Yoga has a rich and illustrious history. Its foundations are rooted in tradition and stories that offer you clear and simple guidelines to live a healthy and spiritually aligned life. Many people are drawn to yoga philosophy as well as the more physical aspects of yoga. However, if you are a yoga beginner you may feel daunted and overwhelmed by the subtler philosophical aspects of Yoga.
Have you heard your yoga teacher talk about Patanjali? Or the words yoga sutra’s yama’s and niyamas and wondered what that has to do with yoga? Did you know that yoga is over 5,000 years old and originally, practiced by monks and seers as a way to assist them connect more deeply with the divine?
The roots of yoga can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization (mature period 2600 – 1900 BCE) that flourished in the Indus River Basin. This area covers most of Pakistan and extends into parts of modern day India.
Several seals discovered during the Indus Valley Civilization (c.3300 – 1700 BC) depict figures in yoga or meditation like postures, which suggest yoga, was practiced then. The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskirt language and means union. In the west there are many schools of yoga, but the goal is always the same, to achieve union, total harmony between body, mind, and spirit traditionally in each individual and the divine.
In today’s modern climate, many students view yoga purely as a form of physical exercise and do not realize that behind the physical exercises lies a deep and long standing philosophical history and tradition. The “mind” aspect of Yoga is often negated to the practice of meditation. However, it goes much deeper that this and has its roots steeped in Yogic tradition. Running alongside your asana and meditation practice is the philosophical side of yoga. Yoga philosophy provides you with a deeper understanding of the relationship between your mind, body, and spirit.
The Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali is one of the most popular texts dealing with yoga philosophy. Widely influenced by the great Indian sage Patanjali, most modern-day yoga student’s first introduction to philosophy is through their introduction to the Yamas and Niyamas or in hearing the words “the Eight Limbs of Yoga.”
Pantanjali is known as one of the founders of yoga. Born around 300 BC, Patanjali’s texts give you a set of 196 aphorisms or threads known as the Yoga Sutras. This work epitomizes the principles and practices of yoga as it brings together all the various strands and thoughts of yoga philosophy into one comprehensive bundle of knowledge.
These threads cover all aspects of life, from giving guidelines on how to live a healthy industrious life right through to thoughts on how you can reach the ultimate goal of yoga – self-realization. Through studying Patanjali’s text and understanding his teachings it is possible for you to gain a deeper understanding of the history and philosophical roots of yoga. This understanding will help to underpin your yoga practice and efforts to gain control over your mind and emotions as you aspire to lead a more spiritually aligned and balanced life.