of what Yoga means to you. I hope that this blog offered you some interesting reflections. Thank you for reading ’til the end!
Ps.: Please leave a thought in the “comment section” 🙂