Ecstatic Yoga Immersions
Classical, Colonial, Modern, Hatha
EY Asana II, Classical, Modern/Colonial, Hatha Yoga Lesson
Yoga has a rich and ancient history, yet much is so ancient we are still discovering the gifts. Before the ancient yogic texts were created, yoga was taught as an oral transmission. The first writings were transcribed on fragile palm leaves, many lost or damaged. It is difficult to know how far back in history yoga began, we have texts dating back 5,000 years ago, yet some researchers date yoga back 10,000 years ago. At this time historians have divided the history of the practice and development of yoga innovation into four main periods.
Post Classical Yoga
Modern/Colonial & Hatha Yoga
The beginnings of yoga root back over 5,000 years ago and were originally developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. The Rig Veda one of the oldest sacred vedic texts was the first to mention the word yoga. The Vedas were written and used by Vedic priests called Brahmans in India over 5,000 years ago offering rituals, mantras and songs for enlightenment. The Brahmans and Rishis where known as mystic seers. They documented many yogic practices and spiritual beliefs in the Upanishads.
The Upanishads is a massive collection of spiritual texts derived from India saints, Brahmans and Rishis and has become the very roots of yoga. The Upanishads contain over 200 scriptures, inspired over many years. The Upanishads documented yoga practices and spiritual beliefs aimed toward Self realization and God Realization.
During this Pre-Classical Period of Yoga was an outpouring of new idea’s, beliefs, techniques. What is important to know is that all the Indian Saints didn’t always agree and often they contradicted one another.
During this Pre-Classical Period was when the idea of ritual sacrifice was transformed from an external process to an internal process of sacrificing the ego through the divine action of karma yoga and the wisdom of gyana (Juana) Yoga.
The most renowned yogic scripture of this period is the Bhagavad-Gita composed around 500 BCE.
The Classical Period of Yoga is primarily defined by the first systematic presentation of yoga explained in Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras written in the second century. Here is where the first organized techniques and principles of yoga were defined.
Patanjali, known as the “Father of Yoga” is famous for his yoga sutras organized into what is called Raja Yoga or Kingly or Classical Yoga. It has it’s focus on control and liberation of the mind. It includes Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga.
Yamas; Abstaining from harming others, harmlessness
Not wasting our energy
Abstaining from hording or being greedy
Niyamas; Principles to apply in our daily lives.
Cleanliness and purity of body and mind
Asana; Yoga poses, posture of seat
Pranayama; Intensifying, enlivening and mastering the life force energy
Pratyahara; Sense withdrawal, inner reflection
Dharana; Concentration, focused attention
Dhyana; Uninterrupted flow of meditation
Samadhi; Bliss, liberation, awakening
Patanjali’s 8 Limb Path of Yoga is still very popular and practiced all over the world still today.
The ultimate goal of Patanjali’s 8 Limbed path is Samadhi… a deep state of expanded conscious awareness that includes states of bliss, spiritual liberation and awakening.
Post Classical Yoga
A few centuries after Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, Yoga master’s began to change their interest. They turned away from the ancient Vedic teachings and embraced a whole new system of yoga called Tantric Yoga. Tantric Yoga is not just about sex, it is about embracing the entire physical body and achieving enlightenment through deep connection and oneness of the physical body.
Yoga master’s found that it helped their students to meditate in silence after rigorous physical exercises and body centered practices. They found to include the physical body in the practice of yoga helped students quiet the mind and reach Samadhi, the ultimate goal of yoga.
Tantric Yoga is a body centered practice with techniques and practices aimed at cleansing the physical body of traumas and energies held in the body tissues. What some called radical techniques at the time, yet simple physical/emotional practices used to transform energies in the body and the mind that held students back from enlightenment. Body centered practices for self realization, releasing that which no longer serves, letting go of that which blocks the awareness of loves presence.
The goal of Tantric Yoga is liberation from the body and mind and freedom from the cycle of reincarnation. Tantric Yoga is also aimed at creating vibrant physical health and extending the life expectancy of the body through wellness.
Body centered Tantric yoga practices led the way for the creation of Hatha Yoga and Modern Yoga.
The modern period of yoga began in the late 1800’s early 1900’s and is also called Colonial Yoga due to the British colonization of India at that time. In the 1920’s and 30’s Indian yoga masters T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and others, were teaching and promoting Hatha Yoga in India, that included a focus on the asana (physical postures).
In 1893 at a Parliament of World Religions in Chicago Swami Vivekananda gained enormous interest in his lectures and practices of hatha yoga. Yoga Masters from India began traveling to the West to introduce yoga to the western countries, attracting followers at a slow yet steady pace.
With the onset of British colonialism in India, hatha yoga had an initial struggle in mainstream acceptance, many claiming hatha yoga to be bizarre, threatening, even backward. Mass circulation of information in India degraded hatha yoga as those practicing physical contortionists and occult magic. British colonists found hatha yoga very threatening.
Although mainstream media in India tried to suppress hatha yoga, it continued to rise in interest not only in India, but all over the world.
Hatha yoga focusing on the physical body became the hallmark of Modern or Colonial Yoga. In 1924 Krishnamacharya opened the very first Hatha Yoga School in Mysore India. Krishnamacharya initiated three yoga students from his lineage to continue his legacy. The initiation took place on the banks of the holy Ganges River. These three students were B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya hoped these students would increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga, as they did.
Swami Sivananda founded his first Hatha Yoga School, Divine Life Society in 1936. Sivananda went on to open nine ashrams and many yoga centers located all over the world. Sivananda was a brilliant writer and authored over 200 books on yoga.
Interest in hatha yoga in the west really began to pick up momentum in 1947 when Indra Devi opened her hatha yoga studio in Hollywood, CA. Since that time many more yoga gurus and masters came to the west from India. Also, many pronounced yoga teachers arose from the west. Hatha Yoga now has many different styles, forms, schools and techniques and millions of followers.
Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that became popular in the Modern Period of yoga history. Hatha is a Sanskrit word meaning “Force” and points to a system of physical techniques.
Although hatha yoga gained its popularity in the Modern Period of yoga, it has deep roots dated back to the Yogis of the Natha Sampradaya which reached its peak in the 7th to 9th century. Almost all hatha yoga has its roots as far back as in the Nath Siddas founded by the saint Matsyendranath. Matsyendranath is celebrated as a saint in both Hindu and Buddhist tantric and hatha schools. Important Nath Siddhas texts are credited to Mastyendranath’s disciple Gorakhnath or Gorakshanath.
The oldest dated texts on hatha yoga are from the 11th century, from the Amrtasiddhi and Vajrayana both from Buddist lineage. Hatha yoga further developed into practices of mudras and raising the kundalini through energy channels like the chakras and nadis.
In the 20th century of Modern Yoga, hatha yoga is a focus on the asana or physical postures. Modern hatha yoga in the 20th century is most often referred to as “Yoga.” Most of the forms of yoga that are popular today like ashtanga, restorative, vinyasana, power are all called hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga has been more recently described as a form of yoga that is slower with a focus on alignment. A notable difference between hatha and vinyasa yoga would be that vinyasa classes move very quickly while hatha moves slower with guidance on how to move into, hold and move out of each pose correctly.
Hatha yoga is great for beginners and experienced yoga students. It moves slowly yet keeps the mind from wandering by breaking down each pose and focusing on alignment. Hatha yoga is a great form of spiritual practice of poses, meditation and pranayama that can benefit a wide range of skill levels.
Hatha yoga classes vary from instructor to instructor, yet they usually include a centering, short breathwork, series of poses and savasana or relaxation. They move more slowly with a focus on the breath.
Hatha Yoga Possible Benefits
-Body image improvement
In this modern time of a greater focus on hatha yoga or physical body postures, we also seem to be embracing the subtle energy bodies and practices. Integrating more and more meditation and pranayama as well as anatomy. There also seems to also be a greater and greater interest and respect for the origins of yoga and ancient yogic philosophies. Kriya yoga and yogic philosophy has become more popular in recent years as well as tantric, Karma, Juana and Bhakti.
Most important in your yoga journey is to open your mind to all the aspects of yoga, the deep ancient past as well as modern inspiration and find what interests and pulls your heart. Find your area of interest and your preferred style that reflects your natural personality.