A brief History
The earliest records of Yoga come from India, where there are believed to be links with Stone Age Shamanism, as both traditions focused on improving the human condition, by aiding the whole community, although this shifted when man started to look within themselves as well as without in the larger community. This change can be found in the Holy scriptures known as the Vedas, written between 3000-5000 BC. Which are a collection of hymns that praise the Divine, and form the basis of the Hindu religion. People who follow these scriptures are known as Vedic Yogis.The next stage in Yoga’s’ history comes from the ‘Upanishads’ which are a collection of 200 which describe the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman. These explain three subjects: the ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman), and the relationship between the two. The Upanishads further explain the teachings of the Vedas.
The next stage was the creation of the Bhagavad-Gita around 500 BC which is devoted entirely to Yoga. Just as the Upanishads further the Vedas, the Gita builds on and incorporates the doctrines found in the Upanishads. In the Gita, three facets must be brought together in our lifestyle: Bhakti or loving devotion, Jnana which is knowledge or contemplation, and Karma which is about selfless actions. The Gita then tried to unify Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga and it is because of this that it has gained importance.
The next development of Yoga was the introduction of the Yoga Sutra. Written by Patanjali around the second century, it was an attempt to define and standardize Classical Yoga. It is composed of 195 aphorisms or sutras (from the Sanskrit word which means thread) that expound upon the Raja Yoga and its underlying principle, Patanjali's Eightfold path of Yoga (also called Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga). These are:
- Yama, which means social restraints or ethical values;
- Niyama, which is personal observance of purity, tolerance, and study;
- Asanas or physical exercises;
- Pranayama, which means breath control or regulation;
- Pratyahara or sense withdrawal in preparation for Meditation;
- Dharana, which is about concentration;
- Dhyana, which means Meditation;
- Samadhi, which means ecstasy.
Patanjali believed that each individual is a composite of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). He further believed that the two must be separated in order to cleanse the spirit - a stark contrast to Vedic and Upanishad Yoga, that signify the union of body and spirit.
What Can Yoga Do For Me?
It will help to restore; flexibility and mobility to the body, by doing gently stretching exercises to simple breathing patterns, It will then help you to slow your mind so that you can learn to disassociate yourself from your own stresses and then deal with them in a positive objective way which will promote healing on all levels of your being. This in turn should allow you to begin to appreciate Meditation and the huge benefits this can bring to your life.