History of Yoga and Classical Texts References

History of Yoga:

According to Yagyawalya Smriti (12/5), Hiranyagarbho Yogasya Wakta Nanya Puratanah. It means Hiranyagarbha is the first preacher of Yoga. This is also mentioned in Mahabharata. “Sankhyasya wakta Kapilah Paramarshi S Uchhyate / Hiranyagarbho Yogasya Wakta Nanya Puratana //” – Mahabharata- 2/394/65

chapter 4 of Srimadbhagwadgita: 1. Imam wiwswate Yogam Proktawanhamwyayam / Viwswanmanwe Prah Manusikshwakwebrawit /: Lord Krishna said, “I explained this imperishable science of Yoga to Surya (Sun), Surya explained it to his son – Vaiwashwat Manu and Manu imparted it to his son king Ikshwaku.”


Evam Paramparapraptmimam Rajarshyo Widuh / Sa kaleneh Mahata Yogao Nashtah Parantapa//: O Arjun! This is how sages came to know about Yoga, but it almost disappeared from the earth for a long time.

Sa Evayam Maya Teddh Yogah Proktah Puratanah / Bhaktoasi me Sakha Cheti Rahasyam Hrotaduttmam /: Since you are my disciple and dearest friend, I am teaching you the same ancient Yoga because it is an utmost secret science and worth keeping in secrecy

Aparam Bhawato Janma Param Janma Wiwaswatah / Kathametadwijaniyam twamadau Proktawaniti //: Arjuna said, “You have taken birth only recently, but Sun was there since ages, how can I believe that you taught Yoga to Sun?”

Bahuni my Vyatitani Janmani Tawa Charjuna / Tanyaham Veda Swarni na Twam Tettha Parantapa /: Lord said, “O Arjun! You and I have passed through many births; I remember them all. You don’t know about this.”

Ajopi Sannavyayatma Bhutanamishwaropi san / Prakritim Swamadhisthay Sambhavamyatmamayaya /: “Despite being imperishable, an unborn form and the lord of all the living beings, I manifest by controlling the Prakriti (Nature) with the help of Yoga.”

Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya Glanirbhawati Bharat / AbhuyutthanamDharmasya Tadatmanam Srijamyaham //: “O descendant of Bharata ! Whenever righteousness is on the decline, unrighteousness is in the ascendant, then I manifest myself.”

Paritranaya Sadhunam Vinashaya Cha Duskritam / Dharmasansthapnartharya Sambhawami Yuge Yuge /: “I am born from age to age for the protection of the virtuous, extinction of the evil-doers and for establishing Righteousness (Dharma) on a firm footing.”

In Bhagwat Gita, Yogeshwar Srikrishna has described Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga in detail.

In his book titled ‘Mohenjo-daro and Indus Civilizations’, Marshal (1931) has narrated that evidences found in the excavation of the Mohenjo-daro and Indus Civilizations suggest that Yoga was in practice at that time. The Statue of Pashupati seated on an Asana and that of the meditating Yogi are direct evidences to prove it. In his book ‘A Search in Secret India’, Paul Brunton mentioned that the Yog is living in remote part of the Himalayas are still in practice of Yoga. Swami Rama also discussed these practices in his book ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’.

Some Classical Texts on Yoga:

‘1) Yoga Sutra’ by Sage Patanjali is an important work that explains the basic elements of Yoga.

There are four chapters in Yoga Sutra: (a) Samadhi Pada (51 sutras) In this chapter, sage Patanjali explains the structure of Yoga, Chittavritti (modifications of mind), Samadhi and its secrets. (b) Sadhna Pada (55 Sutras) In the second chapter, sage Patanjali explains Kriya Yoga, five Kaleshas (causes of pain and misery), techniques to mitigate the Kalesha, and Ashtanga Yoga etc. (c) Vibhuti Pada (55 Sutras) In this chapter, sage Patanjali has explained Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (communion), Sanyam (self-control) and various Siddhis related to self-control. iv. Kaivalya Pada (34 Sutras) Main topic of the fourth chapter is Kaivalya (Solitude), attainment of Siddhi (communion), Chitta Nirmana (shaping the mind), Atma-bhava (self-realisation), Bhavana Nivritti (Cessation of desires), Dharma-medhaa (Righteousness) but Samadhi etc. The specialty of Yoga philosophy is that it is not only theoretical, but a practical subject too.

2) Gherand Samhita:

The seven steps of Yoga, explained by Maharshi Gherand in Gherand Samhita are called Saptang Yoga. There are indication of Ashtang Yoga in various other texts. But in some texts on Hatha Yoga only six steps of Yoga have been discussed. Gorakhnath in his classical text ‘Gorakh Shatak’ has explained six steps of Yoga (Shadang Yoga).

