Yoga Asanas Through The Ages
This period comprises of almost 2000 years until the time of the 2nd century B.C. By this time many texts like the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, the Upnishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata had made their appearance. All these texts contained various kinds of yoga teachings that in some way or the other expounded on the ultimate universal truth about the unity of everything.
These texts spoke about the coming of the dark ages. Through stories they inspired people to stand up for the right and actively fight the evil. Yoga teachings of this time focused on meditation, self-realization and connection with the universal One.
Later on Patanjali spoke about yoga as being useful in the separation of the matter (Prakriti) and the spirit (Purusha) that each individual is made up of. This, he said, was essential in the re-establishment of the purity of the soul and spirit.
This is the age when yoga was, for the first time, understood for its physical benefits. This is because the previous masters and practitioners were more interested in the realm of the spirit and the ultimate goal of merging into the Divine energy.
This change in attitude came with the discovery of alchemy and yogis started to teach and practice yoga with the objective of healing the body, to re-energize it and to prolong life. The idea of changing the biochemistry of the body to become immortal through yoga is also a concept that was explored in this age. This focus on the body led to the establishment of Hatha Yoga, which is widely practiced today.
The age of modern yoga is said to have started with Swami Vivekanand’s visit to the USA for the Parliament of Religions in 1893. This is the first time that the world paid any serious attention to the teachings of yoga.
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Great Yoga Teachers
Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. He is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century.
From a young age Vivekananda was inclined towards spirituality. He was influenced by his guru, Ramakrishna, from whom he learnt that all living beings were an embodiment of the divine self; therefore, service to God could be rendered by service to mankind. Swami Vivekananda did a lot to further the interest in yoga and yogic asanas.
The 20th century saw the emergence of many gurus and teachers of yoga, who contributed greatly to the evolution and spread of its practice throughout the world. One of the most important ones was Paramahansa Yogananda.
Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced millions of Indians and westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Yogoda Satsanga Society of India and Self-Realization Fellowship. His book, Autobiography of a Yogi remains a spiritual masterpiece and was included in the 100 best spiritual books of the 21st century.
In 1917, Yogananda founded a school for boys in Dihika, West Bengal, that combined modern educational techniques with yoga training and spiritual ideals.
In 1920, Yogananda went to the United States aboard the ship City of Sparta, as India’s delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate worldwide his teachings on India’s ancient practices and philosophy of Yoga and its tradition of meditation
Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to spend a major portion of his life in America. He taught ‘that the purpose of life is the evolution, through self-effort, of man’s limited mortal consciousness into God Consciousness.’
Another very famous yoga teacher scholar was Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Often referred to as “The Father of Modern Yoga,” Krishnamacharya is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century and is credited with the revival of hatha yoga.
Krishnamacharya’s teaching, made possible by the patronage of the Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore, flourished in the 1930s and 40s at the Mysore Palace as part of the education of young boys, mostly of the elite class. Krishnamacharya held degrees in all the six Vedic darshanas
While under the patronage of the King of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, Krishnamacharya traveled around India giving lectures and demonstrations to promote yoga, including such feats as stopping his heartbeat. He is widely considered as the architect of vinyāsa yoga, in the sense of combining breathing with movement.
Underlying all of Krishnamacharya’s teachings was the principle “Teach what is appropriate for an individual.” He made a great contribution with modern postural yoga. He was the teacher of some of the most influential yogis of the 20th century: T.K.V. Desikachar (his son), Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S Iyengar.
Both Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar took a fully customizable approach to asana by adapting their teachings to suit the individual and providing one- on-one instruction.
Desikachar went on to found the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram—a center for yoga therapy that continued his father’s teachings.
Jois founded Ashtanga Yoga, which is known for its breath-focused, progressive sequences.
Iyengar founded Iyengar Yoga, which is known for its innovative approach to props. Iyengar invented new ways to modify poses, making them more effective and accessible for all types of practitioners and levels of experience.
Why You Should Practice Postures
In the contemporary world where many of us are perpetually on the go, yoga practice can help to slow us down and help us bridge disconnections between the body, mind, and breath. It can also be practiced to increase strength and flexibility, improve balance and core strength, and bring a sense of mindfulness into our everyday lives.
Today the wisdom of yoga is freely available, and we hope to see more people not only researching the origins of yoga and its benefits, but actually practicing it and learning from their own experience.
We appreciate all the good teachings available and the rich vast treasure of heritage that has been passed down since the beginning.
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