What is the origin of Raja Yoga

The origin of yoga: this is how yoga came about

Yoga is an extremely popular leisure activity, but few know how it came about. We'll tell you the origin of physical training, which is probably further back than you think.

The origin of yoga

Yoga began about 700 years before the current era. At that time, however, it was a far cry from what we understand by the term in the western world today.
  • In the earliest philosophical texts of Hinduism, the Upanishads, the first remarks were made on yogic breathing exercises and meditation techniques.
  • The actual concept of yoga already falls in the middle Upanishads. At that time, however, it was still used with the Sanskrit meaning of the word: "Unity". It is only 300 before the current era that yoga is mentioned for the first time as a practical contrast to the theoretical search for enlightenment.
  • Between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, the person who lays the foundation for yoga as we know it today appears: Patanjali.
  • Little is known about him other than the fact that he summarized the yogic wisdom of his time in a book. He wrote down this wisdom in 194 verses - the so-called Yoga Sutras. These are required reading for every yogi.
  • Patanjali divided yoga into four branches: Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. All of these described a different way of attaining enlightenment.
  • Raja Yoga described the so-called eight-part meditative path - in Sanskrit "Ashtanga". This is the basis of modern yoga.
  • Originally it was purely meditative practices. The few poses that were included were only intended to prepare the body for long hours of meditation.
  • Only gradually did the physical part, which is now known as the asana, develop.

Hatha yoga

Hatha Yoga is known today as its own style of yoga, in which the poses are held longer. In fact, it is an umbrella term for any form of physical yoga.
  • Over time, practitioners began to see the beneficial effects of physical yoga on the human body. In addition, according to her own statements, the practice could lead to enlightenment.
  • In the 14th century, Svatmarama wrote down the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This work was based on tantrism and was a manual of practical yoga, as opposed to the philosophical yoga sutras.
  • In them, among other things, asanas, i.e. poses, are described in detail, as well as the hand signals known as mudras. The book also included practical instructions on breathing techniques and certain cleansing practices.
  • The goal was to create balance between body and mind. By grasping and directing the various energies in the body, one should receive enlightenment.
  • A modern teacher who had an enormous influence on yoga was Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Between 1924 and 1989 he traveled through India and presented his students and himself in impressive poses. These demonstrated the strength and flexibility of the yogis, and thus increased interest in yoga.
  • Krishnamacharya's philosophy was that each student was unique and needed a different type of yoga. So it was that he prescribed different exercises and practices for each student. This explains why two of his students ultimately established yoga styles themselves that could not have been more different.

Yoga in the west

Krishnamacharya's disciples Sri K. Patthabi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar set out for the West in the second half of the 20th century. Her goal was to establish yoga there.
  • B.K.S. Iyengar was very sick and weak as a child. This was reflected in the yoga that his older brother-in-law Krishnamacharya taught him. The Iyengar Yoga developed by Iyengar therefore works with many aids, such as chairs, pillows or the wall.
  • In 1952 he traveled to the United States for the first time to teach there. During this time he also published "Light on Yoga" and "Light for Life", philosophical texts which are among the most widely read modern yoga books.
  • Patthabi Jois, on the other hand, was a strong, athletic boy. So it came about that Krishnamacharya instructed him in a sweaty, physically demanding yoga style: Vinyasa Yoga. This flowing style combined the breath with the movement.
  • It was also Patthabi Jois who ultimately founded the Ashtanga Vinyasa style on which the majority of modern yoga is based. His students include Madonna, Sting, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Over the years, yoga has now developed into what is practiced and taught in most western studios: the focus for many is now on physical exercise.
In the next article we will tell you how to wash your yoga mat.