There is no way to determine exactly when Yoga was first practiced. We do know its roots are steeped in the ancient Hindu culture, where it can be traced back at least 5,000 years.
Some scholars believe Yoga was born out of Shamanism during the Stone Age. This belief is based on a number of similarities between the Neolithic settlements Mergarh (The Indus Valley Civilization now known as Pakistan and India 7000 BCE – 3200 BCE) and Modern Hinduism. But, in reality, it was probably, just the opposite. Shaman practices observed by Mergarh, was in fact influenced by the Hindu beliefs held at that time.
Shamanism’s purpose was twofold: To heal, and to serve as the mediator of religious issues. In many ways, the object of the ancient Yogis was the same in that the Hindu belief system was also inclined to uplift the connection of one’s community.
PROGRESSION OF YOGA
As the centuries passed, the practice of Yoga progressed, incorporating the regard for inner experience. A Yogi’s technique placed emphasis on the improvement of the individual, his enlightenment and recovery, along with salvation.
The first real indication of Yoga’s existence came from a set of stone seals unearthed in the Indus Valley. These were first inserted into records of history that date to about 3000 BC, and were linked to the Indus-Sarasvati (ancient India, once unrecognized as part of the enormous civilization); perhaps the largest civilization in existence in the ancient world.
Indus-Sarasvati was famous for the exportation of many products to Africa and the Middle Eastern world. They were a very progressive people who constructed multi story buildings, temples, baths, a system of weights and measures and a grid road system and infrastructure which included a sewer system, which was the first recorded of its kind.
Along with these state of the art structures and systems, the Indus-Sarasvati civilization is responsible for the oldest known scripture in the world, which is known as The Vedas. It is a compendium of hymns that recognizes a higher power, and is the oldest record of Yoga teachings. The Vedas was considered brilliant and is recognized as the Vedic or pre-classical Yoga.
This was only the beginning of Yoga, which became defined as classical Yoga following the composition and collection of influential texts by C. E. Patanjali. (Second and third centuries C.E.)
From these seminal writings came the onset of much productive literature, and between the 7th and 17th centuries A.D., the sacred books of the Postclassical Yoga were introduced. The Tantra, written as a dialogue between the Hindu God, Shiva and his wife Shakti; and the Hatha, a comprehensive and in-depth writing on the elements of Yoga, were complied.
INTRODUCTION OF YOGA TO THE UNITED STATES
These works of literature were read and embraced by many, and over time, they were adapted and introduced to people in its present state. The United States was first introduced to the concept in the 1800s.
In recent years, Yoga has experienced a rapid evolution. This can be credited, in part, to Swami Sivananda, one of the most well known gurus to ever master Yoga, served as a doctor and opened a number of schools in Europe and America. Much of today’s Yoga is based on the Swami’s writings.