History Of Yoga

Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization sites, dating to the mid 3rd millennium BCE, depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga,” according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl. Ramaprasad Chanda, who supervised Indus Valley Civilization excavations, states that, “Not only the seated deities on some of the Indus seals are inyoga posture and bear witness to the prevalence of yoga in the Indus Valley Civilization in that remote age, the standing deities on the seals also show Kayotsarga (a standing posture of meditation) position. It is a posture not of sitting but of standing.” Some type of connection between the Indus Valley seals and later yoga and meditation practices is speculated upon by many scholars, though there is no conclusive evidence.

Many scholars such as Marshall associated Pashupati seal with Shiva because We would discuss these features under the following heads  : (1) three faces (2) the attitude of yoga (3) ithyphallicism (4) connection with animals (5) pair of horns.

The standing yogic position in Hindu scriptures is associated with Shiva and has in earliest occurrences been mentioned as the sthanu asana. Shiva has repeatedly been called Sthanu in several scriptures. That Shiva’s standing pose is a meditative penance is clear from the pose being associated in Kalidas’ literature as “Tapasvinah Sthanu” and tapasvin is the term for a mendicant. Also Shiva as Sthanu in Kalidas’ literature has been described as “Sthanu sthira-bhakti-yoga-sulabha” meaning “attainable through devotion yoga.” In modern Hindu yoga too the standing yoga asana is applied and called samabhanga asana and tadasana.

Shiva’s association with the ‘Pashupati seal’ is that the seal reads “Lord of the Cattle” and “Lord of the animals” and Shiva has been described as both the lord of cattle and animals. The Pashupati seal also depicts the mendicant in the yogasana which is another attributed associated with Shiva from scriptures.

In reference to the bulls that appear on the Indus Valley seals, archeologists have linked them to Shiva as the bull is associated with him in scriptures. In the Rig Veda, Shiva (Rudra) is termedVrishaba or “bull.”

Shiva connection with the three heads on the Indus Valley yogi seal is that Shiva has been described and portrayed a three-headed in certain parts of history. For example, in the an Elora temple he is depicted with three heads.

Vedic period

Ascetic practices (tapas), concentration and bodily postures used by Vedic priests to conduct yajna (Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice) might have been precursors to yoga. Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures which probably evolved into yogic asanas. Early Vedic Samhitas also contain references to other group ascetics such as, Munis, the Keśin, and Vratyas. Techniques for controlling breath and vital energies are mentioned in the Brahmanas (ritualistic texts of the Vedic corpus, c. 1000–800 BCE) and theAtharvaveda. Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda suggests the presence of an early contemplative tradition.

The Vedic Samhitas contain references to ascetics, and ascetic practices known as (tapas) are referenced in the Brāhmaṇas (900 BCE and 500 BCE), early commentaries on the Vedas. TheRig Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scripture mentions the practice. Robert Schneider and Jeremy Fields write,

Yoga asanas were first prescribed by the ancient Vedic texts thousands of years ago and are said to directly enliven the body’s inner intelligence.

According to David Frawley, verses such as Rig Veda 5.81.1 which reads, “Seers of the vast illumined seer yogically [yunjante] control their minds and their intelligence,” show that “at least the seed of the entire Yoga teaching is contained in this most ancient Aryan text”.

According to Feuerstein, breath control and curbing the mind was practiced since the Vedic times, and yoga was fundamental to Vedic ritual, especially to chanting the sacred hymns

While the actual term “yoga” first occurs in the Katha Upanishad and later in the Shvetasvatara Upanishad, an early reference to meditation is made in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the earliest Upanishad (c. 900 BCE). Yoga is discussed quite frequently in the Upanishads, many of which predate Patanjali’s Sutras.