There’s a lot to yoga than meets the eye, and the deeper you study things the more interesting it becomes. Are you ready for some interesting facts about yoga that you’ve never considered before?
1. Hatha Yoga is for Everyone
Hatha Yoga, which is the most common variant found in the West, is a discipline that combines breathing techniques and postures to create a spiritual state of mind. Many tie it to Hindu philosophy but there’s more to it than that.
Hatha Yoga was meant to be used by anyone who wished to practice with no regard to religious beliefs, gender, or case because the practise alone that brings its benefits.
Not every yogi has been a true believer in Hatha Yoga, some have found the physical art alone was not enough for their spiritual development. Still, it’s a common part of the practice whether it’s a solo wandering practitioner or in modern formal classes.
Indeed, the long and varied history of yoga is tied in with large parts of the Asian continent. The oldest known text placing exercise and pranayama together is a Buddhist tantric text called The Amritasiddhi from the 11th century.
This mix-up of lineage is uncommon in spiritual practices and one of the reasons yogis can be found in every corner of the globe.
2. Yoga Has Been Scientifically Studied for Over 100 Years
Yoga has been studied since 1920, starting with a man named Swami Kuvalayananda, who also brought it to the attention of the Western world as a whole.
Swami Kuvalayananda had a focus on education throughout his life. He founded the Khandesh Education Center to help the masses become literate in his country, and eventually founded a research institute.
Described as a rational man, Swami Kuvalayananda had seen the changes yoga brought about but wanted to make sure that they fell in line with the natural laws of reality. Far from debunking the art, he sought to bring about a resolution of medical science and the spiritual principles behind yoga.
These early scientific experiments have continued in some ways, but in the early days, they were extensive.
Swami Kuvalayananda studied dozens of variables and the physiology of each asana, creating a beginning to scientific analysis that was both in-depth and objective. While yoga is studied to this day, most of the Western studies are focused on a single subject.
3. Hatha Yoga Was Influenced by Western Physical Culture
Not many people are aware of the boom in interest that exercise had in the early 1900s. Swami Kuvalayananda was influenced by this booming movement, which took place primarily in the United States, the UK, and Germany.
Many famous early figures emerged from physical culture, including the strongman Eugen Sandow and the famous Charles Atlas who ran courses based mainly on isometric exercise.
While some early yogis, including the men who introduced Hatha Yoga to the West, found that it alone was ineffective for spiritual practice, there became an increasing amount of interest in yoga as an exercise program even in India. The movements strengthen key muscle groups throughout the body, after all, promoting health in a big way.
The complex interplay of spirituality, the physical culture movement, and the ancient yogic arts all combined to bring forward what we have today. After all, cultural phenomena are rarely as simple as they seem.
4. Yoga Means “Yoke”
The Sanskrit word yoga has a few translations, but they all have the same end meaning. The word implies attaching or joining. For many, yoga served as the attachment between the physical and divine worlds.
One must remember that the idea of yoga as exercise is just a bit over a century old, while the long history of yoga was primarily a spiritual art. Hatha Yoga focuses on two components, but there are many that are left out in modern practice.
The idea was to bring inner peace and allow the Divine to come in. Depending on the source text the exact definition of the art will vary some, but they all worked to achieve the same goal.
The stillness of the mind is said to allow for spiritual growth, and in that way, yoga mirrors many of the meditation exercises that have been developed all over the world.
5. Yoga is Over Two Millenniums Old
While the first text which could specifically be described as Hatha Yoga comes from the 11th century, the idea of yoga as a spiritual exercise is ancient. It has survived the rise and fall of empires across the world.
The first use of the term in a spiritual context originates from over 2500 years ago, where it is described as a spiritual exercise. Its description is found in the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali, a collection of 126 different texts that form the core of yoga’s philosophy.
These texts are still used by yogis today, forming the backbone of the art. It’s an interesting read even if you aren’t applying it to your own practice. A lot of insight can be gleaned from studying the origins of yoga.
The ancient provenance of yoga is fairly well known, but few have realized just how old. The beginnings of the practice may date even further back than the original collection of texts.
There is far more to yoga than first meets the eye, and the history of yoga as a spiritual practice is a long and storied one. Just as complex is the story is the interaction with the West that brought about the yoga, we find in classes today.
Did you enjoy these interesting facts about yoga?