History of Yoga

Ervin, on the history of yoga

It is hard to separate facts from myths when we look at the history of yoga – some put the origins back as far as 8,000 years, others say it is around 5,000 years and some say it’s considerably less. Does it matter?

I see that the yoga we practice in the West today is very different and certainly very much younger than the ‘ancient’ yoga. The styles currently taught tend to be based on traditions that can be traced back just a few centuries or even just a few decades.

patanjalicoil1-bwThere are some beautiful and informative books on the subject – The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace, Yoga Touchstone and Yogasutracintamani by Norman Sjoman, Yoga Body by Mark Singleton, ‘The Path of Modern Yoga’ by Elliot Goldberg, to name just a few representations. These are all highly recommended reading, particularly Sjoman’s works.

Our own training framework is built on techniques/methods from the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga style, which in its current form is probably no more than 80 years old (please see the separate page about Ashtanga Yoga). The Paśyanti approach, focusing more on internal dimensions, is a relatively new addition.

I have spent many years reading up on the subject, listened to many experts – still I can’t say with any certainty that I have adequate knowledge of the history of yoga. Vested interests by particular schools and doctrines have ‘coloured in’ the picture, as have the marketing people of modern styles, to promote their own ‘products’. The commodification of yoga by the West and by India itself has certainly distorted this picture. I doubt that we have any chance to ever clearly see the true origins and the path of development of this amazing discipline.

The value of yoga does not have to be diminished by myths and tales replacing true records. Those who are serious about it, will see through this and carry on cultivating yoga in an intelligent manner, for the benefit of all. I hope our work with Paśyanti will prove to be a prime example of this.

This page may publish more on the subject of the history of yoga – please visit it again…