Yoga is found to be as old as civilization; we can’t prove it with a physical evidence. Archaeological evidence of Yoga’s existence could be found in stone seals which depict figures of Yoga Poses. The stone seals place Yoga’s existence around 3000 B.C. Scholars, however, have a reason to believe that Yoga existed long before that and traced its beginnings in Stone Age Shamanism. Both Shamanism and Yoga have similar characteristics particularly in their efforts to improve the human condition at that time. Also, they aim to heal community members and the practitioners act as religious mediators. Though we know Yoga as focusing more on the self, it started out as community-oriented before it turned inward.
No one knows exactly when Yoga began, but it certainly predates written history. Stone carvings depicting figures in Yoga positions have been found in archaeological sites in the Indus Valley dating back 5,000 years or more. There is a common misconception that Yoga is rooted in Hinduism; on the contrary, Hinduism’s religious structures evolved much later and incorporated some of the practices of Yoga. (Other religions throughout the world have also incorporated practices and ideas related to Yoga.)
The tradition of Yoga has always been passed on individually from teacher to student through oral teaching and practical demonstration. The Techniques that are now known as Yoga are, based on many individuals collective experiences over many thousands of years. The way practiced now a days depends on the approach passed down in the line of teachers supporting the individual practitioner.
Patanjali is a scholar who compiled Yoga and set down the most prevalent Yoga theories and practices of his time in a book he called Yoga Sutras (“Yoga Aphorisms”) as early as the 1st or 2nd century B.C. or as late as the 5th century A.D. (exact dates are unknown). The system that he wrote about is known as “Ashtanga Yoga” or the eight limbs of Yoga, and this is what is generally referred to today as Classical Yoga. Most current adherents practice some variation of Patanjali’s system.
The eight steps of Classical Yoga are
1) Yama, meaning “restraint” — refraining from violence, lying, stealing, casual sex, and hoarding
2) Niyama, meaning “observance” — purity, contentment, tolerance, study, and remembrance
3) Asana, physical exercises
4) Pranayama, breathing techniques
5) Pratyahara, preparation for meditation, described as “withdrawal of the mind from the senses”
6) Dharana, concentration, being able to hold the mind on one object for a specified time
7) Dhyana, meditation, the ability to focus on one thing (or nothing) indefinitely
8) Samadhi, absorption, or realization of the essential nature of the self.
Yoga probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s, but it did not become widely known until the 1960s, as part of the youth culture’s growing interest in anything Eastern. As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being. Many physicians now recommend Yoga practice to patients at risk for heart disease, as well as those with back pain, arthritis, depression, and other chronic conditions.