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International Yoga Day 2021: How Yoga Originated and Transformed Through the Years

Adiyogi Shiva Statue at Coimbatore.  (Image: Shutterstock)

Adiyogi Shiva Statue at Coimbatore. (Image: Shutterstock)

International Day of Yoga 2021: The existence of Yoga in ancient India can be found in the seals and fossil of the Indus Saraswati valley civilization with Yogic motifs and figures performing Yoga Sadhana

The history of Yoga is thousands of years old. It was introduced by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. The word yoga was first described in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. As per the Yogic lore, Lord Shiva is seen as the first yogi or Adiyogi and the first guru or Adiguru. It is believed that nearly 7,000 years ago Adiyogi poured his profound knowledge into the legendary Saptarishis or “seven sages" at banks of the lake Kantisarovar in the Himalaya.

Later, those sages carried this powerful Yogic science in various parts of the world including Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa and South America. Agastya one of those Saptarishis travelled across the Indian subcontinent and crafted a culture around a core Yogic way of life.

The existence of Yoga in ancient India can be found in the seals and fossil of the Indus Saraswati valley civilization with Yogic motifs and figures performing Yoga Sadhana. The phallic symbols, seals of idols of the Goddess shows Tantra Yoga.

Though Yoga was being practised in the pre-Vedic period, it was systematized by the great Sage Maharshi Patanjali. The main sources, that talks about the existence of Yoga practices are Vedas (4), Upanishads (108), Smritis, teachings of Buddhism, Jainism, Panini, Epics (2), Puranas (18) etc.

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Yoga has been practised all over the world by the teachings of eminent Yoga masters from ancient times to the present date. Yoga practices are scientifically proven to have helped in improving physical as well as mental health.

The time period from 500 BC to 800 AD is believed to be the classical period in the history and development of Yoga. Two great religious teachers of India – Mahavir Jain and Gautam Buddha conceptualized the Yoga sadhana through Pancha Mahavrata Ashta Magga or eightfold path respectively.

The period between 800 AD to 1700 AD is recognized as the post-classical period where the teachings of great Acharyatrayas-Adi Shankracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhavacharya were the contributors. The Hatha Yoga practices during this period.

The period between 1700 - 1900 AD is considered the modern period in which Vedanta, Bhakti yoga, Nathayoga or Hatha-yoga were introduced by great Yogacharyas- Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Paramhansa Yogananda, Vivekananda etc. Now in contemporary times, everybody thinks of yoga practices for the preservation, maintenance and promotion of health.

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