Gherand Samhita explains the process of detoxification of the body, called Shat-karma which includes: Neti (Nasal passage cleaning), Dhauti (Cleaning of digestive system), Wasti (Cleaning of large intestine), Nauli (exercises for abdominal organs and kidneys), Kapalbhati (Cleaning of brain) and Tratak (a form of concentration technique). In the next chapter, 32 Asanas have been explained which bring stability and strength to the body. In the third chapter, 25 Mudras have been explained. Fourth chapter explains Pratyahara (control of sense). Fifth chapter explains 8 Kumbhakas (breath retention) as Pranayama (control of breath). The sixth chapter explains three types of Dhyana (meditation); viz. Sthul Dhyana, Sukhshma Dhyana and Jyoti Dhyana. The last and seventh chapter explains Samadhi (communion)

Rishi Gherand has named this process as ‘Ghatastha Yoga’. Gherand explains that Ghatastha Yoga is based on body. Ghata means Ghada (pot made of mud). Usually, when we talk about pot, we think about its outer form without knowing the material filled inside; it might be empty or filled with water or grains etc. Anything can be there inside the pot, but when we say Ghat (pot), generally the outer form comes to our mind. In case of the body, we take utmost care for its comfort and satisfaction. We wear clothes to protect it from cold; remove clothes and use fan or A/C when it feels hot; we sleep when our body gets tired. We see and feel all these external activities of the body, but generally no one knows the internal elements of the body. The body has been created by an amazing union of various elements. This union may be named as Prakriti, Brahmas or God. When we practice Yoga, it directly affects the brain and activities of the brain get pacified. Practising Yoga influences the mind and controls its fluctuations resulting in peace of mind after which we can refine our Karma (deed) and Samskara (past action). So, it is important to understand the micro and macro elements that form our body. It is said that Ghatastha Yoga begins when we recognise these micro and macro elements.

3) Srimadbhagwadgita:

Different types of Yoga and its definitions have been explained in Srimadbhagwadgita. It clearly explains Karma Yoga as Samatwabhawa, (state of indifference), Anasakta karma (detached action), Ishwar arpita Karma (action with surrender to God) etc.

Srimadbhagwadgita 2/48. Yogastha Kuru Karmani Sangantyaktawa Dhananjaya / Siddhyasiddhayoh Samo Bhutwa Samatwam Yoga Uchyate // It means O Dhananjay! Perform your duties established in Yoga, renounce attachment and be even-tempered in success and failure; evenness of temper is called Samatwam Yoga.

In the next shloka 2/49 lord Krishna says: Durena hyavaram karma budhi-Yogad dhananjaya Buddhau saranamanvichchha kripanah phalahetavah. 2/49 It means action with a selfish motive is far inferior to Yoga in equanimity. Do you seek refuge in this equipoise (balance of forces of interest) of mind, O Dhananjay! For poor wretched are those who are instrumental in making their action bear fruit.

In the shloka 2/50 lord Krishna says, Buddiyukton Jahatih Ubhe Sukritduskrite / Tasmadhogaya Yujyaswa Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam // It means “Endowed with equanimity one sets in this life both good and evil. Therefore, strive for the practice of this Yoga of equanimity (Samatwa Yoga). Skill in action lies in the practice of this Yoga.”

There is another definition of Yoga in shloka 6/23: Tam Vidyad dukh SanYoga Viyog Yoga Sangytam / Sa Nishchayen Soktashyo Nirvishanchetsa // It means, Yoga is free from worldly bondage, and the attachment and misery caused by that bondage. One needs to know it and achieve with patience, enthusiasm and determination.

In second chapter of Srimadbhagwadgita, following qualities of equanimous (Sthitaprajna) persons are given: i. Forgiving ii. Kind-hearted iii. Determined iv. Karma Yogi v. Liberated. vi. Yogi vii. Devotee of God viii. Divine ix. Wise.

4) HathYoga Pradipika by Swami Swatmarama:

Swami Swatmarama took it forward in HathYoga Pradipika by explaining four parts of Yogas mentioned below: Asana, Pranayama, Mudra and Nadanusadhan.

Practice of Hatha Yoga is done to achieve the state of Raja Yoga. (HYP 2/76). It envisages elements of Interruption (Badhak) and Perfection (Sadhak), (HYP 1/15,16).

Lesson One Out of 15 Asanas explained in this chapter, Siddhasana and Padmasana are given more importance. At the end of the lesson, usage of good diet or bad diet for the practitioner of Hatha Yoga is explained in detail.

Lesson Two In the first part from shloka i.e. 1 to 20 Pranayama, utilities and importance of Pranayama and Nadishodhan is explained. In the second part, i.e. from shlokas 21 to 37, Shatkarma and Astha-Kumbhaka (eight breath retention techniques) are explained in detail. Lesson Three Ten Mudras and Kundalini are explained in this lesson.

Lesson Four In this lesson, Naad, Nadanushandhan and Samadhi are explained in detail.

5) Vasisht Samhita:

In Vasisht Samhita, Maharshi Vasisht has explained 14 Nadis (Nerves).

Out of the14, Ida, Pingla and Sushmna are considered as the most important Nadis (Nerves). Along with that, he has explained Yama (self-control) too.

Pranayama has been explained in two different ways: (i) Sahit Kumbhak (ii) Keval Kumbhak Along with all this, Pratyahara (Sense Control), Dharana (Concentration) and Dhyana (Meditation) etc. are also explained in Vasisht Samhita.

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