The History of Yoga

The History of Yoga

First, I would like to say as far as I am aware there is no definitive proof of the origins of yoga, so this is my best shot from my perspective.

Yoga and Hinduism from my point of view are separate, although they have evolved from the same origins. We must go back to the Indus valley civilisation to trace the roots of both yoga and Hinduism, for this is where I believe it all began.

Until recently is was believed the Aryans from the North invaded the Indus civilisation and prompted the demise of this civilisation. It is now believed the cultures merged, eventually giving rise to many philosophies including yoga as we know it, Jainism, Buddhism and, yes Hinduism.   

The Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization or the Indus Sarasvati Civilization, was a culture established from 4000 B.C. to 1800 B.C. At its peak, it covered a huge area extending from Baluchistan on the Iranian border in Pakistan to beyond New Delhi, India in the east, from Afghanistan and the Himalayas in the north to Mumbai, India in the south. It is the largest and most developed Bronze Age urban civilization known to date.

Resent thinking and research support the theory that the Indus Valley was home to the indigenous Dravidians as well as the Sanskrit speaking Aryans, who came in from the north. Recent studies suggest that the Aryans were absorbed in to the prevalent culture as was the case with other ethnic groups in later Indian history. A great cultural and spiritual fusion took place between the Dravidians and Aryans.

Archaeological surveys in 1921-22, in what is today Pakistan, some say provide evidence of an already established culture of Yoga. A famous seal found depicting a male figure in the lotus position (or just with legs crossed) surrounded by animals. From this some say it is evidence that this was Lord Pashupati, or lord of animals, which is a form of Shiva.

Evidence for the beginnings of yoga and Hinduism are said to exist with other seals discovered depicting images found today in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Other evidence is said to be symbols depicting Shiva Lingam. The Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas can also be dated to around 4,000 BC.       

We now must throw into the melting pot a culture called the Sramana, which is said to have come from the North East of India. Some say they brought with them an already established culture of asceticism, which is where I believe that yoga as we now know it emerged. This culture set up schools which are said to have taught such concepts as:

·         Mediation, or the practice of training the mind

·         The practice of renunciation

·         The was some conception of rebirth or reincarnation, and liberation

·         A sense of moral responsibility extending beyond this life or some form of conception of karma

As I have said already, this is my opinion which has evolved through my studies and research. There is no definitive proof of any of the theories around, but I believe this is how it is meant to be. If we had all the answers what would be the point, where would the journey be.

Martin Thompson.