A Brief History of Yoga Including Some Great Practitioners

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Yoga is a science that focuses on bringing balance and harmony between the body and mind. The word yoga finds its roots in the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ that means ‘to join’. The ultimate aim is self-realization and attainment of a state of liberation.


The practice of Yoga dates back to 2700 B.C, to the Indus valley civilization. In fact, the origin is supposed to be even long before. In mythology, Shiva is considered the first yogi or Adi guru. Several thousands of years ago, he shared his knowledge with the seven sages or Saptarishis in the Himalayas. These sages carried the knowledge of the yogic science to all the corners of the world. Yoga Sutras by Vyasa and Bhagwad Gita describe the period between 500 B.C. and 800 A.D. This period is very prominent in relation to Yoga as the concept of Gyan, Bhakti, and Karm Yog is discussed in the Gita. Patanjali’s yoga sutras also talk about yoga and the eight-fold path. The tradition of Hatha yoga started between 800 A.D. and 1700 A.D. The period between 1700 A.D. and 1900 A.D. is considered as the Modern period. In this period, great yogacharyas like Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Vivekananda contributed to the development of Raja yoga. Throughout history, there have been some great practitioners of Yoga who changed the face of this practice and helped spread yogic science far and wide.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

Many consider him as the father or Modern Indian Yoga. He revived and popularized hatha yoga. He had a great knowledge of Ayurveda. He mixed his knowledge of Yoga and Ayurveda to treat patients. Under the governance of the Maharaja of Mysore, he travelled all over India to promote yoga.

B.K.S. Iyengar

He is one of the most renowned practitioners of Yoga in India and is considered as India’s pride. He started a yoga school called Iyengar Yoga. He redefined Patanjali’s Yoga sutras and came up with Iyengar Yoga. Currently, he has millions of followers throughout the world. He wrote a book called Light of Yoga which is highly popular.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati

He was a doctor but renounced everything and became a monk and practitioner of Yoga. He spent his lifetime teaching Yoga through Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center. His yoga was called yoga of synthesis, a combination of Karma Yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Raja yoga. He has authored 200 books on Yoga, Vedanta, and other related topics. He contributed in spreading yoga to all corners of the world.

Paramahansa Yoganand

His book, Autobiography of a Yogi, is widely popular and attracts millions of westerners towards Meditation and Kriya Yoga. He spent most of his life in the US. Thus, he popularized Yoga not only in India but also abroad.

With time, there have been many great Yoga practitioners other than those mentioned in this post. Many evolved new forms of yoga but the soul of every form remains the same. Yoga aims at a balanced co-existence of body, mind, and spirituality for a stress free and purposeful life. Yoga has existed for thousands of years and will probably keep on advancing for many more hundreds of years to come.


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