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The Origin of Yoga


Consistent yoga practice brings about many benefits, including reducing stress, helping with anxiety, and centering yourself emotionally. The only way yoga can do that in the modern age is through the many years of evolution that came after the origin of yoga.


Without where yoga started, it would be a pale imitator of the practice we know and love today.

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The first mentions of yoga are from scriptures that date back to 5,000 years in India. Developed in Northern India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, these texts got used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests.
woman doing yoga

The Origin of Yoga

Yoga is one of the great mysteries of life, as no one knows who really got the practice going in the first place. What is known about yoga is that yoga came about when people decided to ask the age-old question, “Why am I here?”


Everything else is legend and hearsay until the first written documents of yoga came about to help us put a timeline in order.


Some say the origin of yoga comes from Shiva, a principal deity in Hinduism. Many thousands of years ago, Shiva took a journey and came to Mount Kailash, where he gained Enlightenment and made his home. As a result, many statues of the god today show him posed in either yoga or meditative stances.


Whether it’s true or not, we will never know, but here is what is known about the history of yoga.

group meditation

History of Yoga

While the origin of yoga is debatable, and history fluctuates between 5,000 to 10,000 years, we know that yoga back then looks nothing like today’s yoga. For example, up until a couple of centuries ago, yoga only had a single pose, the Lotus Pose.

Pre-Classical Yoga

The first mentions of yoga are from scriptures that date back to 5,000 years in India. Developed in Northern India by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, these texts got used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests.


The beginning of yoga in print was around 400 BC when The Bhagavad Gita or the “bible of yoga” was written. The Bhagavad Gita is an epic poem and leads you on a purely spiritual path rather than a mental and physical one.


Later in Hindu philosophy came the Upanishads, late Vedis Sanskrit texts that took ritualistic sacrifice and internalized it, creating three paths of yoga that are still around today.


  1. Karma Yoga: the path of work centered around selfless service and action
  2. Jnana Yoga: the path of the intellect centered on knowledge and wisdom
  3. Bhakti Yoga: the path of the heart-centered on pure love and devotion

Classical Yoga

Pre-classical yoga was a confusing mashup of different ideas and beliefs, which is why three paths of yoga came from it. In the classical era of yoga, things got streamlined in the first systematic presentation of yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in 400 BC shortly after The Bhagavad Gita came out.


This presentation gave steps, instructions, and guidance towards an ultimate form of Enlightenment called Samadhi. In fact, his Yoga Sutras are the first time we glimpse anything that might resemble modern yoga as its influence is still strong even today.


This classical yoga brought about another path of yoga:


  1. Raja Yoga: the path of royalty centered on pure meditation and introspection
group yoga class

Post-Classical Yoga

Many centuries after The Yoga Sutras came to be, a new type of yoga emerged. Unlike the yogas of the previous eras, this path of yoga did not reject the physical body but instead embraced it and used it as part of yoga.


They negated the idea that the body was an obstacle to spiritual enlightenment/ They rejected the idea that the physical was “bad,” “dirty,” or “evil.” Instead, they believed that our bodies are sacred and are the ultimate vessel to Enlightenment. Their belief was so strong that they cherished their bodies like they cherished God.


These yoga masters came up with a system designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They looked to the physical-spiritual connection and sought to understand it. This understanding of the physical-spiritual connection is the basis of modern-day yoga that yoga masters brought to the West.


  1. Tantra Yoga: the path of balance centered on balancing the feminine and masculine and the internal and external. It is what most of us practice today.
  2. Hatha Yoga: the path of the physical centered on strengthening the body through movement. Hatha yoga is where all our many poses come from.

Modern Yoga

Yoga first came to the West in the 1800s and attracted attention and followers of the practice. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda spoke passionately about yoga and its benefits at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.


In the 1920s and 30s Hatha yoga became popular and developed into a more structured form of yoga. The first Hatha school for yoga was opened in 1924 by T. Krishnamacharya. The Divine Life Society was another school for yoga and was opened in 1936 by Swami Sivananda.


Since then, many yoga practitioners have pioneered Hatha yoga, popularizing it into the modern form of yoga we know today. However, the core of yoga has always been the same. 


We all seek to balance our mind, body, and spirit and achieve Enlightenment like the mythical god Shiva did all those millenniums ago, where the origin of yoga may have begun. This balance is why the yoga of today focuses on breath and the inner workings of our minds.


When you step into any yoga studio or watch any yoga video on YouTube, they always start or end with meditation, bringing the mind and body into balance. This balance is the center of yoga’s many benefits, and at the heart of balance lies the origin of yoga.

woman meditating on yoga mat

Wrapping Up

Knowing the origin of yoga can help you when it comes to whatever yoga course you’re currently into, whether you are a student or a teacher. Learning about yoga is helpful for all skill levels, and online learning is more significant than ever.


The next time you practice yoga, think of all the many years of history this practice has and praise the yogis that came before you, for it is from them that this practice exists today.


To tighten the pelvic floor, some women buy yoni eggs and use them during yoga sessions.

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