A history of yoga

A history of yoga
Follow the enigmatic history of yoga from past to present...

so we flow... A history of yoga infographic


A history of yoga

7000 BCE

In the 1920’s, archaeologists discovered evidence of the Tantric civilisation. Here they found depictions engraved in soapstone seals that strongly resemble yogi-like figures.

They are thought to be Lord Shiva - the founder of all things yoga - and his number two, Parvati.

4500 - 2500 BCE

The oldest scriptures known to humankind, the Vedas (meaning knowledge), are written. Each represents one of the 4 pillars of ancient Indian thought.

The Vedas give direction to the path to spiritual enlightenment, and mention mediation and Samadhi (also known as supreme consciousness).

800 - 300 BCE

The Upanishads, a collection of early learnings, begin to question the Vedic traditions.

Upanishad means to sit near your teacher, and it is through them that yoga begins to emerge as a distinct concept.

700 BCE

The Taittiriya Upanishad is the concept that each person is made up of 5 aspects (known as koshas).

Annamaya - body and food
Pranamaya - breath and energy
Manomaya - mental and learning
Vijnanamaya - personality and values
Anandamaya - emotions and happiness

500 - 400 BCE

The Katha Upanishad explains what yoga is - the importance of mastering the senses, gaining knowledge and understanding and ensuring non-attachment to things.

This Upanishad is said by Yamas, God of death, when a guy called Nacikelas asks him what happens in the afterlife. We’re not sure how this answers his question either, but it’s decent advice none the less.

The Svetasvatera Upanishad gives practical advice on how to implement yoga, it’s benefits and the introduction of ‘Om’ in meditation.

It recommends finding the right environment, postures to adopt, and how to breath. Benefits include lightness, healthiness, clear complexion, sweet soul and a pleasant voice. Who wouldn’t want all that?

300 BCE

The Maitrayaniya Upanishad is a dialogue between a King and the ‘knower of the self’. The king wants to know the nature of his soul...

Pranayama - breath
Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses
Dharana - concentration
Tarka - contemplation
Samadhi - complete identification with the self

Lord Krishna and a warrior named Arjuna have a catch up before going into battle. Arjuna is not at ease with killing, which leads him on a voyage of self-realisation, discovery and contemplation of life itself.

This text, the Bhagavad Gita, provides the whole basis for yoga (the spiritual side, not the physical).

200 CE

Patanjali is the first dude to collate a systematic approach to yoga. He pulls together everything from the past into an ancient yoga manual which consists of 195 sutras meant to act as life’s guide.

He gives us the 8 limbs of yoga:

Yama - self restraint
Niyama - virtuous habits
Asana - physical postures
Pranayama - breath
Pratyahara - withdrawing the senses
Dharana - concentration
Dhynana - meditation
Samadhi - union

500 - 1000 CE

The physical body is now seen as a means and not an obstacle to enlightenment. The ideas of chakras, mantras and Kundalini energy evolve.

And you thought downward dogs have been around since the start?

900 CE

Hatha yoga, what most of us would consider ‘yoga’, is born.

The practice becomes more physical -  emphasising posture and breath - exploring how the body can help understand the mind and move towards enlightenment.


Hatha Yoga Pradipika (one of the most influential yogic texts) is written, aiming to cleanse and purify the body and unlimitedly become enlightened.

Although the physical practice is becoming increasingly important, there are still only 15 asanas, all of which are seated.


Krishnamacharya develops twists, balances and inversions that we now know as modern asana.

He devised these methods when working with the Maharajah of Mysore, who had an interest in modern gymnastics. This progression was much more accessible to Westerners than simply sitting still for hours.


Ashtanga yoga

Founded by Pattabi Jois

Pattabi was a pupil of Krishnamacharya. He claims to have developed the style from an ancient text called Yoga Kurunta. Unfortunately it was eaten by ants - we’ve heard that one before...

It consists of six pose series - the primary, secondary, third and so on - which are progressed through sequentially as they are accomplished. Ashtanga moves rapidly from one pose to the next with the breath.


Sivananda yoga

Founded by Swami Vishnu Davananda

A unhurried practice which typically begins with sun salutes and followed by 12 basic asanas. It’s foundation is a healthy yogic lifestyle incorporating breath, relaxation, diet, exercise and positive thinking.


Iyengar yoga

Founded by B.K.S Iyengar

Iyengar taught at Krishnamacharya’s school. On this date he published ‘Light on Yoga’, which pictures over 200 asanas. An absolute must for any yogis library.

The practice is all about precise alignment and posture. You’ll find all kinds of props kicking around: straps, blocks and harnesses to name but a few.


Kundalini yoga

Founded by Yogi Bhajan

So it turns out we all have crazy serpent energy pent up in our bodies, waiting to be unleashed. Kundalini yoga taps in through invigorating poses, chanting, mudra, mantra, prana and meditation.


Yin yoga

Founded by Paulie Zink

Yin is a passive, lengthening practice where you let gravity do all the work. It’s symbiotic with Yang yoga - Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga - the stuff that gets you pumped. No place for urgency here...


Bikram yoga

Founded by Bikram Choundry

Also known as hot yoga, Bikram cranks the heat up to sauna like levels. Official classes move through a series of 26 asanas, each performed twice.


Vinyasa yoga

Founded by Beryl Bender Birch and Bryan Kest

A dynamic style that was developed from traditional Ashtanga to appeal to lycra-clad Westerners. Also referred to as Power yoga, unlike Ashtanga, there isn’t a set sequence of poses. Although diverse in nature,  active, flowing movements are the backbone.


Forrest yoga

Founded by Ana Forrest

Forrest yoga is intense - both physically and emotionally. The practice is a path to cleanse the emotional and mental blocks that dictate and limit your life.


Jivamukti yoga

Founded by Sharon Gannon and David Life

Jivamukti brings back traditional spiritual flavour to an energetic practice, with a hearty dollop of chanting and excerpts from ancient scripture. It transcribes to ‘liberation while living’...


Anusara yoga

Founded by John Friend

Anusara means to ‘flow with grace’ - something we can relate to. Like Iyengar, there is an alignment focus, but with a jubilant twist. It’s rooted in a philosophy that everyone is inherently good, and life is to be celebrated.


so we flow... was born.

The future....




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