The Yoga Tutor

Ancient Yoga to Modern TImes

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 136 ]

Bear in mind where yoga has come from as we now take a look, again in a broad overview, at where it has gone to. Smt. Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani's lengthy composition entitled "Yoga in Modern Times" provides a wonderful overview of the evolution of yoga through to the modern age.

Her insight gives us a rare view of the historical unfolding of the yoga tradition. In order to understanding how ancient yoga developed into what it is today, we need to look at three distinct periods through which it evolved:

PRE-HISTORIC: Teachings transmitted orally from guru to disciple in forest hermitages. The period before the written word.

THE HISTORIC: Teachings transmitted from guru to disciple in forest hermitages, using both oral and written traditions.

MODERN: Spiritual teachings gleaned from many sources, indiscriminately, often only through the written word and without the guidance of guru.

Pre-Historic Yoga

The Pre-Historic Period of yoga was the time when the sages organized their spiritual realizations into teachings, which could be transmitted to their disciples orally in the guru-chela tradition -- an intimate, one-to-one personal manner of transmission between teacher and student.

The solitary aim of yoga then was moksha, freedom, or spiritual liberation. The teachings were given only to those who were considered pure and fit -- the adhikarin. The relationship was life-long and as sacred as the marriage vow.

This was a purely oral tradition, which may stretch back as far as ten thousand years. The yoga ashramas (hermitages) were in forests and other inaccessible places. Very few could even find such places, let alone study there.

The structure was known as the gurukula, which literally means "the womb of the guru", as the student lived in the guru's home and served him lovingly as part of his family. This selfless service, seva, was considered essential to higher spiritual development...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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