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Origins of Yoga
 









Tradition teaches that Shiva (Lord of Yoga) taught his consort (Parvati) the ancient art and science of yoga. The king of fishes (Matsyendra) overheard these teachings. Later in evolution a part of him took on human form and became the founder of hatha yoga.

The first physical evidence of yoga was found in 1922, during an archeological dig, at Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus valley of India. It included seals of men in yogic postures believed to be dated from around 3,000 B.C.E. The culture which produced these seals and was a goddess centered tradition. In approx. 1,500 B.C.E. Aryan invaders entered the Indus valley bringing with them The Veda (knowledge). These Aryans (Indo-European origins) had an oral tradition by means of which the knowledge was passed from generation to generation. The meeting of these cultures was the basis for the yoga tradition as it evolved. Eventually some practitioners emphasized one and other practitioners the other—making them separate systems.

Vedic tradition derived from very sensitive yogis (rishis) who were able to invert their senses and hear profound wisdom (shruti) which is eternally reverberating in the universe. Eventually the oral tradition which conveyed the Vedic knowledge for generations was written commonly believed to have occurred around 1,400 B.C.E. This wisdom was the basis of the RgVeda (cosmology of the person, gods and “rta” cosmic order is extolled) then derived Yajurveda (sacrificial formulas), Samaveda then Atharvan. By 1000B.C.E these poetic formulas are organized into three further branches: Brahmana (ritual), Aranyaka (“forest texts”, ritual speculation), and from around 800 B.C.E. to 600 B.C.E. Upanishads (contemplative insights) were written.

Around 400 B.C.E. two massive epics were written: The MahaBarata and the Ramayana. Ancient Lore or “Purana” contributed to mythic content and the development in the pantheon of gods. Relationships, portrayals of ideal characters and adversaries explored human values and the concept of Dharma (ordained duty). The most famous portion of the MahaBarata is called the Bhagavad Gita. It is a dialogue between the Principle of Preservation (Vishnu as Lord Krishna) and Arjuna, the righteous warrior. The wisdom contained in this dialogue has been acknowledged by many spiritual traditions throughout the world. During the epic period the concept of tapas (austerities), yoga and asceticism became more important which gave rise to Tantra 400 C.E

The classical presentation of yoga is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written around 100 C.E. It presents eight major limbs of the discipline: 5 yamas means of developing will power: (nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, awareness of the Divine at all times, non-possession); 5 niyamas means of transformation: (internal and external purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, self-surrender); asana (posture); pranayama (breath control); pratyahara (withdrawal of senses); dharana (concentration); dhyana (meditation); samadhi (union with Divine). The Yoga Sutras consist of aphorisms which describe raja yoga (the royal path).

In the ninth through twelfth centuries Tantra enjoyed a major revival in the province of Kashmir. The Muslim invasion put an end to this revival and the practitioners were forced to go underground or migrate to south India. The Sri Vidya (Rajanaka Tantra) dates from the eighth and ninth centuries. It teaches radical affirmation and gift of empowerment. This teaching is expounded by Dr. Douglas Brooks.

Around 1350 C.E. the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written. It contains detailed information on asanas (postures), breathing techniques (pranayamas), muscular/energetic locks (bandhas) and the harmonizing of solar and lunar currents for the awakening of Kundalini.

Yoga had its first impact in America through the teachings of Swami Vivekananda who addressed the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. His authentic and highly disciplined methods are continued to this day at a major center in south India. It was here that Alisa trained as a yoga teacher.

During the 1960s several important teachers came from India and founded spiritual centers in the United States. They trained a number of teachers who have spread the discipline throughout the country. At the same time, Americans were traveling to India and bringing back the wisdom of yoga. Today, more than 16 million Americans are practicing yoga.

 

   


 

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