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what is yoga?|Yoga History

what is yoga?|Yoga History

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yoga histry

Introduction

It is believed that Yoga originated as an oral tradition that dates back over 5,000 years in India. Some believe that it originated around 500 B.C., which was the time of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. In 1920 archaeologists discovered an ancient “Indus” civilization, which flourished between circa 3000-1900 B.C. The archaeological artifacts of the Indus valley provide a base of the early Sanskrit literature. It gave rise to the great religious and cultural tradition of Hinduism. 

Vedic Yoga 

Vedic Yoga teachings came from ancient hymnodies. The Sanskrit word “veda” means “knowledge.” There are three Vedic hymnodies, which are the Yajur-Veda (“Knowledge of Sacrifice”), Sama-Veda (“Knowledge of Chants”), and Atharva-Veda (“Knowledge of Atharvan”). Vedic Yoga was connected with the ritual life of the ancient Indians. It revolved around the idea of sacrifice as a means of joining the material world with the invisible world of the spirit. 

Preclassical Yoga 

Preclassical Yoga covers the period of approximately 2,000 years until the second century A.D. The earliest practices were still based in sacrifices. Later, the rituals were left behind. One of the most influential scripture of 700 verses is the “Bhagavad-Gita” (“Lord’s Song”), which was composed about 500 B.C. The various preclassical schools developed techniques for achieving deep meditation through by which yogis can transcend the body and mind and discover their true nature. 

Classical Yoga 

Classical Yoga is associated with the eightfold path also known as Raja Yoga, which was taught by Patanjali in his “Yoga-Sutra.” The text contains about 200 statements, which are often cryptic statements. Patanjali, is often wrongly called the “father of Yoga.” 

Postclassical Yoga 

Postclassical Yoga refers to many types and schools of Yoga that have arisen after Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra. Postclassical Yoga proclaims the ultimate unity of everything. Previous generations of yogis paid no attention to the body. They were more interested in contemplation. The new breed of Yoga masters created a system of practices to rejuvenate the body and prolong its life. This led to the creation of Hatha Yoga. The treatise on Yoga, “The Hathayoga Pradipika,” was compiled in the 15 century by the sage Svatmarama. He begins the treatise with the restraint of energy. Sighting the soul through the restraint of energy is called Hatha Yoga. Sighting the soul through the restraint of consciousness is called Raja Yoga. Svatmarama stress the importance of the breath. The goal of Yoga is a state of equilibrium and peace. 

Modern Yoga 

Modern Yoga is believed to begin with the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. It was at that congress that Swami Vivekananda made an impression on the American public. 

After Swami Vivekananda, the most popular Yoga teacher in the early years of Western Yoga was Paramahansa Yogananda, who came to Boston in 1920. Five years later, he established the Self-Realizaton Fellowship. 

Swami Rama Tirtha, was a former mathematics teacher who came to the United States in 1902 and founded a retreat center on Mount Shasta in California. After two years and drowned in the Ganges (Ganga) River in 1906 at the age of thirty-three. 

Yogendra Mastamani arrived in Long Island in 1919. For three years demonstrated the power and elegance of Hatha Yoga. Before returning to India, he founded the American branch of Kaivalyadhama for the scientific study of Yoga.

Ramacharka was popular for some time after the 1920’s. The name was the pseudonym of two people: William Walker Atkinson, who had left his law practice in Chicago to practice Yoga, and his teacher Baba Bharata. 

Paul Brunton, was a journalist and editor, who came appeared in 1934 with his book “A Search in Secret India,” which introduced the great sage Ramana Maharshi to Westerners. 

Jiddu Krishnamurti taught thousands of philosophically minded Westerners from the 1930’s until his death in 1986. 

Yoga, came to American in the form of Hatha-Yoga by the Russian-born yogini Indra Devi, who has been called the “First Lady of Yoga.” She opened her Yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947 where she taught movie stars and trained hundreds of teachers. She is now in her nineties and living in Buenos Aires. She is still an influential voice for Yoga. 

Selvarajan Yesudian appeared in the 1950’s with the book “Sport and Yoga,” which has been translated into fourteen or so languages, with more than 500,000 copies sold. 

In 1961, Richard Hittleman brought Hatha-Yoga to American television, and his book “The Twenty-Eight-Day Yoga Plan,” which sold millions of copies. 

In the mid-1960s, the Western Yoga movement become popular through Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, mainly because of his brief association with the Beatles. He popularized Transcendental Meditation. 

In 1965, Shrila Prabhupada came to New York and later founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). 
In the 1960s and 1970s, many swamis trained by the Himalayan master Swami Sivananda, a former physician, opened their schools in Europe and America. Most of them are still active today including, Swami Vishnudevananda, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Sivananda Radha, Swami Satyananda, and Swami Chidananda. The last-mentioned master’s best known American student is the gentle Lilias Folan, who was famous from her series Lilias, Yoga & You, during 1970 and 1979. 

Other famous modern Yoga teachers include Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Papa Ramdas, Swami Nityananda, and his disciple Swami Muktananda, B. K. S. Iyengar, Sri Krishnamacharya, his son T. K. V. Desikachar continues his saintly father’s teachings and taught Yoga, among others, to the famous Jiddu Krishnamurti, Pattabhi Jois, Indra Devi, Swami Satyananda Sarasvati, Sri Chinmoy, Sathya Sai Baba, and Swami Satyananda. 

References

“Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health,” Iyengar, B.K.S., Dorling Kindersley, London 2001. 
“A Short History of Yoga,” Feuerstein, Georg, Santa Rosa, CA, 1988. 
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