We all know that yoga is an ancient practice, but what exactly does ‘ancient’ mean? How old is yoga? Why do we still practice it and how does the practice today differ from the original?
Researchers and historians trace the development of yoga back 5,000 years. Some take yoga origins even further back to 10,000 years. Now that’s ancient! But because the philosophies and practice of yoga were originally transmitted orally, some mysteries may always remain.

The history of yoga is broken down into four main eras: Vedic, Pre-classical, Classical, Post-classical or Modern. The Vedic era is all about the Vedas and the Upanishads, huge works of scripture that document the beliefs of the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers). Pre-Classical Yoga is essentially marked but the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali is the guy who developed the concept of yoga as an eight-limbed path:
1. yama (moral restraints) – how we relate to others
2. niyama (observances) – how we relate to ourselves
3. āsana (posture) – how we relate to our body
4. prāṇāyāma (breath extension) – how we relate to our breath or spirit
5. pratyāhāra (sensory withdrawal) – how we relate to our sense organs
6. dhāraṇā (concentration) – how we relate to our mind
7. dhyāna (meditation) – moving beyond the mind
8. samādhi (meditative absorption) – deep realization and inner union
(quoted from http://ashtanga-yoga-victoria.com/what-are-the-eight-8-limbs-of-yoga/)
In the Classical era of yoga, practitioners “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.” (http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/)
Modern Yoga is the era Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga as we know it, and his three students who continued his legacy of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Here is a bit of historical perspective on these three: Pattabhi Jois created Astanga Yoga, he died in 2009; Iyengar founded Iyengar, he was with us until just last year; the son of Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar developed Viniyoga, he is 77 years old.
Brian’s The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Pranayama, and the Energy of Postures workshop this Saturday is all about Classical Yoga as described in The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the first text that lays down the basics and outlines how to actually do the physical practice of yoga. Pradipika means light or to illuminate in Sanskrit. I’m pretty sure the reason why we still practice yoga has to do with finding the light.
A modern yogi going back to the Pradipika is like a modern rock musician going back to Memphis or Chicago. It is always enlightening to know your roots. Sign Up and deepen your yoga practice with a Classical Yoga approach. It’s going to be super interesting.

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