The history of Yoga is rich and complex. Yoga is an art, science, and way of life that has been evolving before people knew how to write things down; and as such, is an interesting, but mysterious body of knowledge. What we know about Yogic studies helps us determine our future, our history, and our past.
It is believed that Yoga began around 3,000 B.C. This evidence is based on stone seals, which were excavated from the Indus valley region. However, the existence of stone seals, with human figures practicing asanas, only means that this is as far back as we can trace it, by excavating artifacts.
When we find artifacts of anything, it is an indication of an ongoing practice that pre-dated the artifact itself. Therefore, it is safe to guess that Yogic practices have existed for more than 5,000 years. The Indus-Sarasvati civilization can be credited, also, for creating the Vedas, which are the oldest existing scriptures in the world.
Pre-Vedic or Vedic Yoga?
The study of Yoga and the Vedas can be linked together for thousands of years. Therefore, Yoga in its oldest form is not practiced today. How can I say this? None of us knows if there was a Pre-Vedic Yoga style or if there has always been a symbiotic relationship between Yoga and the Vedas.
The oldest known form of Yoga is referred to as “Vedic Yoga,” and sometimes it is called “Archaic Yoga.” You may also see this referred to as classical or simply, classic Yoga. Parts of this specific type and style can be seen in the main style.
There are nine main types of Yoga today that are practiced. Many of them, like Vedic Yoga, also have deep history roots. Many people say “What’s in the past is in the past,” but that doesn’t work with Yoga. The following nine main types that are commonly practiced are:
- Karma Yoga
- Jnana Yoga
- Raja Yoga
- Mantra Yoga
- Laya Yoga
- Tantra Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
Hatha is the most commonly known, but the other eight styles are widely practiced in the world today. Out of the nine main styles, it is believed that Jnana (union through knowledge) may be most closely related to Classical Vedic Yoga. To study scriptures, gain knowledge, and apply wisdom to life, are some of the objectives of modern Jnana. Mental, spiritual, and emotional development would follow a steady practice of Jnana Yoga.
Vedic Yoga would also teach one to focus on the mind. Now, if you practice one of the popular styles today, how could you tailor your practice toward wisdom and spiritual beauty? It should be understood, that all forms of Yogic practice lead toward living in harmony with the world around us.
The deeper aspects of a Yogic lifestyle are found in steady practice, application toward life, and this Yogic journey of self-discovery. We may never precisely know what Classical Vedic Yoga practice resembled, but with a little homework and patience, we can live in a state of harmony with the world around us.