Large outdoor yoga classThe Facts

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India.

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuji” which means to yoke or bind. It is often translated as “union” or a method of discipline to unite body, mind and spirit.

A 2005 study shows that in one year. About 2.1 million Canadians or 1 in 12 non-practitioners say they intend to try yoga within the next 12 months PMB (Print Measurement Bureau) as quoted by Yoga in Toronto.

History of Yoga

The origin of yoga is uncertain due to the fact that yoga was expanded through its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. However, some researchers think that the development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago whereas other researchers think that it can be up to 10,000 years old.

According to researchers’ study, the origin of yoga was found by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word “yoga” was first mentioned in the Rig Veda, the oldest sacred texts and the collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga). In this period, there were various ideas, beliefs and techniques of yoga and they were often conflicted and contradicted each other.

Patanjali, the Indian sage, wrote the Yoga Sutra about 2000 years ago to introduce the practice of yoga, including a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. This text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called “classical yoga”, and it still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.

The most significant content in theYoga Sutra is eight limbs of yoga: yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation) and samadhi (absorption). As we start practicing these eight limbs, we will begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and we gradually focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

Today, most people practice the third limb, asana, which is known as a guideline of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina, which will help to unite body, mind, and sprit in a long run.

A few centuries after Patanjali, a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life were created by yoga masters. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.

Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west in the late 1800s and early 1900s when yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. In 1893, Swami Vivekananda attracted a lot of attention in America when he spoke about the benefits of yoga at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore in 1924 and in 1936 Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Krishnamacharya produced three students that would continue his legacy and increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Sivananda was a prolific author, writing over 200 books on yoga, and established nine ashrams and numerous yoga centers located around the world.

Later on, yoga still continued to expand in the West until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularizing hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice although yoga in Indian tradition is more than physical exercise as it has a meditative and spiritual core.

History of Yoga in North America

Yoga was introduced to the West in 1893 by Swami Vivekanandawhen he spoked about the benefits of yoga at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago. However, the number of people practicing yoga remained few and, when practiced in the west, yoga was interpreted as merely a physical practice rather than as a spiritual one.

After years later, yoga started expanding in North America when Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947, and it became more widely practiced in North America. She was the first Westerner to study with Sri Krishnamacharya and the first to bring his lineage to the West. He went on to become the grandfather of American yoga; his students included B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar. Yoga was established on the West Coast in the mid-’50s.

In 1958, Indian-born Swami Vishnu-devananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati, arrived in San Francisco, sponsored by the artist Peter Max. His 1960 book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, became an essential guidebook for many practitioners. Dubbed by a colleague as “a man with a push,” he founded the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, headquartered in Montreal, one of the largest networks of yoga schools in the world. Meditation and yoga exploded across America in the early ’60s. In 1966 B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga was published in the United States, a book that is still considered to be the Bible of serious asana practice.

In 1973 Mr. Iyengar was invited to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to teach by Mary Palmer (mother of Mary Dunn). Nearly every Western teacher has been influenced by his emphasis on anatomical precision, many without even knowing it.By the ’70s, yoga and spiritual teachings were everywhere. In 1975 Pattabhi Jois made his first visit to the United States and set off the wildfire of Ashtanga-vinyasa Yoga. Around the same time, T.K.V. Desikachar, son of the great master Sri Krishnamacharya, brought his Viniyoga to the West. And in 1975 the first issue of Yoga Journal was published: $500 was scraped together to print and distribute 300 typewritten copies.

Many celebrities and professional athletes are committed yogis in these days. While most North American yoga studios still focus on the body over the mind, there is an increasing number of studios bringing a spiritual aspect back into the practice. Southern California abounds with yoga studios, as does the Canadian and American west coast in general. In Canada, Vancouver is now home to some of Canada’s most advanced and largest yoga studios.


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