Yoga’s history has always been the source of many obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission and the secretive nature of teachings. The early records on yoga practices were transcribed on fragile palm leaves. There are sources show that the development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, while many others said that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old.
Despite the time of origins, Yoga’s rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development: Pre-Classical Yoga, Classical Yoga, Post-Classical Yoga and Modern Period.
It’s believed that Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. The Rig Vedas – the oldest sacred texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests – is the first material ever mentioned the word Yoga. Yoga was then slowly refined and developed by the mystic seers – Brahmans and Rishis. They also documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures following the practise of the Bhagavad-Gîtâ since 500 B.C.E. However, the Upanishads is the one took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action and wisdom. At this pre-classical stage, yoga was a mix of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other.
The chaos of the pre-classical stage was redefined in the Classical period by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga which was written around the second century. In which, Patanjali divided the practice of yoga into an “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is considered as the father of modern yoga as his Yoga-Sûtras still strongly influence most styles of yoga today.