The origin of yoga – Part 1

The origin of yoga lies hidden in the dim mists of history. Yoga wasn’t a phenomenon that erupted overnight. It was developed by ancient sages not only of India but of the world over. Over the course of history, yoga evolved further to suit regional and social ideas. Yoga found its way into human expression in mysterious ways, it ended up cloaked in different symbols, analogies and languages. It is a belief of many traditions that yoga is a divine gift revealed to the sages of the ancient times, so that mankind could realize their highest potential.

In the ancient times, yogic techniques were passed on to the disciples by their guru vocally, it was never written down. This way was very effective since the gurus could guide their pupils throughout their spiritual journey, thereby avoiding confusion and misdirection. If there were to be a misinterpretation, the guru would be there to clear things up.

The confusion started around yoga since the time self study began from reading books, which replaced gurus in person. This cannot be blamed neither on the authors nor on the readers as expression of one person is interpreted differently by different people. In depth study and personal experience, guidance from an experienced yogi or an instructor can help the situation to a large extent. The contradictions that we encounter from reading literature on various forms of yoga are only superficial and can be corrected by a competent teacher.

The writers of the classical texts in ancient times purposefully chose to record their experience of yoga in few words to avoid misinterpretation. These classical texts had concepts expounded in analogies and often clothed in symbolism. This was meant to avoid over intellectualization and unnecessary indulgence in the meaning of the word rather the concept under discussion. Symbolism and minimalism of these ancient texts also served the purpose of drawing the attention of only the purely interested individuals, who were ready to immerse deep into the path of yoga. Only a competent student would be able to find interest in them and would understand its essence with the help of a competent teacher, whenever required.

Despite taking precautions, many misunderstandings arose, mainly due to the intellectual scholars who never had the experience to back their study of the scriptures. When they went ahead to write commentaries, many contradictions welled up. Unfortunately, people were influenced by these commentaries and did not explore the original texts. This led to confusion and bizarre customs and ideas were infused in the name of yoga. Many people fell victim to this unwarranted circus. Ideas like walking on fire, sitting neck deep in the cold river, self inflicted torture on the body such as holding an arm up for months, not placing one leg on the floor ever in life have been practice by many poor souls. These misguided acts are ludicrous and an endless list. The sad thing to realize here is that some of the people who resorted to these acts sincerely believed these methods to be a sure way to higher awareness.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Conclusion