First, let us go over what yoga is NOT. Yoga is not just for flexible people; it is not just elegant stretching; it is not a religion and it is not a competition! It is a 5,000-year-old system that teaches people how-to live-in harmony with one another and with nature. Patanjali is credited with writing these instructions down for future generations 400 – 500 years ago. Before then, yoga and all its benefits and instructions were passed down verbally from teacher to student.
We call this writing The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It consists of 196 aphorisms (verses). Perhaps interesting to the western world, only three of these verses reference the asanas (postures.) The ancient yogis were much more interested in becoming enlightened than in becoming physically fit. The postures were practiced to prepare the body for meditation and pranayama (breathwork.) Patanjali described yoga as an eight limbed system. In a future blog, we will go over the eight limbs individually and in more detail. But for this article, I just wanted to point out that postures were not mentioned until the third limb. Again, showing that the ancient yogis did not put as much emphasis on yoga’s physicality as we do today.
The yoga that we are now familiar with did not appear until the early 20th century. T. Krishnamacharya was the mastermind of this movement. Another little side note – women were not allowed to practice yoga until. And even then, western women were not allowed until Indra Devi convinced Krishnamacharya to accept her as a student. She then started the first yoga school in the US, catering to Hollywood’s elite in 1947. Skipping ahead in time, BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois are credited with bringing yoga to the masses in the West. The yogis that were trained under Krishnamacharya took his teachings and ran with them. We now have Yoga Therapists and teachers using the original 196 aphorisms to help people overcome pain, depression, old age, and disability!