The Origins of Yoga
References of yoga are found in the ancient texts and scriptures long before Patanjali, Swatmarama and Gheranda, who were sages and masters who wrote theses on yoga. In fact, yoga predated them by many millennia. Tantra tells us that the first yogi was Lord Shiva who brought the teachings of yoga to human society. The exact date is unknown, but what is certain is that yoga existed in many of the ancient civilizations around the world.
Parvati, who was Shiva’s first disciple asked him to explain why, in this creation, in the manifest dimension everything is transient, nothing is permanent. There is so much pain, suffering, anxiety and frustration here. What can we do ?
Lord Shiva explained to her that there are three forms of suffering:
- Adhidaivika - destined suffering
- Adhibhautika - suffering that comes from one’s environment and the society
- Adhyatmika - self-generated suffering caused by the mind and the emotions, expectations, desires, passions, greed, jealousy, ego.
The aim of yoga during this period was not self-realization, but to overcome human suffering. It was known as Pashupata yoga. Yoga continued to evolve, and a middle period arose, where Patanjali, Swatmarama and Gheranda and many other masters expounded yogic practices and contributed to the yogic tradition.
Contemporary yoga belongs to the third period of yoga, which began in the nineteenth century. Since the 1800’s, a great many yogis have emerged, and yoga slowly began to spread beyond the borders of India into modern Western civilization.
It is in this period where Sri Swami Sivananda established the Divine Life society. His theory on yoga was to integrate the faculties of head, heart and hands. Sri Swami Satyananda was one of the selected disciples to whom he entrusted the mission to spread different aspects of the yogic and Vedantic culture in India and to all corners of the globe, which until then were unknown to the broader society.
Sri Swami Satyananda developed and evolved his guru’s teachings, and founded the Bihar School of Yoga through which the philosophy, psychology, practices, applications and lifestyle of yoga were propagated in India and abroad. A sequence of progression in yoga was defined by Sri Swami Satyananda who trained aspirants in a holistic or integral yoga to awaken and integrate the faculties of head, heart and hands.
In 2013, after celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati announced that the fifty-year mission to propagate yoga was fulfilled, and he heralded the second chapter of Bihar yoga, which was vidya - where one deepens their knowledge of yoga and expresses it in their life.
In this new vision of Yoga Vidya, he took the essence of Sri Swami Satyananda and Sri Swami Sivananda’s teachings and developed the Yoga Chakra. This system combines both bahiranga yoga (hatha, raja and kriya yoga) and antaranga yoga (jnana, bhakti and karma yoga). The purpose of the Yoga Chakra is to allow the practitioner to experience the wholeness and completeness of yoga.
Purpose of yoga
The beauty of yoga is that it is nothing but contemplation and worship of human life. After exploring your nature and personality, and enhancing the faculties and qualities inherent within, you are ready to appreciate the beauty that life holds for you. The seers who developed yoga said clearly that yoga is a sadhana. It is a practice through which you rediscover yourself, your nature. It is not a philosophy containing abstract ideas that sound pleasing and interesting to an individual. It is not a religion; it does not involve any dogma. It is a collection of practical systems that you can incorporate in your life experience. As you do so, these practices elevate your perception and appreciation of yourself. They lead you to the experience of poornata, wholeness, completeness.
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, Development of Satyananda yoga, p 2