Learn about the history of yoga


The science of yoga originates from the culture around the Indus-Sarasvati river in India more than 5000 years ago, and is elaborated in classical writings.Patanjali’s experiences are collected in the Patanjali sutras, dated between 200 BC and 200 CE. These writings include the description of Patanjali’s eightfold path. Another fundamental text is the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This text is based on older Sanskrit texts and Yogi Swatamarama’s yoga experiences. It includes topics such as shatkarma, asana, pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandha, kriyas, shakti, nadis en mudras.


Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1889-1989) emphasized yoga asana practice. Many modern forms of Hatha Yoga originate from the school of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. He taught yoga from 1924 until his passing in 1989. A number of his students have popularized yoga in the West, especially Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of the vigorous Astanga Vinyasa Yoga style, B.K.S. Iyengar, who emphasizes alignment and the use of props, and Indra Devi and Krishnamacharya’s son T.K.V. Desikachar, who developend the Viniyoga style. Concurrent with Krishnamacharya’s influence, Swami Sivananda van Rishikesh (1887-1963) and his followers have contributed to spreading yoga in the West. His followers include Swami Vishnu-Devananda – founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Swami Satyananda – of the Bihar School of Yoga, and Swami Satchidananda – of Integral Yoga.

The Eight folded path of Yoga

The ultimate connection is reached through concentration and meditation. Patanjali describes Raja Yoga as the process of reunification with the Devine through the Eightfold Path of Yoga, which consists of:

  • Yama: socio-ethical precepts
  • Niyama: personal ethical disciplines
  • Asana: body postures
  • Pranayama: breathing exercises
  • Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana: mental concentration
  • Dhyana: meditation or uninterrupted mental focus
  • Samadhi: union with the Supreme through deep meditation