Yoga is a very old way of life that has been developed and polished over thousands of years. Over the centuries, people have devoted their lives to the study of yoga and developed the art of yoga and then handed down the knowledge to the next generation, which in turn did the same. Now we have many centuries of accumulated knowledge to study.
In the western cultures, yoga is relatively new and most of the practices are considered a health work out, but in the Eastern cultures where it originated from, yoga usually has much deeper roots, rituals and uses. Many yoga teachings in the East include long meditation sessions and religious practices. Some people who practice yoga are so devoted that they give up their entire worldly lives and possessions to devote every moment they have to the study of yoga.
Yoga has very old roots. Most scholars believe it originated in the Indus Valley Civilization as far back as 3000 BC. History that old is based on archeological finds of statues and carvings.
The oldest known written documentations of yoga date almost as far back as any written documentations that can be found in the area around what is now India. The Upanishad mentions “yoga’ and describes it as “control of the senses and the cessation of mental activity leading to a supreme state”.
A very famous piece of very old literature that discusses yoga is Yoga Sutras of Patanjali this is probably the oldest literature that contains substantial material relating to yoga and its practice. Patanjali was believed to be a saint who devoted his life to yoga and seeking enlightenment.
In places such as India, yoga is very intertwined in many of the cultures and societies. They have temples and yoga practices like the west has churches and church meetings.
Yoga was never very popular in the west until the 60s and 70s when an entire generation of youth became interested in mind expansion and spiritual seeking. Many of these seekers went to India and studied yoga and the culture that surrounds it. Eventually, many of these explorers made their way back to the western countries and brought with them the teachings of yoga.
Also in this time period, a few of the yoga teachers in India saw a fresh field of new curious students ready to learn the teachings of yoga so they traveled to the United States and other western countries giving lessons, teaching seminars, and writing books, which helped spread the study and interest of yoga to thousands of people in the west.
Recently, in the west, yoga has become very popular as a healthy work out routine. In most of the more progressive towns and cities you can easily find yoga studios where you can drop in and do an hour session of yoga asanas.
Whether you just like the physical health aspects of yoga, the spiritual aspects yoga or a little of both, yoga is a very rich and rewarding activity that can be practiced virtually anywhere alone or in groups.