Ancient? Ok, how old exactly?
It’s safe to say that yoga is an old practice. In fact, “old” doesn’t even really cover it. The first yogis were mentioned in the Vedas, around 1500 years before the common era. There are even hints that yoga was already practiced 5000 years ago. One of the first and most important yogic writings, the Yoga Sutras, by Patanjali, an Indian scholar, was written between the second century B.C. and the fourth century A.D. The pieces of wisdom that Patanjali shared are still being taught today. So are the asanas, the body exercises that most people think of when they hear “yoga”.
Now that you’ve got an overview how old this practice really is, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are skeptics out there, thinking that a philosophy that ancient doesn’t have any value today. But they’re wrong! In fact, I think now it has more value than ever.
Yoga over the course of time
Yoga was first practiced only by men. Today, the studios are full of women. Back then, it was a very strict, ascetic practice. Today, it is very loving and focused on selfcare. It used to be about enlightenment. Today, it is about the individual and their well-being (even though of course you can step on the path to enlightenment!). Do you see a pattern? Yoga changed throughout the years- the practice, its purpose, and of course the people who practice it. And that’s where its secret lies: centuries ago, people had totally different lives, different views on humans and their needs, depending on the time and place they lived in. Still, yoga never vanished. Its secret is that there is no “one size fits all” concept – it can be practiced and adjusted accordingly by anyone. As long as people are evolving, the practice will evolve too.
So why is yoga more important than ever?
Back in the early days, the people who practiced yoga were deeply religious and sought enlightenment. This is because of the concept of reincarnation: people wanted to stop the circle of being reborn and find eternal peace that comes with enlightenment. Today, especially in the West, the reasons for starting yoga are entirely different and often very physical. There are many studios available who cater to different needs, so it’s very accessible. But: in a way, it was easier centuries ago. People were much more in touch with nature, with spirituality and with themselves. Today, we’ve lost touch. We’re exposed to a constant media frenzy, we’re always accessible, always in a rush. We think we are our body. We do too much and feel too little. As a result, burnout, depression and other diseases are increasing.
Centuries ago, Patanjali defined yoga as “the cessation of the movements of the mind”. Think about it: when was the last time your mind was truly calm? Stopping the thought rollercoaster is a challenge we all must face. A racing mind might be one of the most common problems nowadays. In a yoga class, however, we turn inwards. There’s no phone, no internet, no news – just us, our breath and our movements. For once, there is nothing to worry about. Our hectic everyday life comes to a halt. We breathe and move and take care of ourselves. Our busy mind gets a well-deserved rest. And it’s also good for our body: Oftentimes, we spend hours on a desk, in front of a screen, or with a bent neck to look at our smartphone. An incredible amount of people suffers from back pain. Yoga to the rescue! There are numerous studies proving that it’s just as effective as physiotherapy. A little movement goes a long way. Lack of movement is a very common reason for diseases or being overweight. Yoga is a form of movement that is literally for everyBODY. There is no one who cannot practice and benefit from it. As long as you can breathe, you can practice yoga. Even if you’re overweight, even if you’re not the sporty type, even if you’re sitting in a wheelchair you can do yoga. There are super easy exercises to get you out of your head and into your body connecting you to your true self. The word “yoga” means “union” – union of mind, body and soul.
Not only is yoga a remedy for many modern problems, physical and mental, it is also flexible and accessible enough so that everyone can profit from it.
Everyday benefits of practicing yoga at a glance
- Improved mood
- Better concentration
- Relief for neck and back pain
- Improvement of the immune system
- Enhancement of overall wellbeing
- And much more!
Sounds good, right? And let’s be honest: The wish for an improvement of mood, concentration and immune system is timeless – just like the practice that can help us achieve that wish